Culture and Recreation
Why is The Divine Comedy widely studied?
Simply put, The Divine Comedy, which consists of 100 cantos arranged in three books (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), is studied not only for the beauty of its verse, but for its timeless message.
In a letter to his benefactor, Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) explained that by writing The Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia, begun c. 1308) he would attempt “to remove those living in this life from the state of misery and lead them to the state of felicity.” While the subject of the poem, according to Dante, is “the state of souls after death,” allegorically, the poem is about humankind, who can exercise free will to bring “rewarding or punishing justice” upon themselves.
Dante’s masterpiece is considered the seminal work of Italian literature: At the time that he wrote The Divine Comedy, Latin was the undisputed language of science and literature. Italian, on the other hand, was considered vulgar. By skillfully writing this poem in the vernacular (Tuscan Italian) rather than Latin, Dante parted from tradition, marking a critical development for vernacular writing. In its translations The Divine Comedy has become a point of reference for writers in any language. Scholars and students agree that Dante expresses universal truths in this work, which is also a finely crafted piece of literature.