In the early fourteenth century, Dante Alighieri wrote his masterpiece. "The poem is a narrative of a journey down through Hell, up the mountain of Purgatory, and through the revolving heavens into the presence of God (Cary, 4)". The Divine Comedy is viewed as a poem of grandeur that defies any classification (Critical Survey, 1230). The poem was so named because Dante wrote it in Italian, the "vulgar" language. Also because the poem begins in despair and ends in pure bliss (Witt 325). The Divine Comedy was written to express Dante's interest in human nature and individual dilemmas. On the whole it is a Christian poem that builds on all aspects of life and points toward the wonder and awe of God. To further express his views, Dante relied heavily on numbers that become apparent symbols throughout the poem. The poem summarizes his theology, philosophy, and life (Kuiper). Throughout the Divine Comedy, Dante uses number symbolism and vivid imagery to illustrate his views of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.
The Divine Comedy is thoroughly based on the use of number symbolism. Dante's own rhyme scheme, terze rima, makes use of the number three and goes as follows: aba, bcb, cdc, etc. The use of numbers illustrates Dante's deep Christian faith. Each number represents some form of Christian symbol. Two symbolizes the duality of nature, the difference between Church and State, the Old and New Testament, corporal and spritual. The number three plays an especially important role throughout the poem. One poem divided into three canticles represents three persons in one God (1300 Evaluations, 549). There are nine circles or terraces in each world, which is a multiple of three. The number four represents the seasons, elements, directions, and cardinal virtues. Four combines with ever-important three to make seven, which represents the days of creation, days of the week, virtues, and vices.