To the Reader of this Commentary:
This is a synthetic and idiosyncratic and personal commentary to the Commedia. It is not a full-fledged and comprehensive commentary of the sort that identifies characters and historical events and mythological figures.
These Introductions to the canti have a strong personal point of view and are intended to direct you towards the aspects of the poem that I have found most fascinating and stimulating over the years, as well as to promote your enjoyment of the Commedia as our premier virtual reality: a text written “sì che dal fatto il dir non sia diverso” (such that from the fact the word be not diverse [Inf. 32.12]).
Because this is a personal commentary, I have included Coordinated Readings from my critical works that can offer more detail and perspectives on the problems here raised. In general, Dante’s Poets (1984) is referenced for the Virgilio storyline that runs through the Commedia, while The Undivine Comedy (1992) buttresses with greater detail the schematic narratological analysis offered here. Other essays are cited as appropriate.
The translation is that of Allen Mandelbaum, a wonderful poet in English whose translation of the Commedia catches the rhythm and cadence of Dante’s language. Allen believed in Digital Dante from its first inception in the early 1990s, when I proposed to him that he might want to showcase his translation on our site. Occasionally I substitute a more literal translation.
Begun as emails sent to my class, I look forward to developing these Introductions further as I present the Commedia to new cohorts of students in the years to come.