illustration of a human covered in a starry sky walking from the sky and plains toward a fiery opening to hell

The Divine Comedy

by Dante Alighieri

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Compare Aeneas's encounter with the souls of the dead in Book Six of Virgil's Aeneid to Dante's Pilgrim's meetings with some dead souls in the Inferno. How are the encounters similar? How are they different? Why?

Choose either Inferno, the Mount of Purgatory, or the heavenly rose in Paradise Lost. Following Dante's description, and consulting any modern illustrations you are able to find, redraw the levels. Choose five levels and put contemporary public figures on them. Give reasons for your choices and placements, according to Dante's explanation of what happens on each level.

Dante lived in political exile while he wrote the Divine Comedy. Research the politics of early fourteenth-century Florence. Use your research findings to explain Dante's criticism of his own city in Inferno or Purgatory. Focus on no more than two characters.

Dante's love for Beatrice Portinari was at first physical and earthly, and he wrote love poetry to her. He later idealized his love as something pure and holy, apart from physical attraction. Research their historical relationship. Explain how Dante in Purgatory and/or Paradise turned Beatrice into his teacher and guide to salvation.

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