Structure and story Uredi
The poem begins on the night before Good Friday in the year 1300, "halfway along our life's path" (Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita). Dante is thirty-five years old, half of the biblical lifespan of 70 (Psalms 89:10, Vulgate), lost in a dark wood (understood as sin), assailed by beasts (a lion, a leopard, and a she-wolf) he cannot evade, and unable to find the "straight way" (diritta via) – also translatable as "right way" – to salvation (symbolized by the sun behind the mountain). Conscious that he is ruining himself and that he is falling into a "low place" (basso loco) where the sun is silent ('l sol tace), Dante is at last rescued by Virgil, and the two of them begin their journey to the underworld. Each sin's punishment in Inferno is a contrapasso, a symbolic instance of poetic justice; for example, fortune-tellers have to walk with their heads on backwards, unable to see what is ahead, because that was what they had tried to do in life:
they had their faces twisted toward their haunches
and found it necessary to walk backward,
because they could not see ahead of them.
... and since he wanted so to see ahead,
he looks behind and walks a backward path.
Allegorically, the Inferno represents the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is, and the three beasts represent three types of sin: the self-indulgent, the violent, and the malicious. These three types of sin also provide the three main divisions of Dante's Hell: Upper Hell, outside the city of Dis, for the four sins of indulgence (lust, gluttony, avarice, anger); Circle 7 for the sins of violence; and Circles 8 and 9 for the sins of malice (fraud and treachery). Added to these are two unlike categories that are specifically spiritual: Limbo, in Circle 1, contains the virtuous pagans who were not sinful but were ignorant of Christ, and Circle 6 contains the heretics who contradicted the doctrine and confused the spirit of Christ. The circles number 9, with the addition of Satan completing the structure of 9 + 1 = 10.
Having survived the depths of Hell, Dante and Virgil ascend out of the undergloom to the Mountain of Purgatory on the far side of the world. The Mountain is on an island, the only land in the Southern Hemisphere, created by the displacement of rock which resulted when Satan's fall created Hell (which Dante portrays as existing underneath Jerusalem). The mountain has seven terraces, corresponding to the seven deadly sins or "seven roots of sinfulness." The classification of sin here is more psychological than that of the Inferno, being based on motives, rather than actions. It is also drawn primarily from Christian theology, rather than from classical sources. However, Dante's illustrative examples of sin and virtue draw on classical sources as well as on the Bible and on contemporary events.
Love, a theme throughout the Divine Comedy, is particularly important for the framing of sin on the Mountain of Purgatory. While the love that flows from God is pure, it can become sinful as it flows through humanity. Humans can sin by using love towards improper or malicious ends (Wrath, Envy, Pride), or using it to proper ends but with love that is either not strong enough (Sloth) or love that is too strong (Lust, Gluttony, Greed). Below the seven purges of the soul is the Ante-Purgatory, containing the Excommunicated from the church and the Late repentant who died, often violently, before receiving rites. Thus the total comes to nine, with the addition of the Garden of Eden at the summit, equaling ten.
Allegorically, the Purgatorio represents the Christian life. Christian souls arrive escorted by an angel, singing In exitu Israel de Aegypto. In his Letter to Cangrande, Dante explains that this reference to Israel leaving Egypt refers both to the redemption of Christ and to "the conversion of the soul from the sorrow and misery of sin to the state of grace." Appropriately, therefore, it is Easter Sunday when Dante and Virgil arrive.
The Purgatorio is notable for demonstrating the medieval knowledge of a spherical Earth. During the poem, Dante discusses the different stars visible in the southern hemisphere, the altered position of the sun, and the various timezones of the Earth. At this stage it is, Dante says, sunset at Jerusalem, midnight on the River Ganges, and sunrise in Purgatory.
After an initial ascension, Beatrice guides Dante through the nine celestial spheres of Heaven. These are concentric and spherical, as in Aristotelian and Ptolemaic cosmology. While the structures of the Inferno and Purgatorio were based on different classifications of sin, the structure of the Paradiso is based on the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues.
