That’s Amore

Dante Alighieri, autore della Divina Commedia, universalmente considerata la più grande opera in italiano ed uno dei maggiori capolavori della letteratura mondiale, è stato definito “il padre della lingua italiana” giacché i suoi scritti hanno contribuito a far assurgere il dialetto toscano a lingua nazionale. Nell’arco della sua vasta produzione, il “sommo Poeta” ha spaziato all’interno dello scibile umano, segnando profondamente la letteratura italiana dei secoli successivi e la stessa cultura occidentale. La sua ispirazione è venuta da uno dei più semplici, ma più complessi, sentimenti: l’amore nei confronti di Beatrice Portinari. È nel nome di questa passione che Dante ha dato la sua impronta allo stile noto come Dolce stil novo, conducendo i poeti e gli scrittori a scoprire i temi dell’amore in un modo mai così enfatizzato prima.

Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy, widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature, has been titled “the Father of the Italian Language.” It was his writings that helped to establish the Tuscan dialect as the standard for the Italian language. His works created, influenced and changed literature indefinitely for humankind. And his inspiration came from one of the simplest, yet most complex, feelings one can experience. That’s amore.

Durante degli Alighieri, most popularly known as Dante, was born in 1265 in Florence, Italy to Alighiero di Bellincione and Bella degli Abati. At the young age of nine, Dante met Beatrice Portinari and, at first sight, fell in love. However, as was usual in that time, Dante’s future wife was chosen by his father. When he was just 12-years-old, Dante was committed in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, the daughter of a member of the influential Donati family. While Dante and Gemma had several children, it is apparent that Beatrice was his muse for his poetry. Even more interestingly, Dante had never spoken with Beatrice openly; they only exchanged greetings. The two never knew each other well. But, this hidden love spawned several sonnets to Beatrice, while Gemma was mentioned in none. It was, in fact, due to this so-called “courtly love” – a medieval European literary conception of love that emphasized nobility and chivalry – that he left his imprint on the dolce stil novo (sweet new style) of poetry that Dante, himself, coined.

Dolce stil novo is the most important literary movement of the 13th century in Italy. Joining other contemporary poets and writers of his time in exploring never-before-emphasized aspects of amore, Dante’s love for Beatrice would be his reason not only for writing, but for living. He depicts Beatrice (often known as Bice) as semi-divine, constantly watching over him and providing spiritual instruction.

In 1290, Beatrice died prompting him to write “La Vita Nova” (The New Life), an expression of the medieval genre of courtly love that exploited his combination of both prose and verse. Besides its content, it is notable for being written in Italian, rather than Latin, thereby influencing the establishment of the national language of Italy. Dante’s expression of his love for Beatrice inadvertently changed literature and language forever. Now, THAT'S amore.