Durante degli Alighieri, shortened as Dante, was an Italian poet born in the spring of 1265 in Florence. Of his works, The Divine Comedy is the greatest literary statement in the medieval periods of the Europeans. It marks the foundation of the Italian language. The comedy explores the greatest unreciprocated, distant love story between Dante – the author, and Beatrice. Dante is almost nine years when he first meets Beatrice, who is a few months younger.
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Dressed in crimson attire, she completely obsesses him. For nine years, he remains captivated by her from a distance. It is not until 1283, when she speaks to him as they pass each other on the way. After marrying Beatrice and enjoying three years together, sorrow strikes him. His 24-year-old wife dies! Though short, the time they spend together, significantly influences the rest of his life. Though dead and forgotten, her principal inspirations speak volumes of Dante’s works.
Firstly, after Dante meets Beatrice for the first time, her dressing forces him to fall in love with her in the first sight, mistaking her for an angel with divine and noble characteristics.
Though they hardly speak, it is from this first encounter that makes him write the poem Behold, A Deity Stronger Than I; Who Is Coming, Shall Rule Over Me. One afternoon, they meet along the Florentine streets, when Beatrice greets him. She says, “Love prompted me, that love that makes me talk…” (Lawall 1841). This greeting is enough to make him retreat to his room where he falls asleep, only to experience a dream that becomes the subject of one of his greatest romantic poems-The New Life.
Next, he frequently tours parts of Florence, his home city, looking for just a glimpse of Beatrice. His words, “You with your words have so disposed my heart, into longing for this journey…” (Lawall 1842) induces nervousness. These shows how much influence Beatrice words have on his decisions.
They are so powerful, that he has to pay her visits. His efforts to privatize his thoughts about Beatrice force him to compose poetry to a woman, to use her as a “screen for the truth.” Her influence is far from a straightforward inspiration, Dante makes her a character in his greatest works.
The book, The New Life, is almost full of poems of his praises to her. The Divine Comedy book shows how much she has influenced his spiritual life. She is the one who directs him to heaven For instance, “You are my guide, my governor, my master” (Lawall 1842). Owing to the fact that their relationship has no contact, their personal terms conversations is just Dante’s imaginations. The Beatrice on study is his mind’s creations. He calls her “The glorious lady of my mind.”
Additionally, truth and beauty seem inseparable. Through an animation, Beatrice goes to the purgatory for Dante where he greets her. His journey from the purgatory, through inferno to paradise parallels a change of his relationship to Beatrice. In his journey with Virgil through the inferno, he depicts Beatrice as his only reassurance.
She says, “When I had risen from flesh to spirit and beauty and virtue and increased in me I was less dear to him and less welcome and he bent his steps in a way not true…” (Lawall 1843). Beatrice here asserts the fact that she is different from all the women Dante has met and for him to love any other, is unholy.
In conclusion, the author influences men’s imaginations, touching their hearts so that they can turn to righteousness. To the author, this truth reveals the divine wisdom. Being a poet with divine commission, he wants to familiarise men with this revelation. From his experience of a man on earth, this design is practicable.
Though Dante cannot be explained beyond this earthly plain, from the love that cropped from the sight of a beautiful girl, he has produced great works of poetry earning him the title “Father of Italian Literature.” As a lesson, the readers should be worthy of these heavenly gifts when they bestow their hearts on those they love.
Lawall, Sarah. (Ed.) “The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Vol. A: Beginnings to A.D. 100, 2nd Edition, 2003.