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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes
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Dante's religion told him there were three worlds in the
afterlife: Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. How does someone go
about describing what no one has ever seen-life after death?
Where are these places and what are they like? To answer
these questions, Dante borrowed from science and, again, the
religion of his day.

For Dante, both the physical and the spiritual worlds were set
up as a hierarchy, leading up to God. Basically, what this
means is that everything starts with God and exists in layers
radiating outwards from Him.

Dante's idea of the physical universe follows the design of the
astronomer Ptolemy, who taught that the earth is the center of
the universe and that the following nine levels surround and
rotate around the earth:

1. Moon

2. Mercury

3. Venus

4. Sun

5. Mars

6. Jupiter

7. Saturn

8. Starry Heaven

9. Crystalline Heaven (prime mobile)

Surrounding all and immobile is the Empyrean, home of God.

On the spiritual level, Dante's universe is set up so that the
more God-like you are, the closer your eternal resting place
will be to Him. Hell, then, is in the center of the earth, the
farthest point from God. Purgatory is a mountain on the earth
and Heaven is close to God.

Dante called his work simply the Comedy; later readers added
the word divine because the work deals with God and Satan,
sin and the afterlife. The Inferno is Dante-the-pilgrim's
journey through Hell. The scenes he encounters there are as
bizarre as anything we might see in a horror film or science
fiction fantasy. There's a huge cast of characters, drawn from
the Bible, from Greek mythology, and from the Italian politics
of Dante's own day.

The poem is more than a supernatural travelogue, however. As
you will see, it is also a journey through the human spirit,
from the depths of evil to the heights of enlightenment.

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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes

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