Introduction: The Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri
Facts • Written between 1308 and 1321 • Tells of an imaginary journey Dante takes through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. • The Journey is symbolic of the spiritual quest for salvation. • Dante is the first of the “Christian Humanists”
Facts: Quest • Recognizing sin (journey through Hell, or the Inferno). • Rejecting sin and awaiting redemption (the time in Purgatory) • Achieving salvation through faith in divine revelation (seeing the light of G-d in Paradise)
Facts: Dante meets historical figures • Ancient Rome • Characters from classical Greek mythology • Political enemies from his own era.
Divine Comedy • This work provides a portrait of almost every aspect of medieval human life.
Form, Number, and Symbol • The poem contains 100 cantos (chapters) • Number 100 regarded as the perfect number in the Middle Ages. • Introductory Canto • The text is divided into 3 sections of 33 cantos.
Form: • Composed in tercets, three-line stanzas, and uses a rhyme scheme called terza rima. • The middle of one tercet rhymes with the first and third lines of the next tercet, giving the poem a strong sense of unity.
Number: • The number 3 is important because of its relation to the Christian Trinity. • 3 divine figures—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in one G0d.
The poem is divided into 3 parts: • First part: • Inferno, focuses on the power of G-d the Father • Evidenced by the punishments of the damned
The poem is divided into 3 parts: • The Second part: Purgatorio, focuses on the wisdom of Christ the Son, and the hope for salvation that he offers to those awaiting final judgment.
The poem is divided into 3 parts: • The Third part: Paradiso • Focuses on the love of the Holy Spirit.
Time • The journey takes place over 3 days • Begins in Hell on Good Friday, the day of Christ’s crucifixion, and ending symbolically in Paradise on Easter Sunday.
Action • The entire action of the poem takes place under the guidance of three ladies: • The Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ who mediates between G-d and man. • Saint Lucia, patron saint of Dante and all those without spiritual sight. • Beatrice, Dante’s love, who leads him into paradise
Role of Virgil • Dante’s guide for most of the journey is Virgil the Roman poet who died 19 years before the birth of Christ. • He explains, instructs • The clarity of Virgil’s mind is contrasted with Dante’s confusion
Role of Virgil • “my true master and first author” • “the sole maker from whom I drew breath.” • Virgil is consigned to the first circle of Hell because he is un-baptized along with other virtuous pagans from Classical Greece and Rome.
Dante’s Attitude • His writing reflects his strict Christian beliefs and his sympathy for the emerging humanism of the Renaissance.
Virgil • A perfect guide for the early part of the journey because, for Dante, he is the ultimate symbol of what human reason can achieve without faith.
Reason • Reason uses logic and fact to arrive at the truth. • Dante saw reason as limited; it is only through faith that Dante can grasp the truth of Paradise.
Beatrice • Dante’s symbol of love and faith. • She sends Virgil through Hell and Purgatory. • She is the only one who can lead Dante to Paradise. • The love of Beatrice is expected to turn Dante from error forever. • Journey toward truth and grace via love.
Style and Language • Avoids lofty language generally used in important works. • The epic has a happy ending. • Makes the title “Divine Comedy” appropriate. • Language sparse, direct, and idiomatic—reflecting ordinary speech.
Style and Language • Regarded as the finest poem ever written in Italian. • Stroke of genius to use vernacular, everyday language. • All levels of imagination, reality, history, myth, legends, politics, religion, and personal.
Finally • The Divine Comedy encompasses Dante’s vision of G-d’s judgment on every significant aspect of human life. • It is the supreme and culminating work of medieval thought. • Dante gives expression to nearly every major intellectual and moral issue of the Middle Ages, including his own concerns about public morality, the power of love, and the quest for spiritual salvation.
Assignment: • After reading segments of the Inferno, students will form groups of 2 to create a personal geography of Hell. • Illustrate • Choose a guide: write a paragraph explaining why this person was chosen what are their special talents that make them the perfect guide. • The group must write a paragraph (4 sentence min.) to explain each of the 9 levels of Hell they create. Include the punishment and sin required for entry.