Dante's Life • Born in Florence in 1265; died in Ravenna in 1321 • Met Beatrice circa 1274 • Married Gemma Donati in 1289 • Elected Prior (highest magistrate, a 2 month post) in 1300 • Exiled from Florence in 1302
Literary Works • De Vulgari Eloquentia, on the origin and development of language • De Monarchia, on political theory • Convivio, unfinished, a compendium of knowledge • Vita Nuova, lyric poems and commentary • Commedia , dubbed The Divine Comedy in the 16th century, written from 1307-21. Relates a symbolic pilgrimage through Hell, Purgatory, & Heaven undertaken by the fictitious pilgrim Dante beginning the evening before Good Friday, 1300.
DANTE AND The Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) • La Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy) • Trilogy: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso • Written in the late Middle Ages, c. 1307 -1321 Dante’s home in Florence
Background Dante wrote The Divine Comedy while in exile due to his involvement with a political party that criticized the corruption of the pope. Dante believed that an emperor should govern affairs of the state while the pope’s power should be confined to religious affairs.
Literary Influences • Old & New Testament • Homer’s Odyssey, and especially Virgil's Aeneid • St. Augustine's Confessions
Contents • The Divine Comedy is an account of Dante's own journey through the afterlife (hell, purgatory, and paradise) • He is guided by the Roman poet Virgil (1st c. BC) and later by Beatrice • The journey inspired by and directed toward Beatrice, the earthly love of Dante's youth • A journey toward salvation
Structure in Multiple Layers of Three to Symbolize the Trinity: • Three Guides: 1. Virgil, symbol of human reason & poetry, through Inferno & Purgatorio 2. Beatrice, his “pure” human love, through most of Paradiso 3. St. Bernard de Clairvaux, a 12th century contemplative monk • Written in vernacular Italian in terza rima (aba, bcb, cdc, etc.) • 33 cantos in each canticle (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), plus one in the beginning as an introduction = 100. • Nine circles of Hell + anteroom = 10; seven levels of purgatory plus three ante-terraces = 10; nine heavenly spheres + empyrean = 10. • Three beasts block his path: Leopard, Lion, and She-Wolf.
Characters "Peopled" by hundreds of historical, contemporaneous, and mythical figures who had died by the year 1300, but who may have lived centuries before.
Time The action of the poem begins on Good Friday of the year 1300, at which time Dante, who was born in 1265, had reached the middle of the Scriptural threescore years and ten. It ends on the first Sunday after Easter, making in all ten days.
Dante's historical world as hell: • civil and international warfare • political struggles • corrupt popes seeking power and wealth • sale of ecclesiastical offices (simony) and of salvation (indulgences) • world of intolerance and persecution (Inquisition founded 1231) • religion is abused, and manipulated; greed, pride and violence disguised as holiness • prevalence of ignorance, superstition, and fear
DANTE'S CRITICISM OF HIS WORLD • exposure of the evils of his world • challenging of Church dogmas, exposing superstitions • creation of a new Humanist philosophy radically re-interpreting Christianity • giving Christianity a human and earthly meaning centered around the idea of love • demanding the substance of true Christianity in Christian life: love, peace, humility, forgiveness, giving, caring about others, healing the sick, feeding the hungry
Dante’s Journey Begins in Hell • Concept of contrapasso (sin = punishment), sinning is hell • Hell is the state of sin; harming others creates a world that is literally hellish for the sinner himself and for others • We are responsible not only for our own actions, but for the effects they have on others; we are responsible not only for our own salvation, but for the good of society.
THE INFERNO • Hell is a place on earth • Most notable: the popes in hell (Nicholas III, Boniface VIII, Clement V); the keys of Saint Peter opening the gates of understanding of the new symbolism created by Dante • Representation of hell in earthly, sensory, familiar terms, populated by oneself and those one knows • The presence of the living human being in hell
The Nine Circles of Hell 1. Limbo 2. The Lustful 3. The Gluttonous 4. The Avaricious and the Prodigal 5. The Wrathful and the Sullen 6. Heretics 7. The Violent 8. The Fraudulent 9. The Treacherous
Map of the Inferno Inferno Circle 1 The Virtuous Pagans Circle 2 The Lascivious/Lustful Circle 3 The Gluttonous Circle 4 The Miserly and the Wasteful against kindred, country Circle 5 The Wathful guests, lords, etc. Circle 6 The Heretics Circle 7 The Violent Circle 8 The Fraudulent Circle 9 The Lake of the Treacherous
Canto I Dante enters hell while alive: Canto I.1 "in the middle of the road of our life“ Dante enters hell driven by his own sins (symbolized by the lion, the wolf, and the leopard) A lion: Pride or ambition. A she-wolf: Avarice A leopard: Fraudulence Here he confronts the lion. Illustration by Gustave Doré
Canto 1 • The dark forest of human life, with its passions, vices, and perplexities of all kinds; politically the state of Florence with its fractions Guelf and Ghibelline. • Dante as pro-Ghibelline and Imperialist is in opposition to the Guelfs, Papal Party: Boniface VIII., and the King of France, Philip the Fair, and is banished from Florence, out of the sunshine, and into the dark.
