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==The life and works of Petrarch==
Francesco Petrarch (in Italian Petrarca) was born in Arezzo in Northern Italy. His father was a lawyer and a member of the minor nobility. He spent some of his early childhood in a village near Florence and his family later moved to Avignon in Southern France. His father followed the court of the Pope who moved to Avignon to escape the disorders and instability in Rome. Petrarch’s father obliged him to study law, but he later abandoned it, his first love was literature and during his school years he developed a life-long love of Latin and the ancient world. The young Francesco entered the church and took minor orders, this meant that while he was a cleric, he was able to live and work in society. The young Italian was in financial straitened circumstances after the death of his father and he began to serve the powerful Cardinal Colonna. Petrarch was a diplomat and he had as a result a very cosmopolitan outlook, which was very rare in the 14th century. One day while attending mass in 1327 he saw a lady, at mass, called Laura whom he fell in love with at first sight and she became his muse and inspired most of his greatest poetry. During his travels on diplomatic missions he would write poetry in praise of Laura. There are those who have argued that Laura was fictional a poetic device, but most believe she was a real historical figure. She was probably the wife of a local count and died in 1348.
He became famous throughout Europe after the circulation of his Epic in Latin, Africa, based on the life of a Roman general. In 1341 he was invited to Rome and was crowned as Poet Laureate, only the second poet to be honoured in this way, since the fall of the Empire. <ref> Larner, John. Italy in the Age of Dante and Petrarch, 1216-1380. Vol. 2 (London, Longman Publishing Group, 1980), p 118</ref>. He also became friendly with many of the greatest writers of his time, such as Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), the author of the Decameron. The Italian was a great letter-writer and was in correspondence with the leading thinkers of his time. Sometime in 1346 it seems that Petrarch had a spiritual crisis and he became more religious but he did not abandon his love of the classics and the classical world <ref>Larner, Vol I, p 201</ref>. His fame continued to grow, and he was sent on more diplomatic mission by the Church. The Italian was an early supporter of Cola Rienzi who failed in a bid to resurrect the Roman Republic and restore popular government in Rome. This made him very unpopular with some of the leading Church figures of the day and possibly harmed his diplomatic career. After 1350 he travelled less and began to dedicate himself more to poetry and he revised many of his earlier lyrics, especially those in Italian and he collected these in his famous Il Canzoniere (Song Book). Despite taking orders, as a cleric, Petrarch, fathered two children outside of marriage and he legitimized both of them, a son and a daughter. He had a deep interest in education and became involved in a number of polemics against those who championed the traditional approach to education, which was largely influenced by the teachings of the Church <ref> Mazzotta, Giuseppe. The worlds of Petrarch. No. 14 (North Carolina, Duke University Press, 1993), p. 119</ref>. In the 1360s he settled in Florence and later Padua but had to move regularly because of outbreaks of the Black Death. In 1367 he returned to Padua and remained there until his death in 1374.
[[File: Petrarch 3.jpg|200px|thumb|left| The real-life Laura was Laura De Noves]]
==His impact on the literature of the Renaissance==
While Petrarch wrote in both Latin and Italian it is arguably his works and especially his poetry in his native tongue that was most influential. Vernacular poetry had begun to flourish in the 13th and 14th century and the works of Dante and the Sicilian School are still considered to be masterpieces of European literature<ref> Burckhardt, Jacob. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, (London, Penguin Books, 1990), p 117</ref>. Dante one of the world’s greatest poets had actually been a friend of Petrarch’s father. The writer was, to have a major impact on the development of poetry in the Renaissance. He is often credited as the inventor of the sonnet, one of the most popular poetic forms in the western tradition. This is a fourteen-line poem in the metre known as iambic pentameter. However, he really only perfected the form and he introduced innovations that allowed poets to use language in a very expressive way. Petrarch also developed new literary devices such as the extended metaphor. He was not the first to write about love in a very romantic way and about an idealized beloved. However, his poems dedicated to his love of Laura were very influential popularized the writing of love poetry in Italy and beyond. His use of sonnets to express his inner life and emotions was revolutionary and original. This did much to encourage poets to write in a more personal and introspective style<ref> Kirkham, Victoria and Armando Maggi. Petrarch: A Critical Guide to the Complete Works. (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2009), p. 119</ref>. Petrarch became the model for lyrical poets for many centuries. His sonnets, known as the Petrarchan Sonnet, were very popular in Elizabethan England. Shakespeare was clearly influenced by the Italian and he developed his own style of sonnet, known as the Shakespearian sonnet, based on Petrarch’s verse. The Italian wrote his poetry in the Tuscan dialect, as had Dante ,and this led it to become the standard form of literary expression in the Italian Peninsula, which had many regional dialects. The Italian was not only a great poet he also was a great prose writer. He wrote the first autobiography since the classical era and this was a landmark in the development of the genre and encouraged more writers to compose their memoirs and life-story. His dialogues, letters, and other works, in Latin inspired many imitators in the Renaissance.