Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
The greatest Italian poet and one of the most important writers of European literature. Dante is best known for the epic poem COMMEDIA, c. 1310-14, later named LA DIVINA COMMEDIA.
Dante's reputation as the outstanding figure of Italian letters rests mainly on the Divine Comedy, a long vernacular poem in 100 cantos (more than 14,000 lines) composed during his exile. Dante entitled it Commedia; the adjective Divina was added in the 16th cent. It recounts the tale of the poet's journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and is divided accordingly into three parts. In Hell and Purgatory Dante is guided by Vergil, through Heaven, by Beatrice, for whom the poem is a memorial. The work is written in terza rima, a complex verse form in pentameter, with interlocking triads rhyming aba, bcb, cdc, etc.
The Divine Comedy is the source of many famous classical images, inspiring works by William Blake and others, and is famous for its inscription on the gates of Hell: "All hope abandon, ye who enter here."
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