Matthew Dunaway January 2019

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Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy’ A Page FromMatt’s Bookshelf

Of all the works I read during my Year of Poetry, the poem that had the most impact on me was Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy.” Perhaps it’s cliche to choose the poem that has been called “the best book literature has achieved,” but the acclaim surrounding it is well-deserved. This incredible poem has become part of our civilization and culture so much that we forget where it came from. We just take it for granted. Artists, philosophers, and storytellers have been inspired by “The Divine Comedy” for 700 years. Dante spent 12 years working on this poem and finished it in 1320, a year before he died. Written in the first person, “The Divine Comedy” is about Dante’s journey through hell and purgatory before finally reaching paradise. At times, this poem can be hysterically funny, and in the next moment, it’s tragically sad. The work Dante put

into “The Divine Comedy” is apparent. It’s dense and can be hard to understand on the first read,

and when you’re reading it, you start to see yourself in the words.

but if you put the time in to really comprehend it, you’ll see why this masterpiece isn’t just incredibly good; it’s also incredibly insightful. At one point in his life, Dante Alighieri was at the top of the heap. Then his life took a dramatic turn, and he lost it all. “The Divine Comedy” is Dante’s attempt to assess his life and acknowledge his own shortcomings and failures. By doing so, Dante covers the gamut of human life and nature. His words are so real,

That’s the real power of “The Divine Comedy.” It’s not the vivid interpretations of heaven and hell that allowed Dante’s work to live on. He shows the reader their own shortcomings, and it hits close to home. We’re reminded that no matter how much has changed in the last thousand years or how fancy we think we’ve become, we’re still the same humans. And we have so much left to learn.

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