The Purgatorio is the middle section of Dante's Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy), uncontestedly one of the greatest and most celebrated poems ever written. In the Purgatorio, Dante, as the Pilgrim, makes a four-day journey. He begins this journey on Easter Sunday of the year 1300, to the island mountain of Purgatory, which is divided into three sections: the Antepurgatory, Purgatory Proper, and the Earthly Paradise. In the course of his own spiritual rehabilitation, Dante meets repentant shades (dead personages) cleansing their sins as they make their way to the peak of the mountain. At the summit, repentant sinners are forgiven and may proceed to Paradise. The characters Dante writes of in the Purgatorio are from both classical Roman and recent Italian history, as well as from contemporary Italy; thus, Dante makes strong political commentary an integral part of his poem. It is almost impossible to overestimate the influence of the Divina Commedia on European culture. So masterful is Dante's use of language in the poem that to this day some readers recall its imagery first, and the Bible's second.
Plot and Major Characters
The Purgatorio is comprised of thirty-three cantos which follow a rhyme scheme—created by Dante expressly for the Divina Commedia—called terza rima, in which the first and third eleven-syllable lines of verse rhyme, the second line rhymes with the first and third lines, and so on (in the pattern aba, bcb, cdc). Leaving the lowest circle of Hell, Dante travels to the shores of the island of Purgatory in a boat moved by the wings of an angel. Vergil, the great classical poet, accompanies Dante as his guide through Purgatory, although Dante is also at times led by Sordello (a Medieval troubadour), Statius (a Roman epic poet), and Beatrice (Dante's beloved). Dante learns that souls in Purgatory may have their terms of punishment reduced if their families pray for them. Dante is repeatedly told not to tarry, that no good can come of allowing himself to be overly distracted. He also is told that Purgatory is constructed so that at its bottom, travel is much more difficult; as one ascends the mountain, the going becomes progressively easier. In Antepurgatory, Dante meets the negligent, who were contemptuous of the church, and those who waited until the last hour or even the final moment to accept God. Passing through a gate, Dante and Vergil reach Purgatory Proper. They stop at the first ledge or cornice and see the souls of the proud bent close to the ground, carrying heavy stones to help purge them of their arrogance. Next, they meet those who were envious. They are dressed in coarse haircloth and their eyelids are sewn shut with thread spun from iron. On the next ledge are the wrathful, who had been guilty of anger. Next, they see the sins of sloth or indifference purged. Avarice is purged on the next ledge. Statius joins Dante and Vergil, his own soul cleansed of sin, and together on the sixth ledge they see the sin of gluttony purged. Lastly they see fire cleanse those who lusted. Vergil urges Dante to pass through a fire of terrific heat, but which does not burn, and then takes leave of him, for Dante cannot proceed to the Earthly Paradise without the grace of God. Matilda takes Dante to Beatrice, who assumes the role of guide, and tells Dante about the nature of the Earthly Paradise. Dante confesses to her that he had been lured by others after her death, and she prepares him for Paradise.
As Dante ascends Mount Purgatory, he meets in turn souls who have experienced the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust. Vergil explains that the first three sins occur when the natural instinct to love becomes perverted. Sloth represents the pursuit of good but without enough zeal. The last three sins are from loving too much and focusing that love on earthly things. Practicing control and balance is stressed throughout Purgatorio. Another theme that predominates is that one should remain focused on Paradise and not become too attached to earthly pursuits. Again and again Dante is admonished: lose no time, do not become distracted, do not become obsessed, don’t look back. There are also clear political messages in the Purgatorio. As John A. Scott writes, the poem's vital message is “that God has given humanity two luminaries to light up its dual path to salvation, the true way to happiness in this world (the Emperor) and the way to blessedness in the next life (the Pope).” Dante decries what has happened to Italy under the oppressive rule of tyrants.
