A Divine Comedy: adaptations & new (in)versions

I’ve been a bit quiet on here lately, except for a fair few reblogs from the Women and the Canon Conference blog. In my defence, I’ve been writing those too, but it doesn’t quite feel the same!

So, as the dust settles from the Edinburgh fringe, I just wanted to nod to an interesting adaptation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Mike Maran’s A Divine Comedy, which BroadwayBaby gave ★★★ – one for each realm?

“Dante Alighieri. Lost love. A load of puppets. Whilst that might all seem an odd combination, Mike Maran brings it all together admirably in A Divine Comedy: a stand-up storytelling parody of the immortal works of Dante Alighieri.”

Maran’s sounds like a far more apt adaptation than the forthcoming movie scripted by Dwain Worrell, which, Warner Brothers tell us, sees “Dante [descending] through the nine circles of hell tosave the woman he loves” – a grimly chauvanist inversion of the narrative that I’ve ranted about before, when it formed the crux of a 2010 videogame adaptation of the poem.

Maran’s approach, which I hope he takes on tour, so I get a chance to see it, sounds like its based on a love for the source and a genuine desire to adapt rather than misogynise the text. This approach, along with some of the reporting of the new movie happily demonstrate that at least not everyone is buying into this revisionist claptrap.

Of course, there’s something quite appropriate about revisionist adaptation, as that was one of Dante’s specialties and I talk about one such example in this article on the episode of the Siren in canto XIX on Purgatorio. The gist of the article is that the Siren represents Dante’s past errors of writing and reading which he attempts to revise through the figure of the hag who becomes a siren and then is revealed once more to be hideous. OK, so perhaps the text isn’t entirely non-misogynist itself… In fact, the Comedy buys into plenty of the misogynistic tropes of its day, but it does also do some rather radical things in terms of ascribing full rational agency to its female characters (not a trifling thing for a text of its period to do) and, of course, placing an authoritative women, Beatrice, at the heart of its narrative. Beatrice who teaches Dante about the ways of grace and the heavens, Beatrice who saves Dante, NOT the other way around.

Source: A Divine Comedy: Broadway Baby, Brighter Coverage.