Lodovico Castelvetro - Biography and Works

Lodovico Castelvetro (1505-1571) is a dominant literary critic of the Italian Renaissance, particularly noted for his translation of and independently rendered conclusions from Aristotle’s Poetics, in which he defended the dramatic unities of time, place, and action, as well as the use of poetry for pleasure alone; he thereby helped set the critical norms for drama in the Renaissance and the French Neo Classical period.

Lodovico Castelvetro (1505-1571)

Castelvetro translated and explained the poetics of Aristotle. He talks about subject matter and form of poetry and history. Regarding the poetry, he says, it should serve to give the common people happy.

Castelvetro emphasized Realism in drama, demonstrated the distinction between rhetoric and poetry, and defended poetry as a means of pleasure alone. Here, he opposes to the earlier opinion that poetry should instruct as well as delight. Poetry ought to have its subject matter form those things which can be understood by the common people and which, when they are understood, make them happy. The subject matter ought to be similar to that of history and resemble it, but is should not be identical. Therefore, arts and sciences cannot be the subject matter of poetry because they have been considered and understood by reasons, which is not generally accessible to the common people. The subject matter in poetry is imagined by the power of poet’s mind with the help of verse. Similarly, the objective of poetry also differs from that of history.

Castelvetro as a prescriptive critic displays literal-minded utilitarianism demanding that poetry should serve to make common people happy. He establishes unities of time and places as rules of the drama and a kind of inventiveness for its plot which does not have to be derived from history. Reader response occupies a place in his utilitarian outlook.

Castelvetro Study Center

Mimetic Theory: Introduction

From The Poetics of Aristotle Translated and Explained