The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy

Overview

The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri
Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

 between 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature
Italian literature
Italian literature is literature written in the Italian language, particularly within Italy. It may also refer to literature written by Italians or in Italy in other languages spoken in Italy, often languages that are closely related to modern Italian....

, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature
World literature
World literature refers to literature from all over the world, including African literature, American literature, Arabic literature, Asian literature, Australasian literature, Caribbean Literature, English literature, European literature, Indian literature, Latin American literature, Persian...

. The poem's imaginative and allegorical
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 vision of the afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

 is a culmination of the medieval world-view
Medieval philosophy
Medieval philosophy is the philosophy in the era now known as medieval or the Middle Ages, the period roughly extending from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century AD to the Renaissance in the sixteenth century...

 as it had developed in the Western Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. It helped establish the Tuscan dialect
Tuscan dialect
The Tuscan language , or the Tuscan dialect is an Italo-Dalmatian language spoken in Tuscany, Italy.Standard Italian is based on Tuscan, specifically on its Florentine variety...

, in which it is written, as the standardized Italian language
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

. It is divided into three parts, the Inferno
Inferno (Dante)
Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is an allegory telling of the journey of Dante through what is largely the medieval concept of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as...

, Purgatorio
Purgatorio
Purgatorio is the second part of Dante's Divine Comedy, following the Inferno, and preceding the Paradiso. The poem was written in the early 14th century. It is an allegory telling of the climb of Dante up the Mount of Purgatory, guided by the Roman poet Virgil...

, and Paradiso
Paradiso (Dante)
Paradiso is the third and final part of Dante's Divine Comedy, following the Inferno and the Purgatorio. It is an allegory telling of Dante's journey through Heaven, guided by Beatrice, who symbolises theology...

.

On the surface, the poem describes Dante's travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven; but at a deeper level, it represents allegorically
Allegory in the Middle Ages
Allegory in the Middle Ages was a vital element in the synthesis of Biblical and Classical traditions into what would become recognizable as Medieval culture...

 the soul's journey towards God.
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The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri
Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

 between 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature
Italian literature
Italian literature is literature written in the Italian language, particularly within Italy. It may also refer to literature written by Italians or in Italy in other languages spoken in Italy, often languages that are closely related to modern Italian....

, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature
World literature
World literature refers to literature from all over the world, including African literature, American literature, Arabic literature, Asian literature, Australasian literature, Caribbean Literature, English literature, European literature, Indian literature, Latin American literature, Persian...

. The poem's imaginative and allegorical
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 vision of the afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

 is a culmination of the medieval world-view
Medieval philosophy
Medieval philosophy is the philosophy in the era now known as medieval or the Middle Ages, the period roughly extending from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century AD to the Renaissance in the sixteenth century...

 as it had developed in the Western Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. It helped establish the Tuscan dialect
Tuscan dialect
The Tuscan language , or the Tuscan dialect is an Italo-Dalmatian language spoken in Tuscany, Italy.Standard Italian is based on Tuscan, specifically on its Florentine variety...

, in which it is written, as the standardized Italian language
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

. It is divided into three parts, the Inferno
Inferno (Dante)
Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is an allegory telling of the journey of Dante through what is largely the medieval concept of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as...

, Purgatorio
Purgatorio
Purgatorio is the second part of Dante's Divine Comedy, following the Inferno, and preceding the Paradiso. The poem was written in the early 14th century. It is an allegory telling of the climb of Dante up the Mount of Purgatory, guided by the Roman poet Virgil...

, and Paradiso
Paradiso (Dante)
Paradiso is the third and final part of Dante's Divine Comedy, following the Inferno and the Purgatorio. It is an allegory telling of Dante's journey through Heaven, guided by Beatrice, who symbolises theology...

.

On the surface, the poem describes Dante's travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven; but at a deeper level, it represents allegorically
Allegory in the Middle Ages
Allegory in the Middle Ages was a vital element in the synthesis of Biblical and Classical traditions into what would become recognizable as Medieval culture...

 the soul's journey towards God. At this deeper level, Dante draws on medieval Christian theology and philosophy, especially Thomistic philosophy
Thomism
Thomism is the philosophical school that arose as a legacy of the work and thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, philosopher, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. In philosophy, his commentaries on Aristotle are his most lasting contribution...

 and the Summa Theologica
Summa Theologica
The Summa Theologiæ is the best-known work of Thomas Aquinas , and although unfinished, "one of the classics of the history of philosophy and one of the most influential works of Western literature." It is intended as a manual for beginners in theology and a compendium of all of the main...

 of Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

. Consequently, the Divine Comedy has been called "the Summa in verse."

The work was originally simply titled Comedìa and was later christened Divina by Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian author and poet, a friend, student, and correspondent of Petrarch, an important Renaissance humanist and the author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular...

. The first printed edition to add the word divine to the title was that of the Venetian humanist
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

 Lodovico Dolce
Lodovico Dolce
Lodovico Dolce was an Italian theorist of painting. He was a broadly-based Venetian humanist and prolific author, translator and editor; he is now remembered for his Dialogue on Painting.-Biography:...

, published in 1555 by Gabriele Giolito de' Ferrari
Gabriele Giolito de' Ferrari
Gabriele Giolito de' Ferrari was a 16th century Italian printer active in Venice. He was one of the first major publishers of literature in the vernacular Italian language.-Early life and career:...

.

Structure and story



The Divine Comedy is composed of 14,233 lines that are divided into three canticas (Ital. pl. cantiche)—Inferno (Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

), Purgatorio (Purgatory
Purgatory
Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven...

