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Poet, writer, political thinker. Dante was a Medieval Italian poet and philosopher whose poetic trilogy, The Divine Comedy, made an indelible impression on both literature and theology.
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Dante was an Italian poet and moral philosopher best known for the epic poem The Divine Comedy, which comprises sections representing the three tiers of the Christian afterlife: purgatory, heaven, and hell. This poem, a great work of medieval literature and considered the greatest work of literature composed in Italian, is a philosophical Christian vision of mankind’s eternal fate. Dante is seen as the father of modern Italian, and his works have flourished since before his 1321 death.
Dante Alighieri was born in 1265 to a family with a history of involvement in the complex Florentine political scene, and this setting would become a feature in his Inferno years later. Dante’s mother died only a few years after his birth, and when Dante was around 12 years old, it was arranged that he would marry Gemma Donati, the daughter of a family friend. Around 1285, the pair married, but Dante was in love with another woman—Beatrice Portinari, who would be a huge influence on Dante and whose character would form the backbone of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Dante met Beatrice when she was but nine years old, and he had apparently experienced love at first sight. The pair were acquainted for years, but Dante’s love for Beatrice was “courtly” (which could be called an expression of love and admiration, usually from afar) and unrequited. Beatrice died unexpectedly in 1290, and five years later Dante published Vita Nuova (The New Life), which details his tragic love for Beatrice. (Beyond being Dante’s first book of verse, The New Life is notable in that it was written in Italian, whereas most other works of the time appeared in Latin.)
Around the time of Beatrice’s death, Dante began to immerse himself in the study of philosophy and the machinations of the Florentine political scene. Florence was then was a tumultuous city, with factions representing the papacy and the empire continually at odds, and Dante held a number of important public posts. In 1302, however, he fell out of favor and was exiled for life by the leaders of the Black Guelphs (among them, Corso Donati, a distant relative of Dante’s wife), the political faction in power at the time and who were in league with Pope Boniface VIII. (The pope, as well as countless other figures from Florentine politics, finds a place in the hell that Dante creates in Inferno—and an extremely unpleasant one.) Dante may have been driven out of Florence, but this would be the beginning of his most productive artistic period.
In his exile, Dante traveled and wrote, conceiving The Divine Comedy, and he withdrew from all political activities. In 1304, he seems to have gone to Bologna, where he began his Latin treatise "De Vulgari Eloquentia" (“The Eloquent Vernacular”), in which he urged that courtly Italian, used for amatory writing, be enriched with aspects of every spoken dialect in order to establish Italian as a serious literary language.
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