Dante Alighieri, painted by Giotto in the chapel of the Bargello palace in Florence. This oldest portrait of Dante was painted during his lifetime before his exile from his native city.
|Born||mid-May to mid-June 1265
|Died||September 14, 1321 (aged about 56)
|Occupation||Statesman, poet, language theorist|
Dante Alighieri (May/June c.1265 – September 14, 1321), commonly known as Dante, was an Italian poet of the Middle Ages. The name Dante is, according to the words of Jacopo Alighieri, a hypocorism for Durante. In contemporary documents it is followed by the patronymic Alagherii or de Alagheriis; it was Boccaccio who popularized the form Alighieri.
His Divine Comedy, originally called Commedia by the author and later nicknamed Divina by Boccaccio, is often considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature.
In Italy he is known as "the Supreme Poet" (il Sommo Poeta) or just il Poeta. Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio are also known as "the three fountains" or "the three crowns". Dante is also called the "Father of the Italian language". The first biography written on him was by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), who wrote the Trattatello in laude di Dante.
The exact date of Dante's birth is not known, although it is generally believed to be around 1265. This can be deduced from autobiographic allusions in La Divina Commedia, "the Inferno" (Halfway through the journey we are living, implying that Dante was around 35 years old, as the average lifespan according to the Bible (Psalms 89:10, Vulgate) is 70 years, and as the imaginary travel took place in 1300 Dante must have been born around 1265). Some verses of the Paradiso section of the Divine Comedy also provide a possible clue that he was born under the sign of Gemini - "As I revolved with the eternal twins, I saw revealed from hills to river outlets, the threshing-floor that makes us so ferocious", XXII 151-154), but these cannot be considered definitive statements by Dante about his birth. However, in 1265 the Sun was in Gemini approximately during the period 11 May to 11 June. His birth date is listed as "probably in the end of May" by Robert Hollander in "Dante" in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, volume 4. In summary, most students of Dante's life believe that he was born between about the middle of May and about the middle of June 1265, but there is little likelihood a definite date will ever be known.
Dante claimed that his family descended from the ancient Romans (Inferno, XV, 76), but the earliest relative he could mention by name was Cacciaguida degli Elisei (Paradiso, XV, 135), of no earlier than about 1100. Dante's father, Alighiero di Bellincione, was a White Guelph who suffered no reprisals after the Ghibellines won the Battle of Montaperti in the mid 13th century. This suggests that Alighiero or his family enjoyed some protective prestige and status.
Dante's family was prominent in Florence, with loyalties to the Guelphs, a political alliance that supported the Papacy and which was involved in complex opposition to the Ghibellines, who were backed by the Holy Roman Emperor. The poet's mother was Bella degli Abati. She died when Dante was not yet ten years old, and Alighiero soon married again, to Lapa di Chiarissimo Cialuffi. It is uncertain whether he really married her, as widowers had social limitations in these matters. This woman definitely bore two children, Dante's brother Francesco and sister Tana (Gaetana). When Dante was 12, he was promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, daughter of Messer Manetto Donati. Contracting marriages at this early age was quite common and involved a formal ceremony, including contracts signed before a notary. Dante had already fallen in love with another woman, Beatrice Portinari (known also as Bice). Years after his marriage to Gemma, he met Beatrice again. He had become interested in writing verse, and although he wrote several sonnets to Beatrice, he never mentioned his wife Gemma in any of his poems.
Dante fought in the front rank of the Guelph cavalry at the battle of Campaldino (June 11, 1289). This victory brought forth a reformation of the Florentine constitution. To take any part in public life, one had to be enrolled in one of "the arts". So Dante entered the guild of physicians and apothecaries. In following years, his name is frequently found recorded as speaking or voting in the various councils of the republic.
Dante had several children with Gemma. As often happens with significant figures, many people subsequently claimed to be Dante's offspring; however, it is likely that Jacopo, Pietro, Giovanni and Antonia were truly his children. Antonia became a nun with the name of Sister Beatrice.
Not much is known about Dante's education, and it is presumed he studied at home. It is known that he studied Tuscan poetry, at a time when the Sicilian School (Scuola poetica siciliana), a cultural group from Sicily, was becoming known in Tuscany. His interests brought him to discover the Occitan poetry of the troubadours and the Latin poetry of classical antiquity (with a particular devotion to Virgil).
During the "Secoli Bui" (Dark Ages), Italy had become a mosaic of small states, Sicily being the largest one, at the time under Angevin rule, and as far (culturally and politically) from Tuscany as Occitania was: the regions did not share a language, culture or easy communications. Nevertheless, we can assume that Dante was a keen up-to-date intellectual with international interests.
When he was nine years old he met Beatrice Portinari, daughter of Folco Portinari, with whom he fell in love "at first sight", and apparently without even having spoken to her. He saw her frequently after age 18, often exchanging greetings in the street, but he never knew her well; he effectively set the example for the so-called "courtly love". It is hard now to understand what this love actually consisted of, but something extremely important was happening within Italian culture. It was in the name of this love that Dante gave his imprint to the "Dolce Stil Novo" (Sweet New Style) and would lead poets and writers to discover the themes of Love (Amore), which had never been so emphasized before. Love for Beatrice (as in a different manner Petrarch would show for his Laura) would apparently be the reason for poetry and for living, together with political passions. In many of his poems, she is depicted as semi-divine, watching over him constantly. When Beatrice died in 1290, Dante tried to find a refuge in Latin literature. The Convivio reveals that he had read Boethius's De consolatione philosophiae and Cicero's De amicitia. He then dedicated himself to philosophical studies at religious schools like the Dominican one in Santa Maria Novella. He took part in the disputes that the two principal mendicant orders (Franciscan and Dominican) publicly or indirectly held in Florence, the former explaining the doctrine of the mystics and of Saint Bonaventure, the latter presenting Saint Thomas Aquinas' theories.
At 18, Dante met Guido Cavalcanti, Lapo Gianni, Cino da Pistoia and soon after Brunetto Latini; together they became the leaders of the Dolce Stil Novo. Brunetto later received a special mention in the Divine Comedy (Inferno, XV, 28), for what he had taught Dante. Nor speaking less on that account, I go With Ser Brunetto, and I ask who are His most known and most eminent companions. Some fifty poetical components by Dante are known (the so-called Rime, rhymes), others being included in the later Vita Nuova and Convivio. Other studies are reported, or deduced from Vita Nuova or the Comedy, regarding painting and music.
Dante, like most Florentines of his day, was embroiled in the Guelph-Ghibelline conflict. He fought in the battle of Campaldino (June 11, 1289), with the Florentine Guelphs against Arezzo Ghibellines, then in 1294 he was among the escorts of Charles Martel of Anjou (grandson of Charles I of Naples more commonly called Charles of Anjou) while he was in Florence. To further his political career, he became a pharmacist. He did not intend to actually practice as one, but a law issued in 1295 required that nobles who wanted public office had to be enrolled in one of the Corporazioni delle Arti e dei Mestieri, so Dante obtained admission to the apothecaries' guild. This profession was not entirely inapt, since at that time books were sold from apothecaries' shops. As a politician, he accomplished little, but he held various offices over a number of years in a city undergoing political unrest.
After defeating the Ghibellines, the Guelphs divided into two factions: the White Guelphs (Guelfi Bianchi) -- Dante's party, led by Vieri dei Cerchi -- and the Black Guelphs (Guelfi Neri), led by Corso Donati. Although initially the split was along family lines, ideological differences rose based on opposing views of the papal role in Florentine affairs, with the Blacks supporting the Pope and the Whites wanting more freedom from Rome. Initially the Whites were in power and expelled the Blacks. In response, Pope Boniface VIII planned a military occupation of Florence. In 1301, Charles de Valois, brother of Philip the Fair king of France, was expected to visit Florence because the Pope had appointed him peacemaker for Tuscany. But the city's government had treated the Pope's ambassadors badly a few weeks before, seeking independence from papal influence. It was believed that Charles de Valois would eventually have received other unofficial instructions. So the council sent a delegation to Rome to ascertain the Pope's intentions. Dante was one of the delegates.
Boniface quickly dismissed the other delegates and asked Dante alone to remain in Rome. At the same time (November 1, 1301), Charles de Valois entered Florence with Black Guelphs, who in the next six days destroyed much of the city and killed many of their enemies. A new Black Guelph government was installed and Messer Cante de' Gabrielli da Gubbio was appointed Podestà of Florence. Dante was condemned to exile for two years, and ordered to pay a large fine. The poet was still in Rome, where the Pope had "suggested" he stay, and was therefore considered an absconder. He did not pay the fine, in part because he believed he was not guilty, and in part because all his assets in Florence had been seized by the Black Guelphs. He was condemned to perpetual exile, and if he returned to Florence without paying the fine, he could be burned at the stake. (The city council of Florence finally passed a motion rescinding Dante's sentence in June 2008.)
He took part in several attempts by the White Guelphs to regain power, but these failed due to treachery. Dante, bitter at the treatment he received from his enemies, also grew disgusted with the infighting and ineffectiveness of his erstwhile allies, and vowed to become a party of one. At this point, he began sketching the foundation for the Divine Comedy, a work in 100 cantos, divided into three books of thirty-three cantos each, with a single introductory canto.
Dante went to Verona as a guest of Bartolomeo I della Scala, then moved to Sarzana in Liguria. Later, he is supposed to have lived in Lucca with Madame Gentucca, who made his stay comfortable (and was later gratefully mentioned in Purgatorio, XXIV, 37). Some speculative sources say that he was also in Paris between 1308 and 1310. Other sources, even less trustworthy, take him to Oxford. In 1310, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII of Luxembourg, marched 5,000 troops into Italy. Dante saw in him a new Charlemagne who would restore the office of the Holy Roman Emperor to its former glory and also re-take Florence from the Black Guelphs. He wrote to Henry and several Italian princes, demanding that they destroy the Black Guelphs. Mixing religion and private concerns, he invoked the worst anger of God against his city, suggesting several particular targets that coincided with his personal enemies. It was during this time that he wrote De Monarchia, proposing a universal monarchy under Henry VII, and the first two books of the Divine Comedy.
In Florence, Baldo d'Aguglione pardoned most of the White Guelphs in exile and allowed them to return; however, Dante had gone too far in his violent letters to Arrigo (Henry VII), and he was not recalled.
In 1312, Henry assaulted Florence and defeated the Black Guelphs, but there is no evidence that Dante was involved. Some say he refused to participate in the assault on his city by a foreigner; others suggest that he had become unpopular with the White Guelphs too and that any trace of his passage had carefully been removed. In 1313, Henry VII died, and with him any hope for Dante to see Florence again. He returned to Verona, where Cangrande I della Scala allowed him to live in a certain security and, presumably, in a fair amount of prosperity. Cangrande was admitted to Dante's Paradise (Paradiso, XVII, 76).
In 1315, Florence was forced by Uguccione della Faggiuola (the military officer controlling the town) to grant an amnesty to people in exile, including Dante. But Florence required that as well as paying a sum of money, these exiles would do public penance. Dante refused, preferring to remain in exile. When Uguccione defeated Florence, Dante's death sentence was commuted to house arrest, on condition that he go to Florence to swear that he would never enter the town again. Dante refused to go. His death sentence was confirmed and extended to his sons. Dante still hoped late in life that he might be invited back to Florence on honorable terms. For Dante, exile was nearly a form of death, stripping him of much of his identity. He addresses the pain of exile in Paradiso, XVII (55-60), where Cacciaguida, his great-great-grandfather, warns him what to expect:
|... Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta||... You shall leave everything you love most:|
|più caramente; e questo è quello strale||this is the arrow that the bow of exile|
|che l'arco de lo essilio pria saetta.||shoots first. You are to know the bitter taste|
|Tu proverai sì come sa di sale||of others' bread, how salty it is, and know|
|lo pane altrui, e come è duro calle||how hard a path it is for one who goes|
|lo scendere e 'l salir per l'altrui scale ...||ascending and descending others' stairs ...|
As for the hope of returning to Florence, he describes it as if he had already accepted its impossibility, (Paradiso, XXV, 1–9):
|Se mai continga che 'l poema sacro||If it ever come to pass that the sacred poem|
|al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra,||to which both heaven and earth have set their hand|
|sì che m'ha fatto per molti anni macro,||so as to have made me lean for many years|
|vinca la crudeltà che fuor mi serra||should overcome the cruelty that bars me|
|del bello ovile ov'io dormi' agnello,||from the fair sheepfold where I slept as a lamb,|
|nimico ai lupi che li danno guerra;||an enemy to the wolves that make war on it,|
|con altra voce omai, con altro vello||with another voice now and other fleece|
|ritornerò poeta, e in sul fonte||I shall return a poet and at the font|
|del mio battesmo prenderò 'l cappello ...||of my baptism take the laurel crown ...|
Prince Guido Novello da Polenta invited him to Ravenna in 1318, and he accepted. He finished the Paradiso, and died in 1321 (at the age of 56) while returning to Ravenna from a diplomatic mission to Venice, possibly of malaria contracted there. Dante was buried in Ravenna at the Church of San Pier Maggiore (later called San Francesco). Bernardo Bembo, praetor of Venice in 1483, took care of his remains by building a better tomb.
On the grave, some verses of Bernardo Canaccio, a friend of Dante, dedicated to Florence:
Eventually, Florence came to regret Dante's exile, and made repeated requests for the return of his remains. The custodians of the body at Ravenna refused to comply, at one point going so far as to conceal the bones in a false wall of the monastery. Nevertheless, in 1829, a tomb was built for him in Florence in the basilica of Santa Croce. That tomb has been empty ever since, with Dante's body remaining in Ravenna, far from the land he loved so dearly. The front of his tomb in Florence reads Onorate l'altissimo poeta - which roughly translates as "Honour the most exalted poet". The phrase is a quote from the fourth canto of the Inferno, depicting Virgil's welcome as he returns among the great ancient poets spending eternity in Limbo. The continuation of the line, L'ombra sua torna, ch'era dipartita ("his spirit, which had left us, returns"), is poignantly absent from the empty tomb.
In 2007, a reconstruction of Dante's face was completed in a collaborative project. Artists from Pisa University and engineers at the University of Bologna at Forli completed the revealing model, which indicated that Dante's features were somewhat different than was once thought.
The Divine Comedy describes Dante's journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso), guided first by the Roman poet Virgil and then by Beatrice, the subject of his love and of another of his works, La Vita Nuova. While the vision of Hell, the Inferno, is vivid for modern readers, the theological niceties presented in the other books require a certain amount of patience and knowledge to appreciate. Purgatorio, the most lyrical and human of the three, also has the most poets in it; Paradiso, the most heavily theological, has the most beautiful and ecstatic mystic passages in which Dante tries to describe what he confesses he is unable to convey (e.g., when Dante looks into the face of God: "all'alta fantasia qui mancò possa" - "at this high moment, ability failed my capacity to describe," Paradiso, XXXIII, 142).
Dante wrote the Comedy in a new language he called "Italian", based on the regional dialect of Tuscany, with some elements of Latin and of the other regional dialects. By creating a poem of epic structure and philosophic purpose, he established that the Italian language was suitable for the highest sort of expression. In French, Italian is nicknamed la langue de Dante. Publishing in the vernacular language marked Dante as one of the first (among others such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Giovanni Boccaccio) to break from standards of publishing in only Latin (the languages of liturgy, history, and scholarship in general). This break allowed more literature to be published for a wider audience - setting the stage for greater levels of literacy in the future.
Readers often cannot understand how such a serious work may be called a "comedy". In Dante's time, all serious scholarly works were written in Latin (a tradition that would persist for several hundred years more, until the waning years of the Enlightenment) and works written in any other language were assumed to be more trivial in nature. Furthermore, the word "comedy," in the classical sense, refers to works which reflect belief in an ordered universe, in which events not only tended towards a happy or "amusing" ending, but an ending influenced by a Providential will that orders all things to an ultimate good. By this meaning of the word, as Dante himself wrote in a letter to Cangrande I della Scala, the progression of the pilgrimage from Hell to Paradise is the paradigmatic expression of comedy, since the work begins with the pilgrim's moral confusion and ends with the vision of God.
Dante's other works include the Convivio ("The Banquet") a collection of his longest poems with an (unfinished) allegorical commentary; Monarchia, a summary treatise of political philosophy in Latin, which was condemned and burned after Dante's death by the Papal Legate Bertrando del Poggetto, which argues for the necessity of a universal or global monarchy in order to establish universal peace in this life, and this monarchy's relationship to the Roman Catholic Church as guide to eternal peace; De vulgari eloquentia ("On the Eloquence of Vernacular"), on vernacular literature, partly inspired by the Razos de trobar of Raimon Vidal de Bezaudun; and, La Vita Nuova ("The New Life"), the story of his love for Beatrice Portinari, who also served as the ultimate symbol of salvation in the Comedy. The Vita Nuova contains many of Dante's love poems in Tuscan, which was not unprecedented; the vernacular had been regularly used for lyric works before, during all the thirteenth century. One of the most famous poems is Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare, which many Italians can recite by heart. However, Dante's commentary on his own work is also in the vernacular - both in the Vita Nuova and in the Convivio - instead of the Latin that was almost universally used. References to Divina Commedia are in the format (book, canto, verse), e.g., (Inferno, XV, 76).
|Dante Alighieri (1265–1321)|
|Works in Latin: De vulgari eloquentia • De Monarchia • Eclogues • Letters|
|Works in Italian: La Vita Nuova • Le Rime • Convivio|
|Divina Commedia: Inferno • Purgatorio • Paradiso|
DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe) is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various National Research and Education Networks in Europe and surrounding regions. It was established in 1993 as a limited liability company owned by a number of NRENs and government agencies, and is based in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
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DANTE currently operates the GÉANT2 pan-European backbone network, and previously operated the earlier generation EuropaNET, TEN-34, and TEN-155 networks. It also provides connections to Abilene (United States), ESnet (United States), CA*net4 (Canada), APAN (Asia-Pacific), RedCLARA (Latin America), ERNET (India), TENET (South Africa), and a number of Mediterranean Region countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey).