), and Paradiso (Paradise
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

)—each consisting of 33 canto
Canto
The canto is a principal form of division in a long poem, especially the epic. The word comes from Italian, meaning "song" or singing. Famous examples of epic poetry which employ the canto division are Lord Byron's Don Juan, Valmiki's Ramayana , Dante's The Divine Comedy , and Ezra Pound's The...

s (Ital. pl. canti). An initial canto serves as an introduction to the poem and is generally considered to be part of the first cantica, bringing the total number of cantos to 100. It is generally accepted, however, that the first two canto
Canto
The canto is a principal form of division in a long poem, especially the epic. The word comes from Italian, meaning "song" or singing. Famous examples of epic poetry which employ the canto division are Lord Byron's Don Juan, Valmiki's Ramayana , Dante's The Divine Comedy , and Ezra Pound's The...

s serve as a unitary prologue to the entire epic, as well as the opening two cantos of each cantica serving as a prologue to each of the three cantiche. The number three is prominent in the work, represented here by the length of each cantica. The verse scheme used, terza rima
Terza rima
Terza rima is a rhyming verse stanza form that consists of an interlocking three-line rhyme scheme. It was first used by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri.-Form:Terza rima is a three-line stanza using chain rhyme in the pattern A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C, D-E-D...

, is hendecasyllabic (lines of eleven syllables), with the lines composing tercet
Tercet
A tercet is composed of three lines of poetry, forming a stanza or a complete poem. English-language haiku is an example of an unrhymed tercet poem...

s according to the rhyme scheme
Rhyme scheme
A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyme between lines of a poem or song. It is usually referred to by using letters to indicate which lines rhyme. In other words, it is the pattern of end rhymes or lines...

 aba, bcb, cdc, ded, ....

The poem is written in the first person, and tells of Dante's journey through the three realms of the dead, lasting from the night before Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

 to the Wednesday after Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

 in the spring of 1300. The Roman poet Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 guides him through Hell and Purgatory; Beatrice
Beatrice Portinari
Beatrice "Bice" di Folco Portinari was a Florentine woman known as the muse of the poet Dante Alighieri. Beatrice was the principal inspiration for Dante's Vita Nuova, and also appears as his guide in the Divine Comedy in the last book, Paradiso, and in the last four canti of Purgatorio...

, Dante's ideal woman, guides him through Heaven. Beatrice was a Florentine woman whom he had met in childhood and admired from afar in the mode of the then-fashionable courtly love
Courtly love
Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration. Generally, courtly love was secret and between members of the nobility. It was also generally not practiced between husband and wife....

 tradition which is highlighted in Dante's earlier work La Vita Nuova
La Vita Nuova
La Vita Nuova is a medieval text written by Dante Alighieri in 1295. It is an expression of the medieval genre of courtly love in a prosimetrum style, a combination of both prose and verse...

.

The structure of the three realms follows a common numerical pattern of 9 plus 1 for a total of 10: 9 circles of the Inferno, followed by Lucifer contained at its bottom; 9 rings of Mount Purgatory, followed by the Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

 crowning its summit; and the 9 celestial bodies of Paradiso, followed by the Empyrean
Empyrean
Empyrean, from the Medieval Latin empyreus, an adaptation of the Ancient Greek ἔμπυρος empyrus "in or on the fire ", properly Empyrean Heaven, is the place in the highest heaven, which in ancient cosmologies was supposed to be occupied by the element of fire .-Use in literature:The Empyrean was...

 containing the very essence of God. Within the 9, 7 correspond to a specific moral scheme, subdividing itself into three subcategories, while two others of more particularity are added on for a completion of nine. For example, the seven deadly sins
Seven deadly sins
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

 of the Catholic Church that are cleansed in Purgatory are joined by special realms for the Late repentant and the excommunicated
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 by the church. The core seven sins within purgatory correspond to a moral scheme of love perverted, subdivided into three groups corresponding to excessive love (Lust
Lust
Lust is an emotional force that is directly associated with the thinking or fantasizing about one's desire, usually in a sexual way.-Etymology:The word lust is phonetically similar to the ancient Roman lustrum, which literally meant "purification"...

, Gluttony
Gluttony
Gluttony, derived from the Latin gluttire meaning to gulp down or swallow, means over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, intoxicants or wealth items to the point of extravagance or waste...

, Greed
Greed
Greed is an excessive desire to possess wealth, goods, or abstract things of value with the intention to keep it for one's self. Greed is inappropriate expectation...

), deficient love (Sloth
Sloth (deadly sin)
In the Christian moral tradition, sloth is one of the seven capital sins, often called the seven deadly sins; these sins are called sins because they supposedly destroy the charity in a person's heart and thus may lead to eternal death.-Definition:Sloth is defined as spiritual or emotional...

), and malicious love (Wrath, Envy
Envy
Envy is best defined as a resentful emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."...

, Pride
Pride
Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotation, pride refers to an inflated sense of one's personal status or accomplishments, often used synonymously with hubris...

).

In central Italy's political struggle between Guelphs and Ghibellines
Guelphs and Ghibellines
The Guelphs and Ghibellines were factions supporting the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, respectively, in central and northern Italy. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the split between these two parties was a particularly important aspect of the internal policy of the Italian city-states...

