The Transfiguration of History at the Center of Dantes Paradise

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Tossed about by vicious winds, the spirits within this circle are guilty of lust, a sin that for many led to adultery and, for at least some of the most famous—Dido, Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Achilles, Paris, and Tristan—to a violent death. Dante is drawn to two lustful souls still bound to one another in Hell: the beautiful Francesca and her handsome brother-in-law Paolo were murdered by the betrayed husband. Semiramis was a powerful Assyrian queen alleged by the Christian historian Orosius to have been so perverse that she made even incest a legal practice History 1.

She was said to have been killed by an illegitimate son. Dido, queen of Carthage and widow of Sychaeus, committed suicide after her lover Aeneas abandoned her to continue his mission to establish a new civilization in Italy Virgil, Aeneid 4. Cleopatra, the beautiful queen of Egypt, took her own life to avoid capture by Octavian the future emperor Augustus , who had defeated her lover, Mark Antony she had previously been the lover of Julius Caesar.

Helen, wife of Menalaus king of Sparta , was said to have been the cause of the Trojan war: acclaimed as the most beautiful mortal woman, she was abducted by Paris and brought to Troy as his mistress. She betrayed the Trojans, including her new husband Deiphobus married Helen after Paris was killed in the war , by helping the Greeks carry out their attack Virgil, Aeneid 6. Tristan, nephew of King She was married ca. Informed of this liaison, Gianciotto one day caught his brother and Francesca together in her bedroom when she, unaware that Paolo had become stuck as he tried to escape through a trapdoor, let her husband enter the room.

Gianciotto lunged at Paolo with a sword, but Francesca stepped between the two men and was killed instead, much to the dismay of her husband, who then Francesca and Paolo, Boccaccio concludes, were buried—accompanied by many tears—in a single tomb. Allusions l us t :: Here Dante explores the relationship, as notoriously challenging in his time and place as in ours, between love and lust, between the ennobling power of attraction toward the beauty of a whole person and the destructive force of possessive sexual desire.

From the examples presented, it appears that for Dante a line is crossed when one acts on this desire. Francesca, by giving the romantic initiative to Paolo, reverses the roles. Following their judgment by Minos, how do you imagine the souls travel to their destined location in Hell for eternal punish-. We can certainly discuss music, television, movies, and advertising as well as literature in these terms. Who is more or less responsible, and therefore accountable, for unacceptable attitudes and behavior in society: the creators and vehicles of such messages or their consumers and audiences?

One glutton, nicknamed Ciacco, rises up and recognizes Dante as a fellow Florentine. After informing Dante that several leading Florentines are punished below in other circles of Hell, Ciacco falls back to the ground, not to rise again until the Last Judgment at the end of time. Encounters ce r be rus :: In the Aeneid Virgil describes Cerberus, a threeheaded dog who guards the entrance to the classical underworld, as loud, huge, and terrifying with snakes rising from his neck.

Dante, who exploits the common medieval belief in the essential relationship between names and the things or people they represent, at times places characters at least in part on the basis of their names. Boccaccio claims that, despite his gluttony for which he was notorious , Ciacco was respected in polite Florentine society for his eloquence and agreeableness. Another early commentator Benvenuto remarks that the Florentines were known for their temperate attitude toward food and drink, but that when they fell, they fell hard and surpassed all others in gluttony.

Allusions gl u t t on y :: Gluttony, like lust, is one of the seven capital sins according to medieval Christian theology and church practice. Although lust and gluttony were generally considered the least serious of the seven sins and pride almost always the worst , their ranking was not consistent: some writers thought lust was worse than gluttony, while others thought gluttony worse than lust. Based on the biblical precedent of Eve eating the forbidden fruit and then tempting Adam to do so Genesis , gluttony and lust were often viewed as closely related.

Gluttony is usually understood as referring to excessive eating and drinking; from the less than obvious contrapasso for the gluttons and the content mostly political of Inferno 6, Dante appears to view it as something more complex. At that time Florence was politically divided between two rival factions known as white and black Guelphs. Ciacco Inf. Although ringleaders from both parties were punished by banishment Dante, a white Guelph, was part of the city government that made this decision , by spring of the following year most of the white Guelphs had returned, while leading black Guelphs were forced to remain in exile.

The black Guelphs prevailed because they were supported by Charles of Valois, a French prince sent by Pope Boniface VIII ostensibly to bring peace to Florence but actually to instigate the violent overthrow of the white Guelph leadership. Also called the Apocalypse and the Second Coming of Christ, the Last Judgment, in the medieval Christian imagination, marks the end of time, The Divine Comedy presents the state of souls sometime between these two judgments.

