In this book, Margaret King shows what the death of an eight-year-old boy named Valerio Marcello, in 1490, can tell us about his time. This child, scion of a family of power and privilege at Venice's time of greatness, left his father in a state of despair so profound and so public that it occasioned an outpouring of consoling letters, orations, treatises, and poems. In these documents, we find a firsthand account, of the life of the 15th-century boy, the passionate devotion of his father, the feelings of his brothers and sisters, the striking absence of his mother. The father's story is here as well: the career of a Venetian nobleman and scholar, patron and soldier, a participant in Venice's struggle for dominion in the north of Italy. Through these sources, King traces the cultural trends that made Marcello's century famous. Her work enlarges our view of the literature of consolation, which had a distinctive tradition in Venice, and also examines shifting attitudes toward death from the late Middle Ages onward.