Commento Baroliniano

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.


Teodolinda Barolini

November 2014






  1. Myth Meets History, Isaiah Meets Aristotle
  2. Beatrix Loquax
  3. Crossings and Commitments
  4. The Cultural Other
  5. What’s Love Got to Do with It?
  6. The City
  7. Aristotle and Wealth Management (I), with a Note on Cecco d’Ascoli
  8. Suspended . . . at the Gate of Dis
  9. Virgilio and Fallibility
  10. Love in Hell
  11. Aristotle, Pagan Authority of a Christian Hell
  12. Tirannia
  13. Our Bodies, Our Selves
  14. We Are Our Own Hell: sunt lacrimae rerum
  15. Winners and Losers in the Race of Life
  16. Cortesia and Wealth Management (II)
  17. Failed Flyers
  18. Fraud and Sex in a Post-Geryon World
  19. From Literal Pimps and Whores to Metaphorical Pimps and Whores
  20. Astrology and Determinism, Deflected
  21. Diabolic Semiosis
  22. Diabolic Sport
  23. Diabolic Impotence
  24. Metamorphosis and Mystery
  25. Shape, Substance, Sex, Self
  26. The Quest
  27. A Failed Conversion
  28. Tuscany’s Evil Seed
  29. Vendetta, Shame, Honor, and Cloves
  30. To Dream That One Is Dreaming
  31. The Linguistic Fall
  32. Erotic Ice to Frozen Core
  33. Dynastic Wife to Dynastic Wolf
  34. Satanic Physics and the Point of Transition


  1. He Seeks Freedom
  2. Embracing the Human
  3. The Pathos of the Body
  4. Wings of Desire
  5. True Flesh, True Blood
  6. Digression Italy
  7. From Father to Son
  8. Farewell
  9. Vision and Violence
  10. Visible Speech
  11. After 1000 Years?
  12. God’s Acrostic
  13. Eyes Sewn Shut
  14. Valley of the Beasts
  15. Divine Multiplication
  16. The Fault Is Not In Our Stars
  17. Love Is All There Is
  18. The Lyric, Ethicized
  19. Epistemological Incontinence
  20. Return of the Lupa
  21. Friendship
  22. Pagan Texts As Agents of Salvation—and Aristotle, Again
  23. Where Time Is Restored for Time
  24. Making Literary History
  25. Body and Soul
  26. Human Sexuality
  27. Remember, Remember!
  28. Losing Springtime
  29. Six Wings or Four?
  30. One’s Heart’s Desire
  31. Non-Normative Consolation
  32. Apocalypse Now
  33. Messiah Redux


  1. Con-sort In The Sea With The Other Gods
  2. The Marks of Cain
  3. Celestial Real Estate
  4. Violence Versus Platonic Venom
  5. The Divine Pawnshop
  6. Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord
  7. Adam’s Fall and the Big Bang
  8. Eros and Anticlimax
  9. The Shadow of Earth
  10. Multiple Truth and Intellectual Tolerance
  11. Aspirational Poverty
  12. A Warrior With A Ph.D.
  13. Waves Crashing on the Shore
  14. Our Bodies, Our Loves
  15. Family Ties
  16. Time’s Scissors, Or The Florentine Phonebook
  17. Back to the Future
  18. Divine Sky-Writing
  19. Injustice On The Banks Of The Indus
  20. Baptism In Troy
  21. The Beginning Of The End
  22. Controlled Orphism
  23. Gabriel’s Song
  24. Believing Is Not Seeing
  25. Green Pastures
  26. Love Bites And Adam Speaks
  27. The Usurper
  28. Old Universe/New Universe
  29. The Line Of Becoming
  30. Phantasmagoria
  31. The Ultimate Family Romance
  32. Circumcision
  33. Invisible Ink