The most frequent criticism of the Purgatorio is that it suffers by comparison to the Inferno. Unquestionably, its action seems much more subdued after the excitement of witnessing the horrors of Hell; Vergil states that the wailing sounds of Hell are replaced with sighs in Purgatory. Some critics take exception to the common verdict that the Inferno is superior and insist that the Purgatorio must be judged on its own merits. As is the case for the other parts of the Divina Commedia notes and explanations are essential for a fuller understanding of Purgatorio; it is a complex work packed with obscure references. Expending a staggering amount of effort over the course of centuries of study, scholars have explicated the poem admirably. Some modern scholars urge that rather than concerning themselves with allusions, investigations should now focus on Dante's motives and decisions in writing the poem. Another area of concern for scholars is with the matter of finding the most reliable texts. There are well over five hundred manuscripts of the Divina Commedia but none are in Dante's hand or, indeed, taken directly from the original. Corruption in the text occurred from the time of Dante's death, possibly even while the poet was alive. His masterwork continues to engage the lay reader and the expert alike. More than one scholar has remarked that to fully absorb even current Dante studies is an impossible task due to sheer volume.
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) 1865-67
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (translated by Charles Eliot Norton) 1892
The Purgatorio (translated by John Ciardi) 1961
The Divine Comedy (translated by Charles S. Singleton) 1970
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Purgatorio (translated by Allen Mandelbaum) 1981
Dante's Purgatory (translated by Mark Musa) 1981
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (translated by Robert M. Durling) 1996
The Divine Comedy: Hell, Purgatory, Heaven (translated by Peter Dale) 1997
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SOURCE: An introduction to Prisoners of Hope: An Exposition of Dante's Purgatorio, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906, pp. xvii-xxvii.
[In the following essay, Carroll explains why Dante's markedly atypical conception of Purgatory, including locating it on a mountain instead of underground, was essential to the symbolism used in the Purgatorio.]
Protestant readers, unable to accept a threefold division of the world to come, may be excused if they approach the Purgatorio with the feeling that its chief ethical interest and value must be confined to members of Dante's own Church. Fortunately it is not necessary for our present purpose to entangle ourselves in the polemics of the subject, for the simple reason that Dante assures us that the whole poem has a meaning for this world as well as for the next. In his Epistle to Can Grande he writes: ‘The subject, then, of the whole work, taken according to the letter alone, is simply a consideration of the state of souls after death; for from and around this the action of the whole work turneth. But if the work is considered according to its allegorical meaning, the subject is man, liable to the reward or punishment of justice, according as through the freedom of the will he is deserving or undeserving.’1 This allegorical or moral sense manifestly covers both worlds: as indeed is implied in the fact that Dante himself climbed the...
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SOURCE: “Preliminary Chapter” in Readings on the Purgatorio of Dante, Vol. I, Methuen & Co., 1907, pp. xxvii-xxxviii.
[In the following essay, Vernon discusses the three divisions of Purgatory (Ante-Purgatory, Purgatory Proper, and The Terrestrial Paradise), the time occupied in passing through Purgatory, and the date Dante created the work.]
DESCRIPTION OF PURGATORY.
The Mountain of Purgatory, as described by Dante, is an immense truncated cone, rising out of the midst of the sea in the centre of the Southern Hemisphere, which, according to the Ptolemaic system of Cosmography, consisted, with the exception of the mountain in question, of a vast ocean. Purgatory is supposed to be situated at the exact antipodes to Jerusalem, and to have been formed by the fall of Lucifer, which in Readings on the Inferno (2nd ed., vol. ii, pp. 656, 657), is thus described:—
“In the headlong velocity with which Lucifer was hurled down from the highest Heaven (the Empyrean), weighed by the load of his immense sin, he struck the earth with such force, as to pierce through the bowels of it; nor was his downward course arrested, until the occult forces that were erroneously supposed to exist in the centre of the earth bound him there. The earth, recoiling in horror at the sight and at the contact of so abominable a monster, then went...
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SOURCE: “The Metaphor of the Journey” in Dante's Drama of the Mind: A Modern Reading of the “Purgatorio,” Princeton University Press, 1953, pp. 3-13.
