[Review] The Divine Comedy, The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, translated by John Ciardi

Publisher and Publication Date: New American Library. 2003. First published 1320.
Genre: Epic poem.
Pages: 928. 295 pages in The Inferno.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of classics.
Rating: Excellentia!

Goodreads author page for Dante Alighieri

This review will be for The Inferno. I have not read The Purgatorio or The Paradiso (yet) in this one volume book.

This book is read for my list in The Classics Club.
This book is also read for the Chunkster Reading Challenge 2021. I will only count this book once as the total book or volume is 928 pages. The Inferno including all the preceding chapters is 295 pages.
This book is also for Back to the Classics 2021-a book written in another language and thus translated to English.

Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321

For further reading or listening:
Catholic Answers, an encyclopedia.
Researchomatic, an essay.

Summary and My Thoughts:

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). At the time of these poems he is 35.

Dante had been expelled from Florence, Italy with the charges of being a grafter. A grafter is a person who has been dishonest or has taken advantage of another for gain or profit. For example, money or power. In addition, Dante believed he was guilty of pride (this will be brought out in The Purgatorio). And, his sin set the poems in motion. It is because of his sin that he is in the “dark wood of Error.” The first Canto is aptly titled, “The Dark Wood of Error.”

I’d be lost without the “How to Read Dante”, “Translator’s Note”, “Introduction”, and explanatory notes. I’d done a little research on who is the best translator for the poems. I settled on John Ciardi. Another benefit to this edition is all three are in one volume.

It is a narrative type poem. It is an allegory.

The Inferno has 34 Cantos.

There are several themes. The theme most recognizable in the poem, The Inferno, is it is a journey. A journey down into The Inferno. The poem begins with the descent. It ends with the climb out of it.

The Inferno has several themes (actually packed with themes), symbols, and lessons.

Some of the themes are sin, death, perseverance, courage, bravery, justice, good and evil, suffering, judgment, temptation, self-control, grief, pride, and greed.

I believe if a reader is a Christian that person will see or understand things that a person who is not a believer will not notice, especially if the reader is Catholic.

A few favorite quotes:

1. “The light was departing. The brown air drew down all the earth’s creatures, calling them to rest from their day-roving, as I, one man alone,

prepared myself to face the double war of the journey and the pity, which memory shall here set down, nor hesitate, nor err.”

From lines 1-6 in the first Canto.

2. “‘No soul in Grace comes ever to this crossing; therefore if Charon rages at your presence you will understand the reason for his cursing.’

When he had spoken, all the twilight country shook so violently, the terror of it bathes me with sweat even in memory:

the tear-soaked ground gave out a sigh of wind that spewed itself in flame on a red sky, and all my shattered senses left me. Blind,

like one whom sleep comes over in a swoon, I stumbled into darkness and went down.”

From lines 124-134 in the third Canto.

3. “He said to me: ‘You will soon see arise what I await, and what you wonder at; soon you will see the thing before your eyes.’

To the truth which will seem falsehood every man who would not be called a liar while speaking fact should learn to seal his lips as best he can.”

From lines 121-126 in Canto 16.

Final Thoughts:

1. Dante is joined by other famous poets.

2. Dante sees interesting souls of those he knew and some he didn’t know but were infamous. For example, a few popes.

3. Those he saw are known by their sin.

4. Beasts or monsters are met on the journey.

5. There is a listing of sins and their level as to which ones are worse, etc.

6. I can understand why people do not read Dante’s works. They are daunting and intimidating. However, they are not impossible to read but only a challenge.

7. Gruesome scenes are described in several Cantos of biting, chewing, and the devouring of bodies.

8. There is a sinister feel to some of the souls and those Dante encounters.

9. The Inferno is not a feel-good happy story. It is not a romantic type story. It is serious, powerful, and memorable.

I have a question: Explain how there is a frozen lake in hell?


3 thoughts on “[Review] The Divine Comedy, The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, translated by John Ciardi

  1. Explain how there is a frozen lake in hell?
    I presume… that it is very cold? QUite a contrast from the fire language, but of course that’s one of the problem, that fire and darkness–the 2 key biblical images of hell–are contradictory. For Dante, pre-scientifically, “frozen” might be simply non-liquid, so that still lava is frozen. But most read it as ice.

    Liked by 1 person

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