Divine Comedy Paradiso
Renaissance: A Time Of Renewing
The Renaissance was a period of time where great innovations on art, architecture, math, and science were brought to Europe. It was a period of unparalleled growth. The Renaissance was a time of the rebirth for Europe.
This was one of the largest periods of growth in history. It was not only in the terms of educations but also in architecture and the life style. (Pointer) People then lived longer and had better diets, they would have no plagues, which would lead them to have a positive outlook on everything. As there are major contents of the Renaissance one of the major people like Leonardo Da Vinci. Leonardo Da Vinci is a guy that knows a way to view the human body in a 360 form. He comes up with ideas for the machine guns, submarines, helicopters, and also painted a painting famous for all of time, the Mona Lisa.
Also, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, which is one of the great works of the Renaissance that we still have in today’s society. It led many people in society to a greater understanding of the world around them than any of the other times in western history. People no longer must worry about everything around them. The people of this erar’s lives were better because this is the greatness of no plague, no famine, no anything. They tend to have a more positive outlook. Also, they did not fear their faith as much as the people before them would have. They cannot see what they are doing with the faith. They are starting to realize that they do not have to stay in one place. They do not have to live and died at the same place, they can move around. This is one of the longest periods without plague or famine it is a period of great positivity and period of people that not only eat better but live longer. Since they live longer, they can do a lot of neat things then before they could not. Plagten had thrown that off. Even though everything was right when they moved around it could create other issues. (Peters) There were many amazing members of this society that gave great contributions to the Renaissance era.
People like Charlemange, Thomas More, Dante Algerie, Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Aquinas, and Augustine. Charlemange is the greatest ruler in western history. His name literally translated means charles the great karla magne. He is the ruler of the carligen empire and the first emperor of the holy roman empire in 400 years. The guy that could speak four languages but could not read for his life. Yet he was responsible for creating other things on the renaissance. He is the guy to fine of education. Counts were created by Charlemagne, to control the lands that he conquered. They called the lands that he conquered counties because they were ruled over by counts. Which had brought a new word into western history. Thomas More named the defender of the faith under henry the eighth. He will write another seminal work of western civilization utopian. He will then eventually be put to death well executed over his disagreement with henry and his divorce from captain of aragon he does not agree with henry’s reason for the divorce.
But being the captain of aragon and being the defender of the faith, he has to be the guy that stands of for what he believes in and gets him executed. Dante Algerie is most famous for writing the inferno. The inferno was about his journey, hell, purgatory into heaven. He wrote the inferno was a great middle ages work and his journey. Was one of the great seminars of western civilizations. Niccolo Machiavelli, Machiavelli is a guy influenced by a guy Cesare Borgia. He writes another seminal work of western literature called the prince. Which he organizes the way that princes should behave to those that are there subjects. He says that it’s better to be feared than loved because the fear lasted longer and there is still fear in the subjects and they will bend to your will easier than if you love them. Thomas Aquinas is the most important scholastic thinker of his time. He is the guy who becomes along in the wake of the discovery the new books from aristotle. He disagreed with most of the christian thinkers of his time, that he could discover the truth about how you could discover the truth of ideas. Also said that you could use scientific study and observations to discover the truth of the ideas. It was not just based on faith alone it was also on observation as well. He was the first person to push idea.
Also wrote a book called the summation of teaology which he puts for that view of summa theologiae. So many people have brought great change and innovation to this era. Saint Augustine was an early Christian humness. He is most famous for coming up with the idea of original sin. A lot of churches hang on to that original sin business. Also famous for a book called the city of god, which was Charlemagne favorite book. The City of God, the book written by Augustine says that there are two cities in the world, the city of god and the city of man. (Ariew) The city of god is perfect, seemless, blameless, gloress, and heaven. The city of man is less, sinful, derogatory, degrading, it is just terrible, and awful people do terrible things each other. It is a bad place to be but eventually from the march of time he says is linear. The city of man and the city of god eventually in this linear march the city of god will overtake the city of man. Because of man being sinful and religional sin. Eventually the city of god will take over the city of man and redeem the city of man and bring those low people into the city of god.
New religion was even introduced during this time. Islam is one of the three last great created acts of the Roman empire. Which was Christianity, Barboram kingdoms, and Islam were a part of the Roman Empire. The first one and the last one was Christianity and Islam will come to occupy the world potential for the next several thousand years ago. It will become outside of Christianity the fastest growing religion of the time. It took the roman empire to create both of them. The nice patormoite of roman peace lasted over two hundred years. They will come to clash over issues of ideology that will lead to the crusades and other things like that. (Bowd) The Koran is the holy book of Islam. It is very similar to the bible, in fact there are a lot of stories that are the same. Except for, the man difference is that Koran is also full of the visions of Mohammed that is what separates everything but that is the holy book of Islam. That is one setting that tells a good Muslim what they should do and how they should act.
Overall the Renaissance was a time of renewing and learning and growing for the European society. Many people took advantage of this time and embraced the atmosphere while increasing their knowledge of the world. Many people also worked together and grew as a whole. This era was a very significant part of the history of western civilization.
The Church Militant: Depictions in Dante
In no other part of The Divine Comedy does Dante present his vision of the Church Militant, or the body of living believers who must struggle against sin and reach for virtue, than in Purgatorio. Striking parallels exist between the experiences of the shades in Purgatory and the experiences of humans on earth. On earth and in Purgatory, Christians walk out the journey of sanctification in an attempt to draw closer to God and gain entrance into Paradise. Though the moral state of the shades’ souls vary, much like in the Church on earth there are varying degrees of moral discipline, they are all unified by their salvation through Christ. Each shade in Purgatory walks the same path toward Paradise, and on the journey, the shades play a significant role in Dante’s own purgation. The shades pray for the Church Militant on earth, worship in unison, and even guide Dante and Virgil through Purgatory. In contrast with the images of the failed Church in Inferno and the admonitions of Church leadership by the saints in Paradiso, the depiction of Purgatory demonstrates the roles of the Church Militant in an individual’s sanctification. Dante the poet crafts Purgatorio to show the Church Militant on earth when its roles are completely fulfilled.