[In the following essay, Fergusson makes use of Dante's explanations to his benefactor, Can Grande della Scala, in discussing the importance of differentiating between Dante the author and Dante the Pilgrim.]
For the first line of the first canto of the Divine Comedy Dante wrote:
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
(In the middle of the journey of our life)
There everything starts: in the middle of human life considered as a journey. There Dante was so lost and terrified that the journey to the realms beyond the grave became necessary for his salvation. But there too he found the strength and vision he required.
Dante knew that “the journey of our life” was a metaphor. He knew that the journey beyond the grave was a vastly extended metaphor also, in its literal meaning a fiction. But it was the miraculously right metaphor for his purposes, for what he had to show were the swarming journeys of human life with a clarity, vital intensity, and hidden order which seem to be indeed that of death, the aspect of eternity.
Knowing the fictiveness of his poem, knowing its sources, its manifold techniques, and all the subtle stratagems of its make-believe, he...
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SOURCE: “Purgatorio, Canto V: The Modulations of Solicitude,” Books Abroad 39, May, 1965, pp. 69-73.
[In the following essay, Cambon discusses the function of the humorous elements in Canto V, a canto he describes as “a ceremony enacting the progression of solicitude.”]
It is not true of many another Canto, as it certainly is of Purg. V, that its thematic structure recapitulates the movement of the whole Divine Comedy. It does this by looking back to the earth of the living and eventually re-echoing the infernal world, while at its climax foreshadowing Paradise; indeed a Paradisal anticipation can be overheard in the Canto even before the transfigured voice of Pia de’ Tolomei comes to suggest heavenly peace as an antiphon to the remembered turmoil of murder, battle, and storm. Few Cantos exhibit such variety of tones, and no other so thoroughly rehearses the fundamental gesture of the Comedy from the perspective of Purgatory—a privileged perspective for our poet, who can here enjoy the double advantage of closeness to earth, to human history with its passions, and openness to heaven. We might rephrase this by pointing out how this closeness to the physical world is also a distance. The empire of passion—a slavery in Hell—is now left behind, and viewed at one remove, with the liberty warranted by final hope. Yet this hope is bound up with memory, and love with...
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SOURCE: “A Note on Purgatorio IX, 16-18,” Books Abroad, Vol. 39, 1965, pp. 74-80.
[In the following essay, Hardie discusses the importance of variant wording concerning dreams in Canto IX, thereby illustrating the type of problems which stem from the corruption of Dante's text.]
e che la mente nostra peregrina più da la carne e men dai pensier presa, a le sue vision quasi è divina.
These lines form part of Dante's introduction to the first of the three dreams on the Mount of Purgatory, which take place just before dawn and are therefore true dreams, on the principle borrowed from Horace, Satires 1. X. 32 [and found also in Moschus, Europa 2-5, and Philostratus, Vita Apoll. Tyan. 2,37] and quoted in Inferno XXVI, 7:
ma se presso al mattin del ver si sogna.
The first dream is of an eagle with golden wings which swoops on Dante, as he dreams that he is like Ganymede on Trojan Ida, and carries him up to the sphere of fire where the heat wakes him. [cf. Aristotle, On divination in sleep 463a; 5-16: “When a slight warmth affects some parts of their body, they imagine that they are walking through fire and being violently burnt.”] …
Virgil tells him that St. Lucy, who had intervened for him in Inferno II, came before dawn and lifted him up from...
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SOURCE: “Three Dreams,” Books Abroad, Vol. 39, May, 1965, pp. 81-93.
[In the following essay, Stambler analyzes and interprets the three dream sequences in Purgatorio, discussing their function, roots in myth, sexual allusions, and implications.]
The three dreams of Dante's Pilgrim in Purgatory constitute a mode of exposition or narration different from anything else in the poem. The dreams are markedly set off from the rest of the poem by the kind of experience they express as well as by the breaks in consciousness that introduce them, interrupting the normal flow of the Pilgrim's progress. And yet these dream-episodes, more than any other slices of comparable size, may be used to encompass the entire Commedia—its quality, function, and meaning—just as certain simple forms of life can regenerate themselves in entirety from a section placed in the appropriate broth or, as the biologist calls it, culture medium.
