Identity as a concept fascinates me. I didn’t like the thought that someone else could inform the way I lead my life. I liked the thought that I alone am responsible for my thoughts and actions.

It has taken me a while to accept that my interactions with the world have and will continue to have an impact on who I see myself as a person.

I had not expected such a lesson when I decided to jump into studying Dante’s Divine Comedy. I started it because it was a piece of literature and thanks to the two Shakespearean plays I had studied and enjoyed studying in school, I knew I would enjoy it too. I had not anticipated the lessons I would learn, the notes I would make, the money I would have to pay to retain access to the study material and the certificate I wouldn’t earn because I was short 2% of the passing grade.

Reading tales: Divine Comedy

I of course knew about the concept of Inferno and the circles of hell and the popular quote: abandon all hope ye who enter here. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how I would see Dante’s journey through Inferno, Mount Purgatorio before reaching Paradiso as a journey of a creative. In that sense, Inferno would be a creative’s hell, filled with doubt and loathing, before understanding came that it is you who has trapped you in this hell and not “the other.” Mount Purgatorio would be the climb you have to take where you shed your baggage and realize the truth: you are as capable as you allow yourself to be. And Paradiso would be the point where you create, and as you create, you’re in paradise.

The thing that amazed me about the climb of purgatory was that while it was you who was serving the penance, it wouldn’t be possible, or nearly as smooth, if there weren’t people praying for you or your success. It reminded me of the celebration Día de Muertos (the Day of the Dead). It reminded me that I’m standing on the shoulders of a lot of people.

Though “journey of the creative” is obviously not the scenario that Dante wanted his Comedy to be read in, I had so many more interpretations of it as I went through it. What really, really, impressed me was this was written in the fifteenth century and yet it is so relevant today. Throughout the study process, I kept thinking that the Comedy is a guide on how to be human and how not to be a human. How easy it is for us to give up control on our lives and blame someone else. I had to remind myself repeatedly that I wasn’t reading a gospel, but a piece of literature; it was that consuming as I read it.

Every time I have studied literature, the professors have always emphasized the importance of the opening line. The first three lines of Divine Comedy are:

Reading tales: Divine Comedy

The poem begins “nel mezzo” which means “in the middle.” Just like Dante’s journey through the realm of the dead begins in the middle, our stories also begin in the middle. Maybe because it is in the middle that you realize that you can do nothing of the past and that the future is uncertain. It is in the middle that hope is born that despite what happened yesterday, tomorrow may be better. And to make it better, we begin now, right where we are, nel mezzo.


I’m taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa. For the next 1 month, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite bookish memories; hence the title Reading Tales.

67 thoughts on “Reading tales: Divine Comedy

  1. Beautiful penned, Suchita! The three stages to reboot life in the right direction are brilliantly explained. No matter in which century it was written, some points are like a universal truth of all eras, the only way to lead a contented, happier life.

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  2. I Came to know about Dante from Dan Brown’s Inferno, and that made me read the Divine Comedy, though I am yet to complete it

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  3. Right in the middle! It just rang a bell and took me down memory lane. I remember reading Divine Comedy when I was 16. Couldn’t make much of it then. Thanks to you, I now understand

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  4. ‘Every time I have studied literature, the professors have always emphasized the importance of the opening line.’
    Kinda establishes the cemented opinion that well begun is half done.

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  5. Hey! Your post reminded me of this book I’d read in 2017 called Prisoner 521 by M.A Kos. “‘Prisoner 521’ is the story of a morbidly obese man’s metaphorical journey through the nine circles of Dante’s Hell. What makes this book different is that it talks about a morbidly obese man’s relationship with food – gluttony – and how that contributes to his descent into hell.” – You may check out my review here on one of my old blogs – https://ashtalksbooks.blogspot.com/2017/11/review-of-prisoner-521-by-ma-kos.html

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  6. I am feeling so good to know all about literature through reading various posts by my fellow blogchatter. Being science student, I hardly got a chance to read and know about such great literature. I will surely check these out.

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  7. The integration of philosophy in Dante’s Divine Comedy was appealing to me. We always learn so much from such literary classics. Thanks for sharing, Suchita.

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  8. That’s such a refreshing read Suchita. I enjoyed this post. I haven’t read Dante’s Divine Comedy. Now I am definitely going to read this.

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  9. Wonderful wonderful read as always, Suchita! Loved your conclusionary para. I’m heading over to read Dante’s Divine Comedy.

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  10. I feel we derive perspectives in the right way from such wonderfully written masterpieces which written way back are relevant even today and you shared the points in your review in a way we can learn a bit about it and start our thinking on those lines

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  11. The first three lines surely connect the reader and give them the direction in which it’s going to move.
    I like the point that it’s the middle where hope is born and we can work towards the betterment of our future.

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  12. One of my all time favourite quotes is Dante’s
    “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis”. I really liked how you correlated with creativity.

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  13. Though I dint have the context, I really enjoyed how you whip up words and your twists and turns and way of coming around to the main point. Its something very rare and very refreshing.

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  14. Never thought of Dante’s Divine Comedy in terms of a journey through creativity. What a masterpiece he created and just as you wrote, while reading it even I kept telling myself that this is literature and not gospel. This was such a refreshing read, loved every bit of this post.

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  15. Well penned down lines,the best part I found was shifting on responsibility to other part ,taking charge is the only to peace

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