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Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

Biographical Information

Main Works

Featured Works: The Inferno


Selected Quotations


Recommended Reading

Biographical Information

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), native of Italian city of Florence, the most famous of the Italian poets and a major figure in world literature. One of the founders of Humanism.

in love with Beatrice Portinari (1266-1290) since his childhood

married Gemma Donati, 1291

member of the White Guelfs, a political party critical of the corruption of certain popes but supportive of the authority and spiritual mission of the Church

Florence city administrator (1295-1301)

mission to Pope Boniface VIII, 1301

triumph of Black Guelf party supported by the Pope, 1301-1302

Dante exiled from Florence, 1302

Main Works

La Vita Nuova (The New Life) (1292), love poems expounding on Dante's passion for Beatrice

Il Convivio (The Banquet) (1304-1307), commentaries on poetry dealing with philosophical, moral, ethical, and political issues

De Vulgari Eloquentia (Concerning Vernacular Eloquence) (1304-1307), discussion of the use of the vernacular Italian for literary purposes

De Monarchia (On Monarchy) (1313), discussion on the relations between Christianity, politics, and papal involvement in secular government

La Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy), written during Dante's exile (after 1302) and finished shortly before his death in 1321; a trilogy: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso; spiritual journey through the spiritual realms of the afterlife and toward Beatrice and salvation


Historical problem in Italy of political conflicts anc civil war between a party favoring the Church (Guelfs) and those favoring the authority of the German emperor (Ghibellines); Italian Guelf cities included Florence, Montepulciano, Bologna, and Orvieto; Ghibelline dominated cities included Siena, Pisa, Pistoia and Arezzo; during the 1260's the Ghibellines were defeated and lost their influence; then the Guelf party split into two factions, one critical of the corruption of the Pope but supportive of the Church (the Whites) and the other unconditionally supportive of the Pope and the Church (the Blacks)

Problems of corruption in the Church: practice of simony (buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices and spiritual privileges); excessive emphasis of the Church on political power and wealth

Involvement of Dante in the political party (White Guelfs) that criticized the corruption of the Pope led to his exile

Selected Quotations

"O you possessed of sturdy intellects,
observe the teaching that is hidden here
beneath the veil of verses so obscure."
(Inferno IX:61-63, trans. A. Mandelbaum)


to come

Recommended Reading

"Purgatorio XXVIII: Catharsis and Paradisal Visions as States of Dynamic Equilibrium," Neophilologus 75 (1991): 222-231.

© 2001, 2002 by Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, all rights reserved


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