The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso (Everyman's Library)

The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso (Everyman's Library)


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This Everyman’s Library edition–containing in one volume all three cantos, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso–includes an introduction by Nobel Prize—winning poet Eugenio Montale, a chronology, notes, and a bibliography. Also included are forty-two drawings selected from Botticelli's marvelous late-fifteenth-century series of illustrations.

Translated in this edition by Allen Mandelbaum, The Divine Comedy begins in a shadowed forest on Good Friday in the year 1300. It proceeds on a journey that, in its intense recreation of the depths and the heights of human experience, has become the key with which Western civilization has sought to unlock the mystery of its own identity. 

Mandelbaum’s astonishingly Dantean translation, which captures so much of the life of the original, renders whole for us the masterpiece of that genius whom our greatest poets have recognized as a central model for all poets.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679433132
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/01/1995
Series: Everyman's Library Series
Pages: 960
Sales rank: 87,731
Product dimensions: 5.29(w) x 8.33(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Dante Alighieri, born in Florence, Italy, c. 1265, is considered one of the world's greatest poets. His use of the Florentine dialect established it as the basis for modern Italian. His late medieval epic, The Divine Comedy, was above all inspired, as was all his poetry, by his unrequited love for Beatrice, a woman he may have seen only from afar. He died in 1321, having completed his great work, yet an exile from his native city.

Read an Excerpt



Dante finds himself astray in a dark Wood, where he spends a night of great misery. He says that death is hardly more bitter, than it is to recall what he suffered there; but that be will tell the fearful things be saw, in order that be may also tell bow be found guidance, and first began to discern the real causes of all misery. He comes to a Hill; and seeing its summit already bright with the rays of the Sun, be begins to ascend it. The way to it looks quite deserted. He is met by a beautiful Leopard, which keeps distracting his attention from the Hill, and makes him turn back several times. The hour of the morning, the season, and the gay outward aspect of that animal, give him good hopes at first; but he is driven down and terrified by a Lion and a She-wolf. Virgilcomes to his aid, and tells him that the Wolf lets none pass her way, but entangles and slays everyone that tries to get up the mountain by the road on which she stands. He says a time will come when a swift and strong Greyhound shall clear the earth of her, and chase her into Hell. And he offers to conduct Dante by another road; to show him the eternal roots of misery and of joy, and leave him with a higher guide that will lead him up to Heaven.


IN THE middle of the journey of our life1 I came to myself in a dark wood2 where the straight way was lost.


Ah! how hard a think it is to tell what a wild, and rough, and stubborn wood this was, which in my thought renews the fear!


So bitter is it, that scarcely more is death: but to treat of the good that I there found, I will relate the other things that I discerned.


I cannot rightly tell how I entered it, so full of sleep was I about the moment that I left the true way.


But after I had reached the foot of a Hill3 there, where that valley ended, which had pierced my heart with fear, I looked up and saw its shoulders already clothed with the rays of the Planet4 that leads men straight on every road.


Then the fear was somewhat calmed, which had continued in the lake of my heart the night that I passed so piteously.


And as he, who with panting breath has escaped from the deep sea to the shore, turns to the dangerous water and gazes: so my mind, which still was fleeing, turned back to see the pass that no one ever left alive.


After I had rested my wearied body a short while, I took the way again along the desert strand, so that the right foot always was the lower.5


And behold, almost at the commencement of the steep, a Leopard,6 light and very nimble, which was covered with spotted hair.


And it went not from before my face; nay, so impeded my way, that I had often turned to go back.


The time was at the beginning of the morning; and the sun was mounting up with those stars,7 which were with him when Divine Love first moved those fair things: so that the hour of time and the sweet season caused me to have good hope of that animal with the gay skin; yet not so, but that I feared at the sight, which appeared to me, of a Lion.8


He seemed coming upon me with head erect, and furious hunger; so that the air seemed to have fear thereat; and a She-wolf,9 that looked full of all cravings in her leanness; and has ere now made many live in sorrow.


She brought such heaviness upon me with the terror of her aspect, that I lost the hope of ascending.


And as one who is eager in gaining, and, when the time arrives that makes him lose, weeps and afflicts himself in all his thoughts: such that restless beast made me, which coming against me, by little and little drove me back to where the Sun is silent.


Whilst I was rushing downwards, there appeared before myeyes one10 who seemed hoarse from long silence.


When I saw him in the great desert, I cried: “Have pity on me, whate’er thou be, whether shade or veritable man!”


He answered me: “Not man, a man I once was; and my parents were Lombards, and both of Mantua by country.


I was bornsub Julio,11 though it was late; and lived at Rome under the good Augustus, in the time of the false and lying Gods.


