SPERONI, Sperone

A versatile and extremely influential man of letters, Sperone Speroni was known for his literary criticism as espoused in the many prose dialogues and treatises he wrote over his long career. He was born in Padua, where he lived most of his life; he taught in various capacities at the city's university and also served in civic offices. His primary devotion was to letters, however, and as such, he was acquainted with the authors Pietro Bembo,* Giambattista Giraldi Cinthio,* and Torquato Tasso* and was the magnetic center of a powerful lit­erary circle in Padua. Following in the footsteps of Giraldi Cinthio's play Or-becche (1541), Speroni wrote a Senecan revenge tragedy, Canace (1542), which instigated a feud among the literati about the genre of tragedy that went on for decades.
Speroni's literary reputation rests primarily on his Dialogi (1542), the nu­merous dialogues he wrote on subjects ranging from love to rhetoric, history, fortune, family, and classical literature. The dialogues were popular enough to see several reprintings, although they were also called into question by the Ro­man Inquisition. In response to the Inquisition's charges, Speroni wrote Apo­logia dei dialogi (Apology on the Dialogues, 1574), a detailed defense of the dialogue as a literary genre. His defense was partially successful; although he personally escaped punishment, his works were periodically placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.
Speroni worked on his dialogues and treatises all of his life, and they circu­lated widely in manuscript; however, he took less care in their publication, which presents difficulty in attributing dates to individual works. One of his most famous dialogues was the Dialogo delle lingue (Dialogue on Languages), which advocates the use of the vernacular in Italian literature; the French poets Joachim Du Bellay* and Pierre de Ronsard* were influenced by this work. Another important work was the Discorsi sopra Virgilio (Discourses on Virgil), in which he praises Homer at the expense of Virgil, arguing that Virgil was more of a historian than a poet. Also influential were his Dialogo di amore (Dialogue on Love), in which he includes the courtesan poet Tullia d'Aragona* as one of his interlocutors, and the Delle dignita della donne (On the Dignity of Women), which focuses on whether women are meant to serve men or be served by them. Speroni died in 1588, leaving behind a rich and significant body of literary criticism and theory.
B. Hathaway, The Age ofCriticism: The Late Renaissance in Italy, 1962.
J. Snyder, Writing the Scene ofSpeaking: Theories ofDialogue in the Late Italian Re­naissance, 1989.
Jo Eldridge Carney

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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