Romance of Translation: Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata in the Elizabethan Twilight

Document Type


Publication Date



The translations of Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata by Richard Carew (1594) and Edward Fairfax (1600) import the hybrid genre of the Italian romance epic into the evolving literary polysystem of the English Renaissance. These two significant translations present an intriguing struggle between fidelity to the source text and freedom, which mirrors the friction between epic and romance at the heart of the Gerusalemme liberata. This friction takes shape most clearly in the treatment of the power dynamics of the crusaders vis-à-vis Godfrey and in the translation of the ‘forma altera’ of Armida. While Carew attempts an ‘epic’ translation conforming to the source text, creating a Gerusalemme conquistata-type of translation, Fairfax submits to the allure of Armida and to the romance of translator errancy. To translate this unique hybrid genre is to encounter translation’s process double; in a fundamental sense, translation is romance, and the romance epic is translation.