Dante Alighieri: a Poetic Descent Into Metaphorical Hell

Topics: Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, Beatrice Portinari Pages: 5 (1700 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Dante Alighieri: A Poetic Descent into Metaphorical Hell

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here"

Only through a journey into hell can we hope to attain paradise...

His Early Life:

Dante Alighieri was born under the sign of Gemini, he was thought to be born on May 29, but this is not certain. He was born in Florence, the son of Alighiero II, his family was one of lower nobility. His mother died when he was a child and his father when he was eighteen. According to him, the most profound event in his youth was when in 1274 he met Beatrice, whom scholars believe to be Beatrice Portinari, a noble woman. It really matter's not who she was, for he saw her infrequently and never spoke to her. Nevertheless she became the focus of his love, and after her death she became his muse. She is a focal point in his works, including La vita nuova(The New Life) and La divina commedia(The Divine Comedy). Dante's education remains an unknown, however his writing skill and knowledge make it evident that he was well schooled. It is thought that he attended Florentine schools but also continued learning on his own. He seemed to be influenced greatly by Brunetto Latini, who has a large part in The Divine Comedy. His early writings attracted the attention of Guido Cavalcanti, a popular Italian poet of the day, as Dante's skill became more defined the two became friends. It is also thought that Dante studied at the university in Bologna around the year 1285.

He became involved in some political altercations, he joined the Guelphs, as opposed to the Chibellines, and he was involved in a battle and emerged victorious. It was around this time, 1290, that Beatrice died, after she died he began studying philosophy, he read the works of Boethius and Cicero. He soon after married Gemma Donati, a member of a noble Florentine Guelph family. He attempted to settle down and forget Beatrice, however he became more and more engulfed in the party scene, he discovered the pleasure of banquets, and was seen engaged in public rhyming contests. These contests were a sort of poetic insult contest that often decayed into vulgarity. Thankfully, this period did not last long, in 1295, Dante suddenly became very interested in the political situation in Florence.

His Adult Life:

In the year 1295 he held several local offices, he was then elected to be one of the six magistrates of Florence, however, he held this position only two months. Dante, from 1295 to 1297, was part of the Special Council of the People, he also took part in the campaign for the prior, and was a member of the Council of the One Hundred. The political situation in Florence at the time was very turbulent, the two feuding factions within the Guelph party in Florence, the Cerchi and the Donati or the Whites and The Blacks were both vying for power. The Blacks, or Donati, were of noble birth and lineage but were not exceedingly rich, and they saw the pope as an ally against imperial power. The Whites, or Cerchi, were not of noble lineage, but had made a vast fortune trading and wished to become a part of the aristocracy, they wished to remain independent of all control, papal or imperial. After a particularly violent skirmish the leaders of both parties were exiled in order to provide peace, however, Pope Boniface VIII helped the leaders of the Black return. These Blacks seized power and banned Dante from the city for two years and imposed upon him heavy fines, he did not pay the fines, and they said he would be killed should he ever return to Florence.

Dante's immediate response was a desire to join with the other exiles and organize, they would retake the city by force. The exiled people were more concerned with their own interests than retaking Florence, the movement never even really got underway. There were a few isolated skirmishes, called the Wars of Mugello, but they were all unsuccessful. Dante was disgusted by the utter lack of motivation...
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