Dante's Inferno II

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:04:10
Year Produced: 2010
Description:

After Dante was banished from Florence in 1302, he wrote his great masterpiece "The Divine Comedy." By writing it in Italian, the language of the people, he helped drag readers out of their slavish devotion to Latin.

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Transcript

Lead: After Dante was banished from Florence in 1302, he wrote his great masterpiece "The Divine Comedy." By writing it in Italian, the language of the people, he helped drag readers out of their slavish devotion to Latin.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Active in political and cultural life in Florence, Alighieri Dante was banished from his beloved city after a rival political faction achieved power. He spent the next twenty years in exile, moving from town to town in northern Italy, being honorably received by aristocrats, and working on his most important writings.

Dante shaped "The Divine Comedy" for years before he actually began the writing in 1308, and he completed it shortly before his death in 1321 in the city-state of Ravenna. The work grew out of the poet’s frustration and deep disappointment with the struggle for supremacy between, in his view, a too- overtly political papacy and the holy Roman emperors.

Dante was the first major poet to write in Italian, rather than in Latin which was traditionally the language of the church. He hoped that Italians would take pride in such a work written in the vernacular and that this would help bring an end to the factional strife on the peninsula.

"The Divine Comedy" is an epic poem of prodigious size, one hundred rhyming cantos. Dante himself is the main character and he describes his journey through hell, purgatory, and finally, heaven. His guides are illustrious figures, such as the Roman poet Virgil and his ever-inspiring Beatrice. On the journey, Dante meets both mythological and historic figures.

Dante created four levels of meaning in his poem--literal, allegorical, moral and the anagogical or mystical. He hoped to probe into questions about man’s place in the worldly, spiritual and religious order. Dante originally titled his epic poem "Commedia" or "Comedy," which in classical literature describes a work with an orderly and happy ending. Later the Italian writer Boccaccio added the adjective "Divine," in part referencing Dante’s religious themes but also to pay tribute to the epic’s poetic excellence and sheer beauty.

At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.