Il Sommo Poeta and The Father of Italian Language: DANTE ALIGHIERI

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    TANUJ BANSAL

    Poetry is one of the most important, influencing, the beatitude and the most beautiful part of literature and when we talk about Italian Poetry, a category of Italian literature which has its root since 13th century, is the heaviest influence on the poetic traditions of many of the European languages including English. With the discovery of sonnet from a great and a senior Italian poet Giacomo da Lentini to the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri from medieval times to the modern times Nobel prize winners in literature; Eugenio Montale and Salvatore Quasimodo, Italian literature is all about fascinating poets and writers and their astonishing works impacting the whole world.

    Today we are going to know about the greatest known Italian poet, pose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher and political thinker, Dante Alighieri who was born in Florence, Italy to his father Alighiero di Bellincione, a White Guelph and his mother Bella, probably a member of Abati Family. After his mother died when he was ten, it is uncertain that his father married another woman Lapa di Chiarissimo Cialufi but she is believed to bear him two children, Dante’s half-brother Francesco and half-sister Tana. Not much is known about his education, he presumably studied at home or in chapter school attached to church or monastery in Florence. It is known that he studied Tuscan poetry. He next dedicated himself to the philosophical studies at religious schools like the one in Dominican in Santa Maria Novella. Other studies reported or deduced through his works were about Painting and Music. Dante said he first met Beatrice, the daughter of banker Folco Portinari at the age of nine and fell in love with her which he describes as “at the first sight” without even actually talking to her but when he was 12, he was promised in marriage to Gemma di Monetto Dinati. He wrote several sonnets mentioning Beatrice but never mentioned Gemma in any of his Poems. Dante’s interactions with Beatrice set an example of what is called Courtly Love. His experience of such love is typical but the way he expresses it is unique. It was in his name of love that he left his imprint on the dolce stil novo (sweet new style) and he would join several other contemporary poets and writers in exploring never-before-emphasized aspects of love. His love for Beatrice became his reason for poetry and for living, together with political passions. Beatrice died in 1290 but as he was also married to Gemma, the only certain information about his marriage is he had three children before he was exiled for Florence in 1301.

    Dante, like other Florentines, was the one to fight in Battle of Campaldino. To further his political career, he became a pharmacist but didn’t intend to practice as one, it was because of the law that was issued in 1295 that nobles aspiring to public office are required to be enrolled in professions like this. As a politician he accomplished a little but held various offices over some years in a city rife with political unrest. After the defeat of Ghibellines, Guelph divided into two, the White Guelphs who wanted more freedom from Rome and the Black Guelphs who supported the Pope. Whites took over first and expelled the Blacks. Pope Boniface VIII planned a military occupation of Florence. In1301, Charles of Valois was expected to visit Florence because he was appointed as peacemaker for Tuscany. But the Pope’s ambassadors were treated badly before a few weeks by the city’s government, seeking independence from papal influence. It is believed that Charles had received unofficial instructions, so the council sent a delegation that included Dante to Rome to ascertain Pope’s intentions. When Dante was asked by Pope Boniface to remain in Rome after he quickly dismissed other delegates, that was the same time when Charles with the Black Guelphs destroyed the much of the Florence and killed many of their enemies in a period of 6 days. A new Black Guelph government was installed. In 1302, Dante who is affiliated with White Guelphs along with the Gheradini Family was condemned to exile for 2 years and were fined a large payment at the time when Dante was still Rome and he was also accused of corruption and financial wrongdoing. Dante did not pay the fine because he believed he was not guilty and in part his all assets in Florence were seized by Black Guelphs. He was then condemned to perpetual exile. In June 2008 after nearly seven centuries after his death, the city council of Florence passed a motion in rescinding his sentence.  

      

     He is known as one of the tre corone (The Three Crowns) of Italian literature and the well renowned father of Italian Language, the one who started the era of use of vernacular in literature in the times when poetry was dominated by Latin and which was only accessible to the most educated ones and who is also referred to as il Sommo Poeta (The Supreme Poet). Dante is best known for his epic poem the one of the world’s most important work in literature “Divine Comedia” which is divided into three parts, following a man assumed to be Dante himself as he visits Hell, Purgatory and then Paradise. It is profound Christian Vision of temporal and eternal destiny who introduced the mankind with map of hell with 9 circles following from Limbo to Fraud in his work Inferno which was then illustrated by Sandro Botticelli in 1485. It contains the story of his love for Beatrice Portinari which becomes his ultimate salvation in the Commedia in which he first guided by roman poet of classical antiquity Virgil and then by his love Beatrice. Dante was one of the first and influential figures of Renaissance Movements. Dante was instrumental in establishing the literature of Italy. His depictions of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise provided inspiration for larger body of Western art and literature. He is cited as influence on such English writers as Geoffrey Saucer, john Milton and Alfred Tennyson among many other. The Three-line rhyme scheme or terza rima is attributed to him.

    Dante’s final days were in City of Ravenna and died there on 14 September in 1321.

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