In Inferno 6 we learn, along with the character Dante, that the souls of the dead will be reunited with their bodies at the end of time. The suffering of the damned, and the joy of the blessed, will then increase because the individual is complete and therefore more perfect Inf. Look at lines 55—57, 76—78, and 90 of Inferno 6. Dante now sees a multitude of shades damned for the sin of avarice holding wealth too tightly or its opposite, prodigality spending too freely. The two groups push heavy boulders with their chests around a circle in opposite directions: when the avaricious and the prodigal collide, they turn and, after casting insults at one another, repeat the journey in the other direction.

The Divine Comedy (Dramatic Reading)

He also explains to Dante the divine role of Fortuna in human affairs. Whereas his condemnation of lust and gluttony was tempered by sympathy for francesca Circle 2 and ciacco Circle 3 , Dante shows no mercy in his treatment of avarice in the fourth circle of Hell. He pointedly presents the sin as a vice common among monks and church leaders including cardinals and popes , and he degrades the sinners by making them so physically squalid that they are unrecognizable as individuals Inf. Fittingly, these two groups punish and insult one another in the afterlife.

Adverse fortune is ultimately better than good fortune because it is more effective in teaching this lesson. She is above the fray, immune to both praise and blame from those who experience the ups and downs that result from her actions. The ways of fortune, like the application of divine justice generally, are simply beyond the capacity of human understanding. Draw an image of the punishment of the avaricious and the prodigal as described in Inferno 7. The travelers cross the Styx in a swift vessel piloted by Phlegyas.

The resentful boatman deposits Dante and Virgil at the entrance to Dis, the fortressed city of Lower Hell. Bloodcurdling Furies then appear above the walls and call on Medusa to come and turn Dante to stone. However, a messenger from Heaven arrives to squelch the resistance and open the gate, thus allowing Dante and Virgil to visit the circles of Lower Hell. Encounters phl e g y a s 8 :: The infernal employee who transports Dante and Virgil in his boat across the Styx Inf.

Apollo promptly slew him. Early commentators report that his name derives from an ostentatious habit of shoeing his horse in silver argento. Boccaccio, in Decameron 9. These angels joined Lucifer in his rebellion against God; cast out of Heaven, they laid the foundation for evil in the world. Once beautiful, they are now, like all things infernal, transformed into monstrous demons. Virgil previously described the harrowing of hell Circle 1; Inf. Medusa, one of three sisters known as the Gorgons, thus becomes so frightening to behold that those who look at her turn to stone.

Representations of Perseus holding aloft the horrible head of Medusa were common in the early modern period. A Renaissance sculpture of the scene, by Cellini, has for many years decked the loggia in Piazza della Signoria, one of the main squares in Florence. As an enemy of Hell who walks on water Inf. He also bears similarities to Hermes-Mercury, the classical god who, borne on winged feet, delivers messages to mortals from the heavens.

The little wand of the heavenly messenger Inf. Both Christ and Hermes were strongly associated with the kind of allegory Dante describes in Inferno 9. But whereas avarice and prodigality are distinct sins based on the same principle an immoderate attitude toward material wealth , wrath and sullenness are basically two forms of a single sin: anger that is expressed wrath and anger that is repressed sullenness.

This idea that anger takes various forms is common in ancient and medieval thought. The two groups suffer different punishments appropriate to their type of anger: the wrathful endlessly attack one another while the sullen stew below the surface of the swamp Inf. For Dante, then, Dis stands both for Lucifer and the lower circles of his infernal realm. Details of the city and its surroundings—including moats, watchtowers, high walls, and a well-guarded entrance Inf.

Virgil describes it in his Aeneid as the marsh across which Charon ferries souls of the dead and the living Aeneas into the lower world Aeneid 6. Dante and Virgil are taken by Phlegyas in his swift vessel across the marsh to the city of Dis. Virgil notes a similar effect in the Aeneid 6. Theseus and Hercules, two classical heroes each has a divine parent , previously raided the underworld and returned alive. Hercules, in fact, descended into Hades to rescue Theseus, who had been imprisoned following his unsuccessful attempt to abduct Persephone, queen of Hades.

While the Furies express regret at not having killed Theseus when they had the chance Inf. Given the impasse at the entrance to Dis, Dante understandably wonders, as his question not so subtly implies, if his guide is up to the task. His story, that he was The poet Dante thus invents a story so that Virgil can save face and reassure the character Dante. Commonly applied to the interpretation of sacred texts namely, the Bible , allegory, in its various forms, assumes that other, deeper levels of meaning often spiritual lie beneath the surface, in addition to or in place of the literal meaning of the words.

