Works: Lettere Familiari a Diversi & Terze Rime
Born in 1546, Veronica Franco was the daughter of a "cortigane", or courtesan. She was married in 1560, to physician Paolo Panizza. This union was not based on love, and Veronica's heart wasn't into the marriage to begin with. Thus, the marriage fell apart and she decided to leave her husband in 1562. Then, to support herself and her family, she had chosen to become a courtesan -- in other words, a high-class prostitute. Only women of rank were fortunate enough to gain an education in the subjects of: music, politics, literature, and philosophy.
This doorway to knowledge livened the spirit and desire that so well supported her quick wit and beautiful poetry. Courtesans were not only solicited for the pleasure they gave in the bedroom, but also for conversation and a sense of culture -- which is where an education comes into play. Quickly she found herself going so high in rank that she had the ability to charm and captivate some of the richest and most powerful men of her day. She rose so high in political standings that she had a very brief "meeting" with King Henry III of France.
Veronica Franco was "cataloged" as one of the most exceptional courtesans in Venice in Il Catalogo di tutte le principale et piu honorate cortigiane di Venezia. It is not widely known, but Veronica had 6 children, all fathers were one of her various lovers. 3 of her children had died in their infancy. During the late 1560s to the early 1570s Veronica Franco was celebrated as an "embodiment" of Venice -- because of her sex appeal and knowledge, she was at the height of her own popularity. She was invited to all the academies of leading literary studies. Her male piers took on support for her as a poetess, including the ever so infamous Domenico Venier.
But, when the fatal plague had swept through Venice, all the formerly adored courtesans were cast out as merely trash. Veronica's once praised accoplishments had become those of "a witch and a public whore." She was denounced, thought of, and treated like a complete heretic. When she was charged with witchcraft, the Inquisition was upon Venice, but mostly on Veronica Franco. She was eventually acquitted of the charges, but by the age of 36 she was in complete poverty and for the most part forgotten. Domenico Venier died in 1582, barely leaving Veronica with any means to support herself. Sadly, nothing more was ever published by Veronica, and she died in 1591.
"When we too are armed and trained, we can convince men that we have hands, feet, and a heart like yours; and although we may be delicate and soft, some men who are delicate are also strong; and others, coarse and harsh, are cowards. Women have not yet realized this, for if they should decide to do so, they would be able to fight you until death; and to prove that I speak the truth, amongst so many women, I will be the first to act, setting an example for them to follow."
- Veronica Franco