700 Years of The Divine Comedy

Dear Editor:

This new year, 2020, marks the 700th anniversary of the completion of Dante Alighieri’s world-renowed literary masterpiece, “The Divine Comedy.” Dante completed “The Divine Comedy,” the pre-eminent work in Italian literature in 1320 (he began the poem in 1308), a year prior to his death in 1321.

“The Divine Comedy,” a narrative, epic poem, depicting the medieval world-view of the afterlife greatly helped to establish the Tuscan vernacular as the standardized Italian language.

The poem, written in the first person, is comprised of 14,232 lines, divided into three “cantiche” (“Inferno”, “Purgatorio”, and “Paradiso”). Yet, Dante’s epic poem is more than just an allegory, it is more than simply an imaginary tour of the afterlife. “The Divine Comedy” includes references to historical and political events, a spherical earth, astronomical concepts, and the scientific / experimental method. As a matter of interesting fact, Galileo Galilei lectured on the “Inferno;” and, perhaps, Dante’s epic may have been instrumental in some of Galileo’s ideas about the mechanics of the universe.

Unfortunately, no original manuscript of “The Divine Comedy” written by Dante has survived. Although Dante completed the epic poem in 1320, the first printed edition of “The Divine Comedy” occurred on April 11, 1472 (Foligno. Italy), some 150 years after the death of the author. Of the 300 copies printed, only 14 have been known to have survived. The first English translation of the poem occurred n the early 19th century.

Albert J. Cupo and John Di Genio