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Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College. He is a published poet who has written numerous scholarly articles on Renaissance and medieval literature. He is the author of Peppers, a book of poetry, and his translations include Lucretius’s De rerum natura and Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata, along with Dante’s Inferno, published by the Modern Library.
Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet whose masterpiece The Divine Comedy has exerted a profound influence on Western thought, was born in Florence in May 1265. He entered public life in 1295, later becoming one of the six governing magistrates of Florence. He repeatedly opposed the machinations of Pope Boniface VIII, who was attempting to place all of Tuscany under Papal control, and in 1301 was banished from Florence on trumped-up charges. Dante would never enter his native city again, spending his remaining years with a series of patrons in various courts in Italy. He completed The Divine Comedy shortly before his death in September 1321.