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Dante Alighieri - The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio

Purgatorio - is the second part of Dante's Divine Comedy, following the Inferno, and preceding the Paradiso.
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Russel Jane Neri

on 16 September 2012

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Transcript of Dante Alighieri - The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio

Dante Alighieri
The Divine Comedy:
Purgatorio Purgatorio (Italian for "Purgatory") is the second part of Dante's Divine Comedy, following the Inferno, and preceding the Paradiso. The poem was written in the early 14th century. It is an allegory telling of the climb of Dante up the Mount of Purgatory, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Purgatory is depicted as a mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, consisting of a bottom section (Ante-Purgatory), seven levels of suffering and spiritual growth (associated with the seven deadly sins), and finally the Earthly Paradise at the top. Allegorically, the poem represents the Christian life, and in describing the climb Dante discusses the nature of sin, examples of vice and virtue, and moral issues in politics and in the Church. The poem outlines a theory that all sin arises from love – either perverted love directed towards others' harm, or deficient love, or the disordered love of good things. Having survived the depths of Hell (described in the Inferno), Dante and Virgil ascend out of the undergloom, to the Mountain of Purgatory on the far side of the world. The mountain is an island, the only land in the Southern Hemisphere. Dante describes Hell as existing underneath Jerusalem, created by the impact of Satan's fall. Mount Purgatory, on exactly the opposite side of the world, was created by a displacement of rock, caused by the same event. Dante announces his intention to describe Purgatory by invoking the mythical Muses, as he did in Canto II of the Inferno Allegorically, the Purgatorio represents the penitent Christian life. In a contrast to Charon's ferry across the Acheron in the Inferno, Christian souls here arrive escorted by an angel, singing In exitu Israel de Aegypto(Canto II). In his Letter to Cangrande, Dante explains that this reference to Israel leaving Egypt refers both to the redemption of Christ and to "the conversion of the soul from the sorrow and misery of sin to the state of grace." Appropriately, therefore, it is Easter Sunday when Dante and Virgil arrive. The Purgatorio is notable for demonstrating the medieval knowledge of a spherical Earth. During the poem, Dante discusses the different stars visible in the southern hemisphere, the altered position of the sun, and the various timezones of the Earth. At this stage it is, Dante says, sunset at Jerusalem, midnight on the River Ganges (with the constellation Libra overhead there), and dawn in Purgatory Ante-Purgatory At the shores of Purgatory, Dante and Virgil meet Cato, a pagan who has been placed by God as the general guardian of the approach to the mountain (his symbolic significance has been much debated). On the lower slopes (designated as "Ante-Purgatory" by commentators), they also meet two main categories of souls whose penitent Christian life was delayed or deficient: the excommunicate and the late repentant. The former are detained here for a period thirty times as long as their period of contumacy. The latter includes those too lazy or too preoccupied to repent, and those who repented at the last minute without formally receiving last rites, as a result of violent deaths. These souls will be admitted to Purgatory thanks to their genuine repentance, but must wait outside for an amount of time equal to their lives on earth. The excommunicate include Manfred of Sicily (Canto III). The lazy include Belacqua, whom Dante is relieved to discover here, rather than in Hell. Those not receiving last rites include Pia de' Tolomei of Siena, who was murdered by her husband, Nello della Pietra of the Maremma. Also in this category is the troubadour Sordello who, like Virgil, is from Mantua. When Sordello discovers the great poet's identity, he bows down to him in honour. This helps keep Virgil in the foreground of the poem, since (as a resident of Limbo) Virgil is less qualified as a guide here than he was in Hell. As a resident of Purgatory, Sordello is able to explain the Rule of the Mountain: that after sunset souls are literally incapable of climbing any further. Allegorically, the sun represents God, meaning that progress in the penitent Christian life can only be made through Divine Grace Since the sun is setting, Dante and his companions stop for the night in a beautiful valley where they meet persons whose preoccupation with public and private duties hampered their spiritual progress, particularly deceased monarchs such as Rudolph, Ottokar, Philip the Bold, and Henry III. Dante also speaks with the souls of contemporary Italian statesmen Currado Malaspina and Nino Visconti, the latter being a personal friend whom Dante rejoices at not having found among the damned. As night approaches, the souls sing the Compline hymns Salve Regina and Te lucis ante terminum. Dante's beautiful description of evening in this valley was the inspiration for a similar passage in Byron's Don Juan Waking from a dream, Dante finds that he has been carried up to the gate of