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Circles of Hell

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  924 ratings  ·  109 reviews
'I truly thought I'd never make it back.'

Ten of the most memorable and most terrifying cantos from Dante's Inferno.

Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victo
Paperback, Little Black Classics #25, 52 pages
Published February 26th 2015 by Penguin Classics (first published 1320)
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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Sean Barrs
Sep 30, 2015 rated it did not like it
This is quite possibly the worse edition I’ve come across in this collection so far. It is simply terrible. I would avoid this completely if you’re thinking about giving the poet a try. The Divine Comedy is hard to follow at the best of times and this edition makes it even worse. I’ve started reading the full work no less than six times over the past year, and each time I’ve had to go back to the beginning out of confusion. I was due another reattempt, so I thought I’d give this edition a try; ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
"The way is long, the road is cruelly hard."
- Dante, Canto XXXIV


Vol 25 of my Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set is obviously just a selection from Inferno (book 1 of The Divine Comedy). I've read Dante's 'Divine Comedy' a couple times, and Inferno several. But I'm not nearly the fan of Dante that my brother is. He collects translations and copies of Dante's Divine Comedy, I prefer Homer. Somehow, we make it through. I liked Robin Kirkpatrick's translation, but it wasn't my favorite. Here is
Michelle Curie
What would it be like to literally go to Hell and back? Ask Dante Alighieri. But don't go for the Little Black Classic, because it might make you just as upset as it made me. Circles of Hell features ten cantos taken from the medieval Italian epic Inferno. In it, we follow a pilgrim making his journey through the nine circles of Hell, each with their own inhabitants and sins.

I have not read Inferno, which made this a horrible starting point (thus my rating). It's obviously just supposed to be a
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, classics, horror
The PS3 Game version of The Divine comedy (named Dante's Inferno) was the first time I ever heard of Dante Alighieri or the Circles of Hell. Ever since playing that game years ago I have been hooked on Dante. Circles of Hell gives the reader the "best bits" of The Divine Comedy and cuts out the chaff and extraneous detail (if that be your type of thing) as there is a lot of it.
I, however, adore detail and tedium in my reading but that did not stop me from loving these little snippets of horror.
Read all my reviews on

I bought a copy of the full Divine Comedy a couple of years ago, but have so far been holding out on reading it as I foresee another multiyear project to finish it. Circles of Hell - some snippets from the more sinister part of the collection looked like it could give me a taste of what could be found in the full edition.

Unfortunately, although they were little tastes (some cantos from the Hell part) they made little sense on their ow
May 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
Poor translation, poor layout. Compared this edition against the proper full edition and came to the following conclusion: hack job!

Now usually I will admit that I have read very little poetry with the exception of the superb John Betjeman and would give at least four stars for its quality. This however is dire this is contains a more modern turn of phrase.

In summery Robin Kirkpatrick is a shoddy translator who should consider the words more carefully, a few more years studying the Italian langu
Jessica Triana de Ford
It was hard going until I started reading it out loud and then it naturally fell into a wonderful rhythm.
Liz Janet
Dec 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
I didn't hate it and I didn't like it. The selection this book has made is so random. It feels really choppy. It would be the same if I chopped Beowulf in parts.
I do think that I would enjoy the complete work of Dante.
Joey Woolfardis
Dante Alighieri was a 13th-14th Century Italian Poet and Statesman. The Divine Comedy depicts Dante's own journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, guided by the Roman Poet Virgil. Fully titled Divina Commedia, it is split in to the sections; Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.

This Little Black Classic is the prefect place to start if you wish to discover whether Dante is right for you. It features a selection of Cantos (verses in a poem) taken from Inferno, the passage that Dante takes throu
Walter Schutjens
With this review im not commenting on the whole of Dante’s Inferno, just the extracts concerning this book.

