The Divine Comedy A Classical Quest through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise
Dante’s Structure:The Quest For Salvation Paradiso Inferno Purgatorio
DANTE ALIGHIERI • Born in Florence, May, 1265. • His family was old and of noble origin, but no longer wealthy. • He probably spent a year at the University of Bologna as part of his education, studying the Trivium and the Quadrivium, typical of Medival curriculum.
BEATRICE • Dante met Beatrice when he was nine and she eight, at his father’s home, most likely for a May Day festival. • Beatrice married another man about 1287, and died in 1290 at the age of 25. • As customary, Dante had an arranged marriage in his youth to Gemma Donati, daughter of Manetto Donati. • But Dante’s greatest love, and the greatest single influence on his work, was a woman named Beatrice.
BEATRICE • Beatrice was Dante’s angel. He could not touch her, because this was the age of Courtly love. • Dante’s life and work were dedicated to her. • Dante’s muse and inspiration— the female aspect behind the • genius. • She is the divine light of love.
DANTE’S MEDIEVAL WORLD • Dante’s world was threefold: • The world of politics • The world of theology • The world of learning • His Comedy utilizes all three; these areas are interdependent, so that it is impossible to say that one was more important than the other. • The Middle Ages was dominated by the struggle between the PAPACY and the EMPIRE. • Both thought that they were of divine origin and indispensable to the welfare of mankind.
THE PAPACY The Vatican Rome, Italy One of the few remaining city-states in the world.
The Empire Constantine I WHERE CHURCH AND STATE WERE FIRST IN CONFLICT.
CAUSE OF THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE PAPACY AND THE EMPIRE • In the 8th Century the Papal claim to temporal power was justified by the “DONATION OF CONSTANTINE” which stated that the emperor, had given power of the empire to the Pope before leaving for Byzantium. • Later this was discovered to be a FORGED DOCUMENT! • This claim created great strife and discord in the empire. • Nothing new between politics and religion . . .
THE IMPORTANCE OF VIRGIL • In the Middle Ages Virgil was regarded as a sage and necromancer. • His poems were opened in a manner of divination called Sortes. • The book was opened at random and a verse was selected as an answer to some question.
VIRGIL 70 B.C.E. 19 B.C.E • He was the greatest of the Roman poets. • His Aeneid provided the pattern for the structure of Dante’s Hell. • Virgil was chosen as Dante’s guide through Hell, because Dante saw him as his master and inspiration for his poetic style. • Virgil is also revered as the poet of the Roman Empire. • The Aeneid tells of the Empire’s founding. • Virgil also wrote in his fourth ecologue of the coming of a Wonder Child who will bring the Golden Age. • This was interpreted in the Middle Ages as the coming of Christ.
STRUCTURE OF THE DIVINE COMEDY • DANTE’S WORLD WAS ONE THAT BELIEVED IN MYSTICAL CORRESPONDENCES AND THE POWER OF NUMBERS, STARS, AND STONES • EVENTS OF HISTORY—CONTAINED A MYSTICAL SIGNIFICANCE. • DANTE’S NUMERICAL SYMBOLISM: • 3 A SYMBOL OF THE HOLY TRINITY • 9 THREE TIMES THREE. • 33 A MULTIPLE OF 3 • THE 7 DAYS OF CREATION • 10 CONSIDERED IN THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD A PERFECT NUMBER • 100, THE MULTIPLE OF 10.
THREE SECTIONS OF THE DIVINE COMEDY INFERNO, PURGATORIO, AND PARADISO 3 was a holy number to Dante— suggesting the Holy Trinity.
STRUCTURE OF THE DIVINE COMEDY • Each section has 33 cantos (small division of poetry; canto means “song.”) • The Inferno includes an introductory canto, which makes 100 cantos total (1oo representing the idea of perfection or spiritual enlightenment achieved after the journey). • Three major divisions of sin: • Incontinence • Violence • Fraudulence • By the time you finish reading, you will know which circle of hell you may find yourself in! • Three-line poetric structure: TerzaRima
Dante’s Use of Terza Rima Midway upon the journey of our lifeI found myself within a forest dark,For the straightforward pathway had been lost. Ah me! how hard a thing it is to sayWhat was this forest savage, rough, and stern,Which in the very thought renews the fear. So bitter is it, death is little more;But of the good to treat, which there I found,Speak will I of the other things I saw there. I cannot well repeat how there I entered,10So full was I of slumber at the momentIn which I had abandoned the true way. But after I had reached a mountain's foot,At that point where the valley terminated,Which had with consternation pierced my heart, Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders,Vested already with that planet's raysWhich leadeth others right by every road. Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vitami ritrovai per una selva oscura,ché la diritta via era smarrita. Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa duraesta selva selvaggia e aspra e forteche nel pensier rinova la paura! Tant’ è amara che poco è più morte;ma per trattar del ben ch’i’ vi trovai,dirò de l’altre cose ch’i’ v’ho scorte. Io non so ben ridir com’ i’ v’intrai,10tant’ era pien di sonno a quel puntoche la verace via abbandonai. Ma poi ch’i’ fui al piè d’un colle giunto,là dove terminava quella valleche m’avea di paura il cor compunto, guardai in alto e vidi le sue spallevestite già de’ raggi del pianetache mena dritto altrui per ogne calle.
