The Agony and the Ecstasy Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 69 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Agony and the Ecstasy.
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The Agony and the Ecstasy Summary & Study Guide Description

The Agony and the Ecstasy Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Related Titles and a Free Quiz on The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone.

The novel, published in 1961, is set in the end of the 15th and the beginning of 16th century in Italy, when Italy was composed of a collection of city-states, each of which was a governmental entity unto itself. The only unifying influence was that of the Vatican, and that influence ebbed according to the strength and popularity of whoever was Pope at the time.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, a youth who is very aware of what he wants to do in life, is trying to find a way that will allow him to fulfill his goals and dreams. He wants to carve marble, but he is not aware of anyone who can teach him the skills he needs, so he decides to find a guild in which he can at least learn some artist skills. A friend of his is willing to introduce him to a guild master, and Michelangelo has agreed to investigate the guild. He isn't concerned about being accepted into a guild since he has confidence in his artistic abilities, but he is concerned how he can get his father to approve.

Lodovico Buonarroti is the head of the family and is very aware of how every penny in the household is spent. The family has a good name, but doesn't have much wealth. Lodovico wants to regain some of the wealth the family once had, and his idea is to send his son to one of the merchant guilds so he can get a good job and bring money and prestige back to the Buonarroti home. Even though Florence, Italy, is a city full of beautiful art and artists, the Buonarroti have almost no interest in art at all. To Lodovico, art is not a moneymaking commodity, and he cannot understand his son's interest in the field.

Michelangelo is accepted into Ghirlandaio's studio and spends about a year there, learning how to prepare and paint frescoes. He tolerates the guild because he doesn't think he can learn to sculpt. Then one day he learns that a master sculptor is opening a school in conjunction with Lorenzo de' Medici. He manages to be accepted into the school and into Lorenzo's home. There he gains a broader education than hehad expected, as well as learning the foundations of his craft.

When Lorenzo dies, Michelangelo needs to decide what he will do. He decides to work on his own, as he does not want to return to a life that does not include marble. He earns a few commissions and ends up in Rome, working for the Pope. At one point, Michelangelo agrees to sculpt a massive tomb for Pope Julius. After Julius dies, Michelangelo attempts to complete the project, but he needs to earn a living. For the next seventy years, the artist travels between Florence and Rome, with stops in such city-states as Bologna, carving a variety of works for others.

The artist also spends much of his life working for other popes, most of whom consider their projects to be more important than the tomb of a dead pope. Michelangelo finds himself engaged in politics and in a fight with the administrators of Pope Julius' estate, who insist Michelangelo ignore everything and everyone else and complete the tomb.

Throughout the rest of his life, Michelangelo struggles to pay the bills for his family, pay his own bills, find and complete commissions, and finish Julius' tomb. In the process, he works in a variety of other artistic media, including painting the Sistine Chapel and building St. Peter's Basilica.

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This section contains 584 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction and Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults
The Agony and the Ecstasy from Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction and Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.