Petrarch saw Laura in a church at Avignon and ultimately fell in love with her (Petrarch and Nichols,pp.vii). He got so obsessed with her that everything about life is revolving around her. For instance, he describes a murky weather and blames this to the absence of Laura (Petrarch and Nichols,pp.xiv). When she returns, he points out that the weather is favorable and clears. In a manner, it can be said that the weather here are the feelings he has for Laura. According to most of his poems, he is fascinated by Laura as much as he is by laurels and therefore it becomes hard to understand the true state of his mind. He laments that the sun is upset by the absence of Laura that it fails to shine, in celebration of her return (Petrarch and Nichols,pp. xiv). Basically, Petrarch was a confused person. He did not know whether to move on with his life or pursue his love for Laura. Deeply within him, he had a conflict. Note that he was a religious man and more so a humanitarian, always wanting to do the best. In this paper, evaluation of the obsession of Petrarch to Laura is displayed.
Character of Petrarch
In as much as Petrarch was obsessed with love for Laura, she did not return his love. However, this did not deter Petrarch from desiring her. In one of his poems, a young lady beneath a green laurel, he claims that he will love her till old age and expects that even those people who will be born in a thousand years will sympathize with him (Hooker). According to several reviews of the work of Petrarch, it is possible that he never even met Laura. Probably she was a poetic creating in whom Petrarch wanted to pass a message in. However, it could also be that he met her in person, suggesting that she was indeed human and not ideal as may be presumed by the former statement. The most important thing is that she never returned his love but continued to pour his feelings for her through sonnets (Spielvogel, pp.326).
Petrarch was torn between his love for virtue and love for Laura. It can be seen that he was constantly at a loss for deciding which of the two he should take. Additionally, it is notable that he knew to well that any approach to Laura would only be responded with dismissal and snobbery (Jones,pp.174). However, he still maintained that his love for her was eternal. This fact can be confirmed by his literature on the death of Laura. Although always distressed by the lack of reciprocation of his love by Laura, Petrarch was never despairing and therefore this indicates a man who was full of determination and goal oriented. He was a man destined for success in whatever he planned to undertake.
It should be noted that the obsession of Petrarch to Laura made it that he could not judge her for his plight. Rather, he blames her detachedness to fate and destiny. As a matter of fact, this results from the fact that he still had some hope for the change in attitude from Laura (Jones,pp.178). There is a suggestion from one of his sonnets that he departed from his place in Avignon because they had not come to reconciliation with Laura. This suggests that he was so much into Laura that he could sacrifice anything that mattered to him in order to gain confidence (Jones, pp.178).
What fails him is that even though he dedicated himself to evaluating the responses of Laura through her psychology, rather than his, he did not fully understand her. In one of the sonnets of the Canzoniere, he shows how much love he had for her and the extent at which it affected him (Drake). He points out that his current state of mind was a direct influence of her character and his love “Weeping I laugh, I feed on misery, by death and life so equally dismayed: for you, my lady, am I in this state” (Drake). One can conclude that Petrarch did not waver on his principles and was therefore a difficult man to change or even to cope with. To fully understand Petrarch and his romance with Laura, it is important to turn towards the lifestyle of their times and the religious values. It should always be remembered that Petrarch was a religious person. The fact that he met Laura at st. Claires church in Avignon may suggest that she was also a religious woman. It could perhaps be that they had different doctrines and opinions and this prevented their love from blossoming as Petrarch would have expected.
The Canzoniere, although it is not composed mainly of poems reflecting on Laura, serves greatly to bring out the character of Petrarch in respect to love and romance. It is worth noting that everything about life in the mind of Petrarch revolves around Laura, much the same way a moth revolves around a lantern. In most cases, Petrarch refers to Laura as the light. According to the values about Petrarch that are learned from the Canzoniere, it can be deduced that Laura, although her history is not known ,must have been a great person for him to have been so fascinated by her. It is important to remember that Petrarch was a normal man and his obsession over Laura was not extraordinary, only that he wrote it down on paper but is as much similar to romances by any man at the time or even today.