This is a very good bilingual, beginners' version for those reading Dante for the first time. It was prescribed to us by the professor in our university course and I can't recommend it enough. It is erudite and detailed without being intimidating (don't be intimidated by the thickness of the book, that is only because it is bilingual - original Italian and English translation in facing pages - and also because it has extensive notes.
I encountered Dante's Inferno, miniskirts, and aldolescence all at the same time, in late 1966. The Inferno was Dorothy L. Sayers' terza-rima translation, copiously annotated, and with woodcut-style illustrations very characteristic of 1950s Penguin (it was a Pelican paperback edition). On the strength of that I asked for Purgatory and Parasdise for Christmas presents. Purgatory I have read several times; Paradise I once struggled through as far as the Heaven of the Sun. Terza-rima does impede the flow of information, more so in English than Italian, since Italian rhymes far more freely. This is not so bad in Hell, owing to the breakneck pace. In Purgatory it grows problematic: "the sermons start here". Durling & Martinez's prose translation, with the Italian as a parallel text, eases things considerably. It also allows you to soothe your brain with the melodious Italian, and absorb Italian grammar and vocabulary by osmosis. (Having French and Latin also helps.) I am a little pained that Dorothy L. Sayers does not rate a single mention in the voluminous bibliography (of the Inferno, at any rate). It is a temptation that I have often succumbed to, to declaim particularly limpid passages aloud, though what an Italian would make of my pronunciation, I dread to think. "...Quando mi diparti da Circe, che sotrasse me più d'un anno là presso a Gaëta..." At that point I start getting impatient looks. But there is no doubt that the language is beatiful. I have set myself to learn the Last Voyage of Ulysses by heart. Durling & Martinez are published by OUP, in paperback, very well made, but quite heavy; someone with weak wrists would have to use a lectern.
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