Durante degli Alighieri, better known as Dante, (c. 1 June 1265 – 13/14 September 1321) was an Italian Florentine poet. His greatest work, La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy), is considered the greatest literary statement produced in Europe in the medieval period, and the basis of the modern Italian language.
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Tuscan, that wanderest through the realms of gloom,
With thoughtful pace, and sad, majestic eyes,
Stern thoughts and awful from thy soul arise,
Like Farinata from his fiery tomb.
Thy sacred song is like the trump of doom;
Yet in thy heart what human sympathies,
What soft compassion glows, as in the skies
The tender stars their clouded lamps relume!
Methinks I see thee stand, with pallid cheeks,
By Fra Hilario in his diocese,
As up the convent-walls, in golden streaks,
The ascending sunbeams mark the day's decrease;
And, as he asks what there the stranger seeks,
Thy voice along the cloister whispers, "Peace!"
DANTE, Dante (or Durante) Alighieri (1265-1321), the greatest of Italian poets, was born at Florence about the middle of May 1265. He was descended from an ancient family, but from one which at any rate for several generations had belonged to the burgher and not to the knightly class. His biographers have attempted on very slight grounds to deduce his origin from the Frangipani, one of the oldest senatorial families of Rome. We can affirm with greater certainty that he was connected with the Elisei who took part in the building of Florence under Charles the Great. Dante himself does not, with the exception of a few obscure and scattered allusions, carry his ancestry beyond the warrior Cacciaguida, whom he met in the sphere of Mars (Par. xv. 87, foll.). Of Cacciaguida's family nothing is known. The name, as he told Dante (Par. xv. 1 39, 5), was given him at his baptism; it has a Teutonic ring. The family may well have sprung from one of the barons who, as Villani tells us, remained behind Otto I. It has been noted that the phrase " Tonde venner quivi " (xvi. 44) seems to imply that they were not Florentines. He further tells his descendant that he was born in the year 1106 (or, if another reading of i. 37, 38 be adopted, in 1091), and that he married an Aldighieri from the valley of the Po. Here the German strain appears unmistakably; the name Aldighiero (Aldiger) being purely Teutonic. He also mentions two brothers, Moronte and Eliseo, and that he accompanied the emperor Conrad III. upon his crusade into the Holy Land, where he died (1147) among the infidels. From Eliseo was probably descended the branch of the Elisei; from Aldighiero, son of Cacciaguida, the branch of the Alighieri. Bellincione, son of Aldighiero, was the grandfather of Dante. His father was a second Aldighiero, a lawyer of some reputation. By his first wife, Lapa di Chiarissimo Cialuffii, this Aldighiero had a son Francesco; by his second, Donna Bella, whose family name is not known, Dante and a daughter. Thus the family of Dante held a most respectable position among the citizens of his beloved city; but had it been reckoned in the very first rank they could. not have remained in Florence after the defeat of the Guelphs at Montaperti in 1260. It is clear, however, that Dante's mother at least did so remain, for Dante was born in Florence in 1265. The heads of the Guelph party did not return till 1267.
Dante was born under the sign of the twins, " the glorious stars pregnant with virtue, to whom he owes his genius such as it is." Astrologers considered this constellation as favourable to literature and science, and Brunetto Latini, the philosopher and diplomatist, his instructor, tells him in the Inferno (xv. 25, foll.) that, if he follows its guidance, he cannot fail to reach the harbour of fame. Boccaccio relates that before his birth his mother dreamed that she lay under a very lofty laurel, growing in a green meadow, by a very clear fountain, when she felt the pangs of childbirth, - that her child, feeding on the berries which fell from the laurel, and on the waters of the fountain, in a very short time became a shepherd, and attempted to reach the leaves of the laurel, the fruit of which had nurtured him, - that, trying to obtain them he fell, and rose up, no longer a man, but in the guise of a peacock. We know little of Dante's boyhood except that he was a hard student and was profoundly influenced by Brunetto Latini. Boccaccio tells us that he became very familiar with Virgil, Horace, Ovid and Statius, and all other famous poets. From the age of eighteen he, like most cultivated young men of that age, wrote poetry assiduously, in the philosophical amatory style of which his friend, older by many years than himself, Guido Cavalcanti, was a great exponent, and of which Dante regarded Guido Guinicelli of Bologna as the master (Purg. xxvi. 97, 8). Leonardo Bruni of Arezzo, writing a hundred years or more after his death, says that " by study of philosophy, of theology, astrology, arithmetic and geometry, by reading of history, by the turning over many curious books, watching and sweating in his studies, he acquired the science which he was to adorn and explain in his verses." Of Brunetto Latini Dante himself speaks with the most loving gratitude and affection, though he does not hesitate to brand his vices with infamy. Under such guidance Dante became master of all the science of his age at a time when it was not impossible to know all that could be known. He had some knowledge of drawing; at any rate he tells us that on the anniversary of the death of Beatrice he drew an angel on a tablet. He was an intimate friend of Giotto, who has immortalized his youthful lineaments in the chapel of the Bargello, and who is recorded to have drawn from his friend's inspiration the allegories of Virtue and Vice which fringe the frescoes of the Scrovegni Chapel at Padua. Nor was he less sensible to the delights of music. Milton had not a keener ear for the loud uplifted angel trumpets and the immortal harps of golden wires of the cherubim and seraphim; and the English poet was proud to compare his own friendship with Henry Lawes with that between Dante and Casella, " met in the milder shades of purgatory." Of his companions the most intimate and sympathetic were the lawyer-poet Cino of Pistoia, Lapo Gianni, Guido Cavalcanti and others, similarly gifted and dowered with like tastes, who moved in the lively and acute society of Florence, and felt with him the first warm flush of the new spirit which was soon to pass over Europe. He has written no sweeter or more melodious lines than those in which he expresses the wish that he, with Guido and Lapo, might be wafted by enchantment over the sea wheresoever they might list, shielded from tempest and foul weather, in such contentment that they should wish to live always in one mind, and that the good enchanter should bring Monna Vanna and Monna Bice and that other lady into their barque, where they should for ever discourse of love and be for ever happy. It is a wonderful thing (says Leonardo Bruni) that, though he studied without intermission, it would not have appeared to anyone that he studied, from his joyous mien and youthful conversation. Like Milton he was trained in the strictest academical education which the age afforded; but Dante lived under a warmer sun and brighter skies, and found in the rich variety and gaiety of his early life a defence against the withering misfortunes of his later years. Milton felt too early the chill breath of Puritanism, and the serious musing on the experience of life, which saddened the verse of both poets, deepened in his case rather into grave and desponding melancholy, than into the fierce scorn and invective which disillusion wrung from Dante. We must now consider the political circumstances in which lay the activity of Dante's manhood. From 1115, the year of the death of Matilda countess of Tuscany, to 1215, Political life. Florence enjoyed a nearly uninterrupted peace.
