Pietro Aretino Analysis

Other Literary Forms

ph_0111207671-Aretino.jpg Pietro Aretino Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Pietro Aretino was an extremely prolific writer. Besides his theatrical works, he is well known for his satiric and erotic poems and dialogues. He also practiced epic and burlesque poetry, wrote several religious works, and published six volumes of letters.


Men of eminence of his day who “were not afraid of the wrath of God” feared his pen, as Pietro Aretino himself wrote in a letter dated December, 1552. The readiness and soundness of his opinions, the pomposity with which he would request or acknowledge a favor, as well as the fierceness, the impudence, and the caustic wit of his attacks, were all to become legendary, to be remembered and evoked by generations of satirists and chroniclers.

Aretino was also to become famous—or infamous—for his works of pornography, his various ragionamenti and Sonetti lussuriosi (1524; The Sonnets, 1926). Allusions to his licentious dialogues and obscene poems occur so frequently, especially in English literature, as to deserve special consideration as a separate phenomenon.

The legends that were built on his life, both the religious and secular censorship that struck his production, along with the extent, the variety, the disparity, and the poor editorial condition of his works, have prevented scholars and the public from objectively considering and appraising Aretino’s personality and achievements.

Aretino was a panegyrist, a libeler, a satirist, and a pornographer, but he also wrote several religious works, in keeping with the new tendencies of the Counter-Reformation. He was the presumptuous follower of Ludovico Ariosto in Marfisa (1532) and other unfinished chivalric poems, but a more effective...

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Andrews, Richard. “Rhetoric and Drama: Monologues and Set Speeches in Aretino’s Comedies.” In The Languages of Literature in Renaissance Italy, edited by Peter Hainsworth et al. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. A study of Aretino’s plays.

Cairns, Christopher. “Aretino’s Comedies and the Italian ‘Erasmian’ Connection in Shakespeare and Jonson.” In Theatre of the English and Italian Renaissance, edited by J. R. Mulryne and Margaret Shewring. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. A study of Aretino’s plays.

Cairns, Christopher. Pietro Aretino and the Republic of Venice: Researches on Aretino and His Circle in Venice, 1527-1556. Florence: L. S. Olschki, 1985. Although this study focuses on Aretino’s friends and acquaintances in Venice, it helps readers understand his writings. Bibliography and indexes.

Cottino-Jones, Marga. “Rome and the Theatre in the Renaissance.” In Rome in the Renaissance: The City and the Myth: Papers of the Thirteenth Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, edited by P. A. Ramsey. Binghampton, N.Y.: Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 1982. A study of Aretino’s plays.

Freedman, Luba. Titian’s Portraits Through Aretino’s Lens. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995. Examines the portraits of Aretino done by Titian. Bibliography and index.

Lawner, Lynne, ed. and trans. I Modi: The Sixteen Pleasures: An Erotic Album of the Italian Renaissance. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University, 1988. A look at the eroticism of Aretino, Marcantonio Raimondi, Giulio Romano, and Count Jean-Frederic-Maximilien de Waldeck. Reveals some of the motives behind and themes of Aretino’s works.

Ruggiero, Guido. “Marriage, Love, Sex, and Renaissance Civic Morality.” In Sexuality and Gender in Early Modern Europe: Institutions, Texts, Images, edited by James Grantham Turner. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. An ethical study; includes bibliography and index.

Waddington, Raymond B. “A Satirist’s Impresa: The Medals of Pietro Aretino.” Renaissance Quarterly 42, no. 4 (Winter, 1989): 655. This essay examines the medals of Aretino and his popularity as a writer.

Woods-Marsden, Joanna. “Toward a History of Art Patronage in the Renaissance: The Case of Pietro Aretino.” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 24, no. 2 (Spring, 1994): 275. Analyzes the relationship between sitter (patron) and artist.