The real Sordello, so far as we have authentic facts about his life, was the most famous of the Italian troubadours. About 1220 he was in a tavern brawl in Florence; and in 1226, while at the court of Richard of Bonifazio in Verona, he abducted his master's wife, Cunizza, at the instigation of her brother, Ezzelino da Romano. The scandal resulted in his flight (1229) to Provence, where he seems to have remained for some time. He entered the service of Charles of Anjou, and probably accompanied him (1265) on his Naples expedition; in 1266 he was a prisoner in Naples. The last documentary mention of him is in 1269, and he is supposed to have died in Provence. His appearance in Purgatory among the spirits of those who, though redeemed, were prevented from making a final confession and reconciliation by sudden death, suggests that he was murdered, although this may be Dante's own conjecture.
His didactic poem, L’ensenhamen d’onor, and his love songs and satirical pieces have little in common with Dante's presentation, but the invective against negligent princes which Dante puts into his mouth in the 7th canto of the Purgatorio is more adequately parallelled in his sirventes-planh (1237) on the death of his patron Blacatz, where he invites the princes of Christendom to feed on the heart of the hero.
Sordello is perhaps best remembered for the praise heaped on him by other poets: he is praised by Dante Alighieri in the De vulgari eloquentia, and in the Purgatorio of The Divine Comedy is made the type of patriotic pride. He is the hero of the well-known poem Sordello by Robert Browning. He is also praised for his passion in Oscar Wilde's poem "Amor Intellectualis".
Sordello is briefly referred to in Samuel Beckett's 1951 novels Molloy and Malone Dies. Ezra Pound also references him in the Cantos. Numerous references occur in Roberto Bolaño's novella By Night in Chile.
- Chisholm 1911, p. 431.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sordello". Encyclopædia Britannica 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press Endnotes:
- Duff, David (1906), An exposition of Browning's Sordello with historical and other notes
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- Complete works at trobar.org