Carrol Cox wrote:

>If I recall correctly Dante called his poem a _Comedy_ because it was in
the Italian dialect rather than in Latin. 

Actually, you recall it quite wrong, Carrol. Comedy -- as a title -- derives, of course, from the medieval rhetorical thoughts. There were three styles: tragic, comic/middle, elegiac/humble. In his Epistle to Cangrande della Scala, Dante explained why he called his work a Comedy: 1) it has a painful beginning (hell) and a happy ending (heaven), which tragedy has not, 2) the style is "remissus et humilis", that is the third one, from common life. But this latter point was NOT linked to the fact that the work had been written in the vulgar language (Dante himself had used it to write in the tragic style). Dante provides a new kind of sublime style: it is not the ancient one (linked to the aulic language), but it's sublime because it was inspired by the Christian view of the world, which is willing to accept also the everyday aspects of reality. Everything has a sense in a divinely-ordered world, from the lowest layers to the highest. 

Dante wrote a book called De Vulgari Eloquentia, eplaining how the intellectual minds all over Italy should try to use a sort of "vulgaris illustris" in their works, for it had the same dignity as Latin. Of course, always as a literary language. Dante valued the vulgar very much. And the problem was that there was no "Italian dialect" as such -- there were hundreds of them, as there are now. I am bilingual as well -- Italian and Venetian dialect. 

Sara --