Petrarch

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Petrarch’s other writings, except for some prayers in Latin hexameters, are all in Latin prose and consist of epistles, biographies, a collection of exempla, autobiographical works, psalms, orations, invectives, assorted treatises, and even a guidebook to the Holy Land, which he never visited and knew only through the eyes and books of others. Ironically, although the author believed that he would achieve lasting fame because of his Latin compositions, he is remembered today largely for his vernacular poetry. Contemporary scholars do study his Latin works, but primarily to gain insight into his Italian poems. A knowledge of his classically inspired writings, however, is essential to anyone who would understand the cultural milieu that led to the birth of the Renaissance in Italy.

Achievements

Two words sum up Petrarch’s profound historical legacy: Petrarchianism and Humanism. The first stands for the widespread influence of the author’s vernacular poetry, especially his love sonnets but also Triumphs, on Western European culture from the late fourteenth century to the mid-seventeenth century. It refers to the imitation in literature and the representation in art of the themes and images so carefully crafted in Petrarch’s Italian verse: in literature, for example, the expression of the lover’s torment through the use of antithesis, oxymoron, hyperbole, and other appropriate rhetorical figures, or the description of the beloved as an ideal yet real lady with golden hair, ivory skin, and pearl teeth; in art, the reproduction of Triumphs on canvas and wedding chests and in other media, such as woodcuts, enamels, tapestries, and stained glass, as well as in pageants, ballets, and theatricals. The second term, with a capital H, refers to the intellectual and cultural movement that derived from the study of classical literature and civilization during the late Middle Ages and that was one of the main factors contributing to the rise of the Renaissance. Petrarch is commonly called the “Father of Humanism” because his intense interest in antiquity led him to be the first in modern times to collect ancient manuscripts, compose letters to great Roman and Greek figures of the past, imitate Cicero in his prose and Vergil in his epic poetry, and examine classical writings in their own context, with waning regard for accrued medieval traditions and superstitions. Early fifteenth century Italian Humanists, such as Coluccio Salutati and Leonardo Bruni, were followers of Petrarch and saw him as the enlightened initiator of a new age, the epoch now known as the Renaissance. In reality, although Petrarch does embody many of the qualities of a “Renaissance man” because of his well-rounded nature and aried accomplishments, he is neither wholly in the Renaissance nor entirely in the Middle Ages. Rather, he is a transitional or pivotal figure. His vernacular amorous poetry, with its emphasis on the unreciprocated love for an idealized woman, is in many ways only a culmination of the Provençal troubadour tradition; his Triumphs, written in Dante’s terza rima could hardly be more medieval; and his psalms and autobiographical dialogues mirror the Middle Ages’ confessional literature. Yet the genres and classical style of most of his Latin compositions, his anti-Scholastic attitudes, and his love of secular learning for its moral and civic teachings clearly place him in what would become the mainstream of the Renaissance cultural tradition.

Biography

Francesco Petrarca was born in Arezzo, Italy, on July 20, 1304, the oldest child of Pietro di Parenzo, an exiled Florentine notary. Di Parenzo, more commonly called Ser Petracco (“Ser” indicates a notary), was a White Guelph and, like Dante, had been exiled from Florence and its territory in 1302. (Petrarch...

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later formed his own surname by ingeniously reworking Petracco into an elegant Latinate form.) Early in 1305, Petrarch’s mother, Eletta Canigiani, took her son to her father-in-law’s home in Incisa, north of Arezzo and in Florentine territory. There, she and Petrarch lived until 1311, when her husband moved them to the independent state of Pisa. In 1312, the family moved to Carpentras, in Provence, to be near the papal seat, which Clement V had moved to Avignon in 1309. In Carpentras, Petrarch began his study of thetrivium with Convenevole da Prato and continued his studies there until 1316, when, at the tender age of twelve, he was sent to the University of Montpellier to study law. In 1320, he and his younger brother Gherardo, of whom he was very fond, moved to Bologna to continue their legal studies. Petrarch, however, never completed the work for his degree because of his many varied interests. Upon the death of his father in 1326, he abandoned forever his pursuit of law and returned with his brother to Avignon. There, the two of them began ecclesiastical careers in order to improve their financial situations. Petrarch received the tonsure, but he never went further than the minor orders. Gherardo, on the other hand, later became a Carthusian monk.

