Dante Alighieri is a fascinating figure—shaped by the medieval world but, like Petrarch and Boccaccio, suggesting elements of the Renaissance as well. While honoring the Latin poet Virgil, he also wrote in the vernacular rather than Latin, the typical language for literature of the time. A believer in the Christian order, he also felt free to determine what contemporary figures should be consigned to eternal damnation in Hell as well as who he deemed merited the eternal bliss of Heaven.
Your task in this project is to learn more about this great poet by investigating the experiences and events that influenced him. To find this information, you will conduct a WebQuest, which involves examining content in multiple reliable Internet sites aimed at gathering information to address a specific research question.
1. What was Dante's early life like? Dante Aligheiri was born in 1265 to a family of lesser nobility in Florence. He began writing poems while young, and, when he was nine, he met Beatrice, a girl to whom he later dedicated most of his poetry. Dante's mother died before he was 14, and his father passed away prior to 1283. Beatrice was Dante's true love. In his Vita Nova, Dante reveals that he saw Beatrice for the first time when his father took him to the Portinari house for a May Day party. In so doing he fell asleep and had a dream that would become the subject of the first sonnet in La Vita Nuova.
2. By the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, Florence had descended into a state of political chaos as the Guelfs, who supported the Pope, and the Ghibellines, who supported the emperor, fought for political control of the city. The struggle for power between these two parties ended in 1289 at the Battle of Campaldino where the Florentine Guelf forces defeated the Tuscan Ghibelline army. Dante fought alongside his Florentine brothers at this historic battle which would have important consequences for his future.
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1. Dante was around 12 years old, it was arranged that he would marry Gemma Donati, the daughter of a family friend. Around 1285, the pair married, but Dante was in love with another woman—Beatrice Portinari, who would be a huge influence on Dante and whose character would form the backbone of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
2. In March 1306, Florentine exiles were expelled from Bologna, and by August, Dante ended up in Padua, but from this point, Dante’s whereabouts are not known for sure for a few years. Reports place him in Paris at times between 1307 and 1309, but his visit to the city cannot be verified.
3. In the spring of 1312, Dante seemed to have gone with the other exiles to meet up with the new emperor at Pisa (Henry’s rise was sustained, and he was named Holy Roman Emperor in 1312), but again, his exact whereabouts during this period are uncertain. By 1314, however, Dante had completed the Inferno, the segment of The Divine Comedy set in hell, and in 1317 he settled at Ravenna and there completed The Divine Comedy (soon before his death in 1321).