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The Divine Comedy

Author: Dante Alighieri
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Published: 1321
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Summary

The Divine Comedy was written between 1308 and 1321, the year Dante died.

The story concerns the poet Virgil leading Dante on a spiritual journey through the worlds of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.

It was written in 3 parts:

(i) Inferno
(ii) Purgatory (‘Purgatorio’)
(iii) Paradise (‘Paradiso’)

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Inferno

Inferno is the most famous book of the three. In it Virgil leads Dante down through the nine circles of Hell.

Circle 1: Limbo – for those who don’t believe in Christ but are otherwise virtuous
Circle 2: Lust
Circle 3: Gluttony
Circle 4: Greed
Circle 5: Anger
Circle 6: Heresy
Circle 7: Violence
Circle 8: Fraud
Circle 9: Treachery

Each circle has different ‘pockets’ (levels) and different punishments.

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Purgatory

The journey through purgatory looks at how pure love gets changed by people. These are the deadly sins that reflect Christian life.

(i) wrath
(ii) envy
(iii) pride
(iv) sloth
(v) lust
(vi) gluttony
(vii) greed

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Paradise

The final book sees Dante arrive in Paradise where he is shown the 9 sections of Heaven. Each section carries a heavenly body (the moon, planets, stars), passing through prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, until finally a vision of God is revealed.

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Sample

“Through me is the way into the woeful city; through me is the way into the eternal woe; through me is the way amongst the lost people. Justice moved my lofty maker: the divine Power, the supreme Wisdom and the primal Love made me. Before me were no things created, save eternal, and I eternal last. Leave every hope, ye who enter!”
These words of obscure color I saw written at the top of a gate; whereat I: “Master, their meaning is dire to me.”
And he to me, like a person well advised: “Here it behoves to leave every fear; it behoves that all cowardice should here be dead. We have come to the place where I have told thee that thou shalt see the woeful people, who have lost the good of the understanding.”

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Reviews

The Divine Comedy has moved in and out of fashion, seen as a masterpiece by some, and ignored by others. It has, however, influenced western culture and its many ideas about Hell.

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