What is the historical context of Dante's Inferno? 

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In discussing the historical context of Dante's Inferno, I suggest that you focus on the development of the Renaissance.  Dante's poem is an early forerunner of the Renaissance, but you could still connect the poem back to the general ideas embraced by writers, scientists, and artists of that time period: a focus on writing in the vernacular over Latin, the rise of humanism, the rediscovery of classic philosophy and learning (Greek and Roman), the rise of science and innovation. 

You could also connect the death themes of Dante's Inferno back to the recent Black Plague which devastated huge amounts of the population throughout Italy, effectively diminishing the medieval feudal system and giving rise to urbanism and the development of cities as focal points of trade and influence.

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