by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Gaming”

As Soon As I Can Stop Laughing . . .

Posted 16 December 2008 in by Catriona

I’m going to blog about the new video game based on Dante’s Inferno.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The game hasn’t been released yet, and I’m already looking forward to the sequel: Dante’s Purgatory. I’m quite certain they have no intention of releasing Dante’s Paradiso. (Frankly, I don’t blame them: I re-read The Divine Comedy at least once a year, and I tend to stop after Purgatory. Heaven is quite dull in comparison to the sufferings of the damned and the penitent.)

Look, I’m not the first person to get a giggle out of this: check out today’s Penny Arcade strip.

But, honestly: The Divine Comedy is important for many reasons. Let me indulge in a brief and shallow list of the ones that spring to mind, in bullet-point form.

  • The Divine Comedy is a sustained engagement with the idea of contrapasso, or, as we might term it vernacularly, poetic justice. I’m not sure that this includes . . . but, actually, to say what this doesn’t include would be to preview the end of this post too early. So let’s just stop there.
  • it’s an immensely influential work, especially on authors of the Regency period—after the success of Henry Francis Cary’s translation—and afterwards. One of the more interesting engagements with Dante and with contrapasso, to my mind, is Lady Caroline Lamb’s Ada Reis, in which the entire third volume takes place in a hellish Dantean afterlife. But that’s only one example, and less obscure writers such as Walter Savage Landor, Leigh Hunt, and Lord Byron were also fascinated by Dante.
  • it represents a significant and influential development of the geography and sociology of Hell, including an engagement with aspects of lore that, while inferred from either the Old or New Testaments, gained greater significance later in the history of the church, such as the Harrowing of Hell.
  • it was written in vernacular Italian, rather than Latin, making it accessible to a broader number of readers.

A shallow list? Yes.

But not as shallow as the video game.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, courtesy of my friend Drew, here is the trailer for the video game of Dante’s Inferno.

And if what Dante does in that final scene qualifies as contrapasso, I need a new dictionary.

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