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DANTE EDITED

AMILCARE

BY

SPECIAL SPRING

a-

A.

lANNUCCI

FALL VOLUME

QUADERNI d'

i

a ia nist ica

t

I

Official Journal of the

Revue

officielle

de

la

Canadian Society

for Italian

Studies

société canadienne pour les études italiennes

ei

EDITOR

Massimo

— DIRECTEUR

Ciavolella {Toronto)



DIRECTEURS ADJOINTS ASSOCIATE EDITORS Antonio Franceschetti {Toronto) Antonio Alessio {McMaster) Amilcare A. lannucci {Toronto) Giusi Oddo de Stefanis {U.B.C.)

BOOK REVIEW EDITOR — RESPONSABLE DES COMPTES RENDUS Pamela D. Stewart {McGill) BUSINESS MANAGER

— DIRECTEUR ADMINISTRATIF

Francesco Guardiani {Toronto)

ADVISORY BOARD

— CONSEIL CONSULTATIF

D. Aguzzi-Barbagli {U.B.C.) K. Bartlett {Toronto) S. Ciccone {U.B.C.) G. Clivio {Toronto) A. D'Andrea {McGill) D. Della Terza {Harvard) G. Polena {Padova) J. Freccerò (Stanford) H. Izze {Calgary) S. Gilardino {McGill)

I.

J.

H. Noce {Toronto) Picchione {York)

J.

M. Bandinelli Predelli {McGill) O. Zorzi Pugliese {Toronto) W. Temelini {Windsor) P. Valesio {Yale) C. Vasoli {Firenze) E. Zolla {Roma)

COPY EDITING J.

Douglas Campbell

{Carleton)

DIRECTOR OF

Lavin {I.A.S. Princeton) Molinaro {Toronto)

— RÉVISION: Salvatore Bancheri {Toronto)

— DIRECTEUR DE

BIBLIOTECA DI Quaderni

d'italianistica:

Leonard G. Sbrocchi {Ottawa)



Executive of the Society Executif de la Société 1987-1989 Président/Président: Gabriele Erasmi {McMaster) Vice-PresidentA'^ice-Présidente: Valeria Sestrieri

Lee {Calgary)

Secretary-Treasurer/Secrétaire-Trésorier: Gabriele Niccoli

{St.

Jerome's)

Past Président/Présidente sortante: Maria Bandinelli Predelli {McGill)

Quaderni d 'italianistica Italian Studies

/

est la

is

the official journal of the

revue officielle de

la

Canadian Society for

Société canadienne pour les

études italiennes. Cover: H.

Fudemoto

Typeset by Humanities Publishing Services, University of Toronto

DANTE TODAY EDITED BY

AMILCARE

A.

lANNUCCI

SPECIAL SPRING

AND FALL VOLUME

QUADERNI

d'italianistica

Volume X. No.

1-2.

1989

Tish Sass. "Dante Steps into the Computer Age.

Foreword

When

Comedy

the

The

best seller.

first

literate

appeared, read

it

was what we now

copied

it,

it,

and passed

Those who couldn't read gathered eagerly

in

it

call

an instant

on

to friends.

public squares to hear

news from the other world. The poem was immediately and widely known, and soon became both an object of study and a

the latest

source of creative inspiration.

Anyone who attended the centenary celebrations of the Società in November of 1988 must have been struck by how little the situation has changed. As scholars debated fine philoDantesca Italiana

logical points in the Palazzo Vecchio's magnificent Salone dei Cin-

quecento, a steady stream of visitors filtered into the foyer to enjoy

wicked caricatures of

Italian political figures in

Divina Repubblica: L'Inferno

Dante

is

The

big business.

La Repubblica, was cashing ity it

in

an exhibit called "La

Giorgio Forattini."

di

exhibit's sponsor, the Italian daily

on the general population's familiar-

And

with Dante to launch the Florentine edition of the paper.

worked.

Dante has become part of our collective unconscious,

with the result that his image

is

used

to sell

everything from

oil to

facsimile machines.

Of

all

the cultural industries fuelled

by

literary figures,

only Shakespeare surpasses Dante as a draw. in

this

volume

indicates

period 1984-1988), this industry

As

the bibliography

over 1500 entries for the 5-year

lists

(it

is still

print-oriented, driven

lucrative educational market in Italy and North America.

Zanichelli school edition of

almost 200,000 copies

But not

all

perhaps

La Divina Commedia,

in its first three

by the

The new

for instance, sold

years on the market.

of Dante's readers are scholars and students.

He

also

enjoys a large reading public outside academe, as the success of such intelligent but decidedly

non-academic books as Roberto Fedi's

quindi uscimmo a riveder

le stelle

E

and Giampaolo Dossena's Storia

confidenziale della letteratura italiana: Dalle origini a Dante shows. First

published

QUADERNI

in

ditalianistica

1987, Dossena's entertaining and unorthodox re-

Volume X. No.

1-2.

1989

Foreword

iv

construction of literary history

new

Holland, a

in

And

third printing.

its

Comedy

quickly sold out

run of 6,000 deluxe copies. Moreover, in the

initial print

ity" of

already into

is

translation of the

new

its

"oral-

our electronic environment (McLuhan, Understanding Media;

Ong, Orality and Literacy;

Dante

etc.),

reclaiming his traditional

is

audience of "listeners" through radio, television and other electronic

On

media.

How

this subject,

more

moment.

in a

does one explain Dante's enduring popularity, and that of

The answer,

his harsh eschatological masterpiece in particular?

poem's

believe, lies in his

Comedy

is

Reader);

it

more

A

like

open nor

neither an is

The Role of the

a closed text (Eco,

neither writerly nor readerly (Barthes, SIZ). Rather

what Fiske,

producerly text

is

in Television Culture, calls a

I

The

distinctive textual characteristics.

"producerly"

polysemous and combines the easy

it

is

text.

accessibility

of the readerly with the complex discursive strategies of the writerly.

These peculiar and pleasure to the

textual qualities allow the

in

to

produce meaning

most sophisticated and discerning.

The Comedy's uncanny

much from

so

poem

audiences which run the gamut from the uneducated

density of

narrative.

its literal

but also suggests that

which Contini

ability to generate

meaning derives not

formal, hierarchical allegory as from the allusive

its

much

Our cover acknowledges

of the energy of the text

the former

lies in the latter,

Comedy's "altra polisemia." Dante's Comedy generates a number of possible readings, all of which flow naturally from the literal narrative. In saying this, I do not

mean

refers to as the

imply that the Comedy's polysemy

to

structureless, as

some today would

the terrain within

cal

is

boundless and

Rather the text defines

which meaning may be made. Where exactly the

boundary between lies is the subject

argue.

a possible reading

of

much

and an "aberrant" one (Eco)

theoretical debate. In the

Dante criticism, the problem

is

not so

much

world of practi-

"aberrant readings"

as not treating the text with sufficient delicacy, of giving

emphasis

one meaning

to

Dante's "other polysemy." cal spectrum:

inescapable

to

the detriment of others

This

is

true at both

erudite and theoretical.

when one

is

undue

packed

ends of the

into criti-

But perhaps reductionism

is

dealing with a "producerly" text like the

Comedy. "The good old

text

always

is

a blank for

new

things."

So begins

I'orcword

Grecnaway and Tom Phillips' stunning video recreation of InAnd what are some of the most interesting "new things" 5.

Peter

ferno

Dante has managed

that I

v

make no

to

produce

Several recent studies have attempted

day.

do precisely you

refer

that (e.g. Baranski,

"new

partial

in

Dante criticism

things"

at the

to-

varying degrees to

Kleinhenz, Robey, Vallone) and

them. (Precise bibliographical references

"Rassegna bibliografica 1984-88").

in the

those

to

few years?

in the past

effort here to survey the state of

Rather

edge of scholarship.

My

I

I

may be found shall focus

list is

on

necessarily

and personal.

One of

the highlights of such a catalogue

must be

Tom

Phillips'

engaging "visual commentaries" on the Inferno, which often go

to

the heart of Dante's purpose, exposing the text's subtle metaliterary

At the other end of the readerly-writerly dichotomy are

discourse.

Achille Incerti 's illustrations to the Comedy, published posthumously last

Perhaps best described as "existential-naif," they

year (1988).

suggest an almost unmediated sense of identification with the

With

little

from tuberculosis

in a

He executed

after.

him, and

text.

formal education, Incerti began to paint while recovering

it

sanatorium, and to read Dante shortly there-

his paintings with the spectre of death before

shows.

Let us swing back to the "writerly" pole and the staging of the

Comedy by an train

young

was presented follow

avant-garde director. Federico Tiezzi, as an exercise to

actors.

in the

last

The

first

installment.

June (1989)

La Commedia dell'Inferno,

Purgatory and Paradise will

in Prato.

next two years. The scriptwriter, Edoardo Sanguineti,

has actually written nothing.

ranged Dante's

text,

Rather he has fragmented and rear-

inserting bits of

commentary from Boccaccio

and Benvenuto, along with occasional citations from other sources

from the Provencals text,

to

Ezra Pound's Cantos. With

chanting delivery of

lines,

its

plurilinguistic

musical effects, and simultaneous

action, the production approximates a 14th century oral

of Dante's poem. The Middle Ages have been

phenomenon which environment,

One

to

returns

which

1

me

to the

new

performance

made contemporary,

a

"orality" of our electronic

referred earlier.

of the most significant recent developments

in the

study and

appreciation of Dante has been the attempt (conscious or unconscious) to "retrieve" electronically the aural/oral dimension of his

Foreword

vi

major work, which had largely disappeared.

I

am

thinking particu-

of Vittorio Sermonti's scintillating radio broadcasts of the In-

larly

ferno (the transcripts of which are

now

book form),

available in

and the various attempts to translate Dante from print into video, as well as (on the scholarly front) the

Dartmouth Dante Project and

other lesser attempts to computerize Dante. (The latest edition of the Zanichelli I

my

Commedia comes equipped with over

shall not linger

As

paper.

for the

a floppy disk.)

this subject, since

Dartmouth

treat

I

now

Project,

extensively in

it

in operation,

described by Robert Hollander in the "Note e Rassegne."

computer,

modem, and password, one can

it

is

With a

access the database in

Dartmouth College's central computer, which

will eventually hold

Time and space contract, and scholarship becomes immediately accessible. Type "[coloro] che la ragion somover 60 commentaries.

mettono page

al

and watch the screen

fill

medieval manuscript. The two

in a

into the

talento,"

with commentary, like a

"Dante Steps

illustrations,

Computer Age" and "Dante Produces

for

TV," commis-

sioned especially for this volume, visually gloss these technological

developments.

The new

electronic technology

is

being used not only to retrieve,

transmit, and receive meaning, but also to alter the balance in the

struggle for meaning. studies,

which

is

Let us take the situation in American Dante

certainly the

most

fluid

and interesting

passing of Singleton, thirty years as

who dominated American Dante

Croce once dominated the

at the

much by

ment. The struggle for meaning was triggered not so

mothe

criticism for

Italian scene, as

by the ease

and economy with which scholarly communication can be delivered

Now

today.

all

the voices that

were marginalized by Singleton's

dominant discourse can be heard. field,

Many

of the initiatives

in

including the establishment of lecturae Dantis series and

the

new

come from what was once considered the peAny attempt to impose meaning is doomed to failure. One such attempt a curious comes from Harold Bloom in his introduction to

specialized journals,

riphery of Dante studies in America.

from the centre one, to be sure





his various collections of

American Dante essays

His analysis of American Dante criticism

is

for Chelsea

not so

misreading" of the situation as a feeble reading of subject

much

will be written: the

much it.

1990 issue of Annali

House.

a "strong

But on

this

d'italianistica

Foreword will be given over entirely to the

vii

theme "Dante and Modern Ameri-

can Criticism."

What about

this

volume of Quaderni

d'italianistical

It

collects

papers on Dante that the journal has accepted over the past couple of years. In keeping with

its

ideology has been favoured.

volume, sible.

I

have attempted

editorial policy,

On

no

critical

approach or

the contrary, as editor of this special

to include as

many

perspectives as pos-

Methodologically, the various papers range from traditional

philological and historical research to deconstruction and beyond.

They

tackle big questions, such as

how does ted

it

mean what

it

what does the Comedy mean and

means, and how was

and received, as well as smaller

issues,

this

meaning transmit-

such as the interpretation

of a single word or verse. But even asking a small question entails a big effort

and often produces important

in

Dante

results.

This volume would be incomplete without the contribution of the students in

my

graduate seminar on Dante

at the

University of

Toronto three years ago. They are entirely responsible for the "Piccola biblioteca" and the "Rassegna bibliografica."

should go to Laurie Detenbeck, the bibliography.

Others

who

duction of this volume are

and Susan lannucci.

museums

that kindly

collections.

Finally,

I

who checked and word

Massimo

would

would

processed

contributed significantly to the pro-

allowed us I

Special thanks

Ciavolella, Michael Dunleavy,

also like to thank the libraries and to

reproduce illustrations from their

like to

thank the Social Sciences and

Humanities Research Council of Canada for

its

continuing financial

support of this journal.

Amilcare A. lannucci Toronto, November, 1989

d'italianistica appears twice a year (Spring/Fall),

Quaderni in

English, French, and Italian.

pages, double-spaced, and should be submitted

articles

in duplicate:

the original

and one

In preparing manuscripts, contributors are requested to follow the

photocopy.

new MIA

Style Sheet.

Quaderni

d'italianistica paraît

deux

des articles en anglais, en français

fois par et

en

année (printemps/automne),

en double exemplaire:

l'original et

les collaborateurs sont priés

et

publie

Les manuscrits ne devraient pas

italien.

dépasser 30 pages dactilographiées à double interligne

manuscrit

and publishes

Manuscripts should not exceed 30 typewritten

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le

et

doivent être envoyés

Pour

une photocopie.

présentation du

la

MLA

protocole du

Style Sheet

nouveau. Manuscripts

be considered should be sent

to

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Les manuscrits soumis doivent être adressés

Massimo Department of

à:

Ciavolella

Italian Studies

University of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario

Canada

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for

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Review should be

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Pour un numéro Société, taux de

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DANTE TODAY Edited by

Amilcare A. lannucci

Special Spring and Fall

QUADERNI Voi. X. No.

Foreword by

1-2.

Volume

d'italianistica

1989

the Editor

iii

ARTICOLI Amilcare A. Iannlcci Dante, Television, and Education

1

Teodolinda Barolini Detheologizing Dante: For a

"New Formalism"

in

Dante Studies

35

Massimo Verdicchio Error

in

Dante's Convivio

Dino

S.

Cervigni

55

L'Acheronte dantesco: morte del Pellegrino

e della poesia

71

Diskin Clay Dante's Broken Faith: The Sin of the Second Circle

Elio Costa From locus amoris

to Infernal Pentecost: the Sin of

91

Brunetto Latini

109

Christopher Kleinhenz Deceivers Deceived: Devilish Doubletalk

in

Inferno 21-23

133

Madison U. Sowell Dante's Nose and Publius Ovidius Naso:

A

Margherita Fr.\nkel Juno among the Counterfeiters: Tragedy Domenico Pietropaoi.o

vs.

Gloss on Inferno 25.45

Comedy

in

Inferno 30

Dante's Paradigms of Humility and the Structure of Reading

Zygmunt G.

Bar.anski

Dante's Three Reflective Dreams

2L^

199

157

173

Giuliana Carugati Dante "Mistico"? 237

Michelangelo Picone La "viva speranza" di Dante Una

pagani virtuosi.

e

il

problema della salvezza dei

lettura di

Paradiso 20

251

Riccardo Scrivano 269

Paradiso 28

NOTE E RASSEGNE Robert Hollander 287

The Dartmouth Dante

Project

Nicola De Beasi Il Giardeno, poema

imitazione dantesca del '400: edizioni

promesse R. A.

di

e citazioni reticenti in

un secolo

di bibliografia

Dante and Peraldus: The aqua falsa of Maestro on Inferno 30.64-69) 311

Carolynn Lund Mead labia mea aperies": Mirella Pasquarelli

"Domine,

A

299

Shoaf

Adamo (A

Forese Donati and Ugolino

proposito del crese di Purgatorio 32.32

Note

315

323

PICCOLA BIBLIOTECA

A

cura di

Lucandrea Ballarini (LE), Fred Bottley (FB), Laurie

Tamm

Detenbeck (LD), Anna-Sophie

Mead (CLM),

Patrick

Mario Aversano.

//

(AST), Carolynn Lund

Rumble (PR) ed Enrico

(EV)

Vicentini

velo di Venere. Allegoria e teologia dell'immaginario

dantesco (AST)

335

Giovanni Barblan, ed. Dante e

la

Bibbia

(CLM)

335

Teodolinda Barolini. Dante's Poets. Textuality and Truth

Comedy (LD)

Harold Bloom, ed. Dante (LD)

Anthony K.

in the

336 337

Cassell. Dante's Fearful Art of Justice

(PR)

338

Paolo Cherchi and Antonio C. Mastrobuono, eds. Lectura Dantis

Newberryana (CLM)

338

James Dauphiné. Le cosmos de Dante (LB)

339

Bernard Delmay. I personaggi della Divina Commedia: Classificazione e regesto Peter Dronke.

(AST)

340

Dante and Medieval Latin Traditions (FB)

Joan M. Ferrante. The Politicai Vision of the Divine

340

Comedy (PR)

John Freccerò. Dante: The Poetics of Conversion (PR)

342

341

M. Gellrich. The Idea of hi- Rook in the Middle A/^cs: Language Theory. Mythology, and Fietion (CLM) 343

Jesse

I

Luciana Giovanetti. Dante

in

Ameriea: Bibliografia 1965-1980 {\SJ) 343

Robert Pogue Harrison. The Body of Beatrice Eric

Haywood and

(CLM)

344

Barry Jones, eds. Dante Comparisons.

Comparative Studies of Dante and Montale, Foscolo, Tasso, Chaucer, Petrarch, Propertius and Catullus (FB) 345 Amilcare A. lannucci. Forma ed evento nella Divina Commedia (LB) 345 Roberto Mercuri. Semantica di Gerione (EV)

346

Silvio Pasquazi. D'Egitto in lerusalemme. Stiidi danteschi (LB)

Giorgio Petrocchi. Vita di Dante (EV)

Michelangelo Picone,

Domenico

ed.

Pietropaolo.

Dante

e le

forme

Dante Studies

romanzo Dante (LB) 350

di

//

teologico.

dell'allegoresi

in the

Jacqueline Risset. Dante scrittore (EV) Vittorio Russo.

347

348

Age of

Vico

(AST)

(CLM)

348 349

350

Sondaggio sulla Commedia

Jeffrey T. Schnapp. The Transfiguration of History at the Center of

Dante's Paradise (LD) J.F.

351

Took. L 'Etterno Piacer (FB)

352

Jeremy Trambling. Dante and Difference: Writing Commedia (CLM) 353

in the

RASSEGNA BIBLIOGRAFICA 1984-88

A

cura di Lucandrea Ballarini, Fred Bottley, Laurie Detenbeck, Patrick

Rumble ed Enrico

Vicentini

355

Tish Sass. "Dante Produces for TV."

Amilcare A. lannucci

Dante, Television, and Education

Introduction

The

entry on television in the Enciclopedia dantesca, written in

Dante has not been well-served by the

the early 1970's, notes that

medium. The

relatively

few

arid attempts to televise

with limited success (Antonucci). This

is

him have met

surprising, since the textual

Comedy are in many ways similar those of television. But perhaps this was not as evident then as is now. (And even now it is probably not evident to everyone.)

characteristics of Dante's Divine to it

Whatever

the case, this belated realization

may,

in part, explain the

recent interest in "translating" Dante from print into video. In the past

few years there have been three such

A

efforts.

one-

hundred part series on the Divine Comedy, produced by the Diparti-

mento Scuola Educazione of RAI TV, was shown

The other two

time.

Four Television ferno

in

in Britain

Televisual

Channel

has a thirty-four part series on the In-

Media Centre

Commentary. They

is

complete

University of Toronto has

at the

produced two half-hour programmes

A

1988 on prime

production. So far only the pilot on Inferno 5 Finally, the

(1985).

in

are in various stages of elaboration.

in its

Dante

's

Divine Comedy:

are "Dante's Ulysses and the

Home-

Tradition" (1985) and "Vulcan's Net: Passion and Punishment"

ric

A

(1987).

third

programme on "Dante's Universe"

and more are planned.

Of

am

I

the three projects, the

involved

RAI and

ductions are explicitly educational

is

under way,

in the latter enterprise.'

the University of Toronto prointention, although the

in

RAI

venture also aspires to "avvicinare un largo pubblico a La Divina

Commedia^' On is

the other hand, the University of Toronto initiative

not even intended for broadcast:

and

dents

it

directed specifically at North

is

who

are

coming

most ambitious

in

to the

scope

is

poem

is

designed for the classroom

American undergraduate for the first time.

the British

A

W

ditalianisiica

Volume

X. No. 1-2.

1989

stu-

far the

Dante, which carries

the signature of a talented avant-garde director, Peter

QUADERNI

By

Greenaway.

Amilcare A. lannucci

2

Tom

well-known painter and recent

Phillips, the

translator

with Greenaway.^ In

it

among

they attempt,

and

il-

programme

lustrator of the Inferno, shares the direction of the pilot

other things, to translate

Dante's plurilinguism (Contini) into the language of television, and, to a great extent, succeed.

Their aim

in the institutional sense at

any

if

is

obviously not didactic, not

but this

rate,

programme

too could,

properly introduced and contextualized, be used effectively in the

classroom. Is this legitimate?

literary text? If

what way can I

it is,

it

Is

appropriate to use television to teach a

it

then

why

How

is it?

can television be used? In

be integrated into an overall pedagogical strategy?

limit the following discussion to Dante's

Divine Comedy and the

three television projects mentioned above.

Dante's Audience Then In his Life of Dante, Boccaccio recounts the following anecdote: [Dante's] complexion crisp;

was

dark, and his hair and beard, thick, black, and

And

and his countenance always sad and thoughtful.

pened one day

in

Verona

.

.

.

thus

it

hap-

he passed before a doorway where

that, as

"Do you women were sitting, one of them said to the others man who goes down into hell and returns when he pleases, and brings back news of those who are below?" To which one of the others naively answered, "Indeed, what you say must be true; don't you see how

several

.

.

.

see the

his beard

crisped and his colour darkened by the heat and

is

smoke down

there?" (42-43)

Even when Boccaccio puts on

the robes of the biographer or

mentator, he remains a teller of ryphal, but

it

confirms what

the early diffusion of Dante's

The

tales.

story

is

com-

probably apoc-

we know from other sources about poem and the audiences to which it

appealed.'*

Dante's

Comedy was,

instant best seller.

The

literate

read

it,

It

in its time,

penetrated

transcribed

it,

what today we would

levels of

all

and passed

manuscript tradition assures us of

this.

amount of

critical literature

it

if

it

on

to friends

it



the

from the rank of

one measure of a classic

inspires.

an

This group recognized the

poem's greatness immediately and soon elevated a best seller to that of a classic,

call

contemporary society.

Dante had hardly

his grave before the first glosses appeared. His sources

is

the

settled into

were tracked

Dante, Television, and Education

down and

and the

listed,

No

were expounded.

and allegorical meanings of

literal

was

verse

fourteenth century, Dante's

3

left

poem

his

unremarked. By the end of the

poem had

generated more commentary

than ViTgiVs Aeneid had throughout the whole of the Middle Ages.

At the same time, those unable gathered eagerly

to read, like the

So powerful was

other world.

women

of Verona,

news from

public squares to hear the latest

in

the

their belief in the actual, physical

existence of hell, and so persuasive were Dante's words in conjuring

up

that world, that they accepted fiction as fact.

The

popularity of Dante's

which allows

ture,

to

it

speak

and culturally, as well as

poem to

derives from

its

polysemous na-

audiences that are different socially

historically,

from the

educated and pedantic. Built into the poem's allegory are sible readings, all of

By

this

I

do not mean

which flow naturally from to

meanings may be made.

women

which

is

would

not "aberrant," suggest.''

They if

nor

is

their reading

are highly

competent

not sophisticated "read-

Within the context of an oral performance of the Comedy, they

would bring is

bound-

is

In terms of the text's intentionality, the

of Verona's decoding

as "naive" as Boccaccio

pos-

the literal narrative.

text delineates the terrain within

decoders of oral modes of communication, ers."

many

imply that the Comedy's polysemy

and structureless. The

less

most

illiterate to the

to the

poem

a

knowledge of

constructed and an understanding of

which

the imagery with

its

it

textual conventions suffi-

make sense of it and derive pleasure from the experience. why Boccaccio tells us Dante was not displeased by their reaction. He realized that, by taking his words as literal truth, they

cient to

That



is



had grasped the poem's ethical and didactic message, which

is

remove

guide

them his

the living from a state of misery in this

to a state

Comedy

of [eternal] happiness."

to

"to

Indeed, Dante had written

in Italian rather than Latin, and in a simple style rather

than a complex one, "so that even

understand

and

life

women

[i.e.

the illiterate]

would

(Epistle 13).

it"

Dante and Oral Culture

The Comedy's

distinctive textual characteristics

from and inserted an important

role.

qualities, listed

into a popular culture in

And, indeed,

the

poem

were

which

in part

derived

orality played

possesses

many of

the

by Fiske and Hartley, typical of oral modes of com-

— Amilcare A. lannucci

4

munication: dramatic, episodic, mosaic, dynamic, active, concrete, social, metaphorical, rhetorical, dialectical.^

To

these

"memorability," the ease with which sections of heart and recited aloud, as well as the sense of

The

oral reception of the

an "unwritten" to

text,

of a

it

we must add

its

can be learnt by

"nowness"

it

creates.

poem in segments engenders the feeling of poem in fieri where the next episode has yet

happen. Moreover, the predominance of contemporary characters

and situations enhances

this

impression of "nowness." Dante meets

Francesca

Francesca, not Iseult or Dido:

temporary.

A

series of "distances"

are thus removed.

immediate.

women

The

text

—bourgeois,

social, spatial,

when

this

In saying this,

all

whom

do not intend

I

to diminish in

poem

it

any way the Comedy's

way

the formal characteristics of literate communication,^

mode. More-

Dante speaks as a scribe and a maker of texts and con-

sistently addresses the reader, not the listener

The

Russo).

Dante would

also possesses, in one

are in tension with those of the opposing oral

over, in

is

must have fuelled among the

next he descended into hell!

status as a textual object. Dante's

or another,

con-

Italian,

and temporal

seems unmediated; the experience

Think of the gossip

of Verona and the speculation about

encounter

which



literary nature

been so thoroughly studied

of the

Comedy

that to dwell

on

it

is is

(Auerbach, Spitzer, so evident and has

almost superfluous.

Unlike such anonymous poems as Beowulf, the Chanson de Roland,

and the Cid, which grew out of primarily Dante's

Comedy was

oral cultures (Zumthor),

the product of a self-conscious poet writing in a

sophisticated urban society which boasted a significant reading pub-

However,

lic.

Book,"

it

is

equally true, as

Ahern points out

that "the literate culture of the Italian

in

"Singing the

communes

contained

a very high residue of orality" and that a majority of the population

was

either illiterate or only marginally literate (21). That

not wish to exclude this group from enjoying his

from

it

itself.'

poem and

profiting

confirmed not only by the passage cited above from the

is

Letter to

Dante does

Cangrande but

For instance, the

also

by the

fact that

linguistic texture of the

Dante wrote the poem

poem

in the ver-

nacular, in a relatively simple style, in a frequently sung meter, and in easily

performable units of approximately 140 verses, argues that

he wanted

to reach a

For Dante, the

wide audience, including even

women

the illiterate.

of Verona's oral reception of the

poem and

Dante, Television, and Education

response to

A

may be incomplete

it

but not inappropriate nor invalid.

more complete response would involve

simultaneous or consecutive) by the ral reality

of the

competence

it,

soon realized

poem

to give the

this explains

why

1373

in

"non gramatici"

that

twofold reception (either

which

literate, in

Dante's listening public, or

text.

to as

a

would be experienced along with

group within

5

it

poem's au-

the

a slow, reflexive reading

at least a large, intelligent

did not possess the necessary

the full response

it

demanded. Perhaps

group of semi-literate persons (referred

a

in the extant

document) petitioned the Flo-

rentine authorities for a public reading of and

commentary on

the

Divine Comedy. ^^ So began the lectura Dantis tradition, inaugurated

by Boccaccio himself. But from the outset the form became vehicle for academic closure: learned

many

voices.^'

It is

this

commentary

berg,

which has prevailed. But

larity

not so

which

much

the

to the lectura

Comedy's

tradition, reinforced

by Guten-

poem owes

its

continuing popu-

Dantis tradition as

to the ease

can be inserted into oral culture, from which

it

sprang. Moreover,

it

a literate

the

words engulfed

could be argued that a part of

its

it

with

originally

meaning can

best be grasped through oral performance rather than through silent, solitary reading.

Walter Ong, citing Havelock, distinguishes the production of meaning and pleasure in oral culture as opposed to literate culture: ... for an oral culture, learning or

communal

thetic,

46)

.

.

.

knowing means achieving

close,

empa-

known (Havelock 1963, pp. 145knower from the known and thus sets up

identification with the

Writing separates the

conditions for "objectivity," in the sense of personal disengagement or distancing. (45-46)

The

fact that

literate

Dante's

poem

possesses characteristics of both oral and

modes of communication allows

depending on how

group receiving up equally

it.

to the

it

is

it

to elicit

both responses,

received and the cultural preparation of the

In other

words, the Divine

Comedy opens

immediate, empathetic response of the

itself

women

of

Verona and the more objective, disengaged response of the individual reader. In the

first

case, the aural impact of Dante's verbal imagery

collapses the distinction between the fictional world being described

and

reality,

and establishes

a close relationship

and the thing evoked. Here, meaning tion with

and participation

is

in the action

between

the audience

produced through identificaof the

poem and

is

grasped

Amilcare A. fannucci

6

without reflection. Even the moral significance

purpose

is

communicated immediately, since which are

part of the

consciousness and

memory

of even the

in the struggle for

meaning (and how

the literal images,

and transmitted), the lost out to the literate.

much

more

women

at the heart

it

known,

i.e.

women

this

of Dante's

flows naturally from part of the cultural

of Verona. However,

meaning

is to

of Verona's immediate

be produced

literal

"reading"

abstract, stratified, allegorical discourse of the

dimension of the poem and

In the process, the aural/oral

of what Contini calls the Comedy's "altra polisemia,"

i.e.

the

allusive density of the literal level,'^ have been lost.

Dante's Audience Today Dante's audience

edy

first

aries.

is

as varied today as

it

was when

Moreover,

it

this public is

poem

made up of

students

who

no longer

in

touch with

tural assumptions, with literary allusions.

of meaning recreated?

How

—meaning,

Mediation

its

can to

necessary, of course.

theological, mythological,

this context,

and

necessary for the production

be precise, which

text, the

is

world of Dante's poem.

the

language, iconography, and cul-

its political,

With an old

into account

significant portion of

typically are required to read

Seven hundred years separate us from are

A

annotated edition, in other words, as a clas-

in a heavily

sic rather than as a best seller.

We

Com-

continues to enjoy a large public, selling hundreds

of thousands of copies a year worldwide.'^

the

the Divine

appeared, cutting across class divisions and national bound-

is

not aberrant



best be

production of meaning must take

and be respectful of both our and the

text's differing

historical situations.

In fine,

what form should the mediation

take, especially for

North

American undergraduate students reading the Divine Comedy first time? Is the lectura Dantis the most appropriate form? Another for the

anecdote, this one true! In the main undergraduate course on Dante the University of Toronto a

Comedy was

prescribed.

students were having

at

few years ago, the Sapegno edition of the

However, we quickly discovered

more

difficulty negotiating

that the

Sapegno's learned

The following year encumbering edition. The issue is not,

notes than deciphering Dante's naked verses.

we

adopted Grandgent's less

of course, the quality of Sapegno's gloss. Despite edition appeared in 1955



it

its

age



the

first

remains one of the most sophisticated

Dante, Television, and Education

and

intelligent

7

commentaries on the market. Rather

is

it

the linguistic

and cultural preparation of our students, as well as which strategy use as a

first

approach

to

poem.'^

to the

Dante, Television, and Education Perhaps

pedagogical strategy which

a

more

is

sensitive to our stu-

dents' historical and geographical situation and that of the text, for

The Comedy

is

neither an open nor a closed text (Eco, The Role of the Reader);

it

Let us start with the

that matter, is in order.

is

and

cult, in

Eco and Barthes

self-reflexive,

discovering

its

originally theorized

complex discursive

way

in the



convey

that of reality

succeeds

— and

this impression.

the qualities of an in

calls,

who

delights

seems

to function at

one

uses standard signifying practices

Although the Comedy exhibits many of

open or writerly

text,

also "reads" easily and

it

communicating meaning and giving pleasure even

Because of

this,

Dante's

its

Comedy

states,

to

elaborate allegorical disis

more

like

what Fiske

with specific reference to television, a "producerly text."

producerly text," Fiske

in

On

one which "reads" eas-

is

It

those unable to appreciate the nature of course.

multiple, diffi-

production of meaning.

and thus has wide popular appeal.

level only

is

it,

and consequently

strategies

the other hand, a closed or readerly text ily

or writerly text,

designed for the refined reader

participating in a writerly

to

An open

neither writerly nor readerly (Barthes).

at least as

text.

"A

adapting Barthes' terminology, "com-

bines the televisual characteristics of a writerly text with the easy accessibility of the readerly" (95).

The problem, of become less

the "readerly" aspect of Dante's text has

the reasons listed above. Moreover, the text in a quintessentially literate

This format disregards,

polysemy and

is

and academic form

to a great extent,

the "reading"

course,

is

that

accessible, for

presented to students



the lectura Dantis.

both the nature of the text's

competence of

a large part

of Dante's

women

of Verona,

audience, both then and now.

Most undergraduate students today, are highly

like the

competent decoders of oral modes of communication.

Indeed, they are perhaps more television-literate than book-literate,

and

able, therefore, if pointed in the right direction, to retrieve in part

the aural/oral dimension (largely lost) of Dante's that

simply reading the

poem

poem, something

aloud can no longer hope to do.

As

Amilcare A. lannucci

8

McLuhan and

others since

shown, television television, the

him (Ong, Schwartz,

have

Fiske, etc.)

primarily an auditory-based medium.'^ Watching

is

eye functions

like

an ear,

put it in the more Hodge and Tripp's "You sorta listen with

or, to

colourful language of a nine-year-old child in

research project on children and television:

your eyes" (41). Through television, not only

some of

the Divine

may

it

be possible

Comedy's contents

(its

to

recover

iconography, for

mode

instance), but also to re-experience, in part, at any rate, the in

which

the

poem was

received by a large segment of

its

original

audience.

keep saying "in part" because the

I

electronic society that

it

based on and derived from

is

orality

essentially different

is

produced by today's

from the

literacy.

traditional kind in

Walter

Ong

calls

it

"secondary orality": With telephone,

and various kinds of sound tape, elec-

radio, television

tronic technology has brought us into the age of "secondary orality." This

new

orality has striking

tique, its fostering of a

moment, and even erate

its

resemblances to the old

communal

sense,

its

use of formulas. But

and self-conscious

in its participatory

mys-

concentration on the present it

is

essentially a

more

delib-

based permanently on the use of writing

orality,

and print, which are essential for the manufacture and operation of the equipment and for its use as well. (136)

Although

I

have stressed the similarities between the "reading" com-

petence of the

women

of Verona and today's students,

important to note the differences,

Although

and our students.

it

tellectually, the great majority

may be

Dante's

to

literate

true that, culturally

read,

mode

(in its

also

and

in-

they are closer

contemporaries than they are to the

them. However, unlike the

hostile to the oral

is

and many even derive

last analysis, therefore,

Verona: the possibility of a twofold reception of the to

it

abuse Dante, television,

of today's students are formed more

by television than by books, they can pleasure from the act. In the

we

lest

litterati

new

women

poem

is

of

open

of Dante's time, they are not

electronic form, of course). This

places today's students in a unique position to apprehend and to appreciate the Comedy''^

of the

literal level

extraliteral senses.

the

new

complex polysemy, both

the "altra polisemia"

and the more formal, structured polysemy of the

The former,

I

believe, can best be grasped through

orality of today's electronic

media, television in particular.

Dame,

Television,

and Education

9

Dante on Television So

far

I

my

have concentrated

attention

and self-conscious use of television, recreate in

it

on how, through

may

some measure an experience of Whether or not

on how effectively the medium

the text's allusive

in

this is achieved, is

used.

a deliberate in theory, to

poem which promotes

the

meanings contained

the production of those literal narrative.

be possible,

however, depends

Understanding Media,

In

McLuhan

noted that "merely to put the present classroom on

would be

like putting

that is neither" (289).

mentioned

earlier

movies on TV. The I

and

shall

now

TV

a hybrid

turn to the three television projects

briefly discuss each.

Despite the big budget, the

RAI

production

declared intentions of the undertaking, as

make Dante

unsatisfactory both

is

(One of the

and as a commercial venture.

as an educational tool

is

would be

The Lectura Dantis Televised

1.

to

result

I

have already noted, was

accessible to as wide an audience as possible.)

bookish television:

vised. Directed by

sum,

in

Marco

little

more than

Parodi, each canto

is

It

a lectura Dantis tele-

introduced by Giorgio

Petrocchi, the project's academic co-ordinator, and then read by a

famous actor (Albertazzi, Sbraglia, Salerno). tary

is

provided

in

an

artificially

Finally, a

commen-

constructed dialogue between two

established scholars (e.g. Baldelli, Borsellino, Pasquazi, Petrocchi,

The interpretative readings are too theatrical for the medium; the commentary is basic, but still too learned for the intended audience. Its presentation is both awkward and uninspired.

Tartaro, Vallone).

Furthermore, the introduction and debate are set Biblioteca Vallicelliana in

academic tone of the

affair,

audience even further.

Comedy. As and

little

and serves, of course,

The production

language of television nor

in the

Rome, which accentuates is

it

to distance its

sensitive neither to the

to the telepotential

a classroom aid,

magnificent

the distinctly

language of Dante's

can be used to impart information

more: however, the information could be conveyed better

through the more traditional pedagogical genre of the formal lecture, with a few slides thrown

in.

is a hybrid that is neither.'^

RAI

has put the book on

TV:

the result

Amilcare A. latinucci

Fig.

1.

The Castle of Memory

d'amours.

in

a manuscript of Li Bestiaires

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale

early 14th cent.).

Ms.

fr.

1951,

f.

1

(French,

Dante, Television, and [education

Fig. 2.

Dante and

his

poem. Fresco by Domenico

Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence (1465).

11

di

Michelino

in

12

Fig. 3.

Amilcare A. lannucci

View of

Florence. Detail from the

"Madonna

della Miseri-

cordia" fresco in the Orfanotrofio del Bigallo, Florence (1352).

Dante, Television, and Education

13

wn>

.1

lim.i

t"t

111

Anin Er

.iiiciv

Fig. 4.

.il

lumtni' inolrp conflvrn

^VklMIV I

a

UiÇll.lIV iT iMul.]

f'liov ficrimoli .ip.v .i(

fbl.i^rifv

lat.

209

yv:t.}

c-lv .iT> .iln-i pJ.'uTi.i

Luna and her

Estense, Ms.

l.i

influence.

De

:

sphaera.

(Italian, 15th cent.).

Modena, Biblioteca

14

Fig. 5. f.

234v

Amilcare A. latinucci

Cathedral Ship.

New

(Italian, 15th cent.).

York, Pierpont

Morgan Ms.

M

799

Dante, Television, and Education

15

i

Fig. 6.

\

Purgatorio

2.

The

ship of the souls.

Laurenziana, Ms. Strozz. 152,

f.

Florence, Biblioteca

31v (Florentine,

ca.

1335-1345).

16

Fig. 7.

Amilcare A. lannucci

World map. Ebstorf, Germany. Destroyed 1943

(ca. 1235).

Dante, Television, and Education

ntf- ^'?r^

'" '

eatr4;'ce::i'

"^'""^^"P^ of Brunetto Latini's Trésor. Oxford ""-- '''^ ' '^ «^ ^^^'e (Italian;

""'

--^-

Amilcare A. lannucci

18

Fig. 9.

of

St.

God shows Death to the fallen Adam and Eve in a manuscript De civitate Dei. Paris, Bibliothèque Ste Geneviève

Augustine's

(French, 15th cent.).

9

Dante, Television, and Education

Dante, from Illumination to Tt'levision

2.

A

1

remarkable illumination

of Richard de Fournivai's

an early fourteenth century manuscript

in

Bestiaires

/./

d'amours shows Lady

Mem-

ory standing before a castle with two doors, one bearing the image

of an eye, the other that of an ear (figure

One can

1).

enter the

house of Memory, Richard explains, either through the door of sight (painting) or through the door of hearing (speech): For when one sees a story painted, whether a story of Troy or of some

men who were

other thing, one sees the deeds of the brave

times as

And

they were present.

if

so

it

hears a tale read, one perceives the wondrous deeds as

them taking

place.

means,

is

that

And

since what

is

past

made

is

by painting and speech, therefore

two things one can come

it

if

there in past

For when one

with speech.

is

one were

to see

present by those two is

clear that by these

remembrance.'^

to

Painting and speech not only generate images in the mind, but also retrieve

images already stored

there.

Dante's iconography of damnation and salvation, familiar to his first

audiences, has today largely been

ilar to the

Following a process sim-

lost.

one described by Richard de Fournival, the University of

Toronto project attempts

to reconstruct televisually this

which Dante's powerful verbal imagery would of his contemporaries.

iconography,

trigger in the

minds

does so using manuscript illuminations

It

and various other visual images,

all

of which, even those from late

sources, belong to Dante's and his original public's cultural patri-

mony and memory. Manuscript because they are small miniatura

them low



flat,



illuminations have been privileged

the Italian term for illumination

and often

ill-defined, all characteristics

ideally suited to television, with

definition.

The

TV

flattens, foreshortens,

its

is,

in fact,

which make

small screen and relatively

image, and especially one thus delineated,

and blurs distinctions, creating the impression

of simultaneous presence

in a

manner akin

to that

of oral-manuscript

culture.'**

The primary purpose of series

is,

the University of Toronto

Dante video

therefore, to reposition the student historically in a pre-

humanistic setting and that the visual

experienced.

make him

self-conscious of the process, so

and oral contexts of the Comedy may be

The

historical repositioning

the following operation. First, the student

I

is

critically re-

propose corresponds to

removed from

in front

of

Amilcare A. lannucci

20

Domenico

Michelino's famous representation of Dante (1456) in

di

Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence). This well-known painting, which has become synonymous with Dante, shows the poet in the fore-

ground holding viewer.

The

Comedy open

his

left

hand,

in his

its

pages facing the

foreground and the background are occupied by the

three realms of the afterlife; to the right

a

is

view of Florence domi-

nated by Brunelleschi's majestic cupola (figure

2).

Once

has been deprived of this anachronistic perspective, he its

the student

is

offered in

place the crowded confusion of the splendid, foreshortened rep-

resentation of Florence in the

(1352)

manner

"Madonna

in the Orfanotrofio del Bigallo in

della Misericordia" fresco

Florence (figure

In this

3).

the three-dimensional "visual" space of the Renaissance

replaced by the

"acoustic" space of the Middle

flat,

Gutenberg Galaxy

19),

is

Ages (McLuhan,

which our new electronic environment,

to a

great extent, recreates.

The technique used

make

to

the

programmes

is

straightforward:

the images (mostly miniatures, as already indicated) are projected

onto one or more screens, filmed, and then edited ate the illusion of

motion and

commentary. The

script is read

coherent narrative and

to construct a

by a professional narrator

not appear on screen. Finally, original music tive

order to cre-

in

and imagery thus reclaimed are used

is

who

does

added. The perspec-

to illustrate

key aspects of

Dante's poem, whether they be thematic, structural, or other.

Most of

the images are necessary to recreate the context and

the narrative.

Some

of the context-building illustrations are taken

from illuminated manuscripts of

the Divine

Comedy. However, these

manuscripts yield relatively few images, since Dante's early tors rarely dedicated

more than one

Furthermore, illuminations from ceptions, seldom take us

Meiss, and Singleton

in

or

two miniatures

this source,

below

to

illustra-

each canto.

with a few notable ex-

the surface of the text (Brieger,

Illuminated Manuscripts).

In other words,

these pictures can often provide the divisione but seldom the ragion-

ata cagione, to use Dante's

hand, there are

which serve

own

critical categories.

some images, deriving from

the other

a precise, exegetical function, clarifying especially the

"altra polisemia" of the literal narrative.

gramme, image of

On

a variety of sources,

the

first in

the

moon

I

shall use the

Ulysses pro-

the series (1985), as an example. Consider the

in Inferno 26, usually interpreted in

terms of the

Dante, Television, and Education

poem's formal

allegory,

as a

i.e.

