Lectura Dantis: Inferno: A Canto-by-Canto Commentary

Lectura Dantis: Inferno: A Canto-by-Canto Commentary

Lectura Dantis: Inferno: A Canto-by-Canto Commentary

Lectura Dantis: Inferno: A Canto-by-Canto Commentary


The California Lectura Dantis is the long-awaited companion to the three-volume verse translation by Allen Mandelbaum of Dante's Divine Comedy. Mandelbaum's translation, with facing original text and with illustrations by Barry Moser, has been praised by Robert Fagles as "exactly what we have waited for these years, a Dante with clarity, eloquence, terror, and profoundly moving depths," and by the late James Merrill as "lucid and strong... with rich orchestration... overall sweep and felicity... and countless free, brilliant, utterly Dantesque strokes." Charles Simic called the work "a miracle. A lesson in the art of translation and a model (an encyclopedia) for poets. The full range and richness of American English is displayed as perhaps never before."

This collection of commentaries on the first part of the Comedy consists of commissioned essays, one for each canto, by a distinguished group of international scholar-critics. Readers of Dante will find this Inferno volume an enlightening and indispensable guide, the kind of lucid commentary that is truly adapted to the general reader as well as the student and scholar.


Allen Mandelbaum

Possessed of every good, Florence has defeated her enemies in
war and in great battles. She enjoys her fortune, her victorious
pennants, her powerful people. Everywhere she reinforces and
augments her power. Ardent, vigorous, she strikes down every
enemy. She possesses the sea, possesses the land, possesses all
of the world. Under her government, all of Tuscany has become
happy. Like Rome, she sits ingathering her victories; she decides
everything; she regulates everything with sure laws.

The proud Florentines inscribed this epigraph in stone on the Palazzo del Podestà (now the Bargello) around 1255. It echoed the spirit of the Florentine commune—or commonwealth or republic—during the decade of republican government from 1250 to 1260, the period of the Primo Popolo, or First Republic. Florence energetically reaffirmed her economic independence, was jealous of her own political establishment, and was proud of the representative democracy she had constructed. the First Republic was followed by an interval of six years of antirepublican rule, but it was restored in 1266 as the Second Republic, which lasted until the fifteenth century.

In 1265, one year before this republican restoration, Dante was born in Florence. And, as he himself lets us know (Par. xii, 115–117), his birth fell under the sign of Gemini, between May 14 and June 13. From the Comedy we learn that one of his great-grandfathers, Cacciaguida (Par. XV–XVII), was knighted by the emperor Conrad iii and may have died in the Second Crusade in the Holy Land (1147). Though the Alighieri were certainly not among the most prominent citizens of Florence, some of them were sufficiently active politically to suffer exile in 1248 and 1260, years of bitter civil strife. of Dante’s own parents not much is known. His father, Alighiero, seems to have been a lender and money changer who accumulated fairly substantial land holdings near Florence. Dante’s mother, Donna Bella (Gabriella), died early (between 1270 and 1273). His father remarried quickly and died before 1283.

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