The Divine Comedy is a monumental epic poem written by Dante Alighieri
The Divine Comedy is a monumental epic poem written by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), who is recognised as one of the greatest Italian poets, prose writers, literary theorists, moral philosophers, and political thinkers. The text is considered a landmark in Italian literature and among the greatest works of all medieval European literature, as well as a profound Christian vision of humankind’s temporal and eternal destiny.
This literary work can be interpreted from two distinct perspectives. On a personal level, it is based on Dante’s personal experience while in exile from his beloved city of Florence. Alternatively, on a more comprehensive level, it is an allegory in which Dante, on the wings of powerful imagination, takes a journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise. This great epic poem has been a source of inspiration both for common readers and literary readers by ‘its array of learning, its penetrating and comprehensive analysis of contemporary problems, and its inventiveness of language and imagery’ (Quinones, 2018). Contrary to the common literary norms of the time, Dante composed his poem in the Italian vernacular instead of Latin, and with the growing popularity of the Divine Comedy, it undoubtedly contributed in shaping its literary development and played a great role in making it the literary language in Western Europe for several centuries. Dante was a literary genius and was fully conversant with the classical tradition, filtering and gleaning the old writers such as Virgil, Cicero, and Boethius for his literary enrichment.
The Divine Comedy is a theological text built on Christian thought and strong poetic imagination that has inspired generations of writers for centuries. Using first person narratives, Dante explored his feelings and thoughts about the moral dilemmas and political problems both Christianity and Florence were facing. Seeking solutions to these issues, he skilfully considered core biblical themes—most prominently the understanding of sin and repentance—but also scrutinised the established conceptions of virtue and ethics originally found in Greek and Roman mythology. The Divine Comedy is a literary masterpiece for its elements of extraneous flights of creativity. Dante’s monumental poem has decisively influenced Christian thought, more than any other written work, concerning the immortality of human soul. It is considered one of the central texts within western literature and is arguably the greatest poem of Middle Ages. Dante has drawn his epic poem from a bewildering array of texts, with many references to both historical and mythical characters—Brutus to Thomas Aquinas to King David—in addition to numerous contemporaries.