, Dante was part of the Guelphs, who in general favored the Papacy over the Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

. Florence's Guelphs split into factions around 1300, the White Guelphs, and the Black Guelphs. Dante was among the White Guelphs who were exiled in 1302 by the Lord-Mayor Cante de' Gabrielli
Gabrielli
220px|right|The Gabrielli Madonna, by Mello da Gubbio. Gubbio, Pinacoteca Civica.Giovanni Gabrielli, lord of Gubbio, is introduced to the Blessed Virgin Mary by a group of Saints...

 di Gubbio
Gubbio
Gubbio is a town and comune in the far northeastern part of the Italian province of Perugia . It is located on the lowest slope of Mt. Ingino, a small mountain of the Apennines. See also Mount Ingino Christmas Tree.-History:...

, after troops under Charles of Valois
Charles of Valois
Charles of Valois was the fourth son of Philip III of France and Isabella of Aragon. His mother was a daughter of James I of Aragon and Yolande of Hungary. He was a member of the House of Capet and founded the House of Valois...

 entered the city, at the request of Pope Boniface VIII, who supported the Black Guelphs. This exile, which lasted the rest of Dante's life, shows its influence in many parts of the Comedy, from prophecies of Dante's exile to Dante's views of politics to the eternal damnation of some of his opponents.

In Hell and Purgatory, Dante shares in the sin
Sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

 and the penitence respectively. The last word in each of the three parts of the Divine Comedy is stelle, "stars."

Inferno




The poem begins on the night before Good Friday in the year 1300, "halfway along our life's path" (Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita). Dante is thirty-five years old, half of the biblical life expectancy of 70 (Psalms
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 90:10), lost in a dark wood
Forest
A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. As with cities, depending where you are in the world, what is considered a forest may vary significantly in size and have various classification according to how and what of the forest is composed...

 (understood as sin), assailed by beasts (a lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

, a leopard
Leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

, and a she-wolf) he cannot evade, and unable to find the "straight way" (diritta via) – also translatable as "right way" – to salvation (symbolized by the sun behind the mountain). Conscious that he is ruining himself and that he is falling into a "deep place" (basso loco) where the sun is silent (l sol tace), Dante is at last rescued by Virgil, and the two of them begin their journey to the underworld. Each sin's punishment in Inferno is a contrapasso
Contrapasso
Contrapasso refers to the punishment of souls in Dante's Inferno, "by a process either resembling or contrasting with the sin itself." A similar process, though a penitential one, occurs in the Purgatorio.One of many examples of contrapasso occurs in the 4th Bolgia , where the sorcerers,...

, a symbolic instance of poetic justice
Poetic justice
Poetic justice is a literary device in which virtue is ultimately rewarded or vice punished, often in modern literature by an ironic twist of fate intimately related to the character's own conduct.- Origin of the term :...

; for example, fortune-tellers have to walk with their heads on backwards, unable to see what is ahead, because that was what they had tried to do in life:


they had their faces twisted toward their haunches

and found it necessary to walk backward,

because they could not see ahead of them.

... and since he wanted so to see ahead,

he looks behind and walks a backward path.


Allegorically, the Inferno represents the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is, and the three beasts represent three types of sin: the self-indulgent, the violent, and the malicious. These three types of sin also provide the three main divisions of Dante's Hell: Upper Hell, beyond the city of Dis, containing four indulgent sins (Lust, gluttony, avarice, anger); Circle 7 for the sins of violence, and Circles 8 and 9 for the sins of malice (fraud and treachery). Added onto these are two unlike categories that are specifically spiritual: Limbo, within Circle 1, contains the virtuous pagans who were not sinful but were ignorant of Christ; and Circle 6, containing the heretics who contradicted the doctrine and confused the spirit of Christ. The circles are put to 9, with the addition of the Satan completing the structure of 9 + 1 = 10.


Purgatorio



Having survived the depths of Hell, Dante and Virgil ascend out of the undergloom, to the Mountain of Purgatory
Purgatory
Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven...

 on the far side of the world. The Mountain is on an island, the only land in the Southern Hemisphere, created by the displacement of rock which resulted when Satan's fall created Hell (which Dante portrays as existing underneath Jerusalem). The mountain has seven terraces, corresponding to the seven deadly sins
Seven deadly sins
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

 or "seven roots of sinfulness." The classification of sin here is more psychological than that of the Inferno, being based on motives, rather than actions. It is also drawn primarily from Christian theology, rather than from classical sources. However, Dante's illustrative examples of sin and virtue draw on classical sources as well as on the Bible and on contemporary events. The seven deadly sins correspond to a threefold scheme of improper love: excessive love, or love of the things that are secondary to divinity (Lust
Lust
Lust is an emotional force that is directly associated with the thinking or fantasizing about one's desire, usually in a sexual way.-Etymology:The word lust is phonetically similar to the ancient Roman lustrum, which literally meant "purification"...

, Gluttony
Gluttony
Gluttony, derived from the Latin gluttire meaning to gulp down or swallow, means over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, intoxicants or wealth items to the point of extravagance or waste...

, Greed
Greed
Greed is an excessive desire to possess wealth, goods, or abstract things of value with the intention to keep it for one's self. Greed is inappropriate expectation...

); deficient love, or the lacking in a desire to achieve divinity (Sloth
Sloth (deadly sin)
In the Christian moral tradition, sloth is one of the seven capital sins, often called the seven deadly sins; these sins are called sins because they supposedly destroy the charity in a person's heart and thus may lead to eternal death.-Definition:Sloth is defined as spiritual or emotional...

), and malicious love, or love of malignant things that should grieve man and which are contrary to divinity (Wrath, Envy
Envy
Envy is best defined as a resentful emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."...

, Pride
Pride
Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotation, pride refers to an inflated sense of one's personal status or accomplishments, often used synonymously with hubris...

