Aretino, Pietro
(1492-1556)
   Italian writer, born to a poor family in Arezzo but by 1517 settled at Rome, where he found wealthy patrons. A skilled vernacular poet, he first became notorious for his satirical verses or pasquinades, which were sufficiently offensive that in 1525 one of the victims of his ridicule attempted to assassinate him. After a brief period in Mantua, he settled permanently at Venice, which on account of its tolerance of individual expression and its flourishing printing industry proved to be an ideal place for his satirical skills. Switching from poetry to prose, Aretino ridiculed many aspects of current Italian society, such as literary Petrarchism, Neoplatonism, and the sexual hypocrisy of a society that lauded Christian asceticism but freely indulged in promiscuous hetero- and homosexual practices. He became so famous for his sharp pen that many of his patrons supported him as much out of fear of being attacked as out of respect for his literary talent. To a considerable degree, Aretino functioned more as a literary blackmailer and extortionist than as a respectable author.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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