Dante Alighieri was an Italian poet who lived and wrote during the late medieval period. He lived from 1265 to 1321 and the works he penned down during his lifetime would become the crucial foundation for the eventual use of Italian language as the language of Italian literature.
Dante’s works and ideas became an important precursor to the Renaissance ideals that eventually swept through the entire Western Europe. He would be a key inspiration to important figures of Italian Renaissance such as Petrarch. The most important work penned by Dante which earned him fame not just in medieval Italy and Europe but the world over, is his work “Divine Comedy”, a poem about a spiritual journey.
Dante was born in Florence in 1265. This was a time when Florence, and many other Italian states, were internally divided between Guelph and Ghibelline factions. Dante’s family hailed from the Guelph faction who were supporters of Papacy against the Holy Roman Empire.
Dante studied Tuscan poetry at an early age and discovered the writings of the great writers of antiquity such as Ovid, Cicero and Virgil, the last of which was to have a lasting impact on Dante. At the age of 18, Dante fell in love with Beatrice Portinari, an event which would be reflected deeply in his literary style and the themes of his poetry.
Dante remained involved in Florentine politics much of his life. During the 1290s, he remained a part of many different city councils. In 1301, Florence came under the control of a rival faction and Dante was forced to go into exile. He remained in exile until his death in 1321.
Dante’s oeuvre comprises mostly of works of poetry although he also penned many commentaries as well as few works of philosophy. Notable among his poetic works is La Vita Nuova or “The New Life”, a collection of Dante’s love poems in the Tuscan language where he has also revealed his love for Beatrice.
De Vulgari Eloquentia or “On the Eloquence of Vernacular” is an important prose work in which Dante defended and encouraged the use of the vernacular in literature. “Monarchia” is a Latin work by Dante in which he expounded on his political philosophy, proposing a universal monarchy in conjunction with the guidance of the Roman Catholic Church. In terms of literary excellence, style and symbolism as well as historical legacy, the most important work penned by Dante was the “Divine Comedy”.
Dante’s Magnum Opus is the “Divine Comedy” which is a work of poetry he penned later his life and comprises of three sections, namely the Paradiso, Inferno and Purgatorio. In the work, the poet essentially travels through these three parts while being guided by Virgil and Beatrice.
The stylistic elements of the work, the uniqueness of the subject and the spiritual themes that Dante used in this work all have contributed to the elevation of this work to such a position that today it is considered the greatest work in the Italian language. Not only that, “Divine Comedy” is considered one of the most remarkable pieces of world literature and has attained global fame.