Terracina, Laura (1519?-1577?)

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Laura Terracina achieved remarkable success as a poet during her own lifetime, only to be vituperated and then neglected after her death. She was born some time around 1519 into a noble Neapolitan family loyal to the Spanish monarchy. Her parents were Paolo Bacio Terracina and Diana Onofra, and the family lived in Chiaia, on the coast near Naples. She seems to have had a number of romantic attachments, but her eventual marriage to a relative, Polidoro Terracina, at close to forty years of age, appears not to have been a happy one, to judge from her subsequent poems. Terracina is believed to have died some time after 1577. For a long time she was thought to have been married to the poet Giovanni Mauro, but this has since been shown to be false and based only on Traiano Boccalini's satirical treatment of her in his Ragguagli di Parnaso (1612).

During her lifetime she was made famous by her petrarchan poetry, much of it encomiastic. Her works from the 1550s onward are also marked by an awareness of her role as a specifically female writer. The collections of poetry she published were enormously popular and were reprinted in multiple editions. Despite the fact that she was educated at home, she became a member of the Accademia degli Incogniti (1545-1547) under the pseudonym "Febea" and corresponded with many of the poets of her age. Her first mentor was Marcantonio Passero, whom she thanks for his encouragement in her first book of poetry. This volume was published by Giolito in Venice in 1548 and was reprinted many times, and her second volume of Rime was published in Florence in 1549. Her curious and enormously popular Discorso sopra il principio di tutti i canti dell'Orlando Furioso dell'Ariosto was also published for the first time that year, although once again in Venice by Giolito, where it was reissued five times prior to 1561, with subsequent editions of the work continuing to be printed until 1608. The work represents a commentary on and dialogue with Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. Terracina took the first octave of each of Ariosto's cantos and incorporated them into her own cantos by ending each of her octaves with a verse from Ariosto's octaves (the only modern edition of the Discorso currently available is published on this website). She also published another three collections of Rime, in 1550, 1552 and 1558 respectively, followed by a seventh collection in 1561, dedicated to the widows of Naples, Sovra tutte le donne vedove di questa nostra città di Napoli titolate et non titolate. Six years later she published another collection based on Ariosto's work, this time using the Cinque Canti he had published as an appendix to the Furioso as the basis of her own Discorsi. Terracina spent time between 1570 and 1572 in Rome, where she wrote religious poetry in honour of the cardinals assembled to elect Pope Gregory XIII. Her ninth and final collection of poems was completed in 1577, but was never published, which suggests that she probably died soon after its completion.

Works by Laura Terracina:

  • Rime. Venice: Giolitto, 1548 (with multiple re-editions).
  • Rime seconde. Florence: Giunti, 1549.
  • Discorso sopra il principio di tutti i canti dell'Orlando Furioso dell'Ariosto. Venice: Giolitto, 1550 (with multiple re-editions).
  • Quarte Rime. Venice, 1552
  • Quinte Rime. Venice,1558
  • Seste Rime. Lucca: Busdrago, 1558
  • Settime rime sopra tutte le donne vedove di questa città di Napoli. Naples, 1561
  • La seconda parte de' Discorsi sopra le seconde stanze de' Canti d'Orlando Furioso. Venice: Valvassori, 1567.
  • Rime ... di nuovo date in luce da Antonio Bulifon..., Napoli, Bulifon, 1692
  • "Rime" in Componimenti poetici delle più illustri rimatrici... raccolti da Luisa Bergalli, Venezia, Mora, 1726
  • "Rime" in Parnaso Italiano, vol. XI, col. 1569-1577


  • Borzelli, A. Laura Terracina, poetessa napoletana del Cinquecento. Naples, 1924.
  • Croce, Benedetto. "La casa di una poetessa" (1901). Storie e leggende napoletane. Bari, 1948. 275-89.
  • Dersofi, Nancy. "Laura Terracina." in Italian Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. Ed. Rinaldina Russell. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1994. 422-30.
  • Ferroni, Giulio and Amedeo Quondam. La locuzione artificiosa. Rome, 1973.
  • Maroi, Lucia. Laura Terracina napoletana del secolo XVI. Naples, 1913.
  • Mozzarella di Cerreto, A. "Laura Terracina." in Biografia degli uomini illustri del Regno di Napoli. Ed. D. Martuscelli. Naples, 1814.
  • Mutini, C. "Laura Terracina." in Dizionario biografico degli Italiani. Vol. 5. Rome, 1963. 61-63.
  • Russell, Rinaldina. "Laura Terracina" in An Enciclopedia of Continental Women Writers, 2. Ed. K.M. Wilson. New York, 1991. 1227-29.

Submitted by Sarah Patricia Hill, Victoria University of Wellington, 2004.

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