Chiara Matraini self- consciously joined a tradition of poetic writing in Italy initiated by Petrarch, codified by Pietro Bembo, and continued by female predecessors (notably Vittoria Colonna, 1492–1547) and contemporaries (Isabella di Morra, c. 1520–45, and Laura Battiferra, 1523–89). In turn she was known by both male and female writers who followed her, though like many other women writers, she was eventually forgotten. Although her work was anthologized in 1726, it was not fully recovered until the late twentieth century. Like that of several other Italian women writers of the sixteenth century, her work has two main poles: love poetry and religious works.
Matraini was born into a middle- class family of weavers in Lucca, where she lived most of her life. Her family was doing well when her brother was prosecuted in 1531 for participating in a revolt against the city’s ruling class; he was imprisoned and died in prison four years later. Despite all this, Matraini remained attached to her family, even keeping her family name after her marriage, and in her will she bequeathed her possessions to family members. At the same time, she maintained a sense of independence throughout her life. She was never close to her only child, a son born when she was eighteen, with whom she later entered into conflict over her inheritance. And she entered into two love affairs: the first was a passionate one that ended tragically with the death of her lover and that is reflected in many of her poems; the second was more of a spiritual type.
Though never formally educated, she developed a desire to write poetry. That desire was certainly stimulated (if not initiated) by her contact with men interested in literary discourse and later in public issues, out of which came her flirtation with religious ideas sympathetic to the Protestant reform movement as well as her introduction to the Petrarchan poetic tradition.
She discovered, through her path of self- education, not only male but