On Good Friday, 1327, Petrarch saw a woman in the Church of Santa Chiara in Avignon and fell in love with her. The poet identifies her only as Laura, except once when he calls her “Laureta”; her exact identity has never been definitively established. While many critics believe her to be Laura de Noves, who married Hugues de Sade in 1325, others question her very existence. Whatever the case, the figure of Laura, ever reluctant to return the poet’s love, is the inspiration or motivation for most of Petrarch’s Italian poetry. He even records her death from the plague on April 6, 1348, in his precious copy of Vergil, an indication of the reality and depth of his devotion to her.

In 1330, Petrarch entered the service of Cardinal Giovanni Colonna and remained under that family’s patronage for almost two decades. Petrarch soon became, as he characterized himself, a peregrinus ubique (pilgrim everywhere). In 1333, he traveled through northern France, Flanders, and Germany. He visited Paris, where Dionigi da Borgo San Sepolcro gave him a copy of Saint Augustine’s Confessions (c. 397); Liège, where he discovered two new orations by Cicero; and Aachen, where he visited the tomb of Charlemagne. In 1336, he climbed Mount Ventoux with his brother. At the top, he read from his copy of the Confessions a passage on the vanity of man. He meditated at length on what he had read, and the experience marked the beginning of the serious introspection which characterized the rest of his life. From the top of the mountain he also looked down on Italy and felt a strong desire to return to his native country. This he accomplished in a trip to Rome, where he visited Giacomo Colonna toward the end of that year.

Petrarch returned to Avignon in 1337, desirous of solitude, which he found fifteen miles away, in Vaucluse, a valley which afforded him a quiet place to study and write. In that same year his first illegitimate child, Giovanni, was born. The mother is unknown, and the son died from the plague in 1361. By Petrarch’s mid-thirties, he was well-known in Italy and France for his Latin verse, and in 1340, he received letters from the Senate in Rome and the University of Paris offering him the poet laureate’s crown. He chose to receive the honor in Rome and left the next year for Naples, where King Robert examined him on various questions and proclaimed him worthy of the prize. On Easter Sunday, 1341, he accepted the laurel crown in Rome and delivered a coronation speech on the nature of poetry. It was the first time that such a ceremony had been held since classical times, and it dramatized the significance that the literary models of antiquity were assuming. From Rome, he traveled to Pisa, then to Parma, where he spent about a year working on his epic Africa.

In 1342, Petrarch was back in Avignon, where the following year his illegitimate daughter Francesca was born. In October, 1343, he traveled again in Italy, this time as ambassador of the new pope, Clement VI, to the new queen, Joan I. In December, he left Naples, disgusted with the corruption of the court, and went to Parma, where his stay was cut short by the outbreak of war. He escaped through enemy lines and visited Modena, Bologna, and Verona before returning to Avignon by the end of 1345. Soon after arriving in Avignon, he retired to Vaucluse, where he spent all of 1346. In the summer of 1347, he learned that Cola di Rienzo had been elected tribune of Rome. Delighted with the election, Petrarch wrote him a congratulatory Latin eclogue in which he rebuffed all the Roman nobles, including members of the Colonna family, who were hostile to the tribune. At this time, he became entirely independent of Colonna patronage. In November, he headed toward Rome, but in Genoa he learned of the despotic actions of the tribune and decided to interrupt his trip. He selected Parma as his main residence but traveled around Italy at will for three years. In the autumn of 1350, on his way to Rome for the Jubilee, he stopped in Florence, where he visited Giovanni Boccaccio. They met again in Padua in April of the following year. In June, 1351, Petrarch was back in Vaucluse, whence he traveled back and forth to Avignon in hope of papal assistance. The death of Clement VI and the election of Innocent VI to the Papacy in December, 1352, caused Petrarch to lose all hope of support from the Papacy, as Pope Innocent suspected him of necromancy. Petrarch bid his brother farewell for the last time in April of the next year and left in May for Italy.

