Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dante” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  186 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Only R.W.B. Lewis-the renowned biographer and author of The City of Florence-could write so insightfully about Dante Alighieri, Florence's famous son. In Dante he traces the life and complex development-emotional, artistic, philosophical-of this supreme poet-historian, from his wanderings through Tuscan hills and splendid churches to his days as a young soldier fighting fo ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published June 25th 2001 by Viking Adult (first published 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Dante, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Dante

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Alex Kartelias
Jan 31, 2016 Alex Kartelias rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, middle-ages
Read this just to get a more broad summary of his life for the context of his Divine Comedy. The details can get trivial, but still an excellent book: may Dante's legacy live on.
Nov 10, 2013 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dante: A Life is an informative little biography whose focus is on the historic events surrounding Dante's life and their impact on his literary work (with an emphasis on the Divine Comedy). As a result, this works much better as a companion work to understanding references made in the Divine Comedy then a proper biography. Not much is blatantly shown about Dante the person, and the only sense we have of him as such is mostly through his reactions to events, past and contemporary.

This is import
Evan Hays
May 11, 2013 Evan Hays rated it it was amazing
Jay Jacoby, a man whose literary tastes I greatly value and a medievalist no less, told me to read this before I tried reading the Divine Comedy. I am very glad that I started here. The author has a knack for being concise yet also packing in a lot of good information. What became clear through reading this book is that Dante was an incredibly well read man, who poured years of study and thought into the comedy. So beyond the poetic beauty of the work, there are references upon references to und ...more
I would have liked this book better if I hadn't expected it to just be a biography.

This is part biography, part history, and part commentary on the Divine Comedy.

There were repetitive aspects to the commentary that I didn't think added to the biography. The history was a bit convoluted as people were mentioned and then immediately explained for a ways before going back to the original point of the section. This would have been fine, except that the people didn't really matter that much when firs
Bill Glover
Jun 01, 2015 Bill Glover rated it liked it
This book focuses on what can be said about the life of Dante through the lens of 13th century Italian political factionalism. Lewis draws a bit more detail around key events like the battle of Montaperti and the struggles of Guelphs and Ghibellines. Dante, arguably Italy's greatest writer and one of it's greatest minds aligns himself with the Guelphs, the party that opposes Germanic royal ties and sides with the Pope. Among the Guelphs he is a 'white', opposing Papal rule. Eventually he turns h ...more
Jan 07, 2009 BurgendyA rated it liked it
This book called attention when I saw it in the library shelf. My brothers and friends suggested Dante's "Devine Comendy". So I decided to read the bio before I read Devine Comedy.

I just finished reading it yesterday. It very interesting but also pretty long & boring. The story of Dante's life in this book mostly reflect on his excile. Not so much in his for early beginnings from birth,childhood and love seemed.

I must admit that some of the inspiration of Dante Alighieri was express in
Brenda Clough
Nov 25, 2013 Brenda Clough rated it liked it
Biographies of writers are always fun for writers -- not sure how useful they are for the rest of humanity. Dante is particularly difficult because there is so relatively little known about him -- nothing exists in his own hand, for instance. This is an excellent work to begin on, covering most of what is known about the poet and avoiding all the jungles of speculation (of which there are many, I am reliably informed).

I read this for research purposes, and am almost more interested in what is NO
Jun 13, 2011 Tim rated it it was amazing
A concise and wise biography. While there are a lot of Italian names to remember, Lewis tells a compelling story weaving together Dante's life with his major works. Good to get a review of the Commedia and read just a bit about both the theological influences on Dante and his widespread literary influence. I also appreciated the brief quotations from Dante's works in both Italian and English translation.
May 31, 2009 Bill rated it it was ok
A workman like biography without any surprise revelations. But what does come through, at least to me, is that Dante profited creatively from his exile and I wonder that if he was able to remain in Florence whether his involvement with daily life and politics would have eroded his creativity. In addition, we learn that banishment was a popular punishment and that many citizens of various Italian cities were banished. Most famously Shakespeare's account of Romeo & Juliet.
Margaret Heller
Aug 31, 2010 Margaret Heller rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, history
This was a gentle literary biography of Dante. I've been trying to get up to speed on medieval European literature (oddly enough that's part of my job), and this helped me understand Dante's context and writing. There were parts that were repetitive-- reminders that didn't need to be there, but in general a pleasant way to find out more about Dante. Also same narrator as the BOT Name of the Rose, so made total auditory sense.
Sep 30, 2015 Igor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, dante
Really wonderful. Dante's life, work, about politics in that time and what led to his exile from Florence... Oh, the Florence, such a pain to never get back...
"He sleeps under another sky than thine, nor mayst thou think ever to see him more, except on that day in which thou shalt see all thy citizens, and their sins weighed and punished by a just judge." (Boccaccio)