). Below the seven purges of the soul is the Ante-Purgatory, containing the Excommunicated from the church and the Late repentant who died, often violently, before receiving rites. Thus the total comes to 9, with the addition of the Garden of Eden at the summit, equaling 10.

Allegorically, the Purgatorio represents the Christian life. Christian souls arrive escorted by an angel, singing in exitu Israel de Aegypto. In his Letter to Cangrande
Cangrande I della Scala
Cangrande della Scala was an Italian nobleman, the most celebrated of the della Scala family which ruled Verona from 1277 until 1387. Now perhaps best known as the leading patron of the poet Dante Alighieri, Cangrande was in his own day chiefly acclaimed as a successful warrior and autocrat...

, Dante explains that this reference to Israel leaving Egypt refers both to the redemption of Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 and to "the conversion of the soul from the sorrow and misery of sin to the state of grace." Appropriately, therefore, it is Easter Sunday when Dante and Virgil arrive.

The Purgatorio is notable for demonstrating the medieval knowledge of a spherical Earth
Spherical Earth
The concept of a spherical Earth dates back to ancient Greek philosophy from around the 6th century BC, but remained a matter of philosophical speculation until the 3rd century BC when Hellenistic astronomy established the spherical shape of the earth as a physical given...

. During the poem, Dante discusses the different stars visible in the southern hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

, the altered position of the sun, and the various timezones of the Earth. At this stage it is, Dante says, sunset at Jerusalem, midnight on the River Ganges, and sunrise in Purgatory.

Paradiso



After an initial ascension, Beatrice guides Dante through the nine celestial spheres
Celestial spheres
The celestial spheres, or celestial orbs, were the fundamental entities of the cosmological models developed by Plato, Eudoxus, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus and others...

 of Heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

. These are concentric and spherical, as in Aristotelian
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 and Ptolemaic
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 cosmology. While the structures of the Inferno and Purgatorio were based on different classifications of sin, the structure of the Paradiso is based on the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues.

The first seven spheres of Heaven deal solely with the cardinal virtues of Prudence
Prudence
Prudence is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason. It is classically considered to be a virtue, and in particular one of the four Cardinal virtues .The word comes from Old French prudence , from Latin...

, Fortitude, Justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

 and Temperance. The first three describe a deficiency of one of the cardinal virtues — the Moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

, containing the inconstant whose vows to God waned as the moon thus lack fortitude; Mercury
Mercury (planet)
Mercury is the innermost and smallest planet in the Solar System, orbiting the Sun once every 87.969 Earth days. The orbit of Mercury has the highest eccentricity of all the Solar System planets, and it has the smallest axial tilt. It completes three rotations about its axis for every two orbits...

, containing the ambitious who were virtuous for glory and thus lacked justice; and Venus, containing the lovers, whose love was directed toward another than God and thus lacked Temperance. The final four incidentally are positive examples of the cardinal virtues, all led on by the Sun, containing the prudent, whose wisdom lighted the way for the other virtues, to which the others are bound (constituting a category on its own). Mars contains the men of fortitude who died in the cause of Christianity; Jupiter contains the kings of Justice; and Saturn contains the temperant, the monks who abided to the contemplative lifestyle. The seven subdivided into three are raised further by two more categories: the eighth sphere of the fixed stars that contain those who achieved the theological virtues of faith
Faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

, hope
Hope
Hope is the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. It is the "feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best" or the act of "look[ing] forward to with desire and reasonable confidence" or...

 and love
Love
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...

, and represent the Church Triumphant — the total perfection of man, cleansed of all the sins and carrying all the virtues of heaven; and the ninth circle, or Primum Mobile
Primum Mobile
In medieval and Renaissance astronomy, the Primum Mobile, or "first moved," was the outermost moving sphere in the geocentric model of the universe. The primum mobile was thought to be responsible for the apparent daily movement of the heavens around the Earth, producing the east-to-west rising and...

 (corresponding to Medieval astronomy of Geocentricism) which contains the angels, creatures never poisoned by original sin. Topping them all is the Empyrean
Empyrean
Empyrean, from the Medieval Latin empyreus, an adaptation of the Ancient Greek ἔμπυρος empyrus "in or on the fire ", properly Empyrean Heaven, is the place in the highest heaven, which in ancient cosmologies was supposed to be occupied by the element of fire .-Use in literature:The Empyrean was...

 that contains the essence of God, completing the 9 fold division to 10.

Dante meets and converses with several great saints of the Church, including Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

, Bonaventure
Bonaventure
Saint Bonaventure, O.F.M., , born John of Fidanza , was an Italian medieval scholastic theologian and philosopher. The seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, he was also a Cardinal Bishop of Albano. He was canonized on 14 April 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the...

, Saint Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

, and St. John
John the Apostle
John the Apostle, John the Apostle, John the Apostle, (Aramaic Yoħanna, (c. 6 - c. 100) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James, another of the Twelve Apostles...

. The Paradiso is consequently more theological in nature than the Inferno and the Purgatorio. However, Dante admits the vision of heaven he receives is the one that his human eyes permit him to see, and the vision of heaven found in the Cantos is Dante's own personal one.

The Divine Comedy finishes with Dante seeing the Triune God
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

. In a flash of understanding, which he cannot express, Dante finally understands the mystery of Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

's divinity and humanity, and his soul becomes aligned with God's love:


But already my desire and my will

were being turned like a wheel, all at one speed,

by the Love which moves the sun and the other stars.

