How did Dante, the poet’s, work illustrate the varying degrees of culture in the thirteenth century and influence the work of other scholars of the time?

Dante Alighieri, the famous poet of the thirteenth century, was most famous for his poem, The Divine Comedy, about the poet’s journey through hell, purgatory, and finally heaven.  The theme the poet is trying to convey is rediscovery of a former sense of joy and harmony in one’s own life. Also the fact that life cannot be built of one’s selfishness.  There is also a high regard for human reason in the culture of this time; it guides Dante, the character, through the stages in the play as it could guide people through life to make the right choices to be able to advance in afterlife to heaven.  While the first part of the play is about confusion and violence, the end, conveys a sense of peace and joy.

In Dante’s Inferno, there is chaos and havoc throughout hell that Dante, the character, has to face with his guide, Virgil.  “I recognized the shadow of that soul who, in his cowardice, made the Great Denial.  At once I understood for certain; these were of that retrograde and faithless crew hateful to God and to His enemies.”  Dante, the poet, takes it upon himself to assign people to certain circles of hell.  As the judge of past persons fate, Pope Celestine V is in the circle of hell with people who are selfish because he renounced his papacy in 1294 and is considered selfish by Dante due to the fact that he put his own regard before that of the Church.

In Dante’s the Paradiso, at least the last part, there Dante, the character, experiences a sense of harmony and peace.  “Supplicate thee through grace for so much power that with his eyes he may uplift himself higher towards the uttermost salvation.  And I, who never burned for my own seeing more than I do for his, all of my prayers proffer to thee, and pray they come not short.”  In this Dante has finally reached heaven and he is saying that he hopes all of his prayers will be enough and with all that he now knows will help him on his path towards the divinity of heaven and all of it’s wonderful pleasures.

Dante, like St. Thomas Aquinas, tries to combine two opposed views of human nature and its ability to shape one’s own destiny; mainly between reason and faith.  Aquinas’s most important work was the Summa Theologica, which was supposed to provide a look into Christian theology and the universe from a nonreligious viewpoint, even though it was never finished.  He explained logically that there had to be a God and he stated reasons without using divine intervention.  In the Summa Theologica Aquinas argued whether or not God exists giving reasons for objection and proving that in fact God does exist in five ways.  It was supposed to absolve any objections to his theories so that there would be less than no room for dispute.

Another work, the Summation of the Catholic also express reasons theologically about certain issues.  In the Summation of the Catholic Faith Aquinas talks about the difference between humans being able to discern mortal reason from divine reason.  Aquinas states that there is an inability for humans to attain some information that only God can understand, “Some truths about God exceed all the ability of the human reason.  Such is the truth that God is triune.  But there are some truths which the natural reason is able to reach.  Such are that God exists.”  Humans do not have a high enough level of comprehension as Aquinas compares that an uneducated farm worker would not understand the vast philosophical intellect of a scholar.

The cultural aspects reflected in the play mirror those of religion that are brought out in Aquinas’s writing.  Both are used to understand the cultural implications of the thirteenth century and what people were going through at that time.  The thought process is greatly evolving during this period of time and opening up a wider perspective for people.

~ by wolfangel87 on February 1, 2011.

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