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Ivan Dživo Gundulić
Ivan Gundulić
Born 8 January 1588
Dubrovnik, Republic of Ragusa
Died 8 December 1638
Occupation poet
Nationality Ragusan
Period Baroque
Notable work(s) Tears of the Prodigal Son, Osman, Dubravka

Ivan (Dživo) Franov Gundulić (also Gianfrancesco Gondola; 8 January 1588 - 8 December 1638; Nickname: Mačica) is the most celebrated Croatian Baroque poet from the Republic of Ragusa.[1] His work embodies central characteristics of Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation: religious fervor, insistence on "vanity of this world" and zeal in opposition to "infidels." Gundulić's major works—the epic poem Osman, the pastoral play Dubravka, and the religious poem "Tears of the Prodigal Son" (based on the Parable of the Prodigal Son) are examples of Baroque stylistic richness and, frequently, rhetorical excess.


Life and works

Ivan Gundulić was born in Dubrovnik in a wealthy Ragusan noble family (see House of Gundulić) in 8 January 1589. Son of Francesco di Francesco Gundulić (senator and diplomat, once the Ragusan envoy to Constantinople and councillor of the republic to the Pope Gregory VIII) and Djiva Gradic (de Gradi). He received an excellent education. He probably studied the humanities with the Jesuit Silvestro Muzio and philosophy with Ridolfo Ricasoli[2] and Camillo Camilli (*Siena -+1615), who in late 1590 had been appointed rettore delle scuole e professore di umane lettere in Ragusa. After that he studied Roman law and jurisprudence in general, where he held numerous offices for the Great Council of the Republic. In 1608, when he was nineteen, he became a member of the Veliko vijece (Great Council). Twice, in 1615 and 1619, he held the temporary function of knez (commissary or governor) of Konavle, an area southeast of the city.

Coat-of-arms of the House of Gundulić.

At the age of thirty he married with Nicoleta Sorkočević (Sorgo)(+1644) who bore him three sons, Frano (Francesco), Matheo (Mato), Šiško (Segismondo) and two daughters, Maria (Mara) Gondola and Dziva (Giovanna). Fran Dživo Gundulić and Mato Gundulić (1636 - 1684) fought in the thirty-years war under Wallenstein; the youngest died on January 16, 1682, being by then the Rector of the Republic. From 1621 until his death Ivan held various offices in the city government. In 1636 he became a senator, in 1637 a judge, and in 1638 a member of the Small Council (Malo vijeće). Had he lived a little longer - he died of an intense fever, product of an inflammation in his ribs ( Folio 15 Libr. Mort. N°274, Adi le Xbre 1638 Ragusa) - he would probably have been elected knez of the Dubrovnik Republic, the highest function that was held for one month only by meritorious gentlemen at least fifty years old. His father, who died in 1624, had been knez five times, and Ivan's son Šišmundo Gundulić later four times. He began his literary career by writing poems and staging melodramas that became popular in Dubrovnik. But Ivan published only his larger works. His earlier work, which he referred to as a "brood of darkness", is now lost. His first publications were in 1621, when he rewrote several of David's Psalms and wrote several religious poems. He then wrote his famous Suze sina razmetnoga (Tears of the Prodigal Son) in 1622, composed of three "Cries": Sagriješenje (Sin), Spoznanje (Insight) and Skrušenje (Humility). In this poem Ivan presented the three basic categories of Christian faith: sin, repentance and redemption through contrasts such as between life and death, purity and sin, and Heaven and Hell. In 1637 when Ferdinand II of Tuscany married, Gundulić wrote a poem to honor the event, he noted that "all of Slavic people (Slovinski narod) honor you on this occasion".



His most famous play is Dubravka, a pastoral written in 1628, where Ivan cherishes the former glory of Dubrovnik and uses contrasts like freedom/slavery, beauty/ugliness, truth/lies. It contains some of the most famous verses in Croatian literature:


    O lijepa, o draga, o slatka slobodo,
dar u kom sva blaga višnji nam bog je dô,
   uzroče istini od naše sve slave,
uresu jedini od ove Dubrave,
   sva srebra, sva zlata, svi ljudcki životi
ne mogu bit plata tvôj čistoj lipoti.


    O beautiful, o beloved, o sweet freedom,
God has given us all the treasures in you,
   you are the true source of all our glory,
you are the only decoration of this Dubrava.
   All silver, all gold, all human lives
cannot repay your pure beauty!

The first verse is often considered as the unofficial motto of Dubrovnik.


In his greatest work, Osman, Ivan presented the contrasts between Christianity and Islam, Europe and Turks, East and West, freedom and slavery... Osman had 20 cantos, but the 14th and the 15th were never found. Judging from the modern perspective, two approaches seem to dominate the contemporary appraisal of Gundulić's poetry: on one hand, his poetic influence has dimmed due to a change in aesthetic sensibility (Gundulić's chief literary predecessor and influence, Torquato Tasso, has undergone similar reassessment, but his artistic integrity and individuality have withstood the test of time better); on the other hand, Gundulić's role in the final standardisation of the Croatian language cannot be overemphasized.

Tears of the Prodigal Son.

