Poems and Selected Letters (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe) (English and Italian Edition)
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As an "honored courtesan", Franco made her living by arranging to have sexual relations, for a high fee, with the elite of Venice and the many travelers—merchants, ambassadors, even kings—who passed through the city. Courtesans needed to be beautiful, sophisticated in their dress and manners, and elegant, cultivated conversationalists. Exempt from many of the social and educational restrictions placed on women of the Venetian patrician class, Franco used her position to recast "virtue" as "intellectual integrity," offering wit and refinement in return for patronage and a place in public life.
Franco became a writer by allying herself with distinguished men at the center of her city's culture, particularly in the informal meetings of a literary salon at the home of Domenico Venier, the oldest member of a noble family and a former Venetian senator. Through Venier's protection and her own determination, Franco published work in which she defended her fellow courtesans, speaking out against their mistreatment by men and criticizing the subordination of women in general. Venier also provided literary counsel when she responded to insulting attacks written by the male Venetian poet Maffio Venier.
Franco's insight into the power conflicts between men and women and her awareness of the threat she posed to her male contemporaries make her life and work pertinent today.
transcription of Veronica Franco's tax declaration, see Rosenthal, The Honest Courtesan, 115. The Honored Courtesan of children, were ineligible for the shelters already in place, the Casa delle Zitelle (House for Unmarried Maidens), which accepted only unmarried girls, and the Convertite (Home for 'XTomenPenitents), which required a vow of chastity. 10 Although Franco also hoped for a substantial state salary for administering this home, her recognition that women needed a different kind of
Ma poi che '1 ciel destina, e COS1 vada, che per sicura e dilettosa via, dove '1 ben trovan gli altri, io pera e cada, saziati del mio mal, fortuna ria; 70 75 80 85 90 95 100 105 Poems souls inflamed with such double love feel their burning full of such joy that the greater the fire, the more blessed they are. And I would also wish that the blaze that consumes my breast in such a state might always increase and never diminish, if I were not, I know not by what fate, in a thousand
quelle vostre sono, da farvi i dei venir qua giuso amanti! Ese, com'io pur volentier ragiono de Ie grazie che '1 ciel tante in voi pose con singolar, non pili veduto dono, non mi teneste d'ogni parte ascose quelle vostre divine e rare parti, di che vostra persona si compose, non f6ran S1angosciosi da me sparti sospiri, ne di lagrime vedresti avampando, cor misero, innondarti. Ma dond'avien che 'n me, lasso, si desti la speme, che per prova intendo come faccia sempre i miei di pili gravi e mesti?
ov'io nacqui, non si pensa da voi, e 'n cio perch'ognor nollodate? Perch'ad altr'opra il pensier si dispensa, se per voi deve un loco esser lodato, che dia al mio spirto posa e ricompensa? Ricercando del ciel per ogni lata, se ben discorre in molte parti il sale, pero vien l'orfente pili stimato: 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 Poems in Terza not for those you attribute to her; but the beauty of Venice exceeds hers as far as the earth is surpassed by paradise, with whose beauty Venice was
speech. A good woman spoke little. Excessive speech was an indication of unchastity. By speech women seduced men. Eve had lured Adam into sin by her speech. Accused witches were commonly accused of having spoken abusively, or irrationally, or simply too much. As enlightened a figure as Francesco Barbaro insisted on silence in a woman, which he linked to her perfect unanimity with her husband's The Other 1loice in Early Modern Europe will and her unblemished virtue (her chastity). Another