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Džore Držić, the founder of modern Croatian drama


Prominent citizen, renaissance poet, priest, and a rector of All Saints church in Dubrovnik, Džore Držić, is considered a founder of modern Croatian drama and the creator of expressions that later become the base of Croatian Literary language. And we can’t forget to mention, uncle of the famous Marin Držić!

Džore Držić was born in 1461 in Dubrovnik, in a respected family of talented painters and writers, brother of a painter Vlaho and uncle to Marin Držić. 

After graduating from Dubrovnik’s Humanistic School, Džore moved to Italy where he applied to the law school from which he ultimately took a ph.d in secular and religious law. This set the path for his life as in 1487, at the age of 26, he became a priest and returned to Dubrovnik. 

He had a very lucrative career, first as a rector and finally chancellor of the Dubrovnik Cathedral Chapter. His position gave him a stage to express ideas and be a part of debates held in Latin, in which he was considered to be the best speaker. 

His poems were influenced by his humanistic schooling background, as well as folk poems, Francesco Petrarca’s work, and his high level of spirituality. Poems are contemplative with specific phrases and written in a double rhymed duodenum typical for Dubrovnik, written directly for someone or dedicated to a specific object. 

Many of his poems were not signed, but thanks to a very specific way of writing many believe today that some of the most famous love poems in Dubrovnik from that period, were written by Džore Držić. The most famous is Odiljam se

Dublin discovery 

Džore Držić is also considered a founder of modern Croatian drama. Thanks to a scripture discovered in Dublin in 1963, many of his unknown material emerged, a total of 96 poems and a pastoral type of drama with an idyllic atmosphere, Radmilo and Ljubmir

The drama is about two shepherds, Radmilo and Ljubmir, and their opposing views of love. Typical for Džore, the pastoral is written in a hyper-realistic way, for both rational Radmilo and romantic Ljubmir. The piece is considered the first modern written drama in the 15th century, using an Italian template. 

Džore’s popularity grew after his passing in 1501. Many of his poems ended up in a script made by a nobleman Nikša Ranjin, who published a collection of poems heard on the streets of Dubrovnik, as young gentlemen were courting ladies. His verses were memorized, recited, and widely used. 

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