Godfrey's Role in Vico's Scienza nuova

Clio: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History 50 (3):187–209 (2023)
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Giambattista Vico says that the “key” to his Scienza nuova is his discovery of “imaginative universals.” These are the poetic archetypes that serve to orient human thought and action in the earliest ages of nations. Jove, Hercules, Achilles, and Ulysses are the examples that Vico uses most often. In this paper, I wish to consider an imaginative universal that does not fit the pattern of the others: Torquato Tasso’s Godfrey, whom Vico calls the “true captain of war.” This is one of the rare instances when Vico turns to the work of a near-contemporary poet rather than an ancient. Why does Vico invoke Godfrey amongst his universals? I propose three different approaches to interrogating this figure. First, I examine Tasso in reference to Vico’s other sublime poets, Homer and Dante. Second, I examine the character of Godfrey in contrast to the other captains of war Vico might have chosen, Agamemnon and Cesare Borgia. Finally, I consider the structure of the Vichian ricorso in general and where the Gerusalemme liberate fits into Vico’s doctrine of three ages.

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Dustin Peone
Emory University


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