Dante’s Divine Comedy adapted by Seymour Chwast

Dante’s Divine Comedy by Seymour Chwast is a graphic novel adaptation of the classic, allegorical epic poem written in three parts:  Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise.  Dante’s lines were written in Italian, the language of the people, rather than Latin as a way to protest the political influence of the church and the Pope.  Chwast has taken a great many liberties with the text and Dante’s poetic lines.  Although the poetic lines are not as lyrical, the text is easier to read for those who find language in the middle ages and poetry hard to understand.  Chwast’s Divine Comedy graphic adaptation would be an excellent introduction to this classic without causing new readers to shy away from poetry.

“We witness carnal sinners/Those lustful creatures/who committed sins of the flesh/who are tossed about carelessly in the dark/by the most furious winds.” (page 19)

Dante, the poet, is guided through the inferno, purgatory, and paradise by the poet Virgil and several female muses, including Dante’s real life love, Beatrice.  Chwast’s illustrations capture the essence of each canto, though the depictions of Virgil and Dante in what looks to be 1940s clothes is an unusual selection.  The characters almost look like they are from The Untouchables.

Chwast makes this classic accessible to many more readers, but for people that love the classic’s lines or the original Italian words, the book could read like Cliffs Notes.  However, the illustrations are very detailed and accurately depict the travels of Dante and Virgil.  Dante’s Divine Comedy by Seymour Chwast is a helpful introduction to a classic, epic poem from the middle ages, by a politically active poet.

***The book is printed on natural, recyclable paper from wood grown in well-managed forests.***

This is my 50th, and final, book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.


  1. J.T. Oldfield says

    I think I’d like this. I’ll have to see if my library has it.

  2. Dante’s Divine Comedy has been on my TBR list for a while, but i always feel like I’m not ready for it. This looks interesting, but I would still want to read the original.
    Arielle´s last blog post ..Im Back

  3. Maybe if I read it first as a graphic novel I’d feel empowered to read the book in its true form.

    • I think that might be the purpose…to get others disinterested or afraid of classics to branch out in a less frightening way. I like it for that option, but for me, it doesn’t work since I adore the original Italian and poetry.

  4. I’ve never read The Inferno and suspect this one would be more on my level.
    bermudaonion (Kathy)´s last blog post ..Guest post- Patti Callahan Henry on South Carolina’s Lowcountry

  5. I’ve never read the original, and I don’t think this one is for me either. It’s interesting how many classics are being repackaged as graphic novels.
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