Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura ché la diritta via era smarrita…
“In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself astray in a dark wood
where the straight road had been lost…”
These are the opening lines of the Divina Commedia, the finest work in the Italian language written in the 14th century by Dante Alighieri also called “il Sommo Poeta” ie “the Supreme Poet”.
This epic poem is so important that is studied in all the Italian licei and istituti (higher secondary schools) irrespective of the stream (science, fine arts, music, human sciences, human sciences and of course linguistic); so every single Italian student has to study it and memorize some of it…Personally, I hated it back then, but thankfully things change in life! 🙂
Dante invented terza rima for the purpose of this epic poem, a rhyme scheme still popular and widespread today. It does a fine job interlocking the 3-line stanzas. The Comedy, as he titled it, doesn’t have one single joke. It’s a comedy in the sense that Dante, the main character, journeys upward from Hell, through Purgatory, to Heaven, and not the other way around. So it has a happy ending and is not a tragedy.
Inferno is the first part of this epic poem . It is an allegory telling of the journey of Dante through Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth. Allegorically, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul towards God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin. This video below will tell us more about it.
Purgatorio is the second part of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It is an allegory telling of the climb of Dante up the Mount of Purgatory, guided by the Roman poet Virgil, except for the last four cantos at which point Beatrice takes over as Dante’s guide. In the poem, Purgatory is depicted as a mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, consisting of a bottom section (Ante-Purgatory), seven levels of suffering and spiritual growth (associated with the seven deadly sins), and finally the Earthly Paradise at the top. Allegorically, the poem represents the Christian life, and in describing the climb Dante discusses the nature of sin, examples of vice and virtue, as well as moral issues in politics and in the Church. The poem outlines a theory that all sin arises from love – either perverted love directed towards others’ harm, or deficient love, or the disordered love of good things. Let’s hear what Micaela says about it.
Paradiso is the third and final part of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It is an allegory telling of Dante’s journey through Heaven, guided by Beatrice, who symbolises theology. In the poem, Paradise is depicted as a series of concentric spheres surrounding the Earth, consisting of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Fixed Stars, the Primum Mobile and finally, the Empyrean. Allegorically, the poem represents the soul’s ascent to God.