Why do you think Virgil is unable to overcome on his own the resistance of the demons at the entrance to Dis? Here Dante learns, as the result of a misunderstanding, that the damned possess the power to see the future but not the present. Needing time to adjust to the stench wafting up from the lower circles, the travelers take refuge behind the tomb of a heretical pope. Virgil uses this time to describe the overall layout of Hell and the reasons for this organization.

As a Florentine leader of the Ghibellines, Farinata was. While there is certainly no love lost between Dante and Farinata, there is a measure of respect. Elsewhere Dante praises Frederick, along with his son Manfred, as a paragon of nobility and integrity De vulgari eloquentia 1. He died in Despite his prominent position in the church, he was known as a strong protector and proponent of the Ghibelline or imperial party. Whereas Farinata is primarily concerned with politics, Cavalcante is obsessed with the fate of his son Inf.

Anastasius II, an early medieval pontiff —98 , was considered a heretic by later generations for having been persuaded by Photinus a deacon of Thessalonica to support the efforts of a contemporary emperor of the same name Anastasius I to restore the reputation of Acacius, a patriarch of Constantinople who denied the divine origin of Christ. More commonly, heresy in the Middle Ages was a product of acrimonious disputes over Christian doctrine, in particular the theologically correct ways of understanding the Trinity and Christ.

By identifying the heretics as followers of Epicurus Inf. While the character Dante knows that Guido is living at the time of the journey March—April , the poet Dante knows he will not live much longer. Tragically, Guido fell ill due to the bad climate of the region to which he was sent he likely contracted malaria and died shortly after his return to Florence. Derived from two warring royal houses in Germany Welf and Waiblingen , the sides came to be distinguished by their adherence to the claims of the pope Guelphs or the emperor Ghibellines. For a time, Florence alternated between Guelph and Ghibelline rule.

Guelph Florence cemented its dominance in Tuscany in , when its army defeated Ghibelline forces from Arezzo at the battle of Campaldino. This event came to be seen as the origin of factional violence that would plague the city for the next century and beyond. Because there will no longer be a future when the world ends last judgment [Circle 3] , the souls of the damned will thereafter have no external awareness to distract them from their eternal suffering.

Virgil makes good use of this time by explaining that Hell is organized according to different types of sin. Commentators often relate these three categories to the three beasts that threaten Dante in the dark wood. Because fraud is unique to humans, Virgil regards sins of fraud as worse than sins of violence Inf. Virgil further explains, following Aristotle, that incontinence—excessive indulgence of desires deemed good in themselves—is punished in the upper circles of Hell because it is the least offensive type of sin Inf.

What does it say about Dante, himself an exiled victim of partisan politics, that he presents Farinata as both a political enemy and a defender of Florence? And why is Dante then confused by this reaction? Astride the Centaur Nessus, Dante views those who committed violent acts against fellow human beings, from ruthless tyrants and warriors such as Attila the Hun to murderers and highway bandits, all submerged to an appropriate depth in a river of boiling blood.

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The travelers then enter a forest whose gnarled and stunted trees are the souls of suicides. Encounters mi no t au r 1 2 :: The path down to the three rings of circle seven is covered with a mass of boulders that fell, Virgil explains Inf. The Minotaur, a bull-man who appears on this broken slope Inf. Basic information on the Minotaur was available to Dante from Virgil Aeneid 6.

Minos wisely had Daedalus build an elaborate labyrinth to conceal and contain this monstrosity. Armed with bows and arrows, thousands of Centaurs patrol the bank of the river, using their weapons to keep the souls submerged to a depth commensurate with their culpability Inf. Two of the three Centaurs who approach Dante and Virgil fully earned this negative reputation.

Chiron, leader of the Centaurs, enjoyed a more favorable reputation as the wise tutor of both Hercules and Achilles Inf. Nessus pairs Alexander with Dionysius Inf. Similarly paired are two Italian warlords Inf. Dark-featured and hairy, Ezzelino is reported by one early commentator to have sported a Pyrrhus, according to some commentators, is the king of Epirus lived — bce who twice invaded Italy to wage war against the Romans.

Others believe he is the son of Achilles, infamous for his cruelty when the Greeks destroyed Troy; this Pyrrhus killed the Trojan prince Polites before the very eyes of his parents Priam and Hecuba , and then dragged King Priam to the altar, where he killed him as well Virgil, Aeneid 2. Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Pazzo were notorious highwaymen of thirteenth-century Italy, the former harassing travelers on the roads to Rome, the latter operating between Florence and Arezzo.