THE INFERNO The sign above the gates to the entrance to hell
THE SPIRALING INFERNO • DANTE’S HELL IS A HUGE FUNNEL SHAPED PIT. • THE CENTER IS LOCATED BENEATH JERUSALEM. • THE NINE REGIONS ARE DESIGNATED FOR A PARTICULAR SIN. • ITS REGIONS ARE ARRANGED IN A SERIES OF DESCENDING CIRCULAR STAIRCASES THAT DIMINISH IN CIRCUMFERENCE THE DEEPER THAT VIRGIL AND DANTE TRAVEL. • THE HIGHER UP A SINNER, THE LIGHTER THE SIN, THE DEEPER THE SINNER, THE DARKER AND MORE TERRIBLE THE SIN.
DANTE’S FUNNEL SHAPED HELL
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE INFERNO DANTE’S SATAN THE EPITOME OF EVIL, THE FALLEN ANGEL
CONCEPT OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION • PUNISHMENTS IN HELL ARE REGULATED BY THE LAW OF RETRIBUTION. • THESE PUNISHMENTS ARE RELATED TO THE SINS EITHER BY ANALOGY OR ANTITHESIS. • AS ONE SINNED IN LIFE, SO HE OR SHE IS PUNISHED IN DEATH. • CONTRAPASSO: “SUFFER THE OPPOSITE”—PUNISHMENT OF SOULS BY A PROCESS EITHER RESEMBLING OR CONTRASTING WITH THE SIN ITSELF
POINTS TO REMEMBER • THE INFERNO IS PART OF A WORK CALLED THE DIVINE COMEDY. • IN THE MIDDLE AGES COMEDY MEANT SOME HUMAN EXPERIENCE THAT BEGAN IN TRAGEDY AND ENDED IN HAPPINESS. • IT IS ALSO AN ALLEGORY. • THE MORAL PURPOSE IS TO POINT OUT TO THOSE STILL LIVING THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS AND TO PUT THEM ON THE PATH OF SALVATION.
THE FINAL GOAL: SALVATION BY THE CROSS
In your WNB, make a chart to keep track of the cantos and levels of hell:
Cantos 1-2 The Dark Wood Three Beasts: Leopard Lion She-wolf Virgil as Guide Three Blessed Women: Virgin Mary St. Lucia Beatrice
Dante, the speaker, suddenly finds himself lost in a dark forest. He tries to climb up a hill but he is blocked by three beasts: a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf, so he is trapped. He is alone in the dark valley when suddenly a spirit appears. This is Virgil, the Roman poet. Canto 1: Mid-Life Crisis The Call Meeting with the Mentor
When Dante asks about the beasts, Virgil tells him that the she-wolf will kill anyone who tries to pass her, but someday the great Greyhound will come and destroy her and send her back to Hell. Because of the beasts, Virgil tells Dante that he must take a different path and that he will guide Dante. Virgil also tells Dante that they must first pass through Hell and see the eternal punishment of the sinners before being able to reach Heaven. Then Virgil sets out on the journey and Dante follows behind him.
Symbol: The Shadowed Forest represents the dark time in Dante’s life. He has come to a crossroads, perhaps a mid-life crisis, where he is questioning good and evil and the purpose and meaning of his life.
The Three Beasts by Priamo della Quercia (1444-1452) Symbols: The three beasts (leopard, lion, and she-wolf) are symbols that represent the three divisions of sin (fraud, violence, and incontinence). These are the sins that were believed to have caused the downfall of humankind, and since Dante is at a crossroads in his life, this journey is intended to make him question his life and what punishment might await him for the sins he has committed.
Symbolism and Allusion: The three beasts might also symbolize the politics of the day. Because of the conflict between the Pope and the Emperor, leadership was continually in question. The Greyhound was believed to be an allusion to the hope for a future leader who would come to save Italy. She-Wolf by Gustave Dore Lion by Gustave Dore
Allusion: Virgil--Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC – 19 BC) Virgil was the Roman poet of the epic The Aeneid. He is considered Rome’s greatest poet, and he was an inspiration to Dante. In the poem he serves as Dante’s guide and mentor, as Dante even refers to how much he has been influenced by him.
A poet was I, and I sang that justSon of Anchises, who came forth from Troy,After that Ilion the superb was burnedBut thou, why goest thou back to such annoyance?Why climb'st thou not the Mount DelectableWhich is the source and cause of every joy?""Now, art thou that Virgilius and that fountainWhich spreads abroad so wide a river of speech?I made response to him with bashful forehead."O, of the other poets honour and light,Avail me the long study and great loveThat have impelled me to explore thy volume!Thou art my master, and my author thou,Thou art alone the one from whom I tookThe beautiful style that has done honour to me.
