Such claims, however, are misguided. Surely, the critical aspect of Berni’s work cannot be ignored. As parody of its poetic predecessors, Berni’s poems operate as what Thomas Greene describes as an “engagement of a subtext in a dialectic of affectionate malice.”11 As not only parodic, but burlesque, this malice can at certain times be quite scathing.12 Berni does in fact himself place his poetic style in direct opposition to highly-stylized standard of Petrarchism: “Io ho un certo stil da muratori,” he claims in a capitolo addressed to Ippolito de’Medici.13 In this work, Berni reflects on his poetic project, claiming eels as his poetic muse and humor as his purpose. He admits to singing the song of a poor shepherd and says he is destined “far versi da boschi e da ville,” instead of crafting odes to Achilles. At the same time, however, Berni’s poetry does not necessarily operate as an outright usurper of the Petrarchan poetic tradition. Rather than debunk the reigning poetic dowager and replace her with pure innovation, Berni’s poetry calls for a reexamination of the Petrarchan original and an appreciation for and engagement of its original interpretive complexity. His jocular work re-identifies a linguistic richness in the original Petrarchan poetry, engages this complexity, and by doing so encourages other poetry to do the same. Thus, contrary to Frantz, Berni’s work is in fact as its most fascinating when it utilizes and engages Petrarchan images, not when it deviates from them. Furthermore, that deviation itself is not so much a militant revolution as it is a fundamentalist renewal of faith, causing the reader to return to Petrarch’s original words and appreciate their interpretive potential. He expands the
11 Thomas M. Greene, The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982), 46.
12 Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms, (New York: Methuen, 1985), especially 32
13 Berni, Capitolo al cardinale [Ippolito] de’Medici, [promettendo di scrivere per lui versi appartati], in Rime, ed. Bàrberi Squarotti