A poet I was; and sang of that just son of Anchises, who’ carne from Troy after proud Ilium was burnt.12


But thou, why returnest thou to such disquiet? why ascendest not the delectable mountain, which is the beginning and the cause of all gladness?”


“Art thou then that Virgil, and that fountain which pours abroad so rich a stream of speech?” I answered him, with bashful front.


“O glory, and light of other poets! May the long zeal avail me, and the great love, that made me search thy volume.


Thou art my master and my author; thou alone art he fromwhom I took the good style that hath done me honour.


See the beast from which I turned back; help me from her, thou famous sage; for she makes my veins and pulses tremble.”


“Thou must take another road,” he answered, when he saw me weeping, “if thou desirest to escape from this wild place: because this beast, for which thou criest, lets not men pass her way; but so entangles that sheslays them; and has a nature so perverse and vicious, that she never satiates her craving appetite; and after feeding, she is hungrier than before.


The animals to which she weds herself are many;13 and will yet be more, until the Greyhound14 comes, that will make her die with pain.


He will not feed on land or pelf, but on wisdom, and love, and manfulness; and his nation shall be between Feltro and Feltro.


He shall be the salvation of that low15 Italy, for which Camilla the virgin, Euryalus, and Turnus, and Nisus, died of wounds;16 he shall chase her through every city, till he have put her into Hell again; from which envy first set her loose.


Wherefore I think and discern this for thy best, that thou follow me; and I will be thy guide, and lead thee hence through an eternal place,17 where thou shalt hear the hopeless shrieks, shalt see the ancient spirits in pain, so that each calls for a second death;18 and then thou shalt see those who are contented in the fire:19 for they hope to come, whensoever it be, amongst the blessed; then to these, ifthou desirest to ascend, there shall be a spirit20 worthier than I to guide thee; with her will I leave thee at my parting: for that Emperor ‘who reigns above, because I was rebellious to his law, wills not that I come into his city.21


In all parts he rules and there holds sway; there is hiscity, and his high seat: O happy whom he chooses for it!”


And I to him: “Poet, I beseech thee by that God whom thou knowest not: in order that I may ‘escape this ill and worse, lead me where thou now hast said, so that I may see the Gate of St. Peter,22 and those whom thou makest so sad.”


Then he moved; and I kept on behind him.


* See “Note on Dante’s Hell” and “The Chronology of theInferno,” at pp. 3 and 6.


1. The Vision takes place at Eastertide of the year 1300, that is to say, when Dante was thirty-five years old. Cf.Psalms xc. 10: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten.” See alsoConvito iv: “Where the top of this arch of life may be, it is difficult to know.... I believe that in the perfectly natural man, it is at the thirty-fifth year.”


2. Cf.Convito iv: “ ... the adolescent who enters into the Wood of Error of this life would not know how to keep to the good path jf it were not pointed out to him by his elders.”Politically: the wood stands for the troubled state of Italy in Dante’s time.


3. The “holy Hill” of the Bible; Bunyan’s “Delectable Mountains.”


4. Planet, thesun, which was a planet according to the Ptolemaic system. Dante speaks elsewhere (Conv. iv) of the “spiritual Sun, which is God.”


5. Anyone who is ascending a hill, and whose left foot is always the lower, must be bearing to theright.


6. Worldly Pleasure;politically: Florence.


7. According to tradition, the sun was in Aries at the time of the Creation.


8. Ambition;politically: the Royal House of France.


9. Avarice; politically: the Papal See. The three beasts are obviously taken fromJeremiah v. 6.


10. Virgil, who stands for Wordly Wisdom, and is Dante’s guide through Hell and Purgatory (see Gardner, pp. 87, 88).hoarse, perhaps because the study of Virgil had been long neglected.


11. Virgil was born at Andes, near Mantua, in the year 70 B.C. When Caesar was murdered (44 B.C.), Virgil had not yet written his great poem, so that he did not enjoy Caesar’s patronage.


12. In theÆneid.


13. An allusion to the Papal alliances.


14. TheGreyhound is usually explained as Can Grande della Scala (1290–1329), whose “nation” (or, perhaps better, “birthplace”) was Verona, between Feltre in Venetia and Montefeltro in Romagna, and who became a great Ghibelline leader. Cf. Par. xvii. This is, on the whole, the most satisfactory interpretation, though the claims of several other personages (notably Uguccione della Faggiuola and Pope Benedict XI) have been advanced. In any case it is as well to bear in mind that Dante rested his hopes of Italy’s deliverance on various persons in the course of his life.