The first seven spheres of Heaven deal solely with the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Fortitude, Justice and Temperance. The first three describe a deficiency of one of the cardinal virtues – the Moon, containing the inconstant, whose vows to God waned as the moon and thus lack fortitude; Mercury, containing the ambitious, who were virtuous for glory and thus lacked justice; and Venus, containing the lovers, whose love was directed towards another than God and thus lacked Temperance. The final four incidentally are positive examples of the cardinal virtues, all led on by the Sun, containing the prudent, whose wisdom lighted the way for the other virtues, to which the others are bound (constituting a category on its own). Mars contains the men of fortitude who died in the cause of Christianity; Jupiter contains the kings of Justice; and Saturn contains the temperate, the monks who abided by the contemplative lifestyle. The seven subdivided into three are raised further by two more categories: the eighth sphere of the fixed stars that contain those who achieved the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, and represent the Church Triumphant – the total perfection of humanity, cleansed of all the sins and carrying all the virtues of heaven; and the ninth circle, or Primum Mobile (corresponding to the Geocentricism of Medieval astronomy), which contains the angels, creatures never poisoned by original sin. Topping them all is the Empyrean, which contains the essence of God, completing the 9-fold division to 10.
Dante meets and converses with several great saints of the Church, including Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Saint Peter, and St. John. The Paradiso is consequently more theological in nature than the Inferno and the Purgatorio. However, Dante admits that the vision of heaven he receives is merely the one his human eyes permit him to see, and thus the vision of heaven found in the Cantos is Dante's personal vision.
The Divine Comedy finishes with Dante seeing the Triune God. In a flash of understanding that he cannot express, Dante finally understands the mystery of Christ's divinity and humanity, and his soul becomes aligned with God's love:
But already my desire and my will
were being turned like a wheel, all at one speed,
by the Love which moves the sun and the other stars.
Thematic concerns Uredi
The Divine Comedy can be described simply as an allegory: each canto, and the episodes therein, can contain many alternative meanings. Dante's allegory, however, is more complex, and, in explaining how to read the poem – see the Letter to Cangrande – he outlines other levels of meaning besides the allegory: the historical, the moral, the literal, and the anagogical.
The structure of the poem, likewise, is quite complex, with mathematical and numerological patterns arching throughout the work, particularly threes and nines, which are related to the Trinity. The poem 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, according to Dorothy Sayers in her introduction to her translation of the Inferno, allows Dante the freedom of not having to involve the reader in description, and allows him 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."
Dante called the poem "Comedy" (the adjective "Divine" was added later in the 14th century) because poems in the ancient world were classified as High ("Tragedy") or Low ("Comedy"). Low poems had happy endings and were written in everyday language, whereas High poems treated more serious matters and were written in an elevated style. Dante was one of the first in the Middle Ages to write of a serious subject, the Redemption of humanity, in the low and "vulgar" Italian language and not the Latin one might expect for such a serious topic. Boccaccio's account that an early version of the poem was begun by Dante in Latin is still controversial.
Scientific themes Uredi
Although the Divine Comedy is primarily a religious poem, discussing sin, virtue, and theology, Dante also discusses several elements of the science of his day (this mixture of science with poetry has received both praise and blame over the centuries). The Purgatorio repeatedly refers to the implications of a spherical Earth, such as the different stars visible in the southern hemisphere, the altered position of the sun, and the various timezones of the Earth. For example, at sunset in Purgatory it is midnight at the Ebro (a river in Spain), dawn in Jerusalem, and noon on the River Ganges:
- Just as, there where its Maker shed His blood,
- the sun shed its first rays, and Ebro lay
- beneath high Libra, and the ninth hour's rays
- were scorching Ganges' waves; so here, the sun
- stood at the point of day's departure when
- God's angel—happy—showed himself to us.
