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…When we understand this we see clearly that the subject round which the alternative senses play must be twofold. And we must therefore consider the subject of this work as literally understood, and then its subject as allegorically intended. The subject of the whole work, then, taken in the literal sense only, is 'the state of souls after death,' without qualification, for the whole progress of the work hinges on it and about it. Whereas if the work be taken allegorically the subject is 'man, as by good or ill desserts, in the exercise of the freedom of his choice, he becomes liable to rewarding or punishing justice.‘”

http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/special/authors/dante/cangrand.html based on From The Latin Works of Dante, Temple Classics, London, 1904, Epistola X, pp. 346-52.

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