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Biography of Dante Alighieri | Author of the Divine Comedy


The author of the Divine Comedy, impressive view of the beyond Christian, renovated medieval literature, and began the transition to the Renacimeint
Dante (or during) Alighieri was son of the first marriage of the lender or trader Bellincione d'Alighiero with Gabriella or (probably belonging to the family Abati) Bella. He had one sister, and after the early death of his mother (h. 1270) and the second marriage of his father with Lapa di Chiarissimo Cialuffi, also enjoyed the company of two foster-brothers Francesco and Gaetana.
He was born in Florence under the sign of Gemini, between 15 May and 15 June 1265; himself traces his lineage until his great-grandfather Cacciaguida, ennobled by Conrado III and died in the second crusade to the Holy land in 1147. But it has further assured that belonged to a family of the urban nobility, with few properties, from old engaged in trade. In fact, both his father and his grandfather Bellincione had reputation of usurers.

Dante in a portrait by Andrea de el Castagno
(Uffizi Gallery)
At the end of the 13th century, specifically the same year of the birth of Dante, Florence lost its spirit of liberal city, under the aegis of the Ghibellines (supporters of imperial power against the papacy) until then, and began a period of bloody fights with the Guelphs, in turn divided into factions that, even though they acknowledged their submission to the Papacy, were waging each other wars as open as those that faced them with the common enemy. According to some chroniclers, the father of Dante had been town. Others assigned the family to the Guelphs. It is safe, however, Dante belonged to the Guelph party, and, within this, the «white» moderate faction.
His years of childhood and youth coincided with the more peaceful Florence knew at the time, especially until the ascension in 1295 of Bonifacio VIII to the throne of St. Peter. From then on, Dante, who had already participated, as soldier guelfo, on the site of Poggio di Santa Cecilia against the aretinos (1285) and had been a rider in the battle of Campaldino (1289), also against the Ghibellines, openly endorsed the political ideals of democracy and communal independence of the Guelphs.

Political life

Between 1295 and 1302 his political life was activisima, though only it is known from literary sources (their own allusions in the Divine Comedy) or by documents or no direct testimony: after entering the Guild of medical and special, from 1295 to 1296 was a member of the Council of the captain of the people, representative of the authority that is popular in parallel with the Supreme authority of the Podestà; from May to September 1296, after cesar in the previous post, belonged to the Council of the cent (Parliament of citizens) and voted for laws against the tycoons.

The birthplace of Dante in Florence
With the advent of Bonifacio VIII as pontiff, the fight between guelfas factions deepened; the «black», headed by the Donati, a family of magnates, got the support of the Pope, and immediately, what had been an internal clash of Florence became in conflict between the city and the papacy. The «White» Guelphs, led by bankers and traders Cerchi, were defeated in 1301, in a sequence of dramatic impact to Dante: in June bore witness to his opposition to that were sent one hundred men who help Bonifacio VIII in his war in Maremma; in October he was appointed Ambassador to the Pontiff and arriving at Rome was retained by this in the city. In November, when Dante was still (probably) in Rome, Corso Donati, Chief of the «black», entered Florence and carried out a terrible retribution against the «white». Six hundred of them were banished and the poet accused of barratry, was sentenced to a two-year-old and not intervening exile's life in Florentine public affairs.