The similarities between Dante’s entrance into Purgatory and a new believer’s entrance into the Church Militant on earth introduce the comparison of the Church Militant and Purgatory. Dante finds himself in Purgatory on Easter morning, at the time of Christ’s resurrection (19). Dante’s time course recalls Paul’s declaration in Romans 6:4: “we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”. Dante was buried in Inferno and saw the wrath of God, and now he is being raised from the dead as he experiences Purgatory. This also parallels an individual’s entrance into the Church Militant. Upon their acceptance of Christ, the new Christians are raised from the depth of their sin and begin their walk through sanctification.
Although salvation and sanctification concern a personal relationship with God, both the Bible and Dante stress the importance of relationship with other believers. In fact, Dante’s vision for the purpose of the Church Militant is the building of relationship, both with God and with other Christians. He uses the early Church in Acts as a starting point for his description of the roles of the Church Militant. Acts 2:42 describes the Church continuing “steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers”. Based on the biblical precedent, Dante argues that the principle roles of the Church Militant include three things: the instruction of theological truths, the mentorship of the Christian community, and the glorification of God through unified worship and prayer. These aspects of the Church serve to increase the faith of the individual while allowing the Church to be a testimony to unbelievers. In this way, Dante’s picture of the Church Militant on earth clarifies the role of the Church at a time when that role was tainted by the poor leadership of corrupt popes.
Theological truths are prevalent in The Divine Comedy, and while the punishment for sin is revealed in Inferno, in Purgatorio, ideas of God’s nature are explicated by the shades that walk with Dante through his sanctification. For example, Dante learns of the generation of the soul from Statius. Statius encourages Dante’s questioning, saying: “let it be my excuse that I cannot refuse thee” (327). Statius cannot help but provide Dante with the adequate theological truths to aid him in his journey through Purgatory. This duty is not begrudgingly performed, but instead springs out of a desire to glorify God and develop Dante’s faith. Later, in the Terrace of the Avaricious, Forese Donati describes the relationship between the condition of the soul and the body, elucidating how human nature is perfected although there is no physical body in Purgatory (301). Both of these examples show the Church Militant deepening Dante’s love of God through understanding.
In the same manner, when he meets Marco Lombardo in the Terrace of the Wrathful, Dante asks him to explain why the world is “barren of every virtue” and is “overspread with wickedness” (211). Lombardo agrees to be a “faithful scout” and answer Dante (213). In his response, Lombardo points out that although most of the “living refer every cause up to the heavens alone”, the true cause of evil in the world is one’s own free will (213). He does, in addition, place blame on the shepherds who “snatch only at that good for which they themselves are greedy”, referring Pope Nicholas, who is in the realm of the Avaricious in Hell, and other popes like him (213). Unlike Pope Nicholas, who shirked his responsibility as a shepherd to the Church, Lombardo recognizes his responsibility as a member of the Church Militant to teach about God and is faithful to his duty (Inferno, 243). Beatrice echoes Lombardo’s sentiments when she criticizes the preaching done in the Church, describing sheep “fed on wind” instead of theological truths (Paradiso, 421). She continues on, stating: “Christ did not say… ‘Go and preach idle tales to the world’, but gave them a true foundation” (423). In this discourse, Dante the poet depicts a Christian who acts in a way consistent with the role of the Church Militant by answering the pilgrim’s theological question while pointing out the Church’s failure to fulfil this role on earth.
Not only do the shades contribute to Dante’s improved comprehension of God through theology, but Virgil, an outsider of the Church Militant, also teaches Dante. He elucidates many theological mysteries in Purgatory, while in Hell, these expositions are noticeably absent. It seems that the environment of Purgatory, with the availability of God’s presence and the transforming power of his grace, enables the pagan Virgil to educate Dante in spiritual community, love, and the motivation for sin (201, 225, 233). Dante the poet uses Virgil’s theological knowledge, which cannot be founded on reason alone, to show how the institution of the Church Militant, not solely the individuals in the Church, fosters the learning of truths about God and the nature of man.
The second of the prominent roles of the Church Militant on earth is the direction of individuals in their walk through the Christian life. During his experience in Purgatory, Dante meets numerous shades who help him navigate the mountain. In the same way, the Church Militant guides Christians through their sanctification. Even on the shores of Purgatory, Sordello, a shade, introduces the idea of the Church’s guidance through his explication of day and night. He tells Dante and Virgil that the shades do not travel at night and will only guide them during the light of day (97). In The Divine Comedy, daylight represents God’s presence, and the shades’ unwillingness to travel without the light of God signifies their submission to God’s will. In a similar way, Dante suggests that upon one’s entrance into the Church Militant, the Church should assert its reliance on God for sanctification.
The shades, the angels, and even Virgil continually prompt Dante to move on or go faster in Purgatory. This is in direct contrast to Dante’s journey through Hell, where Virgil constantly reminds Dante to “wait” and “show courtesy” to the souls instead of rush through the realms (Inferno, 205). When Dante attempts to delay his progression up the mountain so that he can speak more with Pope Adrian V, Adrian says: “Go thy way now. I would not have thee stop longer” (Purgatorio, 251). Pope Adrian V goes on to suggest that Dante’s delay hinders both Adrian’s and Dante’s sanctification (251). The shades treat Dante’s sanctification with a sense of urgency; they understand that the time for righteous decision-making can end at any moment. From these conversations, Dante the poet conveys the Church’s duty to challenge its members with the continual and aggressive pursuit of Christ.
More than simply showing Dante a way up the mountain, the shades direct him toward a path faster than the route they have to go themselves. On the Terrace of Pride, Omberto Aldobrandeschi tells Dante to follow a path to “an opening for a living man to climb” rather than walk up with him (145). Aldobrandeschi’s only concern in this situation is that Dante complete his sanctification; Aldobrandeschi does not compare Dante’s plight with his. With this mindset, the shades take a more active role in guiding Dante than the souls in Hell. The shades approach Dante and engage him, while in Inferno, it seems as if the souls are interrupted when Dante begins to talk to them (Purgatorio, 47). The sense of urgency that drives Dante’s sanctification is the same sense of urgency that compels the shades to help Dante. All in Purgatory are hungering after God’s will and guide each other to that end. For the Church Militant, the success of an individual means success for the body of Christ as a whole, and so the Church should be expected to actively invest in the sanctification of others.
