Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Dante Alighieri's Inferno. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: The Divine Comedy (The Inferno is the first of three sections of The Divine Comedy)
- When Written: Early 1300s (exact date unclear)
- Where Written: Italy
- When Published: Unclear, but at least by 1317
- Literary Period: The (late) middle ages
- Genre: Epic poem (written in an Italian rhyme scheme called terza rima)
- Setting: Hell
- Climax: While The Inferno is only the first third of Dante's Divine Comedy, one may locate a climax in Canto 34, when Dante sees Lucifer, the epitome of sin and evil, at the very core of hell, the final sinner he sees on his journey through hell.
- Antagonist: There is no single antagonist, but sin is, in a sense, the main thing Dante struggles against. All the characters that threaten to thwart or delay Dante and Virgil's journey, from individual sinners to monsters to Lucifer himself, can be seen as agents of sin.
- Point of View: Dante narrates the poem in the first-person, recalling his own journey.
How Divine. Dante originally titled his epic masterpiece simply La Commedia (the comedy), meaning that, as opposed to a tragedy, it had a happy ending. However, the Italian poet Boccaccio admired it so much that he suggested adding the word divina to the title, giving the work the name it has been commonly known by now for centuries: The Divine Comedy.
The Number 3. The number three is very significant for the structure of Dante's poem: there are three sections (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), and each section has 33 Cantos (except Inferno, which has an extra, introductory canto to make 34), while the entire poem is written in three-line stanzas (in an Italian form called terza rima). The number three and its multiples can be found all throughout The Inferno: hell has nine circles, for example, while Lucifer has three heads.