Born into the house of Este, the ruling dynasty of Ferrara for over a century, Azzo VIII was the son of Obizzo II d'Este and Giacomina Fieschi. Azzo succeeded his father in the rule of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio in 1293.
Most of his reign was occupied with military conflicts with the surrounding cities of Parma, Bologna and Mantua. In 1300, during a period of relative peace, Azzo contracted a marriage between his sister Beatrice and Galeazzo Visconti, a Milanese lord. After the death of his first wife, Azzo remarried Beatrice, the daughter of Charles II of Anjou, King of Naples. Unfortunately, Azzo's second marriage resulted in disastrous political consequences, which led to feelings of discontent among his subject territories and his allies.
Azzo VIII is repeatedly mentioned in Dante's Divina Commedia in a negative light - guilty of patricide (Inf. XII.111f), a wicked seducer of women (Inf. XVIII.55ff), and responsible for the violent death of a young man (Purg. V.77f). Only his infamous lasciviousness has been substantiated with historical documentation. Boccaccio, who does not comment upon Azzo's character, sets the second tale of Day Two of the Decameron in Ferrara, "al tempo del marchese Azzo da Ferrara."
(R.P./N.S.) Trevor, Dean, s.v. Este, Azzo d', Vol. 43 Dizionario biografico degli italiani. Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1960. pp. 324-326.