15. Either “low-lying” or “humble.” If the latter be correct, the epithet is, of course, applied sarcastically.


16. All these personages occur in theÆneid.


17. Hell.


18. Cf.Revelation xx. 14.


19. The souls in Purgatory.


20. Beatrice, or Heavenly Wisdom, will guide Dante through Paradise. No student of Dante should omit to read theVita Nuova, in which the poet tells the story of his youthful love (see also Gardner, pp. 8, 9, and 87, 88).


21. Virgil’s position is among the virtuous pagans in Limbo (see Canto iv).


22. The gate of Purgatory (Purg. ix). The Angel at this gate has charge of the two keys of St. Peter. 

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“The English Dante of choice.” –Hugh Kenner

“Exactly what we have waited for these years, a Dante with clarity, eloquence, terror, and profoundly moving depths.” –Robert Fagles, Princeton University

“A marvel of fidelity to the original, of sobriety, and truly, of inspired poetry.” –Henri Peyre, Yale University

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The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso (Everyman's Library) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I generally find Mandelbaum's translations to be excessively wordy and this work is no exception. It is as if his sole goal is to sound grand. And he succeeds, in this at least, but often the verbosity detracts from the meaning of what the reader is reading... too many pretty words jammed together so tightly that the screen they're supposed to form form winds up opaque. I'd suggest the Longfellow translation for a more pared approach that still manages to maintain Dante's magnificence, or even Ciardi - the people I've spoken to seem to have a love/hate opinion about his work, but I find it alluring.
samsthestuff More than 1 year ago
I have read this book once, with distinct depiction and the help of end-notes, I was able to comprehend a great deal. This book is marvelous, i never thought someone so sophisticated can describe hell through words and thoughts. I recommend this book to any individual interested in deep, portraying fantasy. A great journey through hell it was.
Sandydog1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As with other books from a different time, take a course or get a good study guide. You'll never understand all the specific references to Florentine conflicts. Keep at it because understanding personalities, parody and sniping provides a lot of entertainment.
Alera on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Here is where I default by saying...I am not a Christian. However I grew up in churches...I like to think I know the bible better than most Christians seeing as I have actually read it. And I appreciate aspects of the religion. More than anything...the most interesting to me has always been the Catholics. Dante...while being ever so colorful...and ever so in the me a fun little look at past Christianity. What I noticed in this segment...rather than the other two...even he had some small concerns over his own religion...largely the way God was meant to deal with certain the people who had come before said religion. People who might have been just as pure and pious and deserving of Heaven as those who came after. I enjoyed my realization that while he understood the rules of his religion what could and could not be done...he believed over that..that God was loving and merciful...should always be loving and merciful and therefore he could not understand partial exclusion of some. Which again I say came as a nice surprise because in the first two...I often got the feeling he was merely speaking out against what had been done to him...through his beliefs and his skill as a poet. Not that I'm saying he didn't...because well really...throwing enemies in hell and friends in heaven would have perks. But I think there is a little more there and I like it..a lot.
booksfordeb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dante, Virgil, Hades, and the beloved Beatrice---what's not to like. This allegory of Dante's struggles with events in his own life with the geography of hell, purgatory, and paradise is beautiful. Dante was a beautiful writer. The story flows beautifully and leaves you with so many images of life and how to deal with it. Truly a masterpiece.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've sort of finished reading Dante. I read all the Cantos about Hell (creepy, gory and kind of amusing), and then I read the arguments at the beginning of the rest of the Cantos. It was interesting, but I could only handle so much of what I consider highly unscriptural imaginings about people I have no idea who they are. One of the goriest books I've ever read!
markfinl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is so much going on in The Divine Comedy that one reading is not enough to try to comprehend this book. Someone could, and I am sure many have, spend a lifetime reading and studying this.
rizeandshine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Divine Comedy is a long, narrative poem in three parts that tells of the still living Dante's visit to Hell and Purgatory, guided by the poet Virgil and ascension to Paradise, lead by his ideal woman, Beatrice. The author uses allegory to describe the journey of the soul toward God, and on the way reveals much about his own scientific andpolitical idealogies and medieval Christian theology. In The Inferno, the underworld is rife with a variety of mythological creatures. Dante is able to meet with the damned, including a number of prominent figures in history and literature, as well as his own personal acquaintences. There are nine concentric circles of Hell, where deeper levels house greater sinners and punishments. Satan is bound in a lake of ice in the deepest circle at the center of the Earth. In Purgatorio, Dante climbs through the seven terraces of mount Purgatory, each housing penitents guilty of one of the seven deadly sins. He joins the penitents in their pilgrimmage and purges himself of sin in order that he might see his beloved Beatrice and ascend into Heaven. Dante and Virgil meet many souls along the way who are surprised to see the living Dante among them. As a resident of Limbo, Virgil takes his