Due opposte collezioni di apoftegmi : la Floresta Española di Melchior de Santa Cruz, la Nova Floresta «Portuguesa» di Manuel Bernardes

Massimo Bergonzini


This paper proposes a renewed analysis of Nova Floresta ou Sylva de vários Apofhthegmas by Manuel Bernardes, revealing its full consonance with the preacher’s didactic and edifying production. In terms of the prevalent dominance of the narrative component, which has traditionally led the work to be
considered a mere collection of Exempla, we will seek to highlight how, within the construction of the exaggerated eloquence of the moral teachings conveyed by the thematic voice, the inductive arguments are closely linked to the deductive reasoning that formally precedes it. This dual and complementary
structure within the text is indeed the first relevant element of Bernardes’ distinctiveness, which, in comparison with simple compilations of genres, comprises here a singular commented collection of apophthegms. Assimilating the exemplary lesson derived from the classical conception of bios and
acknowledging the rhetorical effectiveness of urbane expressions (asteia) as enunciated by Aristotle, Bernardes has consciously adapted his discourse to the socio-cultural setting of the Baroque aesthetic taste, where the Horatian poetic combination of utile et dulce is exalted. In fact, the preacher’s supreme
salvational concern presumes that there is a choice of values in favour of the divine which is an absolute antithesis to the mundane: his collection of «sentences from Christian authors» not only expressly contradicts the profane and futile insights of the Floresta Española by Melchor de Santa Cruz
(1574), but also refutes the ethical contents channelled by the classical and humanist apothegmatic tradition, «already collected by Cato, Plutarch and Manutius». From this perspective, the second and perhaps more significant «novel» element of the «Portuguese» Floresta could be found in the voluntary
recovery of the Patristic tradition and the sacred apophthegms, which have been originally collected and illustrated in the Romanic language.

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