The Divine Comedy – Dante Aligheri

26 Apr

Whether you have ever picked up a copy of The Divine Comedy or not, it is one of those books, where the ideas have been referenced so much in literature and down through to popular culture that most people are familiar with the nine circles of hell etc, even if they know nothing more about the book. For something so prevalent it seems odd that I hadn’t read it.

So I did. Some call it the greatest poem of the middle ages, some the fifth gospel, either way it is one of the central pieces of literature in Western culture. Significant then, is understating it a bit.

The poem is a ‘spiritual autobiography’ of Dante’s travels (guided by poet Virgil, he of the Aenied fame) through hell, purgatory and finally heaven to see his dead lady Beatrice, whilst on the way discoursing on Earthly morals and God’s love for humanity.

Not the most fun read I have to admit, that is unless you are a fan of Northern Italian politics circa 1300 AD and you also happen to agree with Dante’s politics.  Of course all his political opponents are consigned to hell as is anyone of note from history who has had similar ideas etc.  The constant footnoting of these people is annoying and slows down the pacing of the whole book, where as the Greek, Roman, Religious references etc add weight to what is an epic but the constant sniping at his enemies and the political backdrop are redundant these days.

Inferno is the most tightly written of the three parts (and is perhaps worth a look if you can find anything appealing in the above paragraphs) ,  the other two tending to be a bit sparse. It’s a shame that after all the references and what amounts to literary hype, I was left somewhat cold overall with the feeling that perhaps I had missed some nuances in the text although I expect I didn’t, but it could have just been the translation, as there are numerous differing versions.  The next constantly referenced thing I haven’t read is Don Quixote, when I get around to it I shall approach with trepidation.


Posted by on 26/04/2012 in Classics, Poetry


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8 responses to “The Divine Comedy – Dante Aligheri

  1. evermoreevil

    30/04/2012 at 12:41

    It does sound rather dry….Vaguely interested to read it, but it’s not a priority after reading this. Thanks for posting!


    • StetotheJ

      30/04/2012 at 14:00

      Get a copy of The Inferno, that would be the best thing or better yet I shall lend it to you.


  2. Bumba

    30/07/2012 at 16:07

    I tried it too. Didn’t get very far.


    • StetotheJ

      30/07/2012 at 17:09

      It’s not the lightest of reads which is a shame as it always gets a good rep. Probably wise you abandoned hope, just like the people in Hell.


      • Bumba

        30/07/2012 at 17:34

        I’ll have to try it again, at least to move up to a higher level.


        • StetotheJ

          30/07/2012 at 19:56

          The books get less tighter as you move up sadly, but it’s worth a crack.


  3. George Collingwood

    07/02/2013 at 21:34

    I read this in a translation by Laurence Binyon. It sort of impressed me, but the only bit of it that I really remember is the episode when the devils start farting and crapping all over the place. Is that wrong?


    • StetotheJ

      09/02/2013 at 12:44

      Yeah they do that, people were strange back then. The inferno is enjoyable but after that it becomes a loose mess, I thought.



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