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Dante Alighieri

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Dante Alighieri

*  1265 Florenz
† 1321 Ravenna


Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265. Little is known about the life of the most important poet of Italy and the whole of the European Middle Ages. Dante most likely attended the Franciscan school at the convent of Santa Croce and Dominican school Santa Maria Novella, but he was certainly taught in Florence by Brunetto Latini, an important philosopher and orator. Because we know Dante stayed in Bologna in 1285, it is assumed the he studied law at the university there. Around this time, he wrote his first important work, "La vita nuova" ("New Life"), which is one of the finest examples of Dolce stil nuovo, a contemporary Florentine poetic style written in Volgare, the colloquial dialect. The power of Dante's language and his lyrical intensity makes this piece an important example of European poetry. >From 1285 until 1301, Dante was politically active in his hometown of Florence, though he was subsequently banned from the city in 1302. During the early years of his exile, Dante composed "De vulgari eloquentia libri duo" (Eng: "Two Books on the Expressive Power of the Vulgar Langauges") (1304/1305), two volumes on the advantages of the use of the Italian language in literature, and the fragment "Il convivio" (1303/1308), which was to contain 15 essays giving a comprehensive overview of the knowledge of his time - and therewith the knowledge of its author. Around 1307, Dante began work on his epic masterpiece "La divina Commedia" ("The Divine Comedy"), which he finished in 1321. With dense atmospheric images, the "Commedia" describes the journey of the first person narrator through hell (L'inferno), purgatory (Il purgatorio), and paradise (Il paradiso), during which he meets the souls of long dead mythological and historical figures. This work, whose interpretation requires extensive knowledge of the political, scientific, and philosophical discourses of Dante's day, can be interpreted in accordance with the medieval teaching of fourfold exegesis, the literal, the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogic (mystical allusions to heaven and the afterlife). Because of its poetic dramatization of medieval theology, i.e. Scholasticism with its Ptolemaic worldview, "The Divine Comedy" is of exceeding historical importance. Therefore, Dante's lyrical epic, which can also be seen as the depiction of the mystical rise of man to a higher knowledge, is one of the most important works of world literature. Dante died on September 14, 1321, in Ravenna.