La Vita Nuova; Dante's Definition of True Love

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La Vita Nuova; Dante’s

Definition of True Love
Liberal Studies 323/ALH3 Art, Literature & Humanism

Samantha Ritchie 07/15/12

La Vita Nuova; Dante’s Definition of True Love
La Vita Nuova is a collection of poems by Dante about an unconventional love story. Dante expresses his Love for a woman named Beatrice but his definition of love is not of courtly or romantic love. To Dante, the meaning of true love in La Vita Nuova is God.

On the surface, the Love Dante feels for Beatrice seems like it could be romantic or courtly love because they are defined as being an intense feeling of deep connection. However, his love is not derived from sexual desires, or lust for Beatrice and his Love is not reciprocated. He never portrays any attempt to get her attention or wanting to have a relationship with her; in fact he does the opposite. Dante would watch her from afar, secretly, without anyone knowing his Love for her. In his poems, he never reveals who his desire is actually for and ends up using a screen to protect his secret. This shows Dante’s Love is not the traditional understanding of love because it is not really for another human but for God. To Dante, God is everything love is, for instance, Love is peace and forgiveness. Dante said he believes Beatrice was put on this earth to show him peace; "This is a gracious lady, beautiful, young and wise; perhaps she has appeared by Love's will so that my life may know peace." (XXXVIII, 1). He said this because peace is a symbol of God for Jesus died for our sins so we could be forgiven. Beatrice was Dante’s stimulus for his spiritual journey through life.

Dante’s pilgrimage for Love began when he first saw Beatrice. At the very beginning of La Vita Nuova, Dante talks of when he first saw her at the age of nine and describes the Love he has for her, saying: 2

“The moment I saw her I say in all truth that the vital spirit, which dwells in the inmost depths of the heart, began to tremble so violently...
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