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The Complete Danteworlds

A Reader’s Guide to the Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy has, despite its enormous popularity and importance, often stymied readers with its multitudinous characters, references, and themes. But until the publication in 2007 of Guy Raffa’s guide to the Inferno, students lacked a suitable resource to help them navigate Dante’s underworld. With this new guide to the entire Divine Comedy, Raffa provides readers—experts in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Dante neophytes, and everyone in between—with a map of the entire poem, from the lowest circle of Hell to the highest sphere of Paradise.

Based on Raffa’s original research and his many years of teaching the poem to undergraduates, The CompleteDanteworlds charts a simultaneously geographical and textual journey, canto by canto, region by region, adhering closely to the path taken by Dante himself through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. This invaluable reference also features study questions, illustrations of the realms, and regional summaries. Interpreting Dante’s poem and his sources, Raffa fashions detailed entries on each character encountered as well as on many significant historical, religious, and cultural allusions.

392 pages | 4 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2009

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages


“In no sense is this just another Cliffs Notes approach to Dante. In my view, this guide to Dante’s poetry is clearly the very best single book available for any student or interested general reader. The commentary and structure of the guide constitute a very impressive work of scholarship in that it admirably fulfills its goal of presenting Dante’s poem in all of its complexity without reductionism. Raffa has managed to hit exactly the right balance between providing information to readers and challenging them to use sources and Dante scholarship to come to grips with the meaning of the poem.”

Peter Bondanella, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, Film Studies, and Italian, Indiana University

Danteworlds—the book and the website—makes the Comedy’s universal message accessible and meaningful to all readers. In his superbly written and always engaging presentation of the three realms of the afterlife Guy Raffa displays the rare ability to see, as it were, both the forest and the trees, capturing the grand outlines and shape of Dante’s poem as well as identifying and providing incisive commentary on its myriad components—people, places, events, themes. Not only will first-time readers of the Comedy appreciate Raffa’s meticulous overview, but seasoned scholars will also profit from his many critical insights. Danteworlds will have a major impact on the ways we read, teach, and study the Comedy.”

Christopher Kleinhenz, Carol Mason Kirk Professor Emeritus of Italian, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"This useful study guide, aimed at the student or non-specialist reader, provides a detailed canto-by-canto summary of the Divine Comedy, together with explanations of the many literary, mythological, historical, and political allusions throughout the poem."

Medium Aevum

 “Raffa’s volume, whose apt title captures the panoramic nature of his enterprise, makes comprehensible the nexus between the topographical journey undertaken by the poem’s protagonist. . . . At the same time, Raffa does not ignore the poet’s sources, and the overview of precursorial visions of the afterlife provided at the commencement of the volume help to elucidate the original features of the Comedy’s conceptual framework. . . . Under the author’s skillful guidance, the world of Dante’s creative output is lucidly explored and engagingly presented.”

Forum Italicum

"Guy P. Raffa‘s accessible and in-depth guide offers a variety of cues
essential in interpreting Dante‘s infinite references."

Annali d’Italianistica

Table of Contents

Welcome to Danteworlds

Major Events in Dante’s Life  

Map of Italy in the Thirteenth Century Hell
Illustration of Dante’s Hell      

Dark Wood

Periphery of Hell: Cowardice 

Circle 1: Limbo

Circle 2: Lust 

Circle 3: Gluttony 

Circle 4: Avarice and Prodigality  

Circle 5: Wrath and Sullenness 

Circle 6: Heresy

Circle 7: Violence

Circle 8, pouches 1-6: Fraud 

Circle 8, pouches 7-10: Fraud 

Circle 9: Treachery 

Changing Values?


Illustration of Dante’s Purgatory      

Ante-Purgatory: Late Repentant 

Valley of Rulers 

Terrace 1: Pride 

Terrace 2: Envy   

Terrace 3: Wrath 

Terrace 4: Sloth 

Terrace 5: Avarice and Prodigality 

Terrace 6: Gluttony 

Terrace 7: Lust  

Terrestrial Paradise  

Dante Today 


Illustration of Dante’s Paradise  

Moon: Vow-Breakers

Mercury: Fame-Seekers

Venus: Ardent Lovers 

Sun: Wise Spirits  

Mars: Holy Warriors 

Jupiter: Just Rulers 

Saturn: Contemplatives 

Fixed Stars: Church Triumphant

Primum Mobile: Angelic Orders  

Empyrean: Blessed, Angels, Holy Trinity

Dante and Interdisciplinarity                                                                         


Note on Texts and Translations



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