Dante's Inferno

The Dante’s Inferno project arose from our group’s interest in language and semantics and, well, needing a text that was out of copyright. Originally written by Dante Alighieri in 1320 in Italian, we used Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s translation of the text, available through Project Gutenberg. The Inferno follows the path of the poet Dante as he wanders off the rightful and moral path of truth and gets lost in the dark woods of Hell. As he travels through all nine circles of Hell, the reader learns, along with Dante, about the sin and punishment associated with each level.

Our goal for the project was to conduct a linguistic analysis of the language of pain in Dante’s Inferno and to examine how pain, suffering, and torture are represented at the different circles of Hell. The initial idea was that our analysis would be heavily semantic, focusing of variables such as frequency and probability of word-occurrence. Because each of the nine levels of Hell are associated with a different torture suffered by the damned, we hypothesized that the language surrounding pain and suffering would represent that accordingly and get progressively more grim.

Research projects, however, never go exactly as planned and because of this, we did not accomplish everything we set out to do. You can read more about that in the “limitations” section of our Methodology page.

We would like to thank David Birnbaum, our project overseer and course professor, without whom none of this would have been possible. We would also like to thank Shannen Davis for being a great TA for providing lots of help and support all semester long.

Creative Commons License
Dante's Inferno Analysis by Meghan Banerjee, Emma Feyler, Jessica Criswell, and Nicole Myrie is is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States License.