This review is on The Divine Comedy, written by Dante Alighieri in 1306 – 21. The time period is in the 1300’s. Dante often used his knowledge of the present to predict future events. The book is divided into 3 sections: Inferno (hell), Purgatorio (purgatory), and Paradiso (heaven). Each one of these sections is divided into 33 cantos (except Inferno, which has 34 cantos), which are written in tercets (groups of 3 lines). The number 3 in Dante’s time was significant because it was considered holy.
Dante’s dead love Beatrice asks the Virgin Mary to help him see the error of his ways. Mary accepts and Dante is sent to hell for 3 days. Next he goes up Mount Purgatory on the other side of the world, then to Heaven in the sky. Dante is lost at the beginning of the story, so he needs guides to help him along. His first guide, through Hell and Purgatory, is Virgil. They encounter many sinners on the way. Dante learns to hate sin. His second guide is Beatrice, the woman he adored while she lived. His final guide is Saint Bernard, who takes him to see God.
As the pilgrims entered Purgatory, an angel inscribed the letter “P” on Dante’s forehead seven times, to represent the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust). As Dante made his way through the seven areas reserved for those who committed each of these sins, the letters were erased one by one, and the climb became less difficult.
Most obviously difficult for the illustrator is the fact that only Dante, with the exception of the Virgin Mary and Christ, in the poem has a physical body. Dante has a wrist to be taken by, but Virgil, Dante’s “host” through hell, has no physical form to take him by his hand.
Most poetry of Dante’s age was written in praise of a woman whom the poet had chosen as an inspiration. Dante had met Beatrice Portinari at least twice, but had no intention of developing a relationship with her. She was married, and so was he. In The Divine Comedy, Dante places his lady, Beatrice in the highest realms of Paradise.
Almost as much as he loved Beatrice, Dante loved Italy; and one of his greatest beliefs was the equal importance of the Church and the State. He became disgusted with the corruption of the Church by politics during his lifetime. During the time he was in political exile from Florence, he wrote “The Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Florentine by Citizenship, Not by Morals.”
Dante also believed in matching writing style with the material being treated. For example, in hell, the language he most often uses is repulsively phrased. Then, while in Paradise the speech turns much more delicate and arrogant, which I found to be a subtle and creative style of writing.
This book contributes to my understanding of the 1300’s in a few ways in particular. I have learned that back in that particular time period people had much simpler values, compared to the values of today. In the 1300’s elements such as heaven and hell were looked upon with the utmost respect. Authors such as Dante delved deep into what hell or heaven could possibly look like, and the experiences that an entity would encounter in the alternate planes of heaven or hell. They entertained the idea that such a place existed and what it would “feel” like to be there. For example, hell was divided into different “circles” and different degrees of sins had their own place in the “circles” that hell was composed of. Some sinners were noted as being “deep in mud”.
The thesis of the story is an attempt to draw an in-depth image of the after-life. Dante feels as if the afterlife is a whole other world that exists on a different level of being. This after-life is based on our actions in life and the sins we commit.
There are many reasons why I found the book interesting. For example, hell was divided into different “circles” and each one had its own unique atmosphere. The sinners were categorized as follows: depending on the severity of the