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Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy is an epic poem from the Italian Renaissance, written by Dante Alighieri. The poem was written not in Latin, but in the common tongue of the day and helped create the modern Italian language. Divided into three parts, the poem tells the allegorical story of the narrator being guided through:

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Divine Comedy

Divine Comedy and Dante

The work is called a the Comedy in reference to ancient classifications of poems as either High Tragedy or Low Comedy, not necessarily humorous. Dante’s serious (high) work was written in the low language of the everyday. Dante wrote in Italian in order to make the work more accessible to readers.

Written in the first decades of the 1300s, no handwritten copies in Dante’s writing survive. The Divine Comedy was first printed in 1472, and fourteen of the original 300 of those are still in existence. While frequently recognized as a masterpiece of literature, European scholars all but ignored it during the Enlightenment. It was “rediscovered” by the Romantics of the early 1900s, including William Blake, who produced several illustrations. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow produced the first American translation of the Divine Comedy in 1867.

Divine Comedy and the Arts

The Divine Comedy has also proven to be highly influential in other arts, as well. Rodin’s famous sculpture The Kiss is a representation of Paolo and Francesca. Franz Liszt composed several pieces of music based on the Divine Comedy.

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