Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Italian poet and moral philosopher, authored “The Divine Comedy.” His three-part journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise, with the Latin poet Virgil as his guide and the ethereal Beatrice as his muse, is perhaps the greatest work ever written on romantic love.

Dante started the “Inferno,” his description through the nine circles of hell, in 1307, five years after he was exiled from Florence on politically motivated corruption charges.

Reams have been written about this iconic poem: Dante’s innovative jettisoning of Latin in favor of the Italian vernacular, the terza rima (third rhyme) that makes translating so fiendishly difficult, the debates over which of the 109 and counting English translations has remained most faithful to the text.



  1. I watched this when it first aired and was mesmerized! So well done. I will most definitely watch again. Thank you, Heather, for filling in so much of the history, etc. and enlightening us to the fact about his influence on the church regarding Purgatory! Fascinating.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      And very moving…a real paean to art–and to the artists who, at great cost to themselves, create it…

  2. Well, I watched the whole thing thanks to you. It was very well done, and I certainly learned a lot, and now must finish reading it. It also made me want to research the doctrine of Purgatory, since they implied that Dante is largely responsible for it. Hmmm. Too bad the ending was a little weak, with that business of “your life matters; take care of it.” Sure, but is that all Dante was saying? They seemed reluctant to mention God in the end.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Well, it’s PBS…public…secular…I was surprised it was as “Catholic” as it was…loved the description of how they extinguished all the cooking fireds in Florence for Good Friday, and darkened the church, and then at the Vigil (I may be slightly disremembering)-Let there be light!–and everyone came and lit their tapers and torches, and lit the fires again…anyway, glad you enjoyed it.

      1. Anonymous says: Reply

        Oh yeah, I loved that part too!


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