Earliest manuscripts



According to the Italian Dante Society, no original manuscript written by Dante has survived, although there are many manuscript copies from the 14th and 15th centuries – more than 825 are listed on their site. The oldest belongs to the 1330s, almost a decade after Dante's death. The most precious ones are the three full copies made by Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian author and poet, a friend, student, and correspondent of Petrarch, an important Renaissance humanist and the author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular...

 (1360s), who himself did not have the original manuscript as a source.
The first printed edition was published in Foligno
Foligno
Foligno is an ancient town of Italy in the province of Perugia in east central Umbria, on the Topino river where it leaves the Apennines and enters the wide plain of the Clitunno river system...

, Italy, by Johann Numeister and Evangelista Angelini da Trevi on 1472. Of the 300 copies printed, fourteen still survive. The original printing press is on display in the Oratorio della Nunziatella in Foligno.

Thematic concerns


The Divine Comedy can be described simply as an allegory
Allegory in the Middle Ages
Allegory in the Middle Ages was a vital element in the synthesis of Biblical and Classical traditions into what would become recognizable as Medieval culture...

: Each canto, and the episodes therein, can contain many alternative meanings. Dante's allegory, however, is more complex, and, in explaining how to read the poem – see the Letter to Cangrande
Cangrande I della Scala
Cangrande della Scala was an Italian nobleman, the most celebrated of the della Scala family which ruled Verona from 1277 until 1387. Now perhaps best known as the leading patron of the poet Dante Alighieri, Cangrande was in his own day chiefly acclaimed as a successful warrior and autocrat...

 – he outlines other levels of meaning besides the allegory: the historical, the moral, the literal, and the anagogical
Anagoge
Anagoge is a Greek word suggesting a "climb" or "ascent" upwards. The anagogical is a method of spiritual interpretation of literal statements or events, especially the Scriptures....

.

The structure of the poem, likewise, is quite complex, with mathematical and numerological patterns arching throughout the work, particularly threes and nines, which are related to the Trinity
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

. The poem is often lauded for its particularly human qualities: Dante's skillful delineation of the characters he encounters in Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise; his bitter denunciations of Florentine
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 and Italian politics; and his powerful poetic imagination. Dante's use of real characters, according to Dorothy Sayers in her introduction to her translation of the Inferno, allows Dante the freedom of not having to involve the reader in description, and allows him to "[make] room in his poem for the discussion of a great many subjects of the utmost importance, thus widening its range and increasing its variety."

Dante called the poem "Comedy" (the adjective "Divine" was added later in the 14th century) because poems in the ancient world were classified as High ("Tragedy") or Low ("Comedy"). Low poems had happy endings and were written in everyday language, whereas High poems treated more serious matters and were written in an elevated style. Dante was one of the first in the Middle Ages to write of a serious subject, the Redemption of Man, in the low and "vulgar" Italian language and not the Latin one might expect for such a serious topic. Boccaccio's account that an early version of the poem was begun by Dante in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 is still controversial.

Dante's personal involvement


In his allegorical
Allegory in the Middle Ages
Allegory in the Middle Ages was a vital element in the synthesis of Biblical and Classical traditions into what would become recognizable as Medieval culture...

 description of sin (in the Inferno) and virtue (in the Purgatorio and Paradiso), Dante draws on real characters from ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 and Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 myths and history, and from his own times. However, his own actions often also illustrate the concepts he is discussing. For example, Dante shares the fleshly sins of the damned at several points in the upper circles of Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

. At the first circle where the virtuous pagans who pursued honor above all else are punished by eternally knowing they have fallen short for their lack of faith, Dante shares with them their love of honor, as evidenced by the word "honor" being used repeatedly in the Canto. Similarly, at the third circle where Ciacco
Ciacco
Ciacco is one of the characters in the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri that were not yet well defined by historians. This is how he presents himself to Dante when he is in Hell:«Ye citizens were wont to call me Ciacco;...

 and other gluttons are punished for their appetites, Dante's appetite for political information about his fellow Florentines appears equally gluttonous:


And I to him: I wish thee still to teach me,

And make a gift to me of further speech.



Farinata and Tegghiaio, once so worthy,

Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and Mosca,

And others who on good deeds set their thoughts,



Say where they are, and cause that I may know them;

For great desire constraineth me to learn

If Heaven doth sweeten them, or Hell envenom.


Conversely, in the Purgatorio, after leaving the terrace of the proud, Dante has learned from the example set by Omberto and suppresses his own pride, declining to speak of his achievements:


And I: Through midst of Tuscany there wanders

A streamlet that is born in Falterona,

And not a hundred miles of course suffice it;



From thereupon do I this body bring.

To tell you who I am were speech in vain,

Because my name as yet makes no great noise."

Scientific themes



Although the Divine Comedy is primarily a religious poem, discussing sin, virtue, and theology, Dante also discusses several elements of the science of his day
Science in the Middle Ages
Science in the Middle Ages consisted of the study of nature, including practical disciplines, the mathematics and natural philosophy in medieval Europe. Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the decline in knowledge of Greek, Christian Western Europe was cut off from an important...

 (this mixture of science with poetry has received both praise and blame over the centuries). The Purgatorio repeatedly refers to the implications of a spherical Earth
Spherical Earth
The concept of a spherical Earth dates back to ancient Greek philosophy from around the 6th century BC, but remained a matter of philosophical speculation until the 3rd century BC when Hellenistic astronomy established the spherical shape of the earth as a physical given...

