Lodovico Castelvetro, a prominent critic and linguist, stands out as the man who systematically arranged the supposed Aristotelian unities of time, place, and action. Castelvetro lived the life of a sixteenth-century humanist devoted to the study of letters.
Castelvetro, born in 1505 in Modena, Italy, expressed an early passion for the study of humanistic letters. He pursued a course of study at the Universities of Bologna, Ferrara, Padua, and Siena. Bowing to his father's wishes, Castel-vetro earned a doctorate of law at Siena before moving to Rome, where his family hoped that his maternal uncle, Giovanni Maria della Porta, would be able to use his political connections to advance his nephew's career. Finding life in Rome unbearable, around the time of its sack in 1527 by the imperial forces of Charles V,* Castelvetro returned to Modena, where he found intellectual satisfaction in the company of the humanists allied with Giovanni Grilenzono's circle of friends. Castelvetro and Grilenzono studied ancient languages while also practicing vernacular languages. Under Castelvetro's lead­ership, humanist scholarship flourished in Modena, with Castelvetro's contem­poraries referring to him as "another Socrates."
Castelvetro's association with the allegedly heretical Academy of Modena culminated in what may have been an unfounded accusation to the Sacred In­quisition of Rome. His criticism of Annibal Caro's* poetic sequence written in praise of the Farnese family and the royal house of France initiated Caro's systematic persecution of Castelvetro, a literary quarrel that further defamed Castelvetro's character in the eyes of his contemporaries. Castelvetro found him­self in the position of having to travel to Rome in 1560 to refute the accusation. Threatened with torture, Castelvetro fled Italy, was excommunicated, and re­mained living in exile for the next ten years of his life.
After leaving Rome, Castelvetro found temporary refuge in Ferrara, Chiavenna, Lyons, Geneva, and, finally, Vienna, where Emperor Maximilian II's pa­tronage provided the opportunity for Castelvetro to publish his most significant literary contribution: his commentary on Aristotle's Poetics (1570). In his ded­icatory epistle to Emperor Maximilian II, Castelvetro avowed his intent to com­plete Aristotle's unpolished treatise in order to prescribe rules for writing dramas.
Additional commentaries on Petrarch's Rime, published in 1582, and on the first twenty-nine cantos of Dante's Inferno, among other textual corrections and considerations of the development of the Italian language, comprise the remain­der of Castelvetro's critical endeavors. While still in exile, Castelvetro died on 21 February 1571.
A. Bongiorno, trans., Castelvetro on the Art of Poetry, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, vol. 29, 1984.
H. B. Charlton, Castelvetro's Theory of Poetry, 1913.
R. C. Melzi, Castelvetro's Annotations to The Inferno: A New Perspective in Sixteenth Century Criticism, 1966.
Debbie Barrett-Graves

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

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