Giambattista (Giovan Battista) Marino (or Marini, as it is often written), one of seven children, was born in Naples on October 18, 1569, the son of Giovan Francesco Marino. The elder Marino was a lawyer and hoped that his son would follow in his footsteps, but the young Marino was more interested in literary studies than in embracing a legal career. Having disappointed his father, Marino was unceremoniously asked to leave the paternal household, but his reputation as a spirited and bright young poet and man of letters was already sufficient to open to him the doors of several aristocratic houses, and in 1592, he entered the service of Matteo di Capua, Prince of Conca, as a poet and a secretary.
As a young man, Marino led a dissolute life and was twice imprisoned: first in 1598, for having taken part in the rape of a young woman (probably a nun), and again in 1600, for having falsified some documents in order to prepare the escape from prison of his friend, Marc’ Antonio d’Alessandro, who had been condemned to death. Although Marino was freed from prison, he was forced to flee to Rome, where he found protection with the influential Monsignor Melchiorre Crescenzio. In 1601-1602, Marino traveled to Venice to oversee the publication of his first two volumes of Le rime, later incorporated in La lira. Upon his return to Rome, he found employment with Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, the nephew of Pope Clement VIII, and in 1606, after the Pope’s death, Marino followed Aldobrandini to his seat at Ravenna.
Enjoying a growing reputation as a poet, Marino accompanied Aldobrandini to Torino in 1608 to attend the marriage of two daughters of Duke Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy, and Marino seized the occasion to write Il ritratto del serenissimo Don Carlo Emanuello Duca di Savoia (the portrait of the most serene Don Carlo Emanuele, duke of Savoy), a panegyric in honor of the duke. The duke reciprocated by conferring upon him the order of the knighthood of Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro—the title of “Cavaliere,” of which Marino always felt especially proud and which he henceforth always prefixed to his name.
In 1609, the duke’s secretary, Gaspare...
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