Utopia In 1274: A Brief Summary

DANTE ALIGHIERI, A divided and divisive figure

© Elizabeth Greenwood

DANTE ALIGHIERI, a divided and divisive figure, by Elizabeth Greenwood


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Her name was Beatrice. She was the daughter of Folco Portinari, a philanthropic banker of the same political party as Dante’s father and he fell in love with her at first sight forever. He was not to meet her again in the flesh until nine years later when they were both eighteen at a wedding reception when the shock of seeing her nearly caused him to pass out, and a relative had to lead him out. In 1287 probably, according to Boccaccio, Beatrice was married to Simone de’ Bardi, a member of the wealthy Florentine family who founded the Bardi banking house. In December 1289, she lost her father and on June 8 1290, she herself died at the age of twenty-four, probably from a miscarriage. Dante could never have claimed her hand in marriage; her belonged to an impoverished aristocratic family. As was the custom in those days, her hand had most likely been ‘promised’ in marriage at a very early age to a husband of suitable standing by legal contract between the two families, just as Gemma Donati’s hand had been to Dante in a formal document dated 1277 when Dante was twelve years old. All Dante did when he married into the Donati family was to fulfil the contract. Guido Cavalcanti, Dante’s best friend in Florence, also a stilnovist, who had been engaged to the daughter of Farinata degli Uberti, the famous Ghibelline leader, at the

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