The Divine Comedy The Divine Comedy discussion


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Is there any good reason to read only the Inferno, as is so common?

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message 1: by Joshua (last edited Jul 10, 2017 06:58PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joshua W.D. My first answer would be no: it would be like reading only The Fellowship of the Ring, or only books 1-8 of The Iliad or The Odyssey. Thoughts?


Mark Wilson I can see why people do it that way. I feel like Inferno got the most popularity and so there are times when only Inferno gets looked at. However, I would try and read through all of them. Paradiso can be a bit of a grey area and will require you to pay great attention to, but they're all fun to read about.


John Ball Read it all! You will be glad you did.


Abigail Fer I found that only reading Inferno gives the reader an incomplete understanding of the purpose of Dante's journey. What are everyone else's thoughts on the matter?


Jesse Cupp I think everyone reads Inferno because it's the most unique, grotesque, and "fun" in the sense that it's well-paced and intense. I really liked Inferno, enjoyed Purgatorio, and was bored to death by Paradisio. However, I agree with Abigail in that reading just Inferno probably does not communicate why Dante wrote this in the first place.


John Jessee I agree with the other comments that you should really read all of them. Inferno gets the most popularity because the imagery is still the most accessible and there is a lot of political payback going on from Dante's life. While these are good enough reasons to read it, you really don't get a full sense of Dante's vision or heart until you reach Paradiso.

I fell in love with his devotion to Beatrice and realized that this book is actually a bit of a love story. That love story culminates in Paradiso and also gives you a full view of what conceptions of Heaven was like for Dante's time period. Granted that there are places in Purgatorio and Paradiso where some have felt it to be a bit of a slog, but it's rewarding.


Greg Read them all, but make sure you read one with Dore's stupendous engravings/illustrations. For me, that has made all the difference.


Caio Sabadin As the others have already pointed out, people usually read only the Inferno either because it has a very rich imagery and symbolism, or because it's often the only book referred to on the mass media — like the book Inferno, by Dan Brown, or the whole Dante's Inferno division on series like Saint Seiya —, or even because it's the book where the highest number of important figures from the Classicism and antiquity might be seen, such as Homer, Horace, Ovid, Hector, Aeneas, Odysseus, Achilles, Helen and many others.

Another reason why so many are interested in Inferno might be due the fact it is highly political, and, even though the Purgatorio might be as well, its predecessor is the apex. Inferno also is an easier book to read than the other two because it has more action, thus making it seem like a faster, less boring piece to read, if that makes sense to you.

This specific book's fame, however, seems to have been increasing only recently — note that this book is so old that "recently" might mean something about the last two or three centuries. I'm sure during the renaissance the Inferno has played it role, being important because of political issues, but undoubtly Purgatorio and Paradiso were the main interests, specially for how philosophical they are.

In fact, I think the main reason why you should read the role Comedy is not simply understanding Dante's journey to Heaven to see his beloved Beatrice, but rather getting in touch with one of the most important books with the western canon. This book surely talk about Dante's cruise and his love for Beatrice, but this is more a mean than an end. Throughout the book, but not much on Inferno and very much on Paradiso, Dante gives the reader a thorough summary of the medieval philosophy, science, theology, ethics, politics.

In fact, I've once read — I'm sorry for not recalling the source — Dante had begun the renaissance along with Petrarch. The first one finished the medieval thought, whilst the second introduced new ideas that would eventually develop into a new thought, the one from the early modern period.

In fact, it seems to me Beatrice's love is more related to the theological love of god than a sexual or even romantic love. After all, Plato is probably in Dante's Inferno...


Greg There are more naked people in Dore's illustrations in "Inferno". By the time one gets to "Paradiso" everyone is wearing angelic robes.


message 10: by Maksim (last edited Sep 06, 2018 06:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maksim Karpitski The way I see it there are basically two reasons. The first one has already been mentioned here - there's violence and nudity - just like in some kind of Game of Thrones story. Another one is less straightforward and has to do with a popular image of Dante himself. This image has been essentially redefined by Romantic poets to fit new ideals of what it means to be a poet or a creative person of any kind. Think the darkish and eternally brooding Lord Byron. Even bright and colorful medieval portraits of Dante in illustrations and various art were abandoned for a darker image. And the only part of this trilogy suited to this purpose was Inferno, hence it was read, praised and translated more. The author's figure of the present day is still rooted into the romantic tradition, so it should come as no surprise that Inferno is still the most popular of Dante's work.


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