In his "Letter to Can Grande," Dante attributes the concept of polysemy, which means "many levels," to his poem. l In the letter, Dante states: "For the clarification of what I am going to say, then, it should be understood that there is not just a single sense in this work: it might rather be called polysemous, that is having several senses" ("Letter" 99). This concept not only applies to the mUlti-layered construction of the Divine Comedy but also to its interpretation. Although most critics rely upon the "Letter," I find his defense of hierarchical interpretation in the "Four Levels of Interpretation" more useful. The combination of polysemy and hierarchical interpretation is key to this study of the poem.


English Language and Literature