Dante's Inferno (Bloom's Notes)
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The Divine Comedy (Hell) describes Dante Alighieri 's journey through Hell (Inferno), guided first by the Roman epic poet Virgil and then by Beatrice. Dante called the poem "Comedy" because poems in the ancient world were classified as High ("Tragedy") or Low ("Comedy"). Low poems had happy endings and were of everyday or vulgar subjects, while High poems were for more serious matters. Dante was one of the first in the Middle Ages to write of a serious subject in the low and vulgar Italian language and not the Latin language as one might expect for such a serious topic. "The Divine Comedy" is an allegory where each canto may contain many alternate meanings. Dante's allegory is complex. Guided by the poet Virgil, Dante plunges to the very depths of Hell and embarks on his arduous journey towards God. Together they descend through the nine circles of the underworld and encounter the tormented souls of the damned - from heretics and pagans to gluttons, criminals and seducers - who tell of their sad fates and predict events still to come in Dante's life. In this first part of his "Divine Comedy", Dante fused satire and humor with intellect and soaring passion to create an immortal Christian allegory of mankind's search for self-knowledge and spiritual enlightenment. "The Divine Comedy" 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 and Italian politics; and his powerful poetic imagination. Dante's use of real characters allowed him the freedom of not having to involve the reader in description, and 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. "The Divine Comedy" is recommended reading for anyone interested in literature and medieval history.
elaborate requirements appear more cerebral than poetic. Because the word repetition does become obsessive, however, Dante recognized in the sestina an ideal vehicle for the poetry of unrequited love. The meanings of the end-words deepen with each successive stanza, mirroring the compulsive circularity of sexual longing, hypnotizing both poet and audience. Ombra, for instance, at times means “shade,” at times means “shadow,” and finally connotes the darkness of death; petra, which begins as a
though a pagan, he is an emblem of the freedom of the will essential to atonement. The soul of Manfred shows Dante death-wounds on his head and body (Canto III). Souls like his, which have delayed repentance or died excommunicated, are required to serve thirty years here in the 59 Antepurgatory, in compensation for each year lived without grace. Their sentences can, however, be shortened by intercession, and many in this canticle will beg for the prayers of the living. The poets meet Belacqua
(Canto XXXII). He then falls into a sleep and wakes to find Beatrice at the base of the tree by which Eve had sinned. Beatrice commands Dante’s attention to a series of elaborate allegories to be enacted before them, representing seven disasters to the Church. It is now noon and the pilgrim is brought to Eden’s other river, Eunoë, which restores the memory of right action (Canto XXXIII). Taken through it by Matilda, Dante emerges wholly prepared for the journey to be narrated in the Paradiso, his
so by degrees are initiated into the wisdom of eternal counsel, the Image of God or “Cristo lieto” in their souls. ͗. . .͘ Dante’s genius as a love poet lies in his decision to design his lovequest as a quest in achievement rather than a quest for favor. ͗. . .͘ How Love began leading Dante is narrated in Vita Nuova, XIX: It happened when walking down a road along which ran a very clear stream, I was so taken with the desire to compose poetry (dire) that I began to contemplate the mode I would
references are not, as with Florence, of a descent separated from Saviour and Emperor, but of a dying with Christ, and it is for this reason possible for Cacciaguida to speak in remarkably joyful terms of his foreknowledge of these sufferings: (as comes to the ear an organ’s sweet harmony, comes into my sight the time that is being made ready for you.) (vv. 43–5) ͗. . .͘ ͗I͘t is fitting that here Dante should receive the most elaborate and explicit command to declare his vision that he is to