In libraries, the most widely held texts (as of 2004) were The U.S. Census, the Bible, and Mother Goose. However, the fourth, edging out Shakespeare, is Dante’s Divine Comedy. Referring to the Inferno (the first third of the Comedy), Jacques Barzun notes, “Remember that he [Dante] wrote a pamphleteering poem in which, as a wandering exile, he damned [quite literally] his political and personal enemies, extolled friends, and put forth dogmas by no means all orthodox.” For example, he was probably the first to put into print the idea that a pope (actually several popes) wound up in hell. Dante tried to remake history and faith in this world with his vision of the afterworld.
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