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.
understand them if you do not apply them." As in many of the texts she addresses to men, she distinguishes sharply between high -sounding moral claims and actual behavior. This position of moral superiority, combined with a sense of serious duty to a friend, also characterizes Franco's letter to a woman friend who has decided to turn her daughter into a courtesan (22). But the striking difference between 4 and 22 is that the mother of Letter 22 has none of the privileges the man addressed in 4
FAMILIAR LETTERS PEOPL:E FRANCO, 1'0 VARIOUS (1580) To the most illustrious and revered Monsignor Luigi d'Este,Cardinal Because anyone, even though Fortune has set her in the lowest place, can honor and glorify almighty God with offerings and prayers in equal proportion to the wealthiest men, richly endowed with all good things; indeed, because people who make the smallest offerings often excel those who build temples and perform other lavish rites, since God, King of the universe,
to succeed in even if a woman has beauty, style, good judgment, and proficiency in many skills. And just imagine a young woman who lacks many of these qualities or has them only to an average degree! And because, persisting in your error, you might say that such matters depend on chance, I reply first that there's nothing worse that can be done in life than to let oneself become a plaything of fortune, which can as easily or more easily hand out evil as good. But anyone with good sense, to avoid
multitude of women in this occupation. If you can be convinced by reason, every argument about this world and all the more about heaven opposes you and urges you to avoid this fatal course. Turn your hopes to God and take advantage of the help your friends offer you. As for me, besides the promises I've already made you, which I have every intention of keeping, ask me to do anything I can and I'll be ready immediately to help you in any way possible-as I now beg you, as much as I can, to avoid
yourself so brave. But since I'm unwilling to leave you in doubt, I happily offer to make peace with you, on the condition that you joust with me just once. Do whatever suits and pleases you best. 181 184 187 190 193 196 199 202 205 208 171 172 Veronica Franco Capitolo 17 Questa la tua Veronica ti scrive, signor ingrato e disleale amante, di cui sempre in sospetto ella ne vive. Ate, perfido, nota i: bene in quante maniere del mio amor ti feci certo, da me non mai espresse altrui