Alfieri’s tears: Ariosto and the patriots

Monica Preti


This paper discusses the eighteenth- to nineteenth-century reassessment of the figure of Ludovico Ariosto: a phenomenon rooted in municipal erudition of the old regime, but at the same time riddled with new ‘patriotic’ inspirations which saw the literary classics as the basis of an “Italian identity” to be rediscovered.

One of the first to exalt Ariosto in this light was Vittorio Alfieri, who counted him as one of the four ‘Great poets’ (together with Dante, Petrarch and Tasso) on whom the Italian literary canon was founded. The theme was then disseminated further thanks to various types of editorial undertakings and gave rise to a distinctive iconography which took shape, inter alia, in sculpture cycles on the façades of many Italian buildings, both private and public. Nationalist and patriotic rhetoric imported from France in the wake of the Napoleonic armies was grafted onto this bedrock of eighteenth-century origin. In the paper this important intersection is evoked through the “patriotic” festivities organized in honour of Ludovico Ariosto by General Miollis, first in Reggio Emilia and then in Ferrara. The celebrations culminated in the transfer of the poet’s body to a new secular temple, the university library. In the years that followed, the municipality of Ferrara assigned one room in the library to Ariosto memorabilia, erected a statue of the poet in one of the main city squares and opened a museum in his house: these sites became part of the tourist circuit and were visited by travellers (such as Antoine-Claude Pasquin known as Valéry, and Corot who recorded the memory of Ariosto’s chair, “Chaise de l’Arioste,” in his sketchbook).

After Unification (1861) these places, monuments and relics took on a new role as catalysts of national identity.


Ariosto, Ludovico; Alfieri, Vittorio; Patriotism; Local identity; National identity; Literary tourism; Ferrara; Miollis; Writers houses; Patriotismus; literarischer Tourismus; lokale Identität; nationale Identität


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