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Tasso Torquato

Tasso, TORQUATO (1544-95), the last great poet of Italy, was born at Sorrento. He was educated by his father, Bernardo Tasso, and afterwards studied law at Padua, but devoted most of his time to the composition of his narrative poem Rinaldo (1562). In 1565 he entered the service of Cardinal Luigi d'Este, who took him to the castle of his brother, Alfonso II., Duke of Ferrara. After visiting France with the Cardinal in 1570, he transferred his services to Alfonso, and in 1573 published Aminta, a pastoral play of much lyrical beauty intended for representation at the ducal court. His religious epic La Gerusalemme Liberata, one of the great poems of the world, in which romantic episodes are deftly interwoven with the facts of history, was completed in 1574. His health now began to give way, and in 1577, owing to his strange delusions and want of self-control, he was placed in a Franciscan convent at Ferrara. It was formerly believed that his madness - if madness it was - resulted from a hopeless passion for the duke's sister, the Princess Leonora, but of this there is no evidence, and the truth probably is that his sensitive and irritable nature was unable to bear the jealousy of courtiers, the strain of composition, and the fatuous advice offered by his pedantic critics. He soon escaped from his confinement, and after a brief return in 1578, during which he consented to submit to medical treatment, he made his way through Mantua, Padua, Venice, Urbino, and Lombardy to the Duke of Savoy at Turin. In 1579, on the occasion of the duke's third marriage, he again returned to Ferrara. but his conduct was so violent that he was imprisoned in the madhouse of St. Anna, where he remained for seven years. His release in 1586 was due to the intercession of the Duke of Mantua. After a brief sojourn at his court, he passed the remainder of his life in aimless wanderings through Italy, dying at Rome when he was about to receive the laurel crown from Pope Clement VIII.