Cover image for The inferno
The inferno
Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Inferno. English
Publication Information:
New York : Barnes & Noble, [2003]

Physical Description:
302 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm.
The first part of Dante's classic poem of faith follows the author with his guide Virgil through the circles of hell, describing the sinners and punishments witnessed there.
The world of Dante and the Inferno -- The story of the Inferno in brief -- Introduction -- Map of hell -- The Inferno -- Endnotes -- Six sonnets by Longfellow -- Inspired by the Inferno -- Comments and questions -- For further reading.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PQ4315.2 .L65 2003C Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PQ4315.2 .L65 2003C Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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&&LDIV&&R&&LDIV&&R&&LI&&RThe Inferno&&L/I&&R, by &&LB&&RDante Alighieri&&L/B&&R, is part of the &&LI&&RBarnes & Noble Classics&&L/I&&R &&LI&&R &&L/I&&Rseries, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of &&LI&&RBarnes & Noble Classics&&L/I&&R: &&LDIV&&R New introductions commissioned from today''s top writers and scholars Biographies of the authors Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events Footnotes and endnotes Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work Comments by other famous authors Study questions to challenge the reader''s viewpoints and expectations Bibliographies for further reading Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. &&LI&&RBarnes & Noble Classics &&L/I&&Rpulls together a constellation of influences--biographical, historical, and literary--to enrich each reader''s understanding of these enduring works.&&L/DIV&&R&&L/DIV&&R&&L/DIV&&R&&LDIV&&R&&LI&&R&&L/I&&R &&L/DIV&&R&&LDIV&&R&&LI&&RThe Inferno&&L/I&&R remains literature''s most hallowed and graphic vision of Hell. Dante plunges readers into this unforgettable world with a deceptively simple--and now legendary--tercet:&&LBR&&R&&LBR&&RMidway upon the journey of our life&&LBR&&RI found myself within a forest dark&&LBR&&RFor the straightforward pathway had been lost.&&LBR&&R&&LBR&&RWith these words, Dante plunges readers into the unforgettable world of the Inferno--one of the most graphic visions of Hell ever created. In this first part of the epic &&LI&&RThe Divine Comedy&&L/I&&R, Dante is led by the poet Virgil down into the nine circles of Hell, where he travels through nightmare landscapes of fetid cesspools, viper pits, frozen lakes, and boiling rivers of blood and witnesses sinners being beaten, burned, eaten, defecated upon, and torn to pieces by demons. Along the way he meets the most fascinating characters known to the classical and medieval world--the silver-tongued Ulysses, lustful Francesca da Rimini, the heretical Farinata degli Uberti, and scores of other intriguing and notorious figures.&&LBR&&R&&LBR&&RThis edition of the &&LI&&RInferno&&L/I&&R revives the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation, which first introduced Dante''s literary genius to a broad American audience. "Opening the book we stand face to face with the poet," wrote William Dean Howells of Longfellow''s Dante, "and when his voice ceases we may marvel if he has not sung to us in his own Tuscan." Lyrically graceful and brimming with startlingly vivid images, Dante''s Inferno is a perpetually engrossing classic that ranks with the greatest works of Homer and Shakespeare.&&LBR&&R&&LBR&&R&&LB&&RFeatures a map of Hell and illustrations by Gustave Doré.&&L/B&&R&&L/DIV&&R&&LDIV&&R&&LSTRONG&&R&&L/B&&R &&L/DIV&&R&&LDIV&&R&&LP style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"&&R&&LSTRONG&&RPeter Bondanella&&L/B&&R&&L/B&&R is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and Italian at Indiana University and a past president of the American Association for Italian Studies. His publications include a number of translations of Italian classics, books on Italian Renaissance literature and Italian cinema, and a dictionary of Italian literature. &&L/P&&R&&L/DIV&&R

Author Notes

Born Dante Alighieri in the spring of 1265 in Florence, Italy, he was known familiarly as Dante. His family was noble, but not wealthy, and Dante received the education accorded to gentlemen, studying poetry, philosophy, and theology.

His first major work was Il Vita Nuova, The New Life. This brief collection of 31 poems, held together by a narrative sequence, celebrates the virtue and honor of Beatrice, Dante's ideal of beauty and purity. Beatrice was modeled after Bice di Folco Portinari, a beautiful woman Dante had met when he was nine years old and had worshipped from afar in spite of his own arranged marriage to Gemma Donati. Il Vita Nuova has a secure place in literary history: its vernacular language and mix of poetry with prose were new; and it serves as an introduction to Dante's masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, in which Beatrice figures prominently.

