Dante Alighieri (poem date c. 1307-20)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Cantos VI-IX," in Purgatorio, translated by Allen Mandelbaum, University of California Press, 1982, pp. 48-80.

[Dante is perhaps the most famous poet of the Middle Ages. An accomplished prose and verse stylist in both Latin and Italian, he was the first major author to compose literature in the Italian vernacular. His most famous work is the Commedia (c. 1320), later known as the Divina Commedia, which consists of three sections: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paridiso, and details Dante's journey through the locales of medieval theology. In the following excerpt from the Purgatorio (c. 1307-20), Dante and Vergil experience a joyous encounter in the...

(The entire section is 4246 words.)

Caroline H. Dall (essay date 1872)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Sordello, the Troubadour," in Sordello: A History and a Poem, Robert Brothers, 1886, pp. 5-11.

[The following is an excerpt from an article by Dall first published in a periodical in 1872. She summarizes the disparate chronicles of Sordello's life and speculates that perhaps two interpretations of the troubadour's character existed: one as a singer only and the other as a warrior and thinker. Dall also assesses the poet's writings, finding that "the best of Sordello's verses show a dignity of composition and purity of taste which put him in the very front rank of the Provençals. "]

"Who wills has heard Sordello's story told," yet not without some hard work;...

(The entire section is 2344 words.)

Ida Farnell (essay date 1896)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Sordello," in The Lives of the Troubadours, David Nutt, 1896, pp. 225-31.

[In the following excerpt, Farnell attests to the significance of Sordello, citing the high esteem in which Dante held the poet as well as the energy and vitality of the poet's major works. Of these, the critic contends that "Lament for Lord Blacatz" demonstrates "originality and force."]

The name of Sordel, or Sordello, is a household word among us, and the noble lines in Dante's Purgatorio, with the profound and complex character in Browning's poem, cannot but inspire one with a wish to know something of the Sordello of actual life. Yet, on turning to the scanty records, and to...

(The entire section is 878 words.)

H. J. Chaytor (essay date 1902)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Notes: Sordello," in The Troubadours of Dante, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1902, pp. 173-76.

[In the following excerpt, Chaytor outlines Sordello's biographical history and explores Dante's significant inclusion of the poet in the Purgatorio and De Vulgari Eloquentia, finding that "there is no necessity whateverto imagine that two separate Sordellos are mentioned."]

There is much uncertainty concerning the facts of Sordello's life: he was born at Goito, near Mantua, and was of noble family. His name is not to be derived from sordidus, but from Surdus, a not uncommon patronymic in North Italy during the thirteenth...

(The entire section is 1439 words.)

Eugene Benson (essay date 1903)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Part V," in Sordello and Cunizza, J. M. Dent & Co., 1903, pp. 59-87.

[In the following excerpt from his full-length study of the troubadour, Benson addresses the theory of two Sordellos: one a noble public figure and the other a reckless adventurer and lover. He suggests that Sordello's varied life might be understood as representative of one who abandons the passions of youth for the dignity of adulthood.]

There are two brief and ancient Provençal documents concerning Sordello—the lives of the Provençal poets, transcribed in red, preceding the specimens of their poetry. One describes him as a Mantuan of the Castle of Goito, a courteous Captain, most...

(The entire section is 6487 words.)

M. A. Dunne (essay date 1910)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "One of Dante's Troubadours," in The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. XXXV, No. 140, October, 1910, pp. 606-24.

[In the following essay, Dunne contrasts three views of the character of Sordello—as revealed by a Provençal chronicler, by Dante in his Purgatorio, and by Browning in his poem Sordello—proposing that "the real Sordello lives in no one of the three."]


Sordel—a soft, uncertain, two syllabled cadence—we find the name on the illuminated pages of the Provença chroniclers; Sordello, stronger for the added vowel, we spell it out through the soft starlight of Dante's...

(The entire section is 8748 words.)

Ezra Pound (essay date 1913)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Troubadours: Their Sorts and Conditions," in Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, edited by T. S. Eliot, New Directions, 1954, pp. 94-108.

[Regarded as one of the twentieth-century's most influential American poets and critics, Pound is chiefly renowned for his ambitious poetry cycle, the Cantos, which he revised and enlarged throughout much of his life. These poems are significant for their lyrical intensity, metrical experimentation, literary allusions, varied subject matter and verse forms, and incorporation of phrases from foreign languages. An avid student of politics and history, Pound was particularly interested in the poetry of Provence, translating Old Provençal...

(The entire section is 5866 words.)

C. M. Bowra (essay date 1953)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Dante and Sordello," in Comparative Literature, Vol. V, No. 1, Winter, 1953, pp. 1-15.

[Bowra, an English critic and literary historian, was considered among the foremost classical scholars of the first half of the twentieth century. He also wrote extensively on modern literature, particularly modern European poetry, in studies noted for their erudition, lucidity, and straightforward style. In the following essay, he argues against the theory that Dante, by placing Sordello in Purgatory, characterized the troubadour as among the negligent rulers. Proposing that Sordello's placement in the poem resulted from his violent death and inability to repent, Bowra maintains that Dante had...

(The entire section is 6817 words.)

Peter Makin (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Sordello," in Provence and Pound, University of California Press, 1978, pp. 186-214.

[Makin is an educator and Pound scholar. In the following excerpt, he discusses the content, style, and language of Sordello's poetry, and examines the influence of his life and works on Pound's early verse and his Cantos.]

Pound's respect for both Browning and Dante gave him good reasons to be interested in Sordello. But in the early years of studying the troubadours he brushed over him; he tended to think of writing as either noble-and-difficult or easy-and-slick, and Sordello was easy.

But when Pound came back to the troubadours he followed Dante's lead...

(The entire section is 6510 words.)

Teodolinda Barolini (essay date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Bertran de Born and Sordello: The Poetry of Politics in Dante's Comedy," in PMLA, Vol. 94, No. 3, May, 1979, pp. 395-405.

[In the following essay, Barolini attempts to illuminate Sordello's stature in Dante's Purgatorio by comparing his position with that of another figure in the work, Provençal troubadour Bertran de Born.]

The stature Dante grants Sordello in the Comedy has long puzzled critics, since it seems greater than warranted by the achievements of this Provençal poet. Not only does the meeting with Sordello, in the sixth canto of the Purgatorio, serve as the catalyst for the stirring invective against Italy that concludes...

(The entire section is 6960 words.)

James J. Wilhelm (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Poetry of Sordello, edited and translated by James J. Wilhelm, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1987, pp. xi-xxxi.

[Wilhelm is an American medievalist and Pound scholar. In the following excerpt from his introduction to The Poetry of Sordello, he speculates that Dante was inspired by the vitality and variety he found in Sordello's works, as evidenced in the invective satire of the troubadour's sirventes, the political diatribe of his "Lament for Lord Blacatz," and the skepticism of his debate poems. Wilhelm also addresses the pronounced influence of Sordello on later poets, including Browning and Pound.]


(The entire section is 3004 words.)