Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) was a Florentine poet and was perhaps the greatest poet of the Middle Ages. He was also interested in politics and was a White Geulf (a person who did not want the church and the Pope to have more power).

His mother, Bella degli Abati, died when he was only nine years old. He then lived with his father, Alighero di Bellincione, and his new wife, Lapa di Chiarissimo. They had two children, Francesco and Tanai. When Dante was twelve he married Gemma di Manetto Donati. They had five children together. She was not his true love. While they were married, he fell in love with Beatrice Portinari. It was she that inspired him to write a collection of poems called, the New Life, that was published in 1293. This poetry tells of Dante’s spiritual attachment to Beatrice. She also inspired him to write The Divine Comedy, which has been referred to as his greatest work. This poem tells of a man’s struggle through hell and purgatory, where the Roman poet Virgil is his guide, and of his search for God in Paradise, where Beatrice is his guide.

After Beatrice’s death, Dante entered politics. He held a high office in Florence until he was forced into exile after the Black Geulf’s took power. He wandered through Italy, staying with friends until Count Guido Novello da Polenta, a great fan of Dante’s work, invited him to his city and gave him a home. Dante lived there until his death at age fifty-six.

Dante Alighieri is often depicted as the father of Italian literature because of his clear and simple style of writing and his poetic use of the Italian language. Dante influenced many great writers, such as, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. Even today, Dante’s works are studied by scholars and is taught in classrooms all over the world.

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Dante Alighieri
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Portrait of Dante Alighieri
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Dante Statue


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