the course of sixteenth-century poetic production in Italy and beyond. As James Mirollo comments, “By the mid-sixteenth century in Italy almost every habit and gesture of cultivated existence, from the use of verbs to the wearing of veils, had been penetrated by and subjected to the authority of Petrarch’s Canzoniere. Aesthetic ideals were extracted from its forms by literary and art critics, while social norms were distilled from its style by arbiters of behavior, costume, and taste.”4
Literary critics tend to place Francesco Berni and his burlesque poetry, or Bernesque poetry as it is sometimes called in homage to this prolific producer of learned erotica, outside of the sixteenth-century tradition of linguistically stylized, imitative love poems known as Petrarchism. According to Anne Reynolds, who has written extensively on Francesco Berni and his poetry, this has always been the case. “Berni’s poetry is most commonly described by his near contemporaries as ‘comic,’ ‘ridiculous,’ and by implication, ‘satiric,’ particularly on the grounds of its vituperativeness.”5 Robert Clements asserts that the anti-Petrarchan label was a conscious endeavor for Berni and cites examples of Berni’s direct criticism of his contemporary poetic situation. Clements, for example, turns to Berni’s praise for Michelangelo’s poetry and simultaneous rebuke of his loquacious contemporaries. According to Berni, this true renaissance man “deals not in verbiage, but in concrete things more real than words: ‘E’ dice cose e voi dite parole.’” 6 Clements interprets this comment as “a reproach of the empty language of the Petrarchists.”7 Patrizia Bettella agrees that Berni demonstrates great dissatisfaction with
4 James Mirollo, Mannerism and Renaissance Poetry: Concept, Mode, Inner Design, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984), 115.
5 Anne Reynolds, “Francesco Berni: The Theory and Practice of Italian Satire in Sixteenth Century,” Italian Quarterly 34, no. 94 (Fall 1983): 5-15, here 10.
6 Robert J. Clements, “Berni and Michelangelo’s Bernesque Verse” Italica 41, 3 (Sept., 1964): 266-280, here 270
7 Ibid., 270