Maybe this question was asked before, but given this large platform, I couldn't resist to ask

Years ago I started reading the first part of the Divine Comedy (in German), Inferno. To this day I read the book more than three times and yet I'm not sure if I understand. The book itself is very fascinating, I am intrigued by the different perspectives Dante is offering but it's very frustrating at the same time.

Do you guys have any advice for reading and understanding Dante? Or do I have to go back and read some of his earlier writings?

(I also had an different approach and got some of Homers and Platos works, but I thought that's a longer and harder way of comprehending Dante)

Side note: I never had the chance to learn or study how to approach philosophy, therefor my knowledge of philosophy in general and how to read it is very little

  • What are you struggling with? I know I had a hard time understanding Aristotle's Treatise in Rhetoric because the translation I had was of the literal sort and that meant that the grammar was very strange and jarring. Or are you struggling with understanding why he says X or Y? – Captain Kenpachi Nov 28 '14 at 13:19
  • As I mentioned above, I read the book a few times but I don't think I could proceed to Purgatorio. I hoped there's maybe a site or a book guiding you through the book, providing additional information (when I'm reading Inferno I always have to make notes and look up people he mentioned or things that I don't understand). – vkvau Nov 28 '14 at 13:22
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about how to read classic literature (not necessarily how to read it as philosophy) – virmaior Nov 29 '14 at 12:08
  • I think the standard advice applies... find a good commentary or two and read the original text and the commentary in parallel. – James Kingsbery Dec 1 '14 at 16:35
  • I'd like to thank everybody for participating, I'll get back to Dante once I finished my TCP/IP books.. However, I was shocked there isn't a tag for Dante. He has been mentioned a couple times but there are no questions regarding him. Kind of a pity considering his work. – vkvau Dec 1 '14 at 16:53

You need some knowledge of medieval philosophy and of medieval/Early Modern European history.

It may help to supplement the reading of the book with some comment/critical books :


I managed to dig up these two items which I believe will be of great value to you:

Danteworlds, an integrated multimedia journey--combining artistic images, textual commentary, and audio recordings--through the three realms of the afterlife (Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise) presented in Dante's Divine Comedy.


https://dantesthedivinecomedy.wordpress.com/. This site is pretty extensive. It has the original works, summaries AND study guides for each of the three works.

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