The Background And Interpretation Of Dante S

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The Background And Interpretation Of Dante S Inferno Essay, Research Paper The Background and Interpretation of Dante s Inferno The growth of Western Civilization has taken many turns and gone through many phases that have all had an impact on where we are and what we have become today. One of the longer periods that lasted one thousand years was the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were a time of ignorance and fear, where no one was safe on their own and had to depend on a higher institution for survival. The most powerful institution in the Middle Ages was by far the Roman Catholic Church. Following the Middle Ages, Europe begins another age, known as the Renaissance, a period of enlightenment in which the veil that covered the eyes of man during the Middle Ages was lifted and

Europe began to see the world in a new light. During the transition between these two periods, Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy was born and died. In the most famous book from this trilogy Inferno, he merged the Christian doctrines of the Middle Ages and the philosophy, mythology and metaphysics of the Ancient Greeks, thus creating a testament to his time. Dante was born in Florence, Italy in 1265. He was born into a family of lesser nobility and death claimed his mother when he was very young and his father at the age of eighteen. When he was about twenty years old he began to write poetry, most of it dedicated to Beatrice, the love of his life who guides him through Paradiso. Dante was never married to Beatrice, however. Instead she married a wealthy banker and died

at the age of twenty-four. Her death encouraged Dante to write his first major work, entitled La Vita Nuova, and dedicated to the memory of his beloved Beatrice. As Dante got older he became active in the political life of Florence and joined the guild of physicians and apothecaries. The political situation in Florence at the time was not very stable as the city was embarking on its first democracy. There was a huge conflict between the White and Black parties, and Dante sided with the Whites. The Whites at first seized power from the Blacks, but this was not to last. The Blacks ran to Pope Boniface VIII and with his assistance had Dante and six hundred or so of others like him exiled from the city. When Dante was first exiled he began to study philosophy, theology and poetry in

depth. At this time he began to write poetry exalting philosophy. He also wrote treatises on the usage of Italian as a literary language to replace Latin which was the standard up to that point. Dante among the first European authors to use vernacular language to write their works. Inferno begins with the hero, conveniently named Dante, lost in a dark wood where no light enters. When he tries to get onto the right path a leopard, then a lion, and last a she-wolf get in his path. He manages to get away from the first two, but cannot shake the she-wolf. St. Lucy sees this all from Heaven and begs St. Mary to save Dante. St. Lucy sends Virgil to guide Dante through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven because that was the only path by which they could avoid the she-wolf. Inferno deals only

with his journey through hell. Dante creates a very orderly and straightforward Hell. His views of Hell were strictly based on the ethics and doctrines of the Church at the time. Had they not been based on this, he would have been executed as a heretic and his books banned and subsequently burned. Since there was no literature prior to Inferno that dealt with Hell, there was ample room for interpretation, which he used to the fullest. This is where the mythology and metaphysics of the Ancient Greeks comes into play. Dante fills his Hell with a large number of physical features found in the Ancient Greek version of Hell. For example, Dante describes a river system running through Hell, named Acheron, Styx, Phethlegthon and Cocytus. These are all found in the hells described by