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  • Dante | Inferno
  • Thoreau | Walden
  • Sophocles | Oedipus Rex
  • Kafka | Metamorphosis
  • Melville | Moby-Dick
  • Shakespeare | Hamlet
  • Homer | The Odyssey
  • Austen | Pride and Prejudice
  • Bronte | Jane Eyre
  • Steinbeck | Of Mice and Men


In this clip, Sharmeen Islam—a Contracts Associate at Berkley Books—talks about Dante's classic. Click here to watch the complete twenty-minute video program, The Ten Essential Penguin Classics, highlighting each of the essential books.


ISBN 9780140448955 | $16.00 |

The most famous of the three canticles that comprise The Divine Comedy, Inferno describes Dante's descent in Hell midway through his life with Virgil as a guide. As he descends through nine concentric circles of increasingly agonizing torture, Dante encounters doomed souls that include the pagan Aeneas, the liar Odysseus, the suicidal Cleopatra, and his own political enemies, damned for their deceit. Led by leering demons, Dante must ultimately journey with Virgil to the deepest level of all—for it is only by encountering Satan himself, in the heart of Hell, that he can truly understand the tragedy of sin.

Another Penguin staffer, Cory Williams—Customer Service Representative—sent us these thoughts about why Dante's book is essential...

Why It's a Classic:
The Inferno is a classic because it is a text that comments on the tragic human flaw of desire. Whether it is greed, gluttony, wrath, or any of the other "deadly sins," Dante shows that it is human nature to fall victim to desire. Dante shows that every action has consequences. Even though Dante's work seems dated today, the idea of decision and consequence is still very much important today.

What It Influenced:
It has influenced many authors and poets, particularly during the Romantic Period. The film "Se7en," starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, is very similar to Dante and Virgil and their descent into various levels of hell. However, "Se7en" is set in a modern day metropolis, and the idea of the "seven deadly sins" was given a believable application as a murderer kills those who blatantly ignore these "deadly sins." There was also a videogame that was recently released that follows Dante into Hell, named Dante's Inferno.

Other Great Books By This Author:
Paradiso and Purgatorio; both are parts of Dante's Divine Comedy

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