The investment in the members of the Church Militant also comes in the form of a more mutualistic relationship. The shades in Purgatory treat Dante as a welcome member of the community of Purgatory, which is not always the case in the Church Militant on earth. Peter, in Paradiso, laments the division in the Church Militant, saying: “It was not our meaning that on the right… should sit one part of Christ’s people and the other on the left; nor that the keys which were committed to me should become the device on a standard for warfare on the baptized” (389). Because of the corruption of Church leadership, Christians have turned against one another, diverging from the example set by the early Church led by the apostles. Dante implies, in Peter’s discussion of the Church, that this division has contributed to the ineffectiveness of the earthly Church. Through this, Dante asserts that the Church Militant on earth has an obligation to unify believers.
One of the most moving moments in Purgatorio is when the shades pray for the Church on earth in unison. The shades pray for all of the Christians in Purgatory, and the last portion of their prayer is devoted to the Church Militant on earth (143). Dante the poet deliberately adds the earthly Church to the prayer to convey the sense of unity and completeness within the Church Militant and to provide an example of this role of the Church being fulfilled. Dante implores the Church Militant on earth to pray for the shades in Purgatory, implying that unity in prayer specifically is a duty of the Church (145).
Not only do the shades pray in one accord, they worship as a group as well. In each of the terraces, Dante hears the shades worshipping God through song, and he is made aware of the rareness of this, noting: “ah, how different these passages from those of Hell” (161). In Hell, the souls’ wailings are cacophonous; Dante hears many voices coming from all around him (Inferno, 167). In Purgatory, however, the songs of the shades seem to come from one center behind him, as Dante transitions from one terrace to the next (Purgatorio, 199). The shades left behind in the former terrace are worshipping God for Dante’s progress. In the same way, the shades sing “Gloria in excelsis Deo” when Statius completes his purgation (263). Even though one of their own is ascending more quickly than them, the shades are rejoicing free from jealousy because they truly see themselves as a united entity. As Paul called Christians to “with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and to “receive one another to the glory of God” in Romans 15, Dante also asserts that unity in worship—in addition to the worship itself—honors God. Through these touching images of selflessness in the body of Christ in Purgatory, Dante reveals the duty of the Church Militant on earth to bring believers together for a common goal: the glorification of God.
The Church Militant as it is presented in Purgatorio represents a united body of believers that are centered on empowering its members in their walk with God. These ideal characteristics of the Church Militant are exemplified in the way that the shades in Purgatory act toward Dante. These shades, because they have the revelation that accompanies the transition from earthly to eternal life, are comparable to the Church leadership on earth, and provide a thorough example of how the leaders of the Church Militant should empower the Church to fulfil its duties. When put in the context of Inferno and Paradiso, which show readers an examples of the failed Church, Purgatorio offers insights into what must be done to rectify these problems. Above all, Dante’s The Divine Comedy is a call for the Bride of Christ to return to her spouse: Dante, through his journey, gains the understanding that is intended to provide “vital nourishment” to the Church Militant (Paradiso, 249). Because of Dante’s vision written in these three parts, the Church Militant can begin to turn its ways back toward Christ.
Dante: Love and Goodness as Guidance to Self-improvement
“Love is the seed in you of every virtue and of all acts deserving punishment.” ——Purg. XVII, 104-5 Dante calls his great work a comedy, not for its humor but because it meets the traditional definition of a comedy: a story with a rising plot from sad to happy. In this sense, Dante’s beginning in Hell and ending in Heaven can be read as a comedy in the literary sense. Because comedy has long been regarded as a style lower than tragedy, Dante’s decision to call his work a comedy may have been one of modesty – he didn’t want to suggest he was in the company of Virgil, Ovid, and other great tragedians. After all, pride is the first sin in the purgatory Dante describes. This work embodies the concept of comedy on a deeper level, though, as it depicts self-improvement and ascension to God’s ideal realm under the guidance of love and goodness. In the beginning of Inferno, Dante has already suggested the purpose of the journey: “When I had journeyed half of our life’s way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray.” His reference to “our life” shows everyone undertakes such a journey in order to understand one’s sins and improve oneself. Starting from “a shadowed forest,” or a lack of faith in God, Dante will face not just the three beasts, but rather a spiritual challenge of self-purgation which permeates the whole work. After Dante goes through all nine circles of Inferno and reaches the island Mountain of Purgatory, he is asked by Cato to “wash away all of Hell’s stains” (Purg. I, 96), indicating he has overcome these sins and ascended to a higher level—purgatory “in which the human soul is cleansed of sin, becoming worthy of ascent to Heaven” (I, 5-6). When Dante rebukes the prideful in the First Terrace in purgatory, he implies our life resembles the metamorphism of a butterfly that mortal humans are “worms and born to form the angelic butterfly that soars”, experiencing a process from “the imperfect grub” to “its final form” (X, 125-9). That the angel erases the first of the seven P’s (Peccatum) in Dante’s forehead when he comes into the Second Terrace also exemplifies that he has transcended Pride and ready to further improve himself. Dante’s ascendant journey is guided by