Behold the beast, for which I have turned back;Do thou protect me from her, famous Sage,For she doth make my veins and pulses tremble.'"Thee it behoves to take another road,"Responded he, when he beheld me weeping,"If from this savage place thou wouldst escape;Because this beast, at which thou criest out,Suffers not any one to pass her way,But so doth harass him, that she destroys him;And has a nature so malign and ruthless,That never doth she glut her greedy will,And after food is hungrier than before.Many the animals with whom she weds,And more they shall be still, until the GreyhoundComes, who shall make her perish in her pain.
Canto 2: Dante’s Refusal of the Call & Beatrice Calls for Back-up
Paraphrase of Canto 2 Dante calls on the Muses, the ancient goddesses of art and inspiration, to ask them to help him tell his story. “O Muses, o high genius, help me now. . .” As he begins to tell his story, he thinks that he is not strong enough to face the terrors of Hell. He knows of only two other men who have returned after their journeys to the afterlife—the Apostle Paul (“the successor of Peter”) and Aeneas (“the one who fathered Sylvius”). He does not feel worthy of the greatness of either of these two: “But why should I go there? Who sanctions it? For I am not Aeneas, am not Paul; nor I nor others think myself so worthy.” He reminds Virgil that he was even too cowardly to face the hill and the beasts who blocked his way. When Virgil found him, Dante had already given up and had started downhill. Virgil tells Dante that his feelings of cowardice are common to man, but then he tells him about how he came to be his guide: “I was among those souls who are suspended; a lady called to me, so blessed, so lovely that I implored to serve at her command.”
Virgil has been assigned to the outer edge of Hell—Limbo, that is (we’ll learn more about this later). Beatrice came down from Heaven to Limbo to ask Virgil for help. Beatrice was Dante’s unrequited love from life. She learned about Dante’s suffering from St. Lucia (a 4th century saint of sight and grace) who was also in Heaven and who had heard about Dante from the Virgin Mary. These three women—Beatrice, St. Lucia, and Mary—are all looking out for Dante, and Virgil questions why Virgil hesitates with such fear when these women put such faith in him and Beatrice was crying and begging Virgil to help. Dante seems to feel reassured after hearing about Beatrice: "O she, compassionate, who has helped me! And you who, courteous, obeyed so quickly the true words that she had addressed to you! This gives Dante the strength to continue on the path with Virgil: Now go; a single will fills both of us: you are my guide, my governor, my master." These were my words to him; when he advanced I entered on the steep and savage path.
The Nine Muses Dante and Beatrice ascend to the Heaven of the Moon (Giovanni di Paolo 1540) Allusion to the Muses: The Muses are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory); they are the goddesses of literature, music, dance and other intellectual pursuits. Dante invokes the muses to gain poetic inspiration to tell the story of his journey through Hell with Virgil. The allusion is important as a poetic device. The invocation of the Muses is a common motif that appears in classical poetry.
Allusion to St. Paul St. Paul is considered one of the most influential of Christ’s followers and early missionaries of Christianity. His conversion on the road to Damascus is the most famous story about him. He is also responsible for writing the Epistles in the New Testament. Fourteen of these epistles are believed to be written by him. Dante refers to him when he hesitates before following Virgil through the gates to Hell. Dante feels inferior in comparison to St. Paul and Aeneas, who are the only men Dante knows of who have returned from a journey to Hell.
The Three Women Allusion: Beatrice, The Virgin Mary, and St. Lucy are all believed to be watching over Dante. Beatrice intervenes on behalf of Dante and begs Virgil to help him in his time of suffering.
Word Choice and Imagery: Rugged pass, deathless world, dark air, battle, dark land, shadows, phantoms, fires flaming, wars,
Canto 2 Passage Analysis She said: "You, Beatrice, true praise of God, Why have you not helped him who loves you so That for your sake he’s left the vulgar crowd? Do you not hear the anguish in his cry? Do you not see the death he wars against upon that river ruthless as the sea?” No one within this world has ever been so quick to seek his good or flee his harm as I—when she had finished speaking thus— to come below, down from my blessed station; I trusted in your honest utterance, which honors you and those who’ve listened to you.’
When she had finished with her words to me, she turned aside her gleaming, tearful eyes, which only made me hurry all the more. And, just as she had wished, I came to you” I snatched you from the path of the fierce beast that barred the shortest way up the fair mountain. What is it then? Why, why do you resist? Why does your heart host so much cowardice? Where are your daring and your openness as long as there are three blessed women Concerned for you within the court of Heaven and my words promise you so great a good?”
Canto 3 Gates of Hell Vestibule “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Cowards The Indecisive Angels Punishment: They are stung by insects and endlessly chase banners. Acheron River Charon
Canto 4 Circle 1: Limbo The Unbaptized and Virtuous Pagans Punishment: Boredom Forever separated from God Virgil, Homer, Horace, Ovid, Socrates, Plato
Canto 5 Circle 2 Lust Punishment: The lustful souls are blown about in a violent storm, without hope of rest. Minos Francesca da Rimini and her lover Paolo
Canto 6 Circle 3 Gluttony Punishment: They are forced to live in vile freezing slush, guarded by Cerberus. Ciacco of Florence Florentine Politics Last Judgment
Canto 7 Circle 4 Avarice Prodigality Punishment: The Miserly and Spendthrift push great heavy weights together, crashing them time and time again Plutus Fortuna