Dante (1265-1321) is the greatest of Italian poets, and his Divine Comedy is the finest of all Christian allegories.
To the consternation of his more academic admirers, who believed Latin to be the only proer language for dignified verse, Dante wrote his Comedy in colloquial Italian, wanting it to be a poem for the common reader. Taking two threads of a story that everybody knew and lovedthe story of a vision of Hell, Prugatory and Paradise, and the story of the lover who has to brave the Underworld to find his lost ladyhe combined them into a great allegory of the soul's search for God. He made it swift, exciting topical, lavishing upon it all his learning and wit, all his tenderness, humour and enthusiasm, and all his poetry.
In Hell, the first of the three parts, the poet is conducted by the spirit of the poet Virgil through the twenty-four circles of Hell in the first stage of his arduous journey towards God.