Written by Niyati Kanotra, a grade 12 student.
Dante Alighieri, known for his captivating poetry, was born in the year 1265 in Florence, Italy to a family of an old lineage. His family consisted of his mother (named Bella Degli Abati) , his father (named Aligherio Di Bellincione) , and his two siblings (Franceso and Gaetana Aligherio). He is believed to be a descendant of the ancient Roman families who founded Florence. Dante’s mother passed away a few years after giving birth to him. At the age of 12, Dante dutifully married a girl from the Donati family,and, after a few years of their marriage, they had two sons as well as a daughter. Dante completed his studies from the University of Bologna: one of the most famous universities in the medieval world.
When Dante was 11 years old, he met a 9-year-old girl at a prominent function wearing bright crimson dress, which, according to Dante, radiated the celestial beauty of an angel. This girl named Beatrice was the great love of Dante’s life, and has been an inspiration to some of his finest poems. Dante recorded his devotion to her in an early work named Vita Nuova (A New Life). Her name has also been mentioned in Inferno, which is the first part of Dante’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. Divine Comedy is considered to be one of the greatest works of world literature, which started in the year 1308 and was completed in the year 1320. It consists of three parts mainly Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise). This poem traces Dante’s journey from darkness and error to the revelation of the divine light, culminating in the Beatific Vision of God.
After the passing away of Beatrice, Dante got himself involved in the Florentine political scene. He held a number of important public posts during the phase of political unrest in Italy. However, he was exiled for life by the leaders of the Black Guelphs (who were were a branch of the Cancellieri Guelph family). This happened because, during the time of 1295, there were two ruling parties: the Guelphs ( who supported the pope as the ruler of the Catholic Church but believed that he should not be involved in secular affairs), and the Ghibellines ( who believed the pope should rule both secular and religious faction). Dante was allotted the mission of maintaining peace between both the parties, but in the midst of that, it brought him to be at odds with the reigning pope. Hence, he was exiled in 1302 with his property being confiscated too. Though Dante was driven away from Florence, it only encouraged him to come up with a masterpiece like the Divine Comedy which he had written during his exile.
The Divine Comedy was inspired by the politics persisting in Florence, and the struggle for power which continues and affected the whole of Italy. After his exile, Dante would roam around from court to court in Italy giving lectures and writing. Dante completed the last bit of the Divine Comedy in the year 1320 in Ravenna where he also died on 13th September, 1321 leaving behind a legacy and a mark on the world literature forever. It’s been 650 years since Dante left those words behind for us, yet they still continue to influence art and literature in every way possible. In the words of Dante Alighieri,“The man who lies asleep will never waken fame, and his desire and all his life drift past him like a dream, and the traces of his memory fade from time like smoke in the air, or ripples on a stream.”