Vita Gazette

News from Italy

Is it Dante? Is it Beatrice?

by Ayfer Selamoğlu

Dante Alighieri: The originator of the EU; political thinker; father of the Italian language; literary theorist; poet; writer…

Along with Shakespeare and Goethe, the leading figure in Western European Literature…

He contributed to the birth of the ‘Renaissance’ movement with his art and ideas…

His work titled “Divine Comedy”, in which he describes an ideal society, the pursuit of virtue, and the importance of individuals…

The deadly sins “such as anger, arrogance, envy, greed, gluttony, greed and sloth” that he mentioned in the Divine Comedy are still current…

Sinful real persons, such as “tyrants, fraudsters, religious exploiters, self-interested, selfish, rapists”, whom he reckoned with in his works, still maintain their dominance…

The Hell he describes in The Divine Comedy is happening all over the world today: moral and social decay; power and interest wars; exploitation; hunger; destruction of nature; climate change; extinct animal and plant species; slobbering seas and deadly diseases are plaguing us all…

Some point to Beatrice as the inspiration for Dante Alighieri, who has written works that contain such moral and political universal messages. Let’s follow his life, which does not fit into numbers, to understand the truth:

Dante’s pride was his knight grandfather…

The Calendars were showing 1265. Political storms were blowing in Florence, in the province of Tuscany. On one such gloomy day, Dante was born in the house of a middle-class noble family. Their nobility came from their knightly great-grandfather, who participated in the Crusades. His real name is Durante. The meaning of both names is ‘permanent’. But he prefers the name Dante, which was used in the medieval period. He lost his mother at the age of five. His father remarries, but she too dies when Dante is 12 years old. Dante, who does not like his father, who is a lawyer and involved in dirty business, does not mention him at all in his works. He proudly adopts his paternal grandfather, who becomes a knight instead. Because according to him, their nobility does not come from wealth, but from the heroism of his grandfather. This is much more meaningful and important. At the age of 12, he was promised Gemma di Manetto Donati by his family, according to the traditions of the time. He married Gemma 8 years later and had three sons named Pietro, Jacapo, Giovanni and two daughters named Antonia and Beatrice. (according to some sources, he had a daughter. Antonia took the name Beatrice when she became a nun.) After being exiled from Florence, Dante never saw his wife again.

He was facing the sun

Information about Dante’s education is not clear. But we know that he spent every period of his life in accordance with the saying of Socrates, “Knowledge is the food of the soul”. His first instructors were Brunetto Latini, who instilled the idea of ​​using Italian instead of Latin, and Guido Guintelli, a Bologna-born poet who stood out for his distinctive use of Italian. He learned rhetoric from Latini, which was influenced by him, and began to write poems in the vernacular with the encouragement of his teacher. Apart from his mother tongue, Dante was also very good at using other languages: These are Latin, Provençal-Latin languages ​​spoken in the south of France, and French. He studied the Latin poets in depth, especially Virgil, whom he regarded as his master. Besides the Latins, he was reading the works of Greek and Italian poets of the period. He trained himself in subjects such as logic, rhetoric, grammar, astronomy, philosophy, and painting, while honing his skills in writing. He was most influenced by Aristotle, San Tommaso of Aquino, and Virgil. He attended the intellectual meetings organized by the important names of the period, and established friendships with the competent and important names in his field. Names such as the poet Guido Cavalcanti, Cazella and the Painter Giotto were among his friends. He was getting into philosophical discussions with Cavalcanti. He was interested in painting and was painting with the painter Giotto di Bondone. He was interested in music with the musician Cazella and wrote poems for him to compose. As he became more interested in the political events of his age, he also turned to the fields of philosophy and theology.

Dante and the years of social transformation…

Dante’s life coincided with a period of social transformation. The thirteenth century in which he lived was an age of great conflict, literary enthusiasm, and great patriotic feelings. Feudal lords collapsed, and small domains such as republics, kingdoms, and lordships emerged. On the one hand were the pro-emperor Ghibellinos, who defended the aristocracy, and on the other, the pro-pope Guelphs. The Guelphs, who defended the rule of the Pope, were also divided into two as Whites and Blacks. The Whites, supported by the bourgeois class, had reformist ideas. They were more cautious about the pope and the papacy. Blacks were made up of nobles from the feudal era. It was supported by the lower strata of the so-called “popolo minuto”, such as small craftsmen and workers. Blacks, who were in every way loyal to the Pope, were more bigoted.

