“The Divine Comedy, Volume 3: Paradiso” by Dante Alighieri, translated by Robert M. Durling, with Ronald L. Martinez (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Part Three of Three


Released in hardcover in January of 2011, Robert M. Durling and Ronald L. Martinez present their translation and editing of the final volume in the epic trilogy of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, with Paradiso.  After the success of the first two volumes – Inferno and Purgatorio – with readers and scholars alike, fans will now be able to complete their collection.

After reuniting with his love, Beatrice, Dante now travels with her through the heavenly spheres, experiencing “the state of blessed souls after death.”  With paradise depicted as a series of concentric heavenly spheres surrounding the earth, they consist of the planetary bodies: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, then on to the Fixed Stars, the Primum Mobile, and finally the Empyrean.     Allegorically, this volume represents the soul’s ascent to God.  Like in the previous volumes, each of the heavenly spheres bears a title and important messages, in this case associated with the angelic hierarchy.  Dante continues with what he’s done previously, providing historical setting and characters based on real people, along with an important lesson to be learned with each sphere reached.

In the introduction, Durling discusses when the text was likely written, exploring the setting for it, as well as investigating a number of interpretive issues surrounding Paradiso, the possible meaning behind the allegories, and what this volume represented in Dante’s complete body of work.  Again done in this preferred and beneficial bilingual edition, readers can enjoy the full translation, as well as the original fourteenth-century Italian, as it is revealed what a talented writer Dante truly was, making it clear why The Divine Comedy is revered as such an important piece of work with that of Shakespeare and Chaucer.  Notes at the end of each canto provide commentary and details that help the reader follow the text with full understanding and comprehension.  At the end is included Boethius’s famous cosmological poem that ends the third book of his Consolation of Philosophy, which bore a strong influence on Dante and his work, along with a translation and commentary.  The additional notes include discussions of myths, symbols, and themes that all play a part in the three volumes.  This comprehensive index includes Proper Names Discussed in the Notes, Passages Cited in the Notes, Words Discussed in the Notes, and an Index of Proper Names used in the text and translation.  Robert Turner’s illustrations, as with the previous volumes, again help to illustrate the text in a poignant and unique way, especially with his depiction of the heavenly spheres.

This concluding volume of The Divine Comedy completes one of the most important translations of the current era, with its crucial accuracy, extensive and comprehensive notations and explorations, as well as its thorough effort in being the most important translation of Dante’s opus, making it available and so readable to any person who is interested in the work.  The covers alone will capture anyone’s eye, and as they begin to read the incredibly beautiful, powerful, descriptive words of Dante, they will be swept away to this unique world, just as Tolkien did with his Lord of the Rings.

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Originally written on April 10, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.