Dante Alighieri The Divine Comedy Biography of Dante • Born in Florence, Italy, in 1265 • Exiled from Florence in 1300 – Political party was overthrown – Civil war was the result of a fight The Comedy • It is unknown when Dante began writing his masterpiece The Comedy. • Traditionally defined, a comedy begins in sorrow and ends in joy. • Dante just called his work The Comedy, later Italian writers called it The Divine Comedy. • It appears that he had finished the first of its three parts by 1314. • He finished the last part only shortly before his death in 1321. Brief Plot • Begins with Dante in a dark wood. • Trying to find his way out he climbs up a mountain, but it driven back by three beast who block him. • In fear, he runs toward an approaching man to ask for help. • The man is Virgil his guide through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. • Virgil tells Dante that he has been sent by Beatrice (a woman who Dante loved) to guide him through his spiritual journey. • Dante follows Virgil, who conducts him through Hell, a funnel-shaped region under the surface of the earth, with a series of terraces that form narrowing circles on which various kinds of evil deeds are punished, down to the center. • They reach the end of the funnel and the directions up and down are reversed. • Here they enter a tunnel which leads them out on the other side of the earth, opposite of Jerusalem. • They are at Mount Purgatory, and they climb it. • At the summit of the mount they find Eden, the earthly Paradise. • In Paradise, Beatrice, Dante’s lover, accompanies him to Heaven. • Once he gets to Heaven, he sees all of the hosts (angels) of Heaven, and is given a vision of the glory of God. • This is where the poem ends. • The Divine Comedy is composed of over 14,000 lines. • Those lines are divided into three canticas (or hymns), Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. • Each canticas is divided into 33 cantos (or a large division of poetry). • Canto 1 serves as an introduction. • There are 100 cantos counting the introduction. • 3 is a very prominent number in this work. Dante’s Hell • Located inside the earth. • There are nine circles • Each circle is smaller than the one above and contains a different class of sinners. • Lesser sins are punished in the top circles • As sins become greater the punishment gets harsher, and the circles narrow. • Lucifer is in the center of the lowest circle (frozen lake). Greek Influence • The five rivers of the Greek underworld appear in the work – four in The Inferno – Lethe as the transition from Purgatory to Paradise. • Charon acts as a ferry operator and refuses Dante because he is not dead. • Minos (son of Zeus and Europa), transformed into a bull-monster.
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