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The Divine Comedy is an Italian narrative poem by Dante Alighieri.  It is widely considered to be the pre-eminent work in Italian literature and one of the greatest works of world literature. It is divided into three parts: InfernoPurgatorio, and Paradiso.

The narrative describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.

Inferno – Hell

The poem begins in 1300 with Dante lost in a dark wood assailed by beasts he cannot evade and unable to find the “right way” – to salvation. Conscious that he is ruining himself, Dante is at last rescued by Virgil, and the two of them begin their journey to the underworld. Each sin’s punishment in Inferno is a symbolic instance of poetic justice.

Allegorically, the Inferno represents the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is, and the three beasts represent three types of sin: the self-indulgent, the violent, and the malicious.[21] These three types of sin also provide the 9 Circles of Dante’s Hell:

  1. Limbo
  2. Lust
  3. Gluttony
  4. Greed
  5. Anger
  6. Heresy
  7. Violence
  8. Fraud
  9. Treachery

Purgatorio – Purgatory

Having survived the depths of Hell, Dante and Virgil ascend out of the undergloom to the Mountain of Purgatory . The mountain has seven terraces, corresponding to the seven deadly sins:

  1. Lust
  2. Gluttony
  3. Greed
  4. Sloth
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Pride

Love, a theme throughout the Divine Comedy, is particularly important for the framing of sin on the Mountain of Purgatory. While the love that flows from God is pure, it can become sinful as it flows through humanity.

Paradiso – Paradise

After an initial ascension, Beatrice guides Dante through the nine celestial spheres of Heaven. These are concentric and spherical. While the structures of the Inferno and Purgatorio were based on different classifications of sin, the structure of the Paradiso is based on the four cardinal virtues:

  1. Prudence
  2. Fortitude
  3. Justice
  4. Temperance

and the three theological virtues:

  1. Faith
  2. Hope
  3. Charity.

The Divine Comedy finishes with Dante seeing the Triune God. In a flash of understanding that he cannot express, Dante finally understands the mystery of Christ’s divinity and humanity, and his soul becomes aligned with God’s love:

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