Purgatory proper. This gate has three steps: polished white (reflecting the purity of the penitent's true self), black (the colour of mourning; cracked in the shape of a Christian cross), and red (symbolising the blood of Christ and the restoration of true life) The gate of Purgatory, Peter's Gate, is guarded by an angel who uses the point of his sword to draw the letter "P" (signifying peccatum, sin) seven times on Dante's forehead, bidding him "take heed that thou wash / These wounds, when thou shalt be within." With the passage of each terrace and the corresponding purgation of his soul that the pilgrim receives, one of the "P"s is erased by the angel granting passage to the next terrace. The angel at Peter's Gate uses two keys, silver (remorse) and gold (reconciliation) to open the gate – both are necessary for redemption and salvation. The seven terraces of Purgatory From the gate of Purgatory, Virgil guides the pilgrim Dante through its seven terraces. These correspond to the seven deadly sins or "seven roots of sinfulness." The classification of sin here is more psychological than that of the Inferno, being based on motives, rather than actions. It is also drawn primarily from Christian theology, rather than from classical sources.The core of the classification is based on love, with the first three terraces of Purgatory relating to perverted love directed towards actual harm of others. The fourth terrace relates to deficient love (i.e. sloth or acedia), while the last three terraces relate to excessive or disordered love of good things. Each terrace purges a particular sin in an appropriate manner (those in Purgatory can leave their circle voluntarily, but will only do so when they have corrected the flaw within themselves that led to committing that sin). The structure of the poetic description of these terraces is more systematic than that of the Inferno, and associated with each terrace are an appropriate prayer, a beatitude, and historical and mythological examples of the relevant deadly sin and of its opposite virtue. First terrace (the proud) The first three terraces of Purgatory relate to sins caused by a perverted love directed towards actual harm of others. The first of these is pride. On the terrace where proud souls purge their sin, Dante and Virgil see beautiful sculptures expressing humility, the opposite virtue. The first example is of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, where she responds to the angel Gabriel with the words Ecce ancilla Dei ("Behold the handmaid of the Lord") An example of humility from classical history is the Emperor Trajan, who, according to a medieval legend, once stopped his journey to render justice to a poor widow (Canto X). Also associated with humility is an expanded version of the Lord's Prayer. After being introduced to humility, Dante and Virgil meet the souls of the proud, who are bent over by the weight of huge stones on their backs. As they walk around the terrace, they are able to profit from the sculpted examples of humility. The first of these souls is Omberto Aldobrandeschi, whose pride lies in his descent. Oderisi of Gubbio is an example of pride in achievements – he was a noted artist of illuminated manuscripts. Provenzano Salvani, leader of the Tuscan Ghibellines, is an example of pride in dominating others. In Canto XIII, Dante points out, with "frank self-awareness,"that pride is also a serious flaw of his own:

"I fear much more the punishment below;
my soul is anxious, in suspense; already
I feel the heavy weights of the first terrace" After his conversations with the proud, Dante notes further sculptures on the pavement below, this time illustrating pride itself. The sculptures show Satan (Lucifer), the building of the Tower of Babel, King Saul, Arachne, King Rehoboam, and others. As the poets ascend to the next terrace, an angel brushes Dante's forehead with his wings, erasing the letter "P" (peccatum) corresponding to the sin of pride, and Dante hears the beatitude Beati pauperes spiritu ("Blessed are the poor in spirit") Second terrace (the envious) Envy is the sin that "looks with grudging hatred upon other men's gifts and good fortune, taking every opportunity to run them down or deprive them of their happiness" (in contrast to covetousness, the excessive desire to have things like money) As one of the envious souls on this terrace says:

"My blood was so afire with envy that,
when I had seen a man becoming happy,
the lividness in me was plain to see." On entering the terrace of the envious, Dante and Virgil first hear voices on the air telling stories of generosity, the opposite virtue. There is, as in all the other terraces, an episode from the life of the Virgin Mary. This time, the scene from the Life of the Virgin is the Wedding at Cana, in which she expresses her joy for the newly married couple and encourages Christ to perform his first miracle. There is also a classical story (the friendship between Orestes and Pylades), and Jesus' saying "Love your enemies." The souls of the envious wear penitential grey cloaks, and have their eyes sewn shut, resembling the way a falconer sews shut the eyes of a falcon in order to train it – hence the need for audible, rather than visual, examples here (Canto XIII). The souls of the envious include Guido del Duca, who speaks bitterly about the ethics of people in towns along the River Arno The voices on the air also include examples of