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(born c. May 21–June 20, 1265, Florencedied Sept. 13/14, 1321, Ravenna) Italian poet. Dante was of noble ancestry, and his life was shaped by the conflict between papal and imperial partisans (the Guelfs and Ghibellines). When an opposing political faction within the Guelfs (Dante's party) gained ascendancy, he was exiled (1302) from Florence, to which he never returned. His life was given direction by his spiritual love for Beatrice Portinari (d. 1290), to whom he dedicated most of his poetry. His great friendship with Guido Cavalcanti shaped his later career as well. La Vita Nuova (1293?) celebrates Beatrice in verse. In his difficult years of exile, he wrote the verse collection The Banquet (c. 1304–07); De vulgari eloquentia (1304–07; Concerning Vernacular Eloquence), the first theoretical discussion of the Italian literary language; and On Monarchy (1313?), a major Latin treatise on medieval political philosophy. He is best known for the monumental epic poem The Divine Comedy (written c. 1308–21; originally titled simply Commedia), a profoundly Christian vision of human temporal and eternal destiny. It is an allegory of universal human destiny in the form of a pilgrim's journey through hell and purgatory, guided by the Roman poet Virgil, and then to Paradise, guided by Beatrice. By writing it in Italian rather than Latin, Dante almost singlehandedly made Italian a literary language, and he stands as one of the towering figures of European literature.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Dante (Alighieri), visit Britannica.com.
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