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  • 9/14/2004

Dante Alighieri

(May/June 1265 – September 13/14, 1321)

Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321, Italian poet, author of The Divine Comedy. A Florentine patrician, he fought on the side of the Guelphs but later supported the imperial party. In 1290, after the death of his exalted Beatrice (Beatrice Portinari, 1266-90), he plunged into the study of philosophy and Provençal poetry. Politically active in Florence from 1295, he was banished in 1302 and became a citizen of all Italy, dying in Ravenna.

The Divine Comedy, a vernacular poem in 100 cantos (more than 14,000 lines), was composed in exile. It is the tale of the poet"s journey through Hell and Purgatory (guided by Vergil) and through Heaven (guided by Beatrice, to whom the poem is a memorial.) Written in a complex pentameter form, terza rima, it is a magnificent synthesis of the medieval outlook, picturing a changeless universe ordered by God. Through it Dante established Tuscan as the literary language of Italy and gave rise to a vast literature. His works also include La vita nuova (c.1292), a collection of prose and lyrics celebrating Beatrice and ideal love; treatises on language and politics; eclogues; and epistles.

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