Back in his native land, Petrarch accepted an offer from the Visconti family to live in Milan, where he remained for eight years (1353-1361). In June, 1361, he left Milan because of the spread of the plague and traveled to Padua, where he was a guest of Francesco da Carrara. In early 1362, he returned to Milan, but because of renewed danger from the plague, he was back in Padua in the spring. In September, he went to Venice, where he remained until 1368, alternating his sojourn there with repeated trips to Padua, Milan, and Pavia. In 1363, Boccaccio paid him a visit in Venice that lasted for a few months. In 1368, Petrarch moved to Padua and from there, in 1370, to nearby Arquà with his daughter Francesca and her family. He spent his final years in Padua and in Arquà, where he died during the night on July 18, 1374.

Analysis

Francesco Petrarca, known in English as Petrarch, was both an Italian and a Latin poet, and any analysis of his poetry must take into consideration both aspects of his career. Petrarch revised continually and extensively most of his compositions; the exact chronology of his works, therefore, whether poetry or prose, is difficult to establish. His first book in Italian is Canzoniere, poems written and revised between 1336 and 1374 but not printed until 1470, almost a full century after his death. Any “publication” prior to that date refers, more precisely, to the circulation of a manuscript. The earliest edition of Petrarch’s collected Latin works dates from 1496; his complete works, including Italian verse, titled Opera quae extant omnia, were first published in Basel in 1554 and later reprinted there in 1581. No modern edition of the complete works exists, although a national edition has been in progress since 1926.

While he longed to be remembered, as has been indicated, for his prodigious production in Latin, the smaller body of his Italian verse has been much more widely appreciated since the end of the fifteenth century. In both cases, however, his compositions have been widely influential because of the basic principle of imitation which he endorsed and which the Renaissance accepted as canon. Petrarch believed in the necessity of imitating the great Latin authors in order to produce works of lasting significance. His adherence to this doctrine in the bulk of his poetry and prose established the precedent for imitatio which later Humanists refined. Curiously, the subsequent refinement of the principle led to compositions that were much more Ciceronian, in terms of correct grammar and pure style, than Petrarch ever achieved in his own prose. This fact may account for the declining interest in his Latin prose after the fifteenth century. In his Italian poetry, Petrarch himself was not concerned with the imitation per se of preceding traditions as much as with the application of the best of those traditions, such as certain images found in the troubadour lyrics, to a real model: Laura. In the early sixteenth century, however, Pietro Bembo cited Petrarch’s Italian lyrics as the best model for those who would write vernacular poetry. With the flourishing of the printing press at the same time as the cardinal’s endorsement, Petrarch’s Italian poems, already outstanding for their lyric quality and psychological insights, became destined to serve as models and to achieve prominence in the literature of the Western world.

Rhymes

Drawing on a literary-historical examination of the past, Petrarch’s Latin writings, as critic Aldo Bernardo has emphasized, “contain a virile and noble view of mankind [and] exalt the achievements of ancient heroes and thinkers as indications of the heights that man can attain.” Petrarch discovered in the classical era examples of moral and civic virtue capable of instructing modern man, who, with the additional light of Christianity, could then surpass the accomplishments of pagan antiquity. Petrarch also shows the boundaries or limitations of paganism, with its bent for the things of this world, such as earthly fame and glory. The tension caused by attempting to balance the appeal of this world’s attractions with the Christian’s hope of a better life hereafter finds its ultimate expression in the poet’s Italian lyrics.

In the collected Rhymes, Laura is both a figura Christi and a figura Daphnae, a symbol of Christ’s purity and Daphne’s sensuality. More than a study of Laura, however, the poems constitute a keen analysis of the poet’s struggle to keep the attractions of this world in proper perspective. For the Christian, the eternal happiness of the next life should outshine the fleeting pleasure of this world; for Petrarch, this knowledge simply compounded his internal conflicts, as he struggled to bring his passions and desire for worldly renown under control and to submit to God. As in Saint Augustine’s Confessions, the final word of the Rhymes is “peace,” something that Petrarch’s revered saint achieved but of which the poet claims only to have caught glimpses.

