Divine Comedy- Inferno

Divine Comedy Illustration by Botticelli

What is Divine Comedy about?

Divine Comedy is a poem in which a soul takes a journey through the 3 stages after life - Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Dante, the man himself, is granted the task of going through all these stages. Since he is supposedly still alive, his soul is guided by that of Virgil (the poet) in Inferno (hell)and Purgatario. And later by Beatrice, in Paradiso. Through his journey, he meets many souls and encounters many famous personalities and learns about their sins/good deeds, and why they are there.

How to make reading easier?

Call it poetic justice, but I decided to read this book in 3 ways at the same time-

  • I would read each Canto from the translation by the Rev. Henry Francis Cary, and illustrated by M. Gustave Doré.
  • I read notes and analysis of each section from Sparknotes.
  • And then I would listen to the Canto in an audiobook borrowed from the local library while following it line to line. Because the voice modulation always tells you the right way to read it.

The Nine Circles of Hell

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’entrate (Abandon all hope ye who enter)

These are the last words inscribed on the gates of hell. Here Dante and Virgil hear the painful screams of the uncommitted souls. Virgil explains that these cries emanate from those souls who did not commit to either good or evil but who lived their lives without making conscious moral choices; therefore both Heaven and Hell have denied them entry. These souls now reside in Ante-Inferno: which is within Hell yet not truly a part of it, where they must contantly chase a dirty blank flag while wasps and worms torment and bite them.

How do you define sin?

What constitutes a sin? Is what you call a sin, same as what I would call a sin? Isn’t everyone’s moral compass slightly different based on our own experiences and situations in life? Does the definition of sin change over the years?

Leaving you with few of the illustrations from the book

Dante and Virgil crossing a river in Hell
One of the realms in Hell where people are trapped in burning graves
One of the circles of Hell where it rains fire
Dante Alighieri

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