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Exploring the Divine Comedy

This site is dedicated to the collaborative exploration of Dante's masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. By providing a clean, integrated experience for drafting and sharing insights gleaned from the text, we hope to empower scholars and Dante enthusiasts from around the world to instruct and learn from one another; we're starting with Inferno.

Read Inferno


Latest Commentaries

View the most recent contributions to this crowd-sourced scholarship.



By Alex Hugon

Lust and pride

And more of honour still, much more, they did me,
  In that they made me one of their own band;
  So that the sixth was I, 'mid so much wit.

We will soon see how interacting with the lustful sinners seems to hit the pilgrim close to home; he identifies closely with them, having improperly obsessed ove...

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By Alex Hugon

The effect of the first circle on Dante

And fell, even as a dead body falls.

It is striking to see that carnal love -- the least-severe offense one can commit while still landing in Hell proper, and one whose punishment is extremely mild ...

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By Alex Hugon

Domination

Full many a time our eyes together drew
  That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
  But one point only was it that o'ercame us.

Again, love is characterized negatively, as a force that "o'ercame," and, in the previous tercina, "enthral[led]." Carnal love dominates you; intellectual love ...

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By Alex Hugon

Love, love, love

Love has conducted us unto one death;
  Caina waiteth him who quenched our life!"
  These words were borne along from them to us.

Each tercina begins with "Love," in a manner reminiscent of the Gates of Hell's "Through me" repetition. Love is here characterized as a violent, overpowering f...

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By Alex Hugon

Dante's appeals as divinely ordained

So came they from the band where Dido is,
  Approaching us athwart the air malign,
  So strong was the affectionate appeal.

Paolo and Francesca are able to approach Dante and Virgil in spite of the wind, which they are forced to labor against in order to approach. Dante's appeal, the...

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By Alex Hugon

Contrapasso

It hither, thither, downward, upward, drives them;
  No hope doth comfort them for evermore,
  Not of repose, but even of lesser pain.

Just as their appetites for lust drove these sinners to abandon reason and stray in myriad directions, so does their punishment subject them to spontaneous, haph...

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By Alex Hugon

Shining

And to a place I come where nothing shines.

At the end of each canticle, Dante will behold (or re-behold) the stars shining in the sky. Given that Limbo is its own special sub-realm of Inferno, it seems f...

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By Alex Hugon

Premonitions of Purgatory

This we passed over even as firm ground;
  Through portals seven I entered with these Sages;
  We came into a meadow of fresh verdure.

Interesting that Limbo's most honored inhabitants dwell in a microcosm of Purgatory -- a raised structure with seven walls encircling an inner garden.

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By Alex Hugon

Virgil's blind spot as a Limbo inhabitant

And he to me: "The honourable name,
  That sounds of them above there in thy life,
  Wins grace in Heaven, that so advances them."

Earlier, Virgil describes Limbo as a place where he and its other inhabitants are "only so far punished / that without hope we live on in desire."

Here, tho...

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By Alex Hugon

Hell's rules

This way there never passes a good soul;
  And hence if Charon doth complain of thee,
  Well mayst thou know now what his speech imports."

Hell has rules, and its guardians evidently derive some pride from their attempts to enforce them -- but the rules clearly only apply insofar as they are consist...

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By Alex Hugon

Dealing with Hell's Denizens

And unto him the Guide: "Vex thee not, Charon;
  It is so willed there where is power to do
  That which is willed; and farther question not."

Charon is the first of Hell's creatures to challenge our poets' progress into its depths, and his attempt to do so is noteworthy in that it highlights the ease w...

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By Alex Hugon

Virgil's superiority

No fame of them the world permits to be;
  Misericord and Justice both disdain them.
  Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass."

Virgil's treatment of the souls in limbo, who in death are made to blindly chase banners just as they did in life, is noteworthy for several reasons.

First, t...

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By Alex Hugon

Beatrice as cruel?

Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint?
  Dost thou not see the death that combats him
  Beside that flood, where ocean has no vaunt?"

The implication here is that Lucia, "foe of all that cruel is," is chiding Beatrice for being lax (or cruel!) in ignoring Dante's plight in the dark forest. Giv...

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By Alex Hugon

An empty promise?

When I shall be in presence of my Lord,
  Full often will I praise thee unto him.'
  Then paused she, and thereafter I began:

It seems strange that Beatrice should promise to praise Virgil in the presence of God. In reality, she can do nothing for him; unlike spirits who find themselve...

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By Alex Hugon

Virgil's character

But thou, why goest thou back to such annoyance?
  Why climb'st thou not the Mount Delectable,
  Which is the source and cause of every joy?"

Dante (the author, not the narrator or pilgrim) here makes the decision to portray Virgil as faking naivete; Virgil innocently asks why Dante runs from the mount...

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By Alex Hugon

The sun as "wisdom"

Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders,
  Vested already with that planet's rays
  Which leadeth others right by every road.

The fact that the light cast by the sun "leadeth others right by every road" is interesting when one considers that the sun is the fourth sphere of Paradiso; the...

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By Alex Hugon

A forest dark

Midway upon the journey of our life
  I found myself within a forest dark,
  For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

The "dark forest" is one metaphor used to represent Dante's spiritual disorientation; the "slumber" to which he refers several lines later, and which he identifi...

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