Attached to the Guelph party, it remained undivided against itself. But in 1215 a private feud between the families of Buondelmonte and Uberti introduced into the city the horrors of civil war. Villani (lib. v. cap. 38) relates how Buondelmonte de' Buondelmonti, a noble youth of Florence, being engaged to marry a lady of the house of Amidei, allied himself instead to a Donati, and how Buondelmonte was attacked and killed by the Amidei and Uberti at the foot of the Ponte Vecchio, close by the pilaster which bears the image of Mars. " The death of Messer Buondelmonte was the occasion and beginning of the accursed parties of Guelphs and Ghibellines in Florence." Of the seventytwo families then in Florence thirty-nine became Guelph under the leadership of the Buondelmonte and the rest Ghibelline under the Uberti. The strife of parties was for a while allayed by the war against Pisa in 1222, and the constant struggles against Siena; but in 1248 Frederick II. sent into the city his natural son Frederick " of Antioch," with 1600 German knights. The Guelphs were driven away from the town, and took refuge, part in Montevarchi, part in Capraia. The Ghibellines, masters of Florence, behaved with great severity, and destroyed the towers and palaces of the Guelph nobles. At last the people became impatient. They rose in rebellion, reduced the powers of the podesta, elected a captain of the people to manage the internal affairs of the city, with a council of twelve, established a more democratic constitution, and, encouraged by the death of Frederick II. in December 1250, recalled the exiled Guelphs. Manfred, the bastard son of Frederick, pursued the policy of his father. He stimulated the Ghibelline Uberti to rebel against their position of subjection. A rising of the vanquished party was put down by the people, in July 1258 the Ghibellines were expelled from the town, and the towers of the Uberti razed to the ground. The exiles betook themselves to the friendly city of Siena. Manfred sent them a reinforcement of German horse, under his kinsman Count Giordano Lancia. The Florentines, after vainly demanding their surrender, despatched an army against them. On the 4th of September 1260 was fought the great battle of Montaperti, which dyed the Arbia red, and in which the Guelphs were entirely defeated. The hand which held the banner of the republic was sundered by the sword of a traitor (Inf. xxxii. 106). For the first time in the history of Florence the Carroccio was taken. Florence lay at the mercy of her enemies. A parliament was held at Empoli, in which the deputies of Siena, Pisa, Arezzo and other Tuscan towns consulted on the best means of securing their new war power. They voted that the accursed Guelph city should be blotted out. But Farinata degli Uberti stood up in their midst, bold and defiant as when he stood erect among the sepulchres of hell, and said that if, from the whole number of the Florentines, he alone should remain, he would not suffer, whilst he could wield a sword, that his country should be destroyed, and that, if it were necessary to die a thousand times for her, a thousand times would he be ready to encounter death. Help came to the Guelphs from an unexpected quarter. Clement IV., elected pope in 1265, offered the crown of Apulia and Sicily to Charles of Anjou. The French prince, passing rapidly through Lombardy, Romagna and the Marches, reached Rome by way of Spoleto, was crowned on the 6th of January 1266, and on the 23rd of February defeated and killed Manfred at Benevento. In such a storm of conflict did Dante first see the light. In 1267 the Guelphs were recalled, but instead of settling down in peace with their opponents they summoned Charles of Anjou to vengeance, and the Ghibellines were driven out. The meteor passage of Conradin gave hope to the imperial party, which was quenched when the head of the fair-haired boy fell on the scaffold at Naples. Pope after pope tried in vain to make peace. Gregory X. placed the rebellious city under an interdict; in 1278 Cardinal Latini by order of Nicholas III. effected a truce, which lasted for four years. The city was to be governed by a committee of fourteen buonomini, on which the Guelphs were to have a small majority. In 1282 the constitution of Florence received the final form which it retained till the collapse of freedom. From the three arti maggiori were chosen six priors, in whose hands was placed the government of the republic. Before the end of the century, seven greater arts were recognized, including the speziali,- druggists and dealers in all manner of oriental goods, and in books - among whom Dante afterwards enrolled himself. They remained in office for two months, and during that time lived and shared a common table in the public palace. We shall see what influence this office had upon the fate of Dante. The success of the " Sicilian Vespers " (March 1282), the death of Charles of Anjou (January 1285), and of Martin IV. in the following March, roused again the courage of the Ghibellines. They entered Arezzo, where the Ghibellines at present had the upper hand, and threatened to drive out the Guelphs from Tuscany. Skirmishes and raids, of which Villani and Bruni have left accounts, went on through the winter of 1288-1289, forming a prelude to the great battle of Campaldino in the following summer. Then it was that Dante saw " horsemen moving camp and commencing the assault, and holding muster, and the march of foragers, the shock of tournaments, and race of jousts, now with trumpets and now with bells, with drums and castle signals, with native things and foreign " (Inf. xxii. 1, foll.). On the i 1th of June 1289, at Campaldino near Poppi, in the Casentino, the Ghibellines were utterly defeated. They never again recovered their hold on Florence, but the violence of faction survived under other names. In a letter quoted, though not at first hand, by Leonardo Bruni, which is not now extant, Dante is said to mention that he himself fought with distinction at Campaldino. He was present shortly afterwards at the battle of Caprona (Inf. xxi. 95, foll.), and returned in September 1289 to his studies and his love. His peace was of short duration. On the 9th of June 1290 died Beatrice, whose mortal love had guided him for thirteen years, and whose immortal spirit purified his later life, and revealed to him themysteriesof Paradise.
Dante had first met Beatrice Portinari at the house of her father Folco on May-day 1274. In his own words, " already nine times after my birth the heaven of light had returned as it were to the same point, when there appeared to my eyes the glorious lady of my mind, who was by many called Beatrice who knew not what to call her. She had already been so long in this life that already in its time the starry heaven had moved towards the east the twelfth part of a degree, so that she appeared to me about the beginning of her ninth year, and I saw her about the end of my ninth year. Her dress on that day was of a most noble colour, a subdued and goodly crimson, girdled and adorned in such sort as best suited with her tender age. At that moment I saw most truly that the spirit of life which bath its dwelling in the secretest chamber of the heart began to tremble so violently that the least pulses of my body shook therewith; and in trembing it said these words, `Ecce deus fortior me qui veniens dominabitur mihi.' " In the Vita Nuova is written the story of his passion from its commencement to within a year after the lady's death (June 9th, 1290). He saw Beatrice only once or twice, and she probably knew little of him. She married Simone de' Bardi. But the worship of her lover was stronger for the remoteness of its subject. The last chapter of the Vita Nuova relates how, after the lapse of a year, " it was given me to behold a wonderful vision, wherein I saw things which determined me to say nothing further of this blessed one until such time as I could discourse more worthily concerning her. And to this end I labour all I can, as she in truth knoweth. Therefore if it be His pleasure through whom is the life of all things that my life continue with me a few years, it is my hope that I shall yet write concerning her what hath not before been written of any woman. After the which may it seem good unto Him who is the master of grace that my spirit should go hence to behold the glory of its lady, to wit, of that blessed Beatrice who now gloriously gazes on the countenance of Him qui est per omnia saecula benedictus." In the Convito he resumes the story of his life. " When I had lost the first delight of my soul (that is, Beatrice) I remained so pierced with sadness that no comforts availed me anything, yet after some time my mind, desirous of health, sought to return to the method by which other disconsolate ones had found consolation, and I set myself to read that little-known book of Boetius in which he consoled himself when a prisoner and an exile. And hearing that Tully had written another work, in which, treating of friendship, he had given words of consolation to Laelius, I set myself to read that also." He so far recovered from the shock of his loss that in 1292 he married Gemma, daughter of Manetto Donati, a connexion of the celebrated Corso Donati, afterwards Dante's bitter foe. It is possible that she is the lady mentioned in the Vita Nuova as sitting full of pity at her window and comforting Dante for his sorrow. By this wife he had two sons and two daughters, and although he never mentions her in the Divina Coinmedia, and although she did not accompany him into exile, there is no reason to suppose that she was other than a good wife, or that the union was otherwise than happy. Certain it is that he spares the memory of Corso in his great poem, and speaks kindly of his kinsmen Piccarda and Forese.
In 1293 Giano della Bella, a man of old family who had thrown in his lot with the people, induced the commonwealth to adopt the so-called " Ordinances of Justice," a severely democratic constitution, by which among other things it was enacted that no man of noble family, even though engaged in trade, could hold office as prior. Two years later Giano was banished, but the ordinances remained in force, though the grandi recovered much of their power.
Dante now began to take an active part in politics. He was inscribed in the arte of the Medici and Speziali, which made him eligible as one of the six priori to whom the government of the city was entrusted in 1282. Documents still existing in the archives of Florence show that he took part in the deliberations of the several councils of the city in 1295, 1296, 1300 and 1301. The notice in the last year is of some importance. The pope had demanded a contingent of loo Florentine knights to serve against his enemies, the Colonna family. On the 9th of June we read in the contemporary report of the debate on this question in the Council of a Hundred: " Dantes Alagherius consuluit quod de servitio faciendo Domino Papae nihil fieret." Other instances of his invariable opposition to Boniface occur. Filelfo says that he served on fourteen embassies, a statement not only unsupported by evidence, but impossible in itself. Filelfo does not mention the only embassy in which we know for certain that Dante was engaged, that to the town of San Gemignano in May 1300. From the t 5th of June to the 15th of August 1300 he held the office of prior, which was the source of all the miseries of his life. The spirit of faction had again broken out in Florence. The two rival families were the Cerchi and the Donati, - the first of great wealth but recent origin, the last of ancient ancestry but poor. A quarrel had arisen in Pistoia between the two branches of the Cancellieri, - the Bianchi and Neri, the Whites and the Blacks. The quarrel spread to Florence, the Donati took the side of the Blacks, the Cerchi of the Whites. Pope Boniface was asked to mediate, and sent Cardinal Matteo d'Acquasparta to maintain peace. He arrived just as Dante entered upon his office as prior. The cardinal effected nothing, but Dante and his colleagues banished the heads of the rival parties in different directions to a distance from the capital. The Blacks were sent to Citta della Pieve in the Tuscan mountains; the Whites, among whom was Dante's dearest friend Guido Cavalcanti, to Serrezzano in the unhealthy Maremma. After the expiration of Dante's office both parties returned, Guido Cavalcanti so ill with fever that he shortly afterwards died. At a meeting held in the church of the Holy Trinity the Whites were denounced as Ghibellines, enemies of the pope. The Blacks sought for vengeance. Their leader, Corso Donati, hastened to Rome, and persuaded Boniface VIII. to send for Charles of Valois, brother of the French king, Philip the Fair, to act as " peacemaker." The priors sent at the end of September four ambassadors to the pope, one of whom, according to the chronicler Dino, was Dante. There are, however, improbabilities in the story, and the passage quoted in support of it bears marks of later interpolation. He never again saw the towers of his native city. Charles of Valois, after visiting the pope at Anagni, retraced his steps to Florence, entering the city on All Saints' Day and taking up his abode in the Oltr' Arno. Corso Donati, who had been banished a second time, returned in force and summoned the Blacks to arms. The prisons were broken open, the podesta driven from the town, the Cerchi confined within their houses, a third of the city was destroyed with fire and sword. By the help of Charles the Blacks were victorious. They appointed Cante de' Gabrielli of Gubbio as podesta, a man devoted to their interests. More than 600 Whites were condemned to exile and cast as beggars upon the world. On the 27th of January 1302, Dante, with four others of the White party, was charged before the podesta, Cante de' Gabrielli, with baratteria, or corrupt jobbery and peculation when in office, and, not appearing, condemned to pay a fine of 5000 lire of small florins. If the money was not paid within three days their property was to be destroyed and laid waste; if they did pay the fine they were to be exiled for two years from Tuscany; in any case they were never again to hold office in the republic. The charge in Dante's case was obviously preposterous, though ingeniously devised; for he was known to be at the time in somewhat straitened circumstances, and had recently been in control of certain public works. But of all sins, that of " barratry " was one of the most hateful to him. No doubt the papal finger may be traced in the affair. On the Loth of March Dante and fourteen others were condemned to be burned alive if they should come into the power of the republic. Similar sentences were passed in September 1311 and October 1315. The sentence was not formally reversed till 1494, under the government of the Medici.
