Study Guide

Italia Mia Foolishness and Folly

By Petrarch

Foolishness and Folly

Petrarch is doing something astonishing in Canzone 128. He's basically calling out the Italian nobility for their stupidity in hiring professional killing machines to enhance their own fortunes. He's not being delicate with his critique, either. Petrarch calls them haughty, hard-hearted, easily flattered, full of wicked desires, careless of their people, and… downright brainless. While we can't fully appreciate Petrarch's courage here, consider this: both Dante Alighieri and Petrarch's father were exiled from Florence because they were on the wrong side of the political scene. Maybe that shows how foolish Petrarch is about his own personal good. One thing is for certain: the violence and chaos in Italy during his day have become intolerable. Petrarch's call for change is a challenge to the most powerful—and that's taking a huge risk.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. Why is Petrarch so upset with Italian nobility?
  2. What is he asking them to do or re-consider?
  3. What are the effects of the behavior of Italy's elite class?
  4. What are the effects of the elite's foolish behavior on themselves?

Chew on This

Petrarch equates foolish political behavior with moral degradation in the "noble classes" of Italy (cold burn, noble classes).

Petrarch's objection to mercenary forces in Italy is more about his hatred of Germans than his concern about the violence in general.

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