21

symbol of Reason, unilluminated

by Grace. However, the traditional iconography of the goddess Luna suggests other, more allusive, interpretative possibilities which obviously have

some bearing on

Luna was

the episode's significance.

the protector of sailors and patron of folly.

She was also closely

sociated with Fortune, and hence tragic reversal. Indeed, she

represented as balanced on wheels, as she illustration

(despite

from the

its late

De sphaera which we

source) because of

its

is in

used

is

as-

often

a fifteenth century in the

programme

beauty and clarity (figure

4).

Less often, an image can illuminate the more formal, structured

polysemy of Dante's Christ's passion,

is

The Cathedral Ship

text.

ship (figure 6) which transports the saved from the

Tiber to the shores of is in

turn

Mount

is

metaphorically the

poem

and Dante's ship, for

programme

is

the thirteenth century Ebstorf

the figure of Christ

is

symbolic space, Christ's

meaning

is

mappa mundi

T and

the

Ulysses

this sort in the

(figure 7),

actually superimposed on the

world, divided according to the familiar In this

that matter,

All four carry a similar cargo:

itself.

Perhaps the most obvious image of

which

the

established between Noah's Ark, the Cathedral Ship,

the celestial boat of Purgatorio 2,

in

mouth of

Purgatory.'^ Since the Cathedral Ship

modelled on Noah's Ark, a clear iconographie and typo-

logical link

saved.

by

(figure 5), driven

almost certainly the model for the angel-propelled

known

pattern (figure 8)."°

The

feet are placed at Gibraltar.

evident, and dramatically brings into focus the Ulysses'

episode's dominant metaphor. To be saved, one must stay within the

bounds. Spiritual limits are defined lars

in

geographical terms. The

Pil-

of Hercules stand as an imperative: do not overstep the bounds!

Ulysses does:

he follows the setting sun, symbol of Adam's

sails into darkness,

and ends

in

fall,

shipwreck. At the tropological level,

Ulysses' example warns Dante's Christian audience of the perils of spiritual transgression."'

Although much of

this

information could be delivered

in

an

il-

lustrated lecture, televisual presentation of the material adds consid-

erably to the

way meaning

is

produced and grasped.

Words and

pictures are only part of the meaning-generating strategy in these televisual commentaries.

A

erate meaning: these range

complex

series of other factors also gen-

from the angle and motion of the camera

to the tone of the narrator's voice,

from the graphics

to the

sound

Amilcare A. lannucci

22

For example, music contributes significantly

track.

of meaning. The Ulysses programme

count of various "sea" journeys.

It

is,

among

starts

production

to the

other things, an ac-

by contrasting the circular

homeward-bound Homeric hero to the linear trajectory of Dante's Ulysses. The latter's last, doomed voyage is then com-

pattern of the

pared to the successful journeys of Aeneas, the purgatorial souls, and

Dante himself. Each has

its

music. For instance, the musical themes

of the two Ulysses emphasize their differing destinies: one creates

which sug-

a sense of closure, the other of opening, but an opening

gests from the outset the inevitability of shipwreck. In contrast, the

of Purgatorio 2

celestial ship

which

a motif

The

steady militaristic beat of

sails to the

recalls In exitu Israel

de Aegypto.

other televisual commentaries in the series are similarly fash-

"Vulcan's Net: Passion and Punishment" (1987)

ioned.

of love and war.

Its

archetype

is

theme

traced to the adultery of

Venus

it

and Mars, called by Ovid "the best-known story nally,

"Dante's Universe" (now

retells the

against the broader

story of Paolo and Francesca, setting

in all

heaven." Fi-

in preparation) illustrates

how Dante poem

uses the Ptolemaic universe as a structuring device to give his

shape and meaning. The stage upon which his Comedy unfolds

is

the cosmos.

A Postmodern TV Dante

3.

The

British

A TV

Dante's

pilot

on Inferno 5

is

less philological

than the University of Toronto programmes, and takes the opposite

"The good old

approach, making the past contemporary:

ways

is

a blank for

new

things."

So begins

text al-

the Greenaway-Phillips

metavideo, which deliberately sets out to bring the writerly aspects of

Dante's text into the open, skilfully using

it

to experiment, at times

parodically, with the "linguistic" conventions of the result is an entertaining,

exercise which

is

sequence

in the episode.

we move from

the

to a realistic description

low grotesque

realistic

style of the

Minos

of the infernal storm to an epic

catalogue of famous lovers, and finally, the episode,

medium. The

televisual styles, an

not dissimilar in spirit to Dante's conscious mixing

of styles or plurilinguism In Inferno 5

postmodern collage of

in

from the language of the dolce

the Francesca part of stil

language of prose romance (Poggioli),

nuovo

all

to the

more

within the frame

Dante, Television, and Education

23

How do Grcenaway and Phillips handle these shifts They translate them into contemporary filmic or televisual equivalents. They use Fellinesque imagery for Minos and the sinners, of chronicle. in style?

a televised

southern

weather warning about an approaching tornado

USA

for the bufera infernale,

style of British television in the

documentaries

and the

the

in

distinctive, snapshot

for the epic catalogue.

Then,

Francesca segment, they play with the conventions of romance,

repeating, for instance, Francesca's crucial "Lancelot" speech three times, each in a different tone.

The

first

programme,

part of the

whirlwind dies down

until the

and the two condemned lovers step forward, moves

We

feverish speed.

at

bombarded by hundreds of repulsive sounds and images, held

are

together by quick cuts. Moreover, the screen

often broken up, thus

is

multiplying the infernal imagery and reinforcing the overwhelming sense of moral disorder and chaos.

Greenaway and

visual techniques,

Through these and other

Phillips

manage

tele-

to restore to the

episode's setting and contrapasso a rawness which time and com-

mentary had largely subdued.

While today's students might be shocked by the raw and

explicit

imagery, they would certainly appreciate the hectic pace of the pro-

gramme. Televisually

literate,

they regularly practise the

of "zap-

art

ping" or "systematic switching" (Palmer 79), which allows them to construct a viewing experience of fragments. This video might even

make them aware stylistic

that

Dante does something very similar with the

codes of his time, which he juxtaposes and fuses with

arming ease, moving from the grotesque at will.

to the

The Greenaway-Phillips video contains

insights into the

workings of Dante's

text,

which

dis-

sublime and back a

number of other are expressed not

only through the rapid accumulation of images but also through the techniques of the

medium

itself:

the use of black and white, colour,

computer graphics, odd camera angles, sound

effects,

and so on.

THE LUSTFUL, the video opens with a visual word LUSTFUL becomes LUST and then US, a nice tropologi-

Subtitled play:

ca! touch.

Sometimes words

translated into images: they

words themselves. When struct the pilgrims'

power

way,

are so powerful that they cannot be

must be rendered

Virgil

warns Minos

in the

(vv.

22-24) not

for their journey "is willed

are one," his authorial voice speaks

imagery of the

where

to

will

from the pages of

ob-

and

a book.

Amilcare A. lannucci

24

More

spectacularly, the

word

LOVE

is literally

the screen each time Francesca utters (v. lOOff.) in

Her face

which she attempts

fills

in fire

famous

onto

tercets

with Paolo.

to justify her adultery

sockets.

The scene

is

disconcerting in

Francesca burns and dies

tive accuracy:

becomes

sin

branded

in the three

the screen while flames burn through her skull-like

mouth and eye

The

it

the punishment.

in the fire

This idea

of

its

interpreta-

passion.

illicit

brought into dra-

is

matic focus, again through the imaginative use of televisual devices in the three versions

Through

two

toward

titudes

(v.

121ff.)

poses and the colour of the light which bathes them

their

in the first

of Francesca's "Lancelot" speech

renditions, Paolo their passion,

and Francesca convey differing

at-

seemingly out of step with one other.

Francesca's tone as she speaks the lines reveals

first

unconscious

passion and then urgent, seductive entreaty as she seeks to embroil the viewer in her

own moral

downfall. In the background, the silent

Paolo conveys internal struggle as Francesca delivers her lines the first

time, and then anguished

second sequence, Francesca, with her hands. In the

shame

as she repeats them.

like Paolo, tries to

In the

cover her nakedness

both are devoid of emotion.

final rendition,

The colour has disappeared, and Francesca

delivers her lines in a

flat,

commencontrapasso. The

matter-of-fact tone. Repetition turns passion into routine, a tary

on both the nature of

lust

and the episode's

soundtrack underscores the point.

ground it

we

From time

hear the words "and more and more

turns out,

is

part of verse 130,

which

more and more our eyes were forced In the

tempt

to

Tom

time

to .

.

."

back-

in the

The

refrain, as

Phillips translates,

"But

to meet."

second version of the "Lancelot" speech, the lovers'

at-

cover their nakedness recalls the medieval iconography of

the temptation of

Adam

and Eve and

den of Eden. Furthermore, Paolo

and vulnerable, perhaps a reference

is

their expulsion

from the Gar-

portrayed throughout as slight

to the traditional interpretation

of

Adam's weakness and the Fall as male rationality capitulating to female seduction. ^^ The typological link between Paolo and Francesca and Adam and Eve suggested by the lovers' poses is made explicit As Francesca pronounces in the final images of the programme. "The book was Gallehault, a gothe famous "Galeotto" passage between" the camera focuses on her sensuous mouth (the colour





has been fully restored) which, with the pilgrim's swoon,

is

turned

Dante, Television, and Education

25

become a vaginal image and then the V of Eve. Thus programme begins and ends with a visual play on words a device which certainly would have pleased Dante, who, as we know, vertically to



the

loved puns and word-play.

Conclusion I

have perhaps overstated the use and usefulness of television

teaching. If

I

have,

it

is

because television

medium with both to create "new

is

in

so often treated as an

inferior cultural

inferior textual characteristics that

potential

things" and (more importantly, from

its

our perspective) to illuminate "old things" has been underestimated.

Perhaps

this is

due

to literate culture's uneasiness with television

and the new electronic threat to

its

values.

perceives as a

it

the case, television can,

an effective teaching tool, especially all

which

orality in general,

Whatever

if

it

is

I

believe, be

integrated into an over-

pedagogical strategy, anchored by the more traditional teaching

genres of the formal lecture and seminar."^^ For Dante specifically, it

can be useful

in recreating

recovering certain messages, lusive

polysemy of

an experience of the

in particular

the literal narrative.

Comedy and

in

those contained in the al-

Sometimes

it

can even help

us penetrate the more formal hierarchical polysemy of the allegory. In the

hands of sensitive directors

medium can even

like

Greenaway and

Phillips, the

bring into focus the writerly aspects of the

text,

exposing Dante's discursive strategies and metaliterary discourse. Bringing television and other electronic technology^"* into the class-

room

is

also an important gesture toward the present and our stu-

dents' cultural formation.

Even today

the Divine

enjoyed as a best seller rather than tolerated as a to

happen,

we must

provide a commentary,

Comedy can be

classic.

But for

at least initially,

this

which

does not overwhelm students but provides them with just enough information to produce meaning and pleasure. Peter Greenaway and

Tom

Phillips incorporate the

commentary

and parodie way. From time

tradition into their video

windows open up to explain some detail or other. He is allowed to say only what is absolutely necessary. Then his voice starts to fade; finally the window closes and he disappears. in a brilliant

to

time

on the screen and an expert appears

There are symbolically and ironically three such authorial Dantist, a classicist,

and an ornithologist.'^

figures: a

Amilcare A. latinucci

26

One final anecdote Panorama contained a It

proclaimed

bold

in

The Christmas 1988

to conclude.

issue of

FAX machine. PRENDETE UN LIBRO E TRASMET-

full-page advertisement for a

print:

TETELO SUBITO DOVE VOLETE. The book

be sent was La

to

Divina Commedia, complete with an image of Dante figured on one

my

of the open pages. The ad struck

fancy for two reasons:

first,

Dante with the book, which

that our electronic society associates

continues to be an object of authority and reverence; and secondly, that this

wires.

from

monument of words should be transmitted across telephone was with this very machine that I transmitted this paper

It

Rome

you

to

Toronto today.

in

^^

University of Toronto

NOTES 1

In addition to writing the scripts,

my

conception of each programme

realized.

is

They

and directed by Michael Edmunds. Centre of the University of Toronto

2 Quoted on of the

in the

in the

who

is

an offshoot

objectives and intended

its

in

an

article

broadcast: "Speriamo in un largo pubblico, anche di esperti,

di studenti, a cui

project on

con

la

massima semplicità spiegheremo

The book mentioned above,

It

which

it

is

based,

rather simple

is

contains a biography of the poet, a brief

multimedia

affair.

It

il

contenuto

like the

and straightforward

It

is,

canto,

however,

comes with an audiocassette with readings of

anthologized cantos by AJbertazzi, Sbragia, and Salerno,

TV con-

in

summary of each

and an anthology of ten "famous" cantos with commentary. a

Media

co-ordinated the academic side

following statement, cited by Giulia Borgese

e l'importanza dei singoli canti."

cept.

produced

Corriere Cultura, which appeared just a few months before the pro-

grammes were anche

are

are available through the

even more explicit about

is

sure that the overall

both English and Italian versions.

television project. Petrocchi,

of the undertaking,

audience

in

make

The programmes

Per conoscere Dante, which

the cover of Petrocchi,

RAI

role is to

the ten

who performed

this

task in the television production.

3 Phillips' translation that there will

Greenaway, a

new

is

used, as are

be a change

in a recent

in

some of

his illustrations.

personnel and

in

look

However,

in future

it

seems

programmes.

interview in La Repubblica (Porro), speaks of

work on

translation and construction of a set in preparation for the shooting of

the series,

which

will take at least three years to complete.

will not be dramatizations in the strict sense of the

actors for the major characters (as

is

The programmes

word, but will include

the case for Paolo

and Francesca

in the

Dame,

and Education

Television,

The English

already completed Inferno 5 scgmenl).

Dante; Sir John Gicigud

4 On

Bob Peck

actor

first

of these two important

articles, in

Dante's audience into four groups according

They

"literacy" (21-22).

indocli; 3) the volgari e

which Ahcrn divides

degree of each group's

to the

are 1) the idiotae or illitteraii; 2) the semi-literate or

non

vernacular

litierati (i.e.

"unschooled artisans and craftsmen," could "haltingly decipher simple accounts and

documents,"

group of pure

first

like the

Comedy,

the

like

poem through

illiterates.

group too was,

this

together, included

When

receive the

and the

illiterate

poem

came

that

who

text

only had access to

These four groups, taken one another

concerns

could,

it

two groups can be merged

Italian.

me

complex

in

paper

in this

is

that

between those who could on'y

literate, i.e. that

orally and those

complex written

to a

social classes and related to

and paradoxical ways. The distinction

between the

it

in effect, illiterate:

were capable of reading

all

of sale,

bills

can, for our purposes, be collapsed

it

oral recitation. Likewise, the last

into one, since both

and 4) the

literate only);

Since the second group, composed mainly of

litterati (i.e. also Latin literate).

into the

will play

to portray Virgil.

John Ahcrn, "Singing the Book" and "Binding the Book,"

this subject, see

but especially the

scheduled

is

27

if

poem

they chose, receive the

either through a public oral performance or through a private, silent reading

of

it.

paper

shall return later in this

I

complex question of double

to the

reception on the part of the literate.

5 The term belongs to Umberto Eco who, sione?", argues that

when

there

is

between the encoder and the decoder of "aberrant,"'

i.e.

the

message

pubblico

in "II

television, given the great social

the Letter to

Cangrande

male

alia televi-

a text, the

decoding

will often be

will be deciphered according to the cultural

of the receiver rather than those of the sender.

As

fa

a significant social or cultural difference

This

is

and cultural range of

its

{Epistle 13.10) suggests, and as

"Singing the Book" (32-34), Dante wrote his poem

in

codes

especially true of

such a

audience (266).

Ahem way

argues

that

be received both orally and through silent solitary reading, thus making cessible to the widest possible audience. This, of course, does not

Comedy immune However,

the

to aberrant readings,

women

encoded

both the

at

it

ac-

make

the

which occur regularly and frequently.

of Verona's "reading"

they draw from the poem,

in

could

it

not of this kind: the message

is

literal

and the tropological

level,

is

in the text.

6 Boccaccio's characterization of important distinction "sophisticated"

in

their reading

competence brings

Model Reader. Although

Eco's "naive" Model Reader,

this

that this

mode

mind Eco's

the

women

of Verona most resemble

category does not entirely explain their

uation, since they are very competent decoders of oral

messages

to

The Role of the Reader between the "naive" and the

communication and

sit-

the

of communication privileges. For Eco's application

of his Model Reader theory to television (which

is

our special concern

in this

paper), see "L'innovazione nel seriale" (135).

7 The only

characteristic of oral

communication

listed

by them

that

Dante's

Amilcare A. latinucci

28 poem does

not possess in any measure

is

Comedy

the "ephemeral," since the

is

obviously a written document, also intended to be received by a sophisticated reading public (Fiske and Hartley 124-25).

8 These

are,

always according

Fiske and Hartley, narrative, sequential, lin-

to

permanent, individual, métonymie, logical, uni-

ear, static, artefact, abstract,

vocal/'consistent' (124-25).

9 Indirect confirmation comes from

the reaction of the litterad of his day, like

Giovanni del Virgilio {Eclogue 1.6-13) and

who

with Petrarch himself,

way 10 For

as to appeal to the "ignorant

of the humanists, starting

later

Dante for writing the poem

criticized

mob"

in

such a

Cf. Vallone,

Ahem,

in the four

sonnets

{Familiares 21.15).

Lungo 163-69.

the text of the petition, see Isidoro del

"Singing the Book" 33.

11 The experience, according

{Rime la

Parte,

Boccaccio's

to

own

testimony

of the poem, was not a

to his public reading

122-25) dedicated

completely satisfactory one. The form was too academic for his public, which

he refers to as "questi ingrati meccanici" (123.13). Those

Boccaccio for opening up the poem to

to the

worry about. The lectura Dantis format, despite

fundamentally antithetical that

12 The

women

of Verona's

since

it

in cui

is

literal

its

longstanding tradition,

"altra polisemia,"

si

elementi vicini e assai spesso

in

stratificano e i

medesimi, siano punti

di

component of

la

Tommaso Di and

is

is

literal level

we may

of

al

prezioso

come

add, the aural/oral

continuing popularity of Dante's Divine

Zanichelli school edition of the

Comedy, prepared by

competitive market

in

which

that the

new Pasquini-Quaglio

the

Sapegno (La Nuova

their

Italia)

own. Perhaps even more

edition of the

poem

(Garzanti),

intended primarily not for the schools but for the general public, sold

over 30,000 copies during roughly the same period (Borgese). Dante

abroad too, as several papers di

'idea

Salvo, sold 180,000 copies in the three year period 1985-87,

this in a highly

which

Un

his

the allusive literal level has been left largely unexplored.

and Bosco-Reggio (Le Monnier) editions held significant

gli

duplice natura di

But commentary on the

this erudite focus,

statistics to indicate the

The new

Comedy.

che

reticolati

(not to mention the allegorical levels) "si è tradizionalmente

'comico' " (120). Because of

13 Just a few

si

"Tal copia associativa,"

svolto secondo la linea puntualmente erudita spettante così al

it.

dell'autore,

numerosi

one of the most penetrating pages of

Dante, preziosa e 'comica'" (120).

poem

memoria

accumulano, facendo

di Dante, "è fomentata da quella che culturalmente è

Dante's

rise to

which, of course, contains a great deal more

e sistemi, per solito implicati e non svolti" (119).

Contini goes on to say

is

result

"reading" must be located within the range of

the product of "la fulminante ricchezza della

esperienze e letture

criticized

communication, with the paradoxical

has to a great extent excluded the very group which gave

it

Comedy's

the

to oral

who had

"vulgo indegno" (123.3) had nothing

at the recent international

sells

well

conference on "L'opera

Dante nel mondo: edizioni e traduzioni nel Novecento," organized by the

Centro Bibliografico Dantesco (Roma 27-29 aprile 1989), indicated.

Dante. Television, and Education 14 For second or subsequent approaches

lo the

29

Comedy, whether

in the

context of

a senior undergraduate seminar or at the graduate level, an annotated scholarly

edition like Sapegno's

paper

I

which

am concerned in

only preferable but necessary. However,

is nt>t

rather with the students

North America usually occurs

in

first

the junior years of university.

15 For the eye/ear dichotomy, see The Gutenberg Galaxy,

applied to tele-

later

vision in Understanding Media. See also the recently published

Media, which elaborates the distinction

McLuhan's son

reconstructed by

16

My

Laws of the

This posthumous book was

further.

Eric, using his father's notes.

ment of McLuhan's seminal work on media, see and lannucci's McLuhan e

in this

contact with Dante's poem,

the essays in

For a reassess-

De Kerckhove

metamorfosi dell'uomo.

la

RAI production

negative assessment of the

shared by most Italian Dante

is

scholars and television commentators. See, for example, Beniamino Placido's entertaining review in

17

I

La Repubblica.

who

use the translation of Kolve,

Chaucer and

critical edition

studies the passage and the miniature in

Imagery of Narrative (24-26). For

the

oi Li Bestiaires d'amours

the original, see Segre's

(5).

18 The manuscript culture of Dante's time, as Chaytor, McLuhan {Gutenberg Galaxy), and others have noted, was still intensely oral in nature. It was com-

mon

But more important for our purpose, the

for manuscripts to be read aloud.

manuscript page,

in

contrast to print with

sion, lacks visual definition.

its

bold intensity and uniform preci-

has a diffuse texture and cluttered appearance,

It

often containing text, gloss, and image simultaneously.

19 The

of the Cathedral Ship (figure 5)

illustration

tury Italian manuscript

(New

Therefore, this picture, too,

is later

raphy (Kolve 297-358), of course, actually represents the Ship of the crucified Christ tied to the

mast

who hangs on in the

is

taken from a fifteenth cen-

York, Pierpont Morgan Ms.

famous

is

much

older.

the mast.

6),

it

the

This striking image recalls Ulysses

to see

The correspon-

first

Ulysses as a Christ-figure.

than of the second

illustration also brings into focus the cross-like posture

Purgatorio 2 (figure

234v).

f.

was chosen because

It

siren episode of the Odyssey.

(To Dante he was a figure more of the

in

799,

Church being driven (metaphorically) by

dence led some eariy Christian allegorists

man

M.

than Dante's poem. However, the iconog-

Adam.) The

of the angelic helms-

which none of Dante's illuminators shows

explicitly (Brieger 2: 332-35).

20 The Ebstorf map orbis terrarum),

a rather elaborate version of the

is

common

east at the top, the

"O"

concentrated entirely

in

Dante's time and familiar

traces the

in the

the southern hemisphere of water. the

boundary of

northern hemisphere.

known worid symbolically

The "T"

T to

and

O map

(from

him. Oriented with

the

known world, which

The

encircling ocean covers

inscribed in the

into three continents, as the

"O"

example

divides (figure

8) taken from a manuscript of Brunetto Latini's Trésor clearly shows.

creator of the likely

enormous Ebstorf map, destroyed during World War

is

11,

The

was

Gervase of Tilbury (Bagrow 48-50), an English professor of canon law

Amilcare A. latinucci

30 in

map

Bologna. The Ebstorf

in the

21 For

a

probably resembles the illustration (now

manuscript of Gervase's Otia Imperialia (written

lost)

in 1211).

more complete scholarly treatment of some of these ideas, see my The Burden of History," revised Italian version in

"Ulysses' 'folle volo':

Forma ed evento 145-88. 22 Some of

the ideas developed in the video are already suggested in Phillips'

illustrations to Inferno 5 is

and commentary on them (288-89).

precisely the Eve-Francesca typology,

One of these a common-

which has long been

place in Dante criticism. However, his illustration

is

based on Michelangelo's

representation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel of the temptation and ex-

Adam

pulsion of

and Eve from Eden,

which

in

the traditional iconography

is

movement of Michelangelo's corpuThe video Paolo and Francesca seem to have been inspired more

greatly obscured by the bold, contorted lent figures.

by Northern European Renaissance painting:

the various

Adams and Eves

of Lucas Cranach, for instance, which more faithfully preserve the medieval

iconography than Michelangelo's resplendent nudes on the Sistine ceiling. Figure 9 (miniature from a fifteenth century French manuscript of tine's

De

civitate

Dei

St.

Augus-

Bibliothèque Ste Geneviève, Paris) provides a

in the

"typical" medieval representation. In

God shows Death

it

to the fallen

Adam

and Eve.

23

I

suggested such a strategy

proaches

24 Such

to

as computers, to

new

tion of the

which

there

Zanichelli Divina

seems

to

be less resistance. The

Commedia

for the schools

with a floppy disk, which contains the text of the for the rapid search of single

Project" on the

commentary

Robert Hollander

26

A

much

in this

the late

is

poem

Now

tradition.

in

is

latest edi-

comes equipped

plus a

words and rhymes. However, by

ambitious and elaborate computer project on Dante

25 The Dantist

MLA's Ap-

an earlier essay published in the

in

Teaching Dante's Divine Comedy.

programme far the

most

"The Dartmouth Dante

operation,

it

is

described by

volume.

Kenelm

Foster, O.P., of

shorter version of this paper

Cambridge University.

was presented

(in

my

absence)

at the

international conference on "Italian Literature in North America: Pedagogical

Strategies" held at York University, Toronto,

Canada on March 11-12, 1989.

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La Divina Commedia. lOO-Part Television programme. Prod.

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Enciclopédia dantesca

33 1:

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poésie orale. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1983.

Teodolinda Barolini

Detheologizing Dante

For a "New Formalism"

Dante

in

Studies

In his capital

and underutilized "Dante profeta," published

Bruno Nardi threw down look

He

at the

Commedia

begins where

in

to

not through a glass darkly, but face to face.

such discussions must begin, with the

all

1941,

and challenged us

a criticai gauntlet,

media^s most overtly prophetic moments,

its

Com-

political prophecies;

them within the context of Joachimism and Franciscan

situating

spiritualism,

moves

he

a discussion of medieval

to

ward prophecy, dreams, and Albert the Great's belief that ferenza di

altri,

hanno

attitudes to-

Calling to our attention

divination.

some people "sognano

visioni veraci, talché

non

il

vero,

e,

a dif-

rado pronunziano

di

perfino chiarissime profezie" (368), Nardi claims that Dante consid-

own experience one such visione verace,^ with the result that those who view the poem as a literary fiction misread it: "chi considera la visione dantesca e il rapimento del poeta al cielo come ered his

finzioni letterarie, travisa in

il

senso" (392). Moreover, Nardi persists

asking the inelegant questions that are the logical consequence

of his position, not only "Si deve dunque credere colle donnicciole

di

Verona, che Dante scendesse davvero all'Inferno, e davvero

even

salisse all'Empireo?" (392), but

Dante?" (405). Given

that his

answer

"Ma

fu

veramente un profeta,

to the first

query

is

a qualified

yes ("Non precisamente questo; bensì che Dante credette sero mostrati in visione l'Inferno,

come veramente sono take on Croce, for part

is

to suggest

If this is

Purgatorio,

whom

to

Geremia, Ezechiele

gli fos-

Paradiso terrestre,

admit such a hallucination on Dante's that the lucid poet

madness, says Nardi, Dante was

dementi furono del

il

nella realtà" [392]), Nardi's next step is to

— impossibly —

biamo confessare che e

il

di

demenza

pari

in

a

madman.^

è impastata la psicologia religiosa;

Mosè, Zarathustra

e san Paolo,

was

good company: "dob-

non meno

e

Maometto, dementi

del protomartire Stefano e

dell'autore dell'Apocalisse" (396). Faced with the obvious similarity QUADERNI diialianistica

Volume X, No.

1-2.

1989

Teodolinda Barolini

36

between Dante's claims and those of previous prophets, Nardi courageously (especially

in that

he was not an American academic but an

Italian ex-priest) vaults the barrier that,

his precursors, preserves

by segregating Dante from

modern believers from

the unpalatable ne-

cessity of accepting with regard to a medieval poet

from various

what they accept

namely, authentic divine inspiration.

earlier claimants:

if Nardi is more rational than is decorous among believers, he is more believing than is decorous among rationalists; indeed, the very posing of his final query (to which he offers another qualified

But, also

may have

assent)^

In this essay

I

handling of what

I

of Dante's poem: that

he

limited the influence of his essay.

will trace, in

How

are

we

telling us the truth?

is

we

another that

he claims

respond

to

wake of

an impasse

in

in the literal truth

speculate:

Did

of those things for which

American querelle regarding

the

one

ers, treated as settled

never raised;

in

consensus

we seem

side,

is

have reached

been

truth claims has

begged by some of

by many. This

the allegory of to

us,

ignored by oth-

not to say that the issue

is

our attempts to understand the Commedia' s intertex-

tuality, for instance,

—merely,

it

in

frequently touched upon."* But there

is

North America, an undiscussed and

assumption of allegiance arrived at

has been the issue, to

we may

which the question of Dante's

effectively put to

tle

readers

literal truth?

poets versus the allegory of theologians,

we have

all

to the poet's insistence

Logically prior to this query stands

cannot answer, but on which

Dante himself believe In the

broad outline, the history of our recent

take to be the fundamental question for

to

Charles Singleton's beliefs.

such an impasse, still

I

As

is

no

acritical

to

how

believe that a major cause

unresolved, of the authorship of the Epis-

The impasse has been compounded, moreover, differences that prevent adherents to essentially the same

Cangrande.

by cultural

point of view from benefiting from each other's work: that Nardi 's contributions regarding

regarding the sentially

Commedia' s use of

is

my

belief

the allegory of theologians are es-

complementary. Since Singleton's position emphasizes the

validity of the literal sense as historically true,

as profeta ultimately goes text to

it

"Dante profeta" and Singleton's

beyond

encompass the much

himself as a

teller

of

larger

truth, these

and the issue of Dante

the specific prophecies within the

problem of the poet's view of

two

traditions are in effect parallel

Detheologizing Dante

37

ways of discussing the one central issue of the poet's truth claims. They have not been viewed as such because neither side has been

mode

particularly receptive to the other's In the

United States

we have

tended

mode, genre, or method, evolving

Commedia accusation that we

allegory of the Italian

expense of the poetry

to

of framing the question.

vex the issue of allegory as a

a critical discourse regarding the

are

— an

engaged

in sterile

sense with a poetic worth denied

by the

it

on the allegory of poets. Nor could its

the

allegorizing at the

ironic response given that our insistence

on the allegory of theologians was intended

the Nardian position

Hence

that barely refers to the text.

due:

in

Hollander chides those dantisti standing that Dante claims

it

to reinvest the literal

traditional reading

based

we have

given

be said that

"Dante Theologus-Poeta," Robert

who "have no

literal truth for his

difficulty in under-

poem, but then go on

make this Dante a 'prophet,' thus avoiding, as did Bruno Nardi, way in which the poem is rooted in fourfold exegesis in the name of a single aspect of the biblical possibilities" (64-65). Nardi was not so much avoiding anything as he was formulating the issue in terms that were more congenial to one who was less a literary critic to

the

than a historian and philosopher, steeped in the thirteenth century controversies between "true prophets" and "false prophets," whether these charges involve Aristotelians or Franciscans. Indeed,

if



—with

mode of writing we were to interrogate the Cornmedia as much as we have in the past interrogated the Convivio and the Epistle to Cangrande, we would find that Nardi's way of framing respect to Dante's

the issue of the poet's truth claims

is far

from inappropriate.

In his later "II punto sull'Epistola a Cangrande," Nardi

from stating

his case regarding Dante's claims to

the poet's claims have traditionally

been evaded.

Due

he formulates a theory of evasive reception.

examining how In other to its

on reception, and thus on the Trecento commentators "recipients" of record the

Commedia

— Nardi's theory involves

to the Epistle to

heresy that were levelled

at

whom

a shift



words,

emphasis

the earliest

of focus from

Cangrande. Noting the accusations of

Dante, called a vessel of the devil by the

Dominican Guido Vernani, and culminating of 1335, he points out that

moves

all

in the

Dominican ban

of Dante's early commentators (among

Nardi places the author of the expository part of the Epistle,

a point to

which we

shall return) feel obliged to protect their poet

— Teodolinda Barolini

38

from the charge of heresy. Their defense

is

invariably based on dis-

tinguishing the poeta from the theologiis, the

by the poet from the

"E

mettono

lo

tutti

allegorical sense

sense contrived

literal

employed by

the moralist:

da questa accusa nello stesso modo,

al riparo

cioè distinguendo quello che Dante scrive

come poeta

(poetizans)

da quello che Dante pensa come teologo 'nullius dogmatis expers,' ossia, in sostanza, fra

e

senso allegorico,

il

velo delle parole

il

senso

il

solo vero, cioè quello che

fittizie,

letterale,

'sotto

il

velame de

The

eral sense

equating

early

and

it

cela sotto

si

versi strani,'

its

il

come

allegorici"

commentators thus deflected attention from the

lit-

preposterous claims by intentionally devaluing

it,

with the allegedly fictitious imaginings of the poet. This

stratified division lines,

li

poema veramente

dice Dante stesso in uno dei luoghi del (27).

intenzionalmente svalutato,

of the text's authorial persona along allegorical

with the theologian responsible for the allegorical truth that

is

hidden under the bella menzogna of the poet's fanciful inventions, creates a deplorable dichotomy that persists to this day, yielding

who

critics

"pur riconoscendo a Dante

tempra

la

svalutano l'altissima ispirazione religiosa da cui (30). In Nardi's opinion, the disastrous lesson

poet by devaluing the

literal

sense of his

vero poeta, ne poesia sgorga"

on how

poem

to protect the

is first

who, he believes,

the well-intentioned theologian

di la

provided by

responsible for

is

the expository section of the Epistle to Cangrande.

At more

between Nardi and Singleton become

this point, the parallels

evident, as do the ironies inherent in our story.

determined a defender of the Singleton; like Singleton, he

to the

grounds

is

sense of the

Nardi

is

as

Commedia

as

is

deeply aware of the significance of

Cangrande as a hermeneutic document. But

the Epistle to

proach

literal

document could not be more

Commedia' —"The

his defense of the

the Epistle to

Cangrande

different.

s literal

sense in an appeal to

allegory of the Divine

its

example says

made

it

to see

is) that it

one may only wonder

tio.

In this.

at the

as the 'allegory of poets'" (90)

fuses to acknowledge the Dantesque paternity of

because he believes

Comedy

that

it

treats the

poem's

much

literal

in fact astutely

observed



it

so

continuing

Nardi

re-

of the Epistle

sense as mere^c-

Nardi took a particularly idiosyncratic stand, since

Singleton had

is

Cangrande by

clearly the 'allegory of theologians' (as the Letter to

efforts

their ap-

While Singleton

was only

to



as

be expected

Detheologizing Dante that attacks

on the allegory of theologians as the Commedia's dom-

mode would

inant

39

take the form of attacks on the authenticity of

the Epistle, as indeed proved to be the case.'' Before turning to the

complications caused by Nardi's stand regarding the Epistle, another

profound confluence between noted, a confluence that the

poem's

literal

outcome of

the logical

is

and Singleton's should be

his ideas

their

defenses of

sense. ^ Nardi's emphasis on the detrimental effects

of separating the theologus from the poeta

may

surely be considered

responsible for the lack of response to his ideas in Italy:

dantismo\ a

what

protectionist attitude toward

— motivated by disgust — represents essence nothing but

Crocean legacy, and Croce's reading

with deracinated allegorizing a willed

to wit the

his

in its

and consistent application of

Dante studies,

Italian

calls the "poetry" is

it

method already canonical

a

in

dichotomized theologus-poeta. Although he

did not lay as great a stress on the evils of this dichotomy as Nardi,

Singleton too was aware of

matter

in a

Nardian focus

it

that

as a problem, and indeed

was not passed on

viewed the

to his heirs,

who

have instead preserved the dichotomy and privileged the theologus precisely as Italian critics,

who have done

them of doing. Thus, Singleton writes



the opposite, have accused

that "if

we must choose

tween Dante as theologian and Dante as poet, then,

I

take the poet" (86), adding, à propos "Boccaccio and

suppose,

many

be-

we

others

[who] have preferred the theologian": "To see the poet as a 'theologian'

is

to see

poets,' hiding

him

essentially as

under a

one

veil the truths

who

constructs an 'allegory of

of theology



a

view which has

a long history in Dante interpretation" (95).

Both symptom and cause of the deadlock we have reached with respect to the issue of Dante's truth claims (a formulation that fer, in the interests

to

Dante studies,

the

acrimony and

reflect the old

pre-

to either its allegorical or prophetic precursor) are inflexibility displayed

dichotomy

in

by those who, unwittingly,

extreme form: as Singleton's heirs dig

ever more deeply into the cultural and theological the

I

both of clarity and a more ecumenical approach

Commedia grows,

they

make

humus from which more and more a

the poet appear

who would have us remember that he is a poet.^ As a group, we are interested in the Commedia' s poetry, meaning its rhetoric and philology, and in its theology, meaning its moral philosophy, aspects of the poem that theologian, unleashing a backlash from those

Teodolinda Barolini

40

we keep where

resolutely apart;

we



in a

the

"humble

two coincide

who

Psalmist,"

like

shy away from the underlying crucible poet

who models

himself on David, the

David composes a teodia and speaks as

scriba Dei, with what he considers a theologically-vested authority.^

To

we do speak

the extent that

as prerequisites for

all

of these matters,

investigation of the

we view them

Commedia

not

but as inde-

pendent strands of Dante studies, devoted to allegory, "profetismo," apocalyptic literature, mysticism, and the

our critical disarray has been

what

I

Greatly to blame for

like.'"

consider the "red herring" issue

of the Epistle to Cangrande's paternity. The linking of the Epistle

Commedia' s mode of

to the issue of the

signifying has had the un-

fortunate effect of allowing the question of the Epistle's authorship

seem decisive

to

discourse

critical

for our reading of the is

the impression of being most vulnerable

and

in its reliance

we

Epistle,

issue of the Epistle's authorship has distracted us from the are trying to understand and has bred unnecessary confusion.

Thus, Nardi' s principal antagonist the Epistle

in the

was Francesco Mazzoni,

debate over the paternity of

a scholar

porter of the "prophetic" reading of the

who

no way inimical

complicate matters,

to the fictitiousness

in

a Cangrande," Giorgio in that

"La 'mirabile

is far

Commedia;

Nardi and Mazzoni should respond to the Epistle as in

which gives

on the

explicit in Nardi.

is

The text

poem. This skewing of the

implicit in Singleton's contribution,

of the

it

from

is

in the

poem

it

a sup-

ironic that

same way, To

glosses.

visione' di Dante e l'Epistola

Padoan entered the fray on Mazzoni 's

side,

he undertakes to defend the authenticity of the entire Epistle,

but in Nardi 's cause:" Nardi denies the authenticity of the second part of the Epistle because he believes that

the

Commedia

as

mere

fictio;

because he believes

ticity

it

promotes the idea of

Padoan sustains the Epistle's authen-

that exactly the opposite is true,

intentionally represented his text's literal sense as true. to other

commentaries on

the opening of the Paradiso,

that

i.e.

the expository part of the Epistle supports the idea of a Dante

who

In contrast

which

re-

spond

to the first canto's audacious patterning of the poet's ascent

on

Paul's raptus, "whether in the body

St.

I

do not know, or out

do not know, God knows," with cautious appeals to poetic fiction,'^ Padoan points out that the Epistle to Cangrande con-

of the body

tains

I

no such disclaimers:

"II fatto

essenziale per questo discorso è

— Detheologizing Dante

che

ntW Epistola

— proprio come abbiamo

afferma esplicitamente che non

immaginazione

di

coelum'"

visto per

Comedìa

la

viaggio metaforico

di

di fantasia, bensì di

Even more

(43).

41

al

vera e propria 'elevatio ad

"tre

una volta) realmente avvenute:

vanni ebbero della trasfigurazione

Dio avuta da Ezechiele"

esempi

il

raptus

e S.

Gio-

di Cristo; 3) la visione della gloria

examples

(44),

1 )

Giacomo

cielo di S. Paolo; 2) la visione che S. Pietro, S.

di

si



telling are the authentic biblical visions

invoked by the Epistle as models for the Commedia, biblici di visioni (ancora



tratta,

si

that in turn are buttressed

with references to three authorities on visionary experience, Richard of

St. Victor, St.

Prodding us

Bernard, and

St.

Augustine.

confront and openly discuss the issues raised by

to

Nardi, Padoan poses the problem of Dante studies:

"Ma

sistere sulla realtà della visione e questo tono profetico

ad imporsi la

a

Dante per

la

questo

sono

in-

essi

forza insita nel suo stesso realismo e per

foga della sua appassionata polemica, oppure derivano da una

scelta deliberata e consapevole dell'autore, da tata

convinzione?"

(39).

Why

is

una sua ben medi-

that this question, articulated

it

more than twenty years ago, whose implications broach representational concerns on the one hand and authorial intentionality on the other,

still

haunts us today?

As

I

have suggested, one of the

reasons that Padoan's compelling arguments have not been able to penetrate and focus critical thought as fully as their author

have wished his

is

their

connection to the Epistle;

would

to the extent that

arguments engage the Epistle more than the Commedia, and

to

the extent that they are presented in the context of a defense of the

Epistle's Dantesque authorship, they are the

more

easily

shrugged

off by those not willing to listen. Moreover, by linking a tangential issue (the Epistle's authorship) to the

main

issue (the

Commedia'^

mode of signifying) and then blurring the lines between the two, we have allowed the critical waters to become fearfully muddied.

A

case

in

point

is

a recent

book by Peter Dronke,

in

which

the

author (like Padoan a student of Nardi's) inveighs against the exegetical approach to

which we have been giving

of poets, which he believes

power.'

ill

serves the

Following Nardi, he argues

that

the label allegory

Commedia' s imaginative

Dante's claims are not de-

risible in their historical context: "the great prophet-visionaries

twelfth and thirteenth centuries

of the

Hildegard and Joachim, Mechthild

Teodolinda Barolini

42

and Marguerite

—made

unflinching claims to truth.

against Dante's penning of the Epistle,

I

believe

is

it

However, he argues

Dante makes" (127).

their kind of claim that

whose author he considers an lumps Sin-

inept allegorist, and hence against Padoan;'" moreover, he

among

gleton and Hollander

[who] have continued

that "majority of scholars since

to think

Commedia

of the

Croce

terms of fiction"

in

(127), an assessment that hardly does justice to their positions or

strengthens the cause

which he

in

fighting.

is

Dronke's book, which

also conflates Dante's prophetic claims with those of Alanus, without

acknowledging

major tenet of Nardi's supporters has been the

that a

distance between Dante and those poets for

whom

the literal sense

is

explicitly less important than the allegorical, illustrates the confusion to

which our lack of I

as

we have

that, if

come

to

Any

we would



itself

A

Commedia

be

will

—of

Commedia

find support for

metatextual study of the

in the larger sense. '^

textual reading of the

led.

to interrogate the

terms with the poet as

"Dante profeta" regarding

we were

the Convivio or the Epistle,

both Nardi and Singleton. has to

consensus has

critical

suggested earlier

truth-teller,

Commedia

and thus with

further result of a meta-

interrogating the

to collapse the distinctions

Commedia

between the

"al-

legorical" approach and the "prophetic" approach, by suggesting that,

from Dante's perspective, they amount words, what one could

call

to the

Dante's prophetic

same

Singleton's allegory of theologians or Auerbach's

same

the

token,

am

I

thing.'^ In other

mode corresponds figurai

to

mode. By

convinced that the Commedia' s imitation of

God's way of writing,

in defiance

of

all

theological protocol, does

not require the Epistle to Cangrande or any other external document for

mean

to say that

sense of ship, in

poem itself furnishes sufficient and inconhow it wants to be read. By this I do not

substantiation; the

its

trovertible evidence of

it

were

is

that

I

find the Epistle uninteresting; for the record,

it is

the matter

Dante's. But

one day

to

I

do mean

my

to say that its author-

be decided against Dante, need not

any way impinge on our reading of the Commedia.

The their

distance between Nardi and Singleton regards not so

ideas on how the poem intends

to the

second of

my

initial

to

be received as

their

queries; with respect to Dante's

view of

himself, Singleton presents a less "naive" persona than Nardi,

ing

more

much

response

hew-

closely to the Crocean path: "But to attribute to a critical



— Detheologizing Dante

and reflective Dante the belief other

Paul

St.

face the

simply

is

myth

directly

to

43

he was another Aeneas or an-

that

and

understand

to

it"

follow the Nardian school of thought, which

myth more

the

formula

my

directly"; thus,

does not extend

poem

thought his

In this matter,

I

believe in fact "faces

I

approval for Singleton's famous

to the

that

is

it

not a

is

suggestion that Dante himself

(What Singleton

a fiction.

disinclination to

(78).

