At a Glance
Dante Alighieri took the world to hell and back. The thirteenth-century poet’s most enduring work, The Divine Comedy, is an epic, three-volume journey through hell (Inferno), purgatory (Purgatorio), and heaven (Paradiso). Perhaps the most famous of the three parts is Inferno, which describes in great, gory detail the nine layers of hell and the punishments of those imprisoned there. Dante’s main achievement in The Divine Comedy is that he transformed and elevated Italian literature to world-class status with his philosophical and poetic writing. In the seven centuries since its publication, Dante’s masterpiece has continued to influence thinkers, artists, and authors from every major period that followed, including the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
Facts and Trivia
- Florence figures prominently in many of Dante’s works. Ironically, Dante was exiled from Florence during the last two decades of his life.
- In addition to his writing career, Dante also served as a physician, soldier, and dilettante politician.
- While not necessarily a laugh-out-loud story, Dante’s The Divine Comedy is so named because the story ends happily.
- Language is one of the many important reasons why Dante is so integral to the evolution of Italian literature. Until his time, erudite works were composed almost exclusively in Latin and Greek. By incorporating Tuscan Italian (among other sources) into his writing style, Dante helped cement Italian as a truly literary language.
- Dante’s literary and cultural impact is diverse and extensive. He has been quoted, adapted, or otherwise referenced in works as varied as American Psycho, Frankenstein, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Hannibal (as in Lecter).
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