Dante’s Inferno: A Summary

The Divine Comedy Summary Part 1: Inferno

Back to all Book Summaries

The Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia, written c.1308-20) is one of the greatest literary masterpieces ever written. Its author, Dante Alighieri, was so talented that he helped to shape modern Italian. He was so self-confident that he cast himself in the role of a prophet sent by God to rescue His people. And he was so bitter that he used his poem as an opportunity to savagely settle personal scores. This Divine Comedy summary covers the key points and briefly outlines what happens in each of the 100 cantos, or chapters, of the poem.

Divine Comedy Summary Part 2: Purgatorio

Divine Comedy Summary Part 3: Paradiso

See Also – Machiavelli and The Prince

The Divine Comedy Summary: An Overview of the Poem

The poem is a fictional memoir, in which Dante tells the story of the time he was granted access to the three realms of the Afterlife – Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Dante got this special treatment – this unique chance to visit the Afterlife while still alive – because of the intercession of an angel called Beatrice. Beatrice had once been a girl whom Dante had loved before she died young; when Dante wandered further and further away from God’s love, Beatrice had begged the Almighty for the chance to show Dante the error of his ways. Heaven granted this request because not just Dante but the whole of Italy was ruining itself and turning away from God – so if Dante went on this special journey, he would be able to write about what he saw and use his poetry to guide people back to the true Christian path.

Dante holding The Divine Comedy
Dante holding The Divine Comedy, with his hometown Florence, the pit of Hell, the mountain of Purgatory and the spheres of Heaven. By Domenico di Michelino (1465)

Obviously, it’s not a true story. But it presents itself convincingly as a real account of Dante’s experiences, and the Divine Comedy is a vivid, visceral read. And as far as Dante was concerned, his prophetic role was real: he was clearly constantly aware of the import of what he was creating and the truth which he passionately believed his allegories contained. His Afterlife is filled with three groups of people: famous Biblical figures and ancient Christians; important names from the classical tradition of Greece and Rome; and contemporaries of Dante, including political leaders and friends that he had known personally. Continue reading →

Moral Responsibility in TV

Back to Film and TV

I wrote this essay as a core part of my Creative Writing Masters degree. It’s about the theme of moral responsibility in The Sopranos, The Wire and Breaking Bad, and the industry context that enabled these great shows to be made. (It contains spoilers for all three shows.) Rereading it, I’m interested in its sense that America was getting entangled in a moral crisis – this was written in early 2016, just before the rise of Trump. For less serious analysis, read my attempt to prove that these shows have a sinister vegan agenda.

Why is the issue of moral responsibility such a central theme in great twenty-first-century American television drama?

Wallace, D’Angelo and Bodie in The Wire. Read my analysis of Season One here


The debut of The Sopranos in January 1999 inaugurated a new “Golden Age” of television.[1] This flowering of critically-acclaimed shows has transformed the way that television is created, watched and perceived.[2] Within this revolution, it is striking that the theme of moral responsibility keeps recurring. Moral responsibility is taken to mean the consequences, generally negative, of the actions of a character or institution within a television drama, and their relationship with those consequences. If they try to deny moral responsibility for the negative outcomes around them which we, as the viewer, know they have caused – that is, if they claim that it is not their fault – a dramatic tension arises which can only be solved through further negative consequences, particularly for the soul of the character or institution in question.

The three shows that are most commonly cited as the greatest, or among the greatest, in television history – The Sopranos[3] (1999-2007), The Wire[4] (2002-2008), and Breaking Bad[5] (2008-2013) – all have, at their core, an obsession with this theme.[6] An investigation into why this is will not only reveal something fundamental about these shows and their cultural context, but also lay bare what it is about this theme that offers so much powerful storytelling potential.

Continue reading →

Artist in Residence

A month ago, I was drawing cartoons at the Hurlingham Club. Then, just as I finished this sketch, the lady lowered her newspaper and spotted me drawing her:

Maxine the Jesuit

She called me over, and I thought I was in trouble. Instead, she flipped through my sketchbook and made me a job offer. “I’m organising a charity fundraiser at the end of May,” she said. “Will you come and sketch the evening?” Continue reading →

May Bank Holiday

Back to More Cartoons

For the bank holiday, Charlotte hosted a group of us in Exmoor. Everyone got very excited on the first night when we saw what can only be described as a space-train flying through the night sky above us. It sailed among the stars, glowing with a faint white light, and filling us with panic and alarm. Was it ghosts? Was it aliens? Was it a really weird meteor shower? (We found out two days later that it was Elon Musk.)

Space Train Continue reading →