Even if you have never read The Divine Comedy, you have most likely heard about it. We have seen it referenced in movies and books, and it has inspired many artists throughout history. But who was the man behind the book?
Dante Alighieri- early life.
Born in Florence, Italy, in 1265, Dante Alighieri—his full name was Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri to Alaghiero and Bella, but he’s better known simply as Dante. Unfortunately, Bella passed away before Dante turned 10, leaving him with a new stepmother and two siblings. At 12, Dante was promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto; they would later tie the knot. Not much is known about his educational background, but it is clear that he loved poetry and literature. This passion for culture, politics, and writing inspired him throughout his career.
Inspired by a childhood crush.
At 12 years old, Dante was invited to a party by his father. He saw a young girl there and instantly fell in love with her. Her name was Beatrice di Folco Portinari and she was 9. His family had already arranged for him to marry another woman, so he never spoke to Beatrice properly. Nevertheless, Dante used his love for her to influence his writing and artistry. His most famous work, New Life, is said to be inspired by his feelings towards Beatrice. In his Divine Comedy, she is portrayed as a divine being with qualities that lead Dante away from temptation and towards righteousness.
He was a soldier.
Dante served the Guelphs as a horseman at the Battle of Campaldino on June 11, 1289, against the Ghibellines.
He was in the medical field.
Dante became a pharmacist in order to help further his political career. He could not become a member of public office without holding such a position.
Why was he exiled?
In 1302, Dante found himself the victim of what historians call “trumped-up charges” of embezzlement, opposition to the pope, and more by the Florentine government. When he refused to appear to answer for his crimes and pay a fine, it was decided that should he ever step foot in Florence again, he would be burned alive. As a result, Dante spent his remaining years as a wanderer, a lifestyle that provided him the inspiration to write The Divine Comedy. In 2008 Florence’s city council voted to symbolically revoke Dante’s death sentence in the city and restore his honor.
How he died.
Dante died in Ravenna between 13 and 14 September 1321, probably due to malaria contracted while passing through the Comacchio marshland or in Venice itself. He had gone on an ambassadorial mission on behalf of Guido Novello. His funeral ceremony and the reactions of poets and writers of the time to the news of his death are early evidence of the fame surrounding the man and his work, which soon turned him into a legendary figure.
Dante’s body was buried near the church of San Pier Maggiore (later renamed San Francesco) until a worthy burial monument could be erected for him. Due to Guido Novello’s exile, however, this did not materialize. Dante’s remains, repeatedly requested by the Florentines, were jealously guarded by the Franciscans. After a chance finding in 1865 on Dante’s centenary, his remains were transferred to the small neoclassical temple built in 1782 next to San Francesco church.
What happened next?
For hundreds of years, writers, painters, musicians, filmmakers, and cartoonists have all drawn upon The Divine Comedy, especially the “Inferno” part. Names like Sandro Botticelli, William Blake, Salvador Dali, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the people who made X-Men comics, and Dan Brown are just some of them.
Auguste Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Kiss” portrays Paolo and Francesca, two lovers Dante meets in the second circle of the underworld. It was also a significant source of inspiration for movies such as “Se7en” (which has been nominated for an Oscar) or video games like “Dante’s Inferno”.
Also, many famous TV shows reference this work. For example, Bret Easton Ellis’ comedy American Psycho begins with the quote ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’, which is one of the most popular passages from the book.
I could have spent hours writing about The Divine Comedy, but I think that it is a dead horse. But Dante the person? He is someone that should be known! But, because I love The Divine Comedy, I leave you with some famous lines….
Famous quotes and Lines from The Divine Comedy:
- “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
- “The more a thing is perfect, the more it feels pleasure and pain.”
- “O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?”
- “Consider your origin. You were not formed to live like brutes but to follow virtue and knowledge.”
- “There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery”
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