Durante degli Alighieri
1265 - 1321
The political maneuvers and extravagances of the pope had Dante and many other Guelphs disenchanted. They wanted to disassociate from the papacy, which caused a split in the party. The Black Guelfs remained faithful to the pope while the White Guelfs, against both pope and emperor, wanted comlete independence. They took control of the city but not for long. The Blacks retaliated, Dante was exiled and fined. He did not pay; he felt he wasn't guilty and he couldn't pay as his property had been seized. He moved to Verona then Paris, where he wrote the poem he called Commedia. He was later invited to return to Florence but did not accept the city’s conditions. He decided to be a "party of one" and lived in Ravenna until his death.
Dante Alighieri applied courtly love into a style called dolce stil novo which highlighted pure love as a source of inspiration. Another popular poet who experimented in this form was his friend Guido Cavalcanti, ten years older. Dante's first important poem in this style is called La vita nuova.
Dante came from a prominent Florentine family loyal to the Guelphs (the Papacy). His mother died at an early age and soon after he was promised to Gemma di Manetto Donati, when he was already in love with Beatrice Portinari, who would die and become the inspiration for the (Divine) Comedy.
Only guild members were allowed to be active in politics so Dante chose the guild of physicians and apothecaries. In 1289 he fought in the Guelph cavalry at the battle of Campaldino, a victory over the Ghibellines that put the Guelphs in power and reformed the constitution in Florence.
Dante’s dolce stil novo influenced the Italian poet Petrarch (b. 1304) whose works introduced the essence of chivalry and courtly love to France, England, and Spain. Francesco Petrarca Arezzo moved from Arezzo to Avignon with his family when he was eight. When he was twenty-three he was smitten by a Frenchwoman, Laura, whom he immortalized in his poems as the essence of true and pure love. Three years later Petrarch renounced his amorous daydreams and studied to become a priest. He wrote both in Latin and in Italian. His major Italian works, Canzoniere and I Trionfi, speak of his passion for Laura. His major Latin work is Africa (1338-1342), a long poem about the Roman general Scipione Africanus. He’s known as the father of modern poetry. During his stay in Florence he became good friends with the writer Boccaccio.
Boccaccio (b. 1313) was the illegitimate child of a wealthy Florentine and a French noblewoman. He first studied accounting and law before turning his attention to the classics. As the story goes he fell in love with Marie de Conti d’Aquino, the illegitimate child of Robert d’Anjou, king of Naples. She was the inspiration for his stories under the name Fiametta. His masterpiece, The Decameron, was widely read during the Renaissance.
The Decameron is made up of stories told by a group of lively young nobles to pass the time. They had moved to a villa in the hills above Florence for ten days (hence the name) to stay away from the plague in the city. Boccaccio influenced countless authors, notably Shakespeare and Chaucer, who borrowed the idea of sharing stories for his book Canterbury Tales.
Dante and Beatrice
"Paradiso" Canto 1
La Divina Commedia
Dante wrote his epic poem while in exile (as most of his written works) after Beatrice died. In the poem she guides him through Paradise after a previous visit to Hell and Purgatory with Virgil.
He wrote in vernacular, which was unheard of in intellectual circles, and his writing became the foundation for modern Italian. The original title, La Commedia, was changed to La Divina Commedia after his death.