Virgil in the Inferno and Purgatorio, and Beatrice in the Paradiso. Why Dante chooses Virgil and Beatrice as his guide is because they are people who he admires and loves. Virgil is often described as “knowledgeable” and Beatrice, as “benevolent,” implying they are respectively the symbol of intelligence and love, both leading Dante to the ideal realm of Love and Goodness. The Divine Comedy can be interpreted as Dante’s attempt to transcend his earthly love with Beatrice into a spiritual or Divine Love. Dante thinks “there’s no Creator and no creature who ever was without love—natural or mental” (Purg. XVII, 91-2). The difference between righteous and sinful deeds is the direction and the degree of love as the quote in the beginning shows. The idea of love as an innate property coincided with the Platonic love which is the desire of the soul to reach its final stage. This aspect of love is not only involved in Virgil’s verbal interpretation, but also in Dante’s journey. When Virgil cleans Dante’s tear-stained cheeks, Virgil “totally revealed the color that Inferno had concealed” (Purg. I, 128-9). The great sins in Inferno can only conceal the original color, or love, which always accompanies one’s soul. As E. M. Forster wrote, “You can transmute love, muddle it, ignore it… but you can never pull it out of you…” – though Forster here refers to another meaning of love. But this sense of ascending toward perfection guided by Love is somewhat not applicable in the Inferno. Rather than ascending, Dante is literally descending in the Inferno. To look at the universe of Dante, we will find, geographically, Lucifer is actually closer to the Heaven than the world in the northern hemisphere and any other circle in the Inferno. Does everyone have to go through Judecca in order to reach the Heaven? Does Dante want to separate the Hell filled with immense sins from the overall process of progression? Or does Dante bitterly satirize the human fault and the filthy nature of those who lack of faith in God?I would argue that the answer is none of the above. The Divine Comedy is a consistent work unified by not only Love but also Goodness. During Dante’s journey in the Inferno, he witnesses a hierarchical world of crime and punishment. Dante’s hatred of evil results in his devotion to righteousness, or the Goodness. Therefore, the Inferno calls for the Goodness of one’s spiritual world through the impersonal objectivity of divine justice. Minos’ curling of his tail to decide which level the damned soul should go to (Canto V), and Dante’s putting his own teacher, Brunetto, among the Sodomites (Canto XV) both prove the impartial judgment, stressing the immitigable, emotionless objectivity of morality and divine justice. This impartiality implies that no matter the degree of sin, as long as one commits crimes, one is assigned proper punishment immediately. The more fear and awe the Inferno generates on one’s mind, the more likely one goes on pursuing the Goodness, overcoming sins in one’s life and finding salvation in God. Therefore, it is indeed another way for self-improvement. For instance, Dante replied his teacher Ser Brunetto that “so long as I am not rebuked by conscience, I stand prepared for Fortune, come what may” (Inf. XV, 92-3). He regards one’s conscience as one of the most important rules to follow, regardless of which party one belongs. In addition, there is also a sense of development in the Inferno. Dante suggests the Second Circle for the lustful is “where Dido suffers” (Inf. V, 85), instead of the Seventh Circle for Suicides. However, near the end of Inferno, Dante promises Fra Alberigo to take off the hard veils from his face by swearing “if I don’t free you, may I go to the bottom of the ice” (XXXIII, 116-7). After he learns the crime Alberigo has committed, however, he changes his mind, asserting “it was courtesy to show him rudeness” (XXXIII, 150). It indicates Dante’s overall development in the poem, represented by the extent to which he learns not to pity suffering sinners and to despise sin wholeheartedly. Dante also concludes his Inferno optimistically with an image of stars, showing that Dante has begun his slow climb out of sin and confusion and has taken a closer step toward Beatrice and God. The Inferno calls for the Goodness of one’s spiritual world. Accordingly, the Purgatorio calls for the Love, and the Paradiso is an ideal world of a combination of Love and Goodness. In Purgatorio, the criterion set to classify different sins is love—perverted love, insufficient love and excessive love of earthly goods. In Paradiso, Beatrice is not only the guide of Love, but also reflects the Eternal Light. It is interesting to look at what the last thing Beatrice did before she left Dante, and the last thing Dante saw before setting his eye upon the Eternal Light. It is a smile! Before Beatrice turns back to the eternal fountain, “she, however far away she seemed, smiled, and she looked at me” (Para. XXXI, 91-2). Also, when Dante is near the God, “Bernard was signaling—he smiled—to me to turn my eyes on high” (Para. XXXIII, 49-50). It is Beatrice’s smile that in Dante’s youth has made him touch the new heights of passion. It is the same smile that concludes Dante’s journey when he completes his self-purgation and finally abandons the earthly love and reaches the Divine Love. Smile here becomes an approval signal of Dante’s achievement toward the Love and Goodness, and implies why the poem is called a comedy.If Dante wrote the whole poem just as “a bitterly sarcastic and serious condemnation of the human condition,” then he is risking being sent to the Eighth Circle for the Fraud that he himself depicts. He clearly knows that he doesn’t travel through the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise, nor does he know whether they actually exist or not. I would rather believe the Divine Comedy embodies the spiritual framework of the poet and his imagination of a way leading to resurrection. Dante incorporates the infinite time into the finite space with the perpetual pursuit of Love and Goodness. In the context of Medieval Italy, his unique form of the Divine Comedy created a well-ordered world of spiritual beings and a new way to search for resurrection of the soul.
