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Audiences have admired the plays of Goldoni for their ingenious mix of wit and honesty. His plays offered his contemporaries images of themselves, often dramatizing the lives, values, and conflicts of the emerging middle classes. Though he wrote in French and Italian, his plays make rich use of the Venetian language, regional vernacular, and colloquialisms.
Goldoni also wrote under the pen name and title "Polisseno Fegeio, Pastor Arcade," which he claimed in his memoirs the "Arcadians of Rome" bestowed on him. Memoirs There is an abundance of autobiographical information on Goldoni, most of which comes from the introductions to his plays and from his Memoirs. However, these memoirs are known to contain many errors of fact, especially about his earlier years.
In these memoirs, he paints himself as a born comedian, careless, light-hearted and with a happy temperament, proof against all strokes of fate, yet thoroughly respectable and honorable. Such characters were common enough in Italy. In his memoirs, Goldoni describes his father as a physician, and claims that he was introduced to theatre by his grandfather Carlo Alessandro. In any case, Goldoni was deeply interested in theatre since his earliest years, and all attempts to direct his activity into other channels were of no avail: his toys were puppets, and his books, plays.
In , he engaged in a bitter dispute with playwright Carlo Gozzi, which left him utterly disgusted with the tastes of his countrymen; so much so that in he moved to Paris, where he received a position at court and was put in charge of the Theatre Italien.
He spent the rest of his life in France, composing most of his plays in French and writing his memoirs in that language. Among the plays which he wrote in French, the most successful was Le Bourru bienfaisant, produced on the occasion of the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in He enjoyed considerable popularity in France; when he retired to Versailles, the King gave him a pension.
He lost this pension after the French Revolution. The Convention eventually voted to restore his pension the day after his death. The play was a critical and financial failure. Submitting it to Count Prata, director of the opera, he was told that his piece "was composed with due regard to the rules of Aristotle and Horace, but not according to those laid down for the Italian drama.
Everything must be done according to a certain form which I will explain to you. His next play, Belisario, written in , was more successful, though of its success he afterward professed himself ashamed. He wrote other tragedies for a time, but he was not long in discovering that his bent was for comedy.
During his many wanderings and adventures in Italy, he was constantly at work and when, at Livorno, he became acquainted with the manager Medebac, he determined to pursue the profession of playwriting in order to make a living. He was employed by Medebac to write plays for his theater in Venice. He worked for other managers and produced during his stay in that city some of his most characteristic works. He also wrote Momolo Cortesan in This style was typified in La Donna di garbo, the first Italian comedy of its kind.
In his father matriculated him into the stern Collegio Ghislieri in Pavia, which imposed the tonsure and monastic habits on its students. However, he relates in his Memoirs that a considerable part of his time was spent in reading Greek and Latin comedies. He had already begun writing at this time; and, in his third year, he composed a libellous poem Il colosso in which he ridiculed the daughters of certain Pavian families. He studied law at Udine, and eventually took his degree at Modena.
He was employed as law clerk at Chioggia and Feltre, after which he returned to his native city and began practicing. Educated as a lawyer, and holding lucrative positions as secretary and councillor, he seemed, indeed, at one time to have settled down to the practice of law, but following an unexpected summons to Venice, after an absence of several years, he changed his career, and thenceforth he devoted himself to writing plays and managing theatres.
His father died in In , to avoid an unwanted marriage, he left the town for Milan and then for Verona, where the theatre manager Giuseppe Imer helped him on his way to becoming a comical poet as well as introducing him to his future wife, Nicoletta Conio. Goldoni returned with her to Venice, where he stayed until
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