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The Inferno Dante Alighieri. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). Born in Florence, Italy Known as father of the Italian language Wrote in the vernacular instead of Latin Allowed literature to be experienced by all Italians, not just the learned class Does he sound like someone else we have met?.

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dante alighieri 1265 1321
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
  • Born in Florence, Italy
  • Known as father of the Italian language
    • Wrote in the vernacular instead of Latin
    • Allowed literature to be experienced by all Italians, not just the learned class
    • Does he sound like someone else we have met?
oh florence
Oh, Florence
  • Florence at this time was a place of political turbulence
  • Warring factions
    • Ghibellines wanted Holy Roman Emperor in power
    • Guelphs wanted the Pope to control politics
  • Guelphs won, then split
    • Blacks supported the Pope and Church
    • Whites supported the emperor
dante s unfortunate luck
Dante’s Unfortunate Luck
  • Guess which side Dante was on?
  • When the Pope came to power in Florence in 1301, he excommunicated his opponents
  • Dante would have been burned at the stake if he ever returned to Florence
  • Lived in exile for the remainder of his life
importance of florence
Importance of Florence
  • Dante took his exile to heart
  • Embittered by his political experiences in Florence, he took up his pen
  • Used his words to punish those individuals who had wronged him and to present a symbolic view of his life and situation
inferno and politics
Inferno and Politics
  • Inferno = large scale commentary on the nightmare of Florence politics
  • Dante made his political assertions in several ways
political assersion 1
Political Assersion #1
  • Condemns political figures with whom he disagreed
  • Scatters them ruthlessly through Hell
  • Matches punishments to sins
political assertion 2
Political Assertion #2
  • Because Inferno is set several years before the years in which he wrote it, Dante can “predict” events that had already taken place by the time he was writing
  • Seems prophetic, since he can “predict” how they were to be damned
political assertion 3
Political Assertion #3
  • Church and state must be separate but equal powers on Earth
    • Church to govern man’s spirit
    • State to govern his person
  • Dante lived through the drama of an integrated church and government
the divine comedy
The Divine Comedy
  • Epic poem made up of 3 parts
    • Inferno (Hell)
    • Purgatorio (Purgatory)
    • Paradiso (Paradise)
  • Not exactly hilarious, but fits comedy definition
    • Mixed narrative
    • Some epic, some melodrama, some tragedy
    • Happy ending (Paradiso)
the power of 3
The Power of 3
  • The number 3 is central to Dante’s work
    • Christian concept of the trinity
  • Divine Comedy is in 3 parts
  • Each part is made of 33 cantos (divisions)
  • In each canto, verses are 3 lines (terzarima)
  • Spiritual quest takes place over 3 days
    • Good Friday to Easter Sunday
  • An allegory is the discussion of one subject by disguising it as another, which resembles the first in a striking way
    • e.g., school as prison
  • Allegories teach moral lessons
  • Use of the visible, physical reality to explain the invisible or intangible
    • e.g., Greek gods
story overview
Story Overview
  • Surface Story:
    • On Good Friday, Dante finds himself lost and directionless in a dark forest
    • Abandoned by hope, he undertakes a quest for belonging and salvation (hell  paradise)
  • Symbolic Story (allegory):
    • Journey begins in despairing world not yet redeemed by Christ and ends with the poet’s return, having seen the divine grace of God
important characters
Important Characters
  • Dante—both the author and the protagonist
  • Virgil—Dante’s guide through hell and purgatorio
    • Real Virgil died in 19 BCE: admired by Dante and held significance as pre-Christian prophet
    • Represents HUMAN REASON
  • Beatrice—Dante’s star-crossed love and guide through Paradiso
    • Represents DIVINE LOVE
terza rima
  • Italian form of iambic poetry in sets of 3 lines
  • Invented by Dante
  • Follows this rhyme scheme: aba bcbcdc
  • Complete rhyme scheme is often lost in translation from Italian to English
example of terza rima acquainted with the night by robert frost
Example of TerzaRima“Acquainted With the Night” by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night. (a)

I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. (b)

I have outwalked the furthest city light. (a)

I have looked down the saddest city lane. (b)

I have passed by the watchman on his beat (c)

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain. (b)

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet (c)

When far away an interrupted cry (d)

Came over houses from another street, (c)

But not to call me back or say good-bye; (d)

And further still at an unearthly height (a)

One luminary clock against the sky (d)

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. (a)

I have been one acquainted with the night. (a)