Leonardo Bruni, who accepts the story of the embassy to Rome, states that Dante received the news of his banishment in that city, and at once joined the other exiles at Siena. How he escaped arrest in the papal states is not explained. The exiles met first at Gargonza, a castle between Siena and Arezzo, and then at Arezzo itself. They joined themselves to the Ghibellines, to which party the podesta Uguccione della Faggiuola belonged. The Ghibellines, however, were divided amongst themselves, and the more strict Ghibellines were not disposed to favour the cause of the White Guelphs. On the 8th of June 1302, however, a meeting was held at San Godenzo, a place in the Florentine territory, Dante's presence at which is proved by documentary evidence, and an alliance was there made with the powerful Ghibelline clan of the Ubaldini. The exiles remained at Arezzo till the summer of 1304. In September 1303 the fleur-de-lis had entered Anagni, and Christ had a second time been made prisoner in the person of his vicar. At the instigation of Philip the Fair, William of Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna had entered the papal palace at Anagni, and had insulted and, it is said, even beaten the aged pontiff under his own roof. Boniface did not survive the insult long, but died in the following month. He was succeeded by Benedict XI., and in March the cardinal da Prato came to Florence, sent by the new pope to make peace. The people received him with enthusiasm; ambassadors came to him from the Whites; and he did his best to reconcile the two parties. But the Blacks resisted all his efforts. He shook the dust from off his feet, and departed, leaving the city under an interdict. Foiled by the calumnies and machinations of the one party, the cardinal gave his countenance to the other. It happened that Corso Donati and the heads of the Black party were absent at Pistoia. Da Prato advised the Whites to attack Florence, deprived of its heads and impaired by a recent fire. An army was collected of 16,000 foot and 9000 horse. Communications were opened with the Ghibellines of Bologna and Romagna, and a futile attempt was made to enter Florence from Lastra, the failure of which further disorganized the party. Dante had, however, already separated from the " ill-conditioned and foolish company " of common party-politicians, who rejected his counsels of wisdom, and had learnt that he must henceforth form a party by himself. In 1303 he had left Arezzo and gone to Forli in Romagna, of which city Scarpetta degli Ordelaffi was lord. To him, according to Flavius Blondus the historian (d. before 1484), a native of the Place, Dante acted for a time as secretary. From Forli Dante probably went to Bartolommeo della Scala, lord of Verona, where the country of the great Lombard gave him his first refuge and his first hospitable reception. Can Grande, to whom he afterwards'dedicated the Paradiso, was then a boy. Bartolommeo died in 1304, and it is possible that Dante may have remained in Verona till his death. We must consider, if we would understand the real nature of Dante's Ghibellinism, that he had been born and bred a Guelph; but he saw that the conditions of the time were altered, and that other dangers menaced the welfare of his country. There was no fear now that Florence, Siena, Pisa, Arezzo should be razed to the ground in order that the castle of the lord might overlook the humble cottages of his contented subjects; but there was danger lest Italy should be torn in sunder by its own jealousies and passions, and lest the fair domain bounded by the sea and the Alps should never properly assert the force of its individuality, and should present a contemptible contrast to a united France and a confederated Germany. Sick with petty quarrels and dissensions, Dante strained his eyes towards the hills for the appearance of a universal monarch, raised above the jars of faction and the spur of ambition, under whom each country, each city, each man, might, under the institutions best suited to it, lead the life and do the work for which it was best fitted. United in spiritual harmony with the vicar of Christ, he should show for the first time to the world an example of a government where the strongest force and the highest wisdom were interpenetrated by all that God had given to the world of piety and justice. In this sense and in no other was Dante a Ghibelline. The vision was never realized - the hope was never fulfilled. Not till 500 years later did Italy become united and the " greyhound of deliverance " chase from city to city the wolf of cupidity. But is it possible to say that the dream did not work its own realization, or to deny that the high ideal of the poet, after inspiring a few minds as lofty as his own, has become embodied in the constitution of a state which acknowledges no stronger bond of union than a common worship of the exile's indignant and impassioned verse? It is very difficult to determine with exactness the order and the place of Dante's wanderings. Many cities and castles in Italy have claimed the honour of giving him shelter, or of being for a time the home of his inspired muse. He ina°der= certainly spent some time with Count Guido Salvatico g in the Casentino near the sources of the Arno, probably in the castle of Porciano, and with Uguccione in the castle of Faggiuola in the mountains of Urbino. After this he is said to have visited the university of Bologna; and in August 1306 we find him at Padua. Cardinal Napoleon Orsini, the legate of the French pope Clement V., had put Bologna under a ban, dissolved the university and driven the professors to the northern city. In May or June 1307 the same cardinal collected the Whites at Arezzo and tried to induce the Florentines to recall them. The name of Dante is found attached to a document signed by the Whites in the church of St Gaudenzio in the Mugello. This enterprise came to nothing. Dante retired to the castle of Moroello Malespina in the Lunigiana, where the marble ridges of the mountains of Carrara descend in precipitous slopes to the Gulf of Spezzia. From this time till the arrival of the emperor Henry VII. in Italy, October 1310, all is uncertain. His old enemy Corso Donati had at last allied himself with Uguccione della Faggiuola, the leader of the Ghibellines. Dante thought it possible that this might lead to his return. But in 1308 Corso was declared a traitor, attacked in his house, put to flight and killed. Dante lost his last hope. He left Tuscany, and went to Can Grande della Scala at Verona. From this place it is thought that he visited the university of Paris (1309), studied in the rue du Fouarre and went on into the Low Countries. That he ever crossed the Channel or went to Oxford, or himself saw where the heart of Henry, son of Richard, earl of Cornwall, murdered by his cousin Guy of Montfort in 1271, was " still venerated on the Thames," may safely be disbelieved. The only evidence for it is in the Commentary of John of Serravalle, bishop of Fermo, who lived a century later, had no special opportunity of knowing, and was writing for the benefit of two English bishops. The election in 1308 of Henry of Luxemburg as emperor stirred again his hopes of a deliverer. At the end of 1310, in a letter to the princes and people of Italy, he proclaimed the coming of the saviour; at Milan he did personal homage to his sovereign. The Florentines made every preparation to resist the emperor. Dante wrote from the Casentino a letter dated the 31st of March 1311, in which he rebuked them for their stubbornness and obstinacy. Henry still lingered in Lombardy at the siege of Cremona, when Dante, on the 16th of April 1311, in a celebrated epistle, upbraided his delay, argued that the crown of Italy was to be won on the Arno rather than on the Po, and urged the tarrying emperor to hew the rebellious Florentines like Agag in pieces before the Lord. Henry was as deaf to this exhortation as the Florentines themselves. After reducing Lombardy he passed from Genoa to Pisa, and on the 2 9th of June 1312 was crowned by some cardinals in the church of St John Lateran at Rome; the Vatican being in the hands of his adversary King Robert of Naples. Then at length he moved towards Tuscany by way of Umbria. Leaving Cortona and Arezzo, he reached Florence on the 19th of September. He did not dare to attack it, but returned in November to Pisa. In the summer of the following year he prepared to invade the kingdom of Naples; but in the neighbourhood of Siena he caught a fever and died at the monastery of Buonconvento, on the 24th of August 1313. He lies in the Campo Santo of Pisa; and the hopes of Dante and his party were buried in his grave.
