The Divine Comedy

Wow. Took ages, particularly ploughing through Paradiso: they’re right that evil is more interesting. But it was a surprise. Mainly the strangely modern beginnings to most cantos, easy conversations on the lines of “you know when a candle…” or “you know how people…” … “Well, that’s how it seemed when x happened.” Then there’s the science: clearly a universe of spheres, and clearly written from a realist, scientific viewpoint; it’s all matter of fact, no mysticism.
As regarding its contribution to the development of epic, it follows the usual medieval pattern of a first-person “true” account (Chaucer, Langland, Gower; though they’re probably following Dante…), and as Paradise Lost has the cosmos as its theme, not just a country (as the Aeneid), though Florence could be said to be its true subject…, as could Dante’s personal romance with Beatrice…
The details of Florentine and medieval history are hard to focus on, but what I found most difficult was understanding the English of Sayers’ verse translation. I enjoyed the terza rima, but the restrictions this involved made the simple expression of complex ideas often impossible. I was also bemused by Sayers’ commentary, which seemed to think Dante was TELLING THE TRUTH!

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