So what's so funny about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Dante explains what he means by "Comedy" and gives his version of what the Divine Comedyreally is about at gopher://ccat.sas.upenn.edu:70/00/journals/Recentiores/Dante/Cangrande.English.
Other folks, who think the know more about what Dante meant than he did, have also contributed analyses -- a useful portal for much of this Dante scholarship is on the Internet at http://www.princeton.edu/~dante/.
P.S. Even those who have read all
or part of his Divine Comedy usually are not aware that Dante was
also a serious contender for Florentine political power 700 years ago.
He was an important member of the "white" Guelf faction that struggled
with the "black" Guelfs for control of Florence. The "whites" were middle
class democratizers, and the "blacks" had the support of the nobility and
the Pope (and often of the rabble -- they were easily bought and the "blacks"
had most of the money.) When the "blacks" finally won control of Florence
in 1302, with the help of Papal troops under Charles of Valois, Dante was
banished from the city and was eventually condemned to be burned at the
stake. That's how Dante, a Florentine, came to write his famous works in
Sienna, Verona, and Ravenna -- places of exile from which he and his friends
actively plotted with the enemies of Florence for the return of the "whites"
to power. Dante never made it back to Florence and died in Ravenna in 1321.
For a chronology of Dante's life and a short biography, with literary criticism,
go to http://www.italnet.nd.edu/Dante/text/Chronology.html,