In this critical and historical interpretation of Petrarch?s major Italian work, the collection of poems he called the Rerum vulgarium fagmenta, Peter Hainsworth presents Petrarch as a poet of outstanding sophistication and seriousness, occupied with issues which are still central to debates about poetry and language. In the Rerum vulgarium fragmenta Petrarch reformed the received Italian tradition, creating a new kind of lyric poetry. In particular, he found solutions to the intellectual, linguistic and imaginative problems which Dante?s Divine Comedy posed for the succeeding generation of poets. Petrarch the Poet illumines the complexities of Petrarch?s poetic vision, which is simultaneously a form of autobiographical narrative, a poetic encyclopaedia and a meditation on the nature of poetry. The book will appeal to Italian specialists, to those interested in European poetry of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and also to readers interested generally in the nature and function of poetry.