Several poetic and prose compositions in early Italian literature contain references to the bubonic plague and other illnesses that were used in the language both literally and metaphorically. The first detailed description of a plague epidemic, however, was written by Giovanni Boccaccio in the introduction to The Decameron. It is a precise and dramatic view of the physical, social, and medical conditions of Florence during the epidemic of 1348. The Theme of the Plague in Italian Letters follows the subsequent developments, both in poetic and prose works, until the time of the plague of Milan of 1630. With the report of Giuseppe Ripamonti and other writers, the plague became not only a medical issue but also a topic involving the laws of the time as they appear in the trials of the presumed untori (spreaders of the disease). A combination of faith, fear, and superstition led the legal officials and the populace to imagine that the plague was a divine punishment and was deliberately spread by individuals of criminal nature. Arrests and trials involving interrogations and the use of merciless physical tortures (a legitimate procedure in Europe at that time) brought about a formidable reaction led by early humanitarians, such as Cesare Beccaria and Pietro Verri, who determined the eventual changes in the laws and legal procedures. The Plague of Milan of 1630 by Giuseppe Ripamonti, the treatise by L. A. Muratori Del Governo della Peste, 1720, and several interventions contributed to a series of radical changes that appeared in the works of Alessandro Manzoni, such as The Betrothed and The History of the Pillar of Infamy that are discussed in part or in full in this study.
Chapter Five: Giuseppe Ripamonti (1573–1643)
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Giuseppe Ripamonti (1573–1643)
Among the epidemics that were chronicled by writers of renown, the plague that affected Milan in 1630 is one of the most relevant both from the historical and the literary points of view since it inspired Giuseppe Ripamonti to write his De peste Mediolani quae fuit anno 1630 (On the Plague that Occurred in Milan in 1630), that, in turn, offered Alessandro Manzoni, the author of I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), the background for one of the main parts of his novel, as it will be seen further on. Written originally in Latin, La peste di Milano del 1630 was translated into Italian by Francesco Cusani and published in Milan by the Tipografia e Libreria Pirolla e C., in 1841.
At the beginning of his book, Ripamonti wrote a dedicatory note that reads as follows:
To the Most Illustrious Gentlemen
The Vicar and the Sixty Decurions
Of The General Council
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