Roberta Writes – Divine Comedy: Inferno Canto 1

My blogging friend Rebecca Budd is currently participating in a #KaramazovReadalong, you can read about it here: https://ontheroadbookclub.com/2021/07/27/karamazovreadalong-day-1-who-is-fyodor/.

The reading group are reading one chapter a day of this book and it inspired me to tackle Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri in the same manner. I must say that reading a chapter a day does make this book a lot easier to read. I have both the audio book and the unabridged translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Before I started the unabridged version, I listed to an excellent abridged BBC version so that I knew the basic outline of the story. I have read Inferno before, but a long time ago, so I needed the refresher.

Sharing a Chapter or Canto a day on Facebook isn’t working for me so I’ve decided to share a Canto a week on my blog.

Canto 1 finds Dante, a 35 year old man, lost in a dark wood. Dante’s inability to find the ‘straight path’ means that he has lost his way in life. This does not mean that Dante had committed any dreadful sin, but rather that he has strayed from his own ideas of righteousness and morality.

Dante sees the sun shining on a nearby hilltop and he starts to climb the hill, but he is confronted by three wild beasts. First, a leopard blocks his way and he has to evade it, then a lion appears, and lastly a fearful she-wolf who drives Dante back into the valley below.

Dante is despairing, but, just then, a figure approaches who Dante soon discovers is the spirit of Virgil the famous poet. Virgil was a pagan who lived in the time of false gods. Virgil tells Dante that he has been instructed by the spirit of the beautiful and blessed Beatrice, a gentlewoman from his youth who died at the age of 24, to undertake a journey through the 9 circles of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Virgil will accompany Dante through Hell and Purgatory and another guide will take him through Paradise, due to Virgil’s status as a pagan.

Lust, Pride, Avarice by William Blake
Picture credit: https://www.florenceinferno.com/saligia/. The three beasts that terrified Dante are a leopard (Lust), a lion (Pride), and a wolf (Avarice), according to the symbolism of medieval bestiaries.

One of my favourite extracts from Canto 1:

“Behold the beast, for which I have turned back;

Do thou protect me from her, famous Sage,

For she doth make my veins and pluses tremble.”

“Thee it behoves to take another road,”

Responded he, when he beheld me weeping,

“If from this savage place though wouldst escape;

Because this beast, at which thou criest out,

Suffers not any one to pass her way,

But so doth harass him, that she destroys him;”

58 thoughts on “Roberta Writes – Divine Comedy: Inferno Canto 1

  1. Wow, I am glad you are enjoying reading it this way Robbie. I don’t think it is a book that has ever called to me, but I enjoyed todays post and will follow along with you. I like the idea of listening to an abridged version first to get the gist of the story. I will have to keep that in mind for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are a courageous reader, Robbie, and this just proves my point. The one chapter at a time is a brilliant idea, but I kind of also like just learning about the book from YOU! 🙂 By the way, I’m listening to Gone with the Wind on audibles and it is fantastic! So glad I read your review. I haven’t read GWTW in 40 some years, and even though I know the story so well (I’ve watched the movie at least a dozen times) I forgot how detailed Margaret Mitchell is in her telling, and how descriptive of the Civil War scene in the south before, during and after. She’s an amazing author – too bad sheonly wrote ONE book, but it’s a classic for good reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Pam, thank you. I love reading Divine Comedy one chapter at a time. Sometimes I listen and read the chapter twice. I am way ahead of the posts but that’s okay. I am pleased that readers are so interested in this book and my reading of it. I am glad you are enjoying GWTW. A fantastic book and I loved the detail I have recently read Brave New World which really was a different and frightening read.

    Like

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