The observations which follow are such an attempt to look into the dreams; my attempt will be greatly forwarded if the reader will revisit the dream-passages in Cantos 9, 19, and 27 of the Purgatorio.
A glance at three dreams suggests first that they may serve as a kind of recapitulation of three canticles of the poem. The first dream centers in a mysterious elevation, which could not have been accomplished without extraordinary aid;...
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SOURCE: “Flesh, Spirit, and Rebirth at the Center of Dante's Comedy,” Symposium, Vol. XIX, No. 4, Winter, 1965, pp. 335-51.
[In the following essay, Bernardo explores the theme of rebirth in Dante's work, positing that it entails purification of both body and soul.]
In defining the basic originality of Dante's Comedy, Auerbach states: “What radically distinguishes the Comedy from all other visions of the other world is that in it the unity of man's earthly personality is preserved and fixed. … The earthly world is encompassed in the other world of the Comedy; true, its historical order and form are destroyed, but in favor of a more complete and final form in which the destroyed form is included. … It was necessary to destroy the form of the earthly world, for its potentiality, its striving for self-realization, and consequently its variability attain full term and cease in the after-life; the new form possesses everything that the former one possessed, and something more in addition, namely full actuality, immutable being.”1 In this statement Auerbach is referring to Dante's portrayal of “the human beings who appear in the Comedy.” The idea expressed is a fine example of Auerbach's critical acumen at its best, for in a few strokes he clearly explains the paradoxical nature of the subject matter of the Comedy...
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SOURCE: “The Analogy of a Poem: Dante's Dream,” Sewanee Review, Vol. 74, No. 2, April-June, 1966, pp. 438-49.
[In the following essay, Baker explores how Dante sought to represent pure beauty through images that function allegorically.]
We should perhaps begin our reading of the Divine Comedy by keeping in mind Aristotle's dictum that poetry is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history because it tends to express the universal rather than the particular. By the universal, the philosopher meant “how a person of a certain type will on occasion speak or act according to the law of probability or necessity and it is this universality at which poetry aims in the names she attaches to personages”. One need not read many pages of the writings of a medieval historian like Gregory of Tours or Geoffrey of Monmouth to recognize that history then was the study of character as it was revealed on given occasions and not the literal record of particular occurrences. The important thing to the medieval way of thinking was that each character participated in the act of Redemption. Like the personages of Biblical history, every man was in some measure a figure or type of the archetypical figure of Christ. Dante understood history in this higher or allegorical sense when he wrote the Divine Comedy.
The great medieval poem was made of secular, sacred, and even mystical...
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SOURCE: “The Art of Dante's Purgatorio,” American Critical Essays on The Divine Comedy, edited by Robert J. Clements, New York University Press, 1967, pp. 64-88.
[In the following essay, originally published in 1952, Hatzfeld contends that Dante's esthetic choices are easier to understand when his style is viewed as one of magic realism.]
Il mito non è favola, ma … “storia vera.” raffaele pettazzoni Not merely a story told, but a reality lived. b. malinowski
The considerable amount of critical literature on Dante's Divine Comedy contains very few items which concern esthetical, structural, and stylistic problems. The Purgatorio is the most neglected and allegedly the most debatable part of the three Canticles of the Commedia. Consequently, what we need most of all in Dante criticism is an artistic, accurate analysis and appreciation of the Purgatorio. Certain random remarks on Dante's poetics in recent commented editions, particularly that of Momigliano or in refined critics like Olivero, T. S. Eliot, and Singleton, together with new insights into the problems of poetic myth, symbolism, archetypes, psychology of religion and of the human depths, mysticism, and liturgy, now enable us to make at least a sketch of the art of Dante's Purgatory with some hope of...
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SOURCE: “Dante's Notion of a Shade: Purgatorio XXV,” Mediaeval Studies, Vol. 29, 1967, pp. 124-42.
