Il marescalco, pb. 1533 (revised version of the original text of 1527; The Marescalco, 1986)
La cortigiana, pb. 1534 (revised version of the original text of 1525; The Courtesan, 1926)
Lo ipocrito, pb. 1540
La Talanta, pr., pb. 1542
Il filosofo, pb. 1546
La Orazia, pb. 1546 (verse)
Opera nova, 1512
Sonetti lussuriosi, 1524 (The Sonnets, 1926)
Ragionamento della Nanna et della Antonio, 1534
I sette salmi de la penitenzia di David, 1534
La passione di Gesù, 1534
Dialogo nelquale la Nanna il primo giorno insegna a la Pippa, 1536
Lettere, 1537-1557 (The Letters, 1926)
I quattro libri de la humanità di Cristo, 1538
Il Genesi, 1538
Ragionamento de le Corti, 1538
Vita di Maria Vergine, 1539
Vita di Caterina Vergine, 1539
Vita di San Tomaso Signor D’Aquino, 1543
Le carte parlanti, 1543
The Ragionamente: Or, Dialogues, 1889 (includes all the ragionamenti in English translation)
The Letters of Pietro Aretino, 1967
Aretino: Selected Letters, 1976
The Works of Aretino, 1926 (2 volumes)
Pietro Aretino (ah-RAY-tee-noh), the “scourge of princes,” was a native of Arezzo; according to some sources, his father was a poor shoemaker. He is thought to have studied literature and painting at Perugia in 1511 or 1512. One tradition holds that he was forced to leave his birthplace because he had composed a sonnet deriding indulgences, and a more doubtful tradition says that he was forced to leave Perugia because he had stealthily added a worldly detail to a holy picture. His reputation in later life inspired many such tales.
About 1516 he went to Rome and soon entered the service of Agostino Chiga, a banker. Later, when he became attached to the court of Pope Leo X, he already had attained some fame as a poet. After the pope’s death in 1521, Aretino waged an unsuccessful fight by means of pasquinades (satirical verses imprinted on fly-sheets and affixed to a certain mutilated statue called “Pasquino”) to promote the election of his patron, Cardinal de Medici, to the papal throne. Although the College of Cardinals chose Adrian VI, Aretino won notorious celebrity. He wisely fled Rome and did not return until the election of Clement VII.
In 1524 he fell into disfavor because of his Sonetti lussuriosi, written to accompany a series of sixteen indecent engravings cut by Marcantonio Raimondi. He was soon forgiven and, returning from another brief exile, began writing his first and possibly finest comedy, La cortigiana, which he appears to have drafted early in 1525. In the same year he almost lost his life when stabbed by a henchman of Marcantonio Giberti: He was wounded in five places, and his right hand was permanently disabled.
He left Rome again, campaigned with Giovanni delle Bande Nere, and eventually reached Venice in 1527. There, in close association with Sansovino and Titian, he began a life that, though subject to vicissitudes, was rich in pleasures and literary achievements. He occupied a house on the Grand Canal, and there he not only composed most of his later works but also found leisure to consort with his large household of mistresses, the “Aretines.” His favorites were Caterina Sandella and Pierina Riccia.
In 1538 he narrowly escaped being expelled from Venice for bestiality, and he made a last visit to Rome to be received by Pope Julius III, who had awarded him a pension. He died on October 21, 1556, probably of a stroke, and was buried in the church of San Luca at Venice. The writings of Aretino reflect his spontaneous vitality. He is regarded as the very embodiment of the sixteenth century Italian spirit: scornful, astute, proudly obscene, and as direct as a stiletto.