Clément Marot (mah-roh), born at Cahors in 1496, went to Paris in 1506. His father, the Rhétoriqueur poet Jean Marot, served Anne de Bretagne, Louis XII, and later François I. (The Rhétoriqueur poets were a group of bourgeois poets who shared a preoccupation with rhetoric.) Marot’s life has invited considerable speculation. For many dates and facts scholars must rely on the often vague information gleaned from his work. About 1514 he became page to the king’s secretary; the following year he became a clerk at the Chancellery. In 1519 he entered the service of Marguerite d’Angoulême (or D’Alençon), “mother of the Renaissance,” whose influence and protection were decisive.
Almost all Marot’s youthful work, a kind of register of court life, falls between the years 1515 and 1526. Setting out to rival the Rhétoriqueur Jean Lemaire de Belges, Marot, under humanist influence, ended this period by finding a freer, more personal manner of writing than that of his predecessors.
Marot’s brushes with authority—his imprisonment for eating meat during Lent and for attempting to free a prisoner (in 1526 and 1527 respectively)—and his sympathy for the Reformation were early indications of a religious change that would later lead to his conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism. In the late 1520’s Marot helped expand the influence of Erasmus in France by translating three of his colloquies into French. In the poem “L’Enfer” (Hades—the Châtelet prison), he criticizes torture and abuses of judicial authority. His condemnation of injustice and torture prefigures similar arguments by Montaigne in his essays.
In 1526, on his father’s death, Marot became valet de chambre to François. He also became a well-respected court poet. In 1528 he composed a poem to celebrate the marriage of King Francis I’s...
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