Reading Classics, Chronologically Through the Ages discussion

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Poetry > Inferno (1320 CE) - #22

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message 1: by Kendra (new)

Kendra (kendrary) | 146 comments Mod
"Inferno (Italian for "Hell") is the first part of Italian writer Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. The Inferno tells the journey of Dante through Hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine concentric circles of torment located within the Earth; it is the "realm ... of those who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellowmen". As an allegory, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul toward God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin." Source


Happy April, everyone! The birds are chirping, spring is in the air, it's time to go lay out a blanket on the grass and read!... About hell.


message 2: by Elizabeth (last edited Apr 01, 2019 11:51PM) (new)

Elizabeth (ejvc) | 33 comments Read the first two cantos last night. I have a great version that my brother gave me, with the original italian on the facing pages and notes after each canto! I think there are 34 cantos in Inferno, so one a night plus sometimes two a night should take me through the month.

Is anyone else reading? We are 900 years after Augustine and 550 years after Bede, a huge, huge jump. Dante seems a bit closer to Augustine though, so far, in that there's a sophisticated and literate quality to his prose quite missing from Bede.


message 3: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Goforth | 6 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Read the first two cantos last night. I have a great version that my brother gave me, with the original italian on the facing pages and notes after each canto! I think there are 34 cantos in Infern..."

I started reading it this morning. I believe I have the same version as you. This is my first time to read The Inferno, so I'm really glad to have the notes!


message 4: by Cleo (last edited May 01, 2019 09:40AM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 248 comments Mod
I just finished reading it with a friend so I'll be able to jump into the conversation. If you can read Italian, Elizabeth, you are sooo lucky! Dante's use of the language is part of the enjoyment of the poem, I hear.


message 5: by Kendra (new)

Kendra (kendrary) | 146 comments Mod
I just finished Inferno this morning and I was left a little disappointed. I don't feel like we got any context for Dante's journey into Hell - why was it "willed from above" like Virgil frequently said? Maybe some of these questions would be answered if I read the rest of the series, but I don't have much of an inclination to do that.

Also, maybe this is just a cultural gap for me, but I didn't understand the obsession with people telling Dante their names so he could ensure they would be remembered up on earth. If these people are in hell, why should we bother to remember them? As a cautionary tale, maybe?

I will say the imagery at points was compelling and vivid. I read others compare Inferno to a modern-day self-help book, but I'm not really seeing the comparison. I just see it as an attempt to scare the reader into behaving and adhering to Christian morals.


message 6: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 248 comments Mod
I finished the Inferno a number of weeks ago and have started on Purgatorio.

The scope of Dante's poem is so vast that I think it takes a number of readings to get your bearings. This was the second time for me; the first time I just tried to learn about the historical context. The poem itself is multi-layered and Dante is not only speaking generally but specifically. Sins encountered in Hell, Dante sees in himself (or Virgil alludes to them) and while he is enlightened, I guess I see it as sort of a training ground for him. You can see his development throughout his journey. There is also a huge political context. It's interesting to note as you read through, how Dante meets both Guelphs and Ghibellines in Hell ..... while he is intellectually aware of the political climate, he now more focuses not on party authority but the condition of people's hearts. He also examines how destructive factional politics can be to a community. There's more and probably much that I missed but I certainly noticed the above with my second read.

I found that some of the people wanted to be remembered but most wanted to be forgotten. However, family and your family name was important in those times so I can see the connection.

What struck me most was a continual thread ....... often the soul in Hell was there not necessarily for what he did, but his refusal to take responsibility for his actions. They would not admit their guilt and ask for forgiveness and are often blaming someone else. It was something that really stood out for me.

Well, I must rush but I hope I've helped illuminate it a little more. We have to remember that it's a poem and while it is a story, you almost have to read it differently. Also, apparently Dante was a master with language and you completely miss his wonderful craftsmanship if you can't speak Italian. Bummer, isn't it? :-)


message 7: by Gini (new)

Gini | 11 comments Still working thru the Bauer book, but have arrived at poetry, at last. I've tried The Inferno several times already, but never made to the last ring. So I'm very interested in what you all have to say about it here.
I suspect without the language and knowledge of the political jibes I'll miss a bunch of stuff, but that can be added in later I suppose.
I want to say that Samuel Beckett read it repeatedly. One of his go to reads. Maybe inspiration for some of his works, or a reference for vivid images.


message 8: by Kendra (new)

Kendra (kendrary) | 146 comments Mod
Cleo, those are some interesting observations! I definitely think that not having explored the historical context, I am missing much of the subtle commentary. I do think a second read would be illuminating.


message 9: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 248 comments Mod
Gini wrote: "Still working thru the Bauer book, but have arrived at poetry, at last. I've tried The Inferno several times already, but never made to the last ring. So I'm very interested in what you all have to..."

Oh my goodness, I can't wait to get to poetry. I'm kind of stalled in the history section. Have fun!


message 10: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 248 comments Mod
Kendra wrote: "Cleo, those are some interesting observations! I definitely think that not having explored the historical context, I am missing much of the subtle commentary. I do think a second read would be illu..."

I was just listening to a Great Course on The Divine Comedy and they are talking about the connections between Purgatory and the Inferno. Unless you read soooo carefully you really miss what Dante is doing. I've read The Inferno three times and I'm still missing things.


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