Battista Guarini was born in Ferrara in 1538, the offspring of a noble family that had brought honor to the city of Ferrara through its achievements in the literary and political arenas for more than two centuries. Guarini studied law at the University of Padua and in 1557 was professor of rhetoric and poetry at the University of Ferrara. Between 1564 and 1567, he was a member of the Accademia degli Eterei of Padua, where he met, among others, Scipione Gonzaga and Torquato Tasso.
On his return home, he accepted employment with Alfonso II d’Este, duke of Ferrara, and spent twenty-one years as secretary of the Este court. As a diplomat, he was sent on missions to other Italian courts and states (Turin, 1569-1571; Venice, 1572; Rome, 1572), and to Poland (1574, 1575-1576), where he unsuccessfully represented the rights of Alfonso II to the succession to the Polish throne.
After these diplomatic activities, he became the official court poet at Ferrara. Yet service at court, be it in Ferrara, Mantova, Florence, or Urbino, where he was employed after 1588, did not satisfy Guarini. Italian courts in the last thirty years of the sixteenth century provided a very limited role for a courtier or secretary when compared to the political importance assigned to a courtier in the Humanist age. Guarini suffered from this diminished role, in which his high self-esteem, dignity, and decorum were hardly matched by the daily chores, which he found demeaning. In 1580, Guarini began to work on The Faithful Shepherd, which was first published in 1590.
If for Guarini court life was a cause of dissatisfaction and ambivalence that was barely compensated for by the universal accolades received by his masterpiece,...
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