Canto 4: The Unbaptized • Dante is borne across the river Acheron in his sleep, and awakes on the brink of the sad valley of the abyss. • He now enters the First Circle of the Inferno; the Limbo of the Unbaptized and those born before Christianity. • Here he finds the Philosophers (Aristotle, Plato), classical writers and Avicenna and Averroes. Illustration by Gustave Doré
Canto 5: The Lustful Paolo and Francesca Francesca, daughter of Guido da Polenta, Lord of Ravenna, and wife of Gianciotto Malatesta, son of the Lord of Rimini. The lover, Paul Malatesta, was the brother of the husband, who, discovering their love, put them both to death with his own hand. They are condemned to be whirled around in a violent wind. Illustration by GustaveDoré
Paolo and Francesca By Amos Cassioli By J.A. Ingres
Canto 10: Farinata Farinata degli Uberti was the valiant and renowned leader of the Ghibellines in Florence. He believed like Epicurus, that the soul dies with the body, and that human happiness consisted in temporal pleasures; and for this sin he is damned as a Heretic as is Cavalcante, a Guelph. Farinata addresses Dante llustration by Gustave Doré
Farinata (con’t) Farinata led the Ghibellines at the famous battle of Monte Aperto in 1260, where the Guelfs were routed, and driven out of Florence. He died in 1264. Guelphs- Papal Party Ghibellines- Imperial Party
The Ninth Circle • Symbolic of the ultimate cold-heartedness, lack of feeling for others • Dante feels half-dead as he experiences the cold blast of Lucifer's beating wings • then Dante kicks heads, pulls hair, and abuses the souls embedded in the ice • Dante promises Fra Alberigo to clear the ice from his eyes if he reveals his identity, then goes back on his promise
Gravest danger as he becomes treacherous in circle of treachery • Dante ensnared in his own sins and contradictions • at this point Dante is effectively entrapped in hell, his heart frozen, his actions identical with those of the treacherous at the bottom of hell • the only way for him to get out: recognizing the sin in himself, seeing the absurdity of his self-righteousness, forgiving and accepting what he hates the most • only way out: to look into the spiritual mirror, to embrace the body of Satan
The Ninth Circle of Hell:the frozen, circular lake of ice at the bottom of hell and the home of Satan Lucifer, King of Hell Illustrated by Gustave Doré
Description of Satan Satan has three heads—red, black, and yellow—and from his six eyes streams continuous tears. In each of its mouths, Satan gnaws on the worst of the traitors: Judas, Brutus, and Cassius. Virgil abruptly tells Dante that they must leave. Virgil pulls his pupil onto his back and begins to climb down Satan’s hairy body. Virgil continues to climb until they come to a point where Satan’s legs stand upright in a dark cave. Virgil explains that when they climbed down Satan’s side, they passed the center of the center of the earth so that they now stand just below the Southern Hemisphere. Satan stands where he was planted when he originally fell from Heaven. Dante quickly scrambles to climb back to Earth and as he does he sees stars above him for the first time since his journey began.
Dante-Satan • embrace as symbol of forgiveness of sin, need to sympathize with the suffering (the tears) of the greatest sinner • introspection and self-recognition: need to look into the center of the mirror-like surface of the frozen lake; what Dante sees there is just himself • Dante = Satan • that insight and his capacity to forgive set him free • implication of the impossibility of escaping hell while his soul is tainted with anger, hate, vengefulness, and self-righteousness
Purgatorio Seven circles for the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony and incontinence. Second illustrated ed. Brescia, 1487
Paradiso • The Paradiso is a place of reward. • It is structured on the Seven Cardinal Virtues: Faith, Hope, Love, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance. • Each virtue is rewarded in one of the spheres that were thought to surround the earth.
Canto 33 Paradiso • The Visible Presence • In this new light of God's grace, the mystery of the union of the Divine and human nature in Christ is revealed to Dante.
Canto 33 Paradiso • Dante looks up into the light and receives a glorious vision of which he feels the emotion of the experience but he cannot recall the details of the encounter. • He invokes God to help him recall the scene so that he can tell the world about it. • Dante reveals that he saw within the Eternal Light: three circles of different colors reflecting each other.
Canto 33 Paradiso • Dante sees a vision of Christ. The three orbs “of triple hue” reveals the mystery of the Trinity in human nature in the Being of God, the Son mirroring the Father and the Love of the Holy Spirit between them both. • In the last lines, Dante moves in harmony with the spheres, with God, and with himself, impelled by divine love.
Paradiso Florentine Mss 15th century
Dante’s Exegetical Method: From Dante’s Letter to Can Grande selection taken from the Geoffrey Chaucer Page “To elucidate, then, what we have to say, be it known that the sense of this work is not simple, but on the contrary it may be called polysemous, that is to say, 'of more senses than one'; for it is one sense which we get through the letter, and another which we get through the thing the letter signifies; and the first is called literal, but the second allegorical or mystic.
And this mode of treatment, for its better manifestation, may be considered in this verse: 'When lsrael came out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech, Judaea became his sanctification, Israel his power.' For if we inspect the letter alone the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt in the time of Moses is presented to us; if the allegory, our redemption wrought by Christ; if the moral sense, the conversion of the soul from the grief and misery of sin to the state of grace is presented to us; if the anagogical, the departure of the holy soul from the slavery of this corruption to the liberty of eternal glory is presented to us. Con’t next page..}
…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 FromThe Latin Works of Dante, Temple Classics, London, 1904, Epistola X, pp. 346-52.
Summary: a modification and adaptation of the traditional four-fold method of interpretation of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): • LITERAL -- the everyday meaning • MORAL -- educational lessons • ALLEGORICAL -- abstract, intellectual, conceptual symbols • ANAGOGICAL -- the deepest mysteries of the afterlife