Divine Comedy

that "the fiction of the

fiction" (62)

own

unload on him our

veiled

left

is

elabo-

who grafts onto Singleton's perhaps deliberate poet who "creates a fiction which he pretends to

rated by Hollander,

reticence an ironic

consider not to be

literally fictitious,

triving to share the

knowledge with us

In

[86].)'

my

be

of a bel,

true, thus creating

what he defined

artist

whose

counterpart

is

precisely fictional"

definition of his

poem:

fiction that pretends to

the

be

that

Commedia

art

This paradoxical

la-

within the framework

work's

truth, finds

believe furnishes Dante's

I

is

fiction

a "truth that has the face

di menzogna."''*

paradox

means of

of a vision he believed

scribal stature guarantees his

in a further

same time con-

at the it

in the service

which accommodates the menzogna of

of an its



"un ver c"ha faccia

lie"

that

opinion, Dante knowingly used the

poetic and narrative strategies to

while

a

"non

falso errore," not a

true, but a fiction that IS true.

The phrase

"nonfalse error," used to describe the ecstatic visions of the terrace

of wrath, provides a means to understand Dante's

own

understand-

ing of his achievement; not polarized as either theologus or poeta,

Dante encompasses the aporias and contradictions of inspired is

poem

nonfalse In

sum,



a

work

—within I

the rigorous

believe

telling the truth

that as art

we must

and move on

though we must address the

In other

embrace of paradox.

accept Dante's insistence that he to the

consequences.

the critical

Therefore,

in

which

words, the topic

his narrative, his religious pretensions

is

al-

we must

consequences of such

self-

the text succeeds in presenting at

hand

Dante's realism. Al-

is

though Dante shares with other narrators the concern

pressing; for as

a prophetically

be error, but that as prophecy

text's self-presentation as true,

more fundamentally address presentation: to wit, the ways itself as true.

may

make

this

Morton Bloomfield points out

in

to authenticate

concern particularly "Authenticating Re-

alism and the Realism of Chaucer," while discussing the truth claims inherent in

all

narrative, the "basic

problem of

all

revealed religions

Teodolinda Barolini

44 is

Bloomfield further notes that

just this authentication" (343).

problem

the

is in

minds of the authors of

where

the Bible,

ulates itself precisely in the terms that Nardi formulated in

it

this

artic-

"Dante

"The end of Chapter 18 of Deuteronomy frankly discusses problem of how to distinguish true prophecy from false" (344).

profeta": the

This

node

the

is

at

which the problems of discussing

intersect with the problems of discussing

cause of

biblical

its

same

he

is

be-

At

truth value in aggravated form.

its

time, however, Dante does not seek to hide the fact that

crafting the

word of God

in language;

his role as narrator in a multitude of

addresses to the reader. that

Commedia

narrative:

and prophetic pretensions the Commedia poses

the basic narrative issue of the

the

all realistic

Auerbach

of a prophet;

It

is

he draws attention to

ways, including the celebrated

extremely relevant

to

our discussion

finds in Dante's addresses to the reader the urgency

words, typically, Dante has used what could

in other

have been moments of vulnerability, moments of exposed narrativforge his most authoritative voice. Spitzer rejects Auerbach's

ity, to

insistence

on prophecy

in

favor of a reading that puts the emphasis

on mimesis, on the addresses as aids

and

in the reader's visualization

thus in the poet's realism; tellingly, he does not see that Auerbach able to arrive at his formulation (Dante as a

inventing the essentially

new topos of

new prophet capable

is

of

the address to the reader in the

service of his prophetic vision) precisely because he had so long been

thinking in terms of Dantesque realism, for in Dante the prophetic stance

is

indissolubly

wedded

to the poet's

concern with achieving

supreme mimesis.'^ The formulation Dante-prophet disturbs Spitzer as one who is interested in seeing how the Commedia works as art; it

does not occur to him that

have

first to

accept

— not

in

Only then can we see

terms.

a poet.

One

order to see

believe!



its

who

it

works as

of the great problems of studying Dante

take the

critics, like

poem's pretensions

Dante

most

clearly,

upon

is reflected in

Nardi and Auer-

seriously, are criticized for

not seeing an artifact, for believing Dante too much. are seeing the artifact

we own

art, its

the pressures such claims exert

Spitzer's taking to task of Auerbach:

bach,

how

prophetic claims on

and are on the road

In fact, they to believing

least.

The Commedia' s remarkable fusion of absolute certainty about content with self-consciousness about the human artistry that is its

Detheologizing Dante

new

vehicle has continually fostered

variants of the ancient either/or

variants expressed in the critical language of their

stand,

critical

45

day: recently Jesse Gellrich (sounding like a deconstructionist version of Spitzer critiquing Auerbach) has argued against what he

Commedia

calls Singleton's sense of the

myth

as

favor of

in

self-consciousness, claiming that "an awareness of illusion is

inevitable" and that the

awareness but encourages in

poem "does it"

not protect itself from such

Dante creates

In fact,

(143).

which such encouragements may constitute one of

tive

forms of protection. As with the addresses

protects himself most

poem

a

most

effec-

to the reader,

Dante

its

when he seems most exposed;

the betrayal of self-consciousness implicit in ticating devices

its

making

all

he neutralizes

narrative authen-

by making his authenticating devices outrageously

inauthentic.'° Gellrich mistakes Singleton's position in an instructive

fashion: he accuses Singleton of really thinking that Dante imitated

God's way of position

was

writing, of falling for the "myth," while Singleton's

he imitated God's flates

In other

writing.

words, Gellrich con-

realism

keep the two apart; one of the effects of Dante's

— and one of

its

most insidious forms of self-protection

causes people to think one agrees with him

it

phrases him (as

that

This occurs because of the enormous

to believe.

effort required to

to

way of

what Singleton himself believes with what Singleton says

Dante wants us

that

saying that Dante would have us believe that

in fact

all

teachers of the

when one

Commedia know,

it

is



difficult

persuade one's students otherwise)."' By the same token, the

verse

is

re-

also true: Dante's realism causes critics to tend to "believe"

Dante without knowing critical

is

para-

that they believe him,

to

i.e.

pose their

questions and situate their critical debates within the very

(An

presuppositions of the fiction they are seeking to understand.

example of such behavior call the collocation fallacy,

is

common

the

whereby

possible with regard to soul

move we could

a critic argues that

because

x,

defensive

if

it

view x

is

not

were soul x would be

we approach the poem through the dogma.) One need not be a religious

located elsewhere; arguing thus, lens of

its

own

fiction treated as

believer to be a narrative believer of the

Commedia; as the history many presumably

of the poem's reception repeatedly demonstrates,

nonnaive readers have proved unable disbelief.

to

suspend

their

suspension of

Teodolinda Barolini

46

As

a

means

less theologically

to

in

suggest that

I

and more

be more interested

says;

poem's

for slipping out of the paradoxical grip of the

claims and counter-claims,

we

Commedia come for us

read the

The time has Commedia works than

practically.

how

the

what

in

it

should examine the formal structures (practising what Gian

we

Biagio Conte calls "una filologia della struttura narrativa" [112]) that

manipulate the reader so successfully that even prevented by the text's fulfillment of fully appreciating

achievements as

its

some purchase on

get

its

a

poem

now we What

artifact.

is

"new

not a

is

needed

which

historicism,"

an effective tool vis-à-vis texts that have always been read as as false, but a

i.e.

"new formalism":

a tool that will not run

text's presentation of itself as true. In other

on the

detheologize our reading

we

if

are to understand

to

been read as

that has traditionally

Fundamentalists read the Bible

are blinded,

self-imposed goals from

words,

is

texts,

aground

we must

what makes the

theology stick. For the final irony of our tradition of Dante exegesis is

that,

as a direct result of our theologus-poeta dichotomy, and

frequently in the

name of preserving

its

greatness by accepting uncritically

its

"theology." To the extent that

we have

read

To

the extent that

him

In

we

hearken always

—not

Dante's Poets,

I

we

its

premises,

read as the poet directs us to

what Dante says rather than

to

treat

had occasion

follows that the strategy of

My

have obscured

him

as he

would have us

as a poet, but as an authority, a "theologian."

formula, the fiction of the

(90).

we

we

directives and

its

not fully appreciated the magnificence of his direction.

take note of what he has done, treat

the poetry,

concern

now

to note that "If, in Singleton's

Comedy is that it is no the Comedy is that there

is

to

more

fiction, is

fully identify the

then

it

no strategy" workings of

would deny its own existence. Previously, I used the example of Cacciaguida, whose explanation that the pilgrim has been shown only famous souls, "anime che son di fama note," is frequently cited by critics; less frequently have they noted Auerbach this strategy that

is

one exception

is

not true.^^

the

that

comes

to

mind





that Cacciaguida's statement

As I have pointed out, most of the souls we meet in Commedia are famous because the Commedia has made them

famous, and Cacciaguida's anticipation of tamination between text and to achieve.^^

life that is

Another example of

this

process effects a con-

precisely

what Dante seeks

this self-denying strategy is the

— Detheologizing Dante inscription

on the gate of

among Dante

47

analyzed by John Freccerò, unusual

hell,

scholars for his longstanding pursuit of the implica-

tions of form, in terms of the poet's successful attempt to "establish

immediacy"

the fiction of

Reminding us

(98).

that "Vision

province of the prophet, but the task of the poet

of an innocent author describing an infernal

fiction,

reality rather than constructing it" (104).

God's

art

the

is

rcprcscntaiion"

unexamined assumption, encour-

(95), Freccerò seeks to "dispel the

aged by the

is

Like the representation of

on Purgatory's terrace of pride, which confronts the reader

with the conundrum of the poet's verisimilar defined as the ver

itself,'"*

art

re-presenting an art

Cacciaguida creates an "optical illusion"

within the text, as do the verses that affect to present God's words

on the gates of from

hell.

does

in the

on the representational front the poem

is

mimetic realm collocation does not imply value, as

neutral; in the it

come

important to note that these examples

It is

all three canticles:

thematic sphere. The above examples are taken from

Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso to

make

the point that

we

can-

not approach these issues by invoking the theological grid that

we

imposing on the Commedia, whereby

have become so accustomed

to

whatever happens

"bad," problematic, and whatever hap-

pens

in

may be

heaven

is

in hell is

"good," problem-free. Whereas

accurate with respect to the text's content,

fore the pilgrim,

this

need not be accurate with respect

it

therefore the poet: the Paradiso

is

formulation

and there-

its plot,

to its

form, and

not more serene, formally, than

the Inferno}^

Dante consistently manipulates narrative his text,

making

upon himself

it

in

ways

appear inevitable, a fatale andare, and conferring

the authority that in fact

the instances just cited, as in so

Dante says, accepting rather than looking

it

as true

many



we have rarely denied him. In we have listened to what

others,

as though he

were

and learning from, the gap

at,

a "theologian"

that exists

what he says and what he has actually wrought. To that

we have

be a second

that authenticate

between

the extent, then,

not dealt with the implications of Dante's claims to

St. Paul, a

second

St.

John,

we have

not put ourselves

grasp the genius of his poetry

in a position to fully

to construct a textual

metaphysics so enveloping

—of

that

it

its

ability

prevents

us from analyzing the conditions that give rise to the illusion that

such a metaphysics

is

possible. In

"The Irreducible Dove," Singleton

48

Teodolinda Barolini

answers the charges of

who

critics

fear that his beliefs with regard to

Dante's allegory put him "in danger of succumbing so completely to the illusion of reality in Dante's

Although he did not

(129). in

poem

realize

as to forget that

it,

is

illusion"

terms of restoring a medieval forma mentis that authorized such

and thus being "allowed

illusion,

recover from the Renaissance,

to

moment"

only for a brief reader's

a

His

first

if

(135), Singleton's attempt to locate

the source of the illusion in the fiction that pretends is

it

preferring as he did to think

not a fiction

is

it

step to dismantling the Commedia'' s textual metaphysics.

proportion to their level-headed and rational

critics, precisely in

succumb

refusal to

to a

preposterous theory about a preposterous

more fully duped by an author whose cunning they have not begun to penetrate. We must work to show how the illusion is constructed, forged, made by a man who is precisely, after all, "only" a fabbro, a maker ... a poet. claim, reveal themselves to be the



New

York University

NOTES 1

"Non

ma

artificio letterario,

cessa a

lui

conosciuta

vera visione profetica ritenne Dante quella con-

da Dio, per una grazia singolare, la verità sulla

cagione che

il

allo

scopo preciso che

mondo aveva

fatto reo, la

egli,

denunzias-

se agli uomini, manifestando ad essi tutto quello che aveva veduto e udito"

(376).

2 Croce comments:

"Ma

che

figurazione dei luoghi e sui

le

meticolose spiegazioni che egli dà sulla con-

modi

le quali

tempo che

del viaggio, e sul

per compierlo, e sui fenomeni che osservò,

e, soprattutto, le

spiega e giustifica quelle cose immaginate e

gli

occorse

dissertazioni con

le tratta

come

fatti reali

che confermano una teoria scientifica e ne sono confermati, rechino prova che esso stesso fosse ingannato dalle proprie immaginazioni e e cadesse in

fatti reali,

vari

modi

una sorte

e

si

verrebbe

l'ipotesi contrasta alla di lui, e, per di più,

meno

al

prendesse per

le

sebbene

E non

sostenuto, non è per niun conto da ammettere.

tale ipotesi s'introdurrebbe nel

demenza

di allucinazione; questo,

sia stato in

già perché con

genio di Dante una troppo grande mistura rispetto che gli

si

deve;

ma

di

veramente perché

limpidezza e consapevolezza della mente e dell'animo

non

è necessaria" (61).

3 "Dante fu vero profeta, non perchè

i

suoi disegni di riforma politica ed eccle-

siastica si siano attuati (riconosciamo, anzi, che, dato

avvenimenti, erano inattuabili, quali

si

sono

grandi profeti, seppe levare lo sguardo oltre

rivelati),

gli

il

ma

corso naturale degli perchè,

avvenimenti che

si

come

tutti

i

svolgevano

Deiheologizing Dante sotto

i

49

suoi occhi, e additare un ideale eterno di giustizia" (415). Before reach-

ing this concluding generality. Nardi lakes Dante's pretensions even seriously, rebutting the charge that the Florentine's prophecies

by history by pointing out

fied

prophecies:

same can be

that the

può rispondere che

"Si

altrettanto

said of

accadde per

Old Testatment restaurazione

la

come imminente dagli antichi profeti" my Dante's Poets. To study Dante's handling of his

del trono di David, annunziata

4 See, for instance, sors

is

between

and

his poetry

truth versus falsehood. All the

regarding his

mode of

of his predecessors

that

more reason,

Dante's intertextuality,

interest in

reexamine our underlying suppositions

to

De

reprobatione monarchiae, Vernani speaks

of vessels used by the devil, "mendax

pater mendacii," that tempt

et perniciosi

Among

with a beautiful exterior while containing poison within. the author of the

devil] vasa

quidam

exterioribus

in

mentis, iuxta

terms of

in

therefore, considering the current

signifying.

5 In the opening paragraph of his

is

(409).

precur-

necessarily to study his truth claims, since he consistently formulates

the difference

sels

more

were unveri-

fuit

Commedia:

"Inter alia vero talia sua

multa fantastice poetizans

such vesof the

[i.e.

sophista verbosus, verbis

et

eloquentia multis gratus, qui suis poetici fantasmatibus

verbum philosophic Boetium

et fìg-

consolantis, scenicas meretriculas

adducendo, non solum egros animos, sed etiam studiosos dulcibus sirenarum cantibus conducit fraudulenter ad interitum salutifere veritatis" (93). Vernani

adopts to his

own ends

model used by

the inside/outside

beneath poetry's

to point to the allegorical truth

the

commentators for

fictitious veil;

him

the

The poetry of the Cornaway from truth with their

beautiful exterior leads not to truth but to falsehood.

media

is

likened to the Boethian sirens,

"dulcibus cantibus"



Purgatorio 19. Also intriguing to

who

lead

a fascinating alignment in light of the is

unmasked

the fact that Vernani's treatise

is

siren of

addressed

one of the Commedia'^ early commentators, Graziolo de' Bambaglioli.

6 Singleton notes: "Indeed, with some Dante scholars, so strong has the persuasion been that such a view of the allegory of the Divine

one

[i.e.

that the allegory of poets

famous

to question the authorship of the

consistency,

was bound

to

of Scott on this issue (55

Comedy

the correct one] that

is

letter to

it

is

the correct

has brought them

Can Grande.

This, in

all

occur" (86). See, for instance, Hollander's rebuttal n. 36).

7 Neither scholar seems aware of the other; Singleton's 1954 monograph contains

no reference

to Nardi,

and Nardi's 1960 essay makes no mention of

Singleton.

8

An example

of the former tendency

of Justice, a work which shows

is

little

undermines theological certitude (see [1985]: 705-8).

On

Anthony K.

Cassell. Dante's Fearful Art

appreciation for the

my

the other side, see

review

in

ways

in

which poetry

Renaissance Quarterly 38

Aldo Scaglione's

rebuttal of Cassell's

reading of Pier della Vigna, "Dante's Poetic Orthodoxy."

9

On Dante

as scriba Dei, see

Commedia.

Gian Roberto

In the section entitled

Sarolli.

Prolegomena

alia Divina

"La visione dantesca come visione paolina,"

Teodolinda Barolini

50

Commedia, whose

Sarolli notes that the

esemplato sulla davidica

"titolo [è]

teodìa," belongs to the "genere delle visioni profetiche" (118).

On Dante and

David, maker of the teodìa, see also Dante's Poets 275-78.

10 See, for instance, Nicolò Mineo, Profetismo e apocalittica

been insufficiently absorbed into the

that has

in

Dante, a work

own

critical discussion. Sarolli's

emphasis on the esoteric may have helped obscure the general importance of

Dante as a prophetic poet.

his sense of

11 For Padoan's description of the debate between

Mazzoni and Nardi, with

full

bibliography, see "La 'mirabile visione'" 40-41.

12 Padoan cites Francesco da Buti:

secondo

la lettera ch'elli vi

ma non

corporalmente,

si

mi finge

fusse corporalmente" (42).

my

13 For further discussion, see

cioè fu' io Dante, e questo

"'fu' io':

de' intendere ch'elli ci fu intellettualmente,

review, Renaissance Quarterly 40 (1988): 291-

92.

14 While Padoan justifies the Epistle's inclusion of "fictivus" as a "modus tractandi" of the is

a fiction,

Commedia

Dronke takes

(51),

and thus as a sign

it

as indicating that the

that the Epistle is not

Commedia

Dante's (127). More

fre-

quently, the presence of fictivus has been used to bolster the anti-Singletonians

(Hollander 64 15

One

n. 53).

of the most interesting elaborations of Nardi in recent years

Guglielmo Corni, who asks "se

frammento entro

di

emerge Dante

e quasi si

fa

l'opera, bensì è

coagula

emergere

la profezia, nella

la

is

that of

Commedia, non ha

statuto

una struttura latente e persistente, che

in singoli episodi, in quali punti precisi del

poema

coscienza metatestuale di questo fatto decisivo nella

costruzione della sua 'visione'?" (50).

16

An example of a metatextual reading is my "Dante's Heaven of the Sun as

that,

a

I

believe, bears out this assertion

Meditation on Narrative."

17 Hollander's incongruous sense of Dante as ironic, parodie, and humorous in these matters

is

the logical consequence of his refusal to believe that Dante

believes; thus, with respect to the

Geryon episode's

insistence

on veracity, he

lest we know you won't believe this (why should you? I don't convention of my poem compels me to claim historicity even

comments: "One senses behind Dante's passage an authorial wink, take

it

for a nod:

either), but the

for such as



'I

Geryon'

" (76).

The same

logical necessity leads to a singularly

unsatisfying response to the question of

of theologians his

in the first place:

poem 'more

true,' to

be

why Dante chooses

"The answers

in closer

that

to use the allegory

have been offered

accord with the theology

while being basically acceptable, have missed,

I

it

(to

make

professes),

believe, the central point.

own engagement in the battle against poetry which St. Thomas and the Dominican Order" (84).

Dante's choice reflects his is

closely identified with

18 For the implications of

this verse, see

Dante's Poets 214 and passim.

19 See "Dante's Addresses to the Reader" and "The Addresses to the Reader in the

Commedia."

that Professor

I

quote from the

latter:

"It

would seem strange

to

me

Auerbach, the author of such excellent works as "Dante the



— Detheolo}>izing Dante

51

Poet of This World" and "Mimesis" did not think (or not primarily think)

of the possibility that Dante's addresses are meant to be

in the

service of

Mimesis, of the description of the other world carried out with the

precisely!

vividness, or realism, with which things of this world

may

be described, and

I

can attribute Auerbach's failure to draw the consequences of Mimesis for our particular

problem only

to that

understandable tendency of the scholar to

of those very categories he has most superbly developed

'The authority and the urgency of

a prophet'



tire

other works of his.

in

this interpretation

smacks more

of the arrogantly heiratic solemnity of Stefan George or of certain would-be religious poses applied to Dante by certain

thisworldliness and the subtle

American

flair for artistry

and

urbane

critics than of the

techniques that have ever

its

characterized Erich Auerbach's writing" (158).

20 The psychology principle,

informs Dante's application of what

that

whereby

the least credible of his representations

most unyielding and overt of authorial interventions "Arachne, Argus, and

John"),

St.

to

make him accept

token, Bloomfield anticipates a "all authenticating

Geryon

supported by the

(for elaboration, see

my

well understood by Spitzer: "To give the

is

reader 'something to do' about a matter difficult to imagine

inducement

call the

I

is

a psychological

is

By

matter" (152).

this subject

the

same

good deal of Gellrich's book when he writes

devices not only authenticate but also

need for authentication and hence

call attention to the

to the inauthenticity of the

work of

art"

(340).

21

Unfortunately,

my own a

case,

"modern

it

I

is

also difficult to persuade one's colleagues otherwise; in

would disagree with John G. Demaray's assessment

idealist posture that the 'only external referent'

based the truth of the

what Dante

Commedia

not what

tells us,

I

is

a transcendent

that

I

take

upon which Dante

God" (42

note).

That

is

believe.

22 "Of the characters which appear

in

it

Commedia], some belong

[the

to the

recent past or even to the contemporary present and (despite Par. 17.136-38),

not

24 See

of them are famous or carefully chosen" (184).

all

23 Dante

Poets 282.

's

my

"Ricreare

la

creazione divina:

l'arte

aracnea della cornice dei superbi."

25 For Dante's awareness of the problems inherent

in

representing paradise, see

"Dante's Heaven of the Sun as a Meditation on Narrative."

my

three

examples

is

provided by another

critic,

it

Since one of

behooves me

to indicate

the differences in our formulations. In Freccero's reading form remains sub-

servient to theology, as

is

indicated by the fact that his view of Dantesque

mimesis distinguishes very discretely between begins "Infernal Irony" by

1)

invoking the

the various canticles. Thus, he

De Genesi ad litteram's



of vision—corporeal, spiritual, and intellectual representation found

in

three kinds

as analogies for the kinds of

each canticle, and by 2) suggesting that "mimesis

is

peculiarly infernal and represents Dante's effort to render corporeal vision" (96).

I

problem

do not agree: while irony may be peculiarly for the poet throughout the

poem;

it

is

a

infernal,

problem

mimesis

that if

is

a

anything

52

Teodolinda Barolini escalates as the

poem

proceeds.

To

associate the three canticles with

Augus-

tine's three types of vision is to address the matter of their content, not the

matter of their /orm.

WORKS CITED Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis. 1946. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1974. "Dante's Addresses to the Reader." Romance Philology 7 (1954):

.

268-278. Barolini, Teodolinda. Dante's Poets: Textuality ton: Princeton

in the

Comedy.

Prince-

"Dante's Heaven of the Sun as a Meditation on Narrative." Lettere

.

Italiane

and Truth

UP, 1984.

40 (1988): 3-36. .

"Ricreare

la

creazione divina:

l'arte

aracnea della cornice dei

superbi." Saggi danteschi americani. Eds. Robert Hollander and Gian Carlo Alessio. Milano: Franco Angeli, 1989. .

"Arachne, Argus, and

John: Transgressive Art in Dante and

St.

Ovid." Mediaevalia 13 (1989).

W.

Bloomfìeld, Morton

"Authenticating Realism and the Realism of Chaucer."

Thought 39 (1964): 335-358. Cassell,

Anthony K. Dante's Fearful Art of Justice. Toronto:

U

of Toronto P,

1984.

Conte, Gian Biagio.

Il

genere e

i

suoi confini. Torino: Stampatori, 1980.

Croce, Benedetto. La poesia di Dante. 2nd ed. rev. Bari: Laterza, 1921.

Demaray, John G. Dante and the Book of the Cosmos. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1987.

Dante and Medieval Latin Traditions.

Dronke, Peter.

Cambridge: Cambridge

UP, 1986. Freccerò, John. "Infernal Irony:

The Gates of

Hell." 1984. Dante: The Poetics

of Conversion. Ed. Rachel Jacoff. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1986. Gellrich, Jesse M. The Idea of the Book in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985.

Gorni, Guglielmo. "Spirito profetico duecentesco e Dante." Letture Classensi 13 (1984): 49-68.

Hollander, Robert. "Dante Theologus-Poeta." 1976. Studies in Dante. Ravenna:

Longo, 1980. Matteini, Nevio, ed.

da Rimini. Testo

//

più antico oppositore politico di Dante: Guido Vernani

critico del

De Reprobatione Monarchiae. Padova: CEDAM,

1958.

Mineo, Nicolò. Profetismo e apocalittica

in

Dante. Catania:

U

di

Catania, 1968.

Nardi, Bruno. "Dante profeta." Dante e la cultura medievale. 2nd ed. rev. Bari: Laterza, 1949. .

Firenze:

"Il

punto sull'Epistola a Cangrande." Lectura Dantis Scaligera.

Le Monnier, 1960.

Padoan, Giorgio.

"La 'mirabile visione'

di

Dante e l'Epistola a Cangrande."

Detheologizin^ Dante 1965. Sarolli.

Il

53

pio Enea, l'empio Ulisse. Ravenna; Lungo, 1977.

Gian Roberto. Prolegomena alla Divina Commedia. Firenze: Olschki,

1971.

Scaglione, Aldo.

"Dante's Poetic Orthodoxy:

Leclura Dantis (U of Virgina) Singleton, Charles S.

1.1

The Case of

Pier delia Vigna."

(1987): 49-59.

Commedia: Elements of

Stucture.

Cambridge:

Harvard

UP, 1954. .

"The Irreducible Dove." Comparative Literature 9 (1957): 129-

35. Spitzer, Leo.

143-165.

"The Addresses

to the

Reader

in the

Commedia."

Italica

32 (1955):

Massimo Verdicchio

Error

Dante's Convivio

in

Dante writes the Convivio it

clear in the first

to rectify

He makes

an error of reading.

chapter where he points out that the canzoni have

The reader too taken by

not been read properly.

beauty has

their

ignored their true moral worth, "a molti loro bellezza più che loro

bontade era

in

But the Convivio

grado" (1.1.14).

meant

not

is

for

everyone because not everyone can benefit from Dante's commentary.

is

Although by nature every man desires happiness consists

final

in the

attained through knowledge, not everyone

ing

it

from

Dante

(1.1.1).

lists

They can be divided

impediments. The body

and in

two

it

internal

types:

knowledge as

The

making everything appear cheap and worthless fected by these internal disorders of

bother to take a seat

understanding

E però ad

is

soul

at the

(1.1.3).

physi-

is

similarly it

by

Readers

af-

body and soul should not even

banquet. Their defects are such that no

possible.

esso non s'assetti alcuno male de' suoi organi disposto, però

che né denti né lingua ha né palato; né alcuno assettature lo

is

case of deaf-mutes

in the

(1.1.3).

it

crippled by malice, which deceives

is

man

body and

and external

handicapped when

and people with similar shortcomings

when

man's

capable of attain-

is

that affect equally the

internally

is

cally incapable of receiving

incapacitated

since

a series of impediments that prevent

fulfilling this natural desire

the soul.

know

to

ultimate perfection of the soul, which

stomaco suo è pieno d'omori venenosi

contrarii, sì

di vizii,

perché

che mai vivanda non

terrebbe. (1.1.12)

Dante invites

necessitade,"

company of

Ma

banquet only those readers whose defects of

to his

body and soul

are external.

who

venga qua qualunque

degni

si

pongano

tutti

è [per cura] familiare o civile ne la

la farà loro e

QUADERNI dilalianislica

li

altri

e quelli e questi

si

1-2.

1989

sono

prendano

gustare e patire. (1.1.13)

Volume X. No.

umana fame

simili impediti s'assetti; e a

quelli che per pigrizia

di piìi alto sedere:

pane, che

the cripples of necessity, "di

the learned.

rimaso, e ad una mensa con piedi

These are

are too busy or too lazy to read or to seek the

stati,

la

li

loro

che non sono

mia vivanda

col

Massimo Verdicchio

56

In other words, those affected

not be able to

itual, will

canzoni whose aim

Only

is

by internal disorders, physical or

spir-

benefit from Dante's explanation of the

to point to

man

way

the

to true happiness.

the defects are not inherent in the reader, but external to

if

him, can he hope to overcome them and benefit from being served

form of nourishment.

a higher

The Convivio

who

is

not written solely for the benefit of those readers

have misread Dante's doctrinal poems. The work has implica-

tions for Dante's literary production as well. to

go beyond the thematics of Dante's

the

New Life,

earlier

Dante now regards as

that

a

The Convivio work, the

work of the

is

meant

Nuova,

Vita

past, reflecting

the enthusiasm and passion of youth and no longer adequate.

meant

Convivio, instead,

is

mature meditation

in

to

The

be the statement of a more sober and

keeping with Dante's newly arrived

at

aware-

ness.

E

se ne la presente opera, la quale è

virilmente in parte

si

che ne

trattasse



temperata e

Convivio nominata

e

vo che

sia,

più

Vita Nuova, non intendo però a quella

ma maggiormente

alcuna derogare,

veggendo

la

giovare per questa quella;

come ragionevolmente quella fervida e passionata, questa virile esser conviene. Che altro si conviene e dire e operare

ad una etade che ad

altra;

perché

certi

costumi sono idonei e laudabili

ad una etade che sono sconci e biasimevoli ad

altra, sì

come

quarto trattato di questo libro, sarà propria ragione mostrata. dinanzi, a l'entrata de la

mia gioventute

di sotto, nel

E

io in quella

parlai, e in questa dipoi, quella

già trapassata. (1.1.16-7)

Yet no conflict is to

the

is

meant between these two works.' The

the Convivio as youth

same continuity and

of a man's is

expressed

to

give

life.

in

in the

is

to adulthood.^

Vita

Between them

difference that exists between

Nuova there

is

two stages

In terms of literary representation, this difference

terms of the allegorical exposition that Dante means Convivio. The youthful stage of the Vita

responds to a period of literalism

when

Nuova

cor-

the passion and enthusiasm

of youth places value solely on appearances. In the more moderate

and manly stage of the Convivio, Dante has learned

to

go beyond

the appearances of things to the allegorical truth behind.

words, the Convivio

is

also the place

impediments have been overcome

new awareness. The a shift

In other

where Dante's own youthful

in the

reasoned affirmation of the

distance taken from the Vita

from the poet's youthful love for Beatrice

Nuova now marks to his present ma-

Error ture love for a literal or

mentary

to

Convivio

's

("filo-sofia"),'

to his readers consists

that he himself has acquired

The

57

and from

an allegorical one. The bread of com-

Dante distributes

that

to likewise

Dante

Lady Philosophy

for

symbolic mode

knowledge errors.

wisdom,

in

Dante intends

allegorical exposition that

of the same

by overcoming his youthful give ought

to

enable his readers to go beyond the limiting and mis-

leading appearances of a

first

reading to the true knowledge that

behind the canzoni. The love of knowledge necessary

to

lies

overcome

these impediments will lead to an understanding of the true nature

of knowledge and of the nobility that

When

Dante alludes

bestows on man. Convivio,

it

is

between the ballad "Voi che

to resolve the apparent discrepancy

savete ragionar

it

to his youthful error in the

d'Amore" {Rime 80) and

the

mente mi ragiona" {Rime 81) discussed Convivio. In the ballad, Dante had spoken la

canzone "Amor che ne

in the third ill

book of

the

of philosophy calling

her "disdegnosa" and "fera.""* However, in the canzone, he not only praises philosophy for her beauty and virtue, but calls her "divina." In lei discende la virtù divina sì

come

e qual

fece angelo che

donna

vada con

lei

'1

gentil questo

e miri

li

vede;

non crede

atti sui.

(37-40)

Dante's explanation of the discrepancy

is

strating that objects very often are not

what they appear

and

sight

to

at

demon-

be

at first

that truth is usually discordant with appearances, "alcuna

volta, la veritade rispetto

lengthy and aims

si

si

discorda da l'apparenza,

puote trattare" (3.9.5).

He

e,

altra,

per diverso

gives the parallel example

of the sky that although clear most of the time

is

sometimes dark.

"Dico: Tu sai che 7 ciel sempr'è lucente e chiaro, cioè sempr'è con chiaritade;

ma

per alcuna cagione alcuna volta è

licito di dire

essere tenebroso" (3.9.5). Dante goes on to distinguish objects: not.

quello

two types of

those that can be properly understood and those that can-

He dismisses

those that present difficulties to the understanding,

those that are neither visible nor tangible, and concentrates on those

elements, like color and sight.

viso

"Ma

light,

lo colore e la luce

comprendiamo

concerned only with

ciò, e

that

non con

this latter

can be easily apprehended by

sono propriamente; perché solo col altro

senso" (3.9.6).

category of objects.

Dante

is

Massimo Verdicchio

58 In order to explain

what could go wrong, Dante sums up

process of apprehension and representation of objects.

briefly the

He

explains

movement of the object's visible form toward the eye through the medium of air. The visible form becomes imprinted in the pupil's humour and becomes visible. In this fashion the image this

process as a

becomes

registered

(3.9.7-9).

The

on the brain by the sensitive faculty and we see

point of the explanation

have true representation

it

is

is to stress

necessary that both the

that in order to

medium and

the

humour of the pupil be clear and transparent. Any interference with the medium of transmission or any defect in the eye will hinder the reception of the visible form and distort the image. Per che, acciò che

conviene che

sé,

la

lo

visione sia verace, cioè cotale qual è la cosa visibile in

mezzo per

ogni colore, a l'acqua de la

forma

la

lo quale a l'occhio viene la

pupilla similemente; altrimenti

visibile del color del

mezzo

forma sia sanza si maculerebbe

e di quello de la pupilla. (3.9.9)

The medium can be defective when, for instance, the presence of the sun makes it impossible to see the stars or when vapours rise from the earth (3.9.12). Or the defect can be in the eye that receives the form as

when

the eye

case what is

no

is

is

inflamed by illness or fatigue (3.9.13).^ In either

transmitted to the "visual spirit"

longer concordant with the object.

is

and the image

altered

Dante makes

this digression

behaviour of the "young" ballad, ballatetta,^ which

to justify the

because of inexperience had mistaken philosophy for a proud and

woman. Just as the stars sometimes appear different because some infirmity of the eye or some alteration of the medium, so the young ballad because of an infirmity of the soul judged philosophy

pitiless

of

solely according to appearances. è stata a vedere la veri-

Partendomi da questa disgressione che mestiere tade, ritorno al proposito e dico che

cioè giudicano,



come

la stella talora altrimenti

così quella ballatetta considerò questa

che

li

nostri occhi 'chiamano',

sia la vera

sua condizione,

donna secondo l'apparenza, discor-

dante dal vero per infertade de l'anima, che di troppo disio era passionata. (3.10.1)

Dante's explanation of

its

desire,

is that

the soul, as

it

moves

becomes incapable of judging

closer to the object

rationally

and can only

infer "sensually," as an animal, according to appearances.

onde, quanto

la

cosa desiderata più appropinqua

al

desiderante, tanto lo

Error

Dante's Convivio

in

59

desiderio è maggiore, e l'anima, più passionata, più

concupiscibile e più abbandona

uomo

ma

persona,

la

quasi

la

la

parte

come

come

altro

la

The

which believed philosophy

"pitiless"

judged

si

animale pur secondo l'apparenza,

non discernendo ballatetta,

unisce a

ragione. Sì che allora non giudica

veritade. (3.10.2) to

be "disdainful" and

an animal according to the senses, "sensuale

like

giudicio" (3.10.3); the canzone, instead, judged philosophy rationally

according to the

truth,

"secondo

veritade."

la

Dante's explanation reproposes the terizes the distance is

between the

Vita

initial

dichotomy

Nuova and

that charac-

the Convivio. Error

the result of a too passionate soul unable to judge rationally ac-

cording

This error, however,

to the truth.

is

overcome

in the

more

mature and rational soul capable of going beyond appearances. The error of the

young ballad

is left

is

celebrated by the canzone.

E

con ciò sia cosa che

di fuori

mostrano

le

la

vera intenzione mia fosse altra che quella che

canzoni predette, per allegorica esposizione quelle

intendo mostrare, appresso

ragionata;

la littérale istoria

e l'altra darà sapore a coloro italics

behind and the truth of philosophy

che l'una ragione



che a questa cena sono convitati.

(1.1.18;

mine)

The Convivio

is

the place

where

error

not only denounced but

is

corrected in the light of a more rational and mature awareness. At the cognitive level, the virtues,

whereas

work

at the level

is

toward philosophy and

a shift

of representation

it

the literal, or the symbolic, to the allegorical. level of representation this

sense to

The

its

and Dante's aim

in the

is

a shift

Truth resides

Convivio

is

its

away from at this

to explicate

readers.

fact that the

Convivio was

unfinished

left

is

not the only

indication that, notwithstanding Dante's assurances to the contrary, the road that he has

of

Book

paved

for

man's happiness

not entirely free

is

Dante provides us with other reasons

of obstacles.

3 where he alludes to his

in

chapter 10

technique of blaming the young

ballad as "dissimulazione."

E

questa cotale figura

cioè

quando

le

in

rettorica è

molto laudabile,

parole sono a una persona e

la

e

anco necessaria,

'ntenzione è a un'altra;

però che l'ammonire è sempre laudabile e necessario e non sempre sta convenevolmente ne la bocca di ciascuno. questa figura è bellissima e utilissima, e puotesi chiamare dissimulazione'. (3.10.6-7; italics mine) .

.

.

Massimo Verdicchio

60

The

figure of dissimulation shifts the

making

latetta

A

poet's.

the

very

work and

blame from Dante

to the bal-

appear the young ballad's fault rather than the

it

common

Even

poetic device.

in

common

usage

exchanged metonymically when we

the poet are often

mean his works. But the figure of dissimulatio is metonymy and, as it is used by Dante, it is not just

say "Dante" to not a case of

a stylistic device but has

when

condemning

a vice

rectly either

because

it

moral implications. The figure

lo figlio è

is

used

in

the offender di-

would bring him shame and dishonour, or

because harm could come of Onde, quando

name

not proper to

is

it

it.

conoscente del vizio del padre, e quando

lo suddito

conoscente del vizio del segnore, e quando l'amico conosce che vergogna

è

crescerebbe

al

suo amico quello

ammonendo o menomerebbe

o conosce l'amico suo non paziente

ma

suo onore,

iracundo a l'ammonizione.

.

.

.

(3.10.7)

Which

is

Dante's case? His dissimulation has obviously the aim of

drawing the reader's attention away from himself

to hide the

of having misjudged philosophy's true nature. But is

to it?

more

there

Dante's next example of dissimulation provides us with

helpful hints.

attention

shame

is this all

tells

It

away from where

of a wise warrior who, the real battle

is

in

order to draw

taking place, feigns an

attack on another side.

Ed

è simigliante a l'opera di quello savio guerrero che combatte lo castello

da uno

lato per levare la difesa

'ntenzione de l'aiutorio e

The dissimulation has tracts the attention to

be the case. In

the case

is,

da

l'altro,

la battaglia.

che non vanno ad una parte

la

(3.10.8)

the purpose of covering

up something.

It

dis-

of the observer by making something else appear other words, what appears to the observer to be

on analysis, only

a dissimulation.

How

can

this

type of

dissimulation be said to be applicable to Dante in the Conviviol In

what way can

To answer

it

be said that Dante

these questions

is

acting like the wise warrior?

we must go back

to that section

where the

poet justifies the error of the ballatetta and his own. The passage, partly quoted earlier,

is

the following.

così quella ballatetta considerò questa

donna secondo l'apparenza, discor-

dante dal vero per infertade de l'anima, che (3.10.1; italics mine)

di

troppo disio era passionata.

Error

in

Dante's Convivio

In attributing the error to the

impediment

the fact that the

young

Dante

ballad,

question

in

is

61 is

covering up

internal, the result of

an

infirmity of the soul, and not easily corrected as the analogy with the infirmity of the eye in the first

As Dante had

led us to believe.

first

stated

chapter of the Convivio, defects that depend on internal

causes, such as infirmities of the soul and of the body, cannot be corrected.

Only those flaws

ceptible of correction.

that result

from external causes are sus-

Dante's dissimulation

make an

to

is

and impossible impediment appear external and amenable

Furthermore, by shifting the blame to the young ballad the

tion.

error

is

minimized as

has been safely

left

a youthful blunder belonging to a past

The dissimulation said to be strategy

is

amenable

is

not limited to this one case but invests the

meant ultimately

impediment

Just as the ballad's

to correction so is the reader's.

for the reader

who

is

is

The wise poet's made to believe

through the canzoni and their commentary he can easily acquire

wisdom and achieve

much

the happiness he so

his readers that those this

which

behind.

entire project of the Convivio.

that

internal to solu-

who

desires.

Dante assures

have not been fortunate enough

wisdom bestowed upon them

at birth will

be able

to

have

to acquire

it

through learning.

E similemente

puote essere, per molta correzione e cultura, che

questo seme dal principio non cade, sì

che perviene

a

si



dove

puote inducere [n]el suo processo,

modo quasi d'insetare l'altrui E però nullo è che possa essere scusato; che uomo non ha questa sementa, ben la puote avere

questo frutto; ed è uno

natura sopra diversa radice. se da sua naturale radice

per via d'insetazione. (4.22.12)

Here the soul of man handicapped by the sensual appetite no longer is

a factor

and an impediment

Now

of the Convivio. circumstances.

depriving

man

If

to learning as

the flaw

the seed of

is

it

was

in the first

said to be not in

man

chapter

but in his

goodness has by chance gone astray

of his natural and ultimate happiness, this temporary

and unfortunate situation can be corrected through the grafting of

knowledge. The fiaw, but external to him.

impediment

is

now

in other

As

in

words,

no longer inherent

said to be external and

and thus easily amendable. While

no uncertain terms,

is

in

man

the case of the hallaicita, an internal

in the first

that the soul can be

beyond man's control chapter,

it

was

said, in

handicapped by the sensual

Massimo Verdicchio

62

Book 4 Dante

appetites, in

E non

can only be

insists that the soul

rational.

animo

dicesse alcuno che ogni appetito sia animo; che qui s 'intende

solamente quello che spetta a

cioè la volontade e lo

la parte razionale,

intelletto. Sì che se volesse chiamare animo l'appetito sensitivo, qui non ha luogo, né instanza puote avere; che nullo dubita che l'appetito razionale non sia più nobile che '1 sensuale, e però più amabile: e così è questo di che ora si parla. (4.22.10; italics mine)

Dante's strategy of dissimulation

human

independent of man's

provide a one-sided view of

to

is

human

nature and one in which

error

the result of causes

is

open

will and, for this reason,

Either through the practice of a moral active

more to

E

perfect contemplative

has

or through the

life

at his disposal

two ways

achieve happiness directly and without impediments. così appare che nostra beatitudine (questa felicitade di cui

trovare le

man

life,

to correction.

potemo quasi imperfetta ne

la vita attiva, cioè

morali virtudi, e poi perfetta quasi ne

le

operazioni de

quali due operazioni sono vie espedite e direttissime a

beatitudine, la quale qui

che detto

è.

non

si

ne

puote avere,

si

le

parla)

le intellettuali.

menare a

come appare pur

la

per quello

In either case and with the help of Dante's exposition in the

As

away from

reader's attention their

own

Con-

be brought back on the right and quickest path

"supreme beatitude."

them with

Le

somma

(4.22.18; italics mine)

vivio, the reader will to

prima

operazioni de

flaws,

Dante

the wise warrior,

the real issue.

which

in

Instead of confronting

some cases might

nition of the impossibility of correction,

entail a recog-

that

wisdom

way of

tricking

Dante pretends

can be easily acquired and easily imparted.

distracts the

It

is

a

the reader into believing that he too can improve through the study

of philosophy but, as the incomplete Convivio and Dante's subse-

quent Commedia demonstrates, sustained and which

Dante's strategy

Aeneid play prise. Ulrich

in the

Leo,

a

is

bound

it

is

a dissimulation that cannot be

to fail.

not unrelated to the role that Virgil or the

Convivio as the in his

one of the reasons

Commedia was

is

literary

model

that led

Dante

to

abandon the Convivio

more profound knowledge of

and of Virgil's Aeneid,

for Dante's enter-

seminal essay on the Convivio, argues that for the

the classical authors

in particular.

