A canto by canto journey for Dante 2020
This year, 2020, marks the 700th anniversary of the completion of the great Divine Comedy. I invite you to experience the odyssey, too, by accompanying me as I discuss each canto.
Dante begins his journey by waking up in a dark wood. The air tastes bitter. He becomes fearful. Truth is out of reach. But his crisis is a turning point.
Many today, too, are waking up to something that’s gone wrong. We’re in a spiritual crisis. We must see the world afresh and understand. I believe Dante can help us discover how.
I’ll post reflections on two or more cantos each week as we reach for the highest heavens. Follow every step of the way on YouTube, via the films or MP3 below, or via the podcast, Dante’s Divine Comedy.
I recommend the translation by Mark Musa in the Penguin Classics edition, both for its accessibility and notes. Most of the images that accompany my discussion are by Priamo della Quercia, Sandro Botticelli, Gustav Doré and William Blake.
Dante frightened by his plight, terrorised by strange beasts, discovers a guide. MP3 here.
Dante wavers and Virgil reveals why he is here. MP3 here.
Dante and Virgil enter the gates of hell to find lost souls and a river. MP3 here.
Virgil leads Dante into the first circle of hell. MP3 here.
Virgil and Dante enter the second circle of hell and meet those whose love in life has trapped them. MP3 here.
In the third circle, they encounter Cerberus and the disfigured Caccio. MP3 here.
Virgil and Dante are in the fourth and fifth circles meeting those trapped by money and by anger. MP3 here.
Still in the fifth circle, they face the river Styx and the terror of Dis. MP3 here.
Terrified by the demons that block their path, Dante and Virgil wait. MP3 here.
Now inside Dis, they meet those who have followed their own way. MP3 here.
A foul stench prompts illumination of lower hell’s subtler evils. MP3 here.
Descending a steep slope, they see the minotaur, centaurs and a river of boiling blood. MP3 here.
They enter an ugly wood filled with wailing and those who killed themselves. MP3 here.
By burning sands and falling fire, they speak with a soul cursing Jupiter and see a vision. MP3 here.
Walking alongside the red stream, avoiding the burning sands, a gaggle of souls approach them. MP3 here.
Hearing ominous waters tumbling, they meet three more trapped souls and then stranger things happen. MP3 here.
Approaching the cliffs of deeper hell, they confront the monster Geryon and souls disfigured by usury. MP3 here.
They are in the eighth circle, the place called Malebolge, as the descent deepens further. MP3 here.
Dante perceives the bleak bankruptcy of exchanging spiritual gifts for temporal goods. MP3 here.
Dante is perturbed when they encounter the diviners, an art he practices too. MP3 here.
They meet the demons of Malebranche. Virgil reckons he can outplay them. Dante does not. MP3 here.
They find themselves escorted by ten demons. Something has gone very wrong. MP3 here.
Affection balances fear. Thought counters foolhardiness. They escape to fresh despair in the sixth bolgia. MP3 here.
Virgil helps Dante climb from the sixth bolgia. They come to the seventh, a melee of serpents chasing souls. MP3 here.
They see even more terrible metamorphoses in the seventh bolgia and realise the serpents are human souls too. MP3 here.
The eight bolgia appears almost majestic until Dante understands how its souls are trapped in flames. MP3 here.
Still overlooking the eighth bolgia of Maleboge, a new writhing flame approaches. The soul says he trusted a pope. MP3 here.
The ninth bolgia entombs figures Dante sees as schismatic in life, now rent asunder themselves. MP3 here.
Dante and Virgil argue. The next bolgia is infected with the pestilence of denuded nature and humanity. MP3 here.
Minds and bodies themselves begin to disintegrate in souls driven rabid and feverish by playing god in life. MP3 here.
Virgil and Dante wander into a grey zone, hear an ominous horn, and encounter the terrible giants. MP3 here.
Seeking heavenly help to find the true words, Dante steps into Cocytus, revealed as a reality of imprisoning, deadening ice. MP3 here.