The Latin inscription at the head of the Vatican holograph of Petrarch’s collected Italian poems is Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (fragments of vernacular rhymes). This title emphasizes the nonunitary nature of the collection of 366 lyrics. First, the poems, although mostly sonnets, include a variety of types and may be divided into the following categories: sonnets, canzones, sestinas, ballads, and madrigals. The total number corresponds to the maximum number of days in a year and makes the collection a sort of breviary. Second, the poems treat many topics in addition to the poet’s love for Laura, including the themes of friendship, papal corruption, and patriotism. Petrarch continually reordered the poems from 1336 until his death, but the criteria for their final ordering are unclear. Except for the universally accepted grouping of a few sonnets either according to shared themes (such as poems 41 through 43, dealing with Laura’s departure for an unknown place, and poems 136 through 138, treating the corruption of the Church in Avignon) or in order to juxtapose one idea to another (such as poems 61 and 62, expressing respectively the exaltation of love and reason), no single organizational principle, such as a meaningful chronology, has been established. Because of the blank pages which separate poems 263 and 264 in Vatican manuscript 3195, a two-part division of the overall framework has traditionally been made. The first 263 poems, which depict Laura as a real woman who moves, talks, laughs, cries, and travels, are usually designated “In vita di madonna Laura” (in the lifetime of Laura). The last 103 poems, which present Laura as a more ethereal being whose carnal presence is not felt, then receive the label “In morte di madonna Laura” (after the death of Laura). Although the headings are not original to Petrarch, they seem generally appropriate.

The true subject of the poems in which Laura appears, either in person or more often in the form of a conceit, such as the laurel tree or the dawn (l’aurora, in Italian), is not really Laura. Rather, it is the love of Petrarch for Laura. The Rhymes are the intimate story of the poet’s emotions, perceptions, feelings, and changing moods produced by the sight or memory of his beloved. The actual descriptions of Laura, whose hair is always blonde like gold and whose skin is white like snow or ivory, are not nearly as significant as the depictions of the poet’s melancholic or exalted states as he contemplates her beauty or ruminates over his unreciprocated love. Closely connected with the repeated motif of one-sided love are the themes of the transitoriness of time, the brevity of life, and the vanity of earthly objects and honors.

Two famous canzones, “Spirito gentil” (“Noble Spirit”) and “Italia mia” (“My Italy”), best exemplify the category of patriotic or political poems in the Rhymes. The first poem was probably written either to Cola di Rienzo in 1347, when he attempted to reinstate the Roman Republic, or to Bosone de’ Raffaelli da Gubbio, a Roman senator. It pleads with the “noble spirit” to call Rome’s erring citizens back to her ancient path of virtue and glory. Rivalries should be put away and a sense of national pride engendered to wake Italy from her lethargy. “My Italy” constitutes an eloquent plea for peace and is addressed to Italy’s warring lords; the most famous section, “Ancient Valor Is Not Yet Dead in Italic Hearts,” was chosen by Niccolò Machiavelli to conclude Il principe (1532; The Prince). The sonnet sequence previously referred to, poems 136 through 138, represents possibly the most colorful and violent depiction of the corruption of the Church, but references to the papal court at Avignon as “Babylon” occur throughout the Rhymes. The best-known poems of friendship treat members of the Colonna family: “Gloriosa columna” (“Glorious Column”) and “Rottalè l’alta colonna” (“Broken Is the High Column”). Whatever the theme, all Petrarch’s vernacular rhymes are characterized by a sensitivity to beautiful images and sounds which is almost without parallel in the history of Italian versification. In addition, the poet perfected the sonnet form.

Triumphs

Begun in 1351 or 1352 and revised between 1356 and 1374, Triumphs was never completed by Petrarch. Like Dante’s La divina commedia (c. 1320; The Divine Comedy), Petrarch’s Triumphs is an allegorical poem written in interlocking rhymed tercets. Its main divisions are six in number and relate the following story: “Triumphus amoris” (“Triumph of Love”), in four chapters, has Love—in a chariot and surrounded by classical figures—appear to the poet in a dream; as the poet observes the spectacle, Laura appears and he falls in love with her; thus enslaved, he follows the chariot to Cyprus, where Love’s triumph is celebrated. “Triumphus pudicitiae” (“Triumph of Chastity”), in one chapter, shows Love vainly attempting to imprison Laura, who—armed with her virtues—succeeds in taking Love prisoner; then, surrounded by a court of ladies famous for their virtue, Laura ultimately celebrates her triumph in the temple of Chastity in Rome, where Love is left a prisoner. “Triumphus mortis” (“Triumph of Death”), in two chapters, has Laura die without suffering and then visit Petrarch in a dream, at which time she reveals that she always loved him. “Triumphus famae” (“Triumph of Fame”), in three chapters, has Fame arrive as Death leads Laura away; surrounded by famous literati, Fame explains that she has the power to take a man from the grave and give him life again. “Triumphus temporis” (“Triumph of Time”), in one chapter, shows the Sun, envious of Fame, accelerating time so that the poet will realize that Fame is like snow on the mountain and that Time triumphs over her. Finally, “Triumphus aeternitatis” (“Triumph of Eternity”), in one chapter, depicts the poet’s realization that everything in the world passes away; as the poet turns his thoughts to God, he sees a new world, more beautiful and outside time and space; there the righteous triumph, and there the poet hopes to see Laura.