This reading of the Aeneid, particularly of book VI,

may have

given him

the final impulse to put into action what, virtually, had already

become

Error

Dan le 's Convivio

in

63

nearly inevitable: to discontinue the Convivio, an ethical treatise, and also

De

the

Vulgari cloquentia, and to go himself, as a poet, to Hell and Heaven.

There he might hope

to see,

with his eyes opened and strengthened by

divine grace, those things which, during the time of the Convivio, he had

only thoughl or believed. (60)

By analysing

the quotation pattern from the classics and from the

Aencid, Ulrich Leo shows

that

Dante, by the time he was writing

the fourth treatise, had acquired a direct

He no

knowledge of these works.

longer quotes from them but gives plot summaries that only

a close reading can provide. a better

Useful as this observation

comprehension of Dante's sources as well as

may be

to

an under-

to

standing of the Convivio, the conclusions that he draws from

it

are

conditioned by the accepted belief of Virgil as Dante's "duce" and as the voice of natural reason (Leo 61). Although Virgil fulfills the role of the guide

relation to Virgil

so far

been led

and does embody the attributes of reason, Dante's

and

to his

to believe.

poem

is

not as accepting as

we have

Besides providing Dante with the idea

of undertaking a similar journey

in the afterlife, a closer

reading of

commonplaces on Virgil that he had unquestioningly accepted from tradition and which he had Aeneid also proved

the

used

in his

to

him

that the

works, were not correct.

A

closer reading of the Aeneid,

of which Dante will ironically boast to Virgil

in the

Commedia,

as

well as a reading of Juvenal's Satires especially where they relate to Virgil, revealed a different Virgil to him.

writing the history of

compromised

his art

its

origins and of

As

the poet of the

its

foundation, Virgil had

Empire

by employing a double standard of justice

to

cover up the aberrations committed by the ancestors of the Romans

whom

for

he was writing.

It

is

more probable,

opposite of what Ulrich Leo claims

is

the case.

therefore, that the

A

closer reading of

work did not provide Aeneas was not the symbol of everything that is noble in man. The ethical values on which the Commedia is founded entail a rejection of the comprothe

Aeneid must have persuaded Dante

an ethical model to follow and,

that the

in particular, that

mised system of values of the Aeneid as well as of an Aeneas-like figure as the central character of the poem.^

Even more ities

interesting, for our present purposes, are the similar-

between Dante's strategy of dissimulation,

to

which we have

alluded earlier, and Virgil's compromised ethics. Dante's misrepre-

Massimo Verdicchio

64

sentation of the conditions that is

Romans

tors of the

it

wisdom

possible to acquire

or by those protected by

cases, the distortion

Roman Gods.

In both

function of a public that the poet wants to

is in

and cajole. As the dissimulation of the wise warrior aims

ingratiate at

make

not unlike Virgil's cover up of the crimes committed by the ances-

conquering the

castle, the

wise poet wants to win over his readers

satisfied. The The moment Dante knows the hopelessness of Florence or becomes aware through Virgil of the

keep his patron happy and

or, as in Virgil's case, to

differences are clear.

ever returning to

bankruptcy of an ethical model based on dissimulation, that time he breaks off the Convivio to write a

own

deceits, including his

Dante's dissimulation

in this

at the

poem

that will

thematic level has

necessary coun-

its

Dante's promise of a

philosophy that redeems and ensures happiness depends on

the

and on the reader's

all

work.

terpart at the level of textual representation.

ability

the

is

expose

ability to

decipher

its

signs. This

its

teach-

had been

problem with the ballatetta and with reading the canzoni. At the

level of representation, Dante's dissimulation takes the

form of a

claim that a commentary can explain the meaning (of the figure) of

meaning were

the canzoni as if this

the account of the literal

self-evident.^ In the Convivio,

meaning of

the canzoni

explanation of the latent allegorical sense as

and natural analogue. The

literal is

said to

if

it

is

followed by an

were

accompany

its

inevitable

the allegorical

as bread a meal.

Dante's dissimulation takes the form of a theory of allegory which is

equated to a

mode

of allegorical reading

common

to theologians.

In the Second Book, before commenting on the first canzone, Dante tells the reader that he wants him to understand the poems allegori-

same way

cally in the

that scriptures are read

according to the four

allegorical levels.

Dico che,



come

nel

primo capitolo è

essere littérale e allegorica. scritture si

E

possono intendere

narrato, questa sposizione conviene

a ciò dare a intendere,

e deonsi esponere

si

vuol sapere che

le

massimamente per quattro

sensi. (2.1.2)

Dante enumerates the four meanings anagogie

—but does



not follow the practice himself.

the poets read the allegory differently

intends to follow the

literal, allegorical,

way of

the poets.

moral and

He adds

that

from the theologians and he

Error

Veramente

Dante's Convivio

in

prendono altrimenti che

teologi questo senso

li

che mia intenzione è qui

allegorico secondo che per

Dante's intention

is

modo

lo

65

de

li

li

poeti è usato. (2.1.4; italics

li

poeti;

ma

però

poeti seguitare, prendo lo senso

to explain the literal

mine)

and the allegorical meanings

and, from time to time, to touch also on the others, "e talvolta de li

sensi toccherò incidentemente,

altri

converrà" (2.1.15;

come

a luogo è a

tempo

si

Indeed, these two other meanings

mine).

italics

are so "incidental" to the exposition that Dante very rarely uses them.

When

he does they are not readings of a canzone but of Scripture.

In the Fourth

Book, the example of Martha and Mary as symbols of

the active and contemplative

Che

life is

Gospel of Luke.

a reading of the

se moralemente ciò volemo esponere, volse lo nostro Segnore

mostrare che l'attiva:

la

in

ciò

contemplativa vita fosse ottima, tutto che buona fosse

ciò è manifesto a chi ben vuole porre

mente

e le evangeliche

parole. (4.17.11; italics mine)

And when mentary

in the

Fourth Book, Dante wants the benefit of his com-

immediately, he even does away with

to reach the reader

commentary.

the pretense of the allegorical e i'

comincai una canzone nel cui principio solia.

Ne

la

quale io intendo riducer

propria conoscenza de

dissi:

verace nobilitade;

la

Le

gente

la



dolci rime

d'amor eh'

in diritta via

come

per

la

sopra

la

conoscenza

del suo testo, a la esposizione del quale ora s'intende, vedere

si

potrà.

E però che in questa canzone s'intese a rimedio così necessario, non era buono sotto alcuna figura parlare, ma convennesi per via tostana questa medicina, acciò che fosse tostana così laida morte

si

Non

correa.

la

costei alcuna allegoria aprire,

ma

ragionare. (4.1.10-11;

mine)

Dante's pretext

upon

is

italics

le

la

infamia

di tanta

cessa, per lo presente di

ma

some of

upon

la

esposizione di

sentenza secondo la lettera

He wants

to

impress

his critics

had insinuated.

passione avere seguita, quanta concepe chi legge in

me

vertù sia stata

Encouraging

la

canzoni have a definite moral content and

sopra nominate canzoni

passione

solamente

dictated by a major concern.

his readers that the

not a passionate one, as

Temo

sanitade, [dare]; la quale corrotta, a

sarà dunque mestiere ne

me

avere segnoreggiata;

la

quale infamia

parlare, interamente, lo quale mostra la

si

che non

movente cagione. (1.2.16)

his readers to read as theologians read Scripture confers

the canzoni,

and on Dante's entire enterprise, the needed moral

Massimo Verdicchio

66

authority that previously had been put in question.'

Dante's strategy of dissimulation ets,

which

is

mode

a

theologians, which

equate the allegory of po-

is to

of poetic representation, with the allegory of

mode

a

is

By

of reading.

stating that the allegory

of theologians can read the allegory of poets, Dante makes the reader believe that the poetic figure I

have already

said,

readable. Errors of interpretation, as

is

being dependent on external factors that can be

by eliminating the interfering causes. Dante's

easily corrected

dis-

simulation conceals what elsewhere he has stated on account of the

where he discusses

figure.

In the chapter

ligible,

Dante excludes the

figure,

the visible

amongst

and the

others, as that

intel-

which

is

neither properly visible nor tangible.

Ben



come

lo stare fermo,

sensi

è la figura,

figure

is

la

(3.9.6; italics

si

chiamano:

le quali

we comprehend

from color and

it

with more than one sense.

which can be

light,

comprehend. For example,

easily

in the

a lion" the connoted quality of courage

to understanding.

It

is

is

we must

Achilles

is

a lion or, in the

young

not readily available

also intuit

when we

human

is

In the Convivio to

is

it

the figure

very

dif-

read literally that is

not resolved by dismiss-

nature cannot be improved by taking

into account only the rational side of the soul

sensitive appetites. This

what

makes

Be-

ballad's case, that philosophy

"fera" and "disdegnosa." But this error

ing the figure just as

sight, the figure

sentence "Achilles

"lion" stands for. This characteristic of the figure

read and leads easily to error as

Dif-

comprehended

not "propriamente" visible or tangible.

side exercising the sense of sight

ficult to

cose con più

mine)

because they are apprehended by the sole sense of

is

senso sente

né propriamente

neither "propriamente visibile" nor "propriamente tan-

gibile" because

is difficult to

altro

visibile,

grandezza, lo numero, lo movimento e

che sensibili [comuni]

comprendiamo.

ferently

non propriamente, però che

che non può dire che sia propriamente

tangibile; sì

The

ma

è altra cosa visibile,

quello,

and by ignoring the

Dante's error.

Dante aims

to

show

his readers the true road

happiness by dissimulating the difficulties inherent

in

such under-

The impediments, Dante argues, are external to man and can be easily overcome by an understanding that goes beyond the false taking.'"

appearances of things to the truth behind. Allegorical understanding, as the theologians practice

it,

enables the reader to benefit from the

Firror in

moral teachings

to

its

solutions.

because philosophy nor

is

and the

it

fails therefore,

it

of the

is

deemed

not

is

incapable of bestowing true happiness on

man

insufficient.

It

misrepresents, willingly, both man's ability to change

true nature of poetic figuration. Just as

canzoni could arrive in the

to falsify the true nature

Convivio

If the

because the allegory of the poets

it

because

fails

is

Dante's

s'etterna" fails, however, because his desire

win over an audience leads him

problem and

67

thai the poet has represented in his canzoni.

"come I'uom

version of

Danie's Convivio

no reader reading the

explanation that Dante gives

at the allegorical

commentary, no reader reading Dante's Convivio could ever

find true happiness.

Dante probably adopts the Convivio he

work

in

still

strategy because at the time he writes

rtiis

hoped

to return to

fellow Florentines and prove to them that he savio,

By

Florence."

writing this

volgare, he probably hopes to ingratiate himself with his

who

could show them the

way

was

the wise

to true happiness.''

man,

the

Perhaps

if

he had returned to Florence and Henry of

Luxembourg had

become

Dante would have contin-

the

emperor of

the Italian States,

ued the Convivio and stopped

As an

not to be.

exile

De Monarchia. But

at the

who knew

lived to

this

was

he was never to return to his

native city, the dissimulation that he had used to return to Florence

was no longer necessary.

In fact his attitude

changes

new work, which adopts

In a

drastically.

allegory and where the as he goes, one

commentary

toward man's salvation

treated to a vision of Hell

is

a

genuine poetic

to the reader

is left

where

all

who

learns

degrees of

dissimulation are enumerated and punished before any hope of salvation can be entertained.

As

for Dante, his

own

dissimulation in the

Convivio will be accounted for and denounced before the

Commedia, can

a

new banquet,

take place.

University of Alberta

NOTES 1

Dante explains the difference between the young ballad and the canzone as that of

two

common

sisters

who. although

different

and

in

opposition, are related by a

parent. "Per similitude dico 'sorella' de l'opera che da

operante è operata; che

la

nostra operazione

in

alcuno

modo

uno medesimo è

generazione"

1

Massimo Verdicchio

68 word

(3.9.4). ("I use the

metaphorically, for a

'sister'

by the same author, since our work 2

The terms

Dante uses

that

in

lescenza" and "Gioventute."

Nuova and

the Convivio,

Book 4

ally,

to

do

work which

is

written

a begetting.")

"Ado-

(see especially chapter 24) are

have preferred

I

in

some sense

In discussing the difference

nology of Youth and Adulthood thought necessary

is in

between the

modem

more

to use the

This

to characterize this difference.

Vita

termiI

have

order to avoid unnecessary confusion and, eventu-

unnecessary explanation.

3 See 3.9.5-6 where Dante discusses the etymology of "filosofo" (philosopher) as "amatore di sapienza" and "Filosofìa" as "amistanza a sapienza, o vero a

sapere."

4 Dante's criticism of philosophy

Nuova

gentile" in the Vita

in the

ballad and his rejection of the "donna

are explainable, allegorically,

by Dante's

difficulties

with the study of philosophy. See Convivio 3.15.19. 5 Dante here

writing from experience. Because of long hours of reading, his

is

eyesight had weakened and stars appeared to him blurred: "per affaticare lo viso molto, a studio di leggere, in tanto debilitai

pareano

tutte

poignant because the study Dante

6

By

Dante wants

ballatetta

youth that led the ballad ballatetta

is

li

spiriti visivi le stelle

d'alcuno albore ombrate" (3.9.15). The example

"young

referring to

is

the study of philosophy.

to stress the inexperience

to its error.

and fervor typical of

The more adequate English

rendition of

ballad."

7 For these same reasons the the Convivio, as Ulrich

of the Aeneid (59

is

mi

particularly

is

n.

De Monarchia

cannot be thought a

Leo suggests basing

42).

It

is

it

later

work than

on Dante's greater knowledge

inconceivable that Dante could

make

still

references to Virgil that were not ironic after breaking off with the Convivio.

8 Dante makes frequent use of the figure of dissimulation the reader to Patrick

Boyde's excellent study on Dante's

he stresses the importance of

this figure for

in the

Rime.

I

refer

which

lyric poetry in

Dante, but a consideration of

broader implications for Dante's work and for the Convivio

lie

its

outside the

scope of his study. 9

A

similar suggestion

made

is

in the letter to

Can Grande where

again, in offer-

ing the cantica of Paradiso to the Lord of Verona and Vicenza, Dante wants

bestow upon

to

However,

in

this

my

work

high seriousness of his his

10

same moral

poem and

authority that one gives the Bible. is

rhetorical,

aimed

at stressing the

not to be taken as an hermeneutical key to

poem.

The commentary

in

vernacular for instructional purposes

before the Convivio.

d'Arezzo is

the

opinion, Dante's gesture

the

who

writes a

is

already a genre

Dante's predecessors are Brunetto Latini and Ristoro

work on astronomy. Hugh of

most celebrated example of

a

work

St.

Victor's Didascalicon

that teaches the reader

how

to read

according to the four levels of scriptural allegory. For general background on the Convivio see the appropriate chapter in Anderson. 1

Versions of

why Dante abandoned

the writing of the Convivio abound.

A

Error

good summary of major a

move toward

the Acneid.

Dante

in

's

Convivio

69

Leo whose own reading tavours

critical trends is in

"poetry and vision" precipitated by a reading of

The general

critical trend

Book

4 of

has been to situate the break with the

Convivio and the writing of the Commedia

in

terms of an opposition between

prose and poetry, philosophy and theology, pagan philosophy and Christian

philosophy, allegory of poets and allegory of theologians. For a critique along philosophical lines, see Mazzeo, Gilson, Nardi and Mazzotta. For studies that place emphasis on the theological aspect, see d'Alverny, Foster, Freccerò and Singleton. 12

On

this question, see

Simonelli

who

known and studied as an Dante went out of his way to please

wants

to

be

argues that the Dante of the Convivio author but disagrees with the thesis that his readers to return to Florence.

WORKS CITED Alighieri, Dante.

Le Opere

D'AJvemy, M. Th. "Notes

di Dante. Firenze: Società Dantesca Italiana, 1960.

sur Dante et la sagesse."

Revue des Études Italiennes

ns 11 (1965): 5-24.

Anderson, William.

Dante the Maker.

London:

Routledge and Kegan Paul,

1980.

Boyde, Patrick. Dante's Style

in his Lyric Poetry.

London: Cambridge University

Press, 1971.

Kenelm, O.P. "The Mind

Foster,

Collection of Critical Essays.

in

Love:

Dante's Philosophy."

Ed. John Freccerò.

Englewood

Dante:

A

Cliffs, N.J.:

Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965.

Freccerò, John. "Dante's Prologue Scene." Dante Studies 84 (1966): 1-25. Gilson, Etienne. Dante

and Philosophy. Trans. David Moore.

New

York: Harper

Torchbooks, 1963. Leo, Ulrich. "The Unfinished Convivio and Dante's Rereading of the Aeneid."

Medieval Studies 13 (1951): 41-64.

Mazzeo, Joseph A. Medieval Cultural Tradition

in

Dante's Comedy.

Ithaca:

Cornell University Press, 1960.

Mazzotta, Giuseppe. Dante. Poet of the Desert. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1970.

Nardi, Bruno. Studi di filosofia medievale.

Roma: Edizioni

di Storia e Letteratura,

1960. .

Saggi di

filosofia dantesca. Firenze:

La Nuova

Italia,

1967.

Simonelli, Maria Picchio. "Pubblico e società nel Convivio." Yearbook of Italian Studies 4 (1980): 41-58. Singleton, Charles.

Commedia: Elements of

University Press, 1965.

Structure.

Cambridge:

Harvard

Dino

S.

Cervigni

-

L'Acheronte dantesco: morte del Pellegrino e della poesia

0.

All'inizio del viaggio infernale,

poco dopo aver varcato

porta

la

dell'Inferno {hif. 3.1-21) e osservato gli ignavi (3.35-36), Dante ar-

Lungo

riva al fiume Acheronte.

dopo

l'incontro con Caronte e

dizione dei dannati, di

si

la

sponda del "fiume della morte,"

la

spiegazione di Virgilio circa

un terremoto che causa

verifica

lo

la

con-

svenimento

Dante:

campagna

Finito questo, la buia

tremò

mente

la

La

che de

sì forte,

di

spavento

lo

sudore ancor mi bagna. lagrimosa diede vento,

terra

che balenò una luce vermiglia qual mi vinse ciascun sentimento;

la

come l'uom

caddi

e

sonno

cui

piglia.

(3.130-36)

A

questo punto né Dante Pellegrino

rende conto del significato del

si

terremoto e dello svenimento né Dante Poeta offre spia per interpretare

avvenimenti, al

momento

sia del

resta altro

la

al lettore

alcuna

poeta non spiega ora questi

il

che continuare

la lettura fino

partendo dal testo dantesco, offrire

terremoto che dello svenimento. Sappiamo

terremoto, assieme con

il

causare il

Poiché

in cui sarà possibile,

una spiegazione

(si noti

non

al lettore

tuttavia che è glia, a

testo.

il

il

vento e

perdita dei sensi del Pellegrino.

verbo usato dal poeta per descrivere

le

svenimento) è uguagliata a quella dell'uomo che

la

luce vermi-

La sua "caduta"

conseguenze dello è vinto dal

sonno:

similitudine strana, questa, poiché non fa parte della nostra esperien-

za vedere un

uomo

cadere quand'è sopraffatto dal sonno; e quindi

osservazione fondamentale per

la

valutazione del significato, per ora

recondito, del terremoto e dello svenimento.

fenomeno

tellurico che scuote tutto

finitiva essere

preso

in

tuttavia colpisce solo

QUADERNI dimlianisuca

il

esame separatamente

Dante Pellegrino.

Volume X. No.

1-2.

1989

È

chiaro dunque che

luogo infernale non può

in

il

de-

dallo svenimento, che

In realtà forse è possibile

Dino

72 speculare

fin

d'ora che

Cervigni

S.

Dante costituisca

la perdita dei sensi di

scopo fondamentale dello straordinario fenomeno

La prima indicazione bocca 14).

di

esplicita di

terremoto

altro

Vero è che Malacoda, pur non parlando

non solo descrive

terremoto, sul regno

di Satana,

presumibilmente anche

durante

la

ma

ne offre anche

Veniamo

le altre

da un gran

coordinate tem-

le

così a sapere che

i

ponti

"ruine" che Dante aveva notato

sua discesa infernale, sono da rapportare alla crocifissione

di Cristo e al

Il

data dalla

alcun terremoto in

di

gli effetti rovinosi, causati

porali per individuarne l'origine. rotti, e

ci è

Malacoda, nella quinta bolgia del cerchio ottavo (21.106-

particolare,

1.

un

lo

tellurico.

fenomeno

che l'accompagnò.

tellurico

narrato biblico della morte di Cristo nel vangelo di Matteo

ci

offre gli elementi necessari per la spiegazione del terremoto infernale:

Et ecce velum templi scissum est et terra

mota

est, et

in

duas partes a

petrae scissae sunt, et

summo

monumenta

usque deorsum:

aperta sunt: et multa

corpora sanctorum, qui dormierant, surrexerunt. (Matt. 27.51-52) Il

narrato biblico e

posta che

il

il

testo dantesco giustificano

terremoto che accompagna

la

ampiamente

morte

stesso che causa le "ruine" nel regno di Satana. di Cristo tiene dietro la

sua discesa agli

che Virgilio stesso descrive a Dante, in

inferi:

in

ma

di vittoria coronato," si assoggetta

conseguenze del peccato

alle

la

pro-

Cristo sia lo

Infatti, alla

morte

avvenimento, questo,

seguito alla sua domanda,

termini precisi e rivelatori (4.52-63).

segno

di

istigato

Cristo,

non

al

il

"possente,

/

con

peccato e a Satana

da Satana stesso, cioè

morte; a questa sottomissione temporanea tiene dietro

la

la vittoria di

Cristo su Satana e sul suo regno. Di qui la "ruina" dei ponti e di

altri

luoghi infernali (5.28-36 e 12.4-10, secondo Charles S. Singleton

475) causati del terremoto, e

Limbo E

liberazione delle anime giuste dal

la

tramite la discesa di Cristo agli inferi. Singleton scrive:

se ora dalla fitta rete di tutti questi segni ci voltiamo a guardare la pa-

rola

tomba, che compare verso

la fine della salita

per uscire dall'Inferno,

essa assumerà per noi uno speciale significato. Lì indicava senza dubbio la

tomba

non

ma quando il pellegrino esce da essa proprio prima Domenica di Pasqua, sarà difficile che il lettore cristiano

di Satana;

dell'alba della

trovi in tale fatto

una ricchezza

Senonché Singleton, nonostante

di significato.

(487-88)

gli stretti rapporti

che

egli sviluppa

L 'Acheronte dantesco fra la

"discesa" di Cristo, subito dopo

la

morte

sa" di Dante Pellegrino, non sembra mettere fra l'inizio di questi

due viaggi

73

in

croce, e

in

Ciò che

infernali.

"disce-

la

luce ulteriori rapporti ci interessa sotto-

lineare a questo punto è che l'inizio del viaggio dantesco, che segue di

poco

morte

l'ora della

Santo (21.1 12-14),

è

di Cristo in croce, la sesta

perdita dei sensi del Pellegrino:

il

fenomeno

tellurico

buia campagna" deve necessariamente rapportarsi

accompagna

morte

la

di

Dante; infine,

la

terremoto che

al

discesa infernale di

Dante Pellegrino che dalla sera del Venerdì Santo

Domenica

e dalla

che scuote "la

Cristo in croce, alla quale occorre anche

riferire la perdita dei sensi di

il

ora del Venerdì

appunto contrassegnato da un terremoto

mattina della

alla

Risurrezione è racchiuso nelle viscere della terra trova

di

suo modello mitico e

la

sua giustificazione soteriologica nel Chri-

stuserlebnis.

Prima

2.

procedere all'analisi dei rapporti fra

di

il

inferos di Cristo, preceduto dalla sua morte reale, e

descensus ad

il

descensus ad

inferos di Dante, preceduto dal suo svenimento o morte simbolica, occorre considerare il

il

terremoto dantesco nei suoi rapporti con

terremoto che ndVEneide

Commedia —



testo

fondamentale nella genesi della

caratterizza l'ingresso della Sibilla e di

Enea nell'Ade:

Ecce autem primi sub lumina

solis et ortus

sub pedibus mugire solum

iuga coepta moveri

et

silvarum, visaeque canes ululare per

umbram,

adventante dea. {En. 6.255-58)

La formula che introduce

il

fenomeno

—"ecce autem" — formula che

ha un preciso corrispondente nel dantesco "Ed ecco" (3.82), è spesso usata per contraddistinguere avvenimenti improvvisi che determinano 10

sviluppo d'un'azione e che causano paura o ammirazione {Aenei-

dos

comm. ad

virgiliano:

1.

loc). il

In realtà tre elementi

"muggire"

del suolo sotto

delle vette degli alberi della foresta; 3. il

11

connotano i

il

latrare dei cani.

il

terremoto

piedi; 2. lo scuotersi Il

primo e

terzo elemento sono convenzionali nella letteratura classica antica.

secondo e

il

terzo elemento virgiliano non caratterizzano l'ingres-

so infernale della

Commedia,

metaforicamente come

in cui

in Virgilio

specifici e realistici ("la buia

il

terremoto non viene descritto

("mugire solum") bensì

campagna

/

tremò



forte")

in

termini

con Tag-

Dino

74

giunta di due elementi, estranei e

Cervigni

S.

al testo

"una luce vermiglia," che, secondo

costitutivi del

fenomeno

deW Eneide,

"vento"

il

meteorologia dantesca, sono

la

anche qui è valido un

In realtà

tellurico.

e cioè

principio interpretativo che a noi sembra fondamentale, pur nella

sua evidente immediatezza: se è vero che, da un

somiglianze

lato, le

testuali

suggeriscono un contesto interpretativo generale (nella

specie,

il

terremoto virgiliano), dall'altro sono

fatti-

disuguaglianze ad

le

offrire la chiave d'interpretazione vera e propria.

comune

terremoto, dunque, elemento

Il

entrambi

in

Mentre

descritto in termini sostanzialmente diversi.

casi

il

non sono ancora

l'eroe e la Sibilla

na infernale; al contrario, nella arrivati alla riva del

Commedia

entrati nella caver-

fiume Acheronte. Inoltre

testo virgiliano sug-

il

e la presenza della divinità ("adventante dea"); la

immediatamente un

come una

ma

tale rapporto,

danteschi in cui è presente

fenomeno

il

rici,

tutto discriminante, per

terremoto. NeìV Eneide

imperioso della

al

fenomeno

è l'analisi di altri episodi

(si

veda

Enea

tellurico

i

fnf.

un momento

9.64-66).

due fenomeni

e di

Dante

tengono dietro

con

grido

Sebbene

sproni l'eroe ad aver coraggio, in realtà l'eroe non sembra

la Sibilla

come esprime lucidamente 6.263

aver bisogno di alcuna esortazione,

ducem haud il

classico:

il

spada sguainata e con coraggio;

la

e l'ingresso della Sibilla e dell'eroe nell'antro (6.258-63).

contesto

tellu-

di fronte al

Sibilla, diretto ai "profani," di allontanarsi; l'invito,

rivolto ad Enea, di avanzare

("ille

terremoto

tellurico a proporci l'episo-

quanto concerne

è la differenza nell'atteggiamento di

il

Commedia non

specifica manifestazione della divinità in

cruciale del viaggio di Dante Pellegrino

Del

i

due pellegrini sono già

i

gerisce un rapporto, presumibilmente di dipendenza, fra

dio

viene

ambedue

terremoto è da porsi in relazione con l'ingresso nell'aldilà,

neW Eneide

offre

testi,

i

in

il

timidis

vadentem passibus aequat").

testo della

Commedia

timore e

paura che

la

si si

In questo

stacca decisamente dal modello

sono

alternati nell'animo del Pel-

legrino fin dall'inizio del viaggio (1.6-7, 15, 19, ecc.), raggiungono in questa

quando

congiuntura un apice che Dante non oltrepasserà

si

troverà davanti

al

visioni infernali (34.22-27).

"gran vermo," Infatti

il

la

nemmeno

più terrificante delle

terremoto,

il

vento e

la

luce

vermiglia vincono "ciascun sentimento" del Pellegrino che tramortisce.

Quest'esperienza è così terrificante

— nota

lo scrittore

solo ricordo gli irriga ancora di sudore la fronte.

—che

In breve:

il

l'at-

L 'Acheronte dantesco

teggiamento

di

Enea

di

fronte

75

terremoto,

al

momento

al

d'entrare

nell'antro, mette in evidenza la "sufficienza" dell'eroe che intrapren-

de

il

viaggio nell'aldilà, mentre

contrario l'atteggiamento di Dante

al

è indice della sua "insufficienza."

La

verifica di questa differenza

tretomba no,

di

Dante Pellegrino

primo; di un pagano,

il

che permette all'uno e giliano

il

viaggio nell'ol-

il

nel

un

di

cristia-

"segno"

è riscontrabile nel

Nel poema

vir-

ramus aureus (6.403-10) che bosco seguendo le istruzioni della maga. il

guida assegnata

la

sante, profferisce a Caronte

quanto pieno

fra

— viaggio

all'altro l'ingresso nell'aldilà.

Nel poema dantesco, Virgilio,

donne

Enea



secondo

mostra a Caronte

la Sibilla

Enea aveva raccolto

tre

fondamentale

e quello di

di valori simbolici,

mento serviano), bensì impone

al

Pellegrino dalle

non un dono materiale, per

come neìV Eneide

(si

comcomando

veda

nocchiere infernale un

al

il

divino (3.94-96).

Di qui possiamo inferire ulteriori differenze dell'Acheronte. si

calma;

Al profferire del ramo d'oro

alle parole di Virgilio

mente non s'acquieta. La di qui si) si

diventa palese che

i

tum corda

ma

Caronte dantesco tace

diversità nella reazione dei si tratta

due transitas

Caronte virgiliano ovvia-

due Caronti

(e

proprio di due personaggi diver-

manifesta anche nella trasformazione d'animo che

Caronte virgiliano.

Enea,

il

il

fra

Questi non solo

si

si

attua nel

rappacifica ("tumida ex ira

residunt," 6.407), ma, per così dire, passa dalla parte di

di cui ora

ammira

il

dono venerabile, quella verga

fatale

che

non vedeva più da lungo tempo (6.408-9). E quindi accoglie subito

Enea

nella barca.

Il

testo virgiliano

luce l'ammirazione di Caronte per

sembra mettere ulteriormente

Enea

il

in

quale, entrato nella barca,

sovrasta gli astanti con la sua forma immane: inde alias animas, quae per iuga longa sedebant,

deturbat laxatque foros; simul accipit alveo

ingentem Aeneam. gemuit sub pendere cumba sutilis et

tandem

multam accepit rimosa paludem. vatemque virumque

trans fiuvium incolumis

informi limo glaucaque exponit

in ulva.

(6.411-16)

Precisamente a motivo del venerabile

donum o

virgo fatalis, non v'è

più opposizione fra Enea ("corpus vivum") e Caronte, glie l'eroe nella barca.

Enea sembra

il

quale acco-

così assumere una statura simile

Dino

76

S.

Cervigni

o addirittura superiore ("ingentem Aeneam") a quella quale infine

veggente e

depone incolumi ("incolumis"),

Enea

gli

anche ammirazione per

Dante nell'Inferno: tramite

messo

solo viene

l'eroe; a parte

il

a tacere

dinario caratterizza

teme né perde

la

il

dono

sviluppa

avvenimento

straor-

passaggio dell'Acheronte virgiliano; Enea non

il

conoscenza, anzi

suo passaggio dal regno dei vivi

il

a quello dei morti è appunto contraddistinto da

coscienza e da una manifestazione circostanze esteriori,

sulla barca, durante

ma

terremoto che accompagna

l'appressarsi della dea all'antro infernale, nessun

le

il

elementi che distinguono l'ingresso

nell'aldilà dall'ingresso di

ramo d'oro Caronte non

del

Caronte,

l'eroe.

Fondamentali sono quindi di

di

di là del fiume, la

al

il

come

un continuo

di superiorità

verso

stato di

gli astanti

o

è palese dalla descrizione di Enea, ritto

suo arrivo, incolume,

tragitto e dal

sull'altra

sponda.

Contrariamente ad Enea,

il

Pellegrino perde la conoscenza e tra-

mortisce, esperisce quindi nella propria persona

ì^qW Eneide, da un mette

il

lato,

passaggio è

morta, che

la

la

il

i

segni della morte.^

valore discriminante assoluto che per-

contrapposizione fra corpora viva e corpora

necessità della sepoltura mette ancor più in rilievo.

Nella Commedia, dall'altro,

la

sepoltura dei corpi

non ha più nessun

valore determinante nella scelta di Caronte, che accoglie nella barca

coloro che "cadono" lungo

tutti

ciò che determina

la riva

dell'Acheronte. Per Caronte

passaggio dell'Acheronte, passaggio non invo-

il

come neW Eneide ("stabant orantes primi transmittere cursum / tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore," 6.314-5) ma temuto e cato

odiato, è la condizione stessa dell'anima: prava e morta nell'ira di

Dio.

Nel contesto del passaggio dell'Acheronte, del testo dantesco e virgiliano rivela a di

la contiguità

elementi contenutistici e di motivi poetici.

ze, ovvie, implicite

o recondite, sono

tematica

prima vista una comunanza

tali

In realtà le differen-

e di così gran valore da

mettere in luce un fatto macroscopico, rimasto nascosto solo a chi nella

Commedia

ficati spirituali:

è in cerca di elementi formali a parte dei suoi signi-

Vauctor vuole

infatti

segnalare, tramite l'imitazione

contrapposta a una differenziazione sistematica, che tesco

si

attualizza per cause e scopi

del viaggio di Enea.

Quindi

la

il

viaggio dan-

completamente diversi da

differenza fra

il

primo e

il

quelli

secon-

L 'Acheronte dantesco

do

11

è fondamentale, e le molteplici spie del testo dantesco rivelano

concetto fondamentale alla base di questa sostanziale differenza:

il

Dante Pellegrino d'un privilegio

sta per intraprendere

viaggio nell'aldilà

il

in virtù

origine s'affonda nel mistero di Cristo

la cui

il

cui

desccnsus/ascensiis Dante s'accinge ora ad imitare.

Nella Bibbia

3.

gnano

la

morte

terremoto

il

non possono essere

di Cristo

manifestazione della divinità. caratterizzano in genere

manifestazione divina a ti

giorno del Signore,

il

morte

la

di Cristo:

Mosè

sul

monte

le

Sinai, e

ambedue

visti

teofanie,

come

la

due avvenimen-

i

dipendenza

in diretta

Gerusalemme

distruzione di

la

come una

che

visti

Tremori, tuoni, folgori, oscuramenti

escatologici per eccellenza,

con

avvenimenti che accompa-

e gli altri

e la fine del

mondo. Quali manifestazioni della divinità, cui sono sottomesse della natura, nella Bibbia

timore nell'uomo croce); nella

tano

la

(si

il

veda

terremoto,

vento e

il

la

reazione del centurione

la

Commedia, come

il

forze

piedi della

ai

avvenimenti simili conno-

s'è visto,

presa di possesso di Cristo sul regno di Satana

eventi connessi con

le

folgore incutono

viaggio dantesco o

e, di

qui, altri

salvezza delle anime

la

purganti: la venuta del messaggero per aprire

le

porte della città di

Dite {Inferno 9) e l'annuncio della purificazione delle anime purganti,

come viene

illustrato dalla liberazione di Stazio

{Purgatorio

20).'

Nel terzo canto

sembra dover

étW Inferno,

interpretarsi

il

terremoto che scuote

non solo quale teofania

quale manifestazione della potenza divina che

si

in

la

campagna

genere bensì

rivelò alla morte di

Cristo e alla presa di possesso del regno di Satana e che caratteriz-

zerà anche la fine dei tempi, quando Cristo ritornerà per giudicare i

vivi e

i

morti.

Entro questo contesto, dunque, l'ingresso

di

Dante

sco, va interpretato

come tutto viaggio dantecome manifestazione diretta della volontà divina,

secondo quanto

anime dannate

nell'oltretomba e nel regno di Satana,

le

il

e purganti

più e più volte da Virgilio e da Dante.

In

si

sentono proclamare

quanto manifestazione

della volontà divina, questa discesa nell'Inferno è configurata secon-

do l'archetipo del descensus vittoria coronato,"

morte.

il

primo

di Cristo,

fra

i

redenti,

il

il

"possente

/

con segno

di

Signore della vita e della

Dino

78 Il

descensus

Cervigni

S.

Dante, quindi, situato entro questo contesto escato-

di

logico, è quello dell'uomo peccatore che, per raggiungere

la

deve imitare Cristo nella sua morte e nella sua discesa

È

salvezza,

agli inferi.

quanto dice Beatrice stessa nel suo primo incontro con Dante

cima

alla

montagna

del Purgatorio e in

in

una fondamentale digressione

teologica in Paradiso:

Tanto giù cadde, che

argomenti

tutti

a la salute sua eran già corti,

fuor che mostrarli

Per questo

le

perdute genti.

visitai l'uscio d'i morti,

e a colui che l'ha

qua

sii

condotto,

preghi miei, piangendo, furon porti.

li

{Purg. 30.136-41)

La pena dunque che s'a la natura assunta

mai

nulla già

si

croce porse

la

misura,

giustamente morse;



e così nulla fu di tanta ingiura,

guardando in

alla

persona che sofferse,

che era contratta

tal

natura.

Però d'un atto uscir cose diverse: ch'a Dio ed per

a'

tremò

lei

Giudei piacque una morte;

la terra e

'1

ciel s'aperse.

{Par. 7.40-48)

Quale momento essenziale della sua imitatio nel suo descensus nell'aldilà,

come conseguenza

di Cristo,

non può non esperire

la

morte,

la quale,

della colpa originale, del peccato individuale e

conditio sine qua non per l'ingresso nell'oltretomba, nella perdita della

anche Dante,

si

conoscenza e nella caduta (paragonata

attualizza al

sonno)

del Pellegrino. Il

nesso fondamentale che esiste fra

terremoto infernale e

il

il

terremoto narrato dall'evangelista Matteo, fra lo svenimento del Pellegrino e

anche

la

morte

situati gli

svenimento

Dopo

la

di Cristo,

Dante

di

il

contesto entro cui vanno

alla destra del Padre,

tempi per giudicare tra nell'aldilà

ma

al

terremoto, allo

e al passaggio dell'Acheronte.

morte Cristo è sepolto, discende

ascende quindi

parusia.*^

determina

avvenimenti che tengono dietro

i

vivi e

inaugura

i

i

morti.

agli inferi,

risorge e

da dove

ritornerà alla fine dei

Cristo

dunque non solo en-

tempi messianici e annuncia anche

Dante che attraversa l'Acheronte

e inizia

la

un viaggio nel

L Acheronte dantesco

regno dei morti apocalittici tro di sé



come

mentale:

transiius e viaggio caratterizzati da tipici segni

vento e folgore

terremoto,

Vaevutn pracsens ed entra

dell'uomo dopo la

79

morte.

la



lascia

dunque

ma

Osservazione ovvia, questa,

essenzialmente diversa dal

mondo

come

entità spaziale e

in cui

viviamo.

Can Grande

della Scala (12.2).

Questo

e infatti

il

come

nell'aldilà, inteso





fa

Commedia.

ancora parte

questo tempo;^ quanto avviene dopo

costituisce la visione dantesca.

mondo

il

Dante Pellegri-

Il

narrato

cioè lo smarrimento nella selva, l'incontro con Vir-

gilio e la visione degli ignavi di

di

temporale e distinguono

entità spaziale e

narrato dei primi tre canti dal resto della

pre-acheronteo

lettera

Gli avvenimenti connessi con

passaggio dell'Acheronte caratterizzano l'ingresso

si

temporale

l'argomento della Commedia, secondo quanto leggiamo nella

no

fonda-

visione dantesca dell'Inferno, Purgatorio e Paradiso

svolge nell'aldilà, inteso e descritto

a

die-

quello stato che è proprio

in

dall'altro,

di

questo

mondo

e

passaggio dell'Acheronte

L'Acheronte quindi separa questo

tempo presente

il

il

dall'eternità,

la

realtà terrena

dalla visione.^

Soffermiamoci su quest'ultima proposta

4.

realtà dalla visione

Commedia con lizza si



al

fine di confrontare

quelli biblici.

due valori fondamentali;

—l'Acheronte separa i

moduli

Il

descensus ad inferos

il

trionfo sulla morte e su Satana, che

verifica in termini assoluti e universali, e in

alla

morte e

la

narrativi della

quanto

alla risurrezione di Cristo (lannucci

di Cristo rea-

tale

51-81).

ha luogo

Ma

esso

si

verifica in termini individuali per ogni creatura che accetta Cristo e la

morte con tio sine

la

speranza della risurrezione, accettazione che è

qua non perchè

la

la

condi-

creatura possa risorgere. Dante Pellegrino

deve quindi "morire" per poter ricevere

la

grazia della risurrezione.

Lo svenimento fa sì che Dante diventi partecipe della mortalità che è comune a tutte le creature e pone quindi le condizioni necessarie per ricevere

la

grazia della risurrezzione.

L'analisi dei testi biblici che narrano

luce ulteriori rapporti con

quello di Matteo descrive so

il

terremoto, che

per ordine, abbiamo

il

il

morte

di Cristo

mette

in

Dei quattro vangeli,

maggior numero

di circostanze, inclu-

accompagnano i

la

testo dantesco.

la

morte

seguenti elementi:

precisa indicazione temporale (27.45);

la

le

di Cristo.

Nel vangelo,

tenebre, descritte con una

morte

di

Cristo (27.46-50);

— Dino

80 i

Cervigni

S.

signa della morte, cioè lo spezzarsi del velo del tempio,

monumenti

l'apertura dei

il

e la risurrezione di molti santi,

terremoto, il

timore e

l'affermazione di fede del centurione e degli astanti (27.5 1-54). Questi

signa connotano

Ciò che

divinità.

che

ci

morte

che causano

il

preme

dell'evento e

presenza della

la

sottolineare ora è la sequenza temporale

Abbiamo appunto,

caratterizza.

li

bre, poi la

la straordinarietà

di Cristo, subito

dopo

timore degli astanti.

per ordine, prima

terremoto e

il

le

tene-

gli altri

segni

Conclusione dell'episodio è

la

quanto concerne

la

sepoltura di Cristo.

confronto con

Il

il

testo dantesco rivela, per

cronologia degli avvenimenti, elementi simili e dissimili d'imporInnanzitutto anche nella

tanza fondamentali.

Matteo,

tenebre avvolgono

le

Commedia, come

come

luogo,

il

in

testo sottolinea a

il

più riprese sia all'inizio del canto ("l'aere sanza stelle," 3.23)

come

all'appressarsi all'Acheronte ("com'i' discerno per lo fioco lume,"

3.75)

ancor più esplicitamente, durante

e,

Senonché, mentre

(3.87, 130; 4.10).

le



Golgota costituiscono un elemento straordinario tici

concordano su questo

Marco

15.37;

sentata

come

presso

la sosta

fiume

il

tenebre che scendono sul tutti

e tre

i

sinot-

fatto sottolineandone l'ora (Matt. 27.45;

neWInferno dantesco

Luca 23.44)

l'oscurità è pre-

mondo"

caratteristica essenziale del "cieco

(4.13), da

rapportarsi quindi al peccato che è all'origine della creazione stessa

deW Inferno in

e della

dannazione delle anime. Tuttavia è precisamente

questo rapporto essenziale fra tenebre e peccato che

il

testo evan-

gelico e quello dantesco concordano, ovviamente entro un contesto

simbolico o simbolico-teologico. nebre dei

sinottici,

il

Infatti,

per quanto concerne

sole s'oscura per esprimere

Il

la

parole di Virgilio (3.121-29),

il

terremoto ha luogo dopo

Dio

i

il

di Cristo.^

quale spiega a Dante a) di

le te-

dolore causato

peccato che è

dalla morte del creatore ed anche per significare

causa della morte

il

condizione

la

quali discendono

le

tutti

di quelli

che muoiono

all'Acheronte; b)

il

nell'ira

desiderio dei dan-

nati di attraversare l'Acheronte, spronati dalla giustizia divina; e) e il

motivo delle rimostranze

Caronte nei confronti

di

terremoto quindi va posto entro Virgilio,

il

quale qui annuncia

il

la giustizia

possente,

/

Dante.

