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The Divine Comedy, Vol. II: Purgatory Paperback – February 5, 1985

4.8 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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, Italian (translation)
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 399 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 2nd edition edition (February 5, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444421
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stacey M Jones on July 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Inferno is the most famous of the trio of volumes of Dante's Divine Comedy. But don't stop there. Purgatory is a beautiful work, illustrating the rise of the human soul through Purgatory's nine ledges. I found it beautiful how the souls were not hurrying. They waited patiently, yet eagerly.
Musa's translation makes all the difference. The language is accessible, but not irreverent or vulgar. A routine I found helpful was to read the introduction to each canto, read the canto, then read all the notes, checking back to reinforce meanings or double check a name or place.
The Pilgrim's journey through this volume is heavily illustrative of God's grace, and yet the idea of each person's responsibilities to God are clear.
Don't stop reading after Inferno. These stirring translations by Musa make it possible to read, understand and love the whole Divine Comedy.
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Format: Paperback
This is the second volume of Alighieri Dante's classic Divine Comedy. It tells the tale of Dante's journey through Purgatory, led by his guide, Virgil. Having passed through the depths of Hell (the Inferno) in the first volume, Dante and Virgil ascend the mountain of Purgatory, passing its many allegorical characters and observing the penances they must fulfill. The Divine Comedy is a beautiful, epic poem that takes the reader through a wide emotional spectrum and many vivid, picturesque scenes from Dante's fictional afterlife.
This translation was wonderful. Each of the 33 Cantos (Chapters) is set up in this sequence: 1) a short summation by the translator, 2) the poem, and 3) notes on names, characters, and items referenced by Dante. The translator, Mark Musa, even explains in his notes when he has a differing interpretation of a word or phrase than other translators' have had.
Dante used so many references to Greek mythology and events that were common knowledge to educated people of the 13th-14th Century that this poem, without notes, is entirely esoteric and fully appreciated only by the most erudite modern-day readers. Mark Musa brings every reader up to par with his thorough, easily-read notes; thereby making this classic poem a very entertaining and profound experience.
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Mark Musa has produced an extremely readable translation of a text that at times can be next to inaccessible. As a non-Dante scholar, I have struggled with other translations. The notes accompanying each canto also are well done: thorough and very illuminating. Musa's deft pen has turned Purgatory into a pleasure.
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IF you want to read Dante, this is the edition to choose. Penguin has fantastic translation with notes at the beginning and the end of the chapter, to explain what you are about to read and then at the end, what certain lines meant. really comprehensive.
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This translation is outstanding!! And the notes are very helpful as well. This text is one of the richest texts I've ever read. Dante is amazing. This is like a Cathedral in verse, or, as someone said, it is like Aquinas' Summa in verse. The fundamental lesson from Dante's Purgatory is not that Purgatory is a literal place (though D. may have thought so) with these literal punishments, but he wants his reader to see the true, destructive, nature of sin, and how it pulls us away from the full pleasure of God's presence, and causes us to seek pleasure in a perverted way in various other things that cannot satisfy. It has a powerful spiritual lesson. It also conveys (to me, a Protestant) the most attractive elements of Catholicism: a rich spirituality that ties all of life together through spiritual practices (liturgy, prayer, sacraments, etc.). This work is truly breathtaking.
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Mark Musa has done wonders with this book. I read it as a class participant. The first version I had purchased was by Henry W. Longfellow and that was a big mistake! Do not purchase that version, as it is extremely difficult to understand. This version, however, was easily readable with an appropriate amount of helpful notes and I was well pleased with it.
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Dante the Pilgrim continues his journey through the afterlife. Having slogged his way through Hell and come out on the other side of the earth, he and his guide Virgil (author of the Aeneid) begin their ascent of Mount Purgatory. Instead of the circles in Hell, Purgatory has various terraces where sins and the punishment due to sin are expiated. All souls have to ascend through every terrace, but some terraces are passed more quickly--if envy or sloth weren't a particular problem, an individual would travel through them quickly.

Dante learns more about the fates of famous historical figures and of Italians who died in the 1200s (the past century when the poem was written). He also learns some theology on the way and hears many prophecies. At the top of the mountain is the Garden of Eden where he finally meets Beatrice, the love of his life, who will lead him through Heaven.

Like the Inferno, the volume packs in a lot vivid descriptions of the place. The sinners are inspired by examples of the virtues they have failed at (e.g. the prideful see the Virgin Mary humbly accepting to be the mother of God at the Annunciation) and of their particular vices (e.g. the covetous or avaricious see King Midas's greed for gold). The blending of Christian and pagan examples gives a richness to the text and shows how we humans have been falling into these same sins for thousands of years. When Dante gets to Eden, the imagery is allegorical and prophetic.

Musa's notes are very helpful throughout, filling in many gaps in my knowledge and understanding of the text. The text itself is very readable. The blank verse keeps the poetic form of the poem without the translator having to force rhymes or use archaic phrasing and word order to keep the rhythm. This edition is very reader-friendly.

I can't wait for the big finale!

A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast has a commentary on this, as well as their previous Inferno discussion.
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