I found the prose beautiful, better than the likes of Shakespear. That of course bears the element that I did not understand 50% of what was going on, because true understanding required a careful dissection of the stanzas. It was simply the construction of the the line with elaborate adjectives and similes, that sketched a horrifying portrayal of hell. “together these all stirred a storm
Noelia Alonso
I like this. The language is so rich and powerful but being only a few excerpts of the book takes a lot out of the story. So I guess now I have to pick Inferno and read it all
Mar 31, 2015 rated it liked it
My favorite part of Dante’s famous descend through Hell and Purgatory, and subequent ascend to the Heavenly spheres has always been the first third: the cantos about the nince circles of Hell. Therefore, I pretty much knew I would like this book a lot and I would probably have given it a much better rating if it hadn’t been composed of seemingly random selections of the admittedly long section. The intigrate structure of Hell and the horrifically creative punishments are oddly captivating and th ...more
Ffion Wyn
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I feel I really ought to read more of Inferno than the bits that are found in this book before passing judgement, however, this is amazing! I am very tempted to read it over the summer but I'd have to try and find a copy by the same translator- it's so readable!
The description is awesome (if a bit gory....). I couldn't help but compare it to The Road (studying it for coursework). The only reason that it's not 5 stars is that, because it's bits taken from another book, it got a bit confusing as
Prema Arasu
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Five stars for Inferno as a whole text (this is an extract)

I studied a heavily annotated student's translation of The Divine Comedy earlier this year for university, and as a result, could discuss extensively the merits and shortcomings of presenting extracts from Inferno in this Penguin series, but I won't - I'll just comment that yes, its inclusion does contribute to the worldly scope of the box set as Dante had massive influences on the Renaissance and the Italian language - however I think t
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Adored this, I plan to get a full translation now. This has completely got me addicted.
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned-books
Meh, considering I already knew the whole 9 circles, this book is too selective and vague.
Also had to read it like 8th-grade poetry, thanks to grade saver.
Helped me yet summarise a book I had low interest on.
May 25, 2017 added it
Shelves: books-i-own
Had no concentration for this book the last few days so have to reread this
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Always hard for me to rate poetry and particularly classical poetry.
I love all the poems I read by Dante and this little Circles of Hell was no exception.
Mia Green
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
No. 25
Jan 05, 2021 added it
Shelves: classics
kinda hard to follow when nobody is forcing you to analyze it. but there will come a day i will read the divine comedy. that day, however,is not today.
2.5 stars really...

Some years ago, I bought a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, but a rather academic and intimidating introduction saw me soon putting it back down again. This Little Black Classic was the perfect taster, comprising as it does a sort of ‘Greatest Hits’ of a handful of cantos from Inferno.

I was surprised to find how easy this was to read in comparison to that dreadfully off-putting introduction from so many years ago, with a rich and evocative use of language that sometimes amused a
Alex Harris-MacDuff
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, minis
This is absolutely fantastic. So atmospheric, and gripping. I'd love to read the full Divine Comedy, but does anyone know which translation would be best to get? There are so many, and they can wildly vary. This one is great though, but I'm not sure I want an 'academic' one with tonnes of annotations, and apparently this translator has the Italian version side-by-side with the English translations, which is a bit pointless for me. ...more
Just not for me. I have attempted to read this short excerpt, and others, as well as Inferno, but they just don't do it for me.
Simple tastes, I guess.
Rebecca Jane
This was a bit lost on me, but I still liked it.
Beth Younge
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wow! I've heard so much about this famous book and these exerts of chapters are a perfect introduction. I thought it was a brillant read. ...more
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classics
I don't know how to feel about this... ...more
Sherry Verma
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was the most vivid poetry I've read in a long, long time. Loved it! ...more
Michael Arnold
May 12, 2015 rated it liked it
What a really eclectic selection, and from such a really eclectic translation!
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Dante Alighieri, or simply Dante (May 14/June 13 1265 – September 13/14, 1321), is one of the greatest poets in the Italian language; with the comic story-teller Boccaccio and the poet Petrarch, he forms the classic trio of Italian authors. Dante Alighieri was born in the city-state Florence in 1265. He first saw the woman, or rather the child, who was to become the poetic love of his life when he ...more

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