Top positive review
The leading Dante translation
on January 11, 2014
The translation is clear and accurate (Prof. Esolen built his reputation with translations of later, more obscure Italian renaissance works). But any translation of Dante should be an introduction to reading the original Italian - and (as is now standard), the Italian text is printed on the facing pages.
But Dante also needs commentary: the tradition of publishing commentary along with the Divina Commedia is old as that of publishing the Commedia itself. A commentator must explain all three levels of Dante's references: topical (Dante's own Italy), Catholic-theological, and classical-mythological.
Prof. Esolen achieves this brilliantly, allowing us to understand Dante as Dante understood himself and his world. It's a different world from ours in many ways (not all!) but that's part of the challenge of reading him.
Esolen's only rival as a Dante annotator, I'd say, is Dorothy L. Sayers (and her version, while still worthwhile, lacks the Italian on facing pages). Honorable mention as well to Robert and Jean Hollander. But I would give Esolen first place.