The Divine Comedy is Dante's vision of the afterlife, broken into a trilogy of the Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. Dante is given a guided tour of hell and purgatory by Virgil, the pagan Roman poet whom Dante greatly admired and imitated, and of heaven by Beatrice. The Inferno shows the souls who have been condemned to eternal torment, and included here are not only mythical and historical evil-doers, but Dante's enemies. The Purgatory reveals how souls who are not irreversibly sinful learn to be good through a spiritual purification. And The Paradise depicts further development of the just as they approach God. The Divine Comedy has been influential from Dante's day into modern times. The poem has endured not just because of its beauty and significance, but also because of its richness and piety as well as its occasionally humorous and vulgar treatment of the afterlife.

In addition to his writing, Dante was active in politics. In 1302, after two years as a priore, or governor of Florence, he was exiled because of his support for the white guelfi, a moderate political party of which he was a member. After extensive travels, he stayed in Ravenna in 1319, completing The Divine Comedy there, until his death in 1321.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The opening canzone of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy has appeared in almost every imaginable variety of English translation: prose, blank verse and iambic pentameter; unrhymed or in terza rima; with and without the original Italian; with commentary ranging from a few notes to a full separate volume. The translations have been produced by poets, scholars and poet-scholars. In the past six years alone, six new translations of the Inferno have appeared (including Robert Pinsky's 1994 rendition for FSG) and at least 10 others remain in print, including Allen Mandelbaum's celebrated 1980 translation (Univ. of Calif. Press and Bantam) and the extensively annotated editions of Charles Singleton (Princeton Univ. Press) and Mark Musa (Univ. of Indiana Press), the latter two unlikely to be surpassed soon in terms of extensiveness of commentary. Dante scholar Robert Hollander and the poet Jean Hollander bring to this crowded market a new translation of the Inferno that, remarkably, is by no means redundant and will for many be the definitive edition for the foreseeable future. The heart of the Hollanders' edition is the translation itself, which nicely balances the precision required for a much-interpreted allegory and the poetic qualities that draw most readers to the work. The result is a terse, lean Dante with its own kind of beauty. While Mandelbaum's translation begins "When I had journeyed half of our life's way,/ I found myself within a shadowed forest,/ for I had lost the path that does not stray," the Hollanders' rendition reads: "Midway in the journey of our life/ I came to myself in a dark wood,/ for the straight way was lost." While there will be debate about the relative poetic merit of this new translation in comparison to the accomplishments of Mandelbaum, Pinsky, Zappulla and others, the Hollanders' lines will satisfy both the poetry lover and scholar; they are at once literary, accessible and possessed of the seeming transparence that often characterizes great translations. The Italian text is included on the facing page for easy reference, along with notes drawing on some 60 Dante scholars, several indexes, a list of works cited and an introduction by Robert Hollander. General readers, students and scholars will all find their favorite circles within this layered text. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

If a recent spate of new translations is any evidence, Dante remains as popular as ever with the general reading public. Durling's new verse translation of the Inferno joins recent versions by Robert Pinsky (LJ 1/93) and Mark Musa (LJ 3/1/95). While Durling's translation (with Italian on the facing page) does not use Dante's rhyme or line divisions, it captures the metrical rhythm of the original. Similarly, his rendering of Dante's diction is literal and accurate, conveying the tone and feel while remaining accessible. Supplemented with an introduction, useful notes, and appendixes, this version, soon to be joined by Purgatorio and Paradiso, can be recommended to the general reader. In a new reader's guide to the Divine Comedy, Gallagher, a Catholic priest as well as a poet and scholar, presents the Comedy canto by canto in a series of mini-essays that discuss content, themes, characters, major allusions, and religious doctrines, particularly from the perspective of Dante as a Christian. For a more scholarly commentary on Dante's language and sources, one should still consult Charles Singleton's translation (The Divine Comedy, 6 vols., Princeton Univ., 1970-75); nevertheless, Gallagher's thorough, lucid, and accessible guide is a good starting point for the general reader.‘Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This outstanding parallel-text edition of Dante's masterpiece (Purgatorio and Paradiso will appear shortly) jumps straight to the head of a crowded field. Durling (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) and Martinez (Univ. of Minnesota) provide Giorgio Petrocchi's standard text, an accurate and readable English prose translation carefully keyed to the terzine of the Italian original, a concise but thorough introduction to Dante's life and work, and remarkably comprehensive and up-to-date footnotes to individual cantos. Together with the more detailed "Additional Notes," which conclude the volume, this annotative material forms by far the most substantial help currently available to English-speaking readers of Dante. Although, being in prose, the translation itself does not aim to compete with recent versions by practicing poets such as John Ciardi, C.H. Sisson, Allen Mandelbaum, and Robert Pinsky, it is of consistently high quality; and the coverage of this modern edition as a whole should definitely replace not only J.D. Sinclair's fondly remembered but antiquated version (1961) but even the idiosyncratic and generally overrated contribution of Charles S. Singleton (1970-75). Enthusiastically recommended for all general and academic collections. S. Botterill University of California, Berkeley



