The Divine Comedy

Trade Cloth – $35.00

ISBN 978-0-8101-2672-5
Publication Date
September 2010
Page Count
888 pages
Trim Size
6.125 x 9.25

The Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri

The Divine Comedy marked nothing less than the arrival of vernacular Italian as a literary language—and Dante’s book is still considered Italy’s greatest literary achievement. Its highly idiomatic verse, however, has long bedeviled English-language translators. Burton Raffel, whose translation of Don Quixote is acclaimed for making Cervantes more accessible to the modern generation, in this new translation for Northwestern World Classics, shows exciting new directions, preserving both the lyricism of the original and its incisive meaning. First-time readers and longtime fans of “the supreme poet” alike will cherish this clear and lyrical rendering of one of world literature’s masterpieces.

The Divine Comedy depicts the journey of Dante the pilgrim, guided by the poet Virgil and the love of his life, Beatrice, as he moves through the stages of his life and world. Raffel’s single-volume translation of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso follows the complete journey of a spiritual pilgrim who struggles from the depths of the inferno to the heights of paradise. In the former Dante meets many of his political enemies, suffering the punishments that match their crimes in life. And in the ninth circle of Hell, Lucifer—the ultimate traitor—is shown chewing on Brutus, Cassius, and Judas Iscariot, three others who committed horrendous acts of treason in the classical and early Jewish worlds. Dante’s evocative description of Heaven is a sort of homecoming for the exiled poet. Dante’s epic poem challenged the political and religious hierarchy of his time and remains a powerful and universal expression of human desires, strivings, and shortcomings.

About the Author

Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) was born in Florence to a prominent family and trained

as a pharmacist. He fought in the Battle of Campaldino and was active in the internecine

Florentine politics of the time, which resulted in his exile. During this time, he

began writing Commedia, which he finished shortly before his death in Ravenna.


Burton Raffel is a translator, a poet, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Arts

and Humanities and emeritus professor of English at the University of Louisiana at

Lafayette. His most recent translations are the Modern Library edition of Geoffrey

Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and the Penguin edition of the Poema de mío Cid.

He has translated the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, most of Horace’s poems, and Rabelais’s

Gargantua and Pantagruel.


"Raffel's uncanny skill has captured Dante the poet and brought his world, his vision to life. This poem for the ages comes to us when we most need it, and ti comes to us as a living, breathing force of nature. The accomplishment is as breathtaking to contemplate as it is pleasurable to read. This is our time's Divine Comedy."

—Michael Hettich, author of Flock and Shadow: New and Selected Poems

"Burton Raffel's translation is both accurate and poetic, letting the English reader experience Dante's journey as never before. It is no less than magic—an act of sheer necromancy, bringing Dante back from the dead."

—Tita French Baumlin, Missouri State University