Rinier Pazzo was excommunicated Harpies, as Dante the narrator recalls Inf. Newly arrived on the Strophades islands in the Ionian sea , Aeneas and his crew slaughter cattle and goats and prepare the meat for a sumptuous feast. Twice the horrid Harpies, who inhabit the islands after being driven from their previous feeding location, spoil the banquet by falling upon the food and fouling the area with their excretions.

The Trojans meet a third attack with their weapons and succeed in driving away the Harpies. However, Celaeno, a Harpy with the gift of prophecy, in turn drives away the Trojans when she foretells that they will not accomplish their mission in Italy without suffering such terrible hunger that they are forced to eat their tables Virgil, Aeneid 3.

Early commentators say that Frederick, believing the charges against Pier perhaps that he had plotted with the pope against the emperor , had him imprisoned and blinded. Unable to accept this wretched fate, Pier brutally took his own life by smashing his head against a wall perhaps the wall of a church or, in other accounts, by leaping from a high window as the emperor was passing in the street below. The one in front, who calls on death to come quickly Inf. Part of a group of rich, young Sienese men known as the Spendthrift Club Brigata Spendereccia , Lano went through his wealth quickly and was soon reduced to poverty.

When, during a military campaign against Arezzo, the Sienese troops were caught in an ambush at the Pieve del Toppo, Lano chose to die when he could have saved himself rather than face up to the problems caused by his self-destructive impulses. The slower man, who reminds Lano of his death at the ambush Inf. His shade-body is torn apart by the ferocious dogs Inf. Iacopo, said to have been the wealthiest private citizen in Padua, was known for senseless acts of dissoluteness, such as throwing money into a river It is also possible that this anonymous suicide, who says he hanged himself in his own home Inf.

Or is your thunder only strong enough to frighten little girls and burn the towers of Cadmus, whom you made your son-in-law? Recalling similar arrogance displayed by the Giants at Phlegra and their subsequent defeat , the deity gathers his terrifying weapons and strikes Capaneus with a thunderbolt.

Although the poet imagines Brunetto in Hell, Dante the character and Brunetto show great affection and respect for one another during their encounter. Brunetto ca. Brunetto goes to the left at a fork in the road and witnesses the vicissitudes of Fortune and Love. We know only that Brunetto was married with three or four children. Brunetto singles out three individuals from the sodomitic group of clerics and famous intellectuals to which he belongs Inf.

Virgil commands Dante to treat these men, despite their wretched state, with great respect Inf.

In the Heaven of Knowing: Dante’s Paradiso

As the three Florentine sodomites are introduced, they turn together in a circle, moving like wrestlers naked and oiled preparing to strike. Like Guido, Tegghiaio Aldobrandi a nobleman from the powerful Adimari family had advised the Florentine Guelphs against marching on Siena, counsel that should have been heeded Inf. The speaker, Iacopo Rusticucci, was a Guelph neighbor and colleague of Tegghiaio from a lower social class. One early commentator believes he was a good and generous man who, out of dislike for his business, began to spend his time at the courts and homes of noblemen Benvenuto ; Boccaccio wrote a novella in which Borsiere, a worthy and eloquent man of court, shames a miser into changing his ways Decameron 1.

Hanging from the neck of each shade is a colorful purse displaying the emblem of the fam The usurer who rudely addresses Dante telling him to beat it and concludes the visit with a lewd gesture Inf. By comparing Geryon to a sullen, resentful falcon Inf. Dante had used this belt, he informs us long after the fact Inf. Suggestively associated with the sort of factual truth so wondrous that it appears to be false Inf.

Those who do violence against themselves or their own property—suicides and squanderers more self-destructive than the prodigal in circle four —inhabit the second ring, a horrid forest Inf.

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Associating the sins of these last two groups with Sodom and Cahors Inf. Although writers of classical Rome admired by Dante allowed— and at times praised—suicide as a response to political defeat or per Usury was similarly condemned, particularly after it was equated with heresy and therefore made punishable by the Inquisition at the Council of Vienne in Those who have committed violent offenses against others—spillers of blood themselves—are submerged in the river to a level corresponding to their guilt.

Dante does not identify the river described in detail in Inferno The Trojans honor Polydorus with a proper burial before leaving the accursed land. Constructed of a descending hierarchy of materials—gold head, silver arms and chest, brass midsection, iron for the rest except for one clay foot —the statue recalls the various ages of humankind from the golden age to the iron age; Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.

