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The Divine Comedy (The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso) Paperback – May 27, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


“The English Dante of choice.” –Hugh Kenner

“Exactly what we have waited for these years, a Dante with clarity, eloquence, terror, and profoundly moving depths.” –Robert Fagles, Princeton University

“A marvel of fidelity to the original, of sobriety, and truly, of inspired poetry.” –Henri Peyre, Yale University

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Italian

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: NAL (May 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451208633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451208637
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (534 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dante Alighieri was born in 1265 in Florence. His family, of minor nobility, was not wealthy nor especially distinguished; his mother died when he was a child, his father before 1283. At about the age of 20 he married Gemma Donati, by whom he had three children. Little is known of Dante's formal education-it is likely to have included study with the Dominicans, the Augustinians, and the Franciscans in Florence, and at the university in Bologna. In 1295 he entered Florentine politics and in the summer of 1300 he became one of the six governing Priors of Florence. In 1301, the political situation forced Dante and his party into exile. For the rest of his life he wandered through Italy, perhaps studied at Paris, while depending for refuge on the generosity of various nobles. He continued to write and at some point late in life he took asylum in Ravenna where he completed the Divine Commedia and died, much honoured, in 1321.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

254 of 263 people found the following review helpful By thistle on August 20, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I always felt it a crime that I made it through high school and college without reading this. I recently read The Dante Club which re-ignited my interest in finally reading The Divine Comedy. I looked at all the versions out there and decided on this one. I am so glad I did.


There is an introduction on "How to read Dante" which was indispensible for my first time foray.

There is a note from the translator that explains how his translation might differ from others and why.

There is an introduction from a collegue of the translator that puts the Divine Comedy in a historical context.


So easy to read!

Each Canto begins with a synopsis. If all you wanted to know was the plot of the Divine Comedy you could just read all of these half page summaries (but you'd really miss out.)

Then the canto in beautiful verse.

Then copious notes that explain the minute details about whom you meet in the Canto and relevant events in history. The notes are as interesting as the Cantos themselves.

I am so glad I picked this copy up. I have now read and ENJOYED Dante's Divine Comedy. I highly recommend this as a starting point. It is extremely accessible.
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196 of 205 people found the following review helpful By Fredrik King on November 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Those of us not fortunate enough to be able to read Italian and thus savor Dante's masterpiece in its original language have the next best thing--the comprehensively noted translation by another great poet, the late John Ciardi. This superb and handsome hardbound edition of Ciardi's translation of Dante's Divine Comedy is not simply the collected, earlier translations of The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso, which in past years appeared in separate paperback editions: This edition is the final Ciardi translation from earlier forms which were "a work in progress." In this magnificent final translation, the non-Italian-speaking reader can savor Dante's extrodinary fusion of morality with the metaphorical architecture of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, explored with pathos and sympathy for the human condition which, in the mind of Dante, constantly yearns for The All in All. A volume that should be required reading for anyone who aspires to understand man's place in the universe.
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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful By interested_observer on July 11, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
About twenty years ago I read Dorothy Sayers's translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy" with great pleasure, finding an awesome grandeur in Dante's progression from Hell through Purgatory to Heaven. When I decided to re-read the work, I found the poetry tortured and the references obscure. So I went comparison shopping, settling on Mark Musa's version. He created an excellent, free-flowing, poetic, and easily understandable translation of the three canticles of Dante's "Divine Comedy" for Penguin Classics.
In addition to the direct translation, Musa provides an introductory summary to each canto, detailed notes following each canto, a glossary of names in the back of each volume, and an introductory essay for each volume. The introduction to "Volume 1: Inferno" gives a thorough introduction to Dante and to his other works as well as to the Inferno. Following the introduction is a translator's note. The introductions to "Purgatory" and "Paradise" do not go over the extra information presented in "Inferno". It is useful to read all three of Dante's canticles in the Musa translation to get a complete, consistent presentation of the work. Musa does make reference in his notes to one volume to ideas or people presented in the others.
The notes are vital for almost everyone. The references to Biblical, classical, and medieval personalities, myths, time systems, theology, and events come frequently. Few people are up on the ins and outs of Guelf vs. Ghibelline in medieval Italian politics. Musa makes it all as clear as it needs to be.
Musa's version of "Inferno" italicizes the introductory summary before each canticle and retains the detailed, interesting mappings of Hell used in the Sayers edition.
Dante's poem is central to Western civilization.
Read more ›
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128 of 135 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on February 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
To be well read means that you have read the Comedy (at least once). At once haunting, dark and yet grotesquely beautiful, Dante has written for us the definitive Catholic epic poem of hell, purgatory and heaven. Mark Musa is one of the foremost Dante scholars in the world & teaches at the university of Indiana. His footnotes & commentaries are exceptional, a trademark that is not only a luxury but is, in fact, a necessity when it comes to Dante. I would recommend everyone read not just the Inferno, but all three canticles of the Comedy as a whole. One cannot truly understand everything in Inferno without reading thru the entire poem (including Purgatory and Paradise). Would also admonish that anyone interested in this work begin with Virgil's Aeneid and also read some Homer, Plato & Aristotle as well as some Roman history for a rough background of the work. Be advised that the bard expects you to have read everything he has so that you will catch all of his allusions. Once again, this is where Musa's footnotes come in handy, but there is still no substitute for actually reading thru the primary texts that serve as the foundation of this work. Also, would advise that one read the short work, La Vita Nuova (The New Life) before reading the Comedy, as it is basically a prologue to his epic. It will also help make more sense re: the pilgrim's near-obsessive love that he has for Beatrice. This is truly one of the great epic poems ever written and it positions Dante right up there with Homer, Goethe & Virgil.
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The Divine Comedy (The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso)
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