Divina Commedia

Divina Commedia  (dē-vē´nä kom-mā´dē-ä), (or, Divine Comedy ).—The first poem of note ever written in the Italian language. It is an epic by Danté Alighieri, and is divided into three parts: Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Danté called it a comedy, because the ending is happy; and his countrymen added the word divine  from admiration of the poem. The poet depicts a vision, in which he is conducted, first by Vergil (human reason ) through hell and purgatory; and then by Beatrice (revelation ), and finally by St. Bernard through the several heavens, where he beholds the Triune God.

“Hell” is represented as a funnel-shaped hollow, formed of gradually contracting circles, the lowest and smallest of which is the earth's center. “Purgatory” is a mountain rising solitary from the ocean on that side of the earth which is opposite to us. It is divided into terraces, and its top is the terrestrial paradise. From this “top” the poet ascends through the seven planetary heavens, the fixed stars, and the “primum mobile.”

In all parts of the regions thus traversed there arise conversations with noted personages. The deepest questions of philosophy and theology are discussed and solved; and the social and moral condition of Italy, with the corruptions of church and state, are depicted with indignation. Fifty-two years after the poet's death the republic of Florence set apart an annual sum for public lectures to explain the Divine Comedy  to the people in one of the churches, and Boccaccio himself was appointed first lecturer.