Dante was a writer, poet, politician and theoretician known for his famous trilogy, the Divine Comedy in which he made a powerful impact on both theology and literature. In it he presented the three tiers of the Christianity life; heaven, purgatory, and hell.
The early years
He was born in 1265 to a politically active Florentine family, a background that informed some of the scenes in the Inferno. His mom passed on in his infancy and when he reached 12 it was agreed that he would marry Gemma Donatis, the daughter to a close family friend. When he turned 20 years old the couple married even though Dante was in love with someone else. The other woman, Beatrice Portinari, would become a prominent feature of Dante’s artistic impressions particularly in the Divine Comedy.
Dante first saw Beatrice when she had turned nine and when she died 16 years later he wrote Vita Nuova (The New Life) to capture the tragedy of losing her. Around the time of her death he began to explore philosophy in the Florentine life. By then the city had become a tumultuous place with factional rivalry and tension which often poured out into the streets. Dante held a number of important public posts but he soon fell out with the Black Guelphs among them Corso Donati who was Gemma Donati’s distant cousin.
The Exile and the Divine Comedy
Because of that fallout he was exiled for life from Florence at around 1302. Dante depicts Pope Boniface VIII and his ruling faction in Florentine politics as characters in hell that he created in the Inferno. This fallout gave him one of the most artistic moments of his career. In exile he withdrew from the political life and that is when he crafted the Divine comedy. In 1304 he went to Bologna where he created the ‘De Vulgari Eloquentia’ (The Eloquent Vernacular).
In March of 1306 the Florentine exiles were expelled from Bologna and Dante showed up in Padua and then fell off the face of the earth. He is rumoured to have gone to Paris though that is not easily verifiable.
In 1308 Dante wrote ‘De Mornachia’ which is in reference to the optimistic politician Henry of Luxembourg whose revolution in Italy fell out of favour with the hard-line Florentine political powerbrokers. It was around this time that Dante started to write The Divine Comedy.
Dante’s Divine Comedy has been a major work of art for nearly 700 years. T.S. Eliot in reference to Dante and Shakespeare, said that the two divided the world amongst themselves and never left a space for a third legend.
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