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TheAnalysis of Francesco Petrarch’s Three Letters
Petrarch was widely known for the literature that covered on variousthemes on humanism. In some of his letters, he uses self-perceptionto give an insightful biography of himself that also helps inunearthing his fears and what he wanted to achieve. He also addresseshis conversion from sin to spiritual enlightenment. All in all, thisanalysis shows how three letters by Petrarch illustrates aself-perception of the things he loved, spiritual awakening and thevarious benefits that humanism has.
In Letter to Posterity, Petrarch presents the opinion abouthis personality and the things that he cherished. It also shows thathe had hoped that he would be famous among his peers by doingsomething that was extraordinary, and it seems like he achieved thatas well. In the process of outlining the history of hisaccomplishments, Petrarch often described himself in the context ofthe Renaissance time an aspect that helped the reader to understandhim properly. He even reveals more about his family when he statesthat it was “of medium fortune, or, I may as well admit it, in acondition verging upon poverty” (Franciscus). The detailedperception and the internal dialogue also illustrates why he prefersthe culture of antiquity. In this case, he reveals how he loves mostof the things around him including the Renaissance time that is acommon theme in the letter too.
The Ascent of Mount Ventoux presents the spiritual awakeningthat Petrarch experienced on the same mountain. In detail, theconversion seems to occur as a result of intensive reading and theurge to seek enlightenment. The conversion also includes the rebirthof a new self from an old self, which describes the dual perspectivehe handles in the letter. He keeps shifting from the sinner to aconverted narrator as he tells the story that also goes ahead toreveal a retrospective structure as well. It is evident that he alsoprefers an easier way and not the demanding and strenuous path thathis brother had suggested. He even insists that “when I was calledback, and the right road was shown me, I replied that I hoped to finda better way round on the other side, and that I did not mind goingfarther if the path were only less steep” (Francesco). The aspectreveals that even if he is ready to convert and proceed with thespiritual enlightenment, he is not willing to follow the direct pathtowards the rebirth. Instead, his reluctance does not reveal theinability but, the fact that he will follow another easier way.
The Letter to Boccaccio captures how Petrarch tries to relatehumanism to religion while giving examples and illustrating itsvarious benefits to the society. He tells Boccaccio of how love canreduce the fear of death and he also insists on people havingself-confidence as opposed to wisdom. He also believed that humanismwas more about the literary and the intellect empowerment as well. Infact, he also portrays an example of Cato, Varro, and Livius Drususthat were old and weak, but, they still sought knowledge fromliterature and interpreted civil law too (James& Henry). Evidently, he was trying to prove the advantagesof humanism to people in the society. The virtues and the importanceof education are elements that will empower a person even in old age.He even saw that piety would not stand alone without learning sinceone need to understand the specific aspects where he or she can applythe holiness. Petrarch even illustrated how humanism is next toreligion and the two are also connected as literature leads toholiness.
Francesco Petrarch. "The Ascent of MountVentoux," The Renaissance Philosophy of Man, eds. E.Cassirer et al. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), pp.36-46.
Franciscus Petrarcus, Epistolæ de Rebus Familiaribus et Variæ[“Letters of Friendly Intercourse, and Miscellaneous Letters”],edited by J. Fracassetti (Florence, 1869, Vol. I., pp. 1-11.Translated in James H. Robinson and Henry W. Rolfe, Petrarch, theFirst Modern Scholar and Man of Letters (New York, 1898), pp.59-76 passim.
JamesHarvey Robinson and Henry Winchester Rolfe, Petrarch:The First Modern Scholar and Man of Letters (NewYork: Haskell House, 1898), pp. 391-395.