The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri - Vol. 3

The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri - Vol. 3

The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri - Vol. 3

The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri - Vol. 3


Robert Durling's spirited new prose translation of the Paradiso completes his masterful rendering of the Divine Comedy. Durling's earlier translations of the Inferno and the Purgatorio garnered high praise, and with this superb version of the Paradiso readers can now traverse the entirety of Dante's epic poem of spiritual ascent with the guidance of one of the greatest living Italian-to-English translators.

Reunited with his beloved Beatrice in the Purgatorio, in the Paradiso the poet-narrator journeys with her through the heavenly spheres and comes to know "the state of blessed souls after death." As with the previous volumes, the original Italian and its English translation appear on facing pages. Readers will be drawn to Durling's precise and vivid prose, which captures Dante's extraordinary range of expression--from the high style of divine revelation to colloquial speech, lyrical interludes, and scornful diatribes against corrupt clergy.

This edition boasts several unique features. Durling's introduction explores the chief interpretive issues surrounding the Paradiso, including the nature of its allegories, the status in the poem of Dante's human body, and his relation to the mystical tradition. The notes at the end of each canto provide detailed commentary on historical, theological, and literary allusions, and unravel the obscurity and difficulties of Dante's ambitious style. An unusual feature is the inclusion of the text, translation, and commentary on one of Dante's chief models, the famous cosmological poem by Boethius that ends the third book of his Consolation of Philosophy. A substantial section of Additional Notes discusses myths, symbols, and themes that figure in all three cantiche of Dante's masterpiece. Finally, the volume includes a set of indexes that is unique in American editions, including Proper Names Discussed in the Notes (with thorough subheadings concerning related themes), Passages Cited in the Notes, and Words Discussed in the Notes, as well as an Index of Proper Names in the text and translation. Like the previous volumes, this final volume includes a rich series of illustrations by Robert Turner.


For the principles followed in the translation of the Paradiso, we refer the reader to the preface to our Inferno volume, and for the Italian text to the preface to our Purgatorio volume. As we write, a major advance in the textual criticism of the Comedy is taking place: the application to it of cladistic software (software developed to chart the relations among DNA strings, closely analogous with textual strings; see Shaw’s Monarchia 2006 and her 2010 DVD Commedia). This approach has already demonstrated its usefulness in its critique of the unreliability of stemmas based on only small samples of variants and its demonstration of the superiority of Petrocchi’s detailed analysis of all the variants in his chosen “vulgata” manuscripts; this software will eventually, as more and more manuscripts are compared by its means, lead to the possibility of a genuinely critical text. Petrocchi’s text is still the most reliable guide, and we have again, in the main, followed it, including discussion of the passages where we have not done so in “Textual Variants,” pp. 762–3.

In Inter cantica sections concluding the notes to the individual cantos of the Purgatorio, we provided detailed discussions of their allusions to the corresponding cantos (as well as to other cantos) of the Inferno, demonstrating, we hope, that such comparisons can be extremely illuminating: Dante’s mode of composition involved holding the entire poem present to his awareness, with or without (more probably, with) detailed outlines. Such references, now involving two cantiche, become particularly dense and frequent in the Paradiso. For this reason, having offered the student a possible model for the exploration of the self-referentiality of the Comedy in the previous volume, we have here chosen a different method. The matter is necessarily treated to some extent in the body of the notes to each canto, but we have also included a number of Additional Notes discussing matters involving the entire poem, such as those on the figure of Beatrice, on the “threshold cantos,” on Dante’s Neoplatonism and his astrology, and on the Paradiso as the Alpha and Omega of the poem.

The procedures followed by the commentators in this volume differ from the two previous ones in another respect. Rather than the editor of the volume imposing his view of the appropriate uniformity among its parts (except in the signed Additional Notes), as previously, for this volume we have composed the notes individually, as indicated in the table of contents.

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