Cavalcanti, Guido

Cavalcanti, Guido
(ca. 1259–1300)
   The true founder of the DOLCE STIL NOVO (“sweet new style”) school of poetry and DANTE’s closest friend, the poet Guido Cavalcanti was, more than anyone else, the person responsible for the “sweet new style” that Dante followed and then transcended in his DIVINE COMEDY. The style, characterized by a philosophical approach and learned imagery, is represented most manifestly in Cavalcanti’s great CANZONE, DONNA ME PREGA (A lady asks me). Guido was born in 1259 or before—he is known to have been at least six years Dante’s senior— to a wealthy merchant family of Florence.His father, Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti, was a prominent Guelf (a member of the party that supported the pope in Italian politics). He betrothed his son to Bice, daughter of the Ghibelline captain Farinata (the Ghibellines were the aristocratic party that supported the emperor) to help seal the peace between the two factions in the late 1260s, and in 1280 Guido was named as a guarantor of the peace arranged by Cardinal Latini. A prominent public figure, Guido was elected a member of the General Council of the Commune of Florence in 1284, and was reelected in 1290. But by this time a split had occurred within the Guelf party of Florence, and bitter, even violent, political feuds were raging between the Blacks (generally representing the old money, banking, and imperial interests) and the Whites (who represented trade interests and the peace faction). Corso Donati, leader of the Blacks (and Dante’s brother-in-law), was an unscrupulous politician: Cavalcanti, an outspoken White, was the target of an assassination attempt while he was on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. On June 24, 1300, in an attempt to deal with the violence in the city, the six priors of the commune (who were the chief magistrates of the city) decided to sentence the leaders of both sides to exile. Cavalcanti, along with Donati and other prominent citizens, was forced to go into exile at Sarzana. It was a particularly bitter pill to swallow since Dante himself was serving as one of the priors at the time. Cavalcanti’s sentence was revoked the following month, but Cavalcanti was not to return — he died in Sarzana at the end of August. Dante’s friendship with Cavalcanti dates certainly from at least the early 1280s. Dante was influenced strongly by Guido’s poetry, and thought of him as the “father” of modern love poetry in the vernacular. He and Cavalcanti exchanged several sonnets on a variety of topics, and Dante dedicated the VITA NUOVA to him, calling Cavalcanti “primo amico,” that is, “my first friend.” Dante’s puzzling lack of reference to Cavalcanti in the Divine Comedy, however, has caused some scholars to wonder whether their friendship had cooled before Cavalcanti’s death: The only reference to Guido is in canto X of the Inferno, when Dante speaks with Guido’s father in the circle of heretics, and mentions that perhaps Guido held Virgil “in scorn.” Possibly Dante’s part in Guido’s banishment had strained their friendship. Or perhaps Dante was simply writing a new kind of poetry that went beyond Guido’s, and therefore does not invoke him.
   In any case, while he was alive, Guido’s influence over Dante, and over Italian lyric poetry in general was tremendous. He has left 52 poems (SONNETS, canzoni, songs, and other genres). All display his characteristic style, which was forged largely in contrast with the Tuscan style of GUITTONE D’AREZZO, which Cavalcanti saw as vulgar and overwrought rhetorically. He returned to a simpler and more direct lyric style rhetorically, but at the same time introduced very difficult imagery drawn from philosophy, science, psychology, medicine— a variety of learned traditions.
   Cavalcanti’s influence has been admired even into modern times. The 20th-century American poet Ezra Pound thought Cavalcanti a brilliant psychologist regarding love and its effects, and translated a number of his poems into English.
   ■ Anderson, David. Pound’s Cavalcanti: An Edition of the Translations, Notes, and Essays. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983.
   ■ Ardizzone,Maria Luisa. Guido Cavalcanti: The Other Middle Ages. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.
   ■ Goldin, Frederick, trans. German and Italian Lyrics of the Middle Ages: An Anthology and a History. New York: Doubleday, 1973.
   ■ Nelson, Lowry, Jr., ed. and trans. The Poetry of Guido Cavalcanti. New York: Garland Press, 1986.
   ■ Shaw, James E.Guido Cavalcanti’s Theory of Love: TheCanzone d’Amoreand Other Related Problems. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1949.
   ■ Valency, Maurice. In Praise of Love. New York: Macmillan, 1958.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cavalcanti, Guido — born с 1255, Florence died Aug. 27/28, 1300, Florence Italian poet. Born into an influential Florentine family, he studied with the philosopher and scholar Brunetto Latini, who had earlier taught Dante, Cavalcanti s close friend. After Dante, he… …   Universalium

  • Cavalcanti, Guido — ► (1260 1300) Poeta y filósofo italiano encuadrado en el dolce stil nuovo. Es famosa su canción Donna me prega …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • Guido Cavalcanti — (Florencia, ca. 1250 – ibídem, 29 de agosto de 1300), poeta italiano, fue uno de los creadores del Dolce stil novo, junto con su amigo y admirador Dante Alighieri. Fue uno de los dirigentes del partido güelfo, enfrentado al de los gibelinos, y… …   Wikipedia Español

  • CAVALCANTI (G.) — CAVALCANTI GUIDO (1255 env. 1300) Poète du dolce stil novo appelé par Dante «le premier de mes amis», Cavalcanti naît à Florence d’une noble famille guelfe. Il se mêle aux luttes politiques qui divisent alors la ville, prenant le parti des… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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  • Cavalcánti — Cavalcánti, Guido, ital. Philosoph und Dichter, aus Florenz, gest. das. 1300, Freund Dantes, Guelfe; schrieb Kanzonen (»Donna mi prega«, neu hg. 1890), Balladen u.a., »Rime« (1881). – Vgl. Salvadori (1895) …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Cavalcanti — Cavalcanti, Guido, gest. um 1300 zu Florenz, lyrischer Dichter, Freund Dantes u. wie dieser Ghibelline. Seine Gedichte »Rime« wurden zuletzt 1813 zu Florenz herausgegeben. – C. Giovanni, Verfasser »der Florentinischen Geschichten von 1420–52«… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

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  • Guido Cavalcanti — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Cavalcanti. Guido Cavalcanti (Florence, v. 1250 Florence, 1300) était un poète florentin du XIIIe siècle. Biographie Dante mentionne souvent Guido Cavalcanti comme « le premier de ses amis ». Tous… …   Wikipédia en Français

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