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The Inferno, by Dante

The Inferno, by Dante


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As the opening part of Dante's epic of poetry, The Divine Comedy, The Inferno introduces Dante as a character. We see the poet lost in a dark wood, and promptly confronted by three mighty beasts: a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. Symbolic of sinful behaviour and desires, the trio of creatures pursue Dante into darkness, wherein Virgil - a deceased Roman poet representing human cognition and reason - appears.

Initially unsure of Virgil's intentions, Dante is persuaded when the poet mentions that Beatrice Portinari, a young woman Dante knew and a symbol of love, sent him to find Dante with instructions from the Virgin Mary. It is thus that their journey to the underworld begins, with Virgil to act as Dante's guide through the malevolent environs.

It is in this work that Dante's famed division of the Hellish realms, the Nine Circles, are detailed. These layers of the underworld each carry a particular type of sinner, with the punishments and agony ascending in intensity the deeper the descent. The poem reaches its stunning finale in the very core of Hell and the discovery of Lucifer - the Devil.

This edition contains the well-regarded translation into English by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose lifelong passion for Dante's work is translated supremely in every stanza and page of this volume.