Dante or the man who became Easter

  You will agree that there are better ways to spend Easter than undertaking journeys to the Underworld. That even if the lockdown were to be lifted today on Good Friday, you’d think twice before signing up to a guided tour of Hell. If you’re given the choice between the bowels of the Earth or…

A vertical reading of Dante’s Purgatorio 4

One way of reading Dante’s Divine Comedy is ‘vertically’, which means analyzing same-numbered cantos from two or three parts of the poem (canticles), Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso, for symmetrical meanings which become enriched by this clever juxtaposition. This is based on the presupposition that Dante built this symmetry into the poem as a whole, and expected…

Dante’s windmills

The final canto of Inferno opens, ex abrupto, with one of the most powerful images in the whole of the canticle: a mockery of the 6th-century hymn ‘Vexilla regis’: ‘Vexilla regis prodeunt inferni verso di noi; però dinanzi mira», disse ’l maestro mio, «se tu ’l discerni». “Vexilla regis prodeunt inferni toward us; and therefore keep…

Dante in Inferno: the devil is in the detail (of perspective)

One of my favourite parts of Dante’s Commedia is the end of Inferno, canto 34. Having surveyed all nine circles, the two poets reached the abode of Lucifer, lo ’mperador del doloroso regno. They went down Satan’s fur and out of Hell, but, as Dante soon learned, they crossed the centre of the Earth and experienced a…