[In the following essay, Gilson explores the nature and origin of the shades—the characters in Hell, Purgatory, and the lower circles of Paradise—and the motivation behind Dante's efforts to scientifically justify them.]
The art of Dante is so imperious and compelling that, as with Michael Angelo's and Beethoven's, when its spell has taken hold of us, the artist can make us believe what he pleases. I know from personal experience that one can read the Divine Comedy for many years without wondering about the nature and origin of the beings called by Dante ombre and by us shades. Yet the Sacred Poem is full of such beings. Shades make up the bulk of the population in hell and purgatory and we take them for granted; but as soon as we begin to ask questions about their nature, difficulties make themselves felt.
A poet highly conscious of his own art, Dante wondered about the nature of these poetic beings; and speaking as a poet with intense speculative interests, he asked himself how such beings could be conceived.
The question offered itself to his mind (at least, according to his own poetic convention, and perhaps too in historical reality) in the Purgatorio III, 16-45. Dante and Virgil are walking with the setting sun behind them....
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SOURCE: “The Last Wound: Purgatorio, XXVI,” Italian Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 45, Summer, 1968, pp. 27-43.
[In the following essay, Koffler contends that critics who decry a lack of drama in the Purgatorio are mistaken. Koffler states that the action is simply of a different type than that found in the Inferno, and that Dante thereby demonstrates in his own poem the art of renunciation.]
Dante's last meeting with fellow poets in the twenty-sixth canto of the Purgatorio—that canticle which seems almost to suggest, at times, that poets belong in Purgatory as sinners belong in Hell and saints in Heaven—has long struck critics as a drama manqué. There is something anticlimactic about the very narrative structure of this canto, something which (to quote one such critic, Irma Brandeis) “shift[s] the narrative stress away from its emotional centre, and thus from its small dramatic potentiality.”1 I want first of all, then, to marshal the evidence to support this view: for I shall presently be contending that this canto is indeed highly dramatic—but dramatic in a mode particularly difficult for the post-romantic age, out of which we have scarcely emerged, to envision.
The first event in the canto, the encounter with Guido Guinizelli, is interrupted before the latter has had a chance to identify himself, by a procession of sodomites (an...
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SOURCE: “Pilgrim Text Models for Dante's Purgatorio,” Studies in Philology, Vol. LXVI, No. 1, January, 1969, pp. 1-24.
[In the following essay, Demaray demonstrates how, in the Purgatorio, Dante drew from tales of actual Holy Land pilgrimages.]
The theological virtue of hope, so Beatrice declares before St. James, enabled Dante Alighieri to make the journey from Egypt to Jerusalem to see the Church Militant (Par. XXV, 52-7).1
A long and perhaps wearisome familiarity with Dante's epistle to Can Grande della Scala has taught us the kind of multifold interpretation that the author of the Commedia intended be applied to such a spiritual pilgrimage. Yet for a full appreciation of the Commedia, the poet's words to Can Grande must be taken most seriously. The Exodus from Egypt to the Holy Land, as Dante explained by reference to Psalm 114 (Ps.113 in the Vulgate),2 need not be understood simply as a literal journey. In an allegorical sense, the Exodus signifies the redemption of man by Christ; in a moral sense, the conversion of the soul from sin to the state of grace; and in an anagogical sense, the departure of the soul from the imprisonment of mortal corruption to the liberty of eternal glory.3
Dante's spiritual pilgrimage from the sinful Egypt of this world to the holy Jerusalem of the earthly...
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SOURCE: “Dante's Purgatorio as Elegy” in The Rarer Action: Essays in Honor of Francis Fergusson, edited by Alan Cheuse and Richard Koffler, Rutgers University Press, 1970, pp. 161-78.
[In the following essay, Blodgett contends that two types of elegy are present in the Purgatorio, a work that mourns the loss of Vergil and the inadequacies he represents.]
