Boccaccio and petrarch

Gur Zak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Scopus citations


At the beginning of Book viii of the De casibus virorum illustrium, Boccaccio describes his weariness and indignation with the work he is writing, contemplating giving up his arduous task. Overcome by lethargy, Boccaccio lies down on his couch, when before his eyes appears a dignified man, wearing a crown of laurel (De casibus, viii. 1. 5). That man, he soon realizes, is no other than his ‘venerable teacher’ Petrarch, who in a long speech reproaches Boccaccio for his sloth (p. 203). He reminds him that man ‘was born to work’ (p. 204), and above all justifies the merits of pursuing earthly glory by means of one's virtuous undertakings. Persuaded by his words, and no less by the ‘strong proof of his life’ (p. 206), Boccaccio is awakened to the right path of arduous labour and picks up his pen again. Passages like this have long contributed to the scholarly emphasis on the crucial impact that Petrarch had on the life and works of Boccaccio. Although Boccaccio had been acquainted with some of Petrarch's works already in the 1330s, while he was still living in Naples, it was his personal encounter with Petrarch some twenty years later and the relationship that emerged afterward that truly altered, according to the scholarly commonplace, the course of his life and writings. Boccaccio first met Petrarch when the poet-laureate, then in his mid-forties and nine years Boccaccio's elder, passed through the city of Florence in 1350 on his way to Rome to celebrate the Jubilee declared by Clement VI. Following this first encounter, the two met in person a few more times, maintained an extensive correspondence, exchanged manuscripts, and cooperated on shared cultural projects, such as overseeing the first Latin translation of the Homeric epics. As a result of these close encounters, it is argued, Boccaccio was converted to Latin humanism, turning from the composition of amorous works in the vernacular to the writing of moralistic and historical ones in Latin, modelled after the fashion of Petrarch. In recent decades, scholars have revolted against the tendency to cast Boccaccio in the role of the passive disciple and to focus solely on Petrarch's impact on him.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Boccaccio
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781139013987
ISBN (Print)9781107014350
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2015.


Dive into the research topics of 'Boccaccio and petrarch'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this