In Purgatorio Dante, having described his journey into Hell, narrates his ascent of Mount Purgatory with Virgil, as he encounters penitents who toil through physical agonies, starvation and flames to assuage their earthly vices. Only by learning from them can he achieve his final enlightened transition to the lost Earthly Paradise at the mountain's summit, where he meets his dead love, Beatrice, and prepares to ascend to Heaven. Depicting a realm of intense sensation and physical experience, Dante's poem transformed the traditional Christian idea of Purgatory by showing how the free will of the aspiring soul could change wordly perversions into perfection. It is a brilliantly nuanced and moving allegory of human possibility, hope and redemption.
Dante Alighieri was born in 1265. Considered Italy's greatest poet, this scion of a Florentine family mastered in the art of lyric poetry at an early age. His first major work is La Vita Nuova (1292) which is a tribute to Beatrice Portinari, the great love of his life. It is believed that The Divine Comedy-comprised of three canticles, The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso-was written between 1308 and 1320. Dante Alighieri died in 1321. Robin Kirkpatrick is the Professor of Italian and English Literature and has written a number of books on Dante and on the Renaissance. He is particularly interested in the relationship between Italian and English literature from 1300 to 1600 and in the Modern Period, and he is currently preparing a verse translation of the Paradiso with notes and commentary.