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6 - Dante and Florence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2006

Rachel Jacoff
Affiliation:
Wellesley College, Massachusetts
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Summary

DANTE'S ANGRY denunciation of Florence and the Florentines is one of the memorable themes of the Divina Commedia. Repeatedly in the great poem, and in several of his letters, Dante excoriated the Florentines for the violence, factionalism, and instability of their politics, for their excessive pursuit and consumption of wealth, and, worst of all, for their criminal resistance to what he considered the divinely ordained authority of the Roman emperor. Because we know so little of Dante's political views and opinions about Florence before his exile in 1302, it is tempting to use the fact of the exile and Dante's emotional reaction to it as a way of explaining his harsh critique of his own city. While there is no doubt much truth in such an approach, it is equally important to grasp the influence on Dante of the traditions of political and historical thought that emerged in Florence during the course of the thirteenth century, and in particular of the ideas associated with movements of popular opposition to the traditional dominance of the elite of upper-class families.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1993

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