Forse in Parnaso …
Purgatory is where no one stays forever. Its fire, unlike the fire of Hell, is temporary. It is a fire that makes its joyful victims acutely aware of transience and suspension between different temporal conditions. This is one of the reasons why the figure of a mountain rising both from Hell and from an indeterminate sea and reaching toward the transparencies of Heaven is so eminently suitable to the various movements of Purgatory. The mountain itself is a figure for time and, once the climb is undertaken, it seems to lead almost unerringly to two great temporal climaxes. The first in the farewell to Vergil and the second is the final act of spiritual renewal, anticipated by Statius, in which the poet is changed
come piante novelle rinovellate di novella fronda.
Vergil returns to the ancient shades and Dante rises to the shores of light. This is the frame within which we sense that Purgatory is a kind of vast drawing...
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SOURCE: “Dante's Purgatorio XXXII and XXXIII: A Survey of Christian History,” University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol. XLIII, No. 3, Spring, 1974, pp. 193-214.
[In the following essay, Kaske interprets the images found in Cantos XXXII and XXXIII as the “figurative celebration of the beginning of Christianity.”]
I suppose it is no great news that during the past few decades, scholarship and criticism in the immense field of medieval literature have been moving with unusual speed. Within this general awakening, it is worth asking what has been the effect, if any, on interpretation of Dante's Commedia. Surely no one can accuse past Dante scholars of a failure to explore unfrequented corners of medieval knowledge; and even allowing for the preoccupation of earlier generations with Dante's political message, it is obvious that the recent revival of interest in the theological allegory of the Middle Ages cannot have come to Dantists as the complete surprise that it often did to others. If there is truth in these rather easy generalizations, it may well be asked whether contemporary scholarship can find anything new and important to add to our understanding of the Commedia; and if so, how we are to go about finding it.
I would suggest that the most important innovation of contemporary Dante scholars is a new degree of rigour in their concentration on the text to be...
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SOURCE: “The Visual Arts: A Basis for Dante's Imagery in Purgatory and Paradise,” Michigan Academician, Vol. X, No. 2, Fall, 1977, pp. 127-41.
[In the following essay, Fengler and Stephany demonstrate Dante's knowledge of art as evidenced in Canto X of Purgatorio, and furnish examples of the type of art that he may have observed and been inspired by.]
The observation that the visual arts inspired certain sections of Dante's Divine Comedy has frequently been made. Therefore an understanding of the type of art which Dante would have seen aids the reader in understanding Dante's imagery. When the poet borrows ideas from the visual arts, he utilizes them not as mere decorative additions to the Comedy; rather, the actual style of art invoked contributes to the meaning of Dante's passages. We will examine the reliefs in canto X of Purgatory and the mosaic images recurrent in Paradise as examples of Dante's familarity with both the visual appearance and the underlying stylistic implications of art.
Furthermore, we suggest that much of the basic structure of Purgatory and Paradise is conceived in pictorial terms. In the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, poets in central Italy, writing in what Dante called the dolce stil nuovo (“sweet new style”), were experimenting with a vernacular poetry of increased...
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SOURCE: “Beatrice as a Figure for Mary,” Traditio, Vol. XXXIII, 1977, pp. 402-14.
[In the following essay, Wimsatt furnishes evidence found in Purgatorio that demonstrates that Dante depicted Beatrice as an analogue for, or surrogate of, the Virgin Mary.]
The identification of ‘Christ figures’ in medieval literature has no doubt been overdone. Yet it can hardly be denied that we do find there characters who present meaningful analogues to Christ, for along with a good number of probable analogues, the parallels in some cases are explicit; for example, Galahad in the Queste del Saint Graal and Thomas Malory's Grail story.1 So too in Dante's Vita Nuova the parallel of Beatrice with Christ is not left to surmise. In Chapter 24 Joan, Guido Cavalcanti's donna, is presented as preceding Beatrice; to Dante she is like her namesake John, the one who comes before the True Light. Beatrice who follows, then, is like Christ to him. And in the preceding chapter (23) Dante reports a vision in which he is told of the death of Beatrice; thereupon he sees a cloud ascending to heaven, accompanied by a host of angels singing ‘Hosanna in excelsis,’ conventionally addressed to Christ. Again the analogue seems unavoidable.
