To the consternation of his more academic admirers who believe LAtin to be the only proper language for dignified verse, Dante wrote his Comedy in colloquial Italian wanting it to be a poem for the common reader. Taking two threads of a story that everybody knew and loved - the story of a vision of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, and the story of the lover who has to brave the Underworld to find his lost lady - he combined them into a great allegory of the soul's search for God. he made it swift, exciting and topical, lavishing upon it all his learning and wit, all his tenderness, humour and enthusiam, and all his poetry. In Hell, the first of the three parts, the poet is conducted by the spirit of the poet Virgil through the twenty four circles of Hell in the first stage of his arduous journey towards God.
The first volume of Dante's Divine Comedy
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 Dantes life. In this first part of his Divine Comedy, Dante fused satire and humour with intellect and soaring passion to create an immortal Christian allegory of mankinds search for self-knowledge and spiritual enlightenment.
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Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265 and belonged to a noble but impoverished family. He was married when he was around twenty to Gemma Donati and had four children. He met Beatrice, who was to be his muse, in 1274, and when she died in 1290 he sought distraction in philosophy and theology, and wrote La Vita Nuova. He worked on the Divine Comedy from 1308 until near the time of his death in Ravenna in 1321.
Dorothy L. Sayers wrote novels, poetry, and translated Dante for Penguin Classics. She died in 1957.
Barbara Reynolds was Lecturer in Italian at Cambridge University and subsequently Reader in Italian Studies at Nottingham, and Honorary Reader at Warwick. She has written books, both on Italian authors and on Dorothy L. Sayers.
“The English Dante of choice.” –Hugh Kenner
“Exactly what we have waited for these years, a Dante with clarity, eloquence, terror, and profoundly moving depths.” –Robert Fagles, Princeton University
“A marvel of fidelity to the original, of sobriety, and truly, of inspired poetry.” –Henri Peyre, Yale University