Editing Criteria

The World of Dante offers a digital environment for the study of the Comedy. This project is designed to appeal to the different purposes of a wide range of readers, not simply those with scholarly interests. This version of the poem is generated by software from a densely encoded electronic text. Unlike other versions of the poem presently online, this copy of the Comedy has been edited in XML. Translating poetry into markup entails certain compromises, but we hope that any perceived loss of meaning will be offset by the possibilities the project offers readers to navigate through a considerable amount of data, and to connect this information, or parts of it, in dynamic ways.

Detailed below are the editorial guidelines used to tag the Inferno in this initial stage of the markup. Generally, passages pertaining to persons, geographical sites on earth and the afterlife, mythical creatures, deities, and architectural and artistic structures have been tagged. These essentially material features constitute a tractable body of data that span the entire length of each canticle. Generally these features have been tagged when mentioned by their conventionally recognized proper or standard name (e.g. Minos, Satan, Styx, Virgil) and by various devices of language such as circumlocution, epithets, apostrophes, patronyms, matronyms, and toponyms. Hence a character such as Farinata has been tagged not only when he is mentioned by his proper name, but also when Dante refers to him as quell'altro magnanimo ("that great-hearted one") (Inf.10.73). Similarly, circumlocutions designating geographical sites such as the description of the swamp of Styx as questo tristo ruscel ("this sad stream") (Inf.7.102) have also been tagged and identified under the river's regularized form of Styx.

With recurring characters such as Virgil, Minos, Eve, St. Peter, and Beatrice, one can now quickly peruse the myriad appellatives by which these figures are named in the poem. Rapid retrieval and organization of such data can facilitate considerably our understanding of the ways in which Dante employs a wide range of appellatives to construct a character or characterize a specific place. Given that the poetic tradition in which Dante writes prizes the use of circumlocution, the notion of naming has been expanded to include appositive statements, non-standard names (e.g. the designation of Piero della Vigna as 'l tronco ["the trunk"] or Maestro Adamo as l'idropico and il monetier ["the dropsied one" "the coiner"], nouns followed by one or more adjective modifiers, and clauses dependent on a relative pronoun when employed in the third person in a description (e.g. the designation of the counterfeiter Maestro Adamo as quel ch'avea infiata l'epa ["the one who had the bloated belly"] [Inf.30.119]), or when used in vocatives (e.g. Virgil addressing the alchemist Griffolino as O tu che con le dita ti dismaglie ["O you who use your nails to strip yourself"] [Inf.29.85]). Characters who are not named, but whose identities are readily deducible have also been tagged (e.g. Dante's allusion to Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti's son as 'l suo nato ["his son"] [Inf.10.11]) is identified as an allusion to Guido Cavalcanti).

Generally, the lines designating an individual, place, or some other entity are confined to passages that do not go beyond the space of a tercet. It is understood that description of an entity may continue beyond a tercet. Among the phrases not tagged are passages pertaining to Dante the pilgrim, casual allusions, usually in the form of demonstrative pronouns, purely referential uses of language, e.g. quell'anima ("that soul"), and long passages spanning several tercets in which devices of languge such as patronyms, toponyms, and circumlocution are not employed. With respect to Virgil and Beatrice, the two characters for whom Dante employs the most varied appellatives, simple phrases such as il guida ("the guide") or those employing the possessive, e.g. la mia donna ("my lady") have not been tagged. We have also not tagged allusions to personages which are paired.

Information boxes: Brief and Full Record

Users will find information about the entities in the brief and full record boxes. In the brief record birth and death dates are only recorded when known. Numerous works were consulted for the information included on entities. They include: Paget Toynbee, Dante Dictionary (1914), Guy Raffa, Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the Inferno(2007), the Oxford Companion to Classical Literature(1989), John Najemy, A History of Florence 1200-1575 (2006), The Dante Encyclopedia, ed. Richard Lansing (2000), Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia, ed. Christopher Kleinhenz (2004), as well as a wide range of medieval and modern commentaries. We are indebted to the many specialists who checked or contributed to information in the information boxes-- Riccardo Chellini, John O' Malley Guy Raffa, Michael Gerli, Gregory Hays, and Robert Cook.

Information in the descriptions can be researched from the Search page. Thus readers can find ample information on terms such as poet, France, heretic, and pope. We have chosen to keep the entries in the information boxes brief, limiting notices to basic information rather than explaining Dante's treatment of an entity. The notes are intended to be informative and should not be viewed as a substitute for a scholarly commentary. All entries unless otherwise noted were written by Deborah Parker. George Dameron wrote the entries for Florence, Rome, Pisa, Siena, Arezzo and Lucca.

In the full record box, the source field refers to literary source (biblical, mythical, or medieval), nature to existential status of the person, whether he or she was mortal or not, affiliation refers to political affiliation (Guelf, Ghibelline, White Guelf or Black Guelf). Some terms are used heuristically on this site. Editing in XML does not allow for great clarity in classificatory schemes. Hence mythical is used broadly to differentiate people and places which are historical from ones which things which are imagined. Accordingly we have designated the three realms of the afterlife as mythical. Another example is angels. While spiritual beings they are not people, hence are listed as creatures, in the sense of anything created.


The timeline on The World of Dante seeks to illustrate the events of Dante's life, historical and political events, significant artistic, and literary and architectural achievement. Particular efforts were made to note events mentioned in the poem and to identify passages in which they occur. We consulted chronologies in the following works: Everyman edition of the Divine Comedy (1995); Robert Hollander, Dante: A Life in Works (2001); The Dante Encyclopedia, ed. Richard Lansing (2000); George Holmes, Florence, Rome and the Origins of the Renaissance. Numerous historical studies of medieval Florence were also consulted. We are grateful to Duane Osheim, George Dameron, Ron Witt and David Peterson for their comments on earlier versions of the Dante Timeline.