Marco Santagata’s ‘Dante: The Story of His Life’ illuminates one of the world’s supreme poets from many angles—writer, philosopher, father, courtier, political partisan. Santagata brings together a vast body of Italian scholarship on Dante’s medieval world, untangles a complex web of family and political relationships, and shows how the composition of the ‘Commedia’ was influenced by local and regional politics.
Santagata traces Dante’s attempts to establish himself in Florentine society as a man of both letters and action. Most importantly, Santagata highlights Dante’s constant need to readjust his political stance—his involvement with the pro-Papacy Guelph faction as well as his network of patrons—in response to unfolding events. Linking these shifts to the changing ethical and political convictions expressed in the ‘Commedia’, Santagata reveals the paradoxical achievement of Dante’s masterpiece: a unified, universal poem nonetheless intimately entwined with the day-to-day dealings of its author.