Distraction and the Afterlife in Dante’s Divine Comedy
“Blessed are those in whom grace shines so copiously that love of food does not arouse excessive appetite, but lets them hunger after righteousness” (2.23.150-154). On the sixth terrace of Purgatory, a tree speaks these words, communicating a broader theme of The Divine Comedy, that our attention should be consumed by a desire for God instead of worldly pleasures and distractions. Through each canticle, there is evidence that salvation is more about effort to obey God and less about success in doing so. In the Inferno are souls who busied themselves in life with the distractions of earthly existence, spending no effort on trying to live for God. They are left to their distractions for all of eternity, or at least for as long as they choose to continue pursuing them. In Purgatory, souls who made some effort to live by God’s will are given haven from distractions, so that they may focus solely on God and reaching Paradise. The differentiating quality between the souls in Inferno and those in Purgatory is a willingness to struggle and make the effort to live for God, regardless of failure. In Paradise, souls who successfully struggled to live virtuously are positioned so they are eternally focused on God, enjoying the beatific vision. For their dedication in life to the goal of doing God’s will, they may spend eternity with their wills as one with God’s. Though under normal circumstances, Purgatory and Paradise are free from distractions so souls can focus fully on God, the process can apparently still be interrupted. In Purgatory, souls often stopped or even forgot what they were doing upon seeing Dante and Virgil:”So all the happy souls of these Redeemed/stared at my face, forgetting, as it were,/the way to go to make their beauty whole” (2.2.73-75). In Paradise, Beatrice is a distraction to Dante on his journey from the Garden of Eden (2.30.31) to the Mystic Rose, where he sees God and has his revelatory vision (3.30.148). She is leading Dante toward God, however, so the distraction she creates for Dante is less damaging than Dante’s presence is to those souls in Purgatory who forget that they should be working eagerly to get to Paradise. This conception of God’s mercy as rewarding effort and focus is demonstrated in each canticle of the Divine Comedy. The story of St. Francis, told by St. Thomas in Canto 11 of Paradise, suggests a pious way of life that makes one’s struggle to stay focused on God easier: “In plain words/take Francis, now, and Poverty to be/the lovers in the story I have told./ Their sweet accord, their faces spread with bliss,/the love, the mystery, their tender looks/gave rise in others’ hearts to holy thoughts” (3.11.73-78). Francis, by marrying Poverty, gave up the pleasures and distractions of worldly goods. This lifestyle of self-imposed privation made focusing his life on God simpler. For choosing a distraction-free lifestyle, St. Francis is found among the wise on the Sun. In Purgatory, tempting, fruit-laden trees shout exempla of temperance and gluttony at the starving sinners who run endlessly around the terrace. The shouts from the two trees and the tantalizing fruit they display are not a pain to the souls, as Forese Donati corrects himself (2.23.71-72), but they are a solace (2.23.72). The contrapasso of these sinners is to “make [themselves] pure thirsting and hungering” (2.23.63), since in life they distracted themselves from God’s will with excess. As St. Thomas says, such privation “[gives] rise… to holy thoughts” (3.11.78). In the third circle of Inferno, where gluttons are punished, “Thick hail and dirty water, mixed with snow come down in torrents through the murky air” (1.6.10-11) and Cerberus “rips the spirits, flays and mangles them” (1.6.12-18). Ciacco, whose name fittingly means ‘pig’ or ‘filthy’ (1.6.52), is one of the souls who, as long as he is in the Inferno, will be allowed to wallow, literally, in the sin with which he occupied his life. In Limbo, the souls don’t actively suffer, but they exist, “[living] on in desire” (1.4.42). In life, they didn’t know Christ, and so they could not live a life for God. As the Infernal sinners are left to their life’s distractions, the virtuous pagans in Limbo, too, are left to their life’s work, in the “splendid castle” (1.4.106) which celebrates human reason and accomplishment unaided by God. There is an inferred possibility of upward mobility if a soul forsakes whatever distractions kept him from Purgatory or Paradise. This exception might even apply to souls of virtuous pagans in Limbo like Virgil. As Dante and the paradisial party prepare to enter Paradise, Virgil seems to be extended an invitation as well. The angels were “all shouting: Benedictus qui venis! then,/tossing a rain of flowers in the air,/Manibus, o, date lilia plenis!” (2.30.19-21). The first shout, “Blessed is he who cometh,” is a bible verse, followed by a line from Virgil meaning “Give us lilies with full hands.” The angels appear to be equating Virgil’s work with the Bible, but despite this high praise, he is sadly not able to forsake his Roman mindset and fatalistic confidence that he is forever relegated to Limbo. Virgil disappears to spend eternity with his fellow pagan poets (2.30.22-89). The souls in Limbo and the Inferno, including Virgil, do not see beyond their own circumstances, but Dante, from the time he enters the Inferno, is different. Where Virgil simply observes the entire journey to Paradise, Dante experiences it. Virgil dutifully leads Dante on the journey, but along the way, Dante is constantly looking above and ahead. As Virgil and Dante emerge from the Inferno, they “came out to see once more the stars” (1.34.139). At the end of Purgatory, when Dante emerges “from those holiest waters” (2.33.142), he is “eager to rise, now ready for the stars” (2.33.145). Paradise ends with a reference to God as “the Love that moves the sun and the other stars” (3.33.145). This theme of watching the stars and of focusing on what is beyond our immediate lives is captured by Oscar Wilde in Lady Windermere’s Fan: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Throughout his journey, Dante is looking up at the stars. This focus and devotion to his pilgrimage are perhaps the reasons he is allowed to see Paradise. Regardless of why Dante is shown Heaven, though, his experiences seem to illustrate that God uses a more merciful principal to locate souls’ appropriate places in the afterlife than a surface reading of Inferno and Purgatory might suggest. Effort, attention, and love, it seems, are all God requires to be given a place in Purgatory, from which to purge oneself of sin. With the knowledge that even from the gutter, looking at the stars is enough, the message of The Divine Comedy is one of warning, but also of hope.
