Oh You Possessed of Sturdy Intellects, observe the teaching that is hidden here/Beneath the veil of verses so obscure Dante’s Inferno A big jump in time and worlds • Our last jump took us 450 years from the youthful Roman Empire of Virgil to the dying empire of Augustine • Our latest jump takes us 800 years from the death of Augustine in 430 to the birth of Dante in 1265 • We leap over most of the middle ages, that period of European Collapse and Regrouping • We “touch down” in the Dante’s Era: The High Middle ages of Italy in a world of great religious, intellectual, and political ferment ing Dante and his Times • • Dante’s Europe could be seen as a clash between “centripetal” and “centrifugal” forces Centripetal Forces – Religious Unity under the Church – Attempts at political unity under the “Holy Roman Empire” – Unity of all knowledge under scholastic philosophy • Centrifugal forces – Religious unity undermined by • Political ambitions of the papacy • Forces of religious dissent – Political unity undermined by • Rising nation states clashing with each other and Holy Roman Empire • Papacy clashing with everyone – Unity of knowledge temporarily secure • Dante’s Italy as an intense battleground of Centripetal and centrifugal forces – Clash of City States with one Another – Clash of Popes and Holy Roman Emperors Dante’s life marred and poetry made by these clashes. Poetic and Political Life • Born in the city of Florence in 1265 • His poetic inspiration – At 9 years old a “casual meeting” with the 9 year old Beatrice Portinari “kindled an unquenchable flame” as Ruth Fox writes in (Fox, Ruth Mary. Dante Lights the Way. Milwaukee: Bruce, 60 – Love at first sight has seldom left such permanent monument – From it came a “new life” which he celebrated in in his early work of the same name, “La Vita Nuova” – Beatrice as a “God-bearing” image (Sayers) • His political disaster – Became a leader in the triumphant Guelf Party – Mafia-like” family feuds split that party into two factions, the “Whites” and the “Blacks – Dante was a “White” – While on a mission to the pope, Blacks seize power and exile Dante – Divine Comedy reflects bitterness of exile The Divine Comedy as a Poetic “Cathedral • Cathedrals take their architecture from Christian doctrine – An Instance: Design of a Cathedral reflects the doctrine of God – 3 spires, 3 portals, 3 aisles reflect the trinity: • Dante’s “architecture” also based on Christian doctrine – Trinitarian” verse pattern • Three line “tercets” reflect “tri-personality • 11 syllables in each line reflect “oneness.” – Trinitarian structure • Poem has 3 divisions, each division has 33 cantos; hell as 3divisions; purgatory has 9 (3X3); • But the poem has one introductory canto, 100 full cantos, all reflecting the “oneness Other Cathedral-like Aspects • Cathedrals overwhelm and draw attention upward—as does The Comedy • Cathedrals combine a passion for detail with a thirst for unity—as does The Comedy – What The Comedy “crowds” together. • • • • • • Christian Doctrine Ethics, psychology, and spirituality of Medieval Church The philosophy and science of the era The political realities of the day The union of the classical world with the Christian The love of a woman who becomes a “God-bearing” image “MODEL” OF A CATHEDRAL Comedy and Allegory • Definition of Comedy • Definition of Allegory: The use of characters, images, or events to “stand for” abstract ideas—usually of a moral or spiritual nature • Examples of Allegory: – Canto 1: The lepard=self-indulgence, the lion=violence, and the she-wolf=fraud – Canto 2: Beatrice stands for Divine Grace – Canto 5. The whirling winds of 3rd circle stand for uncontrolled lust. • Allegory means that the poem proceeds on two levels: – The literal story – And the allegorical message.