T. S. Eliot and Dante

With his avid admiration for Dante, T. S. Eliot adapted the lines, themes, and the writing style of Dante in Divine Comedy in his own writing. Eliot is known for his use of allusions, especially to Dante’s Divine Comedy. He frequently alluded to Divine Comedy in The Waste Land; however, his allusion to Divine Comedy becomes obvious in Four Quartets. Eliot himself stated in his journal “What Dante Means to Me,” which was published in July 1950 by Italian News, “twenty years The Waste Land, I wrote in Little Gidding, a passage which is intended to be the nearest equivalent to a canto of the inferno of the Purgatorio” (Eliot). By alluding to Divine Comedy, Eliot thus attempted to connect his contemporary readers with Dante and religion and provide a parallel worldview between Purgatorio and inferno, which “which Dante visited and a hallucinated scene after an air-raid” (Eliot). He also directly employed Dante’s writing style- Eliot respected the direct expressions that Dante used throughout his work. Dante’s writing accurately delivered all the emotions -shock, surprise, and terror. Eliot wrote in the same journal, “certainly I have borrowed lines from him, in the attempt to reproduce, or rather to arouse in the reader’s mind the memory of some Dantesque scene, and thus establish a relationship between the medieval inferno and modern life” (Eliot). Eliot, therefore, aspired to create a similar unique moment for his readers through his poems. Moreover, in his book called Dante, Eliot wrote, “poetry of Dante is … extremely easy to read… genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” (Eliot 8). Eliot focused on directly conveying the scenes and emotions through easy and simple writing style in his work. He also adapted the unique form called terza rima that Dante first utilized in Divine Comedy. Eliot’s respect for Dante is evident in his personal writings and published pieces – by alluding to Dante and adapting his straightforward writing style, Eliot wished to create a mesmerizing moment full of emotion for his readers.Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 10.47.04 PM.png(Figure 1 – Eliot’s quote on Dante and Shakespeare)

Eliot left a famous quotation on Dante and Shakespeare that “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them. There is no third.” His line expresses his passionate respect for Dante and Shakespeare.





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2 Responses to T. S. Eliot and Dante

  1. mikegiugliano says:

    Great work here Nicole. I really love how your post is so sophisticated, partly because of your efficient incorporation of quotes. Could you elaborate more on who Dante was for the readers who don’t know?

  2. oliviaa1718 says:

    This is very well written and the connections made between Dante and T.S. Eliot. I think you can elaborate on the term terza rima because it a very interesting idea but one may not get a clear idea of what it is after reading this. Overall, the parallels that you made are very powerful and clear to the reader.

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