The Divine Tragedy

Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is regarded as one of the greatest pieces of literature in the world, and the greatest literary work of Italy.  It is not only the direct source of the official Christian imagery, structure, and function of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but it is also responsible for establishing the Tuscan dialect as the standard dialect of the Italian language.  It is a true masterpiece, and a testament to the creative genius that man is capable of.  Keep this in mind as we continue.

Graphic depiction of the nine circles of hell, the mountain of Purgatory, and of Paradise.

I apologize in advance for my unavoidably inadequate summary of the Divine Comedy.  The Comedy follows Dante’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven as an allegorical representation of the soul’s journey to God.  In Inferno, sin is recognized and punished.  In Purgatorio, spiritual growth allows the soul to move beyond their sins and enter the Earthly Paradise in a state of pure innocence equal to that of the Garden of Eden before the fall of man.  In Paradiso, the soul finally ascends to God.  Dante is guided through Inferno and Purgatorio by the roman poet Virgil, whom he had great respect for.

Virgil leading Dante through the Fourth Circle of the Inferno.

Satan, in the ninth circle of the Inferno. In his central mouth lies Judas; In the mouths on either side, Brutus and Cassius, all being devoured eternally for their treachery.

Virgil, not being Christian, can not guide him through the realm of Heaven, however, which leads to his earthly object of adoration, Beatrice, guiding him through Paradiso. Dante’s travels allow him to recognize and reject sin, to spiritually grow beyond his sins, and to finally witness God and the human form of Christ, leading him to a fundamental epiphany about the nature of divinity.  I am not Christian, but I can appreciate the depth of the story and the mastery with which it was written.  It is a true work of literary art.

Now meet the Dante most people will visualize:

Nice to meet you!

This is Dante as portrayed in Visceral Games and EA’s video game adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, first of the three books in the Divine Comedy.  He looks slightly different than the classical illustrations of Dante, if one pays attention to the small details.  His outing in the video game adaptation of Dante’s Inferno is truly a bloody and violent affair.  A story summary can be found here.  Go ahead and catch up on that.  I’ll wait.

Welcome back!  So, we have discovered that this particular Dante massacred his way through the Inferno to rescue the corrupted soul of his beloved Beatrice from the fiendishly devilish grasp of…well…the devil, Satan.  After defeating Satan and ensuring that Beatrice’s soul is in Paradise, he steps out of Hell and in to Purgatory.

I realize this doesn’t bother most people as much as it bothers me.  I realize that some people are able to step away and look at the video game as a video game, and ignore the connection it tries (and fails) to make to one of the world’s greatest literary works.  Regardless, I feel that this work should have been treated with more respect by Visceral and EA and left alone.  It was not material that should have been turned into a video game, because the narrative did not lend itself to that translation.

But wait, there’s more to this story than a bad video game.  After a slew of questionable marketing events, EA released their own paperback copy of Dante’s Inferno, complete with an introduction from game producer Jonathan Knight, and a 16-page insert of game-art.

Oh, man! This book looks awesome, and the game had so much action! I can't wait to read the novelization! Wait, what? It's just two dudes taking a really long fucking walk? GOD DAMMIT!

Thankfully, the Longfellow translation was left unviolated.

-[insert NERD RAGE here]

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