Torquato Tasso

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Sorrento’s most famous native son, the poet Torquato Tasso, was born in 1544. Tasso was educated by the Jesuits in Naples and went on to the University of Padua to study law and philosophy. He was only 18 when his chivalric epic poem Rinaldo made him famous. He spent many years as a poet at the court of the Este at Ferrara. His most famous work is the Gerusalemme Liberata, a lengthy epic poem (which I read at university and am ashamed to say that I remember absolutely nothing of) that celebrates the exploits of Godfrey of Boulogne during the First Crusade.

Tasso became a man tormented by religious scruples about his life and poetry. He suffered from something of a persecution mania and was, perhaps, a schizophrenic. He began to revise his masterpiece, a six-year undertaking from which emerged a much inferior work, the Gerusalemme Conquistata. Tasso died in Rome, the day before he was to be crowned poet laureate.

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