A Dantesque Inspiration: How Dante’s Divine Comedy Influenced My Writing

Reflection about writing, theology, and love.

Alejandro Herrera

6/10/20242 min read

"Beatrice am I, who bid thee go; I come from there, where I would fain return; Love moved me, which compelled me to speak." -- Canto II, The Divine Comedy.

Many people consider The Divine Comedy by Dante a fan-fiction. Now, I have my opinions about fan-fictions, which I am going to keep to myself for now. However, I kind of can see why this book would be categorized by such readers as a fan-fiction. Just like in fan-fictions, Dante puts himself as a character in the poem. This is one of the most prominent features of the poem.

I remember, when I was an undergraduate in St. Mary's University taking some courses of Catholic theology, some of the theology books quoted and used the Divine Comedy as analogies to the theological concepts that the books was talking. I don't have the title on top of my head, but I remember reading a book about love from a theological lens, and explained romantic love with the relationship between Dante and Beatrice.

I began reading The Divine Comedy a few months ago, and it stood out to me that in Inferno, Beatrice goes to the Limbo to ask the Roman poet Virgil to guide Dante through Hell and Purgatory to go to Heaven. I know that in Paradiso, Beatrice is the one who guides Dante through Heaven. This poem has a historical background, such as that Beatrice existed during renaissance Italy, and Dante did have feelings for her. With this in mind, I remembered the Catholic teaching on love and marriage. The Church advises that the spouses should guide each other to heaven, to put it in simple terms (perhaps even oversimplified).

With these in mind, I set to imagine a love story with supernatural elements. What if I wrote a love story set in the mist of a spiritual war between God and the Devil? What if God's champions against the Devil fell in love with each other? At the end of the day, this is what marriages and relationships in the real world should be according to Catholic theology --unions against evil.

And so, I began to plot my novel, Arthur and Melody. A Romance, Young Adult, Fantasy in which the protagonists (Arthur and Melody) must use their powers of read dreams to thwart the Devil's plans of bringing forth the Apocalypse. These characters might end up falling in love with each other, as a side-effect; and lead each other to salvation.

"CRANE, Donn Philip. Dante Ascends to Heaven with Beatrice, Divine Comedy, 1900." by Halloween HJB is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.