Veronica Franco

The Art of Love: Veronica Franco

Cari Vaughn, 2001

Dangerous_beauty_posterFor my project I decided to begin writing a fictional novel based on the real life of the sixteenth century courtesan and poet Veronica Franco.  Your first question is probably who is Veronica Franco?  I didn’t know who Veronica Franco was either until I saw the movie Dangerous BeautyDangerous Beauty came out in 1998 and stars Catherine McCormack as Veronica Franco, Rufus Sewell as Marco Venier, Oliver Platt as Maffio Venier, Fred Ward as Domenico Venier, Naomi Watts as Giulia De Lezze, Moira Kelly as Beatrice Venier, Jacqueline Bisset as Paola Franco and Melina Kanakaredes as Livia. It was produced by Marshall Herskovitz, Edward Zwick and Sarah Caplan.  Herskovitz and Zwick also produced Legends of the Fall, Thirty-Something and My So-Called Life.  Sarah Caplan went on to produce Felicity, Alias and Brothers and Sisters.

TThe Honest Courtesanhe movie was written by Jeannine Dominy and was based on the book The Honest Courtesan by Margaret Rosenthal.  The book The Honest Courtesan was packed full of information, but was very dry and academic.  I had to re-read it several times in order to piece together a clear picture of Veronica Franco.  Not a lot is known about her, so Rosenthal chose to explore the time in which she lived in order to piece together what resources she might have had.

     Anyway, Franco was born in 1546 and died in 1591. Her mother had been a courtesan before her, and was the one to introduce her into the profession.  She had three brothers, who were most likely fishermen.  Her father was absent from her life.  There is no mention of how she become educated, but it is assumed that she sat in on the tutoring that her brothers received.  Not having enough money dowry to marry well and refusing to enter a convent or become a maid, she became a courtesan at sixteen years old.  Courtesans were not just prostitutes; they were cultured and educated women, who were seen as beautiful and elegant.  They were trained to dress and act like ladies of the court and often lived very comfortable lives.  Some of the courtesans, like Veronica Franco, were eventually married, but still continued their line of work.  Being a courtesan offered freedoms that being simply single or married did not have.  A courtesan had access to the libraries at court and was able to take part of the literary salons of the day.

Today Veronica Franco’s life and poetry are studied by scholars.  It is agreed upon that she Poems and Letterswas more outspoken than most women and very frank about her abilities, both on the page and on the sheet.  She was able to mimic the form of poetry that was popular during her time, but also able to reinvent it to suit her purpose and self-expression.  Her poetry and letters are indeed interesting to read and study.

     A biography, several articles and several dissertations have been written about her, as well as an unpublished movie script.  No one has thought to fictionalize her life though, so I decided to do just that.  A fictional story, I feel, will allow me to explore a lot of issues in a very creative way.  There are many issues that we went over in our Feminist Theory and Women Writers class that are relevant here—gender, class, sexual politics, the body and social status or role just to name a few.

     The movie, I noticed, was not completely true to her life.  It did not mention that she was married or had children or that she died in poverty.  The movie was focused on her relationship to Marco, but it portrayed them as star-crossed lovers, and that might not have been realistic.  The movie also glossed over many pertinent issues, particularly onesconcerning her education.

Dangerous Beauty Poem


            Campbell, Julie Delynn.  Renaissance Women Writers: The Beloved Speaks Her

Part.  (Italy, France.) Texas A&M University, 1997.

             Emck, Kathy.  A Wanton Woman and A Wise Woman: Women Writing About

Desire in the Italian Renaissance and Europe 1540-1620.  (Margarite De

Navarre, France, Mary Wroth and Veronica Franco, Italy) University of

Alberta, 1996.

        Franco, Veronica.  Poems and Selected Letters. Edited and Translated by

Ann  Rosalind Jones and Margaret Rosenthal. University of Chicago Press,

December 1998.

             Griffin, Susan.  The Book of Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues.

                        Broadway Books, New York, 2001.

             Hsu, Carmen Yu-Chich.  Courtesans in the Literature of Spanish Golden Ages.

Harvard University, 2000.

 Kumar, Veena.  Feminine Voice and Mythology in Sixteenth Century Italian

Lyric Poetry.  (Renaissance, Women Poets)  The University of Wisconsin,


 Jones, Ann Rosalind. The Currency of Eros: Women’s Love Lyric in Europe

1540-1620. Indiana University. Indiana University Press, 1990.

             Rosenthal, Margaret.  The Honest Courtesan: Veronica Franco, Citizen and

Writer in Sixteenth Century Venice.  University of Chicago Press,

December 1992.

             Schuonbrun, Shelia.  Ambiguous Artists: Music Making Among Sixteenth

Century Italian Renaissance Courtesans (With Particular Reference to

Tullia of Aragon, Guspara Stamp and Veronica Franco) CUNY, 1998.

             Stortoni, Laura and Mary Prentice Lillie. Women Poets of the Italian

Renaissance: Courtly Ladies and Courtesans.  Italica Press, New York,



             Asimov, Michael.  “Dangerous Beauty: The Trail of a Courtesan.” UCLA Law

School.  May 1998.

 Blackwater, Rob.  Different Views of “Beauty:” 30 Minutes of Dangerous Beauty director Marshal Herskovitz. February 6. 1998.

 Tucker, Carol.  “Dressed (or Undressed) For Success.”  April 2, 1999.

 “Giving a Voice to Laura and Beatrice: Veronica Franco’s Rime and the Reshaping of Stereotype.”

About carilynn27

Reading and writing and writing about reading are my passion. I've been keeping a journal since I was 14. I also write fiction and poetry. I published my first collection of short stories, "Radiant Darkness" in 2000. I followed that up with my first collection of poetry in 2001 called "Journey without a Map." In 2008, I published "Persephone's Echo" another collection of poetry. Since then I've also published Emotional Espionage, The Way The Story Ended, My Perfect Drug and Out There. I have my BA in English from The Ohio State University at Mansfield and my MA in English Lit from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I also have my Post BA Certificate in Women's Studies. I am the mother of two beautiful children. :-)
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2 Responses to Veronica Franco

  1. Myra says:

    Terrific post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more
    on this topic? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Many thanks!

  2. Luann says:

    Thanks for the marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it,
    you could be a great author.I will make certain to bookmark your blog and
    will often come back down the road. I want to encourage
    you to continue your great work, have a nice holiday weekend!

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