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It is right to honor those who have positively contributed to society, for they have shaped the future and given us a model to follow. Therefore, I will praise Dante Alighieri for his poetry that descended from the heavens. (Hyperbole) Dante is generally considered the most important poet of the middle ages, a period of conflict leading into the age of discovery. (Chronographia) Dante’s Divine Comedy was the most important poem of his time. He was the first poet to write one of the greatest literary works in the Italian language.
Dante was born and raised in the Republic of Florence around 1265 which is now considered Italy, a place of reactive and expressive people. (Chorographia) Dante’s father, Alighiero di Bellincione, was a moneylender and his mother was likely a member of the Abati family. There was some evidence that his family had sufficient prestige and status to be protected in the battles between the Guelph and the Ghibellines. At the age of 12, he was promised in marriage to the daughter of Manetto Donati, a powerful family.
Dante and his family were caught up in the political wars of the time and Dante fought successfully in the battle of Campaldino which provided a path for him to become active in various councils of the republic. The conflicts and political involvement of his ancestors provided him with first-hand experiences that influenced his poetry.
It is believed that Dante studied in a school attached to a church or monastery in Florence. It is known that he studied the classical Latin writers including Cicero, Ovid, and especially Virgil.
He particularly admired the Bolognese poet Guido Guinizelli, and one could see the influence of French and Provencal poetry of the previous century in Dante’s works, However, the influence of Christianity during his time and his connection to the Papacy dominated the content of his poetry.
Dante was a statesman of high intelligence and creativity with accomplishments in poetry, use of language, and in government. He was a distinguished diplomat and in fact, was sent by Pope Boniface as his only delegate to Rome. In the course of his political conflict Dante ended up in exile and during that time the depth of his philosophies gave rise to some of his most famous poems. Although his work for the Pope took much of his time, it deepened his religious beliefs and created enemies. These conflicts and beliefs influenced his Divine Comedy which has been considered a significant work for over 650 years. This most famous work was not only a guide through the Christian afterlife but also a commentary on corruption at the time. This allegory to the Christian afterlife influenced many other works including those of Milton, Chaucer, and Tennyson and is often quoted today. At Dante’s time, most poetry was written in Latin, but he wrote in Italian and sometimes even in the Tuscan dialect. Dante was the first person to use the interlocking three-line scheme known as the terza rima. Future Italian poets followed his example. His first love, Beatrice Portinari, also influenced his work particularly as his guide through heaven in Divine Comedy. His varied life experiences and creativity provided the world with a great creator of verse (Ecphrasis) who continues to influence our art and literature today.
Why would anyone dare compare Shakespeare to Dante? Shakespeare entertains while Dante educates in Christian life. To the degree that imitation is inferior to originality, to the same degree, Shakespeare is inferior to Dante.
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