, such as the different stars visible in the southern hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

, the altered position of the sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, and the various timezones of the Earth. For example, at sunset in Purgatory it is midnight at the Ebro
Ebro
The Ebro or Ebre is one of the most important rivers in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the biggest river by discharge volume in Spain.The Ebro flows through the following cities:*Reinosa in Cantabria.*Miranda de Ebro in Castile and León....

 (a river in Spain), dawn in Jerusalem, and noon on the River Ganges:
Just as, there where its Maker shed His blood,
the sun shed its first rays, and Ebro lay
beneath high Libra, and the ninth hour's rays

were scorching Ganges' waves; so here, the sun
stood at the point of day's departure when
God's angel—happy—showed himself to us.


Dante travels through the centre of the Earth in the Inferno, and comments on the resulting change in the direction of gravity in Canto XXXIV (lines 76–120). A little earlier (XXXIII, 102–105), he queries the existence of wind in the frozen inner circle of hell, since it has no temperature differentials.

Inevitably, given its setting, the Paradiso discusses astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 extensively, but in the Ptolemaic
Geocentric model
In astronomy, the geocentric model , is the superseded theory that the Earth is the center of the universe, and that all other objects orbit around it. This geocentric model served as the predominant cosmological system in many ancient civilizations such as ancient Greece...

 sense. The Paradiso also discusses the importance of the experimental method
Experiment
An experiment is a methodical procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, falsifying, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis. Experiments vary greatly in their goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results...

 in science, with a detailed example in lines 94–105 of Canto II:
Yet an experiment, were you to try it,
could free you from your cavil and the source
of your arts' course springs from experiment.

Taking three mirrors, place a pair of them
at equal distance from you; set the third
midway between those two, but farther back.

Then, turning toward them, at your back have placed
a light that kindles those three mirrors and
returns to you, reflected by them all.

Although the image in the farthest glass
will be of lesser size, there you will see
that it must match the brightness of the rest.


A briefer example occurs in Canto XV of the Purgatorio (lines 16–21), where Dante points out that both theory and experiment confirm that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection
Reflection (physics)
Reflection is the change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two differentmedia so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated. Common examples include the reflection of light, sound and water waves...

. Other references to science in the Paradiso include descriptions of clock
Clock
A clock is an instrument used to indicate, keep, and co-ordinate time. The word clock is derived ultimately from the Celtic words clagan and clocca meaning "bell". A silent instrument missing such a mechanism has traditionally been known as a timepiece...

work in Canto XXIV (lines 13–18), and Thales' theorem
Thales' theorem
In geometry, Thales' theorem states that if A, B and C are points on a circle where the line AC is a diameter of the circle, then the angle ABC is a right angle. Thales' theorem is a special case of the inscribed angle theorem...

 about triangles in Canto XIII (lines 101–102).

Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei , was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism...

 is known to have lectured on the Inferno, and it has been suggested that the poem may have influenced some of Galileo's own ideas regarding mechanics.

Islamic philosophy


In 1919, Professor Miguel Asín Palacios
Miguel Asin Y Palacios
Miguel Asín Palacios was a Spanish scholar of Islamic studies and the Arabic language, and a Roman Catholic priest. He is primarily known for suggesting Muslim sources for ideas and motifs present in Dante's Divine Comedy, which he discusses in his book La Escatología musulmana en la Divina Comedia...

, a Spanish scholar and a Catholic priest, published La Escatología musulmana en la Divina Comedia ("Islamic Eschatology
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

 in the Divine Comedy"), an account of parallels between early Islamic philosophy
Early Islamic philosophy
Early Islamic philosophy or classical Islamic philosophy is a period of intense philosophical development beginning in the 2nd century AH of the Islamic calendar and lasting until the 6th century AH...

 and the Divine Comedy. Palacios argued that Dante derived many features of and episodes about the hereafter from the spiritual writings of Ibn Arabi
Ibn Arabi
Ibn ʿArabī was an Andalusian Moorish Sufi mystic and philosopher. His full name was Abū 'Abdillāh Muḥammad ibn 'Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn `Arabī .-Biography:...

 and from the Isra and Mi'raj
Isra and Mi'raj
The Isra and Mi'raj , are the two parts of a Night Journey that, according to Islamic tradition, the Islamic prophet Muhammad took during a single night around the year 621. It has been described as both a physical and spiritual journey...

 or night journey of Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 to heaven. The latter is described in the Hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

 and the Kitab al Miraj
Kitab al Miraj
The Kitab al Miraj is a Muslim book concerned with Muhammad's ascension into Heaven , following his miraculous one-night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem...

 (translated into Latin in 1264 or shortly before as Liber Scalae Machometi, "The Book of Muhammad's Ladder"), and has some slight similarities to the Paradiso, such as a sevenfold division of Paradise, although this is not unique to the Kitab al Miraj.

Some "superficial similarities" of the Divine Comedy to the Resalat Al-Ghufran or Epistle of Forgiveness of Al-Ma'arri
Al-Ma'arri
Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer....

 have also been mentioned in this debate. The Resalat Al-Ghufran describes the journey of the poet in the realms of the afterlife and includes dialogue with people in Heaven and Hell, although, unlike the Kitab al Miraj, there is little description of these locations, and it is unlikely that Dante borrowed from this work.

Dante did, however, live in a Europe of substantial literary and philosophical contact with the Muslim world, encouraged by such factors as Averroism
Averroism
Averroism is the term applied to either of two philosophical trends among scholastics in the late 13th century: the Arab philosopher Averroës or Ibn Rushd's interpretations of Aristotle and his reconciliation of Aristotelianism with Islamic faith; and the application of these ideas in the Latin...

 ("Averrois, che 'l gran comento feo" Commedia,Inferno,IV,144 that means "Averrois, who wrote the great comment") and the patronage of Alfonso X of Castile. Of the twelve wise men Dante meets in Canto X of the Paradiso, Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 and, even more so, Siger of Brabant
Siger of Brabant
Siger of Brabant was a 13th century philosopher from the southern Low Countries who was an important proponent of Averroism...

 were strongly influenced by Arabic commentators on Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

. Medieval Christian mysticism
Christian mysticism
Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions...

 also shared the Neoplatonic
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

 influence of Sufis
Sufi cosmology
Sufi cosmology is a general term for cosmological doctrines associated with the mysticism of Sufism. These may differ from place to place, order to order and time to time, but overall show the influence of several different cosmographies:...

 such as Ibn Arabi
Ibn Arabi
Ibn ʿArabī was an Andalusian Moorish Sufi mystic and philosopher. His full name was Abū 'Abdillāh Muḥammad ibn 'Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn `Arabī .-Biography:...

. Philosopher Frederick Copleston
Frederick Copleston
Frederick Charles Copleston, SJ, CBE was a Jesuit priest and historian of philosophy.-Biography:...

 argued in 1950 that Dante's respectful treatment of Averroes
Averroes
' , better known just as Ibn Rushd , and in European literature as Averroes , was a Muslim polymath; a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics, Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy,...

, Avicenna
Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

, and Siger of Brabant indicates his acknowledgement of a "considerable debt" to Islamic philosophy.

Although this philosophical influence is generally acknowledged, many scholars have not been satisfied that Dante was influenced by the Kitab al Miraj. The 20th century Orientalist Francesco Gabrieli expressed skepticism regarding the claimed similarities, and the lack of evidence of a vehicle through which it could have been transmitted to Dante. Even so, while dismissing the probability of some influences posited in Palacios' work, Gabrieli conceded that it was "at least possible, if not probable, that Dante may have known the Liber scalae and have taken from it certain images and concepts of Muslim eschatology". Shortly before her death, the Italian philologist Maria Corti pointed out that, during his stay at the court of Alfonso X, Dante's mentor Brunetto Latini
Brunetto Latini
Brunetto Latini was an Italian philosopher, scholar and statesman.-Life:...

 met Bonaventura de Siena, a Tuscan who had translated the Kitab al Miraj from Arabic into Latin. Corti speculates that Brunetto may have provided a copy of that work to Dante. René Guenon, in The Esoterism of Dante, rejected the influence of Ibn Arabi (direct or indirect) on Dante.

Literary influence in the English-speaking world and beyond


The work was not always so well regarded. After being recognized as a masterpiece
Masterpiece
Masterpiece in modern usage refers to a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship....

 in the centuries immediately following its publication, the work was largely ignored during the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, with some notable exceptions such as Vittorio Alfieri
Vittorio Alfieri
Count Vittorio Alfieri was an Italian dramatist, considered the "founder of Italian tragedy."-Early life:Alfieri was born at Asti in Piedmont....

; Antoine de Rivarol
Antoine de Rivarol
Antoine de Rivarol was a Royalist French writer during the Revolutionary era.Rivarol was born in Bagnols-sur-Cèze, Gard. It appears that his father, an innkeeper, was a cultivated man...

, who translated the Inferno into French; and Giambattista Vico
Giambattista Vico
Giovanni Battista ' Vico or Vigo was an Italian political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist....

, who in the Scienza nuova and in the Giudizio su Dante inaugurated what would later become the romantic reappraisal of Dante, juxtaposing him to Homer. The Comedy was "rediscovered" by William Blake
William Blake
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

 – who illustrated several passages of the epic – and the romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 writers of the 19th century. Later authors such as T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

, Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

, Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.Beckett is widely regarded as among the most...

, C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

 and James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

 have drawn on it for inspiration. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

 was its first American translator, and modern poets, including Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin. Heaney has received the Nobel Prize in Literature , the Golden Wreath of Poetry , T. S. Eliot Prize and two Whitbread prizes...

, Robert Pinsky
Robert Pinsky
Robert Pinsky is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 to 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Pinsky is the author of nineteen books, most of which are collections of his own poetry...

, John Ciardi
John Ciardi
John Anthony Ciardi was an American poet, translator, and etymologist. While primarily known as a poet, he also translated Dante's Divine Comedy, wrote several volumes of children's poetry, pursued etymology, contributed to the Saturday Review as a columnist and long-time poetry editor, and...

, and W. S. Merwin
W. S. Merwin
William Stanley Merwin is an American poet, credited with over 30 books of poetry, translation and prose. During the 1960s anti-war movement, Merwin's unique craft was thematically characterized by indirect, unpunctuated narration. In the 1980s and 1990s, Merwin's writing influence derived from...

, have also produced translations of all or parts of the book. In Russia, beyond Pushkin's memorable translation of a few tercets, Osip Mandelstam
Osip Mandelstam
Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. He was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist school of poets...

's late poetry has been said to bear of the mark of a "tormented meditation" on the Comedy. In 1934 Mandelstam gave a modern reading of the poem in his labyrinthine "Conversation on Dante". Mikhail Lozinsky
Mikhail Lozinsky
Mikhail Leonidovich Lozinsky is deemed to be the most accomplished Russian translator of the 20th century...

's translation of the poem, completed in 1945, is considered to be one of the greatest works of Russian poetry in the 20th century and arguably the best translation of any foreign-language poem into Russian ever.

