- Villon, François
- (1431-ca. 1463)French poet, usually classed as a late medieval rather than a Renaissance author since his works lack the classicizing style associated with the French Renaissance. Yet his poetry was admired by leading figures of the Renaissance, including François Rabelais, who cites him in Pantagruel and makes him appear as a character in the Quart livre, and Clément Marot, who published the first collected edition of his works in 1533. Villon was born in Paris to a poor family and brought up by one of his relatives, a chaplain, whose surname he adopted. Thanks to this patron, he was able to study at the University of Paris (B.A., 1449; M.A., 1452). Villon seems to have led a disorderly and violent life, belonging to a gang of ruffians and in 1455 getting involved in a brawl that ended with his killing a priest, a crime for which he received a pardon from the king. Late the following year Villon participated in the theft of a large sum from the Collège de Navarre, and when the theft was discovered, he left Paris and remained in the provinces until 1461. In 1461 he was imprisoned for an unknown crime but was one of the prisoners pardoned in honor of the formal entry of King Louis XI into the city of Meung. In 1462 he was involved in another fatal conflict and was imprisoned though not iden-tified as the murderer. He appealed his sentence to the Parlement, which commuted it to an exile of 10 years in 1463. A few days later, Villon dis-appeared from Paris, and there is no further record of him.Villon's poems are full of topical references and personal satires which even his Renaissance editor, Marot, could not fully understand. They refer to events in his life, and they also parody legal language and traditional ideas of courtly love, often in a scatological manner. His collected Lais circulated from 1456, and his Testament from 1462. Some of Villon's poems are written in the argot of the Parisian criminal class.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.