The Structure of the Database
Dante composed the Commedia in three cantiche (“canticles”) named
Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.
Each canticle contains 33 or 34 “cantos.”
Each canto contains between 115 and 160 verses, lines of poetic text.
Each commentary is primarily the author's line-by-line explicaton of the Commedia.
The commentaries are organized as a collection of records
each referring to a canto of the poem, or, in most cases, to specific lines within a canto.
Some commentaries also contain additional materials, which generally are included in the
database. These are often proemi, notae, or summaria to the text.
The database contains the Commedia and the commentaries in their original languages: Italian, Latin, or English.
You can search the database for commentary records containing specified words and phrases;
for commentary records which refer to a specific portion of the poem - cantica, canto, and line number;
for records in a particular commentary;
or for commentaries written in a specific language: Italian, Latin, or English.
Enter one or more of these search criteria and click the Search button.
The database will find all records in the poem and the commentaries that match all
the search criteria.
- To search for specific words or combinations of words, enter the text into the Query box.
See More on Text Searches below for more information.
- To limit the results to commentaries written in a specific language, choose the language from the
pulldown menu. To search for results in all languages, choose “any.”
- To limit the search to a specific cantica, choose Inferno, Purgatorio, or Paradiso
from the pulldown menu. To search all canticas, choose “any.”
- To limit the search to a single canto, choose the Cantica as described above
and enter a single canto number in the Canto box. To search for the introductory
“Proemio” to a cantica, enter “00” (two zeros) as the canto number.
- To limit the search to references to a specific line number, choose the Cantica
and Canto as described above and enter the line number in the Line box.
Important: Use a single line number, not a range or list of lines.
The search will return all references to the line or to a range of lines that includes the line.
- To limit the search to one or more specific commentaries, choose the names of the commentaries from the scrollable list.
Follow your computer's normal convention for selecting multiple items from a list.
The commentaries are listed in chronological order. To search all commentaries, choose “any.”
List of Search Results
When you click the Search button, the database looks for all records matching
your search criteria. For each search result or “hit” you will see the commentary name,
its publication dates, and the cantica, canto and
line number to which the text refers. Hits in supplementary text such as proemi will show
the word “nota” instead of a line number.
Each item in the list of search results is a link to that piece of commentary text.
To view the text of the hit, click on the search result in the list.
Search results are listed in the chronological order of the commentaries, in other words, in the order
in which the commentaries were published.
Within a given commentary, results are shown in the order of the sections and lines of the poem.
Near the top of each page of search results is a link named Refine this search.
Clicking on this link returns you to the main search page, where you may make changes to the
search criteria and search again.
For convenience, search results are shown in groups of 20 to a page.
If there is more than one page of results, a list of page numbers of the results
appears at the bottom of each page. Click on any page number to go to that page of search results.
Display of Search Results
When you click on an item in the list of search results, you will see the entire text of that record.
Near the top of the page are links to the previous and next hits in the list of search results,
as well as a link to return to the list of search results.
More on Text Searches
Case - When you enter words into the Query box on the search page, the database will find occurrences of that word irrespective of case.
In other words, it does not matter whether the word is capitalized or not.
For example the search query “Language” will match “Language,” “language,”
Diacritics - Similarly, a word you enter into the Query box will match words irrespective of
accents, umlauts, or other diacritical marks in the commentary text.
For example the search query “dira” will match “dira” and “dirà” in the database.
Combinations of Words - A text search can be a single word or a combination of words.
If you enter a single word, the database will find all pieces of commentary text that contain that word.
If you enter several words, the database will find all pieces of text that contain the words
in the order you entered them and with no intervening text.
For example, if you enter “holy church” as a query, the database will find all commentary text in which the words
“holy” and “church” appear next to each other in that order.
You may also enter logical combinations of words - words combined with the Boolean operators “AND”, “OR”,
These operators can also be written using the symbols “&”, “|”, and “~” respectively.
The “AND” operator requires that both words must appear in the same passage of the commentary.
The words may appear in any order and need not be adjacent.
The “OR” operator requires that at least one of the words must appear in the same passage of the commentary.
The “NOT” operator requires that the following word not appear in the same passage of the commentary.
You can group Boolean combinations using parentheses. For example, the query
“( holy and church ) or sacred” will find all pieces of commentary text that contain
both the words “holy” and “church,” or contain the word “sacred,”
or contain all three words.
Wildcarding - When you enter a word in a text query, you can optionally specify just a part of the word.
When you do this the database finds all commentary text containing any word that contains that part of the word.
Use the percent character, “%”, to represent the unspecified part of the word - the wildcard part.
For example, the query “Virgi%” will find commentary text containing “Virgil,”
“Virgilius,” or “Virgilio.”
You can use the wildcard character at the beginning, middle, or end of a word.
Stopwords - All languages contain words that occur very frequently.
In English, examples would include the words “this,” “that,” and “the.”
Because so many pieces of text contain these words, called stopwords, it is not useful to use them in a text query,
and the database does not index them.
There are separate lists of stopwords for Italian, Latin, and English text.
To retrieve all commentaries referencing a particular line in the
- leave the text query field blank
- select the cantica from the pulldown menu
- enter the canto number
- enter the line number in the canto
The results can be narrowed further by selecting a specific language or a specific commentator.
To retrieve Boccaccio's commentary on canto 10 of Inferno:
- leave the text query field blank
- select “Boccaccio” from the Commentary pulldown menu
- enter “10” in the canto field (without the double quotes)
For citations of material found in the Dartmouth Dante Project, we suggest the following format:
Cited from the commentary to [cantica, canto.line(s)] by [author(s) of commentary, (publication information)],
as found in the Dartmouth Dante Project, https://Dante.Dartmouth.EDU.
For example: Cited from the commentary to Inferno, XXXIV.101-103 by Umberto Bosco and Giovanni Reggio
(Florence: Le Monnier, 1979), as found in the Dartmouth Dante Project, https://Dante.Dartmouth.EDU.