The Divine Comedy was begun by Dante in about 1307. Its completion took place shortly before his death. In the Divine Comedy, Dante guides us (in verse) through what he imagines as hell (Inferno), purgatory (Purgatorio), and heaven (Paradiso), in that order. In each of these three realms the poet meets with mythological, historical, and contemporary personages. These manifestations are representatives of faults or virtues in religion and society. Virgil, who to Dante is the symbol of reason, guides him through hell and purgatory. Beatrice, Dante's love, guides him through heaven.

Each text, except for the first (which has an added introduction), has a total of 33 cantos. The poem is written in "third rhyme." Because the poem was intended for Dante's contemporaries, he wrote it in Italian rather than Latin. The poem was titled "La Commedia" by Dante, but in 1555 was changed to "La Commedia Divina."

The Divine Comedy has been interpretted by scholars on four levels: literal, symbolic, moral, and mystical. It serves as a dramatization of Christian theology of this era, and the moral can be interpretted as "reaching purification and inner-peace can only be achieved through the guidance of reason and love."