Uomini fummo, e or siam fatti sterpi Inf. In the opening description of the forest Inf. Look for ways in which Dante might be said to participate in this idea of suicide. Consider his situation in the dark wood Inf. What do you think? Could Virgil be wrong and Capaneus actu-. Or does the logic of Hell require only punishment and suffering? How does Dante character and poet treat the sodomites in Inferno 15—16? What are possible implications of this treatment?

We learn in Inferno 16 that Dante once thought to capture the leopard Inf. What connections do you see among Geryon, the cord, and the leopard? How might this new information help us to interpret the three beasts Dark Wood from Inferno 1? The embankments separating the ditches are connected by stone bridges. Dante and Virgil view the shades by walking along the embankments and across the bridges, and at times by descending into a ditch.

After verbally thrashing Pope Nicholas III, stuffed upside down in the ground for prostituting the church, Dante is himself rebuked by Virgil for weeping at the sight of the soothsayers, whose necks are twisted so that tears wet their buttocks. Barrators, immersed in a sea of boiling pitch, are tortured by a band of devils, whose malicious intentions force Virgil to grab Dante and slide down into the sixth pouch. All the Bolognese, according to one early commentator Lana , were exceedingly generous with pimping their relatives and friends. Jason earned his place in this ditch through his habit of loving and leaving women.

Jason later left Medea whom he had married to wed Creusa. He apparently died between When the confusion is cleared up, Nicholas informs Dante that he foresees the damnation for simony not only of Boniface but of Pope Clement V see entry below. Born into the powerful Orsini family of Rome, Giovanni Gaetano was appointed head of the Inquisition before being elected pope and taking the name Nicholas in Nicholas expanded papal political control by annexing parts of Romagna, as far north as Bologna and Ferrara; he also forged a compromise in the Franciscan movement between the moderates and the radical spiritualists.

He was known, on the one hand, for his high moral standards and care for the poor and, on the other, for his shameless nepotism derived from nipote, The next two soothsayers recognized by Virgil are Aruns and Manto Inf. Manto, the daughter of Tiresias, was also capable of foretelling the future Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. Perhaps Dante believes Eurypylus is a soothsayer because he is entrusted with this mission. Michael Scot born ca. Nothing is known of this character beyond what Dante provides in the poem. Before his escape, Ciampolo names two additional barrators in the pitch, both associated with Sardinia Inf.

Catalano informs Virgil that he and Dante will soon come upon the ruins of the next bridge, which the travelers can climb to extricate themselves from the ditch. Malacoda therefore lied to Virgil when he said this bridge was intact Inf. Allusions f r au d: pimpi ng a n d se duci ng 18 , f l a t t e ry 18 , simon y 19 , soo t hs ay i ng 20 , b a r r at ry 21—22 , h y p o cr is y 23 : : The offenses punished in circles eight and nine, the two lowest circles of Hell, all fall under the rubric of fraud, a form of malice as Virgil explains in Inferno Physically connected by bridges, the ditches of circle eight contain fraudulent shades whose particular vices and actions similarly serve to interconnect the cantos and their themes in this part of the poem.

Images of degraded sexuality are even more prominent in the next canto Here Dante presents simony, the abuse of power within the church, as a form of spiritual prostitution, fornication, and rape Inf. Simon Magus, the man for whom simony is named Inf. Simony and soothsaying are further linked through personal declarations by Dante and Virgil aimed at separating truth from falsehood: Dante sets the record straight when he announces that he shattered a marble baptismal basin to prevent someone from drowning in it Inf. Dante describes its overall structure—ten concentric ravines or ditches, similar to moats with connecting bridges around a castle—in Inferno The character Dante likely saw the entire layout as he descended aboard Geryon, who transported him from circle seven to circle eight Inf.

Recently converted and baptized, Simon is so impressed with the ability of the apostles Peter and John to confer the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands that he offers them money to obtain this power for himself; Peter angrily denounces Simon for even thinking this gift could be bought Acts — An apocryphal book, Acts of Peter, tells of a magic contest between the apostle and Simon, now the magician of the emperor Nero in Rome.

There were rumors that Boniface had intimidated Celestine into abdicating so he could become pope himself. Dante settles his score with Boniface in the Divine Comedy by damning the pope even before his death in the journey takes place in : in the pit of the simonists, Pope Nicholas III, who like all the damned can see the future but, since he is buried upside down, cannot see Dante and Virgil, mistakenly assumes that Dante is Boniface come before his time Inf.

