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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes
Table of Contents

STRUCTURE

The numbers three, nine, and ten recur often in the Divine
Comedy and have special significance.

• There are 3 parts to the Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, and
Paradiso.

• There are 33 cantos (verse chapters) in each part.

• Including one canto of introduction, there are 100 cantos
altogether.

• Each canto is written in terza rima, stanzas of three lines
with the first and third lines rhyming and the second line
rhyming with the first line of the next stanza.

• There are 3 basic kinds of sin: Incontinence, Violence, and
Fraud.



• There are nine circles of Hell, with the Vestibule making
10 levels. (Purgatory and Heaven are subdivided in much the
same numerical way.)

The numbers are another way Dante creates significance or
meaning. Three is the number of the Trinity-Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit. Nine is the square of three. Adding one for the
unity of the Trinity gives ten, considered a "perfect" number
in medieval thinking. One hundred is the square of ten. Dante,
writing of God, perfection, and the ideal unity of the universe,
structures his poem around these numbers. This may seem like
an elaborate, artificial game to you, but it wasn't for Dante.
These numbers had mystical significance. And because Dante
was writing about God's complex design, he wanted to make
his poem have an appropriately complex design to match.

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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes
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