In "Italia mia," Petrarch lays it down for the Italian nobility: you have a civic duty to behave responsibly and compassionately to your people and the land. But they don't. Instead, they privilege their pride, reputations, and desire for power. The leading houses (in this case, the d'Este and Gonzaga families) war with each other for supremacy. The mercenaries they hire take it out on the Italian people when they get tired of their contracts, or are unemployed.
Petrarch rightly abuses the noblemen for destroying themselves and their neighbors. He ends the poem with a warning: clean up your act, princes, or you'll have some 'splaining to do when you meet your Maker. This sounds harsh and potentially risky, but Petrarch knows that he can't betray his moral imperative to speak the truth.
Questions About Betrayal
- Who or what has been betrayed in Petrarch's "Italia mia"? Who's doing the betraying?
- Why does Petrarch feel that bringing the Germans into Italy is a particularly bad idea?
- Take a look at the last lines of the poem. Why does Petrarch make his poem speak, do you think? Why does it say the words it does?
- In what ways does the nobility betray itself and its own best interests?
Chew on This
Petrarch believes that the worst betrayal on the part of the Italian nobility is to their own "Latin blood," since they prefer their own interests over civic duty.
The Italian nobility will have more to answer to on Judgment Day, according to Petrarch, because they have been given much by Fortune.