After the death of the emperor Henry (Bruni tells us) Dante passed the rest of his life as an exile, sojourning in various places throughout Lombardy, Tuscany and the Romagna, u nder the protection of various lords, until at length p ? g he retired to Ravenna, where he ended his life. Very little can be added to this meagre story. There is reason for supposing that he stayed at Gubbio with Bosone dei Rafaelli, and tradition assigns him a cell in the monastery of Sta Croce di Fonte Avellana in the same district, situated on the slopes of Catria, one of the highest peaks of the Apennines in that region. After the death of the French pope, Clement V., he addressed a letter, dated the 14th of July 131 4, to the cardinals in conclave, urging them to elect an Italian pope. About this time he came to Lucca, then lately conquered by his friend Uguccione. Here he completed the last cantos of the Purgatory, which he dedicated to Uguccione, and here he must have become acquainted with Gentucca, whose name had been whispered to him by her countryman on the slopes of the Mountain of Purification (Purg. xxiv. 37). That the intimacy between the " world-worn " poet and the young married lady (who is thought to be identifiable with Gentucca Morla, wife of one Cosciorino Fondora) was other than blameless, is quite incredible. In August 1315 was fought the battle of Monte Catini, a day of humiliation and mourning for the Guelphs. Uguccione made but little use of his victory; and the Florentines marked their vengeance on his adviser by condemning Dante yet once again to death if he ever should come into their power. In the beginning of the following year Uguccione lost both his cities of Pisa and Lucca. At this time Dante was offered an opportunity of returning to Florence. The conditions given to the exiles were that they should pay a fine and walk in the dress of humiliation to the church of St John, and there do penance for their offences. Dante refused to tolerate this shame; and the letter is still extant in which he declines to enter Florence except with honour, secure that the means of life will not fail him, and that in any corner of the world he will be able to gaze at the sun and the stars, and meditate on the sweetest truths of philosophy. He preferred to take refuge with his most illustrious protector Can Grande della Scala of Verona, then a young man of twenty-five, rich, liberal and the favoured head of the Ghibelline party. His name has been immortalized by an eloquent panegyric in the seventeenth canto of the Paradiso. Whilst on a visit at the court of Verona he maintained, on the 10th of January 1320, the philosophical thesis De aqua et terra, on the levels of land and water, which is included in his minor works. The last three years of his life were spent at Ravenna, under the protection of Guido da Polenta. In his service Dante undertook an embassy to the Venetians. He failed in the object of his mission, and, returning disheartened and broken in spirit through the unhealthy lagoons, caught a fever and died in Ravenna on the 14th of September 1321. His bones still repose there. His doom of exile has been reversed by the union of Italy, which has made the city of his birth and the various cities of his wanderings component members of a common country. His son Piero, who wrote a commentary on the Divina Commedia, settled as a lawyer in Verona, and died in 1364. His daughter Beatrice lived as a nun in Ravenna, dying at some time between 1350 (when Boccaccio brought her a present of ten gold crowns from a Florentine gild) and 1370. His direct line became extinct in 1509.
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Of Dante's works, that by which he is known to all the educated world, and in virtue of which he holds his place as one of the half-dozen greatest writers of all time, is of course the Commedia. (The epithet divin g, it may be noted, was not given to the poem by its author, nor does it appear on a title-page until 1555, in the edition of Ludovico Dolce, printed by Giolito; though it is applied to the poet himself as early as 1512.) The poem is absolutely unique in literature; it may safely be said that at no other epoch of the_world's history could such a work have been produced. Dante was steeped in all the learning, which in its way was considerable, of his time; he had read the Summa Theologica of Aquinas, the Tresor of his master Brunetto, and other encyclopaedic works available in that age; he was familiar with all that was then known of the Latin classical and postclassical authors. Further, he was a deep and original political thinker, who had himself borne a prominent part in practical politics. He was born into a generation in which almost every man of education habitually wrote verse, as indeed their predecessors had been doing for the last fifty years. Vernacular poetry had come late into Italy, and had hitherto, save for a few didactic or devotional treatises hitched into rough rhyme, been exclusively lyric in form. Amatory at first, later, chiefly in the hands of Guittone of Arezzo and Guido Cavalcanti, taking an ethical and metaphysical tone, it had never fully shaken off the Provencal influence under which it had started, and of which Dante himself shows considerable traces.
The age also was unique, though the two great events which made the 15th century a turning-point in the world's history - the invention of printing and the discovery of the new world (to which might perhaps be added the intrusion of Islam into Europe) - were still far in the future. But the age was essentially one of great men; of free thought and free speech; of brilliant and daring action, whether for good or evil. It is easy to understand how Dante's bitterest scorn is reserved for those " sorry souls who lived without infamy and without renown, displeasing to God and to His enemies." The time was thus propitious for the production of a great imaginative work, and the man was ready who should produce it. It called for a prophet, and the prophet said, " Here am I." " Dante," says an acute writer, " is not, as Homer is, the father of poetry springing in the freshness and simplicity of childhood out of the arms of mother earth; he is rather, like Noah, the father of a second poetical world, to whom he pours forth his prophetic song fraught with the wisdom and the experience of the old world." Thus the Commedia, though often classed for want of a better description among epic poems, is totally different in method and construction from all other poems of that kind. Its " hero " is the narrator himself; the incidents do not modify the course of the story; the place of episodes is taken by theological or metaphysical disquisitions; the world through which the poet takes his readers is peopled, not with characters of heroic story, but with men and women known personally or by repute to him and those for whom he wrote. Its aim is not to delight, but to reprove, to rebuke, to exhort; to form men's characters by teaching them what courses of life will meet with reward, what with penalty, hereafter; " to put into verse," as the poet says, " things difficult to think." For such new matter a new vehicle was needed. We have Bembo's authority for believing that the terra rima,surpasseu, if at all, only by the ancient hexameter, as a measure equally adaptable to sustained narrative, to debate, to fierce invective, to clear-cut picture and to trenchant epigram, was first employed by Dante.
The action of the Commedia opens in the early morning of the Thursday before Easter, in the year 1300. The poet finds himself lost in a forest, escaping from which he has his way barred by a wolf, a lion and a leopard. All this, like the rest of the poem, is highly symbolical. This branch of the subject is too vast to be entered on at any length here; but so far as this passage is concerned it may be said that it seems to indicate that at this period of his life, about the age of thirty-five, Dante went through some experience akin to what is now called " conversion." Having led up till then the ordinary life of a cultivated Florentine of good family; taking his part in public affairs, military and civil, as an hereditary member of the predominant Guelph party; dallying in prose which with all its beauty and passion is full of the conceits familiar to the 13th century, and in verse which save for the excellence of its execution differs in no way from that of his predecessors, with the memory of his lost love; studying more seriously, perhaps, than most of his associates; possibly travelling a little, - gradually or suddenly he became convinced that all was not well with him, and that not by leading, however blamelessly, the "active" life could he save his soul. The strong vein of mysticism, found in so many of the deepest thinkers of that age, and conspicuous in Dante's mind, no doubt played its part. His efforts to free himself from the " forest " of worldly cares were impeded by the temptations of the world - cupidity (including ambition), the pride of life and the lusts of the flesh, symbolized by the three beasts. But a helper is at hand. Virgil appears and explains that he has a commission from three ladies on high to guide him. The ladies are the Blessed Virgin, St Lucy (whom for some reason never yet explained D ante seems to have regarded as in a special sense his protector) and Beatrice. In Virgil we are apparently intended to see the symbol of what Dante calls philosophy, what we should rather call natural religion; Beatrice standing for theology, or rather revealed religion. Under Virgil's escort Dante is led through the two lower realms of the next world, Hell and Purgatory; meeting on the way with many persons illustrious or notorious in recent or remoter times, as well as many well enough known then in Tuscany and the neighbouring states; but who, without the immortality, often unenviable, that the poet has conferred on them, would long ago have been forgotten. Popes, kings, emperors, poets and warriors, Florentine citizens of all degrees, are there found; some doomed to hopeless punishment, others expiating their offences in milder torments, and looking forward to deliverance in due time. It is remarkable to notice how rarely, if ever, Dante allows political sympathy or antagonism to influence him in his distribution of judgment. Hell is conceived as a vast conical hollow, reaching to the centre of the earth. It has three great divisions, corresponding to Aristotle's three classes of vices, incontinence, brutishness and malice. The first are outside the walls of the city of Dis; the second, among whom are included unbelievers, tyrants, suicides, unnatural offenders, usurers, are within; the first apparently on the same level as those without, the rest separated from them by a steep descent of broken rocks. (It should be said that many Dante scholars hold that Aristotle's " brutishness "has no place in Dante's scheme; but the symmetry of the arrangement, the special reference made to that division, and certain expressions used elsewhere by Dante, seem to make it probable that he would here, as in most other cases, have followed his master in philosophy.) The sinners by malice, which includes all forms of fraud or treachery, are divided from the last by a yet more formidable barrier. They lie at the bottom of a pit, the depth of which is not stated, with vertical sides, and accessible only by supernatural means; a monster named Geryon bearing the poets down on his back. The torments here are of a more terrible, often of a loathsome character. Ignominy is added to pain, and the nature of Dante's demeanour towards the sinners changes from pity to hatred. At the very bottom of the pit is Lucifer, immovably fixed in ice; climbing down his limbs they reach the centre of the earth, whence a cranny conducts them back to the surface, at the foot of the purgatorial mountain, which they reach as Easter Day is dawning. Before the actual Purgatory is attained they have to climb for the latter half of the .day and rest at night. The occupants of this outer region are those who have delayed repentance till death was upon them. They include many of the most famous men of the last thirty years. In the morning the gate is opened, and Purgatory proper is entered. This is divided into seven terraces, corresponding to the seven deadly sins, which encircle the mountain and have to be reached by a series of steep climbs, compared by Dante in one instance to the path from Florence to Samminiato. The penalties are not degrading, but rather tests of patience or endurance; and in several cases Dante has to bear a share in them as he passes. On the summit is the Earthly Paradise. Here Beatrice appears, in a mystical pageant; Virgil departs, leaving Dante in her charge. By her he is led through the various spheres of which, according to both the astronomy and the theology of the time, Heaven is composed, to the supreme Heaven, or Empyrean, the seat of the Godhead. For one moment there is granted him the intuitive vision of the Deity, and the comprehension of all mysteries, which is the ultimate goal of mystical theology; his will is wholly blended with that of God, and the poem ends.