envy. The classical example is Aglauros, who (according to Ovid) was turned to stone because she was jealous of Hermes' love for her sister Herse. The Biblical example is Cain, mentioned here not for his act of fratricide, but for the jealousy that led to it As he is leaving the terrace, the dazzling light of the terrace's angel causes Dante to reveal his scientific knowledge, observing that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection "as theory and experiment will show" (Canto XV). Third terrace (the wrathful) On the terrace of the wrathful, examples of meekness, the opposite virtue, are given to Dante as visions in his mind. The scene from the Life of the Virgin in this terrace of purgation is the Finding in the Temple. Whereas most parents would be angry at their child for worrying them, Mary is loving and understanding of Christ's motives behind his three day disappearance. In a classical example, the wife of Peisistratos wanted a young man executed for embracing their daughter, to which Peisistratos responded: "What shall we do to one who'd injure us / if one who loves us earns our condemnation?" The souls of the wrathful walk around in acrid smoke, which symbolises the blinding effect of anger. Marco Lombardo discourses with Dante on free will – a relevant topic, since there is no point being angry with someone who has no choice over his actions (Canto XVI). Dante also sees visions with examples of wrath, such as Haman and Lavinia. The prayer for this terrace is the Agnus Dei: "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.. dona nobis pacem." ("Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.. grant us peace.") (Canto XVII). At this point Virgil is able to explain to Dante the organization of Purgatory and its relationship to perverted, deficient, or misdirected love. The three terraces they have seen so far have purged the proud ("he who, through abasement of another, / hopes for supremacy"), the envious ("one who, when he is outdone, / fears his own loss of fame, power, honor, favor; / his sadness loves misfortune for his neighbor."), and the wrathful ("he who, over injury / received, resentful, for revenge grows greedy / and, angrily, seeks out another's harm."). Deficient and misdirected loves are about to follow (Cantos XVII and XVIII). Fourth terrace (the slothful) On the fourth terrace we find souls whose sin was that of deficient love — that is, sloth or acedia. Since they had failed in life to act in pursuit of love, here they are engaged in ceaseless activity. The examples of sloth and of zeal, its opposite virtue, are called out by these souls as they run around the terrace. A scene from the life of the Virgin outlined in this terrace is the Visitation, with Mary going "in haste" to visit her cousin Elizabeth. These examples also include episodes from the lives Julius Caesar and Aeneas. This activity also replaces a verbal prayer for this terrace. Since the formerly slothful are now too busy to converse at length, this section of the poem is a short one. Allegorically, spiritual laziness and lack of caring lead to sadness, and so the beatitude for this terrace is Beati qui lugent ("Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted," Night falls (for the second time) while the poets are on this terrace, and Dante dreams of a Siren Fifth terrace (the covetous) On the last three terraces are those who sinned by loving good things, but loving them in an excessive or disordered way. On the fifth terrace, excessive concern for earthly goods — whether in the form of greed, ambition or extravagance — is punished and purified, and the avaricious and prodigal lie face-down on the ground, unable to move. Their prayer is Adhaesit pavimento anima mea, taken from Psalm 119:25 ("My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word,"), which is a prayer expressing the desire to follow God's law (Canto XIX). Dante meets the shade of Pope Adrian V, an exemplar of desire for ecclesiastical power and prestige, who directs the poets on their way. Further down the terrace, Hugh the Great, personifying greed for worldly wealth and possessions, bemoans the way that, in contrast, avarice has motivated the actions of his successors, and "prophesies" events which occurred after the date in which the poem is set, but before the poem was written These events include Charles II of Naples selling his daughter into marriage to an elderly and disreputable man, and Philip IV of France ("the fleur-de-lis") arresting Pope Boniface VIII in 1303 (a pope destined for Hell, according to the Inferno, but still, in Dante's view, the Vicar of Christ). Dante also refers to the suppression of the Knights Templar at Philip's instigation in 1307, which freed Philip from debts he owed to the order (Canto XX). In a scene which Dante links to the episode where Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Dante and Virgil are overtaken by the poet Statius, who Dante presents (on no obvious basis) as a convert to Christianity. He has just finished his time of purgation in this circle, and, as a Christian, his guidance will be able to supplement Virgil's (Canto XXI). The scene from the life of the Virgin, used here to counter the sin of avarice, is the humble birth of Christ. Sixth terrace (the gluttonous) On the sixth terrace are purged the gluttonous, and more generally, those who over-emphasised food, drink, and bodily comforts. In a scene reminiscent of the