Emily O'Brien, Kenneth R. Bartlett. The Two Lovers. The Goodly History of Lady Lucrece and her Lover Euraialus. Ottawa, Canada: Dovehouse Editions Inc, 1999. 188 pp. $30.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-895537-54-3.
Reviewed by Starleen K. Meyer (Independent Scholar)
Published on H-Italy (January, 2001)
This work is a new edition of a sixteenth-century English translation of Piccolomini's (1405-1464) story of two lovers. Although focussing spcifically on his text and its transmission, this work also will be of great interest to those studying the (broadly defined) Renaissance in Europe.
In addition to analyzing the reception and transformation of texts abroad, this new edition also expertly places Piccolomini's original Latin text within the context of Italian and European literature (including, but not limited to, its relationship to courtly literature, novelle, studies of love by Capellanus, moralizing tales and exempla, popular tales by Boccaccio, classical references, and translations), and it addresses Piccolomini's later disavowal of the text when he was pope Pius II. The perceptive analysis is accompanied by an impressive bibliography and liberal footnotes for those wishing to pursue any specific topic.
Further, Piccolomini's text is a small, but rich treasure for historians of many fields seeking contemporary testimony. The text is so full of such references that it would necessitate repeating too much just to cite significant examples. Suffice it to say that attentive readers will find ample evidence on gender and feminine beauty issues, medicine/the four humors and physiognomics, dress, warfare, diplomacy, architecture and urban planning, social and juridical structure, literacy, parallels to stock characters in ancient theater, and the power of language and love.
The text and its multiple translations and publications (reaching into the eighteenth-century) prove how highly popular the work was. The Two Lovers. The Goodly History of Lady Lucrece and Her Lover Eurialus circulated widely in Latin in manuscript form, was first published in Cologne (an interesting, yet unaddressed side issue) in 1468, and by the end of the sixteenth-century, it had been translated into Italian, French, German, Spanish, Polish, Hungarian, and English. According to the editors, the English translation (1550) used for this edition was quite faithful to the original Latin text, but its differences from the original text also are carefully analyzed.
The edition does have a few typographical errors, and, alas, does not have an index. Nevertheless, Piccolomini's text is short which facilitates the compilation of one's own index.
Not just a "must read," this edition is entirely pleasurable. The two commentaries are well written, and Piccolomini's writing, far from being a flat, predictable repeat of stereotypical story lines, or an uninventive account of his friend's possible experiences, contains great human insight interwoven into the twists and turns of the plot.
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Starleen K. Meyer. Review of O'Brien, Emily; Bartlett, Kenneth R., The Two Lovers. The Goodly History of Lady Lucrece and her Lover Euraialus.
H-Italy, H-Net Reviews.
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