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Luigi Pulci, poets, sonnets, religious parody


In early 1470s Florence, popular poet Luigi Pulci, author of the celebrated epic poem Morgante, wrote a sonnet of religious parody. In Poi ch’io parti’ da voi, Pulci satirizes biblical miracles, immediately earning himself the label of heretic, still attached to his name to this day. A close examination of Pulci’s sonnet, with specific attention given to his treatment of Moses, reveals Pulci’s motivation and the circumstances surrounding composition. Pulci’s scandalous sonnet was in fact an attempt at underscoring the maltreatment of biblical miracles in a first-century Greek text by the Romano-Jewish historian Jospehus. Renowned philosopher Marsilio Ficino, with whom Pulci was embroiled in a bitter polemic, repeatedly cited Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities. Josephus’s Antiquities along with his depiction of Moses played no small role in Ficino’s fifteenth-century reconciliation of Platonism and Christianity. Pulci mocks the Antiquities to condemn Ficino’s employ of the text in his innovative religious philosophy. This specific case is telling of a larger cultural-philosophical contention between a vernacular culture rooted in medieval traditions and the innovative program of Renaissance Humanism.