Il

divina in atto neìV Inferno

e poco dopo, nel canto seguente, descrive

Limbo quale "un

di

contesto stabilito dalle parole di

con segno

la

discesa di Cristo nel

di vittoria

coronato."

L 'Acheronte dantesco Poiché

terremoto è segno della giustizia divina e manifestazione

il

comprendere ciò che avviene

terribile della divinità, è possibile

Pellegrino tal

81

al

suo

al

egli infatti, spaventato e sopraffatto a

verificarsi:

punto da perdere "ciascun sentimento," cade "come l'uom cui

sonno

Lo spavento

piglia."

Dante

di

è simile al

timore dei profeti

dell'Antico Testamento davanti alla manifestazione della divinità,

timore dei

tre

che assistono

paura del centurione e degli

altri

e ai segni straordinari che vi

tengono

Dante sviene non solo perché za e

al

discepoli testimoni della trasfigurazione di Cristo e alla

ma

terribilità,

la

alla

morte

di Cristo

dietro.

divinità manifesta la sua grandez-

anche perché, davanti

alla divinità, la creatura si

rende conto della debolezza della propria natura, colpita dal peccato di

Adamo

messa la

la

Ambedue

peccato personale.

e dal

prima,

senti:

sono pre-

gli aspetti

debolezza della creatura dopo

peccato

il

di

Adamo,

evidenza dal verso "mi vinse ciascun sentimento"; poi,

in

peccaminosità del Pellegrino, sottolineata dalla caduta: "e caddi

come Tuom

sonno

cui

piglia."

La sopraffazione

dei sentimenti del

Pellegrino è segno di quella profonda dicotomia effettuatasi in ogni

discendente di

Adamo come

conseguenza

diretta del peccato, per cui

le

forze superiori dell'uomo, l'anima e la mente, non solo non sono

in

grado

di

dominare

forze inferiori, cioè

le

possono venir meno. La

umana

inerente alla natura di

Dante, che ha

comunanza peccato

di

la

Adamo

corpo,

ma

esse stesse

è

appunto

la

morte.

La perdita

dei sensi

sua manifestazione estema nella caduta, rivela

del Pellegrino

La caduta

il

conseguenza più tragica di questa dicotomia

con

il

la

resto dell'umanità negli effetti del

e nella partecipazione personale al peccato.

"fìsica" di

Dante ha un antecedente mitico

di

fondamen-

tale importanza teologica nella caduta dal cielo di Lucifero,

come

af-

ferma Beatrice nell'ultimo sintagma del verbo "cadere" riscontrabile nella

Commedia: Principio del cader fu

il

maladetto

superbir di colui che tu vedesti

da

tutti

i

pesi del

mondo

costretto.

{Par. 29.55-57)

Prefigurata in quella di Lucifero e di sulla riva dell'Acheronte,

il

debolezza della natura umana Pellegrino in particolare.

Adamo,

fiume della morte, in

la

è

caduta

di

Dante

emblematica della

genere e della peccaminosità del

Dino

82 Questa è dunque

condizione di Dante Pellegrino a questa con-

la

Arrivato all'Acheronte,

giuntura del viaggio.

mondo

che separa questo Caronte che non

salvezza. bilità,

A

al

questo

peccato di

fiume della morte

il

sente proclamare da

si

di attraversare

il

fiume in quanto è

suscettibile di pentimento e quindi disponibile alla

momento

proclamando quindi

Satana e mettendo

Dante

dall'aldilà,

permesso

gli è

"anima viva," cioè

Cervigni

S.

la divinità si

nuovo

di

evidenza

in

Adamo

la

il

manifesta nella sua

suo dominio sopra

terri-

regno

il

di

debolezza del Pellegrino, soggetto

e responsabile della propria condizione pec-

caminosa. La condizione

Dante Pellegrino

di

in seguito alla perdita

della conoscenza, quindi, per alcuni aspetti è simile a quella di Cristo

morto, per innocente,

altri si

peccato; Dante Pellegrino, benché non

temporaneamente

tuttavia

lettuali a la

morte, discende agli

Dante può alla

la

perdita delle sue facoltà fisiche e intel-

il

lo

di peccatore.

dopo

Cristo,

ne prende dominio e libera

inferi,

Limbo; dopo

iniziare

le

anime

svenimento emblematico della morte,

viaggio infernale grazie alla discesa di Cristo e

sua presa di possesso del regno di Satana.

La morte

di Cristo

breve e temporanea,

l'uomo soggetto nimento

di

al

al

implica nel contempo

regno

peccato di

di Satana, sotto

Adamo

la il

il

dominio

alla

morte

si

trova

Lo

sve-

di Cristo.

Pellegrino può contare fin dall'inizio del viaggio

sull'intervento divino, dall'altro

brevemente,

sua sottomissione,

cui

e al peccato personale.

Dante assolve una funzione analoga

Se, da un lato,

to

muoia fisicamente, esperisce

causa della propria condizione

dei giusti dal

Cristo, pur essendo

se ne discosta sostanzialmente.

assoggetta volontariamente alla morte, conseguenza del

non può non condividere, per quan-

la sconfitta esperita

da Cristo stesso e sottomettersi

quindi alle forze del male e della morte.

Fondamentale, per

5.

l'esatta

comprensione dell'intero episodio

a-

cheronteo, è l'esplicitazione dei motivi poetici sottesi alla decisione di

Dante auctor

prio

il

critici)

"modo"

ma

di passare sotto silenzio

non solo

l'azione stessa del transitus. In

altri

i

compreso quello che

i

motivi teologici

che hanno motivato Dante auctor, che narra

transitus del Pellegrino,

immerso

(ed è pro-

termini, la questione

che ora intendiamo affrontare brevemente concerne e poetici

modo

il

del passaggio ad interessare quasi esclusivamente

il

tutti gli altri

Pellegrino, benché

nel sonno, attua passivamente per opera di Lucia durante

L 'Acheronte dantesco

83

prima notte purgatoriale,

la

a lasciare nel silenzio narrativo questo fondamentale passaggio. La glossa dei commentatori antichi (Terpening 127-39), salvo qualche raro spunto, non ha fatto altro

primo

e

che sottolineare i

critici

le difficoltà

interpretative di questo silenzio poetico;

contemporanei, nonostante

tiche di questo silenzio narrativo,

molteplici implicazioni este-

le

hanno trascurato

del tutto questa

questione."* In realtà

investe

il

motivo fondamentale del silenzio poetico dantesco che

il

passaggio acheronteo del Pellegrino va situato nel contesto

biblico e teologico esposto sopra, contesto che occorre illuminare

ulteriormente tramite una serie di riflessioni derivanti dai molteplici rapporti esistenti fra verhiim e silentiiim.

La Bibbia,

alla

morte

di

Cristo,

sottolineata incisivamente da

un'ultima emissione di voce ("lesus autem iterum clamans voce

magna, emisit spiritum," Matt. 27.50)

e alla sua sepoltura,

sotto silenzio la condizione di Cristo da quel

momento

passa

fino all'alba

domenica di resurrezione. Gli scrittori sacri infatti non descrivono che cosa avviene a Cristo durante quel periodo che nella liturdella

gia viene chiamato triduo sacro.

E

proprio questo silenzio narrativo

degli autori sacri ad indurre gli scrittori degli apocrifi ad amplificare il

testo biblico descrivendo

il

descensus ad inferos.

Al silenzio narrativo biblico corrisponde cui la Chiesa

commemora

la

morte

La

Venerdì e del Sabato Santo. interrotta per tre,

commemorare

ma

in silenzio la

morte

il

verbum

e

il

sigé,

la patria celeste, si

verbum La

creatura, in

silenzio della stessa nei suoi rapporti con la creatu-

ma

anche come deus absconditus: ambedue

dialogo con

e silentium.

accosta alla divinità tramite

La

il

Inol-

rivela se stesso tramite la parola, tut-

ra.

divinità,

del

viene

infatti,

di Cristo."

tavia Egli continua a manifestarsi anche nel silenzio.

pellegrinaggio verso

con

coesistono all'interno della

Dio è logos e

Se è vero che nel tempo Egli

la liturgia

due elementi, apparentemente

in realtà integrantisi,

concezione della divinità.

durante

lettura del Passio,

nella tradizione giudeo-cristiana

contraddittori

silenzio liturgico

il

di Cristo

insomma,

si

configura non solo

la creatura.'^ In

breve,

il

come deus

gli aspetti

revelatus

condizionano

silenzio poetico a riguardo

del transitus dell'Acheronte va situato in un contesto assai complesso,

che deriva da varie tradizioni con cui

molteplici rapporti.'^ Occorre

il

testo dantesco intreccia

dunque pensare

alla divinità in

quanto

Dino

84 deus absconditus e

Cervigni

S.

silentiiim; al silenzio

che accompagna

la

morte

di Cristo nel narrato biblico e che caratterizza l'attuazione liturgica

della morte di Cristo nella preghiera della Chiesa; al mistero che

avvolge

Al in cui

passaggio da questa vita

il

verbum

il

all'altra.

questa reticolo di rapporti occorre sottolineare

di là di

si

adegua

al

factum poetico.

il

modo

Infatti è la perdita dei

sensi del Pellegrino, cioè la realtà poetica che Dante vuole esprimere, a determinare la poesia, che così diventa

Purg. la

Per quanto concerne

1.7).

"muta" o "morta"

sensi,

i

non può sapere

veda

in qual

modo

transitus. Poiché ha

il

abbia varcato l'Ache-

Conseguentemente Dante auctor non descrive

ronte.

(si

testo dantesco occorre sottolineare

condizione peculiare del Pellegrino durante

perso

il

passaggio

non atteggiandosi ad autore onnisciente,

del fiume proprio perché,

non può sapere come esso Il

il

sia

avvenuto né può quindi descriverlo.

silenzio narrativo che avvolge

passaggio dell'Acheronte deri-

il

va quindi dalla mancata comprensione dell'evento, incomprensione da parte

dell 'age/is

che V auctor deve necessariamente

rispettare, per

motivi intrinsici ed estrinsici, quando narra V evento post factum, cioè al

termine del viaggio nell'aldilà. Questo silenzio poetico va quindi

situato all'interno della concezione

Tommaso

esprime lucidamente:

Manifestius autem fertur.

medievale del verbum, che San

communius

et

exteriori inveniuntur, scilicet significai intellectus

in

nobis dicitur verbum quod voce pro-

ab interiori procedit quantum ad duo quae in verbo

Quod quidem

vox

ipsa,

et significatio vocis.

conceptum, secundum Philosophum,

herm. [Bekker 16a3]:

et

Vox enim

in libro

I

Peri-

iterum vox ex imaginatione procedit, ut in libro

dicitur. Vox autem quae non est significativa, Ex hoc ergo dicitur verbum vox exterior, quia significai inleriorem mends conceptum. Sic igilur primo et principaliter interior mentis conceptus verbum dicitur: secundario vero, ipsa vox interioris conceptus significativa: tertio vero, ipsa imaginatio vocis verbum dicitur. Et hos très modos verbi ponit Damascenus [De fide orth.: MG 94, 857], in I libro, cap. 13, dicens quod verbum dicitur naturalis intellectus motus, secundum quem movetur et intelligit et cogitai, velut lux et splendor, quantum ad primum: rursus verbum est quod non verbo profertur, sed in corde pronuntiatur, quantum ad tertium: rursus etiam verbum est angelus, idest nuntius, intelligentiae, quantum ad secundum.-Dicitur autem figura-

De anima verbum

[Bekker 420b32]

non

dici

tive quarto

potest.

modo verbum,

consuevimus

Respondeoy

dicere,

hoc

est

quod verbo significatur vel efficitur: (STh. 1 q. 34 verbum quod dixi tibi.

id

.

.

.

sicut a. 1,

L 'Acheronte dantesco Nel contesto, quindi,

di

queste riflessioni ti)mistiche circa

è possibile delucidare ulteriormente

del Pellegrino e

il

il

passaggio acheronteo.

modo ma

mondo

passaggio da questo

anche, e soprattutto,

non solo

il

significato del viaggio che sta per

il

Non può comprendere

intraprendere.

airaldilà:'*^

Il

momen-

Pellegrino sviene perché è incapace di comprendere questo to essenziale del

verhum,

svenimento

significato dello

il

silenzio poetico circa

il

85

perché e immerso nel peccato,

cioè "sonno" o privazione dei sensi, che caratterizza, rispettivamente, il

to

suo ingresso nella selva oscura

e

il

passaggio del fiume. Appun-

perché è immerso nel peccato, sonno interiore o privazione dei

non può comprendere ciò che

sensi,

mite

necessariamente

Come

al

tale e poi

il

la divinità sta

attuando

silenzio circa l'evento stesso.

conceptus intellectus corrisponde prima

il

verbum o vox

exterior, alla

il

verbum men-

mancata comprensione

evento da parte dell'intelletto non può corrispondere che

mentale

e quindi

corrispondenza

il

silenzio narrativo

fra realtà e

descritti all'inizio del

ronte.

la

con

lo

viaggio nel primo canto

— morale,

nell'assenza del narrato.

un

di

silent ium

o poetico quale unica adeguata smarrimento

ddV Inferno

caduta di Dante Pellegrino lungo

Questa negatività

il

forma espressiva. Incomprensione

lenzio, quindi, essenzialmente connessi

svenimento e

in lui tra-

All'incomprensione dell'intelletto segue

viaggio nell'aldilà.

il

intellettiva,

la riva

verbale

Questo silenzio narrativo,



e

e

e si-

sonno con

lo

dell'Ache-

si

trasforma

tuttavia, assur-

ge immediatamente a funzione poetica estremamente efficace: non solo perché esso è l'unico e soprattutto,

mezzo

disponibile

aWauctor ma anche,

perché questa "morte" della poesia esprime

in

forma

poetica perfettamente adeguata l'incomprensione dell'evento da parte

dQÌVagens e

la

sua morte spirituale.'^

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

NOTE 1

Charles S. Singleton, nel saggio "Le visuali retrospettive," sviluppa una valida analisi delle tre e

"mine," partendo dalla

ponendole appunto

consegue: "Tutte e

mento

nel contesto della

tre

terza, quella

morte

annunciata da Malacoda,

di Cristo e del

sono prove del fendersi delle rocce

del calendario cristiano in cui

l'Inferno attesta quella Morte che e

terremoto che ne in

quel gran

mo-

il

Redentore morì sulla Croce. È così che

la

nostra salvezza dalla seconda morte: le

Dino

86

Cervigni

S.

ruine marcano quel momento, imprimendone nella roccia deìV Inferno

tre

etemi segnali" {La poesia 481). Singleton conclude

un rapporto

veda

non

solo,

come

è ovvio,

di sera del

le

Domenica

di

al v.

visi

per

il

centro della terra circa la scalata

verso

il

(si

le sei

Monte

sponde della montagna sacra

le

la

mattina

il

primo elemento

"A

conventional detail" (Aeneidos

256) e rimanda a En. 4.490-91 ("mugire videbis

/

sub pedibus

descendere montibus ornos") e a Ovidio, Metam. 14.409-10 ("lapi-

et

des

anche con

verso l'imbrunire

Pasqua.

2 R. G. Austin definisce

terram

il

ma

di Cristo

infatti, inizia

7,30 del Sabato Santo, a causa dell'anticipazione di dodici

ore (Singleton 487), e raggiungono

113; n.

morte

la

Sabato Santo (Singleton 487), iniziano

Purgatorio verso

della

con

viaggio dantesco. La "discesa,"

2.1-2), Dante e Virgilio raggiungono

Inf.

tre

sua analisi sviluppando

stretto fra le tre "ruine" quali eterni segnali impressi nella roccia

dell'inferno l'inizio del

la

mugitus edere raucos

/ et

Austin fa

latrare canes").

altri

riferimenti

latrare dei cani nella sua nota.

3 Ulteriori differenze risultano dall'analisi dei sintagmi connotativi, nel testo virgiliano e dantesco, della condizione di Enea, Dante e delle anime. ì^cXVEneide

abbiamo

in riferimento

ad Enea e

carina" (6.391); "ingentem

morti: "corpora viva nefas Stygia vectare

ai

Aenea"

(6.413); "et ferruginea [Charon] subvectat

corpora cumba" (6.303); "matres atque

nimum heroum"

defunctaque corpora vita magna-

viri

(6.306-7); "animae" (6.319). Nel testo dantesco

sintagmi

i

seguenti sono connotativi della condizione privilegiata del Pellegrino, chia-

mato da Caronte "anima viva" (3:88) e, indirettamente Virgilio "anima buona" (3.127); le anime dei dannati, al mate "anime prave"

(3.84), "morti" (3.89),

"anime

.

.

.

e implicitamente,

contrario,

lasse e

da

sono chia-

nude" (3.100),

mal seme d'Adamo" (3.115), "quelli che muoion ne l'ira di Dio" (3.122). 4 Un'analisi del terremoto in Inferno 3 e Purgatorio 20-21 mette chiaramente in evidenza che il primo è annunciatore di morte mentre il secondo è annun"il

ciatore di vita:

5

La Sainte

6

II

ambedue

bible:

Mt

derivanti

il

loro valore dall'evento cristologico.

Mt

27.51 nota o;

24.1 nota d.

narrato virgiliano della visita di Beatrice nel

Limbo

appartiene,

come

è

ovvio, all'antefatto della storia ed è situato, spazialmente e temporalmente, nel

Limbo, cioè

nell'aldilà.

7 Questa concezione, l'Acheronte quale divisione fra evo presente e l'aldilà, è proposta, per quanto implicitamente, da Charles S. Singleton: "In

senso,

un

se

si

potrebbe desiderare che

alla fine del

sipario, per distinguere da ciò

secondo canto

che segue

il

un certo

deW Inferno

prologo del

poema

calas-

costituito

dai primi due canti" (La poesia 26).

8 "... factae sunt tenebrae ...

in

hensurae erant gentem Judaeam. super ti

omnem

.

.

.

sub Christo autem factae sunt tenebrae

terram Judaeam tribus horis: quoniam propter peccata sua priva-

sunt a lumine Dei Patris, et a splendore Christi, et ab illuminatione Spiritus

sancti" (S.

9

signum futurarum tenebrarum, quae compre-

" .

.

.

Tommaso, Catena aurea 1: 451; Matt. 27). morte moriuntur omnes communiter, tam nocentes quam

naturali

inno-

L 'Acheronte dantesco Quae quidcm

centes.

catum

{STh la 2ac,

q.

94,

mors divina potcstatc inducitur propter pcc-

naturalis

secundum

originale;

5 ad

a.

87

illud

Dominus

Rcg. 2,6:

I

10 Secondo R. Hollander, Dante anelar avrebbe deciso il

mortificai et vivificat"

2).

passaggio acheronteo perche

passare sotto silenzio

di

narrazione sarebbe risultata "too self-con-

la

sciously redolent" del passaggio acheronteo di Enea (292 11

"Et inclinato capite tradidit spiritum. {Hic genu tulum.)"

Romanum

{Missale

nudum

cornu Epistolae" (Missale

legit in

pausatur aliquan-

Nella liturgia del venerdì santo

153).

anche: "Finito Tractu, dicitur Passio super

submissa voce

n. 5).

fìeclitur, et

'Corpus tuum, Domine', nec Postcommunio, nec 'Placcai

tur

sed facta reverentia Altari, Sacerdos

benedictio:

dicuntur Vesperae sine cantu,

Parimenti viene anche sospeso

cum

il

Vocabulaire de théologie biblique, dove

dove Dio

ampia

trattazione più

moderna,

In chiave

come

"un

(Ps. 35.22),

l'uomo non

e

Romanum

si

veda

et

160).

voce "Silenzio" nel

la

nota che nella Bibbia

si

indice della collera divina (Ez. 3.26), segno di punizione

lo SheoI,

nec datur

tibi',

suono delle campane.

12 Per una discussione del silenzio nella Bibbia

tanamento del Signore

veda

Ministris discedit:

denudatur Altare" {Missale

et

si

quam Celebrans Romanum 150). "Non dicipulpitum:

si

de mort" (Ps. 28.1), e annunzia

arrêt

parlano più (Ps. 94.17; 115.17). Per una

rimando

e generale

silenzio è

il

64.11), allon-

(Is.

e nel contesto di

volume

al

Gustav Mensching.

di

una trattazione generale della retorica

"filosofìa postfilosofica," fondamentali

sono

le

pagine

Paolo Valesio,

di

soprattutto 353-97.

13 Occorre anche accennare ad un contesto che è basato su motivi psicologici.

Se

è vero,

come

interpretarsi

che

di

è

proposto sopra, che

silenzio poetico sottolinei

il

mentre mite

si

anche come una forma

i

la vita terrena,

di

la

morte

caduta-svenimento

mistero che avvolge

il

di

Dante

la

morte

ogni uomo:

di

sperimentata e sperimentabile, può essere descritta

mezzi verbali disponibili e l'esperienza

comunicazione variamente

risolvibili,

potrebbe non sembrare riducibile

ai

il

dell'aldilà presenta

passaggio dalla prima

da

è

proporre

fisica, allora è possibile

tra-

problemi

alla

seconda

mezzi espressivi che pertengono a queste

due esperienze.

verbum quia

"Si autem dicitur

14 Si veda anche:

exterius manifestât, ea quae

exterius manifestant, non dicuntur verba nisi inquantum significant interiorem

mentis conceptum, q.

34

a.

1,

Ad

quem

primum).

aliquis etiam per exteriora signa manifestât" (STh.

"Cum

1

ergo dicitur quod verbum est notitia, non

accipitur notitia pro actu intellectus cognoscentis, ve! pro aliquo eius habitu:

sed pro eo quod intellectus concipit cognoscendo. linde

quod Verbum sapientis:

Ad

quae ipsa

secundum).

rem

intellectam.

conceptum: te

est sapientia genita:

pari

"Nam .

nihil

.

.

modo

quod

et

Augustinus

quod

est aliud dicerc

solam habitudinem

verbum importât habitudinem ad rem

1

q.

34

a.

intelligentis

principaliter habitudinem ad

quam

dicit

ipsa conccptio

notitia genita dici potest" (577i.

intelligere importât

Sed dicere importât

enim

nihil aliud est

proferre verbum.

1,

ad

verbum

Sed median-

intellectam, quae in verbo prolato

Dino

88

manifestatur intelligenti" {STh. 15

Su questa incomprensione

Dreams di

16

si

1

Cervigni

S.

q. 34. a ì.

Ad

veda quanto ho

cap. 5, in riferimento anche agli

tertium). scritto

Dante.

Come

lo

svenimento del Pellegrino è

stato posto in relazione

causa dello smarrimento nella selva oscura, anche

avvolge di

Dante's Poetry of

in

sonni e perdite di coscienza

altri

il

/

Dante

con

"sonno,"

il

silenzio narrativo che

passaggio dell'Acheronte è annunciato dalla incapacità o difficoltà

Dante auctor a descrivere

dura

il

("Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa

la foresta

o a spiegare come

esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte," Inf. 1.4-5)

non so ben

vi sia entrato ("Io

ridir

com'i' v'entrai,"

Inf. 1.10).

In altra

sede intendo ritornare più ampiamente sul valore di questo silenzio poetico

Commedia

nel contesto di tutta la

umana

e

il

e nei suoi molteplici rapporti

con

la

parola

verbo divino.

OPERE CITATE La Commedia secondo

Alighieri, Dante.

l'antica vulgata.

A

cura di Giorgio

Petrocchi. 4 voli. Milano: Mondadori, 1966-67.

A

Tutte le opere.

.

Biagi, G. et

al.

(A cura

cura di Predi Chiappelli. Milano: Mursia, 1965.

di).

La Divina Commedia

UTET,

secolare commento. 3 voli. Torino:

nella figurazione antica e nel

1931.

Biblia sacra iuxta vulgatam clementinam. Madrid:

BAC,

1982.

Cervigni, Dino S. Dante's Poetry of Dreams. Biblioteca deir"Archivum

Roma-

nicum" 198. Firenze: Olschki, 1986. "Dante on Horseback {Inferno XII, 93-126)."

Hollander, Robert.

Italica

61

(1984): 287-96. lannucci, Amilcare. ricerca 41-42.

Forma ed evento

nella Divina

Commedia.

Roma: Bulzoni, 1984.

Strumenti

di

^

Mensching, Gustav. Das Heilige Schweigen. Eine Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung. Giessen: A. Tòpelmann, 1926.

Missale V.

romanum ex

Pontificis

La Sainte

decreto sacrosancti concila tridentini restitutum, sancii Pii

Maximi jussu editum

bible.

.

.

.

Baltimori, 1835.

Traduite en français sous la direction de l'École Biblique de

Jérusalem. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1956. Servio. Servii grammatici qui feruntur in Vergilii

Carmina commentarli.

Vol.

1.

Aeneidos librorum I-V commentarli. Recensuit Georgius Thilo. Lipsiae, 1881.

La poesia della Divina Commedia. Bologna: Il Mulino, Commedia. Elements of Structure. Cambridge: Harvard UP,

Singleton, Charles S.

1978. Trad, di

\951\ Journey to Beatrice. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1958. Terpening, Ronnie H. Charon and the Crossing: Ancient, Medieval and Renais-

S.

sance Transformations of a Myth. Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 1985. Theologiae. 5 voli. Madrid: BAC, 1965-68.

Tommaso D'Aquino. Summa .

Catena aurea

in

Valesio, Paolo. /l5co//are

1986.

quatuor evangelia. 2 //

5//e«z/o.' la retorica

voli. Torino:

come

teoria.

Marietti, 1888-89.

Bologna:

11

Mulino,

I.

Virgilio.

'Acheronte dantesco

Aeneidos. Liber sextus.

Commentary by

89 R. G. Austin.

Oxford: Cla-

rendon Press, 1977. Vocabulaire de théologie biblique. Public sous al.

Paris:

Les Éditions du Cerf. 1964.

la

direction de X.

Lcon-Dufour

et

*

Diskin Clay

Dante's Broken Faith: The Sin of the Second Circle*

Dante, se tu neiramorosa spera

com'io credo, dimori

.

.

.

Boccaccio, Rime 102

Preliminaries

We now

are alliterative,

as anything

More

seems

it

poet in the poem.

words of

makes us

more than

resists this reading.

epic tradition

Divine Comedy.

in the

mnemonic, and they

habit of reading that

poem

We

the Inferno

reflect

doctrinally

mi

it

is

the

the

Commedia

character."^

summit of

the

wary of seeing

poem

a poet in his

Commedia

in the

proclaim that the poet of the

to

terms

European

poem

poem with

begin our reading of the

the

is

the

first

:

ritrovai per

Incipit

di nostra vita

una selva oscura

presented to

and the name of

.

.

.

Can Grande its

author.

della Scala;

"Here begins

of Dante Alighieri, a Florentine by birth but not

And

experience his

critical

an inveterate and justified

than any other long

poem which Dante

began with an

Our

a persona, or mask.' Yet the

Nel mezzo del camin

This

Comedy,

distinguish between Dante, the poet of the Divine

and Dante, the 'pilgrim'

in

same letter he insists on the reality of the poem commemorates. In the poem itself and at the Mount of Purgatory, Beatrice names the poet who in this

had been recognized only as a Florentine up

Dante records her "Dante"

—"out

to that point.

of necessity"

of his history of the experience of a week



in the

that

is,

Here,

as a part

middle of his

life

(Purg. 30.55).

And

the

way announced

no longer the way of our

in the

life,

opening of the Inferno

for at this point of the

is

has narrowed to become a path that only Dante can take. QUADERNI

d'itatianislica

Volume X. No.

1-2.

1989

clearly

Commedia At

it

this

Diskin Clay

92

Mount of Purgatory Dante has left both Virgil and Statius behind. As Singleton puts it in his commentary to this passage: "Dante's confession to Beatrice, mainly made indi-

moment on

top of the

rectly through her charges in this canto

confession."^ Then, there

is

and the next,

is

a personal

the remarkable presence of Dante's early

Commedia. Beginning with Francesca's adaptation of his "amore e '1 cor gentil sono una cosa" (Vita Nuova 20) for her short lyric history of her own love for Paolo ("Amor ch'ai lyric poetry in the

cor gentil ratto s'apprende,"

Commedia

poet integrates his

new

in the

5.100-107), the "pilgrim" of the

Inf.

Commedia as the Vita Nuova is

confronts the poetry of the poet of the

own

,

poem. The

early life into his

Commedia.

A reading of the Commedia

from

its first

line to

Dante's encounter

mode

with Cunizza and Folco of Marseilles (Paradiso 9) discloses a of writing that can only be called confessional, since version of the confession that Beatrice

Dante gives

at the

end of the Purgatorio

confession Beatrice hears then

is

it

is in fact a

demands of Dante and

that

tua confession (31.6).

The



the confession Dante has already

uttered in a faint and nearly inaudible voice in his description of

He

the second circle of Hell. the

words selva oscura

muted

has prepared for

allusion to the relation

between Aeneas and

unintelligible at the beginning of the

confession of his

own

poem,

infidelity to Beatrice,

amorous (cantos 25 and 26)

to his

Dido,"*

his reader

down

up the Mount of Purgatory

circle of the Inferno,

by his choice of

it

beginning of the Inferno. From

at the

this

which

is

can follow his

into the

second

to the terrace

meeting with Beatrice

of the

end

at the

of the Purgatorio; and from there ascend to the sphere of Venus and the valediction to this personal

theme

in the parting

words of Folco

of Marseilles in Paradiso 9, where the sin of the second circle

remembered, even as

it

is

105). Let us hear this confession, in the

Commedia and

The Second

We and

the

which

maker of

the

is

both that of the pilgrim

Commedia

.

Circle

descend from these general considerations into the Inferno into the

is

forgotten in a parting smile (Par. 9.103-

second

circle.

The scene

be recalled. In the second circle of Limbo, and here

we

is

we have

so familiar that left

the quiet

discover the monstrous Minos.

it

itself

needs

and the

to

light

He judges

the

Dante's Broken Faith: The Sin of the Second Circle

damned to

souls,

which

and

his tail, as

around

coils

The

spirits

condemned

che mai non resta," 31) and

They

that

the expression of their inner

is

which remains unexplained,

are driven by a "ruin,"

lost spirits as the carnal sinners,

and

Dante recognizes these

movements

their

by two bird similes, one of which will have

a

They

in the

compared

first to

caught

starlings,

then to cranes driven south

in a

circle are

bufferà infernal

rest ("la

but which intensifies their tumult (34-36).

are

body, indicates

second

to the

driven by a hellish storm that allows them no

passions.

own

his

narrowing funnel of Hell the damned soul must

circle of the

descend (5.4-12).

il

93

long

are described the

life in

poem.

winds of winter,

long line across the skies, trailing

their grief in their flight (40-42). It is

Virgil

who

picks out for Dante a group of seven sinners (58-

78), but significantly

pair of spirits "that 75).

They respond

Dante whose attraction

Dante's

to

poem

light

relates her story to Dante, first

of eight lines (100-107, reproduced

in the

And

essay), and then at greater length (121-138). falls,

captured by a

is

on the wind" (73-

doves summoned by desire"

call "as

and one of them, Francesca,

(83), in a

is

it

go together and seem so

Annex

to this

response Dante

in

"as a dead body falls" ("come corpo morto cade," 142). This

is

the scene of the second circle and canto 5 of the Inferno in outline.

What an details

outline does not reveal

is

Dante's significant patterning of

and the submerged contexts of Francesca's short

ch'ai cor gentil ratto s'apprende" (100-107).

Dante understands unaided

that he has

His word

carnal sinners are punished.

He

learned" as "I understood" (37).

come

come

himself, with no help from his master, Virgil. This

seems

to

spontaneity. This spirit that shore

where

the

Then she

(98-99).

this,

tells

He

"Amor,

— not

where

so

to this

much

the "I

conclusion

new independence

recognizes Francesca with the same

him no more than

Po descends

to find

Dante can

narrative gestures, the

call her

words

intesi

punished here

is

comes "from its

followers"

With no more

"Francesca" (116).

to

circle

go

These simple

and Francesca, identify the

to identify the poet with the sin of the

sin

that she

peace with

delivers her short lyric.

and one of the sinners of the second

The

lyric

remarkable that

cohere with other details that relate Dante intimately with

the peccator carnali (38).

on than

is

to a place

intesi

is

has

It

sin

of Hell, and they seem

second

circle.

that of lust, lussuria

.

The sinners driven

Diskin Clay

94 about

this circle are those

"who make

their reason subject to their de-

sire" (38-39). In Andrea Orcagna's Trionfo della Morte they march under the banner LUSSURIA. Yet in Dante's Inferno they seem to

conform

to a sin

more

specific than that of lust.

Both Virgil and

Dante pick out two groups from among the "more than spirits that rage

a thousand"

Virgil's choice of seven sinners

by (67-68).

and

Dante's choice of two are individual, yet both are informed by the

Commedia Commedia, Commedia

principle of choice, that of Dante the poet of the

same

.

This choice appears to be that of the poet within the but

is finally

it

The

the significant choice of the poet of the

.

individual choices of Virgil and Dante and their differing foci

of attention and interest remind us that the experience of the Inferno is is

not that of a single perspective; Virgil

lost

from

who

it

picks out the "ancient" figures,

sight;

and

is

it

Here, in canto 5,

is bifocal.

Dante who, by

who

it

could have been

his presence in Hell,

draws

attention to his contemporaries, and, ultimately, to himself. Virgil's

of carnal sinners

list

seven figures, four

women

is

He

a distinctive one.

describes

Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra, and

first,

One of

Helen, and then three men, Achilles, Paris, and Tristan.

the

remarkable things about this Virgilian catalogue of the lussuriosi that

it

departs so widely from the catalogue of "those

bending love consumed with in

its

cruel wasting"

which

whom

is

un-

Virgil gives

Aeneid 6.442-451. The two Virgilian catalogues share only one

figure in

common, Dido: hie,

quos durus amor crudeli tabe peredit, myrtea circum

secreti celant calles et

non ipsa in morte relinquunt. Phaedram Procrimque locis maestamque Eriphylen, crudelis nati monstrantem vulnera, cernit, Euadnenque et Pasiphaën; his Laodamia it comes et iuvenis quondam, nunc femina, Caeneus

Silva tegit; curae his

rursus et in veterem fato revoluta figuram. inter

quas Phoenissa recens a volnere Dido

magna.

errabat silva in If

Jacques Ferret

women,

there

is

is

.

.

.

right about this

a principle

by which

seemingly random

named

in the

Aeneid before Dido are

Dido's destiny."^ The

first spirit

of

they are all brought into a

meaningful association. Innocent or guilty, the seven are

list

all

"as

it

women who

were, parts of

Virgil points to in the

second

circle

— a

Dante

Broken Faith: The Sin of the Second Circle

's

of Dante's Inferno

is

endary queen seems read: "[Nino]

to

Semiramis.

come

Virgil's description of this leg-

out of the pages of Orosius, where

mortuo Samiramis uxor

successit.

dens, sanguinem sitiens, inter incessabilia

omnes quos set,

95

et

.

.

we

haec, libidine ar-

.

stupra et homicidia,

cum

regie arcessitos, meretricie habitos concubitu oblectas-

Semiramis shares something

occideret."^

and the others

of Achilles, her

lust

was

common

in

with Dido

of seven: with the possible exception

in Virgil's list

adulterous.

ashes of Sychaeus" ("ruppe fede

al

As Dido "broke

with the

faith

cener di Sicheo," 62, from Acneid

4.552, "non servata fides cineri promissa Sychaeo"), so Semiramis

broke

with the ashes of Ninus.

faith

All of the sinners Virgil de-

names did more than simply submit

scribes or

their reason to their

passions; the loves of Cleopatra, Helen, Paris, and Tristan were

and notoriously



Only Achilles seems

adulterous.

He "fought

apart from this group (5.65-66). is

end with love."

to the

perhaps his end, transfixed by the Trojan Deiphobus

that explains his presence in this group.^

crime that 26.62. the

If

name

an ambush,

in

—whom he abanUlysses —

his child, at the urging of

recalled as one of Ulysses' fraudulent sins in Inferno

is

Dante had for

it

in

this sin

of the young Achilles

Statius' Achilleid:

it

is

the

in

mind, he had

commune

nefas of

and abandoned Deidamia and the cunning and

the innocent

Achilles.^ But Achilles has

Inferno; in the to his death,

It

But Achilles' end recalls his

beginning and his seduction of Deidamia on Scyros

doned on Scyros, pregnant with

all

to stand a little

manner of

still

his

another function

dying and

in the

in

lustful

canto 5 of the

passion that led him

he prepares for the encounter with Paolo and Francesca.

Dante's two carnal sinners were a contemporary legend for their adulterous love, although

in

her narrative Francesca

tion of her husband, Gianciotto.

makes no men-

But her seemingly innocent reading

of the Old French romance of Lancelot du Lac brings

still

another

adulterous relation into Dante's nearly subliminal pattern, that of

Lancelot and Guinevere.^ Dante's contribution

to this pattern is not

only the contribution of Dante the poet of the Commedia; within his

poem he

falls

"as a dead body falls" (5.142), and as he does he seems

to include himself,

much

of the poets of Limbo, In the

as he

had included himself

in the restless

company of

opening of the next canto he speaks of

kinsfolk" ("pietà d'i due cognati."

Inf. 6.2).

in the

company

the carnal sinners.

his "pity for the

In his pity

and

two

in his

Diskin Clay

96

own broken Francesca's

Most of

he seems related to the two cognati

faith

.

Poem

the sinners of the second circle can be described as the

"knights and ladies of ancient times" (71), but Paolo and Francesca are Dante's contemporaries and they different

from

them, as for Dante, there

which non

is

seem

to

belong to a world quite

second

that of the others contained in the

said at

give the carnal sinners no rest ("che mai

first to

Incredibly, this storm

resta," 5.31).

seems

to fall silent for the

encounter between Dante and Francesca ("mentre che

it

a privileged position in Hell. Far

would seem,

God

vento,

'1

Dante, Paolo, and Francesca occupy a

fa, ci tace," 5.96).

For

circle.

a strange lull in the infernal storm,

is

Him

(5.36), Francesca speaks of

come

lull

and,

from blaspheming

as the king of the universe,

and she addresses Dante with a courtesy never found again in the Inferno. If his meeting with Paolo and Francesca seems to take place in

another world

that entered the

it

is

because

Commedia

it

first

comes from another world cortese mantovana."

world of poetry, courtly devotion, and the

The

hellish

a world

with Beatrice's courteous address to

"O anima

Virgil in Inferno 2.58:



Vita

Nuova

winds of Hell do not drive Francesca

This

is

the

.

to

Dante. She

and Paolo leave Dido's flock, as doves called by desire (5.82-84): Quali colombe dal disio chiamate

con

l'ali

alzate e ferme al dolce nido

vegnon per

Perhaps the salient detail of

l'aere, dal voler portate.

this

encounter

is

the elective affinity of

Dante for Francesca and of Francesca for Dante (as her address to him, 88, tells

"O

entire

birth

Her poem of eight

Commedia, but

and of the love

noble heart"

in the

from

its

Annex

Amor

that

lines is in the terza

She

first

brought her

rima of the

her poetry takes us back to Dante's early lyric

poetry and the poetry of the Duecento. ch'ai cor gentil ratto

evident in

animal grazioso e benigno").

Dante of the place of her

to her death.

is

Francesca's poem, "Amor,

s'apprende" — "Love, which

— has

its

own

integrity in that

context in canto 5 of the Inferno as

to this essay). In

no other poem of the

I

is it

quickly kindled

can be excerpted

have done

(in the

stilnovisti is the

word

repeated with the deliberate insistence of Francesca's poem.

But the

last

two

lines of her lyric declare

it

to

be a part of Hell

Dante's Broken

The Sin of the Second Circle

Failli:

and not of the love poetry of Dante's own age.

97

For her language

assimilates love to death:"

Amor

condusse noi ad una morte.

Caina attende chi

(106-107)

a vita ci spense.

amor and il cor gentil Commedia in which we can

of love and the noble heart,

In her association

Francesca has begun a movement

in the

,

follow the gradual assimilation of Dante's earlier lyric poetry into the

poem promised

discover Dante

e

'1

Nuova.

Vita

see

more

In these lines

why Dante

clearly

encounter

this

Commedia

in the

cor gentil sono una cosa" in chapter 20.

the noble heart as kindling at love's flame lyric,

^"^

and Francesca. The poem from Dante's

which connects with

"Amore

we

Dante, and

in

attracted to Paolo

end of the

at the

is

Vita

is

is

we so

Nuova

the sonnet

The image of

not present in the earlier

but the reciprocal attraction of Paolo and Francesca finds

its

equivalent statement in this same sonnet from the Vita Nuova:

donna

Bieltate appare in saggia

che piace a

li

occhi

nasce un disio de

sì,

la

pui,

che dentro

al

core

cosa piacente;

e tanto dura talora in costui,'"^

che fa svegliar

lo spirito

E

donna

simii face in

The movement from potency to inconclusive poem and in Dante's love's passionate logic.

"Amor,

And

Falli natura

e

present in both Francesca's

metaphysical statement of

'1

there

an echo of this the relation

heart:

is

'I

cor per sua magione. (5-6)

her seigneur, but ultimately not her Lord.

cor gentil"

is

one of the submerged contexts of

canto 5 of the Inferno. But, since this sonnet another

is

manner of expressing

quand'è amorosa,

per sire e

For Francesca, Love

"Amore

is

earlier

amato amar perdona"

ch' a nullo

between love and the noble

Dante's

act

valente. (9-14)

Francesca's striking and courtly

in

doctrine and of Dante's courtly

Amor

d'Amore.

omo

text, there is still

another

poem

that

itself

needs

to

responds to be drawn

still

to the

surface before the depths of this canto can be appreciated. Beneath

Francesca's language to Dante

is

and beneath the language of the

Dante

will encounter

the language of Dante's Vita Vita

Nuova

on the terrace of the

is

Nuova

the lyric of a poet

lustful

on the Mount of

— Diskin Clay

98 Purgatory.

whose poetic manifesto "Al cor genin the Annex to this essay) til informs both Francesca's poem and some of the details of its conThis

Guido

is

Guinizzelli,

rempaira sempre amore" (reproduced

in

chapter 20 of the

are in direct response to Guinizzelli.

on love

Dante opens his

text in the Inferno. Dante's reflections

Vua Nuova

poem

with an affirmation of the truth of his predecessor's poetry

poem" ("si come il saggio in suo The element of wisdom is completely absent from

"as the philosopher posits in his dittare pone," 2).

we

Francesca's poem. In Guinizzelli radiates through both the Vita

Commedia. This

tween potency and heart

/

Nuova and Francesca's poem image of the abstract

his concrete

is

act:

"the

find a conception of love that

of love

fire

kindled in the noble

is

d'amore

as potency in a precious stone" ("foco

s'apprende

/

Guinizzelli's

come

in gentil

And

vertute in petra preziosa," 11-12).

poem, we discover too

the origin of the simile

Paolo and Francesca are introduced into the

in the

relation be-

cor

here, in

by which

Commedia — "as doves

called by desire":

Al cor gentil rempaira sempre amore

come

I'ausello in selva a la verdura. (1-2)

This conception of a natural place of rest enters the world of the Corn-

media, as

we have

which

two storm-tossed

the

its

in the simile spirits

compressed

.

.

call "as

in

doves

.

in Guinizzelli's

choice of the verb rempaira

or in the original sense of the

one's

which compares the manner

respond to Dante's

come to their sweet nest" (5.82-83). The nest, promise of home and rest, is the expression of the conception

called by desire

with

seen

own

country. Such a promise

part of the lull

a lull in

word

Dante has created

repatriare



to return

illusory in Hell.

is

in the

second

"repair",

home,

It is

that brings Dante, the poet of the

Commedia

describing this Dante with accuracy

it

enters the

Commedia

in

by

his past

between

to

It is

to

have

this lull

poem. Yet

his past

is

in

choose between

In truth, this Dante,

canto 5 of the Inferno

a confessional figure, caught

into his

is difficult

Dante the "poet" and Dante the "pilgrim."

to

only a

circle of his Inferno,

which Francesca can speak of the Po as descending

peace with the streams that follow his course (5.98-99).

attracted



who

neither; rather he is

and present, and

still

and the amatory world of Francesca's poetry.

