Dante Alighieri (1265-1321): Intellectual and Poet


Dante Alighieri is considered the greatest Italian poet and one of the greatest of European and World Literature. He is best known for the epic poem COMMEDIA, later named LA DIVINA COMMEDIA.

Dante was probably born between May 22 and June 13, 1265 in Florence and baptized as Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri. He died in exile in Ravenna on September 14, 1321.

A marriage was arranged for Dante at age 12 with Gemma Donati, whose family was one of the most important in Florence. He was 20 when they married and had three children together. Dante entered political life and favored a reduction in the Pope’s political power. After years of involvement in political turmoil he wound up on the losing side of the battles and was condemned to death in absentia. He went into exile in 1302, never to return to Florence.

The inspiration for Dante’s poetry was Beatrice Portinari (d.1290), who he supposedly met at the age of nine in a manner that he describes in La vita nuova ca. 1293. Dante connected with other poets of his age and was a major exponent of a new style of writing, the “Dolce Stil Nuovo.” His works include considerations on politics and language, in addition to his masterpiece The Divine Comedy (the term divine was added by the poet Giovanni Boccaccio), an epic poem of a tour of Hell (guided by the ancient poet Virgil), Purgatory, and Paradise (guided by Beatrice) that is perhaps the most important work in the development of Italian—the first European language to emerge from Latin in close proximity to its modern form. In fact, at the time writers believed that great poetry could be written only in Latin, and Dante argued great works could also be written in Italian. It is believed by many critics that he began the Commedia in 1300 and worked on it until the end of his life in 1321.

During his exile, Dante found shelter in various Italian cities, including Verona with the ruling Della Scala family, and died in Ravenna where he remains buried.

Besides the Divine Comedy and La Vita Nuova, Dante’s most important works are:
Il convivio, 1307 (unfinished)
De vulgari eloquentia, 1304-07
De monarchia, ca. 1313

Links of Interest about Dante Alighieri, His Life, and His Works:
Course on The Divine ComedyAdult Faith Formation and Bible Study at St Paul’s Catholic Church in Harvard Square – Inferno Fall 2014, Purgatorio Winter 2015 and Paradiso Spring 2015.
Guelphs and GhibellinesHow the two factions originated and how they affected Dante’s life. Only complete explanation online.
La Divina CommediaEdizione critica della “vulgata” a cura da Giorgio Petrocchi e commentata dai più famosi critici letterari.
Divine Comedy in Italian and EnglishItalian version with translations of the Commedia by Longfellow and Mandelbaum.
Divine Comedy in Italian and EnglishThe divine Comedy in Italian and with translations by Cary and Longfellow. In addition you can view illustrations by Botticelli, Doré, and Dali.
Divina CommediaPresentata in chiave parapsicologica nel libero commento di Giovanna Viva.
Robert Pinsky’s Translation of the InfernoHear Pinsky reading excerpts from Cantos I, II, and V. He reads the first nine lines in Italian.
Inspired by DanteA collection of contemporary drawings and illustrations, by Indianapolis artist Jennifer Strange. The drawings are inspired from the Divine Comedy,
a medieval poem written by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri. The drawings, while they represent Dante’s journey through Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise,
also represent the human condition in any age.
Poesia del Duecento fino a DanteAll of the Poet’s Works.
Dante Society of AmericaFounded in 1881 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Charles Eliot Norton, first three presidents.