Critical Companion to Dante: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work
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Sifting carefully through the voluminous literature, Ruud (English, U. of Central Arkansas) offers students and general readers an introduction to Italian poet Dante (1265-1321) and his works. A biography is followed by detailed commentary on The Divine Comedy and his lesser known writings. Among the appendices are a chronology and a list of Internet sources.
intelligences who inhabit and move them (as a soul does a body). Each heavenly sphere and its intelligence receive the light of God in accordance with their own inherent virtue—its degree of joy in beholding the face of God. These varying virtues are reflected in the differing degrees of brightness in the heavenly bodies. In the case of the Moon there is no single virtue but varying degrees of quality, influenced perhaps by a variety of angelic intelligences. Canto 3 opens as the pilgrim,
reached shore, looks back at the waves that nearly drowned him—may allude to Book 1 of the Aeneid, wherein Aeneas, saved from a storm at sea and standing on shore, climbs a rocky hill to look back at the water for a sight of any other Trojan ship. The significance of the three beasts that threaten the pilgrim on the hill has been much debated. It is clear that they are taken from the book of Jeremiah (5.6): “Therefore a lion from the forest shall kill them, a wolf from the desert shall destroy
is a part of the contrapasso of this canto: As in life their focus was solely on their money, so in death they cannot take their eyes from the worthless pouches that hang from their necks. Further they are unrecognizable. Only their coats of arms identify them as members of noble families of usurers, but essentially they have lost their human identity by focusing only on inanimate gold. In this they are not unlike the misers and the wasters in Canto 7, who are similarly indistinguishable. After
denotes disobedience to the authority of the church. Most are excommunicate. Their extremely slow movement seems to be simply a physical image of their agonizing wait. It should be noted that when Dante and Virgil turn to their left to approach the group, the crowd of souls motions for 107 the poets to turn the other way and move ahead. In the Inferno the poets traveled consistently to the left, or clockwise around each circle. Here the proper direction is to the right—an example of the
are placed higher on the mountain than their late-repentant subjects. But there are difficulties with this reading: England’s Henry III, for example, was known as a pious but weak king (in his poem to Blacatz Sordello berates Henry for having little courage and for losing his lands to the king of France). Clearly Henry’s failing was neglect of his secular responsibilities, not his spiritual ones. Here Dante also has Sordello complain—echoing Dante’s own political tirade of the previous canto—that