Francesca's poetry takes us back

— "of necessity"—

to the poetry

and

Dame's Broken

Faith: The Sin of (he

experience of the author ot the

Nuova

lia

99

and, indeed, beyond that

But the two poems of

of Guiniz/eili.

to the poetry

\

Second Circle

submerged

its

make for an essential contrast. Both insist on wisdom and Guinizzelli's poem points to the heavens in a way Francesca's does not. We come to realize that the lull in the "eternal storm" of the second circle was just that a lull. But we come to realize too that the poet of the Commedia has created this lull for the poet //; the Commedia and that by this gesture he is context, Dante's and Guinizzelli's,



creating a confessional figure that speaks by signs and gestures, as

Dante the Pilgrim

judgement

in

and

it

left

it

the souls of the

as well.

Paolo and Francesca reminds us of

call to

returns us to the

Dante has

he has reached Beatrice and his day of

Commedia

of the poet of the

Dante's

when

will

Purgatorio 31.14-15. The signs and gestures are those

for his reader to turn

damned

still

another

call,

of the bird similes of the Commedia.

first

back

as they take

to the

language describing

wing over

the dark waters of

Acheron (3.116-117): gittansi di quel lite ad

per cenni It

the stern figure of

They

the base of the

at

Cato scatters the

to listen to Casella sing Dante's

{Purg. 2.112).

una ad una,

augel per suo richiamo.

moment

also prepares for the

when

come

"Amor che doves

scatter like

ne

la

Mount Purgatory

who had

spirits

—"come

gathered

mente mi ragiona"

...

li

colombi"

(2.124-133). These doves reassert the connection between amorous instinct

and poetry

that

we

find in the

these doves are scattered by a

pressed by

when

still

new

another bird simile.

second

care, It is

and

circle.

In Purgatory,

the language Virgil chooses

he speaks to Dante of the lure {richiamo) by which

mankind

to him: "The heavens

call to

can be ex-

this care

you and

circle

God

attracts

around you,

displaying to you their eternal splendors, and your eyes gaze only

who sees all" {Purg. 14.148poem reveal no consciousness the words Amor and morte are

on the earth: wherefore He smites you 151).

The

last lines

of Francesca's

of sin nor any sense of in Italian

sin;

(106-107).

how

In this

close

canto Francesca nowhere confesses her

she only speaks of fratricide and the punishment that awaits her

lover's murderer.

begun

But throughout

to utter the faint

not lust simple;

it

is

words of

adultery.

this

canto Dante seems to have

a personal confession.

His sin

is

Diskin Clay

100

Other

Women

When

Francesca has told Dante the very partial story of her love

and death, he

"as a dead body falls" ("e caddi,

falls,

morto cade," 5.142). This

with Dante's loss of consciousness

we

34.22-25);

{Inf.

by the earthquake

are

announces

that

falling {Piirg. 31.89),

in

a state of

reminded of

in the

it

Statius' release

Mount

of Avaritia and Dante's sense that the

was

is initiated

threshold to Hell (3.136),

at the

and continues as he stands before Satan animation

come corpo

part of a cadence that

fall is

suspended Purgatorio

from the terrace

of Purgatory itself

and the cadence closes as Dante collapses His collapse,

first at

the inner threshold of the second circle of Hell, and then

on the

before Beatrice: "caddi vinto" {Purg. 31.89).

Mount of the

Purgatory, defines the progress of the major statement of

most important of the confessional themes of the Commedia

that of Dante's

broken



faith.

So far, we have discovered and related a number of the pieces that seem to constitute, in Goethe's phrase, "the fragments of a great confession."'"*

There

second

which seems

circle,

laws of Hell. Then there sinners. This

second

list is

strange

is that

to

is

the hellish storm of the

lull in

exempt Dante and Francesca from the

Virgil's distinctive

distinctive for

list

of seven carnal

definition of the sin of the

its tacit

circle as love adulterous rather than lust simple.

figures second in this

list.

Dido defines

its

with the ashes of her dead husband (5.62). the second circle and not in the

wood

Although she

character; she broke faith

And we

of the suicides.

discover her in It is

meaningful

commentary to Book 4 of the Aeneid between Dido and Aeneas can be described as follows:

too that in Bernard Silvestris' the relation

"Aeneas goes hunting. Driven by storms

Dido and

commits

there

into a cave, he dallies with

adultery."'^ Then, there

is

Dante's encounter

with Francesca that brings two more adulterous relations into a circle that focuses

on

than the sin of

a relation that

lust.

seems

to

Paolo and Francesca

of Dido" (5.84), and Francesca's

Nuova

poem

have concerned Dante more

come

to

him "from

the flock

introduces the very personal

Commedia. And,

world of the

Vita

Dante's

a gesture that recurs as he encounters Beatrice

of the

fall,

Mount of

Here,

in

into the

finally, there is

on top

Purgatory.

canto 31 of the Purgatorio, a recognition of consciousness

of a waywardness {riconoscenza, 88) overwhelms the pilgrim on the





Dante's Broken Faith: The Sin of the Second Circle

And

mountain.

it

is at

demands

this point that Beatrice

a

confession

of him as he stands on the other side of the river of Lethe

give voice to his confession.

eyes

— and

in his

the eyes of his reader

moment

only from this vantage and this

what has given

realize



come

to

needed

are

to see.

It

of articulate silence that

second

the carnal sinners of the

why

Inferno their distinctive physiognomy; and

Francesca

tua con-

shame and confusion, cannot His lips form the acknowledgement

fession (6). Significantly, Dante,

that the

101

is

it

Dante from "the flock where Dido

of the

circle

that

is

we

Paolo and

is" (//;/. 5.85).

All the spirits of this circle have been adulterers. All have, literally,

Now

given themselves "to another."

broken

faith

damned

and given himself

for this sin, he too

words of confession

to her sister

new

why Anna

it

to "the flock

is

where Dido

he should recall Dido's

as he confronts an indignant

Dido recognized her old love

Beatrice. In the Aeneid,

her

appears that Dante too has

it

another or to others. Were he to be

would belong

His sin of adultery explains

is."

in

to

for

Sychaeus

passion for Aeneas (4.20-23):

Anna, fatebor enim, miseri post coniugis

et

solus hie inflexit sensus impulit.

Sychaei

fata

sparsos fraterna caede Penates

adgnosco

animumque labantem

veteris vestigia

fiammae.

on the Mount of Purgatory, Dante recogwarmth of his ancient love for Beatrice "conosco segni de l'antica fiamma" (30.48).

And,

as he returns to her

nizes that

That

i

this

fìame had grown dim

Beatrice's description of the

life

him

in

painfully clear from

is

he has led since her death (Purg.

30.121-126): il

sostenni col

mostrando

li

occhi giovanetti a

meco Sì tosto di

menava in dritta parte come in su la soglia fui si

tolse a

are

me,

e

mutai

lui,

vòlto.

vita,

e diessi altrui.

Beatrice says that "this one took himself from

himself to others" (30.126), she

we

volto:

il

mia seconda etade

questi

When

mio

Alcun tempo

is

most familiar with. She was married

and not long

after

a Pauline adultery

Dante was

to

me and gave

not describing the kind of adultery

marry

at the

Gemma

time of her death,

Donati. Dante's

was

of the heart and the imagination, but for Dante

Diskin Clay

102 it

was

most serious kind of adultery or "alienation." Beatrice's

the

accusation that Dante gave himself to others can be interpreted

when Dante comes

legorically, and, indeed,

become estranged from

to confess that

al-

he had

Beatrice for a period of ten years, he speaks

vaguely of the distraction of "present things" ("le presenti cose," Purg. 31.34).'^ But Beatrice, feeling of

guilt,

others" (31.29).

who

does not share Dante's oppressive

speaks of the "advantages displayed on the brows of

And

she says plainly that a young

woman

or "other

novelty" should not have kept him weighted to the earth (31.59).

Nuova itself, Dante is not silent about the attractions women. Four sections of this book of memory record a

In the Vita

of other

struggle between his heart and his reason as he found himself to

another

of his

woman

Beatrice's death. There

after

Rime Petrose,

the revealing

dream of

is

the Siren in Purgatorio

19.17-33, and the brutal word uttered by Bonagiunta

when

24.37, "Gentucca," to suggest that

drawn

also the evidence

in

Purgatorio

Beatrice speaks of Dante's

giving himself altrui, she has more than one person in mind.

One

of Dante's biographers speaks kindly of Dante's "alleged amours.

But the important thing

mean Dante

the poet,

to

was

remember

his

own

that Dante,

is

"^^

and by Dante

accuser, that his sin

was

I

adultery,

not real but imagined, and that this "adultery" explains the principle that has

brought together the sinners punished

of the Inferno.

What

mode

is

of writing

is

finally

not the truth of his confession

the art of his poetry (his Dichtung).

from Dante himself, and

it

in the

even reveals

is

It

an

Inf.

O somma

Heaven.

It is

an

(its

art,

that reveals itself in Hell

itself in

describe himself (in

second

circle

important to Dante's confessional Wahrheit), but

to take a

— and

art that

phrase

in Purgatory;

Dante seems

to

19.10-12):

sapienza, quanta è l'arte

che mostri

in cielo, in terra e nel

e quanto giusto tua

virtii

mal mondo,

comparte!

Epilogue in Heaven There

is

one massive obstacle

to this interpretation

inaudible confession oi Inferno 5. This to Beatrice in the

is

Dante's explicit statement

Purgatorio that he has no

become estranged from

memory

his first love (33.91-93):

Ond'io rispuosi

lei:

of the nearly

"Non mi

ricorda

of ever having

— Dame

Broken Faith: The Sin of the Second Circle

s

ch'i'straniasse

me

103

già mai da voi,

né honne coscienza che rimorda."

Futhermore, the

Dante "your

Even

astrai

the Virgin

dressed Lucia his conscience

in is

nymphs of

one"

faithful

Mary had

had called

the Terrestrial Paradise

(Piir^. 31.134),

it

called Dante

would seem with

"il

justice.

tuo fedele" as she ad-

Inferno 2.98. But Dante's statement to Beatrice that clear

comes

drunk from the river Lethe

after he has

and crossed over Eunoe, and Beatrice's response

to

Dante seems the

appropriate response to a sinner like Dante {Purg. 33.94-99):

"E

non

se tu ricordar

te

ne puoi"

sorridendo rispuose, "or

come e se dal

rammenta

ti

bevesti di Lete ancoi;

fummo

foco s'argomenta

cotesta oblivion chiaro conchiude

colpa ne It

is

much

very

in

tua voglia altrove attenta."

keeping with the character of

should see the smoke

Mount of

la

in Hell

this

and the clear flame

poem

that

we

top of the

at the

Purgatory.

Dante's confession

is

not complete with his profession of forget-

fulness at the end of the Purgatorio. For Beatrice's smiling response

moment

points to a is

recalled even as

in the it

is

Paradiso when the

sin of the

second

circle

forgotten and forgiven, with a smile. Dante's

confession concludes only with canto 9 of the Paradiso, and exactly

where one would expect in the

to find

such a confession of weakness

sphere of Venus. '^ Here the themes which have been strictly

associated with Dante's confession are reasserted for the last time in

the

poem.

Poetry and

its

inspiration in the experience of love

have been a part of Dante's confession; Francesca's "Amor, ch'ai cor gentil ratto s'apprende," 'I

is

a reference to

cor gentil sono una cosa," and Dante,

himself into the world of the second

on the

last

of the terraces of the

Here, as

own

in

canto 2 of the Purgatorio,

early poetry {Purg. 26.106-108).

circle

have migrated

In the

Paradiso

to the terrace of

we

We

circle.

Mount of

of Guido Guinizzelli and Arnault Daniel

Dante's

in citing

own "Amore

Dante,

is

e

bringing

discover poetry again

Purgatory, where the ardor

is

refined in penitential

we are reminded And the cranes of

fire.

of Dante's the second

Liauria (Purg. 26.43-46).

discover poetry once again

Venus, as Charles Martel pronounces the

first

in the

sphere of

lines of Dante's "Voi

— Diskin Clay

104

che 'ntendendo

il

terzo ciel

movete" {Par.

8.37). In canto 9, the poet,

Folco of Marseilles, recalls our supressed theme even as he speaks of the forgetfulness of sin

poem

heaven.

in

And

finally

Dido returns She

for a last appearance in the sphere of Venus.

seemingly by accident, as Dante

reflects

to the

recalled,

on the error of pagan and

poetic conceptions of the goddess Venus (7.1-9). for the last time as Folco confesses the

is

And

she

is

stamp of Venus on

recalled his

own

character (9.97-99):

che più non arse

la figlia di

Belo,

noiando e a Sicheo e a Creusa,

me,

di

is

meant

to

cf.

Non

però qui

ma

we

is

not a matter for remorse, and his

power

la

in the

Purgatorio

pente,

si

ma

si

ride,

colpa, ch'a mente non torna,

del valor ch'ordinò e provide.

ordained and provided for the theme which

that

have followed from the second

of the

al pelo.

Purg. 33.95):

non de

great

convenne

si

remind us of the smile of Beatrice

{Par. 9.103-105;

The

che

amorousness

In heaven, Folco's

smile

infin

Mount of Purgatory and

there to the sphere of

Venus

the

circle of Hell to the last terrace

meeting with Beatrice and from

Dante's, and the last

is

word of canto

9 of the Paradiso seals Dante's long confession of his broken Adultery

avoltero —

Comedy, and

it

a

is

word pronounced only once

pronounced

is

in the

here.

The City University of New York

Annex: Three Poems 1.

Francesca's

Poem

Amor,

{Inferno 5.100-107):

ch'ai cor gentil ratto s'apprende,

prese costui de

che mi fu

Amor, ch'a

me

la

tolta; e

nullo

bella persona '1

modo

prese del costui piacer

che,

come

ancor m'offende.

amato amar perdona,

vedi, ancor



forte,

non m'abbandona.

faith.

Divine

Dania

Broken

s

Amor

The Sin of the Second Circle

f'ailli:

condusse noi ad una morte.

Caina attende che 2.

From

lìta

105

Nuova 20

34

(no.

spense

a vita ci

.

.

.

Foster and Boyde, Dante's Lyric

in

Poetry):

Amore e M sì come

cor gentil sono una cosa, il

saggio

e così esser

com'alma

per sire e

dentro

cor per

'1

dormendo

qual

la

volta poca e

tal

osa

l'altro

razionai sanza ragione.

quand'è amorosa,

Falli natura

Amor

suo dittare pone,

in

Tun sanza

tal

li

occhi

nasce un disio de

sua magione,

riposa

lunga stagione.

donna

Bieltate appare in saggia

che piace a

la

si

sì,

la

pui,

che dentro

al

core

cosa piacente;

e tanto dura talora in costui,

che

3.

fa svegliar lo spirito

d'Amore.

simil face in

donna omo

valente.

Guido Guinizzelli's poem

in Contini,

Poeti del Duecento 2:

E

461 (vv. 1-20): Al cor

gentil rempaira

come

Tausello



amor

fé'

in

sempre amore

selva a la verdura;

che gentil core,

anti

né gentil cor anti ch'amor, natura:

ch'adesso con' fu sì

né fu davanti e

'1

sole,

tosto lo splendore lucente, '1

prende amore

sole; in

gentilezza loco

così propìamente

come

calore in clarità di foco.

Foco d'amore

come

che de anti

in gentil

cor s'apprende

vertute in pelra preziosa la stella

che

'1

valor no

i

discende

sol la faccia gentil cosa;

poi che n'ha tratto fòre

per sua forza lo sol ciò che stella

li

li

è vile,

dà valore:

così lo cor ch"e fatto da natura asletto, pur, gentile,

donna

a guisa di stella Io 'nnamora.

460-

Diskin Clay

106

NOTES *

I

would

like to

of Dante's dark

me

thank William Arrowsmith for his helping

wood

through

its

much needed guidance through

see the forest

who

and Amilcare lannucci

trees

provided

the thickets of Dante criticism; and also the

who

Classics Department of Vassar College

provided the occasion for

my

Blegen lectures on Dante. 1

The

distinction

between poet and pilgrim

who must

Chaucer,

is

equally familiar to the reader of

distinguish between Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet of the

Canterbury Tales and "Geoffrey" of the "I" of the pilgrim and narrator

Canterbury Tales in

.

George Lyman Kittredge 45-48 approached

Book of the

addressing the problem of the poet of and dreamer in the The

Duchess when he

Book of

the

dreamer

stated "the

Duchess as

the

as

is

much

a part of the fiction of the

Merchant or the Pardoner or the Host

of the fiction in the Canterbury

in the

this distinction

is

a part

But one can take a step further and

Tales.'"

describe the "I" of the Canterbury Tales as itself a persona, as do Robert C. Elliott 4 and

many

of Chaucer's critics since Kittredge. In following the

confessional theme of Dante's "broken faith" in the

Commedia

I

am

in tacit

disagreement with Spitzer and Contini.

2 The presentation copy of

the Paradiso begins by declaring the identity of

author, Dante Alighieri. "Libri titulus est: 'Incipit fiorentini natione,

Comedia Dantis

its

Alagherii,

non moribus'" {Epistle 13.10). Yet Dante does have some-

thing to say about his character as he insists on the reality of the experience

he

is

recording by asserting that he has forgotten

Dante's deserving such an experience, vero

in

let

And the

his reader carps at

if

Book of Daniel:

"Si

dispositionem elevationis tante propter peccatum loquentis oblatrar-

ent, legant

Danielem"

[2.

3-5] {Epistle 13.28). Dante here acknowledges the

sinfulness of the poet of the

Commedia

3 Singleton, Purgatorio: Commentary

4 The selva oscura of

.

lA?).

the beginning of the

but clearly one of these

is to

the great

poem

magna," Aeneid 6.451). /

points in

and infernal wood

encounters Dido after he had abandoned her

umbras

it.

him read

in

many in

directions,

which Aeneas

Carthage ("errabat silva

in

Aeneas' dim recognition of her ("agnovitque per

obscuram," 452-453) also struck Dante and

it

is

recalled in Inferno

15.17-19.

5 "Les compagnes de Didon" 251.

6 Adversum paganos 1.4.4.7-8,

as quoted in Singleton, Inferno:

Commentary,

78.

7

In

Dictys' Ephemeris 4.2,

in his fatal attraction for

we have

the medieval account of Achilles' end

Polyxena which led

into the

ambush where he was

twice transfixed by Deiphobus' sword.

8 Cf.

Statins, Achilleid

and abandonment

that

1.669 and 536-674 for the version of the seduction

was

authoritative for Dante.

Deidamia

is

recalled in

Purgatorio 9.34-39 (an allusion to the beginning of the story of Achilles on

1

Dame's Broken Scyros). and later

Faith: The Sin of the

Second Circle

Pur^aiono 22.114 (where we discover

in

107

that she

in

is

Limbo).

9 Avalle's study of of the

That

list

".

.

De

.

Amor"

Fole

helps put the two "modern" characters

of the peccator carnali of Inferno 5 into their proper perspective.

Lancelot and Tristan participate

is,

for "les contes d'adultere".

Inferno 5.128.) But

Dante

the narrative of

involved

it

in the sin

(Lancelot

Boccaccio

is

—or

affinity

own

in

So

1

outcome

Inferno 5

pattern in

5) and not

Dante

far as

is

is

the

to Virgil in

for the love lyric; Inferno

Inferno 2

well characterized by Teodolinda

is

II

V

represents one

points ahead to the other" (12).

For the assimilation of the words amore and morie cf.

the

adultery.

Barolini 7-12. But the contrasts are as significant: "Inferno

possible

is

by Francesca

will argue that he himself

I

— between Beatrices language

and the language of Francesca

list

to Avalle's pattern.

of the second circle,

informer (lauzengier) against his

10 The relation

to this

comments on Inferno

(in his

conforms

that

what he argues

in

added

is

in their

medieval context,

Avalle 118.

12 Francesca's poem does not Un'idea 38 8.37

n. 1

— poems

figure in the

list

oï autocitazioni offered by Contini,

Purgatorio

cites, inevitably.

that surely

Commedia). within his

(who

2. 11 2,

into a pattern as they are

fit

26.51, and Paradiso

reassembled

in

the

His study of Dante not as the familiar pilgrim but as a poet

Commedia

is

crucial to

consideration the Paradiso, as

I

my

argument, except that he excludes from

would

not. Barolini

with fewer detours and with greater direction, and

31-84 in

retraces his steps,

conclusion formulates

how Dante's autobiography is subservient to the Commedia (84). But of his confessional mode, there

a challenging statement of teleological plan of his is

not a

word

said.

13 Francesca's reference to Paolo as costui

moral nearness

of the Vita Nuova, precisely

14 Dichtung und Wahrheit

in

is

an indication of his physical and

saw 331; but

to her, as Poggioli

it

also echoes the language

verse 12 of this poem.

in

Goethes Werke

in

zwei Bande.

Vol.

1.

Munich

1957. 1040.

15 In the translation of Schreiber and Maresca 24.

16 As does Michele Barbi 97 among others of Dante's apologists, of whom Dante

was

the

first

17 Toynbee 71,

but least sincere. like

many

of Dante's apologists before Beatrice and like

many

of his translators, would like to take the altrui of Purgatorio 31.126 as referring to a single person.

Paolini

207-224 cannot imagine

the possibility of a

Pauline adultery of the heart, and wavers between the personal and allegorical interpretation of this episode.

Whatever

consider this "confessional" passage

vided by Singleton in

judgement,

in his

"The Pattern

like Christ at his

18 One would expect of the lussuriosi

in

in

to find

it

the interpretation taken,

it

must

terms of the architectonic context proat the

Center." Beatrice has appeared

second coming.

here, since the correspondences of the circle

the Inferno, the terrace of Luxuria

in

the Purgatorio ,

Diskin Clay

108 and the sphere of Venus

in the

Paradiso are the most convincing vindication

of Amilcare lannucci's critical principle of letting Dante serve as his

Commedia and allowing him to direct episodes of the Commedia (especially 316).

commentator the parallel

own

our reading through

in the

WORKS CITED The Divine Comedy. Trans, with a commentary by Charles

Alighieri, Dante.

S.

Singleton. 6 vols. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1970-75.

Dante's Lyric Poetry. Trans, and commentary by K. Foster and

.

P.

Boyde. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967. .

Avalle, D. S.

Le opere ".

.

.

Dantesca

di Dante. Firenze: Società

De

Fole Amor."

Italiana, 1960.

Modelli semiologici nella

Commedia

di

Dante. Milan: Bompiani, 1975. 97-121. Barbi,

M.

Life of Dante.

Berkeley and Los Angeles:

Trans. Paul G. Ruggiers.

University of California Press, 1954. Barolini, T. Dante's Poets:

Textuality

and Truth

Comedy.

in the

Princeton:

Princeton UP, 1984.

Bernardus

Silvestris.

Commentary on

the First Six

Books of

Trans, with introduction and notes by Earl G. Schreiber and resca. Lincoln

Virgil's

Aeneid.

Thomas

E.

Ma-

and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1979.

Contini, G. "Dante

come personaggio-poeta

della

Commedia." Un'idea

di

Dante.

Turin: Einaudi, 1970. 33-62. .

Elliott,

Poeti del Duecento. Voi.

Milan: Ricciardi, 1960.

2.

R. C. The Literary Persona. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1982.

lannucci, A. A. "Autoesegesi dantesca: la tecnica deir'episodio parallelo' nella

Commedia."

Lettere italiane 33 (1981): 305-28.

Kittredge, G. L.

Chaucer and

his Poetry.

Intro.

B.

J.

Whiting.

Cambridge,

Massachusetts: Harvard UP, 1970. Paolini, S.

and

J.

Confessions of Love and Sin in the Middle Ages: Dante's

Augustine's Confessions.

St.

Washington D. C:

Commedia

University Press of

America, 1982. Perret,

J.

"Les compagnes de Didon aux enfers (Aen. 6.445-449)." Revue des

Études Latines 42 (1964): 247-61. Poggioli, R. "Tragedy or

Episode

in

Romance?

Dante's Inferno."

Singleton, C. S. "The Pattern

PMLA

at the

A

Reading of the Paolo and Francesca

72 (1957): 313-58.

Center."

Commedia: Elements of Structure.

Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1977. 45-60. Spitzer, L.

"Note on the Poetic and Empirical

T

in

Medieval Authors." Traditio

4 (1946): 414-22.

Toynbee,

P.

Dante: His Life and Works.

Ed. with an introduction, notes, and

bibliography by Charles S. Singleton. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1971.

Elio Costa

From

locus amoris to Infernal

Pentecost: the Sin of Brunetto Latini

The fame of Brunetto

was

Latini

until recently tied to his role in

Inferno 15 rather than to the intrinsic literary or philosophical merit

own

of his

works.' Leaving aside, for the moment, the complex

question of Latini's influence on the author of the Commedia, the encounter, and particularly the words "che 'n or m'accora,

mondo

/ la

ad ora ad ora

do seem

to

/

/

di voi

a

similar expression of gratitude, and that se' lo

mio maestro

tu se' solo colui lo bello stilo

da cu'

mio

e'I

is

addressed with a

autore;

io tolsi

che m'ha fatto onore. 1.85-87)

antonomastically the teacher, what facet of Dante's cre-

ative personality

was

The encounter between the made all the more intriguing

affected by Latini?

notary and the pilgrim in Inferno 15

is

by the use of the same phrase "lo mio maestro" (97)

to refer to Virgil,

throughout the episode except for his single utterance "Bene

ascolta chi la nota" (99). That

it

is

thus refers to Virgil at this point,

one leading forward of

e

nel

of course, Virgil:

is,

{Inf.

silent

fìtta,

profound debt by the pilgrim towards the

old notary. Only one other figure in the Inferno

If Virgil is

è

quando

m'insegnavate come l'uom s'ettema" (82-85)

acknowledge

Tu

mente m'

la

cara e buona imagine paterna

strife, conflict

and

to Beatrice

the poet

when

the

and not the pilgrim

two magisterial

and the other backward

who

figures,

to the city

exile, provides a clear hint of tension

between

"present" and "past" teachers.

The words "m'insegnavate come I'uom

s'etterna" indicate a con-

tinuous magisterium on the part of the old teacher, Brunetto, specific nature, however, does not to

any particular aspect of Dante's

The period to

seem

1294

in

to

whose

be conclusively connected

literary or intellectual activity.'

question was probably 1285 (Dante's twentieth year)

(the year of Brunetto's death). This coincided with Dante's

QUADERNI dilalianislica

Volume X. No.

1-2.

1989

Elio Costa

110

own emergence city.

in the literary

The notary's

and eventually the

literary activity

France (1260-1266), and

political life of the

had taken place during his exile years of his

in the last

life

in

he had become an

eminent intellectual-political-civic personality.^ This eminence

in the

Florence of his time was perhaps best illustrated by Giovanni Villani

who,

major works (Rettorica, Tesoro

after quoting the titles of his

and Tesoretto), wrote grossare

i

that

he had been "cominciatore e maestro

Fiorentini, e farli scorti in

bene

in di-

parlare, e in sapere guidare

e reggere la nostra repubblica secondo la politica" {Cronica 3:22).

echoed

Dante's words "m'insegnavate

This striking statement

is

come I'uom

Both Villani and Dante

s'etterna."

in

attribute to Latini a

didactic function. For Villani, Brunetto 's teaching raised the general level of Florentine culture,

on

political thought.

It

and seems

to

have had a particular impact

must be emphasized

by the notary in Inferno 15 nature, although in a context

is

that the intense outburst

centered on questions of a political

which

is

clearly

more personal and sub-

The choice of Latini as the central figure in the canto, the spokesman of a past formerly shared by Dante, and his magisterial posture, therefore, seem to match his role as guide and

jective than Villani 's.

educator for a whole generation of Florentines."* This explains in part the traditionally accepted, but ultimately misleading interpretation of the encounter as a

moving

interlude, a nostalgic "return" to the past,

and as a scene of deep pathos and reverence.^ There

is,

however, ample evidence

ferent approach which, while

it

in the

canto that justifies a dif-

does not reject the

literal

meaning,

including the notion of Latini's sin as sodomy, also exposes a more

much deeper moral and spiritual significance. Special mention must be made here to a remarkable book by André Pézard who produced a truly impressive array of evidence

complex poetic

to

strategy of

support his theory that Latini's sin

way

is

"spiritual

sodomy," Dante's

of eternally damning his old teacher for contravening the law

of nature in writing the Trésor in French. Dante sous

notwithstanding

its

great philological ingenuity and

received only marginal acceptance.

To

it,

however,

la

its

pluie de feu,

erudition, has

we owe

a debt of

gratitude for opening the door to the need of examining alternative possibilities of interpretation in Inferno 15.

The assumption by to his didactic

Latini of a paternal authority

and guiding role

in the life

is

clearly equated

of the young Dante:

Front locus amoris lo Infernal Pentecost

che

'n la

mente m'è

e or

fitta,

111

m'accora,

cara e buona imagine paterna

la

di voi

quando

mondo ad

nel

ora ad ora

m'insegnavate come l'uom s'etterna.

(82-85) If

Brunette's paternal guiding and didactic role had been his

past,

it

becomes

of the pilgrim.

gil at the side

from the perspective of the first

words spoken by

in itself

It is

made even more

sin for

how

two short sentences, each of which

"O

poco teco

/

"O

figliuol.

the

first

in

is

ironic

when seen

punished. The very

mio, non

figliuol

ti

to

approach the episode), are

prefaced by a captaiio bene-

is

dispiaccia

/

se Brunetto Latino un

ritorna 'n dietro e lascia andar la traccia" (31-33), .

."

(37).

The prayer

A

back couched

to turn

step in the seduction of the

figure of the old civic sage.

which

which he

Latini after the initial mutual surprise (which

should serve as a clue on

volentiae:

in the

patently incongruous in view of the presence of Vir-

young poet by

and

way

in this

further clue in the subtle process

the poet exposes the true

image of

is

the authoritative

the old teacher

Brunetto's enquiry about his pupil's voyage, and

is

in the

by

found

answer

given by the pilgrim: El cominciò: "Quai fortuna o destino

anzi l'ultimo dì qua giù e chi è questi

"Là su

ti

che mostra

mena? cammino?"

'1

di sopra, in la vita serena,"

rispuos'io

lui,

"mi smarri'

in

una

valle,

avanti che l'età mia fosse piena.

Pur

ier

mattina

le volsi le spalle:

questi m'apparve, tornand'ì'o in quella, e

reducemi a ca per questo

calle."

(46-54) In thus synthetically

informing his teacher of the high points and

goal of his mission, the pilgrim

is

being both exhaustive and evasive.

The answer complies with the notary's question by summing up the beginning of the journey, the circumstances of the smarrimento, the role of Virgil, but in

doing so

significance of the mission.

which echoes is

bound

to

it

evades the central issue of the

the "costui" of verse 36, the role of the

remain hidden

real

In the reference to Virgil as "questi,"

to Brunetto.

In this

sense

"new" teacher has the same

it

function as the "colui" in Dante's answer to Cavalcante in Inferno

Elio Costa

112

which gives

10.62,

Guido's

famous equivocation on

rise to the

the part of

Indeed, Brunetto remains in the dark, as befits

father.

the souls of the

damned, but sodomites

all

in particular, blind to the

salvational dimension in Dante's journey (Mazzotta 138-39).

This inability by Brunetto to seize the implications of Dante's

mission

is

made even more obvious Ed

elli

a

me: "Se

in the notary's next

words:

tu segui tua stella,

non puoi fallire a glorioso porto, se ben m'accorsi ne la vita bella; e s'io non fossi sì per tempo morto, veggendo il cielo a te così benigno dato t'avrei a l'opera conforto."

(55-60)

The

astrological allusion, the prediction of literary glory awaiting

Dante, seemingly extend Brunetto's claim to paternal, guiding authority

these

beyond death

words

in

itself,

were

it

npi for the ambiguous nature of

which the use of three hypothetical clauses

clearly

undercuts the old notary's tutorship in a task whose goal he believes

he knows.

The reason

for this ironic equivocation

is

to

be found

in the pil-

grim's recapitulation of the journey from the smarrimento in the "selva oscura" to this point in time.

But while Dante's words ex-

press a forward-driving impetus and point to Virgil as a guide to a

"home" beyond, goal which has

Latini

finite,

is

drawn backward

to a consideration

of a

worldly connotations. The nostalgic reference

to the "vita bella," the regret for an "untimely" death, the prediction

of glory for the talented pupil, vision.

What

all

betray the essence of Latini's false

triggers Brunetto's regression is the

echo

in the pil-

grim's words of a similar experience by the notary as described in the TesorettoJ This literary "palimpsest" (Delia Terza 23) allows the

notary to assume his magisterial position and thus to replace Virgil at the side

of the pilgrim. Besides this ambiguous super-imposition

of the Tesoretto on the Commedia, and vice-versa, other parallel lexical

and

stylistical

elements emerge, revealing a more complex

relationship between teacher and pupil than appears

The expression "a capo chino"

(44), for

on the

surface.

example, which seemingly

manifests the pilgrim's reverence for the notary, has quite a different function in the Tesoretto. There, in the passage quoted in the notes

3

From

locus amoris lo Infernal Pentecost

(197), the expression

used as a prelude

is

suggestive of the despair and anguish exile. at this

It is

to the

at the

1 1

smarrimento, and

is

news of defeat and of

an image to which the Goddess Natura, Brunetto's guide

point in the allegory of the Tesoretto, will return:

Vedi ch'ogni animale per forza naturale la testa e

verso

'I

viso bassa

la terra

bassa

per far significanza de

la

di lor

grande bassanza condizione,

che son sanza ragione

seguon

e

lor volere

sanza misura avere:

ma l'omo

ha d'alta guisa

sua natura divisa per vantaggio d'onore,

che

'n alto a tutte l'ore

mira per dimostrare io

suo nobile affare,

ched ha per conoscenza e ragione e scienza.

(679-696)

The expression "eyes

fixed

upon

netto derived from Boethius' it

is

De

the ground"

is

a topos

which Bru-

Consolatione Philosophiae^ where

also used as a metaphor for "exile" from virtue and knowledge,

and the abandonment, therefore, of man's essential humanity which partakes of the divine. To walk with eyes downcast, in other words, signifies a fall, a surrender to the

lower faculties which

man

shares

with animals (an idea emphasized by the repetition of "bassa" and the

annominatio "bassa-bassanza"). The words "ma

com'uom che

'1

capo chino

reverente vada" cannot consequently be taken

/

tenea

at

face

value, given the implications of these obvious intertextual references.

The

simile in this context suggests reverence only on the literal level:

becomes an instrument with which the poet uses against him to expose his sinfulness. In this interplay of illusory impressions in which key words and images from the Tesoretto work their way into the poetic fibre of the Commedia,

metaphorically the notary's

we have

it

own words

an apparent assimilation of the old notary's values by the

younger poet. Indeed Dante has given

his old teacher as

much

free

Elio Costa

114

demanded by the becomes apparent, however, that

play to expand on his doctrine as

principles they

formedy shared.

Latini's vision,

It

as inevitably required

by the exigencies of the pilgrim's mission,

and by the presence of the other "maestro," Virgil, against which

must measure

itself,

has to be judged woefully inadequate.

it

In the

context of that mission the specific historicity of the notary

an

is

obligatory passage, but one which must be transcended. Brunetto's

"cara e buona imagine paterna"

is

a reflection in

cortese," and "dolcissimo padre"

who

therefore recuperated only here,

at this

it

malo of the "maestro

The

leads to Beatrice.

past

is

point in the journey, so that

can be exorcized and dismissed forever.

At the conclusion of Brunetto's harangue against the Florentines, Dante, dismayed by the prophecy of the exile, declares that he will

words

write his teacher's

book of

in the

memory,

his

to

have them

glossed by Beatrice: Ciò che narrate

di

e serbolo a chiosar

a

donna che

mio corso

con

scrivo,

altro testo

saprà, s'a lei arrivo.

(88-90)

The reference

to Beatrice, evasive

though

may

it

be, presents the

reader with an additional irony, and perhaps the most significant clue on

how

the episode

term "donna" here

is

is

twice used to refer to Virgil

once by the pilgrim further about this sin for

which he

(53).

woman is

to

be read.

comparable

in the canto,

That Brunetto is

Certainly the use of the

vagueness

What

and philosophical sense, however,

meaning of

is

to the "questi"

once by Brunetto (48) and is

not aroused to enquire

perhaps understandable

punished.

the dark about the real

in its

in

view of the

counts even more in a poetic that

he will continue

to

be

Brunetto's inability to be alerted to the significance of the

grim's reference to Virgil and Beatrice as key caused, as

we have

seen,

in

the journey. pil-

figures in his journey

is

by the assumption of the notary's paternalThe echoes to the Tesoretto, which

didactic authority over Dante.

trigger the equivocation, should

extract any additional relevance

now be probed

further in an effort to

which these interconnections might

yield.

The

Tesoretto' s genesis

by Farinata ("Lo

strazio e

is '1

the battle of Montaperti, vividly recalled

grande scempio

/

che fece l'Arbia col-

From orata in rosso,"

locus amoris to Infernal Pentecost

10.85-6).

//;/.

The autobiographical

ing the dedication to a "valente segnore," the circumstances

which

led to the exile

section, follow-

a very brief

is

13-190), and

1

(

115

is

account of notable for

the intensity of the political feelings expressed, a characteristic is

felt

even more strongly

which runs

in

for a total of 2,994 lines, centres

three allegorical figures: Natura, Vertute and

of the notary's allegory a quest for

harmony.

his city, torn

by

man

principles.

it

thrust

seems, Brunetto, exiled from

of —"ogn'om"— though uprooted from turns to a vision

seeks a definite place and function,

commune, seen

on the encounter with

Amore. The main

based on Natura's teachings, and becomes

Instinctively,

strife,

der in which each

is

which

Inferno 15. The rest of the Tcsorctio,

a perfectly structured or-

first in

his past,

and then

the family

in the

as values that emanate from cosmic and universal

The genesis of

the Tesoretio, therefore,

fundamental concern with the polis which,

would become Brunetto's

in a

is

more

founded on a explicit

way,

central preoccupation in the Trésor

and

Rettorica!^

At

the centre of the Tesoretto's narratio fabulosa stands the in-

dividual from

whom

the life-sustaining ties with the

been severed. The poet's implicit theme

which heals

political

is

commune have

the search for a renewal

and social wounds and leads directly from

total

alienation to complete integration in the historical reality of the city. In this process, the science of politics teaches

paraphrase Brunetto,

in

others according to "reason and justice." fore, acquires a loftiness

ambiguous sinfulness

man

to

war and peace, over one's own

The

and

polis for him, there-

and a nobility which distinguish

attributed

govern, to

citizens

by the Augustinian

it

from the

tradition to the

city of man.'" In the

Amore

episode, which occupies verses 2181-2426, the pro-

tagonist in this imaginative renovatio

is

waylaid by the blind god of

love who, with the help of Paura, Disianza,

sows discord,

grief

and destruction

all

Amore and

around. The section

Speranza, is

clearly

intended as an attack on the doctrine of courtly love." But Latini's

condemnation has in

a dialectical relationship

with the important stages

the wayfarer's progress in the context of the natural and har-

monious equilibrium of cosmic and moral forces presided over by Natura in the first part of the poem. Love is a disturbing element capable of upsetting that equilibrium, and the havoc wreaked by the

116

Elio Costa

four "donne valenti,"

men

who

serve the blind Cupid,

coming asunder of

structive

seen as the de-

is

the four elements, threatening to reduce

to the state of wild beasts.

Love, therefore,

is

an emotion which,

in its thrust to find pleasure, directs the individual to

things.

seen

As such

in the

is

it

seek corporeal

the vice of concupiscence which, as already

topos "eyes fixed upon the ground,"

for the pilgrim's (and everyman's)

cosmos, created according

fall.

to eternal

From

one of the causes

is

the perspective of the

and immutable laws, love rep-

resents a blind force, a revolt against Reason.'" Mutability and chaos, are the key motifs of the love episode, evident in the characteristics

of the locus amoris

who

inhabit

it.'^

itself,

and

in the erratic

behaviour of the people

The wayfarer becomes so hopelessly entangled in Ovid

the snares of love that his efforts to escape prove useless, until

intervenes to rescue him.^'*

The appearance of Ovid to the

at this

point in the Tesoretto, as a premise

Penetenza which occurs immediately

after the "fall" repre-

sented by the encounter with love, would require a longer explanation than

is

possible here.

Suffice

Ovid ("Ovidio maggiore")

it

to say, for

our purposes, that

here recalled not only as the author

is

of the Ars amandi and the Remedia amoris, as Contini suggests, but also as the poet of the

Metamorphoses. His

role

indeed to extricate

is

the wayfarer from the hopeless tangle represented by the encounter

with love (a "metamorphosis

in

the spiritual "metamorphosis in

malo"), but he

bono" which

is

is

also the guide to

to take place in the

Penetenza. The need to "change" and to "convert"

The Ovid of

counter-effect to the

fall.

"moralization" was a

common

the

is

stressed, as a

Metamorphoses, whose

feature of twelfth and thirteenth cen-

tury literature, appears here as a key element in the conversion of the wayfarer. Manifesting itself primarily as an allegorization of the

Metamorphoses, the "Christianization of Ovid" attempted a text

whose

the Middle Ages.

The opening cosmogony of

ever, intrigued

readers

its

who

the

poem

had,

how-

noticed striking similarities with the

Genesis account of creation. According tion

to salvage

alleged immorality had been a traditional obstacle in

to the allegorical interpreta-

which soon became popular, Ovid's version of

the creation of

the world from eternally pre-existent chaos, and the stories of

men

transformed into beasts were a means of relating the cosmic forces of nature, and the changes

which took place around

us, to the mutabil-

From for

ity,

part

good or

the chaos

ogy

in the

Tcsorcito in rescuing the helpless protagonist

in the

the same.

117

taking place within each man.'** In essence the

evil,

Ovid plays

much

is

locus amoris to Infernal Pentecost

The

emergence of the wayfarer from

resultant

and confusion into which he has

fallen can find

anal-

its

creation of the universe; the liberation of forms from the

which occurs

Silva of hyle

in the

description of creation by Natura

Wetherbee 11-13). The reform of the wayfarer, then, does not take place in isolation from either the general account of (321-364;

cf.

creation as set out by Natura, or the moral and ethical exposition

which occupies

Ovid serves

poem. The reference

the central portion of the

concern

to illustrate Latini's

to

connect the adventures

to

of the protagonist to basic questions of rationality and ethics whose ultimate value Latini's

was with

is

verifiable in the

cosmos.

overwhelming preoccupation, as

The

the welfare of his city.

it

emerges

"meschino, timido, puerile" (Benedetto 175), merits rious study and attention than

in his

far

has been granted so

it

works,

from being

Tesoretto, far

more

far.

se-

In

its

imaginative allegorical structure are found the main themes of both the Trésor and the Rettorica, a synthesis of his philosophical and literary ideas,

and as such perhaps

metaphysical

Its

void of

its

his

flight ultimately leads

most ambitious undertaking. back

to the city of

negative Augustinian connotations, because

its

man, de-

harmony

Brunetto's Florence could not be vouchsafed by a leap of faith

in

or by an appeal to the principles of Christian charity.

recourse to a

new Goddess,

der and justice.

Natura, from

whom

flow

Hence

In reaching for this humanistic ideal,

the

reason, or-

all

on the

trail

of Cicero, Boethius, Alanus de Insulis, and the Chartrians, Brunetto floundered, and the Penetenza can indeed be seen as a setback

way

which

in the

to

be overcome by the realization

of the ultimate failure of this quest.

Hence, the contradiction con-

in

the wayfarer

tained in the Penetenza, in

including the Tesoretto

which pervades

the

its

itself.

first

feeling of frustration.

seems

absolute rejection of

The theme of

part of the

worldly ideals,

mundi

Penetenza conveys a heartfelt

The quest which had been sustained under

guidance of Natura, and had penetrated the

all

the contemptus

abode of the Virtues, seems

the vision of the vanity of

The Penetenza appears

all

to

to the

to flounder

the

uppermost recesses of

and be shipwrecked on

things.'^

be not merely a pause

in the

journey to

Elio Costa

118

philosophical enlightenment; nor

a further step in that journey,

is it

Deum.

ushering us perhaps to a possible ascensus mentis in it

seems

the

voyage

the

voyage as

and Brunetto resumes

Yet, the confession ends

itself.

had been programmed by Natura.

it

knowledge begins anew, but with a

Rather,

on religious grounds, of

to represent a clear repudiation,

The quest

for

clear determination to avoid

AmoreMount Olympus where he meets Ptolomey

Ventura, or Fortune, thus confirming the earlier equation Ventura. Brunetto reaches to

whom

he submits a question on the four elements on which Natura

had already spoken.

And

here,

on the threshold of a seemingly new

beginning, the Tesoretto ends. Brunetto's naturalistic and humanistic parameters, sketched out here with particular emphasis on the Tesoretto, given

resonance

its

undeniable

must be seen as the philosophical and

in Inferno 15,

ological dimension of the sin of

sodomy.

