What Is the Genre of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy?

ABSTRACT:  The Divine Comedy genre is Epic Poetry written by Dante Aleghieri in 1321 to promote political salvation by returning to a benevolent dictator such as Caesar Augustus.  To better understand it, we might consider our own situation in 21st Century America.   We are ruled by a government that talks about peace, but provokes endless strife around the world. All in the name of defending Democracy.  It’s to the point where the only option we have for relief from the judgment that God is bringing upon America is a return to the original Book of the Covenant given to Moses in Exodus 20-24.  Nothing else will suffice. No amount of tinkering around the edges will satisfy God’s Divine justice.

This section of scripture is  actually called the Book of the Covenant in Exodus 24:7 – NOT only the 10 Commandments, but the 3 chapters of ordinances that follow.   God’s law is so simple even children were commanded to hear and understand it, but today we follow “the statutes of Omri and all the works of the house of Ahab…..and in their devices we walk. Therefore, I will give you up for destruction. And your inhabitants for derision….” (Micah 6:16).  We’ve added reams of legal devices and documents…to the point we’ve excluded the law of God and treat it “as a strange thing,” according to Hosea 8:12.

I. The Benevolent Dictator

1. Pax Romana

Dante faced similar problems of unrest in the 13th Century with constant warfare among the Italian city-states. Each had their own parochial interests.  Dante’s solution was a one-world empire, similar to that pursued by America’s so-called deep-state today.  So we might say that Dante was like the Klaus Schwab of the 13th Century, but probably not quite as ugly. 

The church in Dante’s day was little more than another secular power trying to impose its will by the sword.  Thus, he longed for the “Pax Romana” of Imperial Rome under Augustus Caesar to be restored in the Holy Roman Empire.  Some Christian authors like to romanticize The Divine Comedy genre as “an ascent to love,” but it’s not that at all.  It’s an allegory of works righteousness and political salvation.

Dante’s call for revival of a unitary Roman state is the more remarkable when we consider that his birth in 1265 followed the death of Frederick II by a mere 15 years.  Frederick II was the last of a series of “so-called” Christian tyrants who dominated the 12th Century in their development of secular law codes. Known as “the wonder of the world,”

2. Frederick II

If anybody personified Dante’s revival of a Roman strongman it was Frederick II.  He was the self-styled god walking on earth, yet his reign ended in utter tyranny.     Thus, Dante’s Divine Comedy genre represents the triumph of poetry and art above raw power. He does this in his exaltation of the Savior State over a church reduced to a spiritual role as taught by St Francis of Assisi who died in 1226. 

So we’re approaching the Renaissance now, spanning the years of 1300 to 1400.  Petrarch set the stage in the early 1300s with his poetry and translation of ancient texts.  Petrarch was the Morning Star of the Renaissance in the same way that Wycliffe was the Morning Star of the Reformation.  Huge changes came with the Black Death of about 1350, which wiped out about ¼ to ½ of Europe.  Prices were high because labor was scarce. Former serfs in the feudal system now commanded more respect and compensation. 

This is why we know the so-called pandemic of 2020 was a total fake because there was no such dip in the population whatsoever.  The total decline in number of other respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis was virtually identical to the number of COVID deaths. So we know it was noting but a massive relabeling campaign to generate fear and drive many to take the vaccine bioweapons.

II. Reason and Romance As Political Guides in the Divine Comedy Genre

Dante (1265-1321) was born in Florence, Italy. He served in the city Councils, although later exiled.  The historical context for Dante’s Inferno is the centuries-long war between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, over whether the emperor or the pope should have more power. In 1309 we also have Pope Clement V moving the papacy to Avignon, France until 1377 due to feuds among the Italian cardinals and their allies.   He wrote several books on political theory, best known of which is The Divine Comedy, published in 1321. In it he eulogized his infatuation with Beatrice, a woman he met briefly in the street.  “Love with delight discourses in my mind / Upon my lady’s admirable gifts / Beyond the range of human intellect.”

So Beatrice and Virgil become Dante’s guide through Hell, purgatory and Heaven. To add a little color, we note that Dante struggled to find a benefactor. He lived for some years with his patron, in company of an arrogant jester. The latter, was well paid for foolish jesting and buffoonery. One day he asked Dante, “How is it that I, who am so ignorant and foolish, should be so rich and favored, while you, who are so learned and wise, should be a beggar?” Dante replied, “The reason is that you have found a lord who resembles you, and when I find one who resembles me, I shall no doubt be as rich as you are.” 

Dante’s Divine Comedy genre is colored by his political experiences. He was born into the anti-Imperial Guelf party in Florence, at war with the pro-Imperial Ghibelline party of Pisa. After they won, the Guelfs exiled Dante due to his pro-Imperial opinions.  The first cancel culture on record.  In Paris, his conversion to the pro-Imperial, Ghibellines matured. 

His great political work, De Monarchia (1311),  defended that cause. As the Renaissance unfolded, a corrupt Papacy tightened its grip on the churches and city-states. The Holy Roman Empire, under Henry VII of Germany, also wanted to control the feuding Italian cities. Dante wrote to oppose Papal hypocrisy and set forth his solution to the feuding.  He wanted a revival of the Imperial Roman Empire, with Augustus in charge.  Apparently he forgot the part about Tiberius, Nero, Caligula & others.

III. The Divine Right of Kings

So what were the implications?  Dante provided a major boost to the development of the powerful secular state, independent of divine restraint.  This stems back to the separation of church and state in the Papal revolution of 1075-1122.  Paradoxically, he taught that the more powerful the state, the more secure is liberty in the context of societal order.   Dante’s elegant work prefigured Richard Hooker. 

Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1594) gave a theological basis for “Divine Right of Kings.”  This appealed to 17th Century British monarchs. Dante called for a unitary inter-national state ruling apart from the Bible.  This resonated with the political striving of demagogues emerging from the Papal Revolution.  Dante would have smiled at the 20th Century drive for one-world rule in the United Nations. He backed a two-kingdom theory to divorce civil power from God.

Dante believes that a world-wide monarchy under a single head is the ideal form of civil government. According to Dante, only such a “benevolent dictator” can keep the peace between the parochial interests and petty squabbling of the multitude of local governments. This of course is what we had under Augustus Caesar.   Julius Caesar had been a more or less out of control playboy with claims of diety. This led led to his assignation.  His adopted nephew, Augustus came in after his death with a firm, but seemingly benevolent hand to restore order.  He claimed that his strong monarchial rule was in fact necessary to restore the ancient republic.  The pastoral poetry of Virgil reinforced the perception which is why Dante chose him as his guide.

IV. The Tower of Babel

So the obvious question is,  Is a temporal monarchy “necessary for the welfare of the world?” Was Dante correct in asserting that “democracies, oligarchies, and tyrannies, drive mankind into slavery”?  According to Dante’s Divine Comedy genre, any form other than monarchy – democracy, oligarchy, tyranny—will degenerate to slavery. Only an enlightened, monarchial strongman is capable of preserving man’s true freedom. It is indeed the case that democracies and oligarchies digress eventually to slavery, but this is no less true of monarchy.

Any form that rejects the law of God is intrinsically tyrannical. Monarchy, because of its lack of checks and balances, is perhaps most susceptible of all to producing slavery. Many examples could be cited, including Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Alexander of Greece. Thus, we have to object to Dante’s assertion that monarchy is “necessary for the welfare of the world.”  Dante overlooked or ignored the Tower of Babel, where God scattered the nations and confused their tongues for this very reason. Only when the nations are united under Christ as Lord of the nations will that level of unity and liberty under law be restored.  In Psalm Two God has given Christ the nations as inheritance

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