leave before the ascension into heaven. Beatrice meets Dante and guides him through the nine celestial spheres. Dante discovers that all souls in Heaven are in contact with God and while all parts of heaven are accessible to the heavenly soul, its ability to love God determines its placement in heaven. The Paradiso is a poem of fullfilment and completion and, contrary to The Inferno, does have a happy ending fitting of the title, Comedy.I tried reading a few different translations but preferred those that were more prose than poetry. If my first language was Italian I'm sure I would have enjoyed the original terza rima rhyme scheme, but any attempt at a similar rhyme scheme in English just doesn't work for me. Sadly, I found The Inferno and Purgatorio to be the most interesting realms of Dante's visit, but I'll chalk that up to the nature of Heaven being beyond our human ability to even imagine. I would hate to be one of the many whose sins were called out by the author so blatantly, but I have to admit that if the work were contemporary I might even find it humorous at times. At least I would be able to relate better. Overall it is an interesting and fairly quick read (if you skip all of the footnotes and commentary that take more lines than the poem itself) that I would recommend to anyone curious about this acclaimed work of literature.
jeff.maynes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the sort of work that seems beyond review. It is a classic of the highest order, one which I have only just scratched the surface. From even the barest reading, it is obvious that this work would reward close study and careful consideration. As someone who is not a specialist in poetry, particularly of this era, Christian theology, or the historical context, I can only record my impressions as someone reading this for its literary value. This review is based on the Everyman's Library edition of the Divine Comedy, which includes the Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is translated by Allen Mandelbaum. I found the translation pleasurable to read, and it shows through some of Dante's poetry. Having heard readings of it in its original language, I can hardly imagine any translation really capturing its poetic brilliance, but such is the challenge facing all translations of poetry. While I cannot compare it with other translations, I did find this one an enjoyable experience to read.This edition also contains extensive end notes throughout. Unless one is steeped in the theology and history, this work would be impenetrable without these notes. Dante is constantly alluding to individuals of historical note (often only within his context), the political rivalry between the Black and White Guelphs plays an important role and the work is rife with symbolism (beyond the obvious punishments detailed in the Inferno!). Further, and most importantly, Dante is engaged with the philosophical and theological debates of the day, and he tries to defend certain positions in this work. I would have been lost without the notes here. Indeed, one of the most rewarding things about reading the poem is learning about the history and philosophical/theological context. Reading an edition without extensive notes not only makes the text more difficult to understand for a modern reader, but deprives one of one of the most rewarding experiences in reading it.The Inferno is the most famous of the three books, and it is no small wonder why. Dante's depiction of the levels of hell is riveting and powerful. The imagery throughout is engrossing. It is interesting, however, that Dante recognizes that his abilities to describe, in imagistic terms, what he observes diminish as he rises through Pugatory and Heaven. He consistently invokes higher and higher deities to help him match these sights poetically. Yet, taken in the imagery of the poem, none of the works is more immediately powerful than the Inferno. One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is how Dante rises to meet this challenge. While in the Inferno, Dante is able to describe all manner of punishment and pain, his descriptions of heaven often turn on the blinding nature of its beauty. Its beauty is such that his eyes fail, and the correspondingly imaginative nature of his poetry falls short. He compensates by revealing the beauty of his heaven in other ways. Most notably is that he does so by showing how the divine nature of heaven can meet all of his questions and intellectual challenges. The joy and beauty of heaven is revealed in its ability to provide rational coherence. While I may be over-intellectualizing Dante here (I am no scholar of this material), it was the intellectual nature of his work that really struck me.One final portion of the work that I found particularly moving is that Dante is a human being observing what he does, and this comes through in his emotions and questions most of all. Though he recognizes that the punishments of hell must be just (because they are divine justice), he pities those who suffer them. I wrestled with the same questions, and the reader cannot help but feel sympathy for these souls as Dante describes their punishments. Dante is our guide through these questions, and even if I as a reader am less than satisfied with the answers Dante comes with, he struggles with them. It is not merely a description and celebration of
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WinstonSmith More than 1 year ago
Inferno is just beautiful. The poetry is easy to understand and actually scary at times. But purgatory is much harder to read and it is boring every now and then. I haven't read paradise yet but i don't really have much hope for it equaling the elegance and imagery of Inferno. And not being religious like myself you can still have a good time reading it (mainly inferno).
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CullenTyrone More than 1 year ago
Excellent translation of a classic work. Good reminder of the evil that Dante saw in his own time and why. However as you read through it you begin to creatively consider a book about the characters from the last 100 years that might inhabit hell in our own time. Different cast of characters.
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