Dante travels through the centre of the Earth in the Inferno, and comments on the resulting change in the direction of gravity in Canto XXXIV (lines 76–120). A little earlier (XXXIII, 102–105), he queries the existence of wind in the frozen inner circle of hell, since it has no temperature differentials.
Inevitably, given its setting, the Paradiso discusses astronomy extensively, but in the Ptolemaic sense. The Paradiso also discusses the importance of the experimental method in science, with a detailed example in lines 94–105 of Canto II:
- Yet an experiment, were you to try it,
- could free you from your cavil and the source
- of your arts' course springs from experiment.
- Taking three mirrors, place a pair of them
- at equal distance from you; set the third
- midway between those two, but farther back.
- Then, turning toward them, at your back have placed
- a light that kindles those three mirrors and
- returns to you, reflected by them all.
- Although the image in the farthest glass
- will be of lesser size, there you will see
- that it must match the brightness of the rest.
A briefer example occurs in Canto XV of the Purgatorio (lines 16–21), where Dante points out that both theory and experiment confirm that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. Other references to science in the Paradiso include descriptions of clockwork in Canto XXIV (lines 13–18), and Thales' theorem about triangles in Canto XIII (lines 101–102).
See also Uredi
- „Inferno, la Divina Commedia annotata e commentata da Tommaso Di Salvo, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1985”. Abebooks.it. Pristupljeno 2010-01-16.
- Lectura Dantis, Società dantesca italiana
- Online sources include , ,  , , , and  arhivirano 11. novembra 2014. na sajtu Wayback Machine
- Inferno, Canto XX, lines 13–15 and 38–39, Mandelbaum translation.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, Purgatory, notes on page 75.
- Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed, Divine Comedy, "Notes to Dante's Inferno"
- Inferno, Canto 34, lines 121–126.
- Richard Lansing and Teodolinda Barolini, The Dante Encyclopedia, p. 475, Garland Publishing, 2000, ISBN 0-8153-1659-3.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, Purgatory, Introduction, pp. 65–67 (Penguin, 1955).
- Robin Kirkpatrick, Purgatorio, Introduction, p. xiv (Penguin, 2007).
- Carlyle-Oakey-Wickstead, Divine Comedy, "Notes on Dante's Purgatory.
- "The Letter to Can Grande," in Literary Criticism of Dante Alighieri, translated and edited by Robert S. Haller (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1973), 99
- Dorothy L. Sayers, Paradise, notes on Canto XXXIII.
- Paradiso, Canto XXXIII, lines 142–145, C. H. Sisson translation.
- „Epistle to Can Grande”. faculty.georgetown.edu. Pristupljeno 2014-10-20.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, Hell, Introduction, p. 16 (Penguin, 1955).
- „Ancient History Encyclopedia”.
- Boccaccio also quotes the initial triplet:"Ultima regna canam fluvido contermina mundo, / spiritibus quae lata patent, quae premia solvunt /pro meritis cuicumque suis". For translation and more, see Guyda Armstrong, Review of Giovanni Boccaccio. Life of Dante. J. G. Nichols, trans. London: Hesperus Press, 2002.
- Peri, Hiram (1955). „The Original Plan of the Divine Comedy”. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 18 (3/4): 189–210. DOI:10.2307/750179. JSTOR 750179.
- Michael Caesar, Dante: The Critical Heritage, Routledge, 1995, pp 288, 383, 412, 631.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, Purgatory, notes on p. 286
- Purgatorio, Canto XXVII, lines 1–6, Mandelbaum translation.
- Dorothy L. Sayers, Inferno, notes on page 284.
- Paradiso, Canto II, lines 94–105, Mandelbaum translation.
- Mtholyoke.edu "Mark Peterson Sheds New Light on Discovery by Galileo," College Street Journal, March 8, 2002. Retrieved 2 April 2009.