Dante Alighieri is generally considered the greatest of Italian poets With the comic story- teller Boccaccio and the poet Petrarch, he forms the classic trio of Italian authors. His reputation is primarily based upon The Divine Comedy.
Dante Dante was born in Florence, Italy, in 1265. His mother died when he was young. His father, whom he rarely mentioned, remarried and had two more children.
The Alighieri family was considered noble, although by Dantes time his family was reduced to modest economic and social circumstances. According to Dante himself, the family descended from the noble seed of the Roman founders of the city. (Inferno XV.73-78)
At the age of 9, Dante met eight-year-old Beatrice Portinari, who eventually became a major influence in his life and writings. Beatrice married another man and died when Dante was 25, so their relationship existed almost entirely in Dante's mind, but she nonetheless plays an extremely important role in his poetry. The Meeting of Dante with Beatrice by Henry Holiday
Rossetti had a life-long interest in the Italian poet Dante. This painting shows an episode from the Vita Nuova. In it, Dante dreams that he is led by Love to the death-bed of Beatrice Portinari, his life-long love. The model for Beatrice was Jane Morris, with whom Rossetti had a long- term affair. Dante's Dream (1871) Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 - 82)
After Beatrices death, Dante married Gemma Donati, had three children, and was active (1295-1300) as a councilman, and elector of Florence.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Dante was active in politics during the early part of his life and took an active interest in church reform. Like most of the citys lesser nobility and artisans, Dantes family was affiliated with the Guelf party, as opposed to the Ghibellines who came from the feudal aristocracy. These two parties came into Italy from Germany.
During this time, Renaissance Florence was thriving, but it was not a peaceful city. The Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor were political rivals for much of this time period; the Guelfs were in favor of the Pope, while the Ghibellines supported Imperial power. By 1289, the Ghibellines had disappeared from Florence. There was no peace, however. The Guelf party divided between the Whites and the Blacks. Dante was a White Guelf.
The Whites were more opposed to Papal power than the Blacks, and tended to favor the emperor. Dante rose to a position of leadership among the White Guelfs. In 1302, while he was in Rome on a diplomatic mission, the Blacks in Florence seized power. The Blacks exiled Dante, seizing all his goods and condemning him to be burned if he ever returned to Florence.
Dante passed from court to court, writing passionate political and moral letters and finishing his Divine Comedy, which contains the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. He finally died in 1321.
Years in exile Dante wandered throughout Italy. He maintained his opinion that the Papacy and the Empire had two distinctly different purposes.
In Dantes historical period, there was no linguistic unity in Italy. This means that different dialects were spoken in different parts of the country (vernacular), although they all were derived from Latin language. He was one of the first authors to write in the vernacular Tuscan, rather than Latin, and thus had a defining effect on what Italian is today. Before his work, Italian was usually only spoken, and hence was divided into many different dialects, without a coherent literary language. Modern Italian is derived fairly directly from this dialect.
The Divine Comedy Spanning several years, the epic-like poem The Divine Comedy was written from 1306 to 1321. The poem presents an overview of the attitudes, beliefs, philosophies, as well as the material aspects of the medieval world. Because of these elements, The Divine Comedy has become universally known as one of the greatest poems in world literature.
Dantes purpose for writing The Divine Comedy was expressed in a famous letter to his Veronan benefactor, Can Grande della Scala, where he said, "it is an attempt to remove those living in this life from the state of misery and lead them to the state of felicity." Moreover, Dante describes his work as having both literal and allegorical meaning. In a literal sense, the subject of the poem, according to Dante, is "the state of souls after death." In allegorical terms, the poem is about humankind, who by exercising free will, will bring "rewarding or punishing justice" upon themselves.
The poem is divided into three sections - - the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso, with the Inferno being the most widely read and studied section of The Divine Comedy. In this segment of the poem, Dante describes a journey through Hell from the entrance at the lowest and less harsh level. His companion for the travel is Virgil, a mentor and protector. Constructed as a huge funnel with nine descending circular ledges, Dantes Hell is a meticulously organized torture chamber in which sinners are carefully categorized according to the nature of their sins.
The Divine Comedy Through the process of spiritual regeneration and purification, Dante prepares himself to meet God in Paradiso. Through Paradise, Dante is guided by Beatrice, for whom the poem is a memorial.
Dante attributed all the heavenly virtues to Beatrices soul and imagined, in his masterpiece The Divine Comedy, that she was his guardian angel who alternately berated and encouraged him on his search for salvation. The Death of Beatrice by D. G. Rossetti, Tate Gallery, London.
In the Inferno, Dante starts on ground level and works his way downward; he goes all the way through the earth and Hell and ends up at the base of the mountain of Purgatory on the other side. On the top of Purgatory there is the terrestrial paradise (the garden of Eden), and after that he works his way through the celestial spheres. The Divine Comedy is the narrative of Dante's journey towards redemption.
The Divine Comedy The work is written in terza rima, a complex verse form in pentameter, with interlocking triads rhyming aba, bcb, cdc, etc. Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura ché la diritta via era smarrita. Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte che nel pensier rinova la paura! Tant'è amara che poco è più morte; ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai, dirò de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte.
Interpretations of Inferno Literal: a vision of a mans journey through Hell Allegorical: describes a Christian soul traveling through a state of sin in search of redemption and blissfulness Moral: describes what awaits sinful souls and encourages the living to seek salvation
Dante's nine circles of hell oLimbo, which includes people waiting to see if they enter heaven or descend to hell. oLustful, Gluttonous, Avaricious. These three circles represent sins of weakness. They are mostly harmful things that we do to ourselves. oWrathful, Heretics (those who betrayed others), and Violent. These three circles represent sins of malice. They were premeditated and usually involved actions toward other people. oThe Fraudulent and the Treacherous. These last two circles represent sins of betrayal and pride, considered the worst sins of all. Satan, who betrayed God, represents the epitome of evil.
La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy) by Dante Alighieri is in no way a comedic literary work. The only term that relates to the poem is "divine." Yet, it is suggested that Dante himself simply called this work "Comedy." This terms holds relevance to the poem when one understands that the poem is a optimistic process from Hell toward Heaven, or from worse to better. This was the basic medieval conception of comedy. The terms "divine" was added later, probably by Boccacio when he continually referred to Dante as a "divine poet."
Dantes Impact Little is known about the details of Dante's life other than what he tells us in his works. The portrait emerges of a bitter and passionate man who used prophetic poetry to warn Florentines of the evils which awaited them for their misdeeds and the confusion and corruption of their government.
Bibliography The Death of Beatrice by D. G. Rossetti, Tate Gallery, London. Digital Dante, Institute for Learning Technologies, Copyright 1992-97, Last Modified November, 1997. Norton, Charles Eliot, Inferno/Hell, Blackmask Online, 2002, http://www.blackmask.com, accessed 14 April 2004.