From Peter Bondanella's Introduction to The Inferno Church doctrine in Dante's time (as today) holds that Hell's function is to punish for eternity human souls who died in mortal sin without a sincere confession of their faults that expresses repentance for their misdeeds. These miscreants do not qualify for the purifying punishments of Purgatory, where souls who do not die in mortal sin escape eternal damnation and suffer temporary expiation before receiving their blissful reward in Paradise. When Dante began his poem, he was certainly aware of biblical and classical views of the afterlife. In the Sheol of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Hades of classical antiquity, souls after death did not really receive retribution for their earthly sins or particularly attractive rewards for their earthly merits. But the Christian church, affirmed by the theology of such major writers as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, conceived of Hell as a place where the good were separated from the evil, and deeds on earth were weighted and judged. Dante's famous notice over the gate of Hell underlines the eternity of Hell's punishment ("All hope abandon, ye who enter in!"), but it is also clear from a reading of the entire poem that Dante considers the greatest punishment possible to be not the incredibly original and grotesque physical punishments he invents for his work but, instead, the eternal loss of communion with God that is enjoyed by the blessed. Dante's poetic genius partly resides in his many ingenious inventions for the shape and character of Hell. Dante's Inferno is a hollow cone shaped by the displaced territory after Lucifer's expulsion from Heaven and fall to Earth. It is situated under Jerusalem and consists of nine concentric circles that grow ever smaller and house more and more evil sinners. Ultimately, Hell ends at Earth's core, where Lucifer is imprisoned in ice. Contrary to popular opinion, fire and brimstone are not the typical infernal punishments, although they are present. The place is filled with a number of rivers, swamps, deserts, a burning plain, a huge waterfall, a frozen lake, the towers of the City of Dis, and the ditches and bridges of Malebolge (ten sections of a circle shaped like ditches, pouches, or purses). Because the science of Dante's day followed the Ptolemaic system of the universe in astronomy and Aristotle's teachings on physics and biology, Dante considered Hell to be in the center of Earth, which in turn was in the center of the universe, with the sun revolving around it. A great chain of being extended from gross matter, animals, and humanity to the nine orders of the angels, and then to God in the Empyrean Heaven. Dante's Inferno generally reflects traditional medieval thinking on astronomy and science, but the poet is also capable of enriching this tradition with his own ideas to enliven his picture of the Other World. The most important rule in the Inferno , as well as in Purgatory and Paradise , is that Dante makes the rules. Laws can be broken or twisted to suit his poetic purposes, but they are always his alone. Such inventive details, often created by the author out of whole cloth, provide the reader with a rich, textured world of real individuals and a universe with its own specifically Dantesque regulations and customs. In many respects, Dante's Inferno is not an unfamiliar place. Its most interesting inhabitants are not classical monsters, mythological figures, or heroes but instead are contemporary Italians, figures from all over the peninsula. It is an all too human world that we all immediately recognize as the one in which we live. Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote that Hell is other people. Dante would have said: "We have met the damned, and they are we." Apart from all of the entertaining and ingenious "house rules" in Hell that Dante invented, one of the great intellectual achievements of Dante's Inferno as a work of art is its original synthesis of the Christian and the classical worlds in Hell's organization. For example, the idea of a visit to the Underworld was suggested to Dante by the obvious example of Virgil's Aeneid . Since Virgil had been to Hell before, who else would be more qualified to guide an Italian poet who loved Virgil's epic work on another journey through the same territory? Numerous specific physical punishments in Hell require guardians or bureaucrats (not to mention torturers enjoying their work), just as a prison requires jailors and executioners. Thus Dante employs a wide variety of classical figures to serve in this capacity, including Charon, Minos, and the centaurs. The rivers of Hell are those of classical antiquity (such as Acheron, Styx, Phlegethon, and Lethe). Numerous classical figures, such as Alexander the Great, Brutus, Cassius, and Ulysses, appear in the various circles in which they suffer eternal damnation along with Dante's contemporaries. No more heuristic juxtaposition of ancient and modern, classical and contemporary, will occur in Western literature until the sixteenth-century appearance of The Prince and the Discourses on Livy , two books by Niccolò Machiavelli that effect a similar synthesis by founding a new realistic view of politics upon comparative analyses of ancient Romans and contemporary Italy or Europe. Excerpted from The Inferno by Dante All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.