New English translations of the Divine Comedy continue to be published regularly. Notable English translations of the complete poem include the following.
Year Translator Notes
1805–1814 Henry Francis Cary
Henry Francis Cary
Henry Francis Cary was a British author and translator, best known for his blank verse translation of The Divine Comedy of Dante.-Biography:Henry Francis Cary was born in Gibraltar, on 6 December 1772...

 
An older translation, widely available online.
1867 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

 
The first U.S. translation, raising American interest in the poem. It is still widely read, including online.
1891–1892 Charles Eliot Norton
Charles Eliot Norton
Charles Eliot Norton, was a leading American author, social critic, and professor of art. He was a militant idealist, a progressive social reformer, and a liberal activist whom many of his contemporaries considered the most cultivated man in the United States.-Biography:Norton was born at...

 
Translation used by Great Books of the Western World
Great Books of the Western World
Great Books of the Western World is a series of books originally published in the United States in 1952 by Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. to present the western canon in a single package of 54 volumes. The series is now in its second edition and contains 60 volumes.-History:The project got its start...

. Available online at Project Gutenberg.
1933–1943 Laurence Binyon
Laurence Binyon
Robert Laurence Binyon was an English poet, dramatist and art scholar. His most famous work, For the Fallen, is well known for being used in Remembrance Sunday services....

 
An English version rendered in terza rima, with some advisory assistance from Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

1949–1962 Dorothy L. Sayers
Dorothy L. Sayers
Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a renowned English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, translator and Christian humanist. She was also a student of classical and modern languages...

 
Translated for Penguin Classics, intended for a wider audience, and completed by Barbara Reynolds
Barbara Reynolds
Barbara Reynolds is an English scholar, lexicographer and translator, wife of the philologist and translator Lewis Thorpe.-Early life:The daughter of Alfred Charles Reynolds, and the god-daughter of Dorothy L...

.
1954–1970 John Ciardi
John Ciardi
John Anthony Ciardi was an American poet, translator, and etymologist. While primarily known as a poet, he also translated Dante's Divine Comedy, wrote several volumes of children's poetry, pursued etymology, contributed to the Saturday Review as a columnist and long-time poetry editor, and...

 
His Inferno was recorded and released by Folkways Records
Folkways Records
Folkways Records was a record label founded by Moses Asch that documented folk, world, and children's music. It was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987, and is now part of Smithsonian Folkways.-History:...

 in 1954.
1981 C. H. Sisson
C. H. Sisson
Charles Hubert Sisson CH was a British writer, best known as a poet and translator.-Life:...

 
Available in Oxford World's Classics
Oxford World's Classics
Oxford World's Classics is an imprint of Oxford University Press. First established in 1901 by Grant Richards and purchased by the Oxford University Press in 1906, this imprint publishes primarily dramatic and classic literature for students and the general public...

.
1980–1984 Allen Mandelbaum
Allen Mandelbaum
Allen Mandelbaum was a American professor of Italian literature, poet, and translator. He was the W. R...

 
Available online.
1967–2002 Mark Musa
Mark Musa
Mark Musa is a graduate of Rutgers University , the University of Florence , and the Johns Hopkins University . He is a former Guggenheim fellow and the author of a number of books and articles...

 
An alternative Penguin Classics version.
2000–2007 Robert and Jean Hollander Online as part of the Princeton Dante Project.
2002–2004 Anthony M. Esolen
Anthony M. Esolen
Anthony M. Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College and noted translator of classic works, as well as a popular writer for magazines like the Claremont Review and Touchstone, of which he is a senior editor. He has translated Dante's Divine Comedy, Lucretius' On the Nature of Things,...

 
Modern Library
Modern Library
The Modern Library is a publishing company. Founded in 1917 by Albert Boni and Horace Liveright as an imprint of their publishing company Boni & Liveright, it was purchased in 1925 by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer...

 Classics edition.
2006–2007 Robin Kirkpatrick A third Penguin Classics version, replacing Musa's.
2010 Burton Raffel
Burton Raffel
Burton Raffel is a translator, a poet and a teacher. He has translated many poems, including the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, poems by Horace, and Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais. In 1964, Raffel recorded an album along with Robert P...

 
A Northwestern World Classics version.


A number of other translators, such as Robert Pinsky
Robert Pinsky
Robert Pinsky is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 to 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Pinsky is the author of nineteen books, most of which are collections of his own poetry...

, have translated the Inferno only.

In the arts




The Divine Comedy has been a source of inspiration for countless artists for almost seven centuries. There are many references to Dante's work in literature. In music, Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

 was one of many composers to write works
Dante Symphony
A Symphony to Dante's Divine Comedy, S.109, or simply the "Dante Symphony", is a program symphony composed by Franz Liszt. Written in the high romantic style, it is based on Dante Alighieri's journey through Hell and Purgatory, as depicted in The Divine Comedy...

 based on the Divine Comedy. In sculpture, the work of Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
François-Auguste-René Rodin , known as Auguste Rodin , was a French sculptor. Although Rodin is generally considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against the past...

 is notable for themes from Dante, and many visual artists have illustrated Dante's work, as shown by the examples above. There have also been many references to the Divine Comedy in cinema and computer games.

See also


  • Allegory in the Middle Ages
    Allegory in the Middle Ages
    Allegory in the Middle Ages was a vital element in the synthesis of Biblical and Classical traditions into what would become recognizable as Medieval culture...

  • List of cultural references in Divine Comedy
  • Paradise Lost
    Paradise Lost
    Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 in ten books, with a total of over ten thousand individual lines of verse...





External links




Audio