Touching on the Importance of Numbers in Dant3’s Divin3 Com3dy.

I’m going off of a lesson on Inferno when I took Hum I back in the summer of 2014, but I feel this is an interesting aspect worth sharing.

Dante is big on numbers throughout The Divine Comedy, especially with the number 3 and the “Perfect Number” (100). Almost everything is in sets of 3. The Divine Comedy is split into 3 books (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso), each consisting of 33 cantos (With the exception of Inferno, which has 34, but I’ll get to that in a moment), with each canto made up of lines in sets of 3. That’s 99 cantos overall, and with the aforementioned introductory canto of Inferno, which, as it’s only an intro and doesn’t technically count as a part of the whole, existing almost outside of the work, the count is brought to 100.

One of the most surprising aspects of this, however, is the syllable count. Every line of Inferno was 11 syllables (That’s 33 syllables for every set of three lines now) and the translation (At least the Mark Musa one I had at the time) was respectful of this. That being said, the trend seems to be less prevalent in Paradiso, and I’m having some trouble finding reliable (Not on Wikipedia) information to develop this further. If anyone knows anything else about this, feel free to chime in. I found it fascinating, and I haven’t really had a chance to study it since the last two years.

In any case, it highlights Dante’s meticulousness when it comes to language, which we mentioned in class. I’m also curious if we’ll see anything similar in Morrison’s Paradise–specifically with numbers, as the attention she pays to words is startlingly apparent throughout her work.

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