The individual triumphs are successive until the sixth and final one, which provides a vision of the future. The allegorical meaning of the poem points to the necessity of man’s looking to God for the ultimate fulfillment of his aspirations. The tone of the work, therefore, is undoubtedly medieval and reminiscent of Dante. Although Petrarch claimed in a letter to Boccaccio that he had never read The Divine Comedy, his allegorical poem, with its many Dantean echoes and allusions, including borrowed phrasing, stands as proof that he knew Dante’s work very well. Unfortunately, the lyric quality of the unfinished poem fails to match that of the Rhymes. This is true for at least two reasons: First, the catalogs of characters are almost interminable and serve to break up the poetic rhythm almost before it is established; second, the allegorical frame, too obvious even from the brief summary provided, is so heavy as to be oppressive. Nevertheless, this composition, although vastly inferior to the collected lyrics, exerted a dramatic influence on Renaissance art because of the esteem in which its author was held. The representation of its processionals in all the major and most of the minor artistic media was an essential part of the phenomenon of Petrarchianism.

Africa

Petrarch believed that Africa, his epic poem composed in Latin hexameters and divided into nine books, was his most promising work. He began writing the poem in 1338 or 1339, reworking and revising it during the next thirty-five years but never finishing it. Because it was never completed, it was never more than promising. Part of it was presented to King Robert in Naples prior to Petrarch’s receiving the crown of poet laureate, but the poem never circulated during the author’s lifetime. After his death, friends circulated it, and it was poorly received. In truth, the poem has never enjoyed critical acclaim or approval, except for rare passages such as the tragic love story of Masinissa and Sophonisba. The epic hero is Scipio Africanus; the sources upon which the poem is based include Cicero’s “Somnium Scipionis” (“Dream of Scipio”) at the end of De republica (c. 52 b.c.e.) and Livy’s history.

The story begins with an account of Scipio’s dream of his deceased father, who died gloriously in the Roman defeat of the Carthaginians in Spain. The father carries Scipio to Heaven, where the son sees a vision of the rise and fall of their beloved Rome and learns that to follow virtue is the duty of man on Earth. His father assures him of victory over Hannibal in the upcoming African campaign and promises him lasting fame because of a poet to be born in the distant future—a not-too-subtle reference to Petrarch himself. The poem, regrettably, is almost completely lacking in both subtlety and dramatic tension. Scipio, brimming with virtue, foils his ally Masinissa’s illicit love affair and proves himself an unbelievable character. The outcome of the battle is known before it begins: Hannibal will be defeated, and Scipio will return to Rome victorious. On the voyage home, the conquering general and his friend Ennius discuss the nature of poetry. The latter relates a dream he had of Homer, in which a young poet of great genius figures prominently; the future poet of renown sits in an enclosed valley (read Petrarch seated in Vaucluse). The epic, with its initial and final dream sequences in which Petrarch enjoys a conspicuous place, strikes most critics as too self-congratulatory and ill conceived from beginning to end. As Thomas Bergin has stated, the poem lacks a reading public, “for a reader of Latin epics will want to read true Latin epics and not late medieval imitations.”