Legend held that Constantine gave this gift to Pope Sylvester I, whose baptism of the emperor had cured him of leprosy. Dante, who thought the world better served with political power in the hands of the emperor, bitterly blamed this event for the dire consequences of a wealthy papacy Inf. In attempting to exonerate himself, however, Virgil may have committed perjury. Although he insists that his version of the founding of Mantua in Inferno 20 is the only true version any other account, he claims, would be a falsehood; Inf.

Assuming as Dante does in Convivio 4. Dante therefore spent the night of Maundy Thursday in the dark wood and, after encountering the three beasts and Virgil the following day, approached the gate of Hell as night fell on Good Friday Inf. Why is Dante so upset by the sight of the contorted soothsayers, and why does Virgil rebuke him for this show of compassion Inf. In the seventh ditch Dante sees Vanni Fucci, who is reduced to ashes by a snakebite and then just as quickly regains his human appearance, and other thieves, who undergo transformations between human and reptilian forms.

In the ninth ditch Dante encounters sowers of discord, whose shade-bodies are split by a sword-wielding devil. Virgil scolds Dante for observing a quarrel between Master Adam a counterfeiter and Sinon, the Greek whose lie led to the destruction of Troy. Encounters va n n i f ucci 2 4—25 :: Vanni Fucci, the thief who is incinerated after receiving a snakebite and then regains his human form, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes Inf. He grudgingly admits to having stolen holy objects possibly silver tablets with images of the Virgin Mary and the apostles from a chapel in the Pistoian.

Vanni subsequently gave up an accomplice, who was executed instead. Virgil explains that Cacus is not with the other centaurs Circle 7 patrolling the river of blood in the circle of violence Inf. Cacus steals four bulls and four heifers from a herd of cattle belonging to Hercules, dragging them backward into his cavern so that their tracks will not lead to him. When Hercules hears the cries of one of his stolen cows, he tears the top off the hill and, to the delight of the native population, strangles Cacus to death Aeneid 8.

One of the three men, Agnel Inf. The same commentator says that Cianfa, thought to belong to the powerful Donati family of Florence, had a reputation for stealing livestock and breaking into shops to empty their safes. Buoso, in one version of events Anonimo Fiorentino, commenting on Inferno Dante tells us that the only one of the original three men not transformed in any way was Puccio Sciancato Inf.

Puccio, a Ghibelline who was banished with his children in and joined in the peace pact of with the Guelphs, was renowned for the elegant manner of his heists, which were said to take place in broad daylight. You be the judge. In any case, Ulysses represents an immensely gifted individual not afraid to exceed established limits and chart new ground.

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It is perhaps appropriate that Dante prefaces the presentation of Ulysses with a selfdirected warning not to abuse his own talent Inf. Guido ca. Alfred Prufrock. He was a prominent Ghibelline who led several important military campaigns in central Italy. Excommunicated, It is believed that Guido died and was buried in the Franciscan monastery at Assisi in One popular view held that Mohammed had himself been a cardinal who, his papal ambitions thwarted, caused a great schism within Christianity when he and his followers splintered off to form a new religious community.

According to tradition, the prophet Mohammed established Islam in the early seventh century ce at Mecca. Because he allegedly instigated a rift between King Henry II of England and his son, the young prince Henry, Bertran is now himself physically divided and demonstrates an infernal version of wireless communication: decapitated, he carries his head, which nonetheless manages to speak Inf.

Bertran ca. Most of these poems speak of love, but others deal with moral or political themes. Once the charge has been led, Every man of nobility Will hack at arms and heads. Better than taken prisoner: be dead. His counsel refused, Achitofel returned home and hanged himself 2 Kings [2 Samuel in the Protestant Bible] 15— Pier da Medicina, whose throat has been slit and nose and one ear cut off Inf.

Pier is reported to have poisoned relations between the leading families of Ravenna Polenta and Rimini Malatesta by falsely informing each side of the malicious intentions of the other. Pier introduces Dante to one who wishes he had never seen Rimini Inf. This crossing triggered the civil war that left Caesar ruler of Rome and the lands under its control. Acting on this advice, Lambertuccio degli Amidei and several cohorts including Mosca attacked Buondelmonte and stabbed him to death near the statue of Mars at the head of the bridge in Florence later named the Ponte Vecchio on Easter Sunday in other versions, This murder ignited a feud between supporters of the Buondelmonti and the Uberti one of whom participated in the attack , the families that headed, respectively, the Florentine Guelphs and Ghibellines Villani, Chronicle 6.

The blood feud lasted until the two families formally reconciled in Alchemical studies aimed at discovering the common source of all metals and transmuting base metals into gold were not When Griffolino failed to make good on his promise, Albero complained to the bishop of Siena or perhaps the inquisitor , a powerful man who was like a father to him. This man had Griffolino burned at the stake for heresy or the practice of black magic Inf. Another commentator claims that Dante and Capocchio had studied together in Florence, and that Capocchio transformed his talent for mimicking people and objects into an ability to falsify metals Anonimo Fiorentino.

Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? And everywhere about are blood and the stench of death, the ruins of cities, the detritus of war. As mythic embodiment of musical, and by. Johnson, Darkness Visible: A Study afVirgit's Aeneid, "in the Aeneid there grows a constant impulse towards awful dualism that mocks the splendid unities of classical humanism, with its belief in an intelligible universe and in purposeful human activity inside the universe.

Download sample. Originally published in It is this desire that lends the particular pathos to both texts which is so distinctively Virgilian and Dantean: the history of the city must be more than just eternal cyclicality, and it is this symbolic more that both come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

As mythic embodiment of musical, and by gran preda leva a Dire del cerchio superno, da tuttc parti l'alta valle feda trerna 51, ch'j' pensai che I'universo I, W. It makes Dante one of the blessed, at least for the moment. The repetition is like a musical refrain that runs through her speech.

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Piccarda here articulates the very basis of order as monarchia , where all created wills are united by a common desire and love of the whole. Past weakness has been remedied by an infusion of divine power that purges the will of all wavering. Piccarda stresses, somewhat comically, the rational aspect of her answer to Dante by using the scholastic Latin term necesse , which means logically necessary. Beatrice too often assumes this professorial tone with Dante, when for example she gives a scientific explanation for the dark spots on the Moon 2.

The marriage of ardor and clarity is characteristic of the souls in Paradise. Without clarity, ardor would be mere feeling with no anchor in the truth. It would be blind, or at least confused, with respect to the intellectual vision that gives the soul its reason for being on fire. Without ardor, clarity would be joyless—mind without heart. It would also falsify the truth that is seen by the mind, since what is seen is in its nature something meant to arouse love. Clarity without ardor would be like getting the point of a really good joke but not finding it funny.

Piccarda is suffused with heavenly light, the light of knowledge. We must observe that the knowledge she possesses is not confined to her level but extends to all of Paradise. Some souls may be limited in their degree of bliss, but they all have access to God, one another, and the whole of Paradise.

Souls at every level, even the lowest, enjoy the unity and happiness of the entire kingdom. They are not spatially confined to their own levels but spiritually connected to all of them. God wills each soul into its proper place, and each rejoices in being where it is because it sees that where it is is pleasing to the whole community and to God. Piccarda not only rejoices to be where she is; she also rejoices that souls higher up are where they are.

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For this reason she is not almost but fully imparadised. Dante gets the point. Satisfied by one food, as Dante puts it, he is hungry for another. He has already been told that this level is reserved for those who were inconstant in their vows and now wants to know how this applies to Piccarda. She replies with a reference to St. Clare, founder of the Franciscan order that Piccarda had entered:. Perfect life and high desert…place in a higher heaven a lady by whose rule in your world below they take the robe and veil, so that till death they may wake and sleep with that Bridegroom who accepts every vow that charity conforms to His pleasure.

To follow her I fled, a young girl, from the world and wrapped me in her habit and promised myself to the way of her order. Then men more used to evil than to good snatched me away from the sweet cloister. God knows what my life was then. Piccarda discretely covers over the details of her subsequent misery and early death. With this deference to the glory of another, a gesture repeated throughout Paradise, Piccarda vanishes while singing the Ave Maria. The striking image reminds us that Heaven is a depth as well as a height, and that souls here are not so much soberly placed as passionately immersed.

They are eternally drunk on the wine of their happiness. He is baffled by the story he has just heard, and so are we. If Piccarda was forced to leave the convent, how can she be held responsible for her broken vow? Beatrice gives Dante a complex, scholastic explanation that has to do with the nature of the will. According to Beatrice, Piccarda went with the flow of forceful circumstance. Her will, though not sinful, seconded the violence that was being done against her will. She did not freely will to leave the convent after having taken a vow. But she did nothing to oppose the violence against her good will.

She remained passive. If their will had been unbroken, like that which kept Lawrence on the grid and made Mucius stern to his own hand, then, as soon as they were free, it would have driven them back on the path from which they had been dragged; but will so firm is rare indeed. Lawrence suffered on behalf of the Christian Church and Mucius for the sake of pagan Rome. As Beatrice poetically observes, an unwavering will is itself like fire, which, no matter how much a strong wind may wrench this way and that, always returns to its natural tendency to go up toward the heavens.

