The ''Divine Comedy'' ((イタリア語:Divina Commedia) (:diˈviːna komˈmɛːdja)) is an epic poem by Dante Alighieri, begun c. 1308 and completed 1320, a year before his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature〔For example, ''Encyclopedia Americana'', 2006, Vol. 30. p. 605: "the greatest single work of Italian literature;" John Julius Norwich, ''The Italians: History, Art, and the Genius of a People'', Abrams, 1983, p. 27: "his tremendous poem, still after six and a half centuries the supreme work of Italian literature, remains – after the legacy of ancient Rome – the grandest single element in the Italian heritage;" and Robert Reinhold Ergang, ''The Renaissance'', Van Nostrand, 1967, p. 103: "Many literary historians regard the Divine Comedy as the greatest work of Italian literature. In world literature it is ranked as an epic poem of the highest order."〕 and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature.〔 See also Western canon for other "canons" that include the ''Divine Comedy''.〕 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.〔See or any other history of Italian language.〕 It is divided into three parts: ''Inferno'', ''Purgatorio'', and ''Paradiso''.
On the surface, the poem describes Dante's travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise or Heaven;〔Peter E. Bondanella, ''The Inferno'', Introduction, p. xliii, Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003, ISBN 1-59308-051-4: "the key fiction of the ''Divine Comedy'' is that the poem is true."〕 but at a deeper level, it represents, allegorically, the soul's journey towards God.〔Dorothy L. Sayers, ''Hell'', notes on page 19.〕 At this deeper level, Dante draws on medieval Christian theology and philosophy, especially Thomistic philosophy and the ''Summa Theologica'' of Thomas Aquinas.〔Charles Allen Dinsmore, ''The Teachings of Dante'', Ayer Publishing, 1970, p. 38, ISBN 0-8369-5521-8.〕 Consequently, the ''Divine Comedy'' has been called "the ''Summa'' in verse".〔(''The Fordham Monthly'' ) Fordham University, Vol. XL, Dec. 1921, p. 76〕
The work was originally simply titled ''Comedìa'' and the word ''Divina'' was added by Giovanni Boccaccio. The first printed edition to add the word ''divina'' to the title was that of the Venetian humanist Lodovico Dolce,〔Ronnie H. Terpening, ''Lodovico Dolce, Renaissance Man of Letters'' (Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press, 1997), p. 166.〕 published in 1555 by Gabriele Giolito de' Ferrari.
==Structure and story==
The ''Divine Comedy'' is composed of 14,233 lines that are divided into three canticas (Italian plural ''cantiche'') – ''Inferno'' (Hell), ''Purgatorio'' (Purgatory), and ''Paradiso'' (Paradise) – each consisting of 33 cantos (Italian plural ''canti''). An initial canto, serving as an introduction to the poem and generally considered to be part of the first cantica, brings the total number of cantos to 100. It is generally accepted, however, that the first two cantos serve as a unitary prologue to the entire epic, and that the opening two cantos of each cantica serve as prologues to each of the three cantiche.〔Dante The Inferno A Verse Translation by Professor Robert and Jean Hollander page 43〕〔Epist. XIII 43 to 48〕〔Wilkins E.H The Prologue to the Divine Comedy Annual Report of the Dante Society, pp. 1-7.〕
The number three is prominent in the work, represented in part by the number of canticas and their lengths. Additionally, the verse scheme used, ''terza rima'', is hendecasyllabic (lines of eleven syllables), with the lines composing tercets according to the rhyme scheme ''aba, bcb, cdc, ded, ...''.
Written in the first person, the poem tells of Dante's journey through the three realms of the dead, lasting from the night before Good Friday to the Wednesday after Easter in the spring of 1300. The Roman poet Virgil guides him through Hell and Purgatory; Beatrice, Dante's ideal woman, guides him through Heaven. Beatrice was a Florentine woman whom he had met in childhood and admired from afar in the mode of the then-fashionable courtly love tradition, which is highlighted in Dante's earlier work ''La Vita Nuova''.
The structure of the three realms follows a common numerical pattern of 9 plus 1, for a total of 10: 9 circles of the Inferno, followed by Lucifer contained at its bottom; 9 rings of Mount Purgatory, followed by the Garden of Eden crowning its summit; and the 9 celestial bodies of Paradiso, followed by the Empyrean containing the very essence of God. Within each group of 9, 7 elements correspond to a specific moral scheme, subdivided into three subcategories, while 2 others of greater particularity are added to total nine. For example, the seven deadly sins of the Catholic Church that are cleansed in Purgatory are joined by special realms for the Late repentant and the excommunicated by the church. The core seven sins within Purgatory correspond to a moral scheme of love perverted, subdivided into three groups corresponding to excessive love (Lust, Gluttony, Greed), deficient love (Sloth), and malicious love (Wrath, Envy, Pride).
In central Italy's political struggle between Guelphs and Ghibellines, Dante was part of the Guelphs, who in general favored the Papacy over the Holy Roman Emperor. Florence's Guelphs split into factions around 1300: the White Guelphs and the Black Guelphs. Dante was among the White Guelphs who were exiled in 1302 by the Lord-Mayor Cante de' Gabrielli di Gubbio, after troops under Charles of Valois entered the city, at the request of Pope Boniface VIII, who supported the Black Guelphs. This exile, which lasted the rest of Dante's life, shows its influence in many parts of the ''Comedy,'' from prophecies of Dante's exile to Dante's views of politics, to the eternal damnation of some of his opponents.
The last word in each of the three canticas is ''stelle'' ("stars").
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