Regarded as the father of Italian humanism, Francesco Petrarch brought the classical world of Greece and Rome to life with his enthusiastic scholarship of the words and wisdom of ancient writers.
Poet, philosopher, and moralist, Petrarch captured the vitality and variety of life in his work. He is recognized for the lyric poetry in his Canzoniere: The Sonnets and Stanzas of Petrarch (1470), a collection of poems expressing his unrequited love for a woman named Laura. Primarily, however, Petrarch is remembered as the writer who popularized the Italian sonnet form—also referred to as the Petrarchan sonnet—that influenced poets throughout Europe for more than three hundred years.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Intellect Flowered during Early Renaissance Born Francesco Petrarca (but commonly called Petrarch in English) in 1304 in Arezzo, in what is now Italy, he was the oldest son of a notary who had been banished from Florence in 1301 because of his political activities. (At the time, the Italian peninsula was divided into city-states, like Florence, as well as larger territories like the Kingdom of Naples. The city-states in particular were emerging as centers of commerce, the arts, and sciences. Because many city-states were a conduit of goods and learning from the Byzantine and Islamic empires, they provided great impetus to the developing Renaissance, which was a flowering of the arts,
literature, music, and science. (The Renaissance lasted from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries in Italy.)
In 1312, the family moved to Avignon, France, where Petrarch’s father established himself as a successful lawyer. After being privately educated by tutors, Petrarch began studying civil law at the University of Montpellier in 1316. Extraordinarily bright and intellectually curious, he spent so much of his allowance on the works of classical poets that his angry father once burned the young Petrarch’s library except for works by Cicero and Virgil.
Wrote First Poems Around this same time, Petrarch’s mother died, inspiring him to write his earliest known poem in tribute to her. In 1320, Petrarch and his younger brother entered law school in Bologna, where they remained until the death of their father in 1326. Abandoning his legal studies and quickly spending his inheritance, Petrarch settled in Avignon and entered minor orders at the papal court there, planning to pursue a religious career. (In 1309, Avignon had been chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence. Thus the seat of the papacy was Avignon instead of Rome, a situation that lasted until 1378. Clement and his successors who made the city the center of the church were French.)
Love for Laura According to literary legend, while attending services on Good Friday in 1327, Petrarch saw and fell in love with a woman he thereafter called Laura. For the rest of his life, he wrote verse about his unrequited love for her, poems he initially collected into a volume around 1336 and from then on reworked.
Petrarch became a private chaplain to Giovanni Cardinal Colonna in 1330, a position he would hold for almost twenty years. During those years, Petrarch proved a prolific writer, producing not only poetry in both Latin and Italian, but also
essays on topics as diverse as destiny, famous people, religious life, and the nature of ignorance. As he traveled on diplomatic business, Petrarch composed or revised most of his major works and maintained faithful correspondence with friends, scholars, and the nobility of Europe, as evidenced by the hundreds of letters he wrote.
Poet Laureate Included among Petrarch’s major poetic works are Africa (1396) and Triumphs (1470). Africa is an epic poem celebrating the victory of the Roman general Scipio Africanus over the Carthaginian general Hannibal in the Second Punic War. The poem is written in Latin hexameter, while Triumphs is written in Italian terza rima—lines of eleven syllables, arranged in groups of three and rhyming ‘‘ababcbcdc’’—the measure Dante uses in his Divine Comedy. Petrarch’s most popular work during the Renaissance, Triumphs, a long allegorical poem, depicts six stages of the soul’s spiritual journey: Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time, and Eternity. The popularity of this work was the result of its encyclopedic catalog of famous people, its visionary outlook, and its emphasis on salvation through God.
Because his works were widely distributed, Petrarch was admired for his talents as a lyric poet and famous for his passion for the unknown Laura. He received simultaneous invitations to be named poet laureate in Rome and Paris in 1340 and ultimately accepted the position in Rome. On Easter Sunday a year later, in an elaborate coronation ceremony held in the Palace of the Senate on the Capitoline Hill, Petrarch was named the poet laureate of Rome. In the classical tradition, Petrarch was crowned with laurel leaves. It is believed that no ceremony of such magnitude had taken place for over a thousand years.
Focused on Seniles at End of Life After years of traveling and writing, Petrarch went to Padua, in June 1361 to avoid the Milan outbreak of the Black Plague— a deadly pandemic of the bacterium commonly known as the bubonic plague—that had taken the lives of Petrarch’s sons, the woman believed to have been his beloved Laura, and several of his friends, including Cardinal Colonna. In Padua he began a new collection, Seniles.
