Francesco Petrarch was one of the most notable figures of the Italian Renaissance in the 14th century. He is considered the founder of humanism, effectively embodying the renaissance ideals in his poetry and other works. As a scholar, author and poet, Petrarch made extensive use of both Latin and Italian languages.
His literature in the Italian language contributed to the birth of the language together with a sizable body of literature in its vernacular. Although he wrote essays, poetry, letters and other works of scholarly research, he earned fame throughout contemporary Europe as an eminent poet who made use of humanistic ideals and a psychological realism in his love poems.
Petrarch was born in Tuscany in 1304 and spent his early life at Avignon. He attained quality education in law at the University of Montpellier and although his father wanted him to become a lawyer like himself, Petrarch expressed an interest in literature.
In 1326, Petrarch moved back to Avignon where he spent many subsequent years working at different clerical positions. This occupation would allow him to attend to his literary interests.
He gained fame throughout Europe with his first major epic poem called ‘Africa’ which he wrote in Latin.
He became a known scholar in Europe and was named poet-laureate, the first to receive the title since antiquity. During the 1340s, he traveled extensively throughout Europe and collected many rare Latin manuscripts, being the central figure in the rediscovery of a collection of Cicero’s letters.
During the 1360s, Petrarch traveled through different parts of northern Italy, eventually settling near Padua in 1968. He spent the rest of his years in a retired life of contemplation and died in 1374.
As a Renaissance scholar and author, Petrarch penned down a large body of works on a diverse range of subjects. From his early life, he was a Latin scholar who would be deeply imbued by the ideas of classic antiquity and deeply influenced by these ideas in his subsequent writings.
His major Latin works include Secretum Meum or ‘The Secret Book’, De Viris Illustribus or ‘On Famous Men’, De Vita Solitaria or ‘On the Solitary Life’ and ‘De Remedis Utriusque Fortunae’ or ‘Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul’.
The other part of Petrarch’s writing which earned a greater fame through Europe was Italian poetry. His most notable works of Italian poetry include the Canzoniere or the ‘Songbook’ and Trionfi or the ‘Triumphs’.
As one of the founders of humanism in Italian Renaissance, Petrarch influence on the Renaissance which was taking place all over Europe was profound. He brought together the classic world of antiquity and the modern ideas in his works.
He also embodied the duality of an active public life as well as a life of contemplation, leading both through various phases of his life. His writings sparked many fruitful debates among contemporary as well as later Renaissance scholars who would draw inspiration from his works to explore the world around them in new ways.