The Divine Comedy Summary Part 1: Inferno
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.
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.
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 →