From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Jerusalem Delivered (La Gerusalemme liberata) (first published 1581) is an epic poem by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso which tells a largely fictionalized version of the First Crusade in which Christian knights, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, battle Muslims in order to raise the siege of Jerusalem. The poem is composed of eight line stanzas grouped into 20 cantos of varying length.
The work belongs to the Renaissance tradition of the Italian romantic epic poem, and Tasso frequently borrows plot elements and character types directly from Ariosto's Orlando furioso. Tasso's poem also has elements inspired by the classical epics of Homer and Virgil (especially in those sections of their works that tell of sieges and warfare).
Tasso's choice of subject matter, an actual historic conflict between Christians and Muslims (albeit with fantastical elements added), had a historical grounding and created compositional implications (the narrative subject matter had a fixed endpoint and could not be endlessly spun out in multiple volumes) that are lacking in other Renaissance epics. But like other works of the period which portray conflicts between Christians and Muslims, this subject matter had a topical resonance to readers of the period, as the Ottoman Empire was advancing through Eastern Europe.
One of the most characteristic literary devices in Tasso's poem is the emotional conundrum endured by characters torn between their heart and their duty, and this depiction of love at odds with martial valour or honor is a source of great lyrical passion in the poem.
Composition and publication
Tasso began work on the poem in the mid-1560s. Originally, it bore the title Il Goffredo. It was completed in April, 1575 and that summer the poet read his work to Duke Alfonso of Ferrara and Lucrezia, Duchess of Urbino. A pirate edition of 14 cantos from the poem appeared in Venice in 1580. The first complete editions of Gerusalemme liberata were published in Parma and Ferrara in 1581.