Beatriz and new life

In 1274, at the age of nine, Dante had found for the first time to Beatriz, probably daughter of Folco Portinari. Eighteen took place the second meeting; both are entered in the new life a youthful work very original form, consisting of a collection of thirty-one poems set by between conceptual and autobiographical prose. His argument runs along the eighteen years from the first meeting with Beatriz; Thirty-one poems represent the Summit of sweet stil nouvo (coined by the same name Dante in a verse of purgatory), previously practiced by poets Guido Guinizelli and Guido Cavalcanti under the direct influence of the Provençal poetry of the troubadours.
According to the custom of the time, with eleven years of age the young poet was arranged her marriage with Gemma Donati, with whom he married, probably between 1285 and 1293, and which had at least four sons: Giovanni, Pietro, Jacopo and Antonia. The latter survived him and after the death of his illustrious father entered a convent under the name of Beatriz. But very little is known of conjugal and family life of Dante; He dealt instead with recorded for posterity the fundamental data of your true spiritual and loving life linked to Beatriz.
No less important than the meetings with Beatriz were the intellectual ties to the humanist Brunetto Latini, returned from exile to Florence in 1266, and the great Guido Cavalcanti. The first of these, Dante learned both the secrets of Latin rhetoric and the joys of writing in romance language; It was Latini who provided models for youth as ll fiore (1295-1300), works in which Dante broke the Italian verse in the Roman de la Rose. In the romance language poetry had only fifty years of life in Italy when Guinizelli and Cavalcanti, under the influence of a little farther from the pioneer Guittone d'Arezzo, founded the school of the fedeli d'amore ('true love'), invented the figure of angelica «woman» (which is were physical beauty and Heavenly purity) and translated the great Italian lyric poetry which would culminate in Dante and Petrarch. From there emerged the image of Beatriz, who would assume in the Divine Comedy , unexpected theological and philosophical dimensions.
It is believed that Beatriz Portinari died after childbirth in 1290; Thus, both the marriage of Dante and the publication of new life are after the fact. The poet recorded it in this work, at the same time announcing the subsequent poetic transformation: when died Beatriz, Dante was consoled with a vision in which the beloved appeared as part of the Heavenly Court, and the poet set out to return to talk about Beatriz's only to say what was never written for a woman. Fifteen years later, the Divine Comedy, would reveal the poetic reach of this promise.
Between 1302 and 1307 Dante began two mature works: Il convivio (treat) and De vulgari eloquentia (on the vulgar language). The first contains some of the fundamental issues which would then develop about the four significances of the Scriptures, the two types of allegories and the need for the existence of the Empire. The second is a manifesto written in latin about the legitimacy of the use of the vernacular language, which defends the use of romance for all styles, including the high or tragic.

1490 Edition of Il convivio
Little is known of their political and domestic activities during the five years: in 1303 was in Forlì as Counselor of Scarpetta Ordelafi, Commander of the «white» while who the following year, after the defeat of his supporters in the battle of Lastra (July 20), decided to separate from his old faction; in 1305 possibly lived in Bologna, a privileged environment from the intellectual point of view, where he continued writing the two aforementioned works and where he was expelled October 6, 1306, to take refuge first in Lunigiana, under the protection of the Malaspina, then in 1307, with the count of Batifolle in Casentino and, finally, in 1308 , in Lucca. It is assumed that months before Dante had begun to write the hell, first part of the Divine Comedy.
During the early years of his exile Dante meditated long on the issue of relations between religious and temporal power; the first results of these meditations are the two known letters (from 1308 and 1310), one of them addressed to «all the Kings of Italy, all the Lords of the Holy City, the Dukes, Earls, marquises and people», and the other «the Florentine evil which reside in the city»; in this second letter, he advocated compliance to the imperial power. But the final attainment of these reflections was the Treaty of the monarchy (1318), where it was stated that the spiritual and the temporal power emanated directly from God, so the Empire and the papacy were autonomous powers.
If accepted as the date of completion of the monarchy of 1318, checks that its gestation was accompanied by the progressive tightening of conditions for the exile of its author. In 1302, after the sentence of exile, another condemned to be burned alive in the event of return to Florence; in 1311 was not applied a general amnesty granted to the «White» Guelphs; Finally, in 1315, was condemned to death by beheading in absentia, when he rejected the offer of a pardon under conditions considered dishonorable.
Resigned to not return to Florence, in 1318 he left Verona and was reunited with her children in Ravenna; There he produced two Eclogues in latin, and a Treaty on the issue of water and Earth. The final years of his life were extremely fruitful: in the dedication of the paradise in the famous letter to Cangrande I della Scala (1316), Dante grandly set the scope of its incomparable comedy: "the meaning of this work is not the only, they can call it polysemous, i.e., in many ways;» Indeed, the first sense is that comes from the letter, the other is that obtained from the meaning through the letter».
Divided into three books or songs (hell, written around 1312, purgatory, to 1315; Paradise, between 1316 and 1321), the comedy is composed of 14.233 eleven-syllable verses in terza rima, divided in turn into 100 songs, one of which is the prologue, so each of the three parts or books contains 33 songs. It traces the journey of the poet to realms beyond the grave, accompanied by the Latin Poet Virgil. At the age of thirty-five, Dante is lost in the dark jungle; then rescues him Virgilio, sent by the Virgin Mary, Saint Lucia and Beatriz. Both descend to hell and run through its nine circles; then they ascend the mountain of purgatory and there, at the entrance to paradise, Virgilio Beatriz, who leads him to the Empyrean, where for a moment gives way to the blessed poet has the vision of divinity.
The comedy owes its name, according to the medieval knowledge, its upward movement: the issue is horrible in the first book, but hopeful in the second and happy in the third; the adjective divine that has come down to us was added for posterity. Indeed, by its immeasurable poetic value, ambition and scope of its philosophical perspective, the beauty and precision of his images and the perfection of its language, comedy has been regarded as the greatest poem of Christianity.
Upon completion of the drafting of the paradise, Dante was already certain that his exile was definitive: the imposition of the death sentence of 1315, following their rejection of the amnesty, extended equally to their offspring. In 1319, probably, the poet was at the service of the Lord of Ravenna, Guido da Polenta, perhaps with Secretary or tutor of rhetoric functions. In 1321, the Doge of Venice threatened a punitive expedition against Ravenna, as a result of a conflict by the exploitation of a few neighboring salinas between the two jurisdictions, and Dante went to Venice as Ambassador of the Lord Da Polenta in order to appease the Venetian aldermen. The long journey, made at the height of summer, by Earth first and then by the lagoons of the coast of the Adriatic, was fatal. On their return to Ravenna, it ill of malaria contracted during the journey. He died on 13-14 September 1321 and was buried, amid solemn tributes, in the Church of San Francisco de Rávena.

