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Thread: Should I read Virgil first?

  1. #1

    Should I read Virgil first?

    I have all three part of the Divine Comedy in the John Cardi translation, and I have started the Inferno a couple of time a few years ago, but I have never finished it. I was wondering, should I read Virgil's Aeneid first?

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Belo Horizonte- Brasil
    No, it is not necessary at all.

  3. #3
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    You should have some idea what those classics he refers to are though. I mean half of Inferno is him walking around seeing people.

  4. #4
    When I was in elementary school, about 35 years ago, one of my teachers read The Odyssey to us. I was going to read the Illiad and the Odyssey and maybe Virgil's Aeneid, but I just wondered if it would make that much difference if I read them first.

  5. #5
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    Belo Horizonte- Brasil
    When I first read the Comedy, I had no idea at all about Virgil. It is not having not read him, that was the first time I heard about him.
    The second time I read him I had the notion he was a roman that liked Homer.
    From know on I knew about him but the truth is that since I actually read his 3 most famous book I did not read the Comedy again.
    And I adhored the Comedy since first time. Knowing about Virgil more than "He was a roman writer and Dante liked him" is not necessary for the comedy.

  6. #6
    If grace is an ocean... grace86's Avatar
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    Virgil is just a Roman poet. He wrote The Aenied. It is a wonderful epic, but not necessary to understanding Dante's Inferno.

    I did happen to read The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer...and they have some relevance to Inferno in that there are appearances by some of the characters.

    Dante uses a lot of other characters from other stories, and political/religious leaders of the time that he did not like (he put them in some of the more interesting circles of hell).

    You can get through the epic just fine without knowing too much about these other stories.

    Have fun reading it, it really is graphic and an engrossing read. I think the Ciardi version was a good one...I didn't read that version, nor did I read Purgatorio or Paradiso.
    "So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don't have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about, the way....He loves us..."

  7. #7

    Post Dante

    I agree with Grace. I would get a good annotated edition/translation of Dante (which will help identify characters.)

    If you try to read Virgil's epic first, you may never get to The Divine Comedy!

  8. #8
    Lover of all things epic
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    Jul 2006
    I don't think The Divine Comedy requires you to have read Virgil as such, however I found my reading of Dante to be more enjoyable and better informed after my 'epic tradition' course at university. As all of the epic poems, it certainly benefits re-reading to fully understand the references and allusions made, even if they are given in the notes.
    "Haunt me, take any form. Only, do not leave me in this abyss where I cannot find you."

  9. #9
    I have Ben reading Dante for years. I just read the Aeneid and struggled all the way through it because I had such an idealized view of Virgil from Dante that the real Virgil couldn't live up to. Virgil is such a great poet, and if I had it to do again, I'd read him first in a heartbeat.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    I mean half of Inferno is him walking around seeing people.
    Indeed. You'd be better off reading a history of Renaissance Italy rather than Virgil.

  11. #11
    Yes, he is a great poster. Read him and then move onto stlukes or even cafolini if you're continentally oriented.


  12. #12
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Dec 2005
    trapped in a prologue.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of Hearts View Post
    Yes, he is a great poster.

    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

  13. #13
    I am, reading The Comedy in its entirety first. I see no confusion with Virgil's role in the book but, its also making me eager to read more about him!

    I say follow your feelings but, in a logical sense its not necessary.

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