In the

Amore

Brunetto had put forth a view of love as a force which reduces to the state of primitive beasts,

the

cosmic equilibrium,

eternal

the-

episode

men

and as an element which disturbs

a blind, irrational entity

which threatens the

and immutable laws of Nature.

This naturalistic view

is

diametrically opposed to the essence

of Dante's poetical, philosophical and theological doctrines, and

amounts

The

to a rejection of Beatrice in her salvational connotations.

notary's utter inability to

voyage, implicit Beatrice,

is

comprehend

in his failure to seize

the nature of Dante's

on the allusions

a direct consequence of this rejection.

to Virgil

and

Virgil's accep-

tance of the task of guiding the lost poet at Beatrice's request, on the other hand, typifies the explicit submission of reason to love: "!'

son Beatrice che

ti

faccio andare;

vegno del loco ove tornar disio; amor mi mosse, che mi fa parlare.

Quando di te

sarò dinanzi

mi loderò sovente

segnor mio,

al

a lui."

Tacette allora, e poi comincia' io:

"O donna

di virtù sola

per cui

l'umana spezie eccede ogne contento c'ha minor li cerchi sui, m'aggrada il tuo comandamento,

di quel ciel

tanto

che

l'ubidir, se già fosse,

più non t'è uo' ch'aprirmi

m' è il

tardi;

tuo talento. {Inf.

2.70-81)

From

locus amoris to Infernal Pentecost

119

This important passage,

in which Virgil recognizes the embodied by Beatrice as the "donna di

function of love,

salvational virtù" (re-

called by the pilgrim as "donna che saprà" in Inferno 15), also de-

movement, proceeding from

lineates precisely the

the highest sphere

of Heaven, by which love becomes the word ("amor mi mosse che

mi

and the force which propels mankind towards

fa parlare")

beyond

the confines of his worldliness.

love can be actualized only through Beatrice-Grace

ment, Virgil,

piaggia"

goal

whose

instru-

redeeming process of the pilgrim stranded

initiates the

in the "diserta

its

This spiritual dynamics of

The "sabbion," "landa," made of

(Inf. 2.62).

"rena arida e spessa" which eternally fixes the locus for Brunetto's

damnation,

If

clear juxtaposition to the desert in

is in

Dante begins

his

own

Brunetto's repudiation of love

is

Dante's theory on the same subject, as in the

Vita

based on first

odds with

at

of "quella parte del libro de

younger poet's concern

from being

E avvegna che

a

la

[.

.

If

we

la

ragione

irrationality,

attitude

which

la

is

consider the beginning

memoria," we can notice the

.]

with reason,

sua imagine,

la

Latini's.

is in

fact

quale continuatamente

segnoreggiare me, tuttavia era

which,

supported by

di sì

che nulla volta sofferse che amore mi reggesse sanza de

its

to establish the principle of a love

in conflict

baldanza d'Amore

the pilgrim

developed organically

Nuova, already presented signs of an

fundamentally

far

which

process of redemption.''

meco

it:

stava, fosse

nobilissima vertù,

lo fedele consiglio

quelle cose là ove cotale consiglio fosse utile a udire.

in

{V.N. 2.9) If the

passage

in the Vita

is

important for the categorical nexus love-reason,

Nuova we

find also the first unmistakable association of

Beatrice with the Incarnation as expressed in the famous passage

spoken directly

to the heart

by Love, which establishes

tinction, in typological terms,

a clear dis-

between her and Guido Cavalcanti's

"monna Vanna": Quella prima è nominata Primavera solo per questa venuta d'oggi; che

mossi io die

lo

imponitore del

che Beatrice

si

nome

a chiamarla così Primavera, cioè

mosterrà dopo

la

io

prima verrà

imaginazione del suo fedele.

E

primo nome suo, tanto è quanto dire 'prima verrà', però che lo suo nome Giovanna è da quello Giovanni lo quale precedette la verace luce, dicendo: 'Ego vox clamantis in deserto: parate viam Domini.'" Ed anche mi parve che mi dicesse, dopo, queste pase

anche vogli considerare

lo

Elio Costa

120

role: "E chi volesse sottilmente considerare, Amore, per molta simiglianza che ha meco.

quella Beatrice chiamerebbe (KA^. 24.4-5)

Beatrice's superiority over Cavalcanti's Giovanna, expressed here in biblically-inspired

Latini in Inferno 15.

words, has more than a marginal bearing on The "primo amico" of Dante's youth, and also,

according to early humanistic tradition, Latini's disciple (Contini, Poeti 1:487), considered love to be a passion of the sensitive appetite,

and therefore "for

perspective. Cavalcanti far

was

from propelling man

tyrannical force

a naturalistic

inevitably led to the conclusion that love,

into a higher sphere of understanding, is a

which debases

me

from "Donna

Approaching love from

di salute."

his intellectual faculties/^

A few lines

prega," will reveal the relevance to our topic:

— —con paura— vedrai poco soggiorna; — ancor valor più gente che move La nova— — non formato voi ch'om Move, cangiando

color, riso in pianto,

storna;

e la figura

di lui

lo

di

'n

qualità

miri

e

destandos'ira

la

si

trova.

sospiri,

loco,

'n

qual

manda foco

(imaginar noi potè

om

che noi prova).

(46-53)

The passage bears some

striking similarities with the

from the Tesoretto. In both

instability

and

Amore

episode

irrationality are the

domi-

nant symptoms. Thus, in Brunette's locus amoris "l'un giace e l'altro corre

/

l'un

gode e

da ogne canto Cavalcanti

/

l'altro

'mpazza,

in the first line

section ("la forza d'amare its

/

chi piange e chi sollazza:

vedea gioco e pianto," (2211-2219) above. /

A

complete

non sa chi

line

is

così

from the Amore

no-lla prova,"

2375) makes

appearance almost verbatim in Cavalcanti, above, and

serted in Dante's "Tanto

/

picked up by

is

also in-

gentile e tanto onesta pare" {V.N. 26).'' It

on the basis of the evidence,

seems not only

possible, but probable,

that in Dante's

mind Brunetto and Cavalcanti were linked together

for their

common

attitude to,

"disdegno" for Beatrice fuller

meaning when

its

in

and ultimate rejection

of, love.

Guido's

Inferno 10^" certainly seems to acquire a

analogy with Brunetto's repudiation of love

and his consequent punishment are considered.

The

link

between Inferno 10 and Inferno 15 can be extended

include the figure of Farinata,

whose "paternal"

characteristic

to

may

From

locus amoris to Infernal Pentecost

121

not be as obvious as thai of Brunetto or Cavalcante. Yet

and magnanimity of Farinata,

the greatness

flawed pater patriae, is

undercut by naturalistic epicurean philosophy.

is

Latini's kindred soul,

philosophical,

The only

whose own

politics,

In this sense he

no

vision, political

less than

impaired.

is

tension between the Pilgrim and Farinata, which

most elementary human psychological

at the

clear that

is

view of

his all too circumscribed

in

it

a majestic yet tragically

political

words and images which

acters involved, manifests itself through find fuller expression in canto 15.

is

level of the char-

words

refer to Farinata's initial

I

to the Pilgrim:

O

Tosco che per

foco

la città del

vivo ten vai così parlando onesto, piacciati di restare in questo loco.

(10.22-24)

The

captatio benevolentiae

initial

a similarity

is

which can be extended

echoed by Brunetto; but

to include the substance

it

is

of the

invitation to remain, to linger here in the "città del foco," just as

Brunette's request to the pilgrim has ilarly, the

suo

much

same

the

objective.

pilgrim's reaction to Farinata ("Io avea già

fìtto") is

echoed

E

io,

ficcai sì

che la

li '1

il

Sim-

mio viso

nel

Brunetto episode:

in the

quando

'1

suo braccio a

me

distese,

occhi per lo cotto aspetto, viso abbrusciato non difese

conoscenza sua

al

mio

'ntelletto.

(15.25-28)

and extends the

thrust

and force of the

earlier line onto a

plane which has peculiarly aggressive undertones. ident,

moreover,

strategy

that this

passage

which begins with

is

the culmination of a descriptive

the remarkable series of similes

The

serve as the prelude to the encounter.

amminghi / temendo schermo perché '1 mar si .

.

.

lor ville e lor castelli,

/

.

.

'1

fiotto

fuggia; .

semantic

seems quite ev-

It

che 'nver' /

e quali

lor s'avventa,

Padoan.

which

two ("Quali

first

.

.

.

/

/

fanno

Filo

per difender

a tale imagine eran fatti quelli")

employ a

"military" language to describe a seemingly natural violence against

Brunetto.

The next two similes appear

reference to the

common

and familiar:

to ease the

harshness by the

Elio Costa

122

quando incontrammo d'anime una schiera che venian lungo l'argine, e ciascuna ci

come

riguardava

suol da sera

guardare uno altro sotto nuova luna; e



ver' noi

come

'1

aguzzavan

le ciglia

vecchio sartor fa ne

la

cruna.

(16-21)

Here

too,

however, the deployment of the verb "to see"

in its

various

forms from "riguardava" to "guardare," which becomes "aguzzavan,"

and then turns

into the triumphalistic "ficca'

li

occhi per lo cotto

aspetto," serves once again to alert us to the inherent ambiguity and

deceptiveness of a situation which surface.

and

is

not what

it

appears to be on the

similes do indeed suggest "likeness" ("a tale imagine")

similarity;

for the at

The

but they are only intended to lay the groundwork

unmasking of

the true malevolent reality of sin,

which can

times assume the appearance of benevolence ("la cara e buona

imagine paterna"). In

echoed here

this sense the

in the effort

in the pale light

"mala luce" of the epicureans

needed by the sodomites

is

to see the pilgrim,

of the moon, also mentioned by Farinata

prophecy ("la faccia della donna che qui regge," 10.80) and Ulysses ("Cinque volte racceso e tante casso / lo lume era

in his

later

by

di sotto

dalla luna," 26.130-131) as unmistakable references to the cold light

of reason, unaided by Grace.

One can now perhaps

see

more

clearly the relevance of linking the

Brunetto episode to Inferno 10 by which Farinata and Cavalcante's

"mala luce" and the notary's squinting eyes become metaphors which, juxtaposed to the penetrating eyesight of the pilgrim's

intellect,

serve

him from their "defenceless" and helpless sinfulness. The meaning of these consummately subtle and allusive intratextual refto distance

erences

is

put into even sharper focus

if

we

take our attempt to

develop the parallelism between the two cantos one step

further. In

Inferno 10 Virgil's stern advice to Dante following Farinata's disturbing prophecy concerning the exile, refers to Beatrice in terms which are

meant

to stress the spiritual blindness of Farinata

and which enhance her visional significance: "La mente

tua conservi quel ch'udito

hai contra te,"

mi comandò quel saggio;

"e ora attendi qui" e drizzò

"quando

'1

dito:

sarai dinanzi al dolce raggio

and Cavalcante

From

locus amoris to Infernal Pentecost

di quella

da

lei

123

cui bell'occhio tutto vede,

il

saprai di tua vita

il

viaggio."

(10.127-132) It

is this

remember

lesson that the pilgrim will

at the

end of Latini's

prophecy: Ciò che narrate

di

e serbolo a chiosar

donna che

a

mio corso

con

saprà, s'a

scrivo,

altro testo lei

arrivo.

(15.88-90)

The pilgrim's words

emerging con-

are a clear affirmation of the

sciousness of the superior dignity of his mission, and

which

fident assertion

it

is

con-

this

moment the approval of nota") who points the way

elicits at this crucial

the true "maestro" ("Bene ascolta chi la to Beatrice.

By

attributing to Brunetto the sin against nature,

Dante could have

found no more apt way of harnessing the old teacher's philosophical and allegorical notions against him.

Even

in his

most

rationalistic

phase Dante espoused a concept of philosophy which stressed that aspect of

it

by which

becomes

it

God drawing man

the love of

to

Himself: Filosofia è

però che

uno amoroso uso

somma

in lui è

può essere

altrove, se

di sapienza, lo

sapienza e

non

in

is

imperil those to

it

is

is

bound

taught, since

it

Dio,

will close his great

poem: "l'amor che move

with

this

this

image,

in

like

il

and

the nature of phi-

same fundamental

It is

Through

in

che non

to pervert itself

is in

losophy to be love.

{Par. 33.145).

atto;

any philosophical enquiry, which,

not guided by love,

whom

sommo

e

quanto da esso procede. {Conv. 3.12.12)

In a real sense, therefore,

the Tesoretto,

quale massimamente è

sommo amore

idea that Dante

sole e l'altre stelle"

which he resolves

key

the

cosmologica! themes of classical and Christian traditions (Dronke),

Dante further

illustrates the

immeasurable distance between Latini

and himself. Canto 33 of the Paradiso also begins

reminds us of

Latini.

in a

But what an exquisite irony

effective and meaningful annominatio found

in the

way which

that the

most

allegory of the

notary, "Natura-Fattura-Fattore,"'' should reappear here and apply not, of course, to Natura, but to the Virgin, the

"mover" of

woman who

the mission (Sarolli 289-91), and through

whom

is

the

salva-

Elio Costa

124 tion has

been made possible

for all

Vergine Madre,

umile e

alta più

mankind:

figlia del tuo figlio,

che creatura,

termine fisso d'etterno consiglio, tu se' colei

nobilitasti

sì,

non disdegnò

che l'umana natura che

'1

suo fattore

di farsi

Nel ventre tuo

si

sua fattura.

raccese l'amore,

per lo cui caldo ne l'etterna pace così è germinato questo fiore.

{Par. 33.1-9)

It

is

to suggest that Brunetto's

perhaps foolhardy

made

its

way

into the

sublime prayer of

Bernard

St.

annominatio has in the

Paradiso}^

Nevertheless, the images used here by Dante to describe the Incarnation, the central event in the history of

on love

in

terms of

fire

flower-Christ, the event

man's redemption, focus

whose warmth allows the germination of the which makes possible the nobility of human

In direct juxtaposition to this stands Brunetto,

nature.

natura posto in bando"

Another image

"dell'umana

{Inf. 15.81).

in the

Convivio

even more pertinent

is

to the un-

derstanding of the punishment meted out to Brunetto ("Sovra tutto '1

di

sabbion, d'un cader lento,

neve

in alpe

zone of

/

sanza vento,"

his treatise

Dante

is

piovean Inf.

di

foco dilatate falde,

/

come

14.28-30), but in the second can-

writing about the "donna gentile," lady

Philosophy:

Sua

bieltà piove fiammelle di foco,

animate d'un

spirito gentile

eh' è creatore d'ogni pensier bono: e li

rompon come trono 'nnati vizii che fanno altrui vile.

{Conv. In

commenting on

the

image of the

rain of fire,

3; canz.

2.63-67)

Dante explains

it

as

"ardore d'amore e di caritade" (3.8.16), and concludes by restating

about philosophy what he had already said:

"E questo conferma

quello che detto è di sopra ne l'altro capitolo, quando dico ch'ella è aiutatrice

The

de

la

fede nostra" (3.8.20).

pathetic figure of the notary, helplessly subjected to the fiery

tongues of an infernal Pentecost, an apt contrapasso brought

upon

his

head by the rejection of love,

is

down

true to himself to the end:

^

From

locus amoris to Infernal Pentecost

unmindful of anything except works.

his pupil of his

his limited

If the

opening

concept of glory, reminding

lines of their

an allusion to the Tesoretto, the epilogue the Trésor, entrusted to the

memory

words were ambiguously aimed of Dante, his

last are a

through him.

more

arousal of the

reminder of

filial

first

affection

of the canto the irony of the poet

raccomandato

is

summarily dismissed:

il

mio Tesoro,

nel quai io vivo ancora, e più si

encounter were

a narcissistic

explicit expression of the desire to live

In the last lines

Poi

is

of the pilgrim. Just as his

at the

borders on parody as the notary "Sieti

125

non cheggio."

rivolse, e parve di coloro

a Verona il drappo verde campagna; e parve di costoro quelli che vince, non colui che perde.

che corrono per

la

(119-124)

The condemnation of Brunetto includes canto,

that

say his political ideas.

to

is

against the Florentines ("Faccian

medesme.

.

."),

couched

in

le

the centrai part of the Latini 's harsh

diatribe

bestie fiesolane strame

images of extreme

/

di lor

while

bestiality,

enables the pilgrim to emerge with an affirmation of confidence his mission, istic

and

trust in his guides, falls

horizon, political and ethical, of the notary.

In the

"municipal" poets (1.13). In an analogous way the sin, is

in

within the limited natural-

eloquentia Dante relegated Latini, with other Tuscans,

of the notary, by virtue of his

it

De vulgari among the

political vision

confined to the violence and

spiritual claustrophobia of Florentine politics.

York University

NOTES 1

See for example Contini. Poeti del Duecento di

questo cittadino, eminente

della

ma come

2:

169: "Naturalmente la

fama

ce ne sono molti, riposa sull'episodio

Commedia."

2 The following passage from the Trésor (2.2.102), on glory as a "second is

a possible source for the verse: "Gloire est la

maintes Ceste

...

terres,

renomme

d'aucun homme, de grant

life"

ki cort

par

ou de savoir bien son

art.

desire chascuns, pour ce que sans lui ne seroit pas

cil ki traitent

une seconde

afere,

bonne renomme,

congneue

de grans choses tesmoignent que glore done au preudome

vie; c'est a dire

que après sa mort

la

renomme

ki

maint de ses

Elio Costa

126 bones oevres

esp.

of Latini 's

sin.

3 For Latini's

4

fait

ed evento,

sambler

see

life

.

.

encore en vie" (303). For lannucci (Forma

Ceva and Sundby. dunque

Cf. Mazzoni: "Maestro di ragazzi

k'il soit

100-103) the passage becomes the focus for the explanation

fondando con

.

[Latini] ad un' intiera città,

sua Rettorica

la

le

Firenze, volgarizzando Cicerone, e insieme svelando segreti dell'

Ars dictandi: quell' Ars dictandi che

delle personali esperienze transalpine, e che

non ad una scuola

basi della prosa d'arte in

in

giovani Fiorentini

ai

Brunetto

i

coloriva anche

si

Dante epistolografo applicherà

poi sempre strettissimamente, in maniera impeccabile" (xx). See also Davis,

"Education

in

Dante's Florence," and "Brunetto Latini and Dante."

5 See, for example. Bosco:

(115-16); also Sapegno "1 ricordi di un'antica

"In Brunetto Dante rimpiange la sua giovinezza"

in his introductory note to

consuetudine e

le

Canto 15 of the Inferno:

professioni di

buona imagine paterna'

'cara e

appunto

6 The

di

critics

si

who

della

deformata

.

."

.

(165-66).

generally adopt the "metaphorical" approach to explain In-

Montano,

ferno 15 are the following:

lannucci, Nevin, Mazzotta 73-9 and stakes out his

la nostalgia

colorisce di tanta tenerezza nel contrasto

realtà così diversa e brutalmente

una

riconoscenza

filiale

acquistano rilievo proprio da questa dolorosa presenza:

own

esp.

450

ff.

Stocchi, Kay, Iliescu,

138^1, Culbertson. Dante

della Terza

position by a careful weighing of the complexities of the

episode: "L'ambiguità che risulta dalla sovrapposizione delle due personalità di Brunetto: quella proveniente dal

suo discorso e quella legata

al

suo peccato,

quella che risulta dal magistero del veggente e quella radicata nella umiliante presbiopia, nella 'malaluce' del dannato, e consustanziale

al

personaggio e

perciò inalienabile ed irriducible ad unità," (25); for a recent contribution

which

An

that of Avalle,

7

approach

rejects the metaphorical

Angiolillo.

to the question of Latini's sin, see

important contribution to the question of Latini's "sodomy"

who

offers stringent literary evidence of

it

in

poems between Brunetto and Bondie Dietaiuti (86-106). Upon hearing the news of the battle of Montaperti, the defeat of and of his subsequent

exile,

Brunetto had described his

is

an exchange of

the

Guelphs

own smarrimento.

quote the relevant passage from Contini's edition of the Tesoretto 163-190:

Ed

io,

ponendo

cura,

tornai a la natura

eh' audivi dir che tene

ogn'om

eh' al

mondo

vene:

nasce prim[er]amente al

padre e

a' parenti,

e poi al suo

Comuno;

ond'io non so nessuno ch'io volesse vedere la

mia

cittade avere

del tutto a la sua guisa,

I

From

locus amoris to Infernal Pentecost

nc che fosse

ma

in divisa;

una fune

tirassero

pace e

di

27

comune

per

tutti

1

di benfare,

che già non può scampare terra rotta di parte.

Certo

mi parte

lo cor

di cotanto dolore,

pensando

il

e

potenza

la ricca

grande onore

che suole aver Fiorenza

mondo

quasi nel

e

io, in tal

pensando perdei

il

tutto;

corrotto

capo chino,

a

gran cammino,

e tenni a la traversa

d'una selva diversa.

Two

recent editions of the Tesoretto are by Ciccuto and Holloway.

8 There are

most

many examples

Philosophy, and,

in the

increpitus deiecit

limen

of this key topos

deiectum.

.

.

meumque

."

.

.

same paragraph,

["That

grief, casting their

my

to Boethuis himself:

.

Tum

propius accedens

ilia

company

(i.e.,

bed's

feet,

by his definition of .

ille

extrema

in the

it

gens d'un règne

les étranger et

between

chorus

lectuli

humum

in

.

.

.

Then she (Philosophy) coming

mei

maerore

grief.

.

nearer, sat

my

countenance sad with mourning,

."]

(132; 1.1.42-52).

.

literary activity is best

exemplified

Trésor (317; 3.1.2) as "la plus haute science

plus noble mestier ki soit entre les homes, car eie nous ensegne

de pes

is

"His

muses) thus checked, overcome with

the

and beholding

and cast upon the ground with

.

of the

eyes upon the ground, and betraying their bashfulness with

9 Politics as the central focus of Latini's

.

in

grauem atque

intuens uultum luctu

blushing, went sadly away. at

Two

Consolation.

humi maestior uultum confessusque rubore uerecundiamn

tristis excessit.

parte consedit

down

in the

muses, shamed and scattered by

telling follow, the first referring to the

et

d'une

de guerre, selonc raison

politics and, for Latini,

its

et

ville,

un peuple

selonc justice."

et

et

govemer

un comune en tens

The

indissoluble link

most indispensable handmaiden,

rhetoric,

apparent from the following statement (21; 1.4.9): "retorique, cele noble

science ke nous ensegne trover et plaines

et

ordoner

de sentences selonc ce que

parliers, c'est

et dire

faire, et ki

paroles bonnes et bieles

nature requiert.

I'ensegnement des diteours, c'est

premièrement à bien

homes, par

la

la

C'est

la

science ki adrece

encore l'adresce par

les divines escriptures, et par la loi ki les

mere des le

les predications

gens governe

monde de sain

à droit et

à justice" (21); see also Contini, Poeti del Duecento 2:122, where the Trésor is

called "un

manuale

di

formazione dell'uomo politico."

10 Becker argues convincingly that,

at this

time

in history the "central

locus" of

Elio Costa

128 up

the poet, inevitably caught

in the secular life

of the

city,

was

"the notion

that sacred events can be treated as historical episodes possessing the temporal

dimension which renders them objectively

real, i.e.,

and space as they are humanly conceived" (65-6 virtue,"

having

n. 1); this

their locus in

time

"secularization of

which would become an important feature of Humanistic thought

the fifteenth century,

the state.

On

is

in

already present in Latini's concept of the nobility of

Latini as a forerunner of the Humanists, cf. Rubinstein,

Weiss

and Ciccuto (6-16). 11

Latini's attack

on the doctrine of courtly love was

controversy, which culminated pier,

in the

condemnation

wider doctrinal

part of a in

1277 by Stephen Tem-

bishop of Paris, of 219 "heretical" propositions which included Andreas

Capellanus'

De Amore:

Denomy, "The De Amore of Andreas Capellanus

see

" 'Fin'

and the Condemnation of 1277" and Troubadors,

Its

Amors'; the Pure Love of the

Amorality, and Possible Source"; see finally the important

observations by Corti, La felicità mentale 38-61.

12 For the iconographie tradition of the blind god of love, see the fundamental study by Panofsky, esp. 104-113, where the Blind Cupid

Death and Fortune the Tesoretto

Cupid as it

is



associated with

is

the latter also being represented as blind

2179-2180 and 2891-2892. Panofsky shows

irrationality

was

a concept

which appeared



that

in the

as implied in

while the Blind

Ovide Moralise,

Hrabanus Maurus {De Universo 15.6 [PL

also present in

"Cupidinem vocatum ferunt propter amorem. Est enim daemon

3:

432C]):

fornicationis,

qui ideo alatus pingitur, quia nihil amantibus levius, nihil mutabilius invenitur.

Puer pingitur, quia stultus literally

est et irrationalis

amor." But even

29 and 117-18. 13

Ma

or parea ritondo,

ora avea quadratura; or avea

I'

aria scura,

ora è chiara e lucente; or veggio molta gente, or

non veggio persone;

or veggio padiglione, or veggio case e torre; l'un giace e l'altro corre,

l'un fugge e l'altro caccia;

chi sta e chi procaccia,

gode e

l'un

l'altro

'mpazza,

chi piange e chi sollazza: così da

ogne canto

vedea gioco e pianto. (2204-2218) 14

this

passage

is

copied from Isidore of Seville (Etymologiae 8.9.80). See also Patch

Così

fui giunto, lasso,

e giunto in

Ma

mala

Ovidio per

parte!

arte

From

locus amoris (o Infernal Pcnlt'coal

129

mi diede maestria, ch'io trovai



com'io mi

via

la

trafugai:

così l'alpe passai

venni a

e

pianura. (2388-2395)

la

See Contini, Poeti del Duecento 15

Such an

n. to

2:

example,

interpretation, for

is

2359; see also Ciccuto,

found

morphoses of Arnulf of Orleans, according

in the

commentary

whom

to

n.

193.

to the

Ovid seeks

Meta-

to "recall

us from error to the recognition of the true creator"; see Ghisalberti, Viarre,

Munari, Battaglia;

discussion of the links between this tradition

finally, for the

and Dante, see Padoan.

Adunque, omo, che

16

Già torna

fai?

tutto in guai,

mannaia non vedi

la

ch'ai tuttora a

Or guarda

il

piedi.

li

mondo

tutto:

foglia e fiore e frutto,

angel, bestia né pesce

morte fuor non esce.

di

Dunque ben pe ragione provào Salamone ch'ogne cosa mondana

(2495-2505)

è vanitate vana.

17 For the centrality of the desert metaphor, see Singleton, "In exitu Israel de

Aegypto," but also the important contribution by Mazzetta, esp. 37-38. 18 For Cavalcanti's averroistic notion of love, see Nardi 190-219; also Picone

135-47;

aristotelianism" (or averroism), and, also by Corti,

77-101.

It

me

superb study of "Donna

finally, the recent

mentale 3-37 which places the canzone

felicità

must be pointed out

that,

prega" by Corti, La

the context of "radical

in

Dante a un nuovo crocevia

while Corti stresses the influence of the

Aristotelians on Cavalcanti and Dante (especially, of course, on the former),

not

enough emphasis

placed on the neo-platonic tradition which weighs

is

heavily on Latini, and which has a point

the following: nel secolo Xll,

".

.

.

lo stesso

come

source

in the

School of Chartres. This

is

fondamento

aristotelico

comincia a manifestarsi

esito del platonismo di Chartres" (21).

19 G. Contini, "Cavalcanti lirici

its

on which Nardi has some very valid observations (3-21), especially

in

Dante" 155,

più celebrati," attributing

its

calls this

source to

"uno

dei suoi [Dante's] versi

"Donna me

prega."

The common

source for both Dante and Cavalcanti seems, instead, to be the Tesoretto.

20

I

take

it

for granted that

Dante criticism has now accepted

Inferno 10.63 refers to Beatrice. 148),

who, while accepting

si

that the "cui"

of

agree with Contini (Cavalcanti in Dante

this interpretation

that "la sostanza della polemica,

muterebbe comunque

1

of the famous pronoun, states

gnoseologica non

meno che

letteraria,

non

traducesse cui: Virgilio o perfino Dio"; Corti arrives

Elio Costa

130

same conclusion: "Molto

at the

si

è scritto su quel cui, se

Virgilio o a Beatrice; personalmente incliniamo per Beatrice,

vada

ma

la

riferito a

cosa non

conta molto perché sia Virgilio sia Beatrice qui sono simboli di un'operazione

mentale ortodossa, teologicamente e pronta a cedere

21

am

I

la

il

referring to the

Natura,

first

sono una

e

/

22 The formula, according century;

cf. his

On

the

ragione

al

servizio della teologia

words spoken by Natura

in the Tesoretto: "Io

sono

fattura del lo sovran fattore" (289-91).

Auerbach, had become traditional by the twelfth

to

important study "Dante's Prayer to the Virgin (Par. XXXIII)

and Earlier Eulogies," now 23

in regola:

ruolo ad essa" (Dante a un nuovo crocevia 84-5).

theme of the race

in

in

Studi su Dante 263-92.

Inferno 15 and in the

Commedia

in general, see

Werge, esp. 4-5.

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"Delusione e giustizia nel canto

XV dcW Inferno."

Letture Classensi 3 (1970): 221-254. Patch,

Howard

R. The

Goddess Fortuna

in

Medieval Literature.

1921.

New

Elio Costa

132 York: Octagon, 1970.

Dante sous

Pézard, André.

la

pluie de feu {Enfer, Chant XV). Paris:

J.

Vrin,

1950. Picone, Michelangelo. "La Vita

Nuova

e tradizione

romanza." Dante Studies 95

(1977): 135-147.

Rubinstein, Nicolai. "The Beginnings of Political Thought in Florence." Journal

of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 5 (1942): 198-227.

Sapegno, Natalino. "Introduction Firenze:

La Nuova

Italia,

to

Inferno 15."

La Divina Commedia.

Vol.

1.

1970. 165-66.

SaroUi, Gian Roberto. Prolegomena alla Divina

Commedia.

Firenze:

Olschki,

1971. Singleton, Charles S. "In exitu Israel de Aegypto."

Annual Report of the Dante

Society 78 (1960): 1-24.

An Essay on

the Vita Nuova. Baltimore and London:

The Johns Hopkins

UP, 1949. Sundby, Thor. Delia

vita e delle

opere di Brunetto Latini. Trans. Rodolfo Renier.

Appendices by Isidoro del Lungo and Adolfo Mussafìa. Firenze: Le Monnier, 1884. Villani, Giovanni. Cronica. 3 vols. Firenze, 1823.

Viarre, Simon. siècles.

La survie d'Ovide dans

Poitiers:

la littérature scientifique

des XII et XIII

Centre d'Études Supérieures de Civilization Médiévale,

1966.

Weiss, Roberto.

"Lineamenti per una storia del primo umanesimo fiorentino."

Rivista Storica Italiana 60 (1944): 349-366.

"The Race to Death and the Race Commedia." Dante Studies 17(1979): 1-21.

Werge, Thomas.

for Salvation in Dante's

Christopher Kleinhenz

Deceivers Deceived: Devilish Doubletalk in Inferno 21-23*

downward through

In the course of their journey

the eighth circle of

Hell, through the series of ten concentric ditches (bolge)

which form

the Malebolge, Dante the Pilgrim and his guide Virgil complete their

observation of the diviners and

move toward

the bridge over the fifth

The

bolgia, talking of matters that are not pertinent to the poem.

opening verses of canto 21 of the Inferno announce casual

—one might even

scene that

is to

say, lighthearted



in their

flowing,

style the free-wheeling

come:'

Cosi

ponte

di

in

ponte, altro parlando

mia comedia cantar non cura, venimmo; e tenavamo M colmo, quando che

la

restammo per veder di Malebolge e li

l'altra fessura altri

pianti vani.

(21.1-5)

As

will be evident only later, the superficial lightness of these verses

masks such,

the

it

profound seriousness of the events

in these cantos, and, as

establishes from the beginning a sense of tension

which

continue throughout the entire episode. The use of "comedia"

one hand,

the

a

naming device

(the

poem

is,

after all, a

will

is,

on

"comedy"

for

reasons of content and style) and, on the other hand, a specific

erence to the present episode and

its

ref-

presentation through a mixture

of stylistic and lexical registers.^ The reiteration of "ponte" serves to

focus attention on what will prove to be the major concern of

this in

episode



the search for a bridge over the sixth bolgia, the ditch

which the hypocrites are punished. And it is this quest that sets 21-23 in motion. The easy, rhythmical forward

the action of cantos

movement second

of these verses

tercet

when

comes

to an abrupt halt at the

the Pilgrim declares

what he saw, or

end of the better

what

he did not see: "e vidila mirabilmente oscura" (21.6). The darkness of the bolgia precludes easy comprehension of itants

its

features and inhab-

and may be taken as a sign of the perceptual and interpretive

QUADERNI dilaliamstica

Volume X. No.

1-2.

1989

1

34

Christopher Kleinhenz

difficulties of these cantos.

The Pilgrim's

accompanied by a sense of

fear suggested

lack of understanding

is

by the use of the adverb

"mirabilmente"^ and more clearly evoked by the adjective "oscura,"

which and

its

The those

mind

recalls to the reader's

the "selva oscura" of Inferno

1

wealth of meanings and associations/ fifth

bolgia of the eighth circle of Hell, wherein are punished

who were

guilty of corruption in public office, appears to be a

employed

vast expanse of boiling pitch, similar to that

in the

Venetian

shipyard:

Quale ne Tarzanà de' Viniziani bolle l'inverno la tenace pece

tal,

non per foco,

.

.

per divin' arte,

una pegola spessa,

bollia là giuso

che 'nviscava

ma

.

d'ogne

la ripa

parte.

(21.7-8, 16-18)

For the moment the Pilgrim sees nothing except the black pitch:

r vedea

lei,

mai che

le

ma non

vedëa

bolle che

'1

in essa

bollor levava,

e gonfiar tutta, e riseder

compressa. (21.19-21)

In addition to the long introductory simile, the play in this passage

seeing and not seeing ("F vedea

which suggests

lei,

ma non

vedëa

on

in essa," 21.19),

the potentially deceptive nature of appearances, es-

tablishes a context of suspense and sets the stage for the unexpected

and,

more

specifically, for the unpleasant surprises that await the

unsuspecting Pilgrim and his guide. Dante's contemplation of the pitch

is

interrupted by Virgil's im-

words ("Guarda, guarda!" 21.23), which warn him of the approaching devil, and his protective gesture: "mi trasse a sé del loco

perative

dov' io stava" (21.24). The four verses that describe the Pilgrim's

response to Virgil's

command

are carefully constructed to

convey the

sense of anxiety induced by fear and to depict that state of tension

between the simultaneous desire

to see

and

to flee

feared:^

AUor mi di

volsi

come l'uom

veder quel che

li

cui tarda

convien fuggire

e cui paura sùbita sgagliarda.

from the thing

Devilish Douhli'talk in Inferno 21-23 che, per veder, non indugia

'I

135

partire.

(21.25-28)

As

will

become apparent

as the episode unfolds, these verses are also

monitory, for they conjure certain spectres

be avoided, the paralyzing power of

sound counsel





objects and persons to

Moreover, they present

fear.

the necessity of flight, the dangers of delay. In short,

they anticipate the deceit perpetrated by Malacoda, the leader of the devils,

and the very

real

danger of physical harm posed by the devils,

the Malebranche.

A

brief

summary

With Dante and from Lucca

of the principal events of these cantos follows.

Virgil looking on, a devil arrives bearing a barrator

whom

(21.29-46). The

he unceremoniously throws into the boiling pitch

demons on

bank engage

the

in devilish

words and

antics with this particular sinner (21.47-57). Attempting to conceal

Dante's presence, Virgil meets with and

and

Malacoda,

their leader,

if

there

from the devils

tries to learn

a passage across the sixth bol-

is

comes forward

gia (21.58-87). His presence disclosed, the Pilgrim into the devils' presence (21.88-105), rate story, part truth

and part

fiction,

and Malacoda

tells

an elabo-

concerning the bridges over the

sixth bolgia (21.106-114). Traveling in the perilous

company of

the

devils (21.115-139; 22.1-30), Dante and Virgil encounter Ciampolo, a barrator

With

from Navarre,

a clever ruse

whom

Ciampolo

pitch (22.97-123), and

the devils have captured (22.31-96).

tricks the devils

and jumps back into the

two devils (Alichino and Calcabrina), angered

come to blows and fall into the pitch (22.124-151). own devices, Dante and Virgil move ahead and, sud-

over his escape, Left to their

denly pursued by the Malebranche, narrowly escape harm by sliding

down

into the sixth bolgia (23.1-57).

Taking great care

to protect his

charge from the devils, Virgil

orders him to hide "dopo uno scheggio, ch'alcun schermo t'aia" (21.60) and assures him of his control over the situation: "e per nulla offension che mi sia

non temer

tu, ch'i'

ho

per ch'altra volta fui a

le

fatta,

cose conte,

tal

baratta."

(21.61-63)

The

irony of Virgil's bold assertion

be apparent only

we

later, for at this

("i'

ho

le

cose conte," 21.62) will

point in the narrative neither he nor

the readers can foretell the course of events.

Further emphasis

Christopher Kleinhenz

136 is

placed on the necessity of his maintaining an external show of

confidence in

—"mestier

li

fu d'aver sicura fronte" (21.66)

view of the assault on him by the

Con



especially

devils:

quel furore e con quella tempesta

ch'escono che

cani a dosso

i

poverello

al

chiede ove s'arresta,

di sùbito

usciron quei di sotto

al ponticello,

e volser contra lui tutt'i runcigli.

(21.67-71)

The image evoked of Virgil

as a poor beggar accurately describes the

true nature of the situation

and undermines the picture of strength

and confidence

that he

wished

to present.

Attempting

to reestablish

his authority, Virgil asks that the devils send their leader to hear

him

out:'

"Nessun

di voi sia fello!

Innanzi che l'uncin vostro mi pigli, traggasi avante l'un di voi che m'oda, e poi d'arruncigliarmi si consigli."

(21.72-75)

Unanimously proclaimed which

Malacoda moves

as their representative,

forward and utters a rhetorical question ("Che clearly suggests that Virgil's

words

words

their actions. Virgil's confident

to

approda?" 21.78),

li

will have

no influence on

Malacoda are similar

formulaic passe partout that he had employed



successfully

to the

—with

Charon, Minos, and Plutus:^ "Credi

tu,

Malacoda, qui vedermi

esser venuto

.

sicuro già da

.

.

tutti

vostri schermi,

sanza voler divino e fato destro?"

(21.79-82)

However, in

Virgil has apparently forgotten his unsuccessful attempt

dealing with the

Dis

{Inf. 8-9).**

demons who denied them

Indeed, he

is

entry to the city of

so confident about the efficacy of these

words with

their reference to divine grace that

trust in the

enemies of God. Furthermore, despite

he

is

willing to put his

his initial

for the Pilgrim's safety (to the extent that he ordered

not reveal his presence), Virgil discloses too

much

him

concern

to hide

and

information too

soon. Without receiving any guarantee of safe passage or assistance

Devilish Douhlctulk in Inferno

and without even waiting

for a response

21-23

137

from Malacoda, he proceeds

to betray the Pilgrim's presence:

"Lascian' andar, che nel cielo è voluto

cammin

ch'i' mostri altrui questo

Silvestro."

(21.83-84)

Malacoda's response ity,

designed

to

to these

words

crestfallen ("Allor

a masterpiece of theatrical-

and says

this

(".

.

.

e' si lasciò

mock show

in a

sia feruto" (21.87).^ Virgil is

words. Throughout

be

to

fu l'orgoglio sì caduto," 21.85); he dramatically

li

drops his instrument of torture piedi," 21.86)

is

convince Virgil of his "sincerity": He appears

taken

in,

cascar l'uncino a'

of acquiescence:

"Omai non

deceived by these actions and

episode the Poet carefully draws and devel-

ops the contrast between Virgil's rational activity and the Pilgrim's instinctive response to events.

From devils'

the

moment

malevolence ...

io

e

i



he joins his guide, Dante the Pilgrim senses the

words and

in their

mi mossi

diavoli

si

actions:

e a lui venni ratto;

fecer

tutti

avanti,

ch'io temetti ch'ei tenesser patto.

(21.91-93)

The sense of tension and dread which permeates

the episode

is

en-

hanced by the use of a strikingly vivid military image: così vid'io già temer

fanti

li

ch'uscivan patteggiati di Caprona,

veggendo

sé tra nemici cotanti.

(21.94-96)

some reliable army of Tuscan

Critics are generally agreed that this passage contains

autobiographical information:

Guelphs, Dante participated castle of

of the

Caprona (August

terrified

As

a

member

in the siege

16,

of the

and eventual surrender of the

1289) and witnessed the safe passage

Pisan soldiers from the castle under the supervision

of the Florentine troops. '° The fear evoked by this reference

even more

real

is

made

and palpable, for the roles of captor and captured

have been reversed: while there

at

Caprona Dante was

the victorious

observer, here in Hell he recognizes his subordinate and powerless position as similar to that of the Pisan troops offered safe-conduct.

The words and

gestures of the devils are at once menacing and

Christopher Kleinhenz

138 playful:

Ei chinavan

li

E

"Vuo' che

raffi e

diceva l'un con

'1

l'altro, "in sul

tocchi,"

groppone?"

rispondien: "Sì, fa che gliel' accocchi."

(21.100-102)

After the devils are named, Dante's suspicions about their intentions are heightened:

"Omè, maestro, che diss'io, "deh,

se tu sa'

Se

ir;

ch'i' per

tu se' sì accorto

non vedi

è quel ch'i' veggio?",

sanza scorta andianci

me non

come

la

soli,

cheggio.

suoli,

tu ch'e' digrignan

li

denti

e con le ciglia ne minaccian duoli?"

(21.127-132)

com-

Virgil discounts these visible signs of danger, reiterating his

mand over

the situation. Nevertheless, his response

is

only partially

correct and, to be sure, only partially reassuring to the Pilgrim:

"Non

vo' che tu paventi;

lasciali digrignar

pur a lor senno,

ch'e' fanno ciò per

li

lessi dolenti."

(21.133-135)

This

is

then the extended prelude to the grotesque and dramatic

events of these cantos.

Extending over two and one third cantos, in the Inferno has

this longest single

devoted to the nature of comic elements and comicità

The scene

in the fifth bolgia

on the stage

in

episode

been the subject of much discussion, much of in the

it

poem."

has been likened to those presented

contemporary religious dramas, particularly

in the

transalpine regions, and the interaction here between "performers" (devils, sinners)

rives

and "observers" (Dante, Virgil) most probably de-

from those interludes

would run about among fear.'^ In the Inferno,

in

medieval plays when the "devils"

the audience, inspiring both laughter and

of course, there

is

no such "interlude," no "in-

termission" in the performance, and although the dramatis personae

do not wear masks and costumes, they do successfully conceal intentions under the cover of duplicitous words.

their

Indeed, the ever-

present, diabolical undercurrent attacks the superficially "festive" at-

mosphere and gradually subverts

it.'^

Devilish Douhk'talk

From critics

commentaries on

the earliest

21-23

Inferno

in

poem

the

have noted Malacoda's deceitful ways



139

to the present

day

his story about the

bridges over the sixth bolgia (21.106-1 14) and his "promise" of safe

conduct (21.125-126).

from

presentation

its

.

.

.



non

si

spezzato

tutto

lie

derives

andar per questo

"Pili oltre

iscoglio

E

The success of the devil's first lie is embedded in the truth:

the

può, però che giace al

fondo l'arco sesto.

se l'andare avante pur vi piace,

andatevene su per questa grotta; presso è un altro scoglio che via face. 1er,

più oltre cinqu' ore che quest' otta,

mille dugento con sessanta sei

anni compiè che qui

la

via fu rotta."

(21.106-114)

As Malacoda

no bridges across the bol-

truthfully reports, there are

gia of the hypocrites (21.106-108) because of the earthquake that

occurred

at the

moment

How-

of Christ's crucifixion (21.112-114).

ever, by bracketing the false story of the "altro scoglio che via face"

(21.109-111), these two truths condition

though

it,

too,

were

and make

it

it

appear as

Malacoda's fraudulent promise of safe

true.

conduct for Dante and Virgil depends directly on the embedded

lie

in his first speech:

"costor sian salvi infino a l'altro scheggio

che tutto intero va sovra

le

tane."

(21.125-126)

Since there

is

all.

