Dante Alighieri was a famous Italian poet. He lived during the late medieval period. His original work ‘Divine Comedy’ is considered an all time classic in Italian language. He is credited with writing in Italian language and using vernacular when most of the poets used Latin language as the medium of expression which made most of the poetry accessible to affluent and educated class only.
Dante was one of the first to use vernacular in poetry and influenced others to do so as well. He is credited with establishing the national language of Italy. His style inspired famous minds like John Milton, William Shakespeare and Alfred Lord Tennyson. He was also the first to use the three line interlocking rhyme scheme.
Early Life: Dante was born in 1265 in Florence Italy. His family was involved in the politics. His father, Alaghiero supported the Guelph faction that supported papacy in its struggle against Holy Roman Emperor. His mother, Bella died when Dante was close to ten years old. His father remarried after his mother’s death and had two more children with his second wife.
As per the customs of that period, Dante was betrothed at the age of just twelve to a girl from a rich and influential family. However; he had fallen in love with a girl named Beatrice by then. His love for Beatrice inspired him to write ‘Vita Nuova’. Dante eventually ended up marrying his fiancé, Gemma. Dante’s early life is not well documented. It is believed that he was educated at home and took special interest in Tuscan poetry.
During his formative years he took interest in political matters. He also participated in the Battle of Campaldino in 1289 from Guelph side against Ghibellines. Dante later on became a pharmacist to further his political career. Although, Dante held several public offices, his political career did not take off the way he wanted it to. After the victory in Battle of Campaldino, the Guelph faction divided in White and Black Guelph sub factions.
Dante’s group, White Guelphs supported a greater degree of freedom from Rome. In 1301, the Pope backed Black Guelphs took over the city of Florence and plundered it. Dante was sent in exile and was fined heavily. Later in his life he supported several attempts by White Guelphs to retake Florence but all of them failed.
Work: Dante’s most famous work ‘Divine Comedy’ was conceived and written during his time in exile. His other notable works include Convivo (The Banquet) a collection of poems which also includes his famous poem ‘Monarchia’, De Vulgari Eloquentia (On the Eloquence of Vernacular) on vernacular literature and La Vita Nuova (The New Life) Dante’s story of his love for Beatrice Portinari.
Later Life: Dante remained in exile, even after the defeat of Black Guelphs at the hand of Henry VII in 1312. Dante was not a part of Henry’s expedition however; as he did not want to see a foreigner’s assault on his beloved city. In 1315, Florence offered Dante to return from exile after showing public remorse and paying heavy fine.
Dante refused the term of amnesty and chose to stay away from Florence. Dante instead chose to live in Verona and then in 1318, he shifted to Ravenna. Here in Ravenna, Dante finished his last known work, Paradiso. He died in 1321 in Ravenna and was buried there. Later, Florence regretted its treatment of Dante and requested Ravenna’s authorities to return his mortal remains to be buried in Florence, the city he loved so much.
However; Ravenna refused to do that. Dante loved Florence and lived a sad life during exile away from the city where he believed that his identity and heritage was left behind.