Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante (c1265–1321), was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem Commedia, later named La divina commedia (Divine Comedy), considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language.
It is curious that not only Dante’s detractors, like the Petrarch of Landor’s Pentameron (if we may apply so strong a word to so amiable a character), but some of his admirers, insist on the separation of Dante’s “poetry” and Dante’s “teaching.” Sometimes the philosophy is confused with the allegory. The philosophy is an ingredient, it is a part of Dante’s world just as it is a part of life; the allegory is the scaffold on which the poem is built.
Dante, faced with the strong opposition of theologians to the idea that secular literature had any meaningful claim to purvey truth, made a bold decision. Rather than employ the allegory of the poets, which admitted, even insisted, that the literal sense of a work was untrue, he chose to employ the allegory of the theologians, with the consequence that everything recounted in the poem as having actually occurred is to be treated as "historical," since the poet insistently claims that what he relates is nothing less than literally true. We do not have to agree that such was in reality the case, only that the poet makes precisely this claim -- and no less than it.
The study of Dantean cosmography was a primarily Florentine or Tuscan preoccupation throughout the Renaissance. Even the young Galileo Galilei delivered two lectures to the Florentine Academy during the winter of 1587-88 in which he defended Manetti's opinions against challenges to the Florentine's views offered in the commentary by Alessandro Vellutello
Dante is credited with inventing terza rima, composed of tercets woven into a linked rhyme scheme, and chose to end each canto of the The Divine Comedy with a single line that completes the rhyme scheme with the end-word of the second line of the preceding tercet. The tripartite stanza likely symbolizes the Holy Trinity, and early enthusiasts of terza rima, including Italian poets Boccaccio and Petrarch, were particularly interested in the unifying effects of the form.
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.
Although the cosmology and theology of The Divine Comedy is clearly that of Aristotle and Aquinas, Dante was quite critical of the Church at Rome. His criticisms were common for the time -- the failure of popes and the clergy to live up the requirements of their office. And while it is true that he called the Church a harlot, he never disputed Church doctrine or orthodoxy. For Dante, the message was quite clear -- the Church was not serving the spiritual needs of the flock. For instance, in Inferno Dante and Virgil meet up with thieves, gluttons and Judas Iscariot. They also meet seven popes.
Dante then begins his journey in The Inferno. Guided through hell by the Latin poet Virgil, Dante encounters damned spirits and witnesses the ironic punishments to which the unrepentant are eternally condemned. In the second part of The Comedy, Purgatorio, Dante emerges from the frozen floor of hell and ascends to the mountain of purgatory, where the repentant sinners are purified and cleansed with fire to prepare them for their final ascent into heaven. In the third and final part of The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, Dante is reunited with Beatrice, who acts as his guide. In heaven he encounters the saved and the saints.
Dante's reputation as the outstanding figure of Italian letters rests mainly on the Divine Comedy, a long vernacular poem in 100 cantos (more than 14,000 lines) composed during his exile. Dante entitled it Commedia ; the adjective Divina was added in the 16th cent. It recounts the tale of the poet's journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and is divided accordingly into three parts.
Read aloud by Dante himself, the Inferno especially must have beam compelling. Stories are inserted within stories, startling encounters are contrived between himself and personages not long dead. He reduced the traditional figures of personification allegory […] and replaced them by real characters, who, while being themselves, at the same time represented abstract concepts.
Dante was the supreme poet-historian of Florence, its most passionate observer, its most bitter and frustrated product. Scattered around the contemporary city are thirty other plaques with passages from the Comedy, evoking a range of places Dante had known and moments and persons he had known or heard about in his thirty-five years if Florentine life.
If Dante chose to echo Augustine's attempt to reach the truth through philosophy alone, then the implication is that Dante undertook a similar attempt and also met with failure. For all his effort in the Convivio to define philosophic truth in theological terms, Dante's philosophical experience may have been as ultimately disillusioning for him as was Augustine's with the neoplatonists.
Every one who has in him the love of poetry, particularly dramatic poetry, and many a one who believes that he has not, finds himself facing life from a fresh angle when he makes acquaintance with Dante, through his famous drama of justice based on love and hate. Old as his drama is, it is ever new, because it portrays, as no other, the permanent passions of the human race and their unchanging consequences, generation after generation.
…it was precisely on the linguistic front that the first opposition to the divine Comedy came […]; and the language was to remain the sore point of Dante criticism, even for his admirers, for many generations to come, practically down to its rehabilitation by the Romantics. The objections advanced by the learned professor Giovanni del Virgilio in 1319 are polite, respectful, timid even - he does not attack, he merely expresses humble astonishment at Dante's use of the vulgar tongue...
For his first readers, Dante was essentially, as he is for most of his public today, a "one-book author." Scholars are aware, as they read the Comedy, of its intimate (and sometimes puzzling) relations with Dante/s other extended works - Vita nuova, Convivio, De vulgar Eloquentia, Monarchia. As for the Rime, Epistole, Egloghe, and the Question, they tend, with significant exceptions, to be studied less in relation to the Comedy than as things in themselves. The same may be said for Il Fiore and Il Detto d'Amore...