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Old 01-31-2014, 05:21 PM   #16
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While I prefer to use the Sayers translation, it has the added value of really wonderful notes--the best I've seen in an English translation. She was an Oxford Scholar herself and a member of the famous Inklings {the only woman in the group}. In her notes she incorporated many comments from The Figure of Beatrice: A Study in Dante by another Inkling, Charles Williams. These notes are remarkably perceptive and if I'm using my Kindle, {I use the Ciardi version in that case} I keep the Sayers pb volume handy to note her useful comments in the "Images" section and see what Williams has to add. For instance, this is his telling comment on the justly famous Francesca and Paolo section:

"It is always quoted as an example of Dante's tenderness. So, no doubt, it is, but it is not here for that reason . . . . It has a much more important place; it presents the first tender, passionate, and half-excusable consent of the soul to sin. . . . [Dante] so manages the description, he so heightens the excuse, that the excuse reveals itself as precisely the sin . . . the persistent parleying with the occasion of sin, the sweet prolonged laziness of love, is the first surrender of the soul to Hell--small but certain. The formal sin here is the adultery of the two lovers; the poetic sin is their shrinking from the adult love demanded of them, and their refusal of the opportunity of glory."
I think the episode of Paolo and Francesca is also a great example of the fact that Dante finds it hard to really condemns many of the main characters he presents us - that is, his condemnation goes without saying given that we are in Hell, the terrible punishments constantly reminding us that we are going to meet a string of sinners who all deserve their punishment. But once this point is made, what Dante does is to study almost admiringly the frailty of human nature: he is as likely as the sinners to fall for it, and so is the reader.

One other very powerful scene, almost cinematic in how Dante sweeps us into the Muda tower to witness the terrible end of Count Ugolino and his children. So sure, the count is in Hell, but he can keep his revenge going while gnawing away for eternity at he who was his tormentor in life.
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Old 02-01-2014, 01:02 PM   #17
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It is interesting how Dante alternates between having pity and scorn for the sinners. And then there is Virgil who either scolds or praises him in these situations to remind him that these sins should be recognized fully so that they can be rejected.
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Old 02-01-2014, 06:35 PM   #18
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I finished Inferno this afternoon. The complexity & layers of meaning is astounding, and I know I only comprehended a small fraction on this first reading. I understand why it is said that Dante had a "visual imagination". He truly was an architect evidenced by the details and forethought which he constructs his vision of Hell. I purchased the full text of Dante's Commedia, and I plan to continue reading to the end. I also was inspired to brush up on my Greek mythology and bought Edith Hamilton's classic book on the subject. Thank you, Paola, for your nomination of this epic poem and helpful insights along the way!
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Old 02-02-2014, 04:10 PM   #19
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I finished Inferno this afternoon. The complexity & layers of meaning is astounding, and I know I only comprehended a small fraction on this first reading. I understand why it is said that Dante had a "visual imagination". He truly was an architect evidenced by the details and forethought which he constructs his vision of Hell. I purchased the full text of Dante's Commedia, and I plan to continue reading to the end. I also was inspired to brush up on my Greek mythology and bought Edith Hamilton's classic book on the subject. Thank you, Paola, for your nomination of this epic poem and helpful insights along the way!
delighted you like it, and that you want to go all the way: but thanks are really due to issybird, as I had forgot to even consider Dante before she suggested it!
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Old 02-02-2014, 04:51 PM   #20
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Well, thanks to issybird too then!
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Old 02-04-2014, 04:50 PM   #21
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The amazing intellectual architectural structure of theme and allegory is certainly enormously impressive! In addition,I am fascinated by the wildness of the imagery which is as stunning as anything I have ever read in a fantasy novel. That final terrifying image of Satan frozen in the ice of his own hubris is unforgettable.

The allegorical layers add profundity to this symbolic kaleidoscope. The topical references are the least interesting for me but they do focus the more significant allegorical and moral levels in reality. They make the abstract ethical perspectives concrete.
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Old 04-06-2014, 03:55 PM   #22
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I finally finished the entire Commedia this morning. A daunting journey but I'm glad I stuck with it! I am still amazed at the complexity of Dante's work. I really enjoyed the integration of knowledge from varied disciplines such as history, theology, astrology, geometry, law, political science, mythology, physics and so on.
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Old 04-06-2014, 04:43 PM   #23
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Congratulations, Bookworm_Girl! I just finished Inferno recently and was happy to have read it. Even with all the notes, I knew I was missing so much in understanding. To read the entire Commedia is an accomplishment I won't even attempt. At least now.
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Old 04-19-2014, 01:19 PM   #24
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Today's featured article in the Review section of the Wall Street Journal is about how The Divine Comedy inspired a man to find inner peace and make changes in his life. There is also a video discussion.
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/...159096702.html
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