The Convito, or Banquet, also called Convivio (Bembo uses the first form, Trissino the other), is the work of Dante's manhood, as the Vita Nuova is the work of his youth. It consists, in the form in which it has come down to us, of an introduction and three treatises, each forming an elaborate commentary in a long canzone. It was intended, if completed, to have comprised commentaries on eleven more canzoni, making fourteen in all, and in this shape would have formed a tesoro or handbook of universal knowledge, such as Brunetto Latini and others have left to us. It is perhaps the least well known of Dante's Italian works, but crabbed and unattractive as it is in many parts, it is well worth reading, and contains many passages of great beauty and elevation. Indeed a knowledge of it is quite indispensable to the full understanding of the Divina Commedia and the De Monarchia. The time of its composition is uncertain. As it stands it has very much the look of being the contents of note-bookspartiallyarranged. Dantementions princes as living who died in 1309; he does not mention Henry VII. as emperor, who succeeded in 1310. There are some passages which seem to have been inserted at a later date. The canzoni upon which the commentary is written were probably composedbetween 1292 and 1300, when he was seeking in philosophy consolation for the loss of Beatrice. The Convito was first printed in Florence by Buonaccorsi in 1490. It has never been adequately edited.
The Vita Nuova (Young Life or New Life, for both significations seem to be intended) contains the history of his love for Beatrice. He describes how he met Beatrice as a child, himself a child, how he often sought her glance, how she once greeted him in the street, how he feigned a false love to hide his true love, how he felt ill and saw in a dream the death and transfiguration of his beloved, how she died, and how his health failed from sorrow, how the tender compassion of another lady nearly won his heart from its first affection, how Beatrice appeared to him in a vision and reclaimed his heart, and how at last he saw a vision which induced him to devote himself to study that he might be more fit to glorify her who gazes on the face of God for ever. This simple story is interspersed with sonnets, ballads and canzoni, arranged with a remarkable symmetry, to which Professor Charles Eliot Norton was the first to draw attention, chiefly written at the time to emphasize some mood of his changing passion. After each of these, in nearly every case, follows an explanation in prose, which is intended to make the thought and argument intelligible to those to whom the language of poetry was not familiar. The whole has a somewhat artificial air, in spite of its undoubted beauty; showing that Dante was still under the influence of the Dugentisti, many of whose conceits he reproduces. The book was probably completed by 1300. It was first printed by Sermartelli in Florence, 1576.
Besides the smaller poems contained in the Vita Nuova and Convito there are a considerable number of canzoni, ballate and sonnetti bearing the poet's name. Of these many undoubtedly are genuine, others as undoubtedly spurious. Some which have been preserved under the name of Dante belong to Dante de Maiano, a poet of a harsher style; others which bear the name of Aldighiero are referable to Dante's sons Jacopo or Pietro, or to his grandsons; others may be ascribed to Dante's contemporaries and predecessors Cino da Pistoia and others. Those which are genuine secure Dante a place among lyrical poets scarcely if at all inferior to that of Petrarch. Most of these were printed in Sonetti e canzoni (Giunta, 1527). The best edition of the Canzoniere of Dante is that by Fraticelli published by Barbera at Florence. His collection includes seventy-eight genuine poems, eight doubtful and fifty-four spurious. To these are added an Italian paraphrase of the seven penitential psalms in terza rima, and a similar paraphrase of the Credo, the seven sacraments, the ten commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Ave Maria.
The Latin treatise De monarchia, in three books, contains the mature statement of Dante's political ideas. In it he propounds the theory that the supremacy of the emperor is derived world, which was given to them direct from God. As the emperor is intended to assure their earthly happiness, so does their spiritual welfare depend upon the pope, to whom the emperor is to do honour as to the first-born of the Father. The date of its publication is almost universally admitted to be the time of the descent of Henry VII. into Italy, between 1310 and 1313, although its composition may have been in hand from a much earlier period. The book was first printed by Oporinus at Basel in 1559, and placed on the Index of forbidden books.
The treatise De vulgari eloquentia, in two books, also in Latin, is mentioned in the Convito. Its object was first to establish the vu1= Italian language as a literary tongue, and to distinguish the noble or " courtly " speech which might become the property of the whole nation, at once a bond of internal unity and a line of demarcation against external nations, from the local dialects peculiar to different districts; and secondly, to lay down rules for poetical composition in the language so established. The work was intended to be in four books, but only two are extant. The first of these deals with the language, the second with the style and with the composition of the canzone. The third was probably intended to continue this subject, and the fourth was destined to the laws of the ballata and sonetto. It contains much acute criticism of poetry and poetic diction. This work was first published in the Italian translation of Trissino at Vicenza in 1529. The original Latin was not published till 1577 at Paris by Jacopo Corbinelli, one of the Italians who were brought from Florence by Catherine de' Medici, from a MS. now preserved at Grenoble. The work was probably left unfinished in consequence of Dante's death.
Boccaccio mentions in his life of Dante that he wrote two eclogues in Latin in answer to Johannes de Virgilio, who invited. him to come from Ravenna to Bologna and compose Eclogues a great work in the Latin language. The most interesting passage in the work is that in the first poem, where he expresses his hope that when he has finished the three parts of his great poem his grey hairs may be crowned with laurel on the banks of the Arno. Although the Latin of these poems is superior to that of his prose works, we may feel thankful that Dante composed the great work of his life in his own vernacular. The versification, however, is good, and there are pleasant touches of gentle humour. The Eclogues have been edited by Messrs Wicksteed and Gardiner (Dante and Giovanni del Virgilio, London, 1902).
A treatise De aqua et terra has come down to us, which Dante tells us was delivered at Mantua in January 1320 (perhaps 1321) as a solution of the question which was being at that time much discussed - whether in any place on the earth's surface water is higher than the earth. It was first published at Venice in 1508, by an ecclesiastic named Moncetti, from a MS. which he alleged to be in his possession, but which no one seems to have seen. Its genuineness is accordingly very doubtful; but Dr Moore has from internal evidence made out a very strong case for it.
The Letters of Dante are among the most important materials for his biography. Giovanni Villani mentions three as specially remarkable - one to the government of Florence, in which he complains of undeserved exile; another to the emperor Henry VII., when he lingered too long at the siege of Brescia; and a third to the Italian cardinals to urge them to the election of an Italian pope after the death of Clement V. The first of these letters has not come down to us, the two last are extant. Besides these we have one addressed to the cardinal da Prato, one to a Florentine friend refusing the base conditions of return from exile, one to the princes and lords of Italy to prepare them for the coming of Henry of Luxembourg, another to the Florentines reproaching them with the rejection of the emperor, and a long letter to Can Grande della Scala, containing directions for interpreting the Divina Commedia, with especial reference to the Of less importance are the letters to the nephews of Count Alessandro da Romena, to the marquis Moroello Malespina, to Cino da Pistoia and to Guido da Polenta. The genuineness of all the letters has at one time or another been impugned; but the more important are now generally accepted. They have been translated by Mr C. S. Latham, ed. by Mr G. R. Carpenter (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, 1891).
Dante's reputation has passed through many vicissitudes, and much trouble has been spent by critics in comparing him with other poets of established fame. Read and commented upon with more admiration than intelligence in the Italian universities in the generation immediately succeeding his death, his name became obscured as the sun of the Renaissance rose higher towards its meridian. In the 16th century he was held inferior to Petrarch; in the 17th and first half of the 18th he was almost universally neglected. His fame is now fully vindicated. Translations and commentaries issue from every press in Europe and America, and many studies for separate points are appearing every year.
