“The Divine Comedy, Volume 2: Purgatorio” by Dante Alighieri, translated by Robert M. Durling, with Ronald L. Martinez (Oxford University Press, 2004)

Part Two of Three

Purgatorio
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In the second volume of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Purgatorio, Dante continues his journey from hell into purgatory, continuing to be guided by the skilled hand and mind of Virgil.  Dante must climb up the Mount of Purgatory, beginning at the bottom with Ante-Purgatory, then the seven terraces – seven levels of suffering and spiritual growth – as associated with the seven deadly sins; at the very top is Earthly paradise.  Just as in the first volume, Inferno, Dante continues to discuss politics and the Church in general, as well as relating to his own experiences during the writing of the Divine Comedy in the fourteenth century.  Familiar characters in Dante’s life again play a part, as he makes his intentions of them all too clear.  It is in this volume that Dante is reunited with his long-lost love, Beatrice.

In this shorter introduction, Robert M. Durling and Ronald L. Martinez go into some detail on when this second volume was likely begun, how and when it was exactly written and how Dante was influenced by events and happenings in his life in the writing of it.  Just as with the first volume, detailed notes are provided at the end of each canto, explaining locations, historical references, and short biographies on the people mentioned and what relevance they had to Dante.  With these priceless details, any reader can pick up this translation of the Divine Comedy, and not feel lost or overloaded by all the historical setting, peoples and details, but are skillfully guided along Dante’s unique journey.

At the end of the text are further detailed notes and fifteen short essays covering Dante’s political views, his respect and use of Virgil and Ovid, his original conceptions of homosexuality, and on moral growth, to name a few.  Durling and Martinez also explore similarities and possible linkages with the three volumes in analyzing similar cantos, their possible relations to each other, as well as the numbering system used in each volume.  At the end is a bibliography and extensive index, allowing the reader to travel about the text freely and with little hindrance.

With this second volume, Durling continues what he began with Inferno, keeping the reader hooked with this accurate translation, along with the original Italian on the left-hand page, as Dante’s true skill as a storyteller and descriptive writer are brought to light as never before.

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