Matteo Bandello  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Matteo Bandello (c. 1480 - 1562) was an Italian writer. Bandello wrote a number of poems, but his fame rests entirely upon his extensive collection of Novelle, or tales (1554, 1573), which have been extremely popular. They belong to the same genre as Boccaccio’s Decameron and Marguerite of Navarre’s Heptameron. The common origin of them all is to be found in the old French fabliaux, though some well-known tales are evidently Eastern, and others classical.

Biography

Matteo Bandello was born at Castelnuovo Scrivia, near Tortona (current Piedmont), about the year 1480 or 1485. He received a good education, and entered the church, but does not seem to have been very interested in theology. For many years he lived at Mantua, and superintended the education of the celebrated Lucrezia Gonzaga, in whose honour he composed a long poem. The decisive Battle of Pavia, as a result of which Lombardy was taken by the emperor, compelled Bandello to flee; his house at Milan was burnt and his property confiscated. He took refuge with Cesare Fregoso, an Italian general in the French service, whom he accompanied into France.

He was later raised to the bishopric of Agen, a town in which he resided for many years before his death in 1562. Bandello wrote a number of poems, but his fame rests entirely upon his extensive collection of Novelle, or tales (1554, 1573), which have been extremely popular. They belong to the same genre as Boccaccio’s Decameron and Marguerite of Navarre’s Heptameron. The common origin of them all is to be found in the old French fabliaux, though some well-known tales are evidently Eastern, and others classical. Bandello’s novels are thought the best of those written in imitation of the Decameron, though Italian critics find fault with them for negligence and inelegance of style. The stories on which William Shakespeare based several of his plays (Romeo and Juliet in particular) were supplied by Bandello, probably through Belleforest or Paynter.



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