In the fall of 1362, Petrarch moved to Venice, where he received a house in exchange for the bequest of his library to the city, residing there until Francesco da Carrara, his patron in Padua, gave him some land in Arqua, near Padua. In 1370, Petrarch retired to a house he had built there and studied, worked on Triumphs and Canzoniere, and received friends and family. At the time of his death in July 1374, Petrarch was working on a biographical letter intended to end the Seniles.
Works in Literary Context
Petrarch’s work is filled with extended metaphors and references to classical antiquity, features that exemplify Renaissance poetry. He is widely believed to have been influenced by the study of Greek and Latin and was recognized for reviving interest in the classical languages. In particular, he emulated famous Romans Virgil, Cicero, and Seneca in his work and wrote biographies of famous Romans, On Illustrious Men (begun c. 1337). Petrarch was also influenced by the Italian sonnet, a form with an octet rhyming in the pattern ‘‘abbaabba’’ and a sestet following the pattern ‘‘cdecde.’’ He is credited with popularizing the Italian sonnet, and it is generally regarded as his most important contribution to English writers.
Importance of Italian and Latin Having lived both in Provence and in Italy and having been a student of the classical lyric, Petrarch was the inheritor of an ancient and thriving tradition. Despite his notion that Latin was a more noble instrument of expression, he must have sensed that the Italian language provided him the means of externalizing the subtlest nuances of his inmost feelings and thoughts. Although many of his Latin compositions are more forward-looking, the Triumphs, which is medieval in design, and the Canzoniere, which belongs to an ancient tradition of love lyrics, have remained the most popular, perhaps because they were written in the vernacular and because they reflect Petrarch’s own highly refined sensibilities and his wondrous skill with a language that was not wholly his own.
Laura and the Canzoniere In its final form, the Canzoniere contains 366 poems: 317 sonnets, twenty-nine cazone (songs), nine sestinas, seven ballads, and four madrigals. The collection is divided into two sections. Composed of 266 poems, the first section primarily focuses on Laura during her lifetime, with some political, moral, and miscellaneous verse interspersed. The poems in the second section are memories of Laura after her death. For the most part, the narrator of the Canzoniere contemplates his passion for Laura, the suffering caused by unrequited love, and his efforts to free himself from his desire for an unobtainable woman. The last poem of the volume closes with a plea to the Virgin Mary to end the narrator’s heartache. While the existence and identity of Laura remain unknown, it is obvious that Petrarch loved her through the poetry he created, and critics have determined that she has served as the embodiment of feminine virtue and beauty for generations of poets.
Pages: 1 2
Please do not pass this sample essay as your own, otherwise you will be accused of plagiarism. Our writers can write any custom essay for you!
Petrarchism Petrarchism designates the poetic style inspired by the Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, also known as Canzoniere, composed by Francis Petrarch* (Francesco Petrarca, 1304–1374) over most of his life. Petrarch’s sway over Italian letters has lasted until the twentieth century; his authority was revered all over Europe, particularly during the Renaissance, when his influence spanned from the Petrarch, Francis (Francesco Petrarca, 1304–1374) Francesco Petrarca, known in English as Francis Petrarch, was born in Arezzo in 1304. His father, ser Petracco, had been exiled like Dante Alighieri* (1265–1321) from his native Florence in 1301; in 1312 he moved his family to Provence, near the new papal site of Avignon, where Petrarch intermittently spent most of his life and Middle Ages The Middle Ages is a blanket term for the period between classical antiquity and the Renaissance,* and may therefore be said to extend from ca. 410 to ca. 1400. Petrarch* (1304–1374) is credited with imposing such a tripartite periodization on history, when he identified the more recent past as ‘‘our shadows’’ (tenebrae nostrae) and the Franco, Veronica (1546–1591) In reexamining Veronica Franco and her work from a feminist perspective, readers have appreciated not only the Venetian courtesan that traditional readers have highlighted, but also the writer, the citizen, and the public intellectual. Franco has won particular admiration among feminist readers today because, among the Italian women writers of the Renaissance,* she was perhaps Laura Cereta 1469–1499 Laura Cereta* (1469–1499), the first Italian feminist, was educated by a nun at the convent to which she had been sent as a child. She participated in at least one learned academy and circulated manuscript copies of her Latin letters widely. Her letters address issues of general concern to women, such as the plight of