What Is Dante's Most Famous Work About?


Dante Alighieri's most famous work, "Divine Comedy," is about the poet's journey through Hell, Purgatory and finally Paradise. Along the way, he and his guides encounter a number of famous historical figures, including people from Dante's own time as well as Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar; Saint Peter; Thomas Aquinas and others. The poem is a metaphor for the progress of a soul toward God.

The poem also charts the journey from death to life. Set right before Good Friday, the day on which Jesus was crucified, "Inferno," which is the first of the poem's three sections, details the journey through Hell. This part of the journey represents death and sin. Dante and his guide, the Roman poet Virgil, see the effects of sin and converse with the powerful people who have fallen prey to it. Passing out of Hell, they travel through Purgatory, the subject of the second section of the poem, "Purgatorio." Dante and his guide arrive there on Easter Sunday, the day of Jesus' resurrection. In Purgatory, people are still punished for their sins, but they are suffering the pain of cleansing, not the pain of punishment. Here, Dante, again guided by Virgil, begins to understand that sin is a distortion of love. He then meets Beatrice, his guide to the last parts of Purgatory and Paradise. In this last section of the "Divine Comedy," called "Paradiso," he discusses theology and life with towering figures of the church.