Chronology of Dante Alighieri

1265Born in Florence.
1274First encounter with Beatriz Portinari, the woman who loved and exalted as a Supreme symbol of divine grace.
1285He married Gemma Donati. He studied at the University of Bologna.
1289He participated in the battle of Campaldino against the Ghibellines.
1290Death of Beatriz Portinari.
1293New life is complete.
1301The «White» Guelphs are defeated and Dante was condemned to exile.
1302-1307Start writing the treat and about the vulgar language, which defends the use of the vernacular language.
1308Start writing the Divine Comedy, divided into three books or songs (hell, purgatory and Paradise), which recounts the journey of the poet to realms beyond the grave, accompanied by the Latin Poet Virgil.
1312She writes hell.
1315Write purgatory.
1318It ends the Treaty of the monarchy. He resides in the Court of Guido of Polenta (Ravenna)
1321It completes the drafting of paradise, and dies in Ravenna.

The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri

Dante titled to his poem comedy, although a long tradition begun by Boccaccio has described it as divine, both for their excellence in the eyes of the first biographer of Dante by no earthly deal. It is unknown exactly when Dante began writing comedy. The author at the end of the Vita Nuova's words suggest that the idea of the triumph of Beatriz beyond death arose him before being banished, but nothing indicates to begin work immediately. It is possible that the composition had its inception to 1306-1307, since shortly after starting his exile, until shortly before his death (1320), i.e. for about fifteen years.

The argument

The Divine Comedy recounts the journey of Dante hell, purgatory and paradise, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. The poem begins with the meeting of Virgil with Dante, who is lost in a forest and encounters with wild beasts. Virgil confesses it to the poet who has come on behalf of Beatriz, a virtuous Lady, and leads him on a long journey of redemption that begins in the Underworld: here, ranging through hellish circles; in the first, are "the unhappy that were never alive", children who could not receive the baptism before dying and people's spiritual greatness as Virgil, who sensed the Christian revelation. In the second circle already hell is shown with all property: Minos, a kind of judge is located at the entrance of a well. In higher circles moran who were guided by incontinence; in the lower, which responded to their lower instincts. Then described the perverse, that at the end of their lives were left alone; The lustful, defeated by the pure sexual pleasure; the greedy; sick of wrath, doomed to hit forever sunk in the mud...
Section of hell is the best known of all precisely because of the height that charge their monstrous scenes, as if we attend to the evil of a directly visual way: for example, scammers swim in a seething mass of fish. Purgatory is a mountain surrounded by cliffs, and there souls must be devoted to good to atone for their sins and be finally saved by God. Dante has a chance to see the rise of the soul of the poet Estació skyward after having been purified. In the section of the paradise Dante attains maximum spiritual perfection: view the symbolic processions, the mysteries of the faith as a divine incarnation, and in a cloud of flowers arranged by los angeles gets to see Beatrice (his redemptive), climbing on the bandwagon of the Church.

The central theme of the comedy is the trip made by Dante, along which you will find its own identity. But, since old, the trip represents the human condition, in such a way that not only would be the acquisition of experiences but also must find a symbolism to each one of the stages, each one of the steps by which passes the Walker: hell starts at night, equivalent of despair; arrival at purgatory occurs at dawn, symbol of hope, while the entry into paradise is at noon, as a clear sign of salvation by the abundant light that there is.
Chronological coordinates based on real (the trip would begin the year jubilee of 1300, possibly the night of Holy Thursday and would last eight days), the work is organized on two essential axles, well attested in the previous literary tradition: travel (often to the hereafter) books and literature of visions, although Dante modifies both genders and adapts them to his peculiar approach. In any case, Dante carries out a rich and deep reworking of the texts that have served as a basis.

