Cangrande della Scala (c. 1291 - 1329): Decameron I.7

Can Francesco della Scala, or "Cangrande," as he was more commonly known, was the most illustrious member of the della Scala family dynasty which dominated Veronese politics from the mid-thirteenth through the end of the fourteenth century. Cangrande's charismatic reign in Verona began in 1311; with his frequent military campaigns, he added Vicenza (in 1314) and Padua (in 1318) to his domain. From the time of Emperor Henry VII's descent into Italy, Cangrande faithfully supported the Ghibelline cause, and obtained the titles of Imperial Vicar and Captain General of the Ghibelline League. After Emperor Henry's death, Cangrande aided his successors, Frederick the Handsome of Austria, and Lewis of Bavaria. Although his expansionist spirit allowed him to take control of some neighboring cities, unstable local politics caused his authority to be constantly subject to both internal and external threats. The Veronese lord died in 1329, the day of Treviso's surrender to his troops.

As is commonly known, Cangrande offered friendship and hospitality to the exiled Dante Alighieri. In the Divina Commedia, the poet extols the Veronese signore for his great deeds and his largesse (Par. XVII.78-86). In his "Letter to Cangrande," a text whose authenticity has been disputed, Dante dedicates the third canticle of the Divina Commedia to his host.

Cangrande della Scala is portrayed in the seventh tale of the first Day of the Decameron as a great and munificent lord - second only to Frederick II - wise enough to understand and accept a veiled reproach from one of his courtiers. Both the reference to Cangrande's generosity and the comparison to Emperor Frederick suggest Dante's strong influence on Boccaccio's perception and representation of the lord.

(R.P./N.S.) Varanini, G. M.. s.v. Della Scala, Cangrande. Vol. 37. Dizionario biografico degli italiani, Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1960. pp. 153-177.; Cipolla, Carlo. La storia politica di Verona. Verona: Valdonega, 1954; Araldi, Girolamo. s.v. Della Scala, Cangrande, Vol. 2. Enciclopedia dantesca, Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1970-78. pp 356-359.