“Dante Alighieri died on September 14, 700 years ago. You could ask why this should be noted; why it should be at all important? What follows is an attempt to answer that question. As I hope you will see, Dante is important; art is important; life must be examined.
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“[A]lthough Boccaccio revered Dante, and Dante wrote in the Florentine vernacular, Dante Alighieri was different. He was from a slightly earlier generation. Boccaccio was just eight when Dante died. And the Commedia is completely a work of Dante’s imagination and his lived experience. It is not recycled stories. Yes, he draws on philosophical, and more importantly, theological concepts for his construction of Purgatorio (where Aquinas is important) Inferno and Paradiso, but the fabulous construction of the nether-world is his alone, and it is populated by historical figures or by Dante’s contemporaries. They all receive their punishment or reward according to his moral judgement of them as he journeys through Purgatory and Hell, first guided by Virgil, then – at last, in Paradise – by his platonic love and muse, Beatrice. Dante meets everyone and sees their torment, their equanimity or their reward.
The really important moral message of the Commedia, for me, is that actions matter. You will be judged, so try to do good. [. . .]” –James Parker, Forty South Tasmania, Sep. 30, 2021
James Parker is a Tasmanian historian and is the creator of the Van Diemen Decameron. Read his full essay here.