The Divine Comedy is an Italian long narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, begun c. 1308 and completed in 1320, a year before his death in 1321. It is widely considered to be the preeminent work in Italian literature and one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem’s imaginative vision of the afterlife is representative of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church by the 14th century. It helped establish the Tuscan language, in which it is written as the standardized Italian language. It is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.
The narrative describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise or Heaven, while allegorically the poem represents the soul’s journey towards God. Dante draws on medieval Christian theology and philosophy, especially Thomistic philosophy and the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. Consequently, the Divine Comedy has been called “the Summa in verse”. In Dante’s work, Virgil is presented as human reason and Beatrice is presented as divine knowledge.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Durante degli Alighieri commonly known by his short name Dante Alighieri or simply as Dante was a major Italian poet of the Late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy, originally called Comedìa (modern Italian: Commedia) and later christened Divina by Giovanni Boccaccio, is widely considered the most important poem of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language.
In the late Middle Ages, most poetry was written in Latin, accessible only to the most educated readers. In De vulgari eloquentia (On Eloquence in the Vernacular), however, Dante defended the use of the vernacular in literature. He would even write in the Tuscan dialect for works such as The New Life (1295) and the Divine Comedy; this highly unorthodox choice set a precedent that important later Italian writers such as Petrarch and Boccaccio would follow.