The structure

The comedy is divided into three parts (Inferno, purgatory and paradise), each of which consists of 33 cantos, amounting to a total of one hundred songs with the song that introduces. At the same time, hell is divided into 9 circles, purgatory into 9 parts and the paradise in heaven 9. The damned are grouped into three series (incontinent, violent and fraudulent). Which purged their sins also form three groups (those who followed a love that led them to evil, those who loved little good and which manifested a love enormous worldly goods) and paradise are lay people, assets and the contemplative, depending on the extent and type of love which have shown to God.
The number one hundred is symbolic and is a usual amount in medieval didactic texts; Similarly, the number three, based on the structural design of the comedy, also has a high symbolic value in medieval Numerology, as a sign of perfection and unity in diversity: in short, it would be the numerical interpretation of the mystery of the Trinity.
Hell is structured according to the guilt of those there; following the same organizing principles, in purgatory , we meet a mountain with seven cornices, in which are grouped the convicts according to their sinful inclinations. When you reach the earthly paradise, Virgil, who had guided the steps of Dante for the hereafter, is replaced by Estacio. Paradise is eternally the elect have been saved and are grouped according to their virtues, in nine areas of the heavenly system described by Ptolemy (seven planets, fixed stars and the first engine). The Empyrean is located outside of the celestial system and is therefore oblivious to the passage of time while it contains in itself all the heavens.

The forest of the Harpies (illustration by Gustave Doré)
According to the general structure of the comedy has been, it is based on the number three, which is given a special sense, in addition to preserving all the symbolic connotations sacred and profane. But the importance of this issue goes further: the stanza used the hendecasyllable trio, i.e. a stanza of three lines of eleven syllables is: each stanza consists of 33 syllables. On the other hand, a few bars are attached to others with a set of rhymes that also can speak of an undoubted role of number three: the second verse of a stanza rhyme with the first and the third of the following, giving rise to the metric system called chained trio. In this way remains a melodic and rhythmic line along entire edge. Frequently, the sense organizes resting on three triplets, which gives these groups an undeniable air of syllogism (in a way, same thing happens with the structure of the sonnet).

Significance of the Divine Comedy

There are three fundamental axes of the comedy from the philosophical point of view: the cosmos, reason and faith, predestination and free will. The first is resolved with the creation of their own universe in that hell and paradise opponents symmetrically, and between which lies the purgatory. On the axis of reason and faith are structured ideas about philosophy and theology: the first continuously stumbles a few narrow limits, which are those of human knowledge. Theology, on the other hand, opens at all times a few horizons boundless and faceless ones; the passage from one to the other is which makes the poet poeta-teologo, as it manifests explicitly in paradise, XXV.
The third axis is formed by questions concerning predestination and free will, which constitute one of the most common concerns for medieval thinkers, including natural philosophers and theologians: all creatures, animate and inanimate, are marked by the influence of the stars, transmitting them to certain qualities or virtues, or that (according to some) make them the future. To consider these issues, Dante is no exception in the medieval landscape; and the distance that separates these beliefs of deterministic approaches is minimal. Indeed, if the stars mark the fate of the individual, the person is not completely free in their actions and, therefore, should not be punished or rewarded. Dante accepts the influence of the stars on the man, but at the same time considers that the intellective soul (which only depends on God) is alien to this influx, and is therefore worthy of salvation or condemnation, because it decides freely (Purgatorio, XVI).
As a traveler by an unknown land, Dante is accompanied by successive guides who are also teachers in the poetic journey (Virgil and Estacio) and in the faith (Matelda, Beatriz and San Bernardo). They can only lead to the man, the sinner, toward the high goal following: spiritual purification process requires an external support and that is the role played by these companions. Guide changes indicate the most important stages of the path: therefore occur to entry into paradise on Earth and at the end of the road by the paradise, when as she is passed to the Empyrean for contemplation only divine. In the first, the will of the Walker is made free and the second his soul leave slavery. The double level of meanings that there is, in which also involved the figure of the own Dante as a traveller and poet is obvious. Thus, the five guides (Virgil, Statius, Matelda, Beatriz and San Bernardo) represent other so many degrees in the process of formation and perfection of Dante, that will take you to the divine contemplation.
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