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Francesco Petrarch ( 1304 - 1374 )  Category ( Poets ) [suggest a correction]

PetrarchFrancesco Petrarca, better known to English speakers as Petrarch, was a highly influential late medieval Italian poet and one of the earliest humanists of the Renaissance period. Indeed, he is often referred to as the “father of humanism.” Italian poets Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy, and Giovanni Boccaccio, author of The Decameron, and later John Milton and William Shakespeare were inspired by Petrarch’s work. Petrarch, and to a lesser degree Dante and Boccacio are largely responsible for the development of the modern Italian language. Petrarch is credited with developing the sonnet, and his style was much imitated throughout Europe for centuries. Petrarch is perhaps best known to students of English literature for his poetry, much of which focused on his love for an idealized woman, Laura. It is from the “Laura poems” that Dante drew inspiration for his Beatrice. He was also one of the first people to refer to the Middle Ages as the Dark Ages, mainly because he was continually annoyed with the lack of interest in the classics during the time in which he lived.

Petrarch spent much of his early life at Avignon and Carpentras, but he was born in the city of Arezzo. At the urging of his father, who was employed in the profession, Petrarch studied law in his youth, but his heart was not in it and he considered his seven years of law study to be a waste of time. He pursued his interest in writing, but paid the bills through a series of clerical jobs. His first large work, entitled, Africa, was written in c. 1330, and was so successful that he attained a level of celebrity all over Europe. In 1341 he became the first poet laureate since antiquity. Petrarch also loved to travel, which was unusual for his day and age. He is sometimes called “the first tourist,” since he traveled for pleasure alone. Due to his clerical career in the church, Petrarch never married. He did, however, father and acknowledge two children with a woman whose name is unknown today. He was apparently close to both children, and later in life he traveled and lived with his daughter, Francesca, and her family. In later life he continued to travel throughout Italy as a popular scholar and poet-diplomat. Finally he settled with his daughter and her family in Padua, where his final years were spent in quiet, pious contemplation. He died on July 19, 1374, just one day shy of his seventieth birthday.

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