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Dante Alighieri:

Poet And Divine Comedian

Widely known as a poet and philosopher, Dante Alighieri's insightful works have influenced countless generations. His profound message of self-fulfillment speaks to his genius.

Born in Florence in 1265, Dante Alighieri was raised in a middle-class family. His mother died when he was young, forcing him to take on responsibilities at an early age. When Dante was about nine years old, he met Beatrice and was so taken by her beauty that she would prove to have a lifelong influence on his later writings.

Dante was well-learned and is thought to have studied at the Church of Sante Croce, run by Franciscans, and later at the University of Bologna. His education propelled him toward a career in politics and in a few short years he was elected as one of seven Florentine prefects. The year was 1300.

Politics in Florence were rife with turmoil. There were four distinct factions vying for political control and Dante was sent to Rome to negotiate with the ruthless Pope Boniface VII in an attempt to bring some sort of stability to Florence. In his absence from Florence, Dante was exiled by his opponents at the Pope's direction and he would never be allowed to hold public office again. Dante Alighieri refused to return to face the false charges against him and the sentence was changed to a banishment for life with a punishment of death upon his return. The young Dante never did return and he carried with him the deep-seated resentment of both Papal authority and greedy politicians, a resentment that would later reveal itself in his greatest work.

Not only did Dante's life experiences influence his literature, but he was also influenced by several famous philosophers. Most notable among those influences were Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Aristotle.

Aristotle's work pertaining to ethics and morality laid the foundation for both Albert the Great and Aquinas' thinking. Albert the Great wrote of intellect and beauty being intimately related, and it is through these that one enters into realization of the Divine, he taught. Thomas Aquinas also wrote upon this subject and offered a similar stance form a more theological perspective. Beatrice, Dante's human muse, always was upon his mind and influenced him as well. These influences profoundly affected Dante Alighieri's works and echoed themselves throughout his literary career.

Dante's early writings were philosophical works concerned with the education and unification of the public. One piece, titled De Vulgari Eloquentia, or Concerning Vernacular Eloquence, dealt with the generalization of Italian dialects into one effective vernacular. Another of his earliest works was El Convivio, translated as The Banquet, was also written for the public concerning common matters such as discovering the light of truth through wisdom and love. In part one of this piece, he again discussed the importance of common vernacular. As Dante aged, his literary aspirations shifted toward self-fulfillment and a realization of the Divine. This new ambition would be realized in the completion of La Divina Commedia. In English it is known as The Divine Comedy.

In this masterpiece, Dante weaved an allegorical tale of his journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise. The meter he used was one of his own invention, called terza rima for its three-line rhyme scheme. In opposition to his earlier works, Dante spoke of truth as a force that transcends any philosophical school of thought or "earthly paradise." He wrote of a truth that the entirety of mankind longs for, which is the transcendent, universal light.

Dante, throughout his life, wrote many poems, many of which Beatrice was the inspiration for. His poetry immortalizing her beauty is some of the most transcendent verse ever penned. His lyrical style of poetry has been an inspiration to poets all through history and Dante championed forms that are still in use today, one of which is the sonnet.

Dante's contributions to world literature will be forever memorialized in Commedia. His far-reaching ideas upon the power of wisdom and love in attaining absolute truth remain his everlasting message.

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