Ugo Foscolo

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Ugo Foscolo (6 February 1778 – 10 September 1827), born Niccolò Foscolo, was an Italian writer, revolutionary and poet.



Foscolo was born on the Ionian island of Zakynthos. His father was Andrea Foscolo, an impoverished Venetian nobleman, and his mother Diamantina Spathis was Greek.[1][2][3][4][5]

In 1788, on the death of his father, who worked as a physician in Spalato, today Croatia (Split), the family removed to Venice, and at the University of Padua Foscolo completed the studies begun at the Dalmatian grammar school.

Amongst his Paduan teachers was the abbé Cesarotti, whose version of Ossian had made that work highly popular in Italy, and who influenced Foscolo's literary tastes; he knew both modern and Ancient Greek. His literary ambition revealed itself by the appearance in 1797 of his tragedy Tieste--a production which obtained a certain degree of success.

Foscolo, who, for causes not clearly explained, had changed his Christian name Niccolò to that of Ugo, now began to take an active part in the stormy political discussions which the fall of the republic of Venice had provoked. He was a prominent member of the national committees, and addressed an ode to Napoleon Bonaparte, expecting Napoleon to overthrow the Venetian oligarchy and create a free republic.

The Treaty of Campoformio (17 October 1797), by which Napoleon handed Venice over to the Austrians, gave a rude shock to Foscolo, but did not quite destroy his hopes. The state of mind produced by that shock is reflected in his novel Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis (The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis) (1798), which was described by the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica as a more politicized version of Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, "for the hero of Foscolo embodies the mental sufferings and suicide of an undeceived Italian patriot just as the hero of Goethe places before us the too delicate sensitiveness embittering and at last cutting short the life of a private German scholar."

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