Dante’s Influences on T.S. Eliot
T.S. Eliot is considered one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century and his poetry was greatly influenced by Dante Alighieri. Eliot’s introduction to Dante was in his college years at Harvard, where he studied philosophy. Eliot read Dante’s works extensively in college and may have meant to “apprentice” himself to learn everything he could from the master (Sloane). Dante’s influences on Eliot include appearances by way of direct quotations, similar images, and thematic elements. The direct quotations are simple to find because they are written in Italian, but there are also lines from Dante’s works that have been translated and slightly adapted to fit into Eliot’s poetry. Dante’s images are also prevalent among Eliot’s works. Eliot’s view of the world as a cold and desolate place was greatly influenced by Dante and his visions of Hell. Similar themes are also apparent; Eliot often uses themes such as isolation from Dante’s works to express his own inner feelings. At least one of these three elements can be seen in most of Eliot’s works, so it is obvious that Dante influenced Eliot. The influences from Dante in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” include direct quotations and thematic elements. In “Prufrock” the narrator, Prufrock, seems to be addressing a potential lover. However, Prufrock “knows” too much to simply approach the woman; in his mind he can hear other people’s voices mocking and taunting him. Prufrock is very shy about expressing his feelings, and he is only telling us, the reader, under the assumption that no one else will hear him admit to his fear of others judging him. The entire poem is about Prufrock explaining why he cannot express his feelings of love to the woman he admires. Dante’s influence first appears in “Prufrock” as a direct quotation from The Divine Comedy as the first epigraph:S’io credesse che mia risposta fosseA persona che mai tornasse al mondo,Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondoNon torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo. (1-6)The epigraph literally means, “If I thought my reply were to one who could ever return to the world, this flame would shake no more; but since, if what I hear is true, none ever did return alive from this depth, I answer you without fear of infamy (“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot).” This sets the tone for the rest of the poem; Prufrock can speak his shame only because he thinks no one who hears his confession will condemn him for his cowardice (Drew 827).Prufrock’s fear of humiliation seems to be his own personal Hell; the idea of individuals having their own personal Hell is a thematic influence from Dante. Dante’s work, The Divine Comedy, is a compilation of different versions of Hell. In “Prufrock” it is obvious that Prufrock is feeling anguish over his inability to express his love for the woman he admires (Bloom 17). Eliot’s frustration appears when he can’t decide whether or not to speak to the woman: And indeed there will be time To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]. (37-41)Prufrock is obviously frustrated and is even self-conscious of his bald spot when he is contemplating whether or not to tell the woman he adores how he feels. Prufrock is so concerned about his appearance that even when he is trying to speak to the woman, he can’t stop thinking about what others think of him. Prufrock finds his inability to go on with life without worrying what other people think is making him miserable, providing his own personal Hell.Dante’s influence appears again in the form of images and themes in Eliot’s “The Wasteland”. At the beginning of “The Wasteland” there is a description of a prophetic, apocalyptic journey into a desert waste. Near the end there is a very obscure section where the narrator walks through the streets of London populated by the ghosts of the dead. The narrator meets a ghost and asks him what happens to the corpses in the ground. Part one ends with a famous line from the preface of Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal, “You! hypocrite lecteur!-mon semblable,-mon frÃ¨re!” (76) This quote is accusing the reader of sharing the poet’s sins (Martin). In the following passage from part one, Eliot describes similarities between the crowd and the flow of souls into Hell in Dante’s Inferno.Under the brown fog of a winter dawn, A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,I had not thought death had undone so many.Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,And each man fixed his eyes before his feet. (61-65)These city dwellers are lost and lacking values and damned to Hell for all eternity. The description of London as an “Unreal City” suggests that the corruption within the city cannot be imagined and seems like Hell to Eliot (Bloom 42). Near the end of part one, when Eliot quotes Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal, the quote implies that the poet and the reader have sinned, thus damning them to Hell. This exemplifies the theme from Dante that each person has sinned and they will go to their own personal Hell. Dante’s influence becomes apparent in part five of “The Wasteland” when Eliot takes an image directly from Dante’s Inferno. The first half of the section builds to an apocalyptic climax, as suffering people become “hooded hordes swarming” and the “unreal” cities of Jerusalem, Athens, Alexandria, Vienna, and London are destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again. The poem ends with seemingly random fragments of children’s songs, works from Dante, and works from Elizabethan drama. Dante’s influence in part five expresses the effects of isolation on the mind. In the following excerpt, the image portrayed is taken directly from Dante’s Inferno where Ugolino, who is damned in the lowest circle of Hell for treachery, hears the memory of the key turning to lock him and his children in the Hungry Tower to starve to death (Drew 838). I have heard the keyTurn in the door once and turn once onlyWe think of the key, each in his prisonThinking of the key, each confirms a prisonOnly at nightfall, aethereal rumours (411-416)Eliot connects this passage with the reality of human isolation and the idea that memories can be painful even if only you can see them and no one else can. Once again, Dante influences Eliot in the form of descriptive imagery in “The Hollow Men”. “The Hollow Men” is an explanation of how the hollow men could not choose their fate, unlike Guy Fawkes, to whom Eliot makes an allusion earlier. Fawkes plotted to blow up England’s House of Commons in 1605, but was arrested before he could set off the gunpowder. Fawkes was executed, but he chose his fate, unlike the hollow men who appear to have no control over their final destination. Eliot often mentions different kingdoms where souls are being kept; these kingdoms bear a striking resemblance to Dante’s visions of the afterlife in The Divine Comedy. The similarities between the Kingdoms mentioned in “The Hollow Men” and Dante’s visions of the afterlife are extremely similar. Death’s other Kingdom in “The Hollow Men” relates directly to Dante’s Inferno, where the violent souls go. Eliot’s Death’s Dream Kingdom, where those who are suffering towards redemption go, is amazingly similar to Dante’s Purgatorio. When the hollow men are waiting to cross the “tumid river”, the river is analogous to Dante’s River Acheron, the river that separates Purgatorio and Inferno. The Kingdom of God is comparable to Dante’s Paradiso (Southam 99). The hollow men are also similar to the souls in Dante’s Ante-Hell of Neutrals. The hollow men died without shame, but they were not praised either. The idea of the Ante-Hell of Neutrals is similar to the Catholics’ belief that babies who were not baptized don’t go to Hell because they haven’t committed any sins, but they can’t go to Heaven because they have not been resolved of the original sin. Instead these souls go to purgatory. These souls, like the Hollow Men, do not deserve to be recognized as “violent souls” because they have not done anything wrong. The hollow men have “Gathered on this beach of the tumid river” (60) where they will stay because they do not have adequate reasons to be in Inferno or Paradiso. Both of these beings have been forgotten because they were neither good nor evil (Bloom 61). Dante Alighieri’s influences on T.S. Eliot’s poetry are excellent examples of Eliot’s expressions of emotions through his poetry. Eliot has been accused of stealing many of Dante’s ideas, although they appear to be well integrated in Eliot’s poetry. It is apparent that Dante has influenced Eliot in the form of direct quotations, similar imagery, and comparable thematic elements.Works CitedBloom, Harold, ed. T.S. Eliot. Chelsea House Publishers, 1999.Drew, Elizabeth, ed. Major British Writers. Harcourt, Brace & World Inc., 1959.Martin, Melissa. SparkNote on Eliot’s Poetry. 19 Mar. 2006
A Disunited Society: The Disturbing Depiction of Muhammad in the Divine Comedy
In 1312, Dante Alighieri wrote a treatise called De Monarchia, in which he expressed his belief that society would operate best under a single authority – that is, a secular monarch. Dante, in his characteristic rabble-rousing way, argued that peace should be mankind’s primary goal, and the only way to attain such a lofty goal is through unity. Two cantos of the poet’s Divine Comedy illustrate well his feelings regarding the need for unity and the danger of those who pose a threat to it. The first, canto 28 of Inferno, depicts historical characters like Prophet Muhammad who caused disunity, either religiously, politically or at a more personal level, such as among family members. Through both this canto and another in Paradiso – one that describes the way disunity wrecked Florence – Dante expresses his disdain for those who sow discord among populations.
