Quicklet on Dante's Inferno

by Larry Holzwarth

What's in the book?

Quicklets: Your reading sidekick!

    • About the Book
    • About the Author
    • Synopsis
    • Chapter-By-Chapter Commentary & Summary
    • Key Character List
    • Key Terms and Definitions
    • Major Themes and Symbols
    • Interesting Related Facts
    • Additional Reading



The Inferno is the first third of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, originally written in the Tuscan dialect of Italian.  It was written in the early years of the 14th century. In a time when all serious literary works invariably were written in Latin, Dante deliberately chose his native language to present his epic, hence the word comedy describing a subject that is far from light entertainment.

The poem was published in Italy a full century before Gutenberg’s press revolutionized the printing and publishing industry. Although there are no known copies in Dante’s hand that have survived to the present day, there are several hundred in manuscript form, some dating back to a few years after Dante’s death. The first known copy to appear in print dates from 1472, over one hundred and fifty after Dante first published the work.


Larry Holzwarth is a freelance writer and submarine veteran. A former US Navy systems analyst, he has been a corporate writer on diverse subjects, a professional trainer, recruiter and lecturer.

A lifelong student of history, he enjoys reading, camping, hiking and Reds baseball. After traveling extensively he returned to his native midwest where he resides near Cincinnati.


The Inferno begins on the day before Good Friday in the year 1300, with Dante alone and lost in a dark forbidding forest, unable to find his way out. He is beset by a she-wolf, a lion and a leopard, unable to escape them he reaches the depths of despair and discouragement. At the end of hope, he encounters the ghost of the Roman poet Virgil, who claims to have been sent to Dante by Beatrice, who being in Paradise cannot descend to the depths where Dante must go.

Guided by Virgil, Dante enters the gates of hell. He descends through nine distinct concentric circles, each barred from the others, encountering many figures from both the recent past and antiquity. In each circle he finds the inhabitants condemned to spend eternity in the godless pursuits in which they spent their lives. His descriptions of eternal punishments and the sufferings of the punished are graphic in the extreme, yet laced at times with ironic and occasional bawdy humor.

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