Italian literature arises when it arises as a national expression, intended to emulate the expressions of other nations, and in particular of French and Provençal. One cannot therefore speak of Italian literature as long as the various Italian vulgaris serve only for practical relations, first oral and then also written; nor can it properly be said that it was born in the 12th century, when numerous documents from all of Italy attest that the Italian vernacular already in that century also serve literary purposes. In fact, those documents are the expression of individuals who make use of their daily speech, and have no intention of giving a voice to a national civilization. Still in the thirteenth century, when Latin seems gradually more and more inadequate to express the new realities, not a few Italian writers use,Prophécies de Merlin by maestro Riccardo; Rustichello from Pisa; the authors of Franco-Italian poems; the chronicle of Martino da Canale), of the Provençal for opera (A. Malaspina, R. Buvalelli, L. Cigala, B. Zorzi, Sordello etc.); or alternate the use of a vernacular Italian with French (B. Latini).
It is also important to underline an important fact: in its early days, Italian literature was not centralized; The Po, central, southern and Sicilian regions also contribute to it, and the various vulgar citizens have the right of citizenship. This initial decentralization must be kept in mind, in order to historically appreciate the subsequent Tuscan centralization in its effective value.
F. Petrarca and G. Boccaccio
According to holidaysort, the inheritance that Petrarch left to the following centuries is also twofold ; in fact, his activity was twofold, as a poet in the vernacular and as a humanist. Throughout the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries he was admired almost exclusively by the master of Latin studies; as the humanistic generations broaden their culture, with the great fifteenth-century discoveries of codes, and extend it to the Greek world, the humanistic doctrine of Petrarch is losing credit, while the poetic art of the Canzoniere it becomes paradigmatic. The Petrarchism that dominated Europe at the time did not concern only the lyric, but every form of literature. As a poet of lability and restlessness, Petrarch will be close, beyond the full Renaissance, to the poet who marks the extreme point of arrival of that age and the beginning of the new one, T. Tasso. The patient and passionate philological excavation of the ancient world begins with Petrarch, a work in which he was joined by his friend Boccaccio, the greatest of his disciples. Boccaccio not only proceeds autonomously in Petrarch’s effort to give regularity and therefore nobility to literature in the vernacular, extending the effort itself to prose; but a fruitful process begins to which the aristocrat Petrarch was extraneous, also ennobling everyday experience, making it become a subject of art (Ninfale Fiesolano, Elegy of Madonna Fiammetta, Decameron).
The men of the full Renaissance do not participate in Petrarch’s anxieties, even if he is their literary teacher; therefore they exalt the power of man, but only in the field of human action: moral, political, artistic. In this, their teacher is Boccaccio. The main theme of the Decameron is in fact the possibility of man to dominate events and himself, which will become, in the mature Renaissance, energy and will to action, a sense of responsibility and individual dignity: it will be the ‘virtue’ of N. Machiavelli, the courtesy of B. Castiglione, the manners of G. Della Casa.
From the death of Boccaccio (1375) for about a century (the age of Humanism proper) the great poetry is silent. On this side of humanism there are substantially some fourteenth-century writers, such as F. degli Uberti (imitator of the Commedia Dante) or C. Rinuccini; or like Antonio da Ferrara and A. Pucci, who take up, varying them, the ways of the previous playful poetry, reflecting the ways of life and ideals of the bourgeoisie by now consolidated in its dominance. Alongside the latter, we should remember the one who, especially in the short stories, was the most poetically mature interpreter of the bourgeois world of the time, F. Sacchetti, while other short story writers of the time (ser Giovanni Fiorentino, G. Sercambi) limited themselves to imitation boccaccesca. The flourishing of sacred lauds continued throughout the century, but above all interesting is the flowering of cantari, poems and poems of chivalrous, classical or even contemporary subjects, recited by storytellers in the squares, which constitute the historical antecedent of fifteenth-century narrative poetry.