Gozzi, Carlo

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Gozzi, Carlo (1720-86): Italian Playwright.

Born in Venice, Count Carlo Gozzi was a literary author and dramatist whose intellectual and theatrical pursuits represent a major reaction against the aesthetic trends of the Enlightenment. The son of an aristocratic family, his philosophy of society and theater was conditioned by largely patrician attitudes. As a founding member of the right wing Accademia dei Granelleschi, organized to preserve traditional language, thought, and art, Gozzi exercised vigorous literary polemics against the reforms of such dramatists as Goldoni, Carlo. In the late 1750s, he began an association with Antonio Sacco, the manager of a leading Venetian theater company, engaging in the deliberate creation of an opposing commedia dell’arte.

Gozzi’s counterattack manifested as fiabe, satirical fairy tales that emphasized the same elements Goldoni sought to suppress: the use of masks, improvisation, fantasy, and aristocratic values. Major fiabe works include: The King Stag, Turandot, and The Green Bird. In these elaborate and fanciful romances, Gozzi integrated the techniques of improvised comedy with the exotic elements of East Asian legends, exploiting them to satirize the sentimentality of contemporary literature and art. Some argue that the success of Gozzi’s theatrical endeavors helped drive Goldoni from Venice in 1761.

Despite his initial popularity, Gozzi’s work dwindled quickly in the late 1700s, the commedia dell’arte rapidly declined, and his fiabe were absorbed into opera and ballet. It was not until the 20th century that Gozzi’s plays began to attract the attention of the nonmusical stage.

Further Reading:

John Louis DiGaetani, Carlo Gozzi, 1988.

Benjamin Fisler