The aim of the article is to frame the composition of the Operette Morali  – a bizarre combination of poetry and philosophy, of comedy and tragedy, of orality and writerliness – within the complex, somehow ambivalent, relationship that Leopardi had with Plato. On the one hand, Leopardi found in Plato a familiar psychic and intellectual disposition: a ‘poetic’ ardour extinguished by philosophy, an ‘oral’ mind converted to writerliness. On the other hand, he engaged himself in a battle against the platonic censure of poetry and theatre, which he appreciated with exactly the same arguments that Plato used to condemn them – that is, their corporeal, irrational and democratic dimension. This will be argued through a comparison with the “Prologue in Theatre” of Goethe’s Faust and with Tocqueville’s observations of the relationship between dramatic and democratic institutions.

Author Biography

Franco D'Intino, Sapienza Università di Roma
Professore Associato, Dipartimento di studi europei, americani e interculturaliLeopardi Centre, University of Birmingham, DirectorLaboratorio Leopardi, Sapienza, Direttore 


Main sources:

G. Leopardi, Scritti e frammenti autobiografici, ed. F. D’Intino, Rome, Salerno, 1995.

G. Leopardi, Zibaldone, eds. M. Caesar and F. D’Intino, New York/London, Farrar Straus and Giroux/Penguin, 2015 (second, revised ed.; quotations from the Zibaldone are from the manuscript page, preceded by Z).

Plato and Aristotle are quoted from the Loeb edition, with minor changes.

Other sources:

P.-L. Courier, Prospectus d’une traduction nouvelle d’Hérodote, in Oeuvres complètes, Bruxelles, A la librairie parisienne, 1828

J. W. Goethe, Faust: a tragedy in two parts and the Urfaust, transl. John R. Williams, Wordsworth Classics, 1999.

G. E. Lessing, Hamburg Dramaturgy, transl. Helen Zimmern, New York, Dover Publications, 1962.

A. de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique, Paris, Garnier-Flammarion, 1981.

G. Vico, De nostri temporis studiorum ratione, in Opere, ed. A. Battistini, Milano, Mondadori, 1990.

Critical Bibliography:

F. D’Intino, Errore, ortografia e autobiografia in Leopardi e Stendhal, in Memoria e infanzia tra Alfieri e Leopardi, eds. M. Dondero and L. Melosi, Macerata, Quodlibet, 2004.

F. D’Intino, Il gusto dell’altro: la traduzione come esperienza straniera in Leopardi, in Hospes. Il volto dello straniero da Leopardi a Jabès, ed. A. Folin, Venice, Marsilio, 2003.

F. D’Intino, L’immagine della voce. Leopardi, Platone e il libro morale, Venice, Marsilio, 2009.

G. F. Else, Plato and Aristotle on poetry, Chapel Hill and London, The University of North Carolina Press, 1986.

M. C. Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge U.P. 1986.

M. Vegetti, Nell’ombra di Theuth, in Sapere e scrittura in Grecia, ed. M. Detienne, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 1989.