Both cantos raise several important questions about Dante and the Divine Comedy. Is Dante’s real issue the discord itself, or the people who sow it? Is the way he depicts those who threaten unity indicative of his own racist, xenophobic and prejudiced values, or do they represent larger beliefs of medieval European society? Is Dante’s understanding of Muhammad really as harsh as it first appears? Drawing from the works of Dante historians and my own interpretation of the text, I will argue that Dante’s criticism of Muhammad is not tied to the prophet’s race or religion, but rather to the consequences of his actions. By doing so, I hope to also share insight into Dante’s perspective on a diverse and rapidly changing medieval Europe.
Canto 28 of Inferno describes the ninth bolgia of the eighth circle of hell, where the sowers of discord receive their eternal punishment. As punishment for creating divisions among people, the souls are struck and dismembered by the sword of a devil. They must then march in a circle, and once they reach the devil again their wounds are healed, ready to be reopened once more. Muhammad, one of the bolgia’s residents, explains to Dante and Virgil that the souls in the circle “were sowers of scandal and schism: / as they tore others apart, so are they torn” (Ciardi Inferno 28.35-36). As retribution for lives spent disuniting peoples, their contrapasso (or specifically designed and ironic punishment) is to spend eternity sliced in half and chopped to bits.
The most prominent character in the ninth bolgia is Muhammad, who has one of the most gruesome injuries of all the sinners. He has been split from mouth to ass, revealing a mess of organs inside: “Between his legs all of his red guts hung / with the heart, the lungs, the liver, the gall bladder, / and the shriveled sac that passes shit to the bung” (Ciardi Inferno 28.25-27). The description certainly is hard to read, but perhaps not particularly surprising if we consider the largely anti-Islamist climate in which Dante lived. The poet’s depiction of Muhammad is aligned with most medieval European understandings of who the religious figure was and what misfortune he brought to the world.
Throughout the Middle Ages, European Christians considered Muslims a natural enemy and a threat to Christian land, culture and population size. Centuries of Crusades only solidified this mentality, and by the time of Dante’s life, anti-Islamic sentiments had become inescapable. One popular medieval European legend portrays Muhammad as an apostate who, after being denied cardinalship by the Catholic Church, created his own competing religion in revenge. In fact, the first writers to add commentaries to the Divine Comedy, including Dante’s son Jacopo Alighieri, suggested themselves that this popular legend inspired Dante’s depiction of Muhammad (Frank 193).
In reality, Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh had not intended to create his own religion, instead considering himself a prophet of al-Lāh, the same God Christians and Jews worship. Instead of being a competitor to other prophets from religious traditions – i.e. Jesus of Nazareth, Abraham, Moses – Muhammad and his followers saw him as a brother among the other men who had received word from God (Jones 6221). The Quran even states, in regard to Christians and Jews, “say to them: We believe what you believe; your God and our God is one” (Ganeri 29:46). Especially in its earliest stages of Islam, Muslims considered themselves to be united, at least to some extent, with the world’s other People of the Book. The medieval European narratives that contradicted this reality, instead depicting Muslims as savage threats to Christianity, were simply ignorant of history.
Yet ‘ignorant’ is not a word commonly used to describe Dante Alighieri. Researchers have found evidence to suggest Dante did in fact have a full understanding of Muhammad and Islam’s roots. By the end of the thirteenth century, Arabic works were being translating into Latin (Corti and Hall 57), and fourteenth-century Muslim and Christian societies were closely intertwined, particularly in Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula (Frank 200). For these reasons, it is likely Dante was well versed in Islamic scripture and literature. Because of this, he was less susceptible to the false narratives surrounding Islam. Historian Karla Mallette offers compelling evidence that Dante was familiar with the Quran, suggesting aspects of the Divine Comedy mirror traditional Islamic stories. She compares Dante’s journey to Muhammad’s mi’rāj, or his journey to heaven and hell. During this journey, Muhammad encounters God, who rips open Muhammad’s chest so as to cleanse the prophet from the inside (Mallette 211). This is a striking parallel. As he marches in hell, Dante’s Muhammad tears at the slice through his chest, ripping himself in two: “see how I rip myself!” he yells to Dante and Virgil (Ciardi Inferno 28.30). By having Muhammad tear at himself, Dante flips the Islamic story on its head, dehumanizing Muhammad in a gruesome manner. Both parallels prove Dante had knowledge of Islam and Muhammad, although this knowledge does little to spare Muhammad of punishment.
Another interesting note: in Sandow Birk and Marcus Sanders’ modern translation of Inferno, Muhammad’s warning about Fra Dolcino’s future is called a “prophecy” (Birk and Sanders 28.62). This purposeful use of words acknowledges Muhammad as a legitimate prophet (although, Birk and Sanders often take it upon themselves to add their own critique of the Divine Comedy. This word choice may just be a criticism of Dante’s intentional negligence to call Muhammad a prophet). Regardless, both this wording and the allusion to the Quran can be interpreted as evidence that Dante was aware of the depth of Islamic tradition, and therefore had not fallen victim to the widespread fallacies about Muhammad’s life.
If Dante were aware of the intricacies of Muhammad’s life and legacy, this raises the question: why did he still choose to give the prophet’s character such an appalling punishment? Why, if Muhammad worshipped the same God as the Christians, would Dante not award him some amount of leeway? Why did he see it fit to put the prophet’s soul in such a low level of hell?
The answer may be found in a different canto of the Divine Comedy, this one in Paradiso. Canto 16, set in the fifth sphere of Mars, describes a conversation between Dante and his Florentine great-grandfather, Cacciaguida. Cacciaguida laments about the turn Florence has taken; much like Dante, the soul grieves over the discord and corruption that have come to dominate the city. First, Cacciaguida explains how once, Florence was divided into large, powerful and noble families. Over time, however, as more interfamilial marriages took place, these families faded: “It has always been a fact that confusion of blood / has been a source of evil to city-states” (Ciardi Paradiso 16.67-8). This type of disunity connects canto 16 of Paradiso to canto 28 of Inferno: in hell, Bertran de Born appears alongside Muhammad, carrying his head in his hand like a lantern. De Born is said to have sown discord between the young Prince Henry and his father by “instigating a quarrel” between the two (Ciardi Inferno 234). He was also a troubadour known for his writings celebrating violence like that he encouraged young Prince Henry to pursue (“Dante’s Inferno – Circle 8”). Dante opposes all sorts of disunity, whether political or familial.