Not only are there Christ figures in medieval literature, there are clear analogues to Mary too. Beatrice again—this time in...
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SOURCE: “Shadows on the Mount of Purgatory,” Dante Studies, Vol. XCVII, 1979: pp. 47-63.
[In the following essay, Berk explains the significance of the Pilgrim's shadow, and examines Dante's poetic techniques in utilizing the shadow motif.]
The question of precedence is a difficult matter to establish or settle, but it may be that Dante, in the repeated dramatic use of the pilgrim's cast shadow in the Purgatorio, was the first artist of magnitude in painting as well as in literature to represent the phenomenon of cast shadows since antiquity. Art historians appear to be in disagreement about dating the first cast shadows in the pictorial arts. Erwin Panofsky holds that it was the Brothers Limbourg in the first years of the fifteenth century who rediscovered cast shadows, while Frederick Hartt observes: “With very few exceptions, cast shadows do not appear in painting until the Quattrocento, yet we can hardly imagine that Trecento painters were unaware of shadows.”1 Millard Meiss is more candid and specific about the dilemma:
Our knowledge of even so basic a development as that of cast shadows in incomplete. They were present as residual forms, inherited from antiquity, in Byzantine painting, appearing frequently on buildings. A striking example … is a fragment of a mosaic in the Torre Pisana of the Palazzo ex-Reale in Palermo. Around 1300...
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SOURCE: “The Poem's Center (Purgatorio XII-XVIII)” in Dante's Political Purgatory, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996, pp. 144-57.
[In the following essay, Scott emphasizes the elements of Cantos XII to XVII that show Dante's political hopes and beliefs, particularly the idea that both political and spiritual spheres can harmoniously coexist on earth.]
Pride is at the root of all sin (Eccles. 10. 15), and the Pilgrim will soon declare how heavily this sin weighs down his soul (Purg. XIII. 136-38). Once more, the number three is in evidence, when Dante encounters Omberto Aldobrandeschi, Oderisi da Gubbio, and Provenzano Salvani in Canto XI. The first is an exemplum of overweening pride, typical of the feudal aristocracy. Omberto belonged to the powerful Aldobrandeschi clan, Counts of Santafiora and lords of the Sienese Maremma (cf. Purg. VI. 111). His hubris led to his death, when he took on an invincible number of adversaries:
“L’antico sangue e l’opere leggiadre d’i miei maggior mi fer sí arrogante, che, non pensando a la comune madre, ogn’ uomo ebbi in despetto tanto avante, ch’io ne mori’, come i Sanesi sanno, e sallo in Campagnatico ogne fante.”(1)
In fact, the same terrible sin stains the whole family and has led it to disaster (ll. 68-69)—a corollary added by the poet of the Comedy to...
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Brownlee, Kevin. “Dante and Narcissus (Purg. XXX, 76-99).” Dante Studies XCVI (1978): 201-06.
Interprets Canto XXX as a reversal of the story of Narcissus, with the Pilgrim turning away from his own reflection with shame.
Cambon, Glauco. “The Purgatorial Smile: A Footnote on Dante's Humor.” Yearbook of Italian Studies 4 (1980): 105–15.
Asserts that Dante uses humor in the Purgatorio not just for comic relief, but also to show humor as a part of the “process of self-liberation.”
Doré, Gustave. The Doré Illustrations for Dante's “Divine Comedy.” New York: Dover Publications, 1976, 135p.
One hundred and thirty six plates of engravings by the famous nineteenth-century century illustrator.
Foster, Kenelm. “The Human Spirit in Action: Purgatorio XVII.” Dante Studies LXXXVIII (1970): 17-29.
Examines Canto XVII and finds it a transitional canto, lacking normal drama, but beautiful in its variety and what it shows of human imagination, perception, and reasoning.
Grandgent, C. H. Companion to “The Divine Comedy.” Edited by Charles S. Singleton. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975, 316p.
Commentary, introductions to each canto, charts, and diagrams, to aid readers of The Divine...
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