Eclogues

Petrarch’s Latin eclogues number twelve, one for each month of the year. As was common in the tradition of Roman and medieval pastoral poems, the bucolic setting disguises quite contemporary events. The pastors or shepherds in a faraway idyllic landscape parallel people close at hand; rustic dialogues find their analogue in contemporary issues. In brief, Petrarch’s compositions are a series of allegories placed in rural settings. The themes have all been encountered before: the Roman revolution of Cola di Rienzo, the poet’s love for Laura, his coronation in Rome, the corruption of the Church, the conflict in Petrarch between worldliness and spirituality, the death of King Robert, the usefulness of sacred and secular poetry, the destructiveness of the Black Death, and the poet’s decision to leave the service of the Colonna family. The eclogues, although neither notably influential nor necessarily inferior, testify to Petrarch’s ability to compose countless variations on any number of themes, many of which are notably personal. His life provided almost as much source material for his work as his scholarly studies did. Most of the eclogues were composed between 1346 and 1348, with the definitive version completed in 1364.

Metrical Letters

The Metrical Letters make up a collection of sixty-six epistles in Latin hexameters, subdivided into three books. Petrarch dedicated the collection to his friend Marco Barbato di Sulmona, who was chancellor to King Robert. Beginning in 1350, the poet reorganized the letters during a period of more than a decade, completing his task in 1363. The subjects treated range from personal confessions and descriptions of autobiographical happenings to political exhortations and stirring praises for Italy. In purpose, these varied and unequal epistles are not unlike the prose letters found in four other Petrarchan collections. Their intent is to present the poet as he wished to be remembered by posterity. Consequently, they are not filled with spontaneous comments and casual observations, no matter how they may appear at first glance. Every comment and every observation is calculated; this is especially true in those letters which have been carefully rewritten in hexameters. Petrarch’s desire, from the first letter to the last, is to interpret for future readers the events of his life, to analyze the results of his studies, and to speculate on the significance of his work. What may have started as another exercise in introspection quickly evolved into a new form of autobiography: an epistolary account revised through time with the reader constantly in mind.

Bibliography

Bishop, Morris. Petrarch and His World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963. Standard biographical treatment in one volume. Excellent introduction to his life, social contexts, and major works.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Petrarch. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. Well-chosen collection of eight previously published essays by major Petrarch scholars.

Boyle, Marjorie O’Rourke. Petrarch’s Genius: Pentimento and Prophecy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. Boyle rejects literal interpretations of Petrarch’s “poetics of idolatry,” seeing his obsession in rhetorical terms and as an expression of his “frustrated self.”

Braden, Gordon. Petrarchan Love and the Continental Renaissance. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999. Sticking close to the works themselves, Braden studies Petrarch’s poems and their effects on the likes of Giovanni Boccaccio, Pietro Bembo, Pierre de Ronsard, and Garcilaso de la Vega. He emphasizes the continuity of subject matter and the poets’ “creative narcissism.”

Fubini, Riccardo. Humanism and Secularization: From Petrarch to Valla. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003. Looks at Petrarch in terms of his contribution to the development of Italian Renaissance humanism.

Jones, Frederic J. The Structure of Petrarch’s “Canzoniere”: A Chronological, Psychological, and Stylistic Analysis. Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell & Brewer, 1995. Studies the psychological evolution of part I of Canzoniere through the lens of “catastrophe theory” (applied to Petrarch’s relationship with the living Laura).

Mazzotta, Giuseppe. The Worlds of Petrarch. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993. Mazzotta synthesizes the major elements of and influences on Petrarch’s character (humanism, spirituality, history, rhetoric, antiquity, and love) and explores this “unity of parts” in his poetry.

Sturm-Maddox, Sara. Petrarch’s Laurels. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. The relationship between Petrarch’s concerns for love and for glory is encased in that of “Laura” and “the laurel.” This study of their relationship in his poetry examines the conflicts, metamorphoses, and parallels that entwine the two.

Trinkaus, Charles. The Poet as Philosopher: Petrarch and the Formation of Renaissance Consciousness. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979. Trinkaus explores the impact of Petrarch’s poetic mentality on his humanistic works and of both on the emergence of the modern concept of self.

Discussion Topics

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Why has Petrarch’s Laura influenced subsequent love poetry more than Dante’s Beatrice?

What besides the subject of Laura has made Petrarch’s Canzoniere so important?

What makes Petrarch’s sonnet form difficult to accomplish in English?

Why have writers on Petrarch attached such importance to the fact that he climbed Mt. Ventoux?

Describe the influence of Petrarch on Giovanni Boccaccio.

Millions of people have read Petrarch’s Canzoniere in Italian or in translation; in general, only scholars read his Latin works. Why are the latter so important?

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