The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy (1308-1321). Epic poem in three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso . Allegory telling of Dante the Pilgrim’s (persona of author) journey from sin to redemption. Theme of exile: separation from home (political and spiritual).
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The Divine Comedy (1308-1321) • Epic poem in three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. • Allegory telling of Dante the Pilgrim’s (persona of author) journey from sin to redemption. • Theme of exile: separation from home (political and spiritual). • Universal and contemporary concerns: • Politics • How to govern • What is justice? Injustice? • Spiritual transformation • Purpose for reading/writing poetry
Structure • Christian theology influences structure: Trinity - the union of the 3 divine figures (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). • Number 3 recurs throughout The Divine Comedy. • Poem has 3 parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. • Each part has 33 Cantos (Inferno has 34). • Each stanza contains 3 lines written in terza rima (the 1st and 3rd lines in each tercet rhyme; 2nd line indicates sound of next tercet: a,b,a…b,c,b…c,d,c). • Inferno: 9 (3x3) levels of Hell; 3 beasts (lion, leopard, she-wolf) obstruct Dante’s passage to the Hill of Joy; 3 rivers run through Dante’s Hell (Acheron, Phlegethon, Styx).
Style & Language • Commedia or Comedy: In the ancient world, poems were classified as High (“Tragedy”), or Low (“Comedy”). Low poems had happy endings and were of everyday or vulgar subjects; High poems were for more serious subjects. Dante was the first to write about a high topic (the Redemption of Man) in the low style of comedy. • Dante wrote in Italian, not in Latin (usually used for serious literature); accessible to more people.
Influences of Medieval Philosophy • Saint Augustine (354-430): human beings are responsible for their own behavior; need divine grace to help turn away from evil. Eternal life is the supreme good; virtues are only real when one believes in God. • Saint Thomas Aquinas (1224- 1274): Contrapasso or “punishment that fits the crime.” The soul’s suffering in Hell extends or reflects the sin that predominated it; Sin is a negation or absence. Exs. Cold is the absence of heat energy, darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of moral energy; In Summa theoligica, attempts to balance the categories of faith and reason. Offers the “five ways” or proofs of the existence of God. God is the “unmoved mover” or the first cause of all motion.
Textual Influences • Bible: anthology of Hebrew and Early Christian texts (narrative and poetic); central to people of Middle Ages: guide to knowing God and human conduct; stories of exile (Hebrews exiled from Egypt); scholars attempt to reconcile Old and New Testaments. • Aeneid: Virgil’s epic poem about founding of Rome (after fall of Troy, exiled Aeneas travels to Rome). • Dante attempts to reconcile secular and religious texts.
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) • Family was prominent in Florence. • Little is known about his education. • Successful politician as well as poet. • At age 9, fell in love “at first sight” with Beatrice Portinari. Met her again at age 18. She died when Dante was 25. • Love for Beatrice was a reason for living and writing; she is often depicted as semi-divine in his writing (Vitto Nuovo, Divine Comedy).
Political Life • Beginning of 13th c., political life in Florence divided into two factions: Ghibellines (old imperial aristocracy), and Guelphs (bourgeois and looked to pope as political leader). • After Dante’s birth, Guelphs gained power for thirty years of prosperity and relative peace. • Guelphs split into two factions: Blacks and Whites (Whites believed in separation of church and state - Dante was a White); efforts to eliminate factions in order to insure peace failed. Boniface VIII intervened on the side of the Blacks. Blacks purged political offices of Whites by bringing Whites to trial on false charges of corruption. • Dante as an ambassador for Florence sent to Rome and was absent during trials. He was exiled from Florence for the remainder of his life. He wrote The Divine Comedy during this exile. • In Inferno, Dante assigns positions in Hell to people whose actions led to his exile: false counselors, errant colleagues, self-interested politicians, misguided clerics.
Setting… • Opens on Good Friday, the year 1300: poem spans the time of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. • Dante, the Pilgrim is mid-way through his own life (around 30 years old). • He finds himself lost in a Dark Wood and encounters 3 wild beasts: a leopard (symbol of the sins fraud), the lion (violence) and the she-wolf (incontinence). • The poet Virgil (Aeneid) appears and explains that he will guide Dante through Hell.
Symbolism of 7 • Divine (3) & Human/Material (4) = 7 • Human: • 4 Humours: phlegm, blood, choler, bile • 4 personality types, sanguine (pleasure-seeking and sociable), choleric (ambitious and leader-like), melancholic (analytical and literal), and phlegmatic (relaxed and thoughtful). • Material: • Earth, wind, air, fire; 4 seasons, 4 directions • 7 Moral Virtues: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility • 7 Liberal Arts: grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy.
Dante on Love… • Love is the movement of the spirit and energy of the universe; poetry is the medium to express the movement of love. • Energy of love manifested in three actions: • romantic love: psyche moves toward the object of love • philosophical love: the psyche contemplates the world of nature through the exercise of reason • mystical love: the psyche desires union with God (harmony of the will of the soul and the will of God)
Five Attributes of Courtly Love (Chivalric Love): • Aristocratic: practiced by noble lords and ladies in royal palace or at court. • Ritualistic: gifts(songs, poems, bouquets, sweet favors, and ceremonial gestures) exchanged for approval. • Secret: lovers “lived in their own world” (the secret rendezvous); rules, codes, and commandments.
Five Attributes of Courtly Love (cont.): • Adulterous: escape from dull and boring noble marriage (a political or economic alliance to produce royal offspring); objective not physical satisfaction, but sublime and sensual intimacy. • Literary: courtly love first gained attention as a subject and theme in imaginative literature.
Canto V: The Lustful • Minos: Judge; sends souls to proper circle of Hell. • Sin: lost self (reason) to passion. • Punishment: swept up in whirlwind with lover. • Sinners: Semiramis, Dido, Helen, Cleopatra, Achilles, Paris, Tristan, Paolo and Francesca.
Artwork inspired by The Divine Comedy • In your notebook, record which character, scene, sin/punishment is being depicted in each of the following slides.
William Blake (1757-1827) • English poet, painter, and printmaker. • The Divine Comedy commissioned in 1826; series of engravings; he died before completed. • Seven engravings; watercolors. • Works reveal distrust materialism and corruptive nature of power. • Doesn’t share Dante’s admiration for ancient poets and Dante’s seeming pleasure at assigning punishments in Hell.
Paul Gustave Dore (1832-1883) • French artist, engraver, illustrator, sculptor. • Wood and steel engravings. • The Divine Comedy. • Other works: Bible, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Poe’s“The Raven.”
Which do you prefer? • Choose one set of images from the following slides to compare and contrast. • Points of comparison to consider: aesthetics; art elements (line, space, form, texture, shape, color, value); subject (effectiveness of portrayal of sin and punishment); emotional impact (mood and tone). • Write 2-3 paragraph comparison/contrast, indicating which artwork you prefer.
(Blake; Canto I The Dark Wood) (Dore; Canto I The Dark Wood)
(Dore; Canto V The Lustful) (Blake; Canto V The Lustful)
(Dore; Canto VII The Wrathful and Sullen) (Blake; Canto VII The Wrathful and Sullen)
(Dore; Canto VI Cerberus) (Blake; Canto VI Cerberus)
(Dore; Canto XVII Geryon (Blake; Canto XVII Geryon)
(Dore; Canto XIX The Simoniacs) (Blake; Canto XIX The Simoniacs)