After an initial ascension, Beatrice guides Dante through the nine celestial spheres of Heaven. These are concentric and spherical, as in Aristotelian and Ptolemaic cosmology. The structure of Paradiso is based on the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues. In Paradiso, Dante meets and converses with several great saints of the Church, including Saint Peter, and St. John. Allegorically, the poem represents the soul's ascent to God.
The Divine Comedy represents a vision of the afterlife of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church by the 14th century. The narrative describes Dante's travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, while allegorically the poem represents the soul's journey towards God. The poem is widely considered to be the pre-eminent work in Italian literature and one of the greatest works of world literature.
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About the Author
In the Late Middle Ages, most poetry was written in Latin, making it accessible only to the most educated readers. In De vulgari eloquentia (On Eloquence in the Vernacular), however, Dante defended the use of the vernacular in literature. He would even write in the Tuscan dialect for works such as The New Life (1295) and the Divine Comedy; this highly unorthodox choice set a precedent that important later Italian writers such as Petrarch and Boccaccio would follow.
Dante was instrumental in establishing the literature of Italy, and his depictions of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven provided inspiration for the larger body of Western art. He is cited as an influence on John Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer and Alfred Tennyson, among many others. In addition, the first use of the interlocking three-line rhyme scheme, or the terza rima, is attributed to him. He is described as the "father" of the Italian language, and in Italy, he is often referred to as il Sommo Poeta ("the Supreme Poet"). Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio are also called the tre corone ("three crowns") of Italian literature.