Friday, 26 April 2013

HELLO The Classics Club - The Divine Comedy

Originally called Commedia and later Divina, The Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia) was written by Dante Alighieri, known as Dante, between 1308-1321.

Dante was born in Florence, Italy, in 1265. Of minor nobility he studied amongst the Dominicans, Augustians and Franciscans in Florence, and at the university of Bologna.

He studied philosophy and politics before being exiled (due to fraudulent use of public money) in 1301, and spent the rest of his life teaching, lecturing and writing.


This picture below is the oldest image of Dante, by Giotto di Bondone, painted just before his exile.

The poem is an allegorical vision of the afterlife, capturing the journey taken by Dante through the Inferno, Mount Purgatorio and Paradiso. On another level, it's the journey of the human soul to God. It also uses historical, moral, literal and spiritual interpretations.

Dante is guided through the Inferno and Purgatorio by the Ancient Roman poet, Virgil. His guide through Paradiso is Beatrice. In his real life, he was in love with Beatrice, but he was in a marriage contract to Gemma, whom he married.

The Divine Comedy is written in 3 Canticas: Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso, each of which consists of 33 divisions or episodes called Cantos. As you can see, numerology is important in this story. Other significant numbers include the number 9, where we have the 9 circles of Inferno and Lucifer, the 9 rings of Mount Purgatorio and the Garden of Eden, and the 9 celestial bodies of Paradiso that lead to the essence of God.

I read the World's Classics edition, translated by C.H. Sisson. Once I got into the rhythm of the 3 line Cantos I was able to read it easily, and the story came through clearly. I got half the way through and kind of hit a brick wall. To me this book isn't one you can dip in and out of. There is a flow to it and having the 3 Canticas helped with the reading. The last half I listened to on the Kindle. From the old to the new, eh? I think this style of writing lends well to a talking book. I can imagine listening to the Cantos read out on 'Book at Bedtime' on Radio 4, or as a serial lunchtime play slot. I hope I fair better with Pilgrim's Progress (at a later date).

This is the oldest book on my list and the oldest book I have read, ever (apart from the Bible). I was in awe of its age and tried to image Dante, 700 years ago, writing this manuscript in the Middle Ages. Wow!


  1. Now that's a thought!! Listening to the audio version of this! Hm!!! I'm totally loving your amazing eclectic reads, thanks for sharing! Take care

  2. Sounds like one of our current day politicians with the fraudulent use of public money! Looks like an amazing read, I'd get tingles just thinking about how old the tale is.

    PS - I love commenting on blogs but word verification makes it a challenge - just saying in case you didn't know you had it turned on.

  3. Your blog is just too cool, Debbie. ^_^

  4. Thanks for your comment, Victoria.

    A late reply, I know. I must go and get back up to speed.