- It would be impossible here to give anything like a complete account even of the editions of Dante's works; still more of the books which have been written to elucidate the Commedia as a whole, or particular points in it. The section " Dante " in the British Museum catalogue down to 1887 occupies twenty-nine folio pages; the supplement, to 1900, as many more. The catalogue of the Fiske collection, in Cornell University library, is in two quarto volumes and covers 606 pages. A few of the more important editions and of the more valuable commentaries and aids may, however, be recorded.
The Commedia was first printed by John Numeister at Foligno, in April 1472. Two other editions followed in the same year: one at Jesi (Federicus Veronensis), and Mantua (Georgius et Paulus Teutonici). These, together with a Naples edition of about 1 477 (Francesco del Tuppo), were included by Lord Vernon in Le Prime Quattro Edizioni (1858). Another Neapolitan edition, without printer's name, is dated 1477, and in the same year Wendelin of Spires published the first Venetian edition. Milan followed in 1478 with that known from the name of its editor as the Nidobeatine. In 1481 appeared the first Florentine edition (Nicolo and Lorenzo della Magna) with the commentary of Cristoforo Landino, and a series of copper engravings ascribed to Baccio Baldini, varying in number in different copies from two to twenty; a sumptuous and very carelessly printed volume. Venice supplied most of the editions for many years to come. Altogether twelve existed by the end of the century. In 1502 Aldus produced the first " pocket " edition in his new " italic " type, probably cut from the handwriting of his friend Bembo. A second edition of this is dated 1515. The firm of Giunta at Florence printed the poem in a small volume with cuts, in 1506; and for the rest of the 16th century edition follows edition, to the number of about thirty in all. The most noteworthy commentaries are those of Alessandro Vellutello (Venice, 1 544), and Bernardo Daniello (Venice, 1568), both of Lucca. The Cruscan Academicians edited the text in 1595. The first edition with woodcuts is that of Boninus de Boninis (Brescia, 1487). Bernardino Benali followed at Venice in 1491, and from that time onward few if any of the folio editions are without them. The 17th century produced three (or perhaps four) small, shabby and inaccurate editions. In 1716 a revival of interest in Dante had set in, and before 1800 some score of editions had appeared, the best-known being those of G. A. Volpi (Padua, 1727), Pompeo Venturi (Venice, 1739) and Baldassare Lombardi (Rome, 1791). omentaries. - The Commedia began to be the subject of commentaries as soon as, if not before, the author was in his grave. One known as the Anonimo until in 1881 Dr Moore identified its writer as Graziolo de' Bambaglioli, was in course of writing in 1324. It was published by Lord Vernon, to whose munificence we owe the accessibility of most of the earlier commentaries, in 1848. That of Jacopo della Lana is thought to have been composed before 1340. It was printed in the Venice and Milan editions of 1477, and 1478 respectively. The so-called Ottimo Comento (Pisa, 1837) is of about the same date. It embodies'parts of Lana's, but is largely an independent work. Witte ascribes it to Andrea della Lancia, a Florentine notary. Dante's sons Pietro and Jacopo also commented on their father's poem. Their works were published, again at Lord Vernon's expense, in 1845 and 1848. Boccaccio's lectures on the Commedia, cut short at Inf. xvii. 17 by his death in 1375, are accessible in various forms. His work was achieved by his disciple Benvenuto Rambaldi of Imola (d. c. 1390). Benvenuto's commentary, written in Latin, genial in temper, and often acute, was popular from the first. Extracts from it were used as notes in many MSS. Much of it was printed by Muratori in his Antiquitates Italicae; but the entire work was first published in 1887 by Mr William Warren Vernon, with the aid of Sir James Lacaita. No greater boon has ever been offered to students of Dante. Another early annotator who must not be overlooked is Francesco da Buti of Pisa, who lectured in that city towards the close from the supremacy of the Roman people over the of the same century. His commentary, which served as the basis of Landino's already mentioned, was first printed in Pisa in 1858. One more commentary deserves mention. During the council of Constance, John of Serravalle, bishop of Fermo, fell in with the English bishops Robert Hallam and Nicholas Bubwith, and at their request compiled a voluminous exposition of the Commedia. This remained in MS. till recently, when it was printed in a costly form.
Probably the first complete translation of Dante into a modern language was the Castilian version of Villena (1428). In the following year Andreu Febrer produced a rendering into Catalan verse. In 1515 Villegas published the Inferno in Spanish. The earliest French version is that of B. Grangier (1597) Chaucer has rendered several passages beautifully, and similar fragments are embedded in Milton and others. But the first attempt to reproduce any considerable portion of the poem was made by Rogers, who only completed the Inferno (1782). The entire poem appeared first in English in the version of Henry Boyd (1802) in six-line stanzas; but the first adequate rendering is the admirable blank verse of H. F. Cary (1814, 2nd ed. 1819), which has remained the standard translation, though others of merit, notably those of Pollock (1854) and Longfellow (1867) in blank verse, Plumptre (1887) and Haselfoot (1887) in terza rima; J. A. Carlyle (Inferno only, 1847). C. E. Norton (1891), and H. F. Tozer (1904), in prose, have since appeared. The best in German are those of " Philalethes " (the late King John of Saxony) and Witte, both in blank verse.
The first serious attempt to establish an accurate text in recent times was made by Carl Witte, whose edition (1862) has been subsequently used as the basis for the text of the Commedia in the Oxford edition of Dante's complete works (1896 and later issues). Dr Toynbee's text (1900) follows the Oxford, with some modifications. The notes of Cary, Longfellow, Witte and " Philalethes," appended to their several translations, and Tozer's, in an independent volume, are valuable. Scartazzini's commentary is the most voluminous that has appeared since the 15th century. With a good deal of superfluous, and some superficial, erudition, it cannot be neglected by any one who wishes to study the poem thoroughly. An edition by A.J. Butler contains a prose version and notes. Of modern Italian editions, Bianchi's and Fraticelli's are still as good as any.
For beginners no introduction is equal to the essay on Dante by the late Dean Church. Maria Rossetti's Shadow of Dante is also useful. A Study of Dante, by J. A. Symonds, is interesting. More advanced students will find Dr Toynbee's Dante Dictionary indispensable, and Dr E. Moore's Studies in Dante of great service in its discussion of difficult places. Two concordances, to the Commedia by Dr Foy (Cambridge, Mass., 1888), and to the minor works by Messrs Sheldon and White (Oxford, 1905), are due to American scholars. Mr W. W. Vernon's Readings in Dante have profited many students. Dante's minor works still lack thorough editing and scholarly elucidation, with the exception of the De vulgari eloquentia, which has been well handled by Professor Pio Raina (1896), and the Vita Nuova by F. Beck (1896) and Barbi (1907). Good translations of the latter by D. G. Rossetti and C. E. Norton, and of the De monarchia by F. C. Church and P. H. Wicksteed are in existence. The best text is that of the Oxford Dante, though much confessedly remains to be done. The dates of their original publication have already been given.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. - The first attempt at a bibliography of editions of Dante was made in Pasquali's edition of his collected works (Venice, 1739); but the first really adequate work on the subject is that of the viscount Colomb de Batines (1846-1848). A supplement by Dr Guido Biagi appeared in 1888. Julius Petzholdt had already covered some of the same ground in Bibliographia Dantea, extending from 1865 to 1880. The period from 1891 to 1900 has been dealt with by SS. Passerini and Mazzi in Un Decennio di bibliografia Dantesca (1905). The catalogues of the two libraries already named, and that of Harvard University, are worth consulting. For the MSS. Dr E. Moore's Textual Criticism (1889) is the most complete guide. (A. J. B.*)
Dante is the main character of the Devil May Cry series. He is a half-demon, the spawn of Sparda and Eva (his human mother). He has one sibling (assuming Capcom doesn't go crazy and spawn a thousand more): Vergil. While Vergil embraced his demon half, Dante embraced his humanity, and currently fights demons via a sort of bounty-hunting service. This business has had two names: Devil May Cry, and Devil Never Cry.
He runs his Devil hunting business along with his partner Trish, a demon created by Mundus to look exactly like his mother. Dante also occasionally receives help from fellow devil hunter Lady.
If there is one thing that Dante is known for in his younger years (around the time of the prequel Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening), it is showing off. In a cutscene that has been taken too far by fans of the series, Dante actually engages in a large brawl with demons while keeping a slice of pizza unharmed in an act of showing off. He also rode a missile, shot by Lady.
Later on, one would see Dante losing a bit of his show-offy attitude, although he retained his cockiness.
His most well-known weapon is Rebellion/Force Edge, a large claymore-like weapon that is his starting weapon, and Ebony and Ivory, his twin handguns. Each game takes a unique route in bestowing more weapons upon him, with some going for the more showy route(DMC3's Nevan), or a more practical approach(DMC's Alastor). Either way, the man is literally armed to the teeth by the time he reaches the end of each game.
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