It's easy to recommend this book as it contains everything you might want to know about sommo poeta before reading his work.
Dec 14, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is really a dual biography. It's not just a biography of Dante Aleghieri, but also of his most famous work, the Divine Comedy. By necessity it doesn't dig very deep into the subject matter - it's a short book, and not THAT much is know about Dante's life - but it gives a good overview, also touching on Florentine and Italian politics and showing how pivotal a work the Comedy was and is.

Ben De Bono
This is fine as a basic overview of Dante's life, but much of it feels like little more than a rehash of parts of the autobiographical parts of his own work. That's not necessarily the author's fault - there aren't significant sources on Dante's life outside of what he wrote about himself - but it still feels quite redundant for those who have read Vita Nuova and the Commedia
Apr 13, 2014 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just wonderful. A great mix of analysis of Dante's work and the surrounding personal and political context. Late medieval Italian politics is insanely complex, but this book did a good job of making it just understandable enough. I wish I had found it before my last re-reading of the Divine Comedy because now I have to read it again!
Malcolm Yarnell
Dec 15, 2013 Malcolm Yarnell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A flowing introduction to the life, context, and thought of Italy's greatest poet. For the theologian, Dante is a great introduction to medieval Catholicism. The Divine Comedy presents a comprehensive and compelling narrative for reality, and Lewis packages that narrative well.
Nov 29, 2011 Ramzi is currently reading it
Book #21 in the shelf experiment
May 11, 2012 James rated it liked it
Spends too much time writing about Dante's influence of other writers (who I don't care about).
Stacy Bearse
Nov 02, 2013 Stacy Bearse rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
More information on Dante's opus, The Divine Comedy, than on the man himself. Still, this is a meticulously researched work with strong academic appeal.
May 09, 2011 Rachel rated it liked it
Apr 26, 2011 Einschrein rated it liked it
Light, basic, nothing new or special here.
Feb 02, 2010 Steve rated it did not like it
I'm being generous when I say this book totally sucks.
Rick Davis
R. W. B. Lewis combines biography with a survey of Dante's literary works in a lively and highly readable introduction to the greatest writer who ever lived.
Feb 15, 2010 Jeremy rated it liked it
Interesting book on Dante's life and how his development from child to adult greatly impacted his warped view of life. Had a lot of good lines from some of Dante's most famous books.
Laroy Viviane
Aug 09, 2016 Laroy Viviane rated it really liked it
Biographie efficace de Dante. En effet, celle-ci met bien en perspective la vie et l'époque de l'auteur, ses interrogations et cheminements. Le tout parsemé d'extraits des textes de Dante lui-même.
Ashley Adams
4 stars to set it apart from other biographical material on Dante. Lewis' treatment is compact, concise and relevant. Nice.
Benjamin rated it really liked it
Mar 16, 2012
Seth Forwood
Seth Forwood rated it it was amazing
Aug 09, 2015
Guillaume rated it it was ok
Sep 29, 2012
john rated it it was ok
May 24, 2007
Igor rated it liked it
Sep 01, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Saint Augustine
  • Dante: Poet of the Secular World
  • Mozart: A Life
  • Pope John XXIII: A Penguin Life (Penguin Lives)
  • The Life and Times of Chaucer
  • Charles Dickens
  • Andy Warhol
  • Robert E. Lee
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Crazy Horse: A Life
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Life
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Nero
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Simone Weil
  • Life of Dante
  • The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith
  • Martin Luther
Richard Warrington Baldwin Lewis was an American literary scholar and critic who won a Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1976.
More about R.W.B. Lewis...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »