Dante and the Renaissance, Dante’s Influence in the RenaissanceJune 26, 2021
Dante is a great poet who lived in the early Renaissance. By writing his poems in Italian, not Latin, he became a representative of the early Renaissance. Because one of the features of the Renaissance manifests itself in the conversion from the Latin language to the mother tongues.
Dante was born in Florence, one of the most important city-states of the period, and died in Ravenna while in exile. His most important work, Divina Commedia (Holy Comedy), is the most important work of Italian and one of the masterpieces of world literature.
With this work, Dante is known as “the greatest poet” in Italy and is referred to as the “father of the Italian language”. The Sacred Comedy consists of three parts: Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Paradise (Paradiso). The work depicts Dante’s journey starting from Hell and ending in Heaven. In this journey, the Latin poet Virgil, whom he admires, and Beatrice, the woman he loves, guide him.
Dante’s descriptions of hell are very vivid and impress the modern reader. Purgatory is handled with a lyrical expression. Since Heaven is the most theological part, its language is quite heavy. Dante confesses in the most beautiful, mystical and ecstatic passages and manages to come face to face with God at the end of the journey. “I have lost my capacity to describe at this highest stage,” he writes. The Renaissance spirit in the work stems from the fact that it was written in Italian as well as the content of the work.
He was a pioneer of the Renaissance in his efforts to create indigenous literature that could compete with the old classical writers. It may be wondered why such a serious work is called a comedy: in Dante’s time all serious, didactic works were written in Latin. Works written in languages other than Latin were seen as trivial and mundane. In addition, the word “comedy” in its classical sense referred to works that reflected the belief in an ordered universe. Accordingly, not only was all events in the universe tending towards a happy or “fun” ending, but there was also an ending influenced by a divine will that arranged everything towards a final good. Accordingly, for Dante, the progression from hell to heaven in the work reflected the paradigmatic expression of the term. It is also compatible with this meaning to be able to reach a vision of God from an ethical mental confusion.
By producing works not in Latin, the common literary and scientific language of the period, but in Italian, which is his own language, Dante pioneered the activity of “producing works in national languages”, which is a feature of the modern age.
Dante’s political views are revealed in another work called Monarchia. Here, he refers to the necessity of a universal monarchy in order to create universal peace, and says that the role that the Catholic Church can take in this context is to guide for a universal peace. Because of these views, the work was collected and burned by the Pope of the time after Dante’s death. In this work, Dante has been on the side of the emperor in the ongoing debate between the pope or the emperor since Thomas Aquinas, he took the path of idealizing the position of the medieval emperor, and showed a German-origin ruler who was the Western Roman emperor still as the earthly ruler of all humanity. This emperor received all his power from God, not from the pope. Dante’s thinking of the power of the ruler independent of and above the papacy is an innovation that contradicts the traditional spirit of the Middle Ages.
Dante broke with the traditional understanding of politics of the Middle Ages by glorifying the earthly domination of the emperor instead of the divine sovereignty of the pope.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım
Source: Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM)