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Divine Comedy

by Dante Alighieri

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From AudioFile
Dante wanted everyone to read his great work and share his vision, not just the clergy; so he wrote it, not in Latin, but in the Italian of his Florentine home. As a result, it became the defining work for the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Dante would be pleased, then, with Naxos's production of his epic masterpiece. They have taken an impressive new translation by Benedict Flynn; enlisted a skilled actor--Heathcote Williams--to narrate; punctuated each canto with hauntingly beautiful medieval chants; added a short but vital biography of Dante, narrated by John Shrapnel; and, finally, provided written notes that are crucial to any intelligent understanding of the text. Though an abridgment, it is a package the author would be most happy with, for it makes the rich poetry of his Comedy, not just readable, but accessible and relevant to the madness of our time. Both readers are accomplished actors and acutely sensitive to the power of their text: For Shrapnel it is the touching pathos of Dante, exiled from his home in Florence; for Williams it is the magnificent imagery that creates the pity of the Inferno, the hope of the Purgatorio, and the bliss of Paradise. P.E.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

`The pleasingly plain, readable English well reflects Dante's original eloquence.' The Times

`What is amazing about Dante's language is the fluency, the plainness, the simplicity - the sheer approachability - of his words. The sheer formal mastery of the man is quite amazing.' Michael Glover, New Statesman and Society

Book Description
A new blank verse translation of Dante's epic, complete with an authoritative Introduction, diagrams, maps, and notes.

Language Notes
Text: English, Italian

The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Long narrative poem originally titled Commedia (about 1555 printed as La divina commedia) written about 1310-14 by Dante. The work is divided into three major sections--Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso--which trace the journey of a man from darkness and error to the revelation of the divine light, culminating in the beatific vision of God. It is usually held to be one of the world's greatest works of literature. The plot of The Divine Comedy is simple: a man is miraculously enabled to visit the souls in Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. He has two guides: Virgil, who leads him through the Inferno and Purgatorio, and Beatrice, who introduces him to Paradiso. Through these fictional encounters taking place from Good Friday evening in 1300 through Easter Sunday and slightly beyond, Dante the character learns of the exile that is awaiting him (an actual exile that had already occurred at the time of writing). This device allowed Dante not only to create a story out of his exile but also to explain how he came to cope with personal calamity and to offer suggestions for the resolution of Italy's troubles as well. Thus, Dante's story is historically specific as well as paradigmatic; his exile serves as a microcosm of the problems of a country, and it also becomes representative of the Fall of Man. The basic structural component of The Divine Comedy is the canto. The poem consists of 100 cantos, which are grouped into the three major sections, or canticles. Technically there are 33 cantos in each canticle and one additional canto, contained in the Inferno, that serves as an introduction to the entire poem. For the most part the cantos range from 136 to 151 lines. The poem's rhyme scheme is the terza rima (aba, bcb, cdc, etc.) Thus, the divine number three is present in every part of the work. Dante adopts the classical convention of a visit to the land of the dead, but he adapts it to a Christian worldview by beginning his journey there. The Inferno represents a false start during which Dante, the character, must be disabused of harmful values that somehow prevent him from rising above his fallen world. Despite the regressive nature of the Inferno, Dante's meetings with the damned are among the most memorable moments of the poem: the Neutrals, the virtuous pagans, Francesca da Rimini, Filipo Argenti, Farinata degli Uberti, Piero delle Vigne, Brunetto Latini, the simoniacal popes, Ulysses, and Ugolino impose themselves upon the reader's imagination with tremendous force. Nonetheless, the journey through the Inferno primarily signifies a process of separation and thus is only the initial step in a fuller development. In the Purgatorio the protagonist's spiritual rehabilitation commences. There Dante subdues his own personality so that he will be able to ascend. He comes to accept the essential Christian image of life as a pilgrimage, and he joins the other penitents on the road of life. At the summit of Purgatory, where repentant sinners are purged of their sins, Virgil departs, having led Dante as far as human knowledge is able--to the threshold of Paradise. Beatrice, who embodies the knowledge of divine mysteries bestowed by Grace, continues Dante's tour. In the Paradiso true heroic fulfillment is achieved. Dante's poem gives expression to those figures from the past who seem to defy death and who inspire in their followers a feeling of exaltation and a desire for identification. The Paradiso is consequently a poem of fulfillment and of completion.

From the Publisher
Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards.

Inside Flap Copy
The greatest poem of the Middle Ages, in the standard Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed translation, with full notes.

From the Back Cover
The "Inferno," the "Purgatorio," and the "Paradiso," comprise The Divine Comedy. Led by the souls of Virgil and his love Beatrice, Dante crosses the gulfs of Hell, climbs the mountain of Purgatory and arrives through the spheres of Heaven in the presence of God. Replete with symbolism and allusions based on Dante's fluency with philosophy, astronomy, natural science, politics and history, it is also widely recognized as one of the most influential works in the Western canon.

About the Author
Charles H. Sisson is a well-known poet and translator, and editor of Poetry Nation Review. David Higgins is Head of Italian Studies at the University of Bristol, and is the author of Dante and the Bible (1992).



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