punishment of Tantalus, they are starved in the presence of trees whose fruit is forever out of reach. The examples here are given by voices in the trees. The Virgin Mary, who shared her Son's gifts with others at the Wedding at Cana, and John the Baptist, who lived on locusts and honey, is an example of the virtue of temperance;. A classical example of the opposite vice of gluttony is the drunkenness of the Centaurs that led to the Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths. The prayer for this terrace is Labia mea Domine (Psalm 51:15: "O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise") These are the opening words from the daily Liturgy of the Hours. (the prayers for the fifth and seventh terraces are also taken from the Liturgy of the Hours) (Cantos XXII through XXIV). Here Dante also meets his friend Forese Donati and his poetic predecessor Bonagiunta Orbicciani. Bonagiunta has kind words for Dante's earlier poem, La Vita Nuova, describing it as the sweet new style, and quoting the line "Ladies that have intelligence of love," written in praise of Beatrice, who he will meet later in the Purgatorio. Climbing to the seventh terrace, Dante wonders how it is possible for bodiless souls to have the gaunt appearance of the souls being starved here. In explaining, Statius discourses on the nature of the soul and its relationship to the body (Canto XXV). Seventh terrace (the lustful) The terrace of the lustful has an immense wall of flame through which everyone must pass. Souls repenting of misdirected sexual desire (both heterosexual and homosexual) run through the flames calling out examples of lust (Sodom and Gomorrah and Pasiphaë) and of chastity and marital fidelity (the Virgin Mary's chastity). As a prayer, they sing the hymn Summae Deus Clementiae[56] (God of Supreme Clemency) from the Liturgy of the Hours (Cantos XXV and XXVI). As they circle the terrace, the two groups of penitents greet each other in a way Dante compares to ants. Among the flames, which he dare not enter, are the poets of love Guido Guinizelli and Arnaut Daniel, with whom Dante speaks. By reminding Dante that Beatrice can be found in the Earthly Paradise on the other side, Virgil finally persuades Dante to pass through the intense fire (Cantos XXVI and XXVII). On the stairs to the Earthly Paradise, night falls for the third time, and Dante dreams of Leah and Rachel, symbols of the active (non-monastic) and contemplative (monastic) Christian lives, both of which are important The Earthly Paradise At the summit of Mount Purgatory is the Earthly Paradise or Garden of Eden. Allegorically, it represents the state of innocence that existed before Adam and Eve fell from grace – the state which Dante's journey up Mount Purgatory has been recapturing. Here Dante meets Matilda, a woman whose literal and allegorical identity "is perhaps the most tantalizing problem in the Comedy." However, Matilda clearly prepares Dante for his meeting with Beatrice, the woman to whom (historically) Dante dedicated his previous poetry, the woman at whose request (in the story) Virgil was commissioned to bring Dante on his journey, and the woman who (allegorically) symbolizes the path to God(Canto XXVIII). With Matilda, Dante witnesses a procession which forms an allegory within the allegory, somewhat like Shakespeare's play within a play. It has a very different style from the Purgatorio as a whole, having the form of a masque, where the characters are walking symbols rather than real people. The procession consists of (Canto XXIX):
"twenty-four elders" (a reference to Revelation 4:4), representing the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, as classified by Jerome
"four animals" with "six wings as plumage" (a reference to Revelation 4:6–8), a traditional representation of the four Evangelists
"a chariot triumphal on two wheels, bearing Beatrice, which is drawn by..
a Griffin, representing the conjoined divinity and humanity of Christ
"three circling women" coloured red, green, and white, representing the three theological virtues: Love, Hope, and Faith, respectively
"four other women" dressed in purple, representing the four cardinal virtues: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude
"two elders, different in their dress," representing the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles
"four of humble aspect," representing the general epistles
"when all the rest had passed, a lone old man,"representing the Book of Revelation
The appearance of Beatrice, and a dramatic reconciliation scene between Beatrice and Dante, in which she rebukes his sin (Cantos XXX and XXXI), help cover the disappearance of Virgil, who, as a symbol of non-Christian philosophy and humanities, can help him no further in his approach to God (and in the rest of the Divine Comedy, Beatrice is Dante's guide) Dante then passes through the River Lethe, which erases the memory of past sin (Canto XXXI), and sees an allegory of Biblical and Church history, in which the chariot plays the role of the Church. This allegory includes a denunciation of the corrupt papacy of the time, and its ties to the French monarchy Finally, Dante drinks from the River Eunoë, which restores good memories, and prepares him for his ascent to Heaven (described in the Paradiso). As with the other two parts of the Divine Comedy, the Purgatorio ends on the word "stars" THE END
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