More importantly than the splitting and combining of Florentine families, Dante also alludes to the political discord that tore apart Florence. Cacciaguida says during his life he “saw Florence live and prosper in such peace / that she had, then, no reason to shed tears” (Ciardi Paradiso 16.149-50). But now, he says, “the red dye of division” has crippled the city (Ciardi Paradiso 16.155). This line can be interpreted in different ways – perhaps the “red dye” to which Cacciaguida refers is family bloodlines, or blood spilled through violence, both of which indeed can cause disunity. While both theories are fitting, these lines refer more specifically to the political conflict between the Guelph and Ghibelline parties of Florence. “The ancient standard of Florence bore a white lily on a red field,” writes Ciardi (Ciardi Inferno 155). In 1251, the Guelfs inverted the colors on their own standard, or flag, to a red lily on a white field, and this red lily came to symbolize the division between the two parties.
Dante experienced firsthand the destruction that comes with a disunited community. As a member of the white faction of the Guelph party, a group that wished to limit the power of the papacy, Dante, among 600 other members of opposition factions, was sentenced to exile when the Black Guelphs took control of Florence (Browning). Dante never returned home. He also witnessed the economic and political corruption that infected Florence during his lifetime, after the families Cacciaguida describes petered out and conflict among Florentine political parties intensified. The treachery Dante condemns in both Inferno canto 28 and Paradiso canto 16 is the same: the destruction of community. Dante views community at the center of peace and unity. Consider, again, his 1312 treatise De Monarchia, in which he writes, “Every kingdom divided against itself shall be laid waste” (Alighieri). He watched his own homeland, through all manners of division, be laid to waste. Clearly this is the main impact on his belief that unity is the ultimate goal mankind must reach.
How might we connect these ideas to Dante’s depiction of Muhammad in hell? Perhaps Dante’s experience with divided community made the disunity Muhammad sowed a more personal issue to the poet. Any person or body who sows discord must be punished, since the consequences of doing so can be disastrous. Despite this, I believe Dante’s understanding of Muhammad’s legacy is less harsh than the Inferno might indicate. For one, upon first seeing the ninth bolgia, Dante begins an extended metaphor, comparing the carnage before him to the combined bloodshed of the Trojan and Punic wars. The sympathy he displays for these sinners is reminiscent of that he felt for the lustful in the second circle of hell, in which he swoons from the intensity of his sympathy (Ciardi Inferno 5.139). As he enters the realm of the sowers of discord, Dante writes, “At grief so deep the tongue must wag in vain; / the language of our sense and memory / lacks the vocabulary of such pain” (Ciardi Inferno 28.4-6). Muhammad and his fellow sinners’ punishments are appalling enough to warrant Dante’s sympathy.
Another intentional choice of Dante’s is Muhammad’s mention of Fra Dolcino. While speaking to the character Dante, Muhammad requests that he warn Docino – a Catholic reformist – of his imminent future should he continue to sow discord among his fellow Christians (Ciardi Inferno 28.56-60). If Muhammad were the enemy of Christianity that medieval society portrayed him to be, why would his character show this care for a member of his enemy religion? What’s more, Muhammad raises one foot while speaking to Dante and Virgil about Fra Dolcino: “Mohamet, one foot raised, had paused to say / these words to me. When he had finished speaking / he stretched it out and down, and moved away” (Ciardi Inferno 28.61-3). Lifting his foot like this alludes to an aspect of Catholic Ignatian spirituality. “[L]iving with ‘one foot raised,’ this approach embodies a freedom from attachment to… programs and even people in order to… adapt, improve, shift and/or modify as needed” (Zelenka). This moment shows Muhammad attempting to atone for the sins he committed, thereby humanizing him, even eliciting sympathy from readers.
Simplistic religious and racial prejudice is rooted in ignorance and blind hatred – if these were the motives of Dante’s interpretation of Muhammad, he would afford the prophet no sympathy, humanization or ties to Christianity. Dante’s wealth of knowledge about Islamic values and history allows him to see beyond the racial and religious barriers that divide Muhammad and him. As a result, it is reasonable to assume Dante criticizes Muhammad not for his religious beliefs or race, but rather for his actions.
In De Monarchia, Dante writes, “Hence it is clear that universal peace is the most excellent means of securing our happiness” (Alighieri). Peace, however, is impossible to attain without unity. If peace is the ultimate goal of mankind, discord must be abolished – hence, Dante’s perfectly crafted hell places sowers of discord at nearly the lowest level of the realm. Dante’s disdain for those who disunite groups of people shows no discrimination. Just as the sword of the devil mangles the Muslims Muhammad and ‘Ali, so too does it slice at Christian figures. Just as Dante critiques Muhammad, so too does he lament about the Florentine citizens who brought factions, corruption and disunity to the poet’s beloved home. If universal peace and happiness are to be attained, first must come unity, and no person, regardless of race or religion, is exempt from working toward this goal.
Alighieri, Dante. On World-Government or De Monarchia (ca. 1313). Translated by Herbert W.Schneider with an Introduction by Dino Bigongiari. A Liberal Arts Press Book. NY: The Bobbs-Merrill Co, Inc., 1957.
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Browning, Oscar. Guelphs and Ghibellines: A Short History. 2nd ed., archive.org/stream/cu31924082449806/cu31924082449806_djvu.txt.
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“Dante’s Inferno – Circle 8.” Dante Worlds, University of Texas at Austin, danteworlds.laits.utexas.edu/circle8b.html.
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Zelenka, Michael. “Catholic Education.” With One Foot Raised, 8 July 2014, icscatholicedu.blogspot.com/2014/07/with-one-foot-raised.html.