Thursday, May 19

The Divine Comedy: the true stories behind the characters in Dante’s masterpiece

  • Laura Ingallinella
  • The Conversation *

Illustration of the Divine Comedy

Image source, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

When Dante Alighieri died 700 years ago, on September 14, 1321, he had just put his final flourishes in the “Divine Comedy,” a monumental poem that would inspire readers for centuries.

The play follows a pilgrim’s journey through the three realms of the Christian afterlife: hell, purgatory, and paradise.

In it he meets a variety of characters, many of which are based on real people that Dante had known or heard from.

One of them is a woman named Sapia Salvani. Sapia meets Dante and his first guide, Virgilio, on the second terrace of purgatory.

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