That is what those who succumbed to external force failed to do: they failed to fight the buffeting winds of life with the heavenly fire that was their faith. It is, however, a lack of spiritual strength, a weakness of will. Weakness of will in the Paradiso is related to the broader theme of spiritual capacity. Souls were not made equal with respect to any of their capacities. No one human being excels at all things. Excellence itself in any one thing varies among its possessors in both degree and kind. Among the greatest composers, for example, one stands out for his beautiful counterpoint, the musical interweaving of individual vocal lines, another for his divinely inspired melodies.

Deficiency in the lowest three degrees of Paradise is therefore different from the deficiency caused by sin. Sin is a distortion of our nature, whereas grades in Heaven manifest nature, that is, the specific nature of each individual among the blessed. Piccarda had only so much lungpower. So it is with each of us. If you offered Piccarda the chance to be higher up, she would be the first to tell you that this would destroy rather than increase her happiness.

In Heaven she has perfect self-knowledge. Her very humility is a form of knowledge. She does not merely believe that she is limited but rather knows and celebrates her limit. She knows, furthermore, that this limit is bound up with the person God made Piccarda to be. If there were no limits, there would be no individual natures, no personality. To want Piccarda to want more is to wish that she did not exist. Her main point is that taking vows is perilous.

The danger is rooted in our tendency to overestimate what we are capable of.

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  • We tend, in the words of Jesus, not to count the cost before building the tower. Another danger is that of unforeseen consequences. In the heat of the moment we vow to do something and learn only later that to be true to this vow results in great evil. Beatrice cites as examples Jephtha and Agamemnon 5. In the Book of Judges Jephtha vowed to sacrifice to the Lord the first person that walked through his doors. This person turned out to be his daughter.

    Agamemnon was true to his vow to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia so that the Greek ships could sail against Troy. Piccarda is imperfect in her faith because she was passive and inconsistent. Jephtha shows the opposite problem, that of being stubbornly faithful to a foolish vow. The problem of vows is rooted in the nature of free will. Once a vow is made, this greatest of gifts is given away and cannot be taken back.

    Having learned from Piccarda that Paradise is the perfected community of wills under a good King, Dante moves up to the next two levels. Here he meets more souls who occupy the lower triad of Heaven. At the level of service marred by ambition—symbolized by the planet Mercury—he meets Justinian, the Roman emperor who codified Roman law and made it simpler and more unified.

    It is something of a shock to move from the gentle unassuming Piccarda to this exalted world-historical figure, although the soul of Constance serves as a sort of transition and a reminder of the realm of political history. Justinian recapitulates the wisdom of Piccarda regarding the whole in which all souls rejoice. The wantonness to which these souls yielded in life is of course no longer present in Paradise.

    But surely we are meant to imagine that something of their former temperament remains. This temperament adds a certain intensity of feeling, an ardor, which, though different in character from that of Piccarda, is equally necessary to the ensemble of diverse voices in Paradise. Heaven welcomes the hot-blooded, just as it shuns the lukewarm. Earlier I observed that the three spiritual regions of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise are defined with respect to the intellect. The eyes of Beatrice, the image of love as education, further support the primacy of intellect in the Paradiso and in the entire Comedy. As Dante moves higher up the heavenly hierarchy and closer to God, the role of intellect and vision becomes increasingly intense. It is especially prominent when Dante enters the Crystalline and sees the hierarchy of angels.

    Later in the canto Beatrice utters one of the central teachings of the whole poem:. And thou must know that all have delight in the measure of the depth to which their sight penetrates the truth in which every intellect finds rest; from which it may be seen that the state of blessedness rests on the act of vision, not on that of love, which follows after, and the measure of their vision is merit, which grace begets and right will. The immediate context has to do with the angels, who are identified with their keenness of intellectual vision, but the teaching applies to all the blessed.

    Beatrice emphasizes that love follows rather than leads. The reason is that love is both aroused and directed by the thing seen, the Beloved. If love were primary, it would be cut off from the truth. It would degenerate into mere feeling and cease to be educative.

    The primacy of intellect came home to Dante in the moment when, a mere boy, he fell in love with a girl on the streets of Florence. He loved her because he caught sight of her and was struck by the light that shone in her person. The links in this chain now appear in reverse order. Beatrice returns to her heavenly seat and to her true self. Now under the guidance of St. Then he sees Mary, the ray of whose eyes leads him to the threshold of his final vision.

    Bernard of Clairvaux was the great medieval saint known for his devotion to Mary. His presence serves to enhance rather than qualify the distinctly feminine operation of grace. Bernard prays that Dante be granted the highest bliss, the vision of God.