Petrarca, known to us in English as Francis Petrarch, was one of the most influential poets of the Middle Ages. He studied law until his father's death, at which time he took minor ecclesiastical orders and devoted his time to writing and scholarship. The poems and sonnets Petrarch wrote to his inspiration "Laura" have in their turn inspired poets of succeeding generations, most notably Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser.
Considered one of the era's finest scholars, Petrarch's focus on reviving Classical literature led him to explore libraries and monasteries all over Italy and in much of France in search of ancient texts. He was a friend and mentor to Boccaccio; the writings of the two men together with that of the earlier Dante, are considered to have formed the basis of Italian Humanism in literature.
Petrarch himself is considered by most to be the founder of Renaissance Humanism in general. He has been credited with developing the idea of historical change and laying the groundwork for the studia humanitatis system of education of 14th- and 15th-century Italy.
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