Died: September 1321 (Malaria)
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Best known as: The author of The Divine Comedy
An exiled and wandering figure during his writing lifetime, Dante is now considered Italy's greatest poet -- so much a literary giant that he is generally known by his first name alone. The Divine Comedy, by far his most famous work, is the story of a journey through Hell, Purgatory and finally Paradise. (The journey through Hell is often referred to independently as "Dante's Inferno.") In the poem the first two stages are guided by the Roman poet Virgil, and the final visit to Paradise is led by a woman named Beatrice -- a girl Dante met briefly when he was nine and whom he idolized the rest of his life. The Divine Comedy is the source of many famous classical images, inspiring works by William Blake and others, and is famous for its inscription on the gates of Hell: "All hope abandon, ye who enter here."
Extra credit: Dante named his work La commedia, or The Comedy. After his death others added "Divine" to make it La divina commedia.
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