The increasing involvement of the church in politics increased the conflicts between the people. The disorder, conflict and turmoil in the society were also upsetting Dante, who was now an adult. He takes an active role in the politics of Florence. He supports the White wing of the Guelfo party, which “advocates the separation of religion and politics”. In this process, Pope VIII. Bonifatius begins to interfere more in Florence’s internal affairs, actively supporting the Blacks. This disturbed the notables of Florence and the Whites. In 1300, when Dante was elected to the six-man council at the head of the Florentine government, Pope Bonifatius could not stand it any longer and took action to end the Whites’ power in Florence. For this, he took Charles de Valois, brother of the French king Philippe le Bel, with him, and sent him to Florence. Valois was entering Florence with his cavalry, driving the Whites out of the city with the support of the Blacks. While the property of the whites was confiscated, some were given the death penalty and the majority were exiled. Dante, who was displeased with the Pope, was also punished. He was fined and exiled from Florence for two years for baseless crimes such as fraud, illicit profiteering. If he was captured later, it was decided that he would be executed. Thus began the painful but fruitful period of exile in Dante’s life.

Agnolo Bronzino (1530)

Dante wanted the separation of religion and state.

During his exile, Dante opens his knowledge chest, which he started to fill from an early age, and begins to write. According to him, God had sent two guides to the people. One was the Pope in charge of the hereafter, and the other was the Emperor in charge of worldly affairs. According to Dante, the Emperor and the Pope abandoned the task assigned to them and started their power and interest games. This caused deep confusion and unrest in the society. And Dante begins to explain the corrupt order he is in and those responsible in the Divine Comedy. It shows the dire consequences of the corrupt order. It tells the ways of salvation in order not to reach this end. It gives the message that the way to this is through individual and social morality.

Big Love Beatrice

One of the most important people in Dante’s life is undoubtedly his immortal love Beatrice. In the medieval period, marriages were often based on class and property. This custom was common, especially among noble families. Promises made between families at a young age were normal. As such, extra-marital, unreachable loves were also commonplace. Hidden, unreachable loves turned into passion and expressed as a lofty feeling. The lucky ones immortalized their existence in works of art…

Dante’s love for Beatrice is one of such passionate stories. They were acquainted with Beatrice’s family. They had met at a party in one of the neighboring houses. He was 9 and Beatrice 8 when he first saw her in the flower-filled garden.

Cesare Saccaggi (1903) Dante and Beatrice's first meeting in the garden

Their second encounter is outside. Dressed in white, Beatrice is taking a walk by the river with her friends. Beatrice greets Dante. Despite meeting twice, Dante’s love is immense. But the sad thing is that Beatrice died at the age of 24 due to pregnancy poisoning. Dante expressed the fire of love in him, “I am not dead, but I am not alive either; If you have a bit of intelligence, imagine what I have become, When you are deprived of life and death…”

The inspiration for The Divine Comedy, in which she tells about a journey to the hereafter, is Beatrice Portinari. However, when Dante begins the 14233-line Divine Comedy, Beatrice is now a young corpse. Moreover, she is a young woman married to a knight she fell in love with, who was pregnant by the man she loved at the time. She is unaware of Dante’s love for him, as he has never fallen in love with Dante in his life, which has only lasted twenty-four years. Undoubtedly, Beatrice’s death was a great shock to Dante. Probably after Beatrice’s death Dante clung more tightly to his work. The death of Beatrice at a very young age caused Dante to immortalize, giving Beatrice a spiritual, immortal, perfect, and divine appearance rather than a material, mortal, and human appearance.

Divine Comedy…

The work, which begins with the Inferno section, which means Hell in Italian, is about a gloomy world that stretches from the gloomy world of wild creatures thirsting for sin to the afterlife with Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Paradise). Dante, who toured Hell, Heaven and Purgatory in his work, was both going to hell with his great love and reaching heaven thanks to his love. His teacher Virgilius guides him through his wanderings in Hell and Purgatory. The lower circles of Hell, which he describes as a structure consisting of 9 circles and narrowing downwards, are for more serious sins, and the severity of punishments increases in the lower floors. Some of these layers are classified according to the seven deadly sins. When he came to the top of Purgatory, just as he was about to enter heaven, Beatrice took over this guidance task from Virgil. The exalted angel Beatrice, who has all kinds of “honest, clean, good-hearted, honest, moral” good qualities, takes Dante and brings him to the sky, that is, to the source of divine light.

2021 is dedicated to the great poet under the title “Year of Dante” on the occasion of the 700th death anniversary of Dante Alighieri. Various events “still ongoing” were held all over the world. His works and views were discussed in the company of Beatrice. The importance of Beatrice in Dante’s life was expressed. I think that Dante’s hunger for knowledge and self-development, and the fact that his life, mostly spent in exile, came to a period of “social change” were influential in his writings. Could Dante have exhibited the bad, immoral, and dishonest people in the identity of Beatrice, who died at a young age, who was perfect, character, honest and chaste and went to heaven because of these qualities? And did he draw attention to the fact that, in the company of the woman he loves, who opened the door of heaven to him, those who are honest, moral and chaste will be at the highest level of heaven, while others will be sent to Hell, where all kinds of torture will be applied?

error: Content is protected !!