Osman is firmly rooted within the rich literary tradition of the Croatian Baroque in Dubrovnik and Dalmatia and is considered as one of its apogees. By presenting the contrast of struggle between Christianity and Islam, Ivan continued Marko Marulić's glorification of the fights against the invading Ottoman Turks. Besides magnifying Slavdom and the battles against the conquerors, Ivan described the life of the Ottoman sultan Osman II. Dživo constantly reminds the reader of the wheel of fortune and how the world is transient and how nothing explains the ways of History except God.

Osman begins with the Sultan's grasping of the situation caused by the 1621 Ottoman defeat at Chocim and descriptions of how the era of pre-Ottoman glory of the Bulgarians, Serbs, Hungarians, Albanians and especially Poles could be easily restored. According to the storyline, Sultan Osman dispatched Ali-pasha to the Kingdom of Poland in order to negotiate peace and Kazlar-aga to choose which Polish noblewoman would suit him best for marriage. Ivan described the travels of both Ali-pasha and Kazlar-aga, paying much attention to the battle of Chocim and to the descriptions of enslaved Slavs that suffer under Ottoman rule. Even though peace was concluded, there was a rebellion amongst the military ranks and after numerous failed attempts to restore order in the Empire, the Army captures Osman and executes him, bringing the imprisoned Mustafa as the new Sultan. Ivan described the Polish king Władysław IV Vasa as a new chance for the Slavic people. It was the culminating point of the Serbian belief that the force of Polish Catholic armies could save the entire Slavonic world, in accordance with Gundulić's Counter-Reformation world view.

Post mortem

Gundulić's Dream by Vlaho Bukovac

Osman was printed for the first time in Dubrovnik in 1826, the two missing cantos being replaced by poems written by the poet Petar Ignjat Sorkočević-Crijević (1749-1826), who was a direct descendant of Ivan Gundulić by maternal line (his grandmother Nikoleta Gundulić was Šišmundo Gundulić's *1632 +1682 daughter). Other direct descendant, Baron Vlaho Getaldić (grandson of Katarina Gundulić, sister of Šišmundo Dominko Gundulić), introduced a hexameter treaty into Osman in 1865. Ironically, Osman was not published in the integral edition until 1844, when the Illyrian movement/South-Slav Renaissance movement chose Gundulić's oeuvre as a role model of the Serbo-Croatian language. One of the leading Illyrists' men of letters, politician, linguist and poet Ivan Mažuranić, successfully completed Gundulić's Osman by composing the last two chapters, which were left unfinished upon the poet's death.

The monument to Gundulić was unveiled on 25 July 1893, in Dubrovnik's largest square, Poljana. The event, which was politically charged as it brought to surface the tensions between the Croats and the Serbs, is described in detail here: Unveiling of the Gundulić monument.

In September 1995 Luciano Pavarotti, who organized a grand charity concert almost every year in his hometown of Modena, Italy, held a concert on behalf of the children of Bosnia & Herzegovina, particularly the War Child foundation and its efforts in Mostar. That night started late and went well into the next day, on the Modena stage, drowned in Italian TV cameras and surrounded by thousands of standing fans who never seemed to wane below Category 4. Many musicians and celebrities were involved in the show: Princess Diana, Brian Eno, Michael Bolton, Meatloaf, Zuccero, Nenad Bach, The Edge and, of course, Bono who recited at the end of the title song Miss Sarajevo the Ivan Gundulić verses ”O lijepa, o draga, o slatka slobodo” “Oh beautiful, oh precious, oh sweet Liberty”, which Nenad Bach taught before the show.

Sunčanica is a historical opera composed by Boris Papandopulo, with a libretto by Marko Soljačić based on Ivan Gundulić's Osman and his son Šišmundo Gundulić, who continue the Osman, about the Sunčanica history.

It was first performed at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb (then the Croatian State Theatre in Zagreb) on June 13, 1942.[3] The opera was produced by Branko Gavella, choreographed by Ana Roje and Oskar Harmoš, and its main role was played by Srebrenka Jurinac.[3]

In 2008, the opera was fully performed for the first time in 62 years when it opened the 16th Zajc's Days festival at the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka.[4]

In 1928 Jakov Gotovac compose the Dubravka. Pastorale for Choir & Orchestra, text from Ivan Gundulić op. 13 is a choral work of Croatian.

List of works

  • Tears of the Prodigal Son - poem (1622)
  • Dubravka - pastoral drama (1628)
  • Osman - baroque epic
  • Arijadna - drama (1633)
  • Pjesni pokorne kralja Davida - collection of poems (1621)


Gundulić's portrait is depicted on the obverse of the Croatian 50 kuna banknote, issued in 1993 and 2002.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Yale University - Slavic Literature
  2. ^ F.M.Appendini, Versione libera dell'Osmanide, Per Antonio Martecchini, Ragusa 1827[1]
  3. ^ a b Sunčanica,
  4. ^ Sunčanica opera opened the 16th Zajc's Days,
  5. ^ Croatian National Bank. Features of Kuna Banknotes: 50 kuna (1993 issue) & 50 kuna (2002 issue). – Retrieved on 30 March 2009.
  • Istorija književnosti za I razred zajedničkih osnova usmerenog obrazovanja, Jovan Deretić and Marija Mitrović, Belgrade, 1984

External links


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