Alighieri Dante The Divine Comedy Essay Research

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Alighieri, Dante The Divine Comedy Essay, Research Paper “The Divine Comedy” is an epic poem brimming with information and eloquent literary devices. (The word “comedy” is used here in its classical sense – to denote a story which begins in suspense and ends well.) The lengthy work combines Dante’s vast knowledge of classical Latin writers (Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, Seneca … ) and Greek philosophers (Plato and Aristotle) with his readings from the religious and theological classics of Catholicism (Augustine, Thomas Acquinas … ). Some awareness of medieval symbolism and imagery can greatly enrich the modern reader’s understanding and enjoyment of Dante’s personal, visionary odyssey through the realms of the dead. For example, the significance of certain numbers

figures importantly in both the structure of the work and the geography of tile netherworld. Tile number three symbolizes the trinity; the “perfect” number, ten, was obtained by multiplying three times three, and adding one (which represented the unity of God). Furthermore, Dante’s work is divided into three canticles (the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise) and each canticle is then divided into thirty-three cantos. These, added to the book’s general introductory canto, make for a grand total of one hundred, or, the square of ten. The poem’s rhyme scheme, which Dante invented, is known as “terza rima” (third rhyme), where rhymed lines are grouped in interlocking sets of three (aba, bcb, cdc, etc.) In addition to this obsession with numbers, the reader should also

fathom the notion of ancient courtly love. Most poetry of Dante’s age was written in praise of a woman whom the poet had chosen as an ideal, but with whom he was not intimate nor even necessarily personally acquainted; a pure love, an unattainable inspiration. Dante had met Beatrice Portinari at least twice, but had no intention of developing a relationship with her. She was married, as was he. “If it pleases God,” Dante had written in the third person, “he will write of Beatrice, that which has never yet been said of mortal woman.” This, in fact, Dante does in The Divine Comedy, placing his lady in the highest realms of Paradise. Almost as much as he loved Beatrice, Dante loved Italy; and one of his greatest beliefs was the equal importance of the Church and the State.

He became disgusted with the corruption of the Church by politics during his lifetime. In fact, it was while he was in political exile from Florence that he wrote this masterpiece, its complete title being “The Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Florentine by Citizenship, Not by Morals.” Dante also believed in matching writing style with the material being treated. Thus, in Hell, the language is faced with common, sometimes revolting phrasing. Then, in Paradise the speech turns much more ethereal and lofty. (Curiously, Hell was and remains - the most popular of the three books.) By using common expressions and the language of his native Tuscan dialect rather than the traditional Church Latin, Dante created a revolutionary work. His comedy, rich as it was in multilayered medieval

allegory, set fire to the then radically modern idea that literature - works meant primarily to be read rather than retold or enacted could be made both accessible and popular. So highly regarded was this comedy that it earned the eventual title of “Divine.”