Work on my own refractions of Camillo’s Theatre is beginning again. I recently finished reading An Examination of ‘L’Idea Del Theatro’ of Giulio Camillo […], which is proving indispensable, and I just finished a first pass of organizing the theatre–which apparently was actually named Il gran theatro delle scienze–as described in L’Idea del Theatro onto a grid for clarity.
The english translation of L’Idea is of course extremely useful, but the rest of the dissertation was quite enlightening and indeed necessary to read in order to understand the workings of the theatre and L’Idea itself, which was not at all written to be a published explanation of the theatre. As Lu Beery Wenneker states, it was an oral summary intended only for a man (the Marchese del Vasto) who had already had the whole thing explained to him in detail. It was actually somewhat against Camillo’s wishes, but his protege Muzio convinced him to do it. Additionally, the dissertation clears up a lot of errors and incorrect assumptions that other scholars such as Frances Yates and Richard Bernheimer have made on the subject.
L’Idea del Theatro is quite confusing. It’s essentially a list of images, some of which are not explained, and some of which lead Camillo on long and sometimes tiresome tangents. On my first pass of reading it, it seemed disorganized and mistake laden, but with mapping it out it comes together rather nicely. I found only one mistake, made on the final day, which is pretty impressive considering that the vastness of the work and that L’Idea was orated from memory.
The most striking thing overall, which I guess should be obvious, is how complex Camillo’s work was. It appears that he more or less piled everything he wanted to into this system without a mind for simplicity and clarity. I’m still not sure, however, if this just how it appears. I suspect that as I study my grid, it’ll start making more sense.
My task now is to distill the theatre into something less symbol-based and more poetic. My current thought is that I’ll pick a number of the key images within the theatre and visualize them, but the idea is to use them as more true symbols, i.e., reflections that can be understood and felt intuitively, rather than intelluctualized references to various mythological stories. It’s a grand challenge, but to paraphrase Charles Mingus, making the simple complex is easy, but making the complex simple takes creativity.