However,

command

no other "scheggio," the

salvi" until that point has the

no weight and

is,

that "costor sian

in short,

two wayfarers do not yet know

no guarantee

the situation, and, in fact, at this point neither does the reader.

our annotated editions of the Commedia

it

is

He expected

diate and

to be assailed

the Pilgrim.

text,

by the same

The

the text of the

of the

his readers to experience the

unmediated fashion and,

vast

Commedia should

to

poem

thus, to be caught

fears, doubts,

commentary

With

easy to forget that Dante

expected his text to be read, understood, and responded terms.

at

the true nature of

up

and questions

tradition that has

in

on

its

own

an imme-

in its

drama,

that confront

grown up around

serve as an aid to our interpretation

but not as a substitute for

it,

for the text is

what Dante

.

Christopher Kleinhenz

140

wrote and what he expected us tainly not to

for

modem

preparation

deny the

readers

who

encountered

on the manuscript page and generally without any

it

although these glosses began to

decades following Dante's death.

in the first

In this episode

where appearances

Dante demonstrates reveal and conceal.

determined

are not always

that language, too,

deceitful fashion,'"* that

is

it

Our perception of

an ironic or it

can both

21-23

the events in cantos

by two contradictory thematic currents:

devilish antics, or diableries,

seem

On

the one hand, the

provide the mainstay of the

to

and reducing them

action, affecting all the participants

On

in

can be used and misused, that

in large part

denominator.

what they seem,

can be used

devilish playfulness and diabolical cunning.

mon

cer-

poem

that the first readers of the

critical or interpretative apparatus,

appear even

is

especially

other texts to bear on the meaning of the

remind us

to

This



generally lack an adequate medieval cultural

—of bringing

Commedia, but only

read and evaluate.

to

and, indeed, the necessity

utility

to a

com-

the other hand, since every coin has two

sides, the rovescio of this "innocent" activity

may be glimpsed from

time to time in the machinations contrived both by the devils (Malacoda's

lie

which aims

to entrap

(Ciampolo's ruse calculated

There are

in

Dante and

to free

Virgil)

and by the sinners

himself from the Malebranche).

simultaneous operation, then, two levels on which the

events of these cantos should be understood:

and 2) profound seriousness, the undermining the former.

latter

1)

grotesque

humor

underlying and consistently

Several factors contribute to the successful representation of this duality.

and

One

reality.

is

the basic and ironic

dichotomy between appearance

Dante extends the opening simile by describing the

intense activity in the Venetian shipyard:

Quale ne l'arzanà de' Viniziani bolle l'inverno la tenace pece a rimpalmare

i

legni lor

che navicar non ponno chi fa suo legno le



novo

in

non

sani,

quella vece

e chi ristoppa

coste a quel che più viaggi fece;

chi ribatte da proda e chi da poppa; altri fa

remi e

altri

volge sarte;

chi terzeruolo e artimon rintoppa

— (21.7-15)

Devilish Doubìctalk in Inferno 21-23

The impression created by

this

image

and productivity, and consequently

141

one of openness, energy

is

well-populated scene

this

in the

Arsenal contrasts sharply both with the seemingly deserted bolgia and, further, with the unproductive and secretive undertakings of

As

the grafters.'*^

(who

in life

these secular counterparts to the simonists

are punished in the third bolgia), ignoring the greater

important needs of the in Hell

state,

and more

thought only of personal gain, so here

they continue their nefarious operations in darkness (under

the pitch)

and with deceit (the

tricks played

on

their guardians, the

Malebranche). The nature of the contrappasso has, therefore, a direct relationship to the overall structure of the episode. the sinners, the pitch itself false

appearance, which

— bubbling,

initially

By concealing

hot and black

— presents

"deceives" the Pilgrim as to

its

a

true

content.

Another manner of enhancing the duality of vision involves the use of certain parodie elements.'^

on whose note canto 21 ends ("ed

elli

in these

cantos

The "trumpet"

blast,

avea del cui fatto trombetta,"

139), gives rise to the marvellous mock-heroic introduction to canto

22

where Dante, by "elevating"

(vv. 1-12),

(22.10), effectively lowers

it

to its

this "diversa

cennamella"

proper level and underscores

its

base nature.

The

recurrent use of animal imagery also helps to maintain the

tension between the calm and tumultuous, the playful and the threatening.

The movement and

position of the sinners are described

respectively as those of dolphins (22.19) and frogs (22.26), and even

here there

is

the hint of danger.

Although they come

face "ad alleggiar la pena" (22.22), which activity, the sinners are .

.

.

i

compared

dalfini,

ostensibly a beneficial

to

quando fanno segno

marinar con l'arco de

a'

is

to the sur-

che s'argomentin

di

la

campar

schiena lor legno.

(22.19-21)

The warning

that dolphins give sailors of an

gests the violence that

is

impending storm sug-

lurking behind the devils' calm exterior

appearance, as well as the very dangerous nature of this presumably salutary movement.'^ Similarly, the image of the frogs that remain

... a l'orlo de l'acqua d'un fosso .

.

.

pur col

muso

fuori.

142

Christopher Kleinhenz sì

che celano

i

piedi e l'altro grosso

(22.25-27)

reminds the reader

low the surface,

The one is

that there is a hidden, secret part that lies be-

that there

is

more

—Ciampolo—who

sinner

to the

scene than meets the eye.

hands of the devils

falls into the

described as a "lontra" (22.36), which, sleek, black-skinned and

playful,

is

of the devils

male

His

here the prize of a deadly hunt. is

gatte era venuto

sorco" (22.58). In addition to the dual level

'1

of superficial playfulness and underlying seriousness which

images convey,

all

these

linguistic duplicity contributes to the prevailing

biguous atmosphere

and

hands

fate at the

aptly characterized by another animal image: "Tra

which the

in

am-

between appearance

distinctions

reality are blurred.

The cleverness with which Malacoda constructed the bridges over the sixth bolgia

is

his tale about

matched and perhaps even

sur-

passed by that of Ciampolo, the grafter from Navarre, who, true to his manipulative earthly

he

tries to

ways, tricks the devils

As

corrupt them through bribery.

Commedia, Ciampolo

tells

at their is

own game:

customary

Dante the Pilgrim about

in the

his earthly exis-

tence and discloses the identity of other sinners in this bolgia.

answering questions such as these, the Navarrese barrator forestall the mutilation

upon him. At

and torment which the devils wish

the end of his speech

attention to the devil Farfarello's

"Omè, vedete i'

direi

l'altro

anche,

ma

Ciampolo

is

By

able to

to inflict

calls the wayfarers'

menacing look: che digrigna; i'

temo ch'elio

non s'apparecchi a grattarmi

la tigna."

(22.91-93)

Given a momentary reprieve from

who

is

referred to

ambiguously

attack, the grafter

at this critical

from Navarre,

point in the narrative

as "lo spaurato" (22.98),"^ continues his conversation with Dante and Virgil, taking

advantage of their presence to devise a scheme which

will ultimately deceive both wayfarers to

have other sinners come

Virgil:

and

to the surface to

devils.

He

first

offers

speak with Dante and

Devilish Douhli'Uilk in Inferno 21-23

143

"Se voi volete vedere o udire Toschi o Lombardi,

ne farò venire."

io

(22.97, 99)

But before a response can be made, he continues, seizing on

second part of

the pretext for the

withdraw behind

bank

the

come

torment when they

"ma

stieno

the

this as

Malebranche must

to ensure that the sinners not fear further

to the surface:

Malebranche un poco

non teman de

ch'ei



i

his plan:

in

cesso,

vendette."

le lor

(22.100-101)

Ciampolo then discloses

which they customarily use

safely

come

to the surface ".

.

io,

.

have

that the sinners

signal

of the boiling

seggendo

a secret ail-clear

know when they might pitch for some relief:

order to

in

questo loco stesso,

in

per un ch'io son, ne farò venir sette

quand'

io suffolerò,

di fare allor

che

com'

fori

è nostro

alcun

si

uso

mette."

(22.102-105)

Although

addressed to Dante and Virgil and carefully crafted

initially

to appeal to their regional predilections ("Toschi" for Dante,

bardi" for Virgil), Ciampolo's offer to directly to the devils'

many

And

the

700%

These words are ambiguous:

Or

actual practice?

is

"Lom-

additional souls caters

obviously greedy desire to do injury to as

sinners as possible.

attractive.'^

summon rate Is

of return

is

certainly

Ciampolo describing an

he merely contriving a clever ruse to escape

the clutches of the devils, to regain his freedom, relatively speaking,

Cagnazzo, another of the devils, perceives the

in the boiling pitch?

possibility of a trick: .

.

.

"Odi malizia

ch'elli

ha pensata per

gittarsi

giuso!"

(22.107-108)

Ciampolo, who ("ei,

is

described here as a consummate master of deceit

ch'avea lacciuoli a gran divizia," 22.109), responds

in

what has

generally been taken to be a declaration of his "malvagità": .

.

.

"Malizioso son

quand'

io

procuro

io troppo,

a'

mia maggior

trestizia"

(22.110-111)

Christopher Kleinhenz

144

and, consequently, of his remorseful recognition that this action will

To

bring harm to his companions.

we must

arrive at this sense,

understand that Ciampolo, to present a convincing self-image, took the devil's term "malizia" (= "astuzia") and modified

meaning ("malizioso" = "malvagio, Another possible reading of recognizing that he

this verse is offered

in the minority

is

form and

its

cattivo") to suit his purpose.^"

on

by Sapegno, who,

this matter,

would

retain the

equation "malizia" = "astuzia" and interpret Ciampolo 's response as ironic:^^

Oh

che malizioso sopraffino son

mia malizia, procuro

che, con la

io,

ai

miei compagni maggior dolore, esponendoli alle vostre offese! In addition to the ambiguity surrounding the interpretation of

"malizioso," there are problems attendant in the following verse re-

While almost

garding the meaning of "maggior."

read "maggior" as an adjective modifying

ics

commentators would have

the early

to refer thus to

modern

all

"trestizia,"

crit-

some of

associated with "a' mia" and

it

who were

Ciampolo's fellow barrators

of greater

renown. ^^ For example, Francesco da Buti glosses these verses as follows:^^

Malizioso son io troppo; ecco che confessa esser malizioso nel modo che dirà, per compiacere a' demoni, Quand' io procuro a' miei maggior trestizia

;

cioè a quelli che sono sotto

giore di sé, per farne più desiderosi

schernire e di straziare

ampolo, perchè

li

li

demoni

grandi si

la lì

spiriti,

pegola,

demoni che

li

il i

quali finge esser

quali sono

piìi

mag-

vaghi di

piccoli, e questo disse Gi-

scostassono più volentieri, com'elli volea, per

gittarsi giuso.

However, is

in addition to these

another, equally valid

one

that

way

remains very close

two

possibilities,

I

believe there

of interpreting Ciampolo's response, to the letter

of the text and accords

well with the sort of linguistic duplicity and ambiguity which present throughout this episode. in

I

would

verse 111 Ciampolo says two quite different things, depending on

how in

Very simply,

is

suggest that

the line

my

is

read and

how

the parts are construed, the key term,

view, being "maggior."

the one that

Ciampolo wants

they do understand trestizia" (=

"when

— I

is

The apparent sense of the devils to understand

"quand' io procuro

cause greater torment to

the phrase,

— and

what

mia [pause] maggior my companions"). The

a'

a

Devilish Doiiblcudk in Inferno

21-23

145

Other sense of the phrase, the "real" or underlying "true" meaning as

Ciampolo would want

"quand'

my

cause

''

the

We

"astuto."

succeeds

in

one eventually realized

the

who

are in

command,

verse

in

the second

in

end of the episode Ciampolo

will recall that at the

The Navarrese

jumps

barrator

into the pitch,

and two devils (Alichino and Calcabrina), enraged

combat with each

aerial

in

I

the devils]

escaping from the devils: he does not whistle, nor do any

other sinners appear.

grapple

is

accordance with these two models, so that

in

would mean "malvagio" and

it



"when

trestizia" (=

meaning of "malizioso"

Similarly, the shifting

instance

first

— and

those

[i.e.,

10 would then change

in

it

mia maggior [pause]

a'

superiors

torment"). 1

procuro

io

into the pitch, at

other,

which point Dante and

and

this deceit,

at

thus entangled

fall

on

Virgil depart

their

own,

leaving them "cosi 'mpacciati" (22.151).

Ciampolo thus combines truth and illusion into a ambiguous whole, whose meaning is now one thing and

In verse 111 single, but

now

how

another, depending on

Malacoda conditioned Dante and lie

middle

in the

with his

own

is

it

special linguistic trick, turns the tables

and does them one

better.

we admit was

much more shifts or

way

by embedding a

Navarrese barrator,

of truthful statements, so the

However,

be eventually recognized as a blatant ploy

read and understood. Just as

Virgil's response

his captors

rather than planting lie in

what

will

— — Ciampolo devises

the middle of the truth

Malacoda

efficacious for

on

subtle linguistic strategem, for the

meaning of

his

a

words

perhaps better, evolves, chameleon-like, depending on the

they are perceived and on their context.

retrospect that

we

the readers, like

Indeed,

it

Dante the Pilgrim, can

is

only in

reflect

on

and perceive the true intention of Ciampolo's words. Hindsight is generally completely accurate, and Dante the Pilgrim engages 23,

in just

when

such a retrospective

moment

at the

beginning of canto

he considers the events he has just witnessed (in cantos

21-22) and compares them with the beginning and the ending of Aesop's fable of the frog and the mouse: Vòlt' era in su lo

la

favola d'Isopo

mio pensier per

dov'

el

parlò de

che più non

si

che l'un con

la

la

presente rissa,

rana

pareggia

e del

"mo"

l'altro fa, se

topo;

e "issa"

ben s'accoppia

146

Christopher Kleinhenz principio e fine con

la

mente

fissa.

(23.4-9)

There has been a long and sustained controversy over the precise application of the fable to the events in cantos 21-22, and, by having his

character, the Pilgrim, give a retrospective reading and interpretation

how

of a situation, Dante the Poet provides us with guidance as to

we

as readers should approach this particular text in order to ferret

out

its

proper meaning.

of another text

By

—Aesop's

inviting us to consider his text in the light

fable



the

first

experience with events or

first

reading of a text presents. The Poet

figure of the Pilgrim that

may

appearances

we

is

showing through the

are all susceptible to deception, that

indeed be deceiving, and that

truth of the matter only through rereading

we may

get at the

and reevaluating a

Commentators have long noted

a situation.

more general

the Poet points to the

problems of interpretation which the

text or

that the relationships of

Commedia

the protagonists in the fable to those in the

are

ambigu-

ous, and the several proposed solutions disclose these interpretative

The most common

problems.^^ as the

mouse, Calcabrina as the



tor" (22.142)

as the kite.

would have Alichino

interpretation

and the pitch

frog,

However,

in his



the "sghermi-

important study Larkin

stresses the "complete innocence of the intended victims"

and the

"gratuitousness of the treachery" and proposes that Dante and Virgil

who

seek to cross the bolgia are the mouse, the devils

who

seek to

deceive them are the frog, and the pitch that ensnares the malefactors in the

end

is

the kite.^^

He

elaborates:

The tale has four essential stages: 1) the mouse comes to a barrier, 2) the mouse seeks the aid of the frog, 3) the aid is granted but with betrayal in mind, 4) the frog comes to grief through his own craftiness and because of the mouse. Stated

from

in these terms,

it

is

evident that Dante's fear springs

his review of the final stage of the fable:

to grief

mouse).

through their

own

craftiness

the

demons

(frog)

come

and because of Dante and Virgil (the

mouse had come

to the stream, so Dante and which they could not traverse without the aid of the demons who controlled it. They request assistance; so, too, did the mouse. The frog appeared to aid the mouse but was in reality plotting .

.

.

just as the

Virgil arrived at the fifth bolgia

its

destruction.

when

these

two

The

devils likewise grant assistance to the pilgrims, but

later learn

of Barbariccia's

He about the condition of the bridges.

.

.

,

it

[sic: is

Malacoda's] cunning

evident that behind this

apparent co-operation lay the desire to entrap the pair, thus confirming the fears

which Dante had from

the beginning. Finally, just as the frog's

own

Devilish Doubletalk in Inferno 21-23

malice was the cause of

same malicious nature which

disaster, so that

its

ensnare Dante and Virgil brought the demons

sought

to

pitch.

Dante becomes

terrified after

147

to grips

above the

viewing the events of Inferno XXII

of the fable, because as the mouse was the innocent accessory to

in light

Dante and Virgil were the unwitting springboard

the frog's misfortune, so

of Ciampolo's escape, for their questioning of him triggered the chain of events which culminated

Calcabrina into the pitch.

sinner's flight and the

in the *^

Singleton's criticism of this solution

is

fall

of Alichino and

well-taken, for Larkin's pro-

posal does not respect "the all-important distinction between Dante

poem and Dante

the character in the

already

tempts

the poet," attributing

he does not yet have, that

to the Pilgrim that

knows of Malacoda's

is,

knowledge

(the frog's) treachery.'^ Singleton at-

to justify this "oversight"

by noting

that the Pilgrim

does know the

evil intent of the devils, since they are evil

very nature; he

is

aware of

mouse)

that he (as the

their 'ill-will' [23.16]

will also be wrathful, since they

have been put

and fears

"can and

by

their

that they

to scorn; this suspi-

cion must serve as sufficient evidence of their intent to deceive."'"

While

this

may be

the case,

of this entire episode,

oping

and

its

to

i.e.,

look

at the

consistent reading I

have been devel-

Pilgrim's reflections on

as a concatenation of thoughts.

attention

called to the fable because of the "pre-

is

sente rissa" (23.5) between the into the pitch.

more

relationship to the events in this bolgia exactly as

they are described,

The Pilgrim's

believe that a

along the lines that

would be

in this essay,

the fable

I

at least

two devils and

Given Dante's assurance

their

subsequent

that there is

fall

no exact and

absolute equation between these events and the fable ("che più non

pareggia 'mo' e 'issa,'" in significance

the fable

is

7),

but different in form."^'

No

matter which version of

meant, the image of the conclusion (the "fine")

sonably accurate:

if

the

mouse and

is

eaten and the

the devils are

mouse

set free (as in

is

if

only the

Marie de France), then

thus guaranteed, for the evildoers receive their

proper punishment: the fiendish devils

Ciampolo

rea-

"swallowed up" by the pitch and Ciampolo escapes.

The moral lesson if

is

frog are both eaten by the kite,

then the two devils are "swallowed up" by the pitch; frog

si

Larkin rightly notes that they are "alike

(as the

to his usual state

mouse)

is

fall

into the pitch,

and even

"free" he has only "escaped" to return

of punishment. The image of the beginning

is,

as

Larkin suggests, that of Dante and Virgil's desire to cross the bolgia

Christopher Kleinhenz

148

and

encounter with the devils, the mouse's wish to cross the

their

water and

meeting with the

its

frog. In his two-part, temporally ret-

rograde reflections, the Pilgrim "rissa,"

gia.

first

considers the end ("fine"), the

and then the beginning ("principio"),

From

these two separate

moments

their arrival at the bol-

arise a concatenation of

two

thoughts which very logically yield a third:

E come

l'un pansier de l'altro scoppia,

così nacque di quello un altro poi,

che

la

prima paura mi

fé doppia.

(23.10-12)

The

objective analysis that the Pilgrim performs on the last and then

on the and

its

first

events of these cantos and their relationship to the fable

moral causes him

to

become apprehensive,

for he under-

stands only too clearly the paradigm of deception leading to ultimate destruction, alleled

which

which

the fable presents and

is

suggestively par-

The third thought prima paura mi fé doppia,"

intensifies his first fear ("che la

23.12) goes back to their

him

which

by the recent events he has witnessed.

initial

encounter with the devils and causes

to reevaluate their general attitude

and demeanor

in light

of their

subsequent actions and the perceptive and persuasive account given in the fable: Io

pensava

così: "Questi per noi

sono scherniti con danno SI fatta,

Se

sovra

l'ira

e

con beffa

ch'assai credo che lor nói. '1

mal voler s'aggueffa,

ne verranno dietro più crudeli

ei

che

'1

cane a quella lievre

ch'elli acceffa."

(23.13-18)

Even though

the Pilgrim will not be aware of Malacoda's actual

deception until the end of canto 23, his

initial

suspicions are

more

or less confirmed, and he again expresses his fear to Virgil: .

te

me

d'i io

"Maestro, se non

.

.

e

tostamente,

i'

Malebranche. Noi li

'magino

si,

celi

ho pavento li

che già

avem li

già dietro;

sento."

(23.21-24)

There

is

in

these

words a

flurry of references to

external appearances and internal realities,

all

concealment, to

of which serve to

Devilish Doublctalk in Inferno 21-23

149

heighten the vibrant state of tension which permeates the

third

first

of this canto. Even more importantly, this passage summarizes the

dichotomy of appearance and a

way of

reality so

dominant

in

cantos 21-22 as

preparing for the encounter with the hypocrites,

who

are,

of course, excellent examples of the perils of deceptive language. In fact,

image

when is

piombato vetro" (23.25), the

Virgil says "S'i' fossi di

very similar to and, indeed, anticipates the

way

which

in

the hypocrites will appear with their cloaks gilded on the outside and

leaden within: avean cappe con cappucci bassi

Elli

dinanzi a

che

in

occhi, fatte de la taglia

li

Giugni per

Di fuor dorate son,

ma

li

monaci

fassi.

abbaglia;

sì ch'elli

dentro tutte piombo, e gravi.

.

.

.

(23.61-65)

Claiming

to read the Pilgrim's

be able

to

concern about the Malebranche and they

may

escape, .

"S'i' fossi di

by which

are realized:

// their fears

.

.

mind, Virgil shares his

offers a possible plan

piombato

vetro,

l'imagine di fuor tua non trarrei più tosto a me, che quella dentro 'mpetro.

mo

Pur

venieno

con simile sì

i

tuo' pensier tra 'miei,

atto e

con simile faccia,

che d'intrambi un sol consiglio

S'elli è

che

si la

fei.

destra costa giaccia,

che noi possiam ne

l'altra

bolgia scendere,

noi fuggirem l'imaginata caccia."

(23.25-33)

Scarcely does Virgil mention the "imaginata caccia" (23.33) the

Malebranche suddenly appear

escape by sliding precipitously Virgil's action slides

who

down

the



in

down

into the sixth bolgia.

who

'

picking Dante up and holding him firmly as he

bank



is

instinctive,

rescues her child from a house

rational counsel he

when

hot pursuit of the wayfarers

gave

in vv.

of the land were such that

aptly likened to the fire.

mother

This contrasts with the

31-33, whereby

if

the configuration

they could descend into the next bolgia,

then they would in order to escape the "imaginata caccia" (23.33).

The

tentative,

conditional nature of Virgil's plan and the sudden

necessity of rapid action

would seem

to indicate that he did not take

Christopher Kleinhenz

150

the Pilgrim's fear too seriously. It is

not until the end of canto 23 that Dante and Virgil learn to

the latter' s chagrin the truth about the bridges over the sixth bolgia

and, thus, about Malacoda's lying words and ways.

words spoken by

The

sarcastic

the hypocrite Catalano chide Virgil for his apparent

naivete in dealing with devils: .

.

.

"I' udi' già dire a

Bologna

del diavol vizi assai, tra 'quali adi' ch'elli è

bugiardo e padre di menzogna." (23.142-144)

In the fifth bolgia devils and sinners are equated symbolically

through their mutual immersion of both groups

is

They

strategems. in large part

in the pitch.

The common ground

their incessant love of sinister play

and deceitful

co-exist in a constant state of tension determined

by the simultaneous and interactive currents of playful-

ness and seriousness and enhanced by ambiguous gestures and words

which only Dante and albeit is

Upon

entering this bolgia,

in this state

of tension, and their

hint at the truth of the matter.

Virgil, too, are

momentary

caught up

association with the denizens of this infernal zone

aptly suggested by the proverbially inspired tercet:

Noi andavam con li diece demoni. Ahi fiera compagnia! ma ne la chiesa coi santi, e in taverna coi ghiottoni.

(22.13-15)

Malebolge

is,

of course, the place in Hell where those guilty of

simple fraud are punished, and the concentration on the use and misuse of language in cantos 21-23 complements the attention given this

matter in the eighth circle, especially with the panderers and seducers, the flatterers, the diviners, the hypocrites, the false counsellors,

the sowers of discord, and the liars." In addition to the representation

of barratry, the episode

in the fifth

scribe the workings of fraud and

used rightly half-truths



to represent truth

and

lies.

bolgia

in part to

calculated in part to de-

— and wrongly —

In this episode devils

strange and shifting alliances are formed

wayfarers.

is

show how language can be to

deceive through

and sinners coalesce, and

among

Would-be deceivers deceive and

devils, sinners,

and

are deceived, just as

their innocent victims are

deceived precisely through the duplicitous

use of language, and

often only in retrospect that they

it

is

—and we

Devilish Doubleialk in Inferno

the readers



21-23

151

are able to discover the truth that has been so carefully

concealed behind the

veil

of words or within the very texture of the

words themselves. University of Wisconsin-Madison

NOTES *

The research

for this essay

was accomplished during

of fellowship

a period

support provided by Newberry Library (Chicago) and the National

Endowment

for the Humanities. 1

All passages from the

Commedia follow

the Petrocchi edition.

2 For Dante's use of the term "commedia" and Vulgari Eloquentia 2.4.5-6, and the Letter to [in

Opere minori],

as well as

De

changing meaning, see

its

Can Grande

{Epistola 13.28-31)

Quaglio 79-81. See also Inferno 16.128.

3 See Anceschi.

4 Another

words

to

recall to the initial, fearful stage in the

Malacoda,

in

which he discloses

on "questo cammin Silvestro" (21.84; 5

The Pilgrim's

intense fear

found

is

mission

is

in absentia,

life.

Dante

2.142).

cf. Inf.

On

in Virgil's

to lead

which continues throughout these cantos

a reflection of an episode in his

and condemned,

journey

that his

is

perhaps

January 27, 1302, Dante was accused

of having committed several crimes during his

terms of office as Prior (June 15-August 15, 1300), and

among

these a charge

of barratry.

6

In these four verses

all

the verbs are in the subjunctive

mood, and some have

an impersonal passive sense. Perhaps the absence of the indicative

would suggest

active verbs

a lack of force

on Virgil's

part,

and

mood and

this

would

in

turn indicate his eventual defeat at the hands of the devils.

7 See Inferno 3.94-96; 5.21-24; 7.8-12.

8 Commentators have noted the similarity between these two scenes. Sapegno, for example, notes the moral

dimension of

...

"Si ripete

in

la

situazione già sperimentata dei due pellegrini davanti alle

mura

la

ragione umana,

di Dite:

uralmente vinta, come la

paura

di



Dante, che è

in

risolutive dell'intreccio

Many

critics

in

ultima analisi più ragionevole e avveduta, qui è e diventerà

view Malacoda's response as

a leciura Daniis

da ultimo una delle forze

drammatico" (236).

opinion of Giuseppe Giacalone,

si

Virgilio troppo fiduciosa di sé, è nat-

dalla tracotanza, così qui dall'astuzia dei diavoli;

un elemento positivo della situazione

9

this episode:

diversa forma,

who

serious.

includes

by Scolari: "Allora l'orgoglio

in his

di

See, for example, the

commentary portions of

Malacoda cadde d'un

tratto,

afflosciò tanto che lasciò cascare l'uncino ai piedi. 'La terzina è grave,

con

accenti pesanti, con intensità sonora decrescente e rallentamento del ritmo,

sino all'esclamazione di Malacoda. Ornai: ora che c'è di

mezzo

la

volontà di

152

Christopher Kleinhenz

Dio, non c'è più nulla da fare, dobbiamo lasciare che vada' (Scolari, 23). situazione stessa dell'impotenza in cui è ridotto l'orgoglio del diavolo,

aver fatto intendere che a nulla avrebbe approdato sé

comica dinanzi

di

comicità" (419).

al lettore,

Among

the

works

Guido da

Buti,

I

colloquio, diventa di per

senza che D[ante] abbia avuto alcuna intenzione

Saffiotti Bernardi.

10 For further information, see 11

il

have consulted are

all

Pisa, the Ottimo, et al.)

major early (Francesco da

the

and modern commentators (Scar-

Sapegno, Singleton, Bosco-Reggio, Giacalone,

tazzini,

et al.), as

following general letture or specific studies of the cantos

Works

Bacchelli, Baglivi and

Cited):

pelli, Chiari,

La

dopo

well as the

question (see

in

McCutchan, Bertoni, Cesareo, Chiap-

Chini, Del Beccaro, Delia Giovanna, Favati, Montano, Needier,

Olschki, Pagliaro, Pietrobono, Pirandello, Principato, Roncaglia, Ryan, Sacchetto, Salinari, Sanguineti, Sannia, Sarolli, Scolari, Sozzi, Spitzer, Targioni

Tozzetti, Turri, and Wolf.

12 Favati 41-50, Nash 247, Olschki 80, and Owen. 13 Note the language used

whom

rator, to

non vuo'

se tu

di nostri graffi,

51), and, after they impale

/

non

him with

manner: "Coverto convien che qui caffi" (21.53-54).

"Non

altrimenti

carne con

li

i

far sopra la

pegola soverchio" (21.50-

their forks, they say in a very colloquial balli, / sì che, se puoi,

Their activity with this sinner cuoci a'lor vassalli

/

is

nascosamente ac-

described

fanno attuffare

in

kitchen terms:

in

mezzo

la

caldaia

la

/

uncin, perché non galli" (21.55-57). In addition to the similarity

and the representation of Satan and

between

this description

cooks

an infernal kitchen

in

Lucchese bar-

to describe the devils' treatment of the

they yell after he has been thrown into the boiling pitch: "Però,

homey, almost comic

who busy

his

minions as

themselves roasting souls, there

quality to the scene. For the so-called "kitchen

is

a

humor,"

see Curtius 431-435.

14 Litotes

is

incorporated for ironic effect, as, for example,

clares that everyone in

phasis mine).

Lucca

is

a "barattier,

when

the devil de-

fuor che Bonturo" (21.41, em-

Bonturo Dati was, of course, the most notorious criminal of

all.

15

On

the other hand. Salinari, for one, views the scene in the Arsenal as

simbolo del movimento e del tante atrocità che

16 For the

17 For

sono

piìi

lieto agitarsi dei diavoli e dei dannati

"il

pur fra

affermate che rappresentate" (626).

role that religious art plays in this parodie structure, see Kleinhenz.

this characteristic

della vera penitenza:

of the dolphin, see,

e.g.,

Jacopo Passavanti, Specchio

"quando vengono notando sopra l'acqua del mare, ap-

pressandosi alle navi, significano che tosto dee venire tempesta" (cited by

Sapegno 18

In it

in his

commentary, 247).

terms of the dual nature of the narrative and the double meaning of words, is

especially significant that this deceiver (Ciampolo) on the verge of per-

petrating his deception should be identified with a term that has

meanings, each of which presents a different face

two possible

to the audience.

Sapegno

Devilish Duublt'ialk glosses "lo spaurato" with

anche chi spiega: 'uscito

m

povcr Navarrcsc

"il

di paura,

21-23

Inferno

153

"Ma

atterrito," but notes

non più spaventato",

sia

c'è

perche rassicurato

dalle parole di Barbariccia contro Farfarello, sia perché già fiducioso di sfug-

gire ai diavoli

con

set forth here

I

la

sua astuzia" (25

would argue

both interpretations are

Given

that the

be so,

In line

with the reading of the episode

intentionally

is

if

he

to

is

knew he would

he

is,

still

be quite

20 For

for,

following biblical examples

(cf.

this interpretation,

cambia

to indicate

among

see,

others, the note in the

commentary by sua finzione,

di più nella

carte in tavola al diavolo, attribuendo alla parola malizioso

le

senso di 'malvagio,' mentre

il

ai

il

il

Con questo

diavolo intendeva dire 'astuto.'

espediente egli fa credere a Cagnazzo che avverte già

malvagio da procurare

an

Inferno 8.97).

Giacalone: "Ciampolo, vedendosi scoperto, insiste e

In

"no longer afraid" because

successfully deceive them.

of course, merely approximate,

number

indeterminate

he must

terrified, or at least

Proverbs 24:16), Dante uses seven here and elsewhere

(e.g.,

that

convince the Malabranchc of his earnestness.

the end, he will, in retrospect, appear to have been

19 This figure

ambiguous and

times and for different reasons.

circumstances (even though he has narrowly avoided harm

his present

to

).

term

true, but at different

from Farfarello), Ciampolo must

appear

1

rimorso

di esser così

suoi compagni, oltre a quello della pece,

il

tormento

uncini" (435).

(tristizia) degli

21 Sapegno 251.

22 Among other

early commentators.

Guido da Pisa

ego nimis, quando maioribus meis procuro timo

Commento

notes the ambiguity

translates: "Malitiosus

in the interpretation:

"Questo

sum

The Ot-

inferre tristitiam" (419).

testo alcuni

spongono maggiori, cioè mie' maggiorenti; alcuni spongono miei, cioè miei compagni, maggior

23 Da

tristizia

procuro

di quella ch'elli

abbiano" (392-393).

Buti, Voi. 1:579.

24 This use enti

/

the

is

same

as that in Purgatorio 33.25-26: "color che troppo rever-

dinanzi a suo' maggior parlando sono," where maggior

a indicare 'superiore per

grado eautorità'

25 For an excellent treatment of

is

"sostantivato,

" (Lanci 765).

this allusion

and

its

function within the entire

episode, see Larkin, "Another Lx)ok," with the corrective appraisal of Singleton 390-393. Other attempts at interpretation include the following: Padoan,

and Larkin, "Inferno XXIII." The version of the fable given collection

ium. In

Ilia

is

as follows:

grossum

petiit

medio vero flumine rana

Ille

validus

dum

rapuit, simul et

in the

se in

deorsum mersit

ut

miserrimo vitam eriperet.

teneret vires, milvus e contra volans

ranam pedentem

sustulit.

Sic enim et

murem cum unguibus illis

contingit qui de

salute alterius adversa cogitant" (text cited in Singleton 391). the fable

is

Romulus

"Mus dum transire vellet flumen, a rana petiit auxillinum, murem sibi ad pedem ligavit, et natare coepit.

certainly appropriate to the present events, for tho.se

The moral of

who

maliciously to harm others are brought to a bad end. The conclusion

de France's version of the fable

is

slightly different; there the kite

thought in

Marie

devours

Christopher Kleinhenz

154 the frog and sets the

mouse

free:

Li escufles par cuveitise

ad

la suriz lait, la reine

Mangie

prise.

l'ad e devoree,

e la suriz est deliveree.

(Marie de France, Fables, Fable

26 For an overview of

3, vv.

79-82).

the various proposed solutions, see Larkin,

"Another

Look."

27 Larkin, "Another Look" 98-99. 28 Larkin, "Another Look" 97-98.

29 Singleton 392. 30 Singleton 392-93. 31 Larkin, "Another Look"

32

I

would suggest

which

99.

the possibility of a double play

refers primarily to the pursuit

aged,"

conceived

i.e.,

in their

which

first

on the word "imaginata"

Dante and then Virgil "im-

mind; however, the term might also suggest

views the Pilgrim's thought as fantasy, as a purely hypothetical

Virgil

According

to this

second sense,

Virgil, despite his

grandiloquent claims, would

not yet fully understand the danger that they are in or that there has been

double dealing

in recent events.

that

point.

some

Again, the language hints that there are two

levels at play in the text.

33 On

the general question of the interconnections of language

and

sin,

see

Ferrante.

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4

La Commedia secondo

vols. Milano:

l'antica vulgata. Ed. Giorgio Petrocchi.

Mondadori, 1966-67.

La Divina commedia. Ed. Umberto Bosco and Giovanni Reggio.

.

3 vols. Firenze:

Le Monnier, 1982.

La Divina Commedia. Testo

.

riveduto col

commento

critico della Società

Dantesca Italiana

Scartazziniano rifatto da Giuseppe Vandelli. 17th ed.

Milano: Hoepli, 1958. .

Roma:

La Divina Commedia. Ed. Giuseppe Giacalone. Nuova

edizione.

Signorelli, 1988. .

Firenze:

La Divina Commedia:

La Nuova .

Italia,

Inferno.

Ed. Natalino Sapegno.

3rd ed.

1985.

Opere Minori. Milano-Napoli:

Ricciardi, 1979.

Anceschi, Freya. "Mirabilmente." Enciclopedia dantesca 3:970. Bacchelli, Riccardo.

"Da Dite

a Malebolge:

La tragedia

delle porte chiuse e la

farsa dei ponti rotti." Giornale storico della letteratura italiana 131 (1954):

1-32. Raglivi,

Giuseppe, and Garrett McCutchan.

"Dante, Christ, and the Fallen

Bridges." Italica 54 (1977): 250-262. Bertoni, Giulio. "Il canto XXIII

ûtW Inferno."

In Getto. Letture.

429-445.

Devilish Douhlctalk in Inferno 21-23 Cesareo, G. A. "Dante Chiappcili, Predi. Chiari, Alberto.

"Il

e

diavoli."

i

Nuova antologia (16 marzo

1918):

canto XXII delIVri/fr/io." In Getto. Letture.

primo canto dei

"Il

155 126-137.

415^28.

barattieri." Letture dantesche.

Firenze:

Le

Monnier, 1946. 1-44. Chini, Mario.

Il

canto XXII dell'inferno. Firenze: Sansoni, 1929.

European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans.

Curtius, Ernst Robert.

Willard Trask.

Da

New

di

Dante

York: Harper and Row, 1963.

Commento

Buti, Francesco.

di

Francesco da Buti sopra

Ed. Crescentino Giannini.

Allighieri.

3 vols.

Divina Comedia

la

Pisa:

Fratelli Nistri,

1858-62. Del Beccaro, Felice.

"II

canto XXII

dcW Inferno."

Lectura Danlis Internazionale.

Vittorio Vettori.

Letture dell'inferno.

Milano:

Ed.

Marzorati, 1963.

182-203. Della Giovanna, Ildebrando.

Il

canto XXIII dell'Inferno. Firenze: Sansoni, 1900.

Favati, Guido. "Il 'Jeu di Dante' (Interpretazione del canto

XXI deWInferno)."

Cultura neolatina 25 (1965): 34-52. Ferrante, Joan

M. "The

Relation of Speech to Sin

in the Inferno.'^

Dante Studies

87 (1969): 33-46. Getto, Giovanni, ed. Letture dantesche: Inferno. Firenze: Sansoni, 1955.

Guido da

Expositiones et Glose super

Pisa.

Cioffari.

SUNY

Albany:

Comediam

Dantis.

Ed. Vincenzo

Press, 1974.

Kleinhenz, Christopher. "Iconographie Parody

in

Inferno 21." Res Publica Lit-

terarum. 5.2 (1982): 125-137. Lanci, Antonio. "Maggiore." Enciclopedia dantesca 3:765-766. Larkin, Neil

M. "Another Look

Dante's Frog and Mouse." Modern Language

at

Notes 11 (1962): 94-99. .

'"Inferno XXIII,

4-9 Again." Modern Language Notes 81 (1966):

85-88.

Marie de France. Fables. Ed. and

Toronto: University of

trans. Harriet Spiegel.

Toronto Press, 1987.

Montano, Rocco. "L'episodio di Dante. Voi.

Needier,

Howard

I.

dei barattieri e lo stile comico." Storia della poesia

Napoli: Quaderni di Delta, 1962. 487-501.

1.

"Linguis

Hominum

et

Angelorum."

Italica

47 (1970): 265-

284. Olschki, Leonardo. "Dante,

i

barattieri e

i

diavoli." Giornale dantesco

38 (1937):

61-81.

L 'Ottimo Comento della Divina Commedia.

3 vols.

Pisa:

Niccolò Caparro,

1827-29.

Owen, D. D.

R. "Hell on the Stage."

The Vision of Hell.

New

York: Barnes and

Noble, 1970. 224-252.

Padoan, Giorgio.

"II

Liber Esopi e due episodi àeWInferno." Studi danteschi 41

(1964): 72-102. Pagliaro, Antonino.

"La rapsodia

Divina Commedia. Voi.

1.

dei diavoli." Ulisse: Ricerche semantiche sulla

Messina: D'Anna, 1967. 311-324.

Christopher Kleinhenz

156 Pietrobono, Luigi.

canto degli ipocriti (XXIII dell'Inferno).

//

Romana. Torino: Società Pirandello, Luigi. "Il canto Principato, Mario. Il canto

Lectura Dantis

Editrice Intemazionale, 1961.

XXI deW Inferno.'' XXI

dell 'Interno.

393-414.

In Getto. Letture.

Roma:

Signorelli, 1952.

Quaglio, Antonio Enzo. "Commedia." Enciclopedia dantesca 2:79-94. Roncaglia, Aurelio. "Lectura dantis: Inferno XXI." Yearbook of Italian Studies 1

(1971): 3-28.

Ryan, C.

J.

"Inferno XXI: Virgil and Dante:

A

Study

in

Contrasts." Italica 59

(1982): 16-31. Sacchetto, Aleardo.

Il

canto XXIII dell'inferno. Lectura Dantis Scaligera. Firenze:

LeMonnier, 1961. Simonetta. "Caprona." Enciclopedia dantesca 1:824-825.

Saffiotti Bernardi,

Salinari, Giambattista. "Il

comico

nella Divi/ia

Commedia." Belfagor 10 (1955):

623-641. Sanguineti, Edoardo.

Interpretazione di Malebolge.

Firenze:

Olschki, 1961.

97-171. Sannia, Enrico.

//

comico l 'umorismo e

la satira nella

Divina Commedia. 2 vols.

Milano: Hoepli, 1909. Sarolli,

Gian Roberto. "Musical Symbolism: Inferno XXI, 136-139; Exemplum

of Musica Diaboli Versus Musica Dei." Prolegomena alla Divina Commedia. Firenze: Olschki, 1971. 363-380. Scolari, Antonio.

Il

canto

XXI

dell'Inferno.

Lectura Dantis Scaligera. Firenze:

LeMonnier, 1961. Singleton, Charles S., ed. and trans.

Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy.

In-

ferno 2: Commentary. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970. Sozzi, B.

Tommaso.

Il

canto XXII dell'Inferno. Lectura Dantis Scaligera. Firenze:

LeMonnier, 1961.

"The Farcical Elements in Inferno, Cantos XXI-XXIII." Modem Language Notes 59 (1944): 83-88. Targioni Tozzetti, Giovanni. Il canto XXII dell'Inferno. Firenze: Sansoni, 1907. Spitzer, Leo.

XXI dell'Inferno. Firenze: Sansoni, "A Study of Dante's Distance from the Twenty-One and Two of the Inferno and Its Relation to

Turri, Vittorio. Il canto

1902.

Wolf, Hope Nash.

Creatures of Cantos

in

the

Preceding Cantos." Italian Quarterly 12 (1969): 239-251.

Use of Animals

Madison U. Sowell

Dante's Nose and Publius Ovidîus Naso: A Gloss on Inferno 25.45 For Kevin Brownlee and Roy Rosenstein*

Io scrittore [l'Ottimo trasse a dire altro

commentatore]

molte e spesse volte facea ch'erano appo

udii dire a Dante, che

che quello ch'avea

mai rima noi

suo proponimento;

in

ma

ch'elli

vocaboli dire nelle sue rime altro che quello,

li

sprimere. (L'ottimo

gli dicitori usati di

commento 183)

Ovid appears as an ostensibly minor character in one brief but highly charged episode of Dante's Commedia, that of the Pilgrim's and Virencounter with the famous poets

gil's in

who

constitute "la bella scola"

Limbo. After Homer and Horace, "Ovidio è

'1

terzo, e l'ultimo

Lucano" {fnf. 4.90).' Although the author of Dante's primary sourcebook for mythology (the Metamorphoses) receives a scant hemistich of attention and will be mentioned by the

Commedia

other time in the

(Inf.

name

of "Ovidio" only one

25.97), an authorial interjection near

the end of the fourth canto bears on the question of

Ovid

as an auctor really

may

be for Dante. In

how

significant

Inferno 4.145-47 the

Poet states that his lengthy task keeps him from discoursing as

much

as he should about the souls he sees:

non posso

Io

però che

ritrar di tutti a



mi caccia

che molte volte

The comment

many

"that

al fatto

Limbo may have

pieno,

lungo tema, il

dire vien

meno.

times the telling comes short of the fact"

challenges the reader to consider, in

il

if

nothing else, which of the souls

far-reaching significance not only in history but

also in Dante's divine

poem. What follows

is

burgeoning

evidence that, for the

Commedia, Ovid

add

to the

important an authority as Virgil



a

modest attempt

not only in the Paradiso,

is

where

to

as the

Metamorphoses strikes some as a nearly ubiquitous palimpsest far eclipsing the Aeneid as a subtext, but also at other crucial junctures of the poem, such as Inferno 25 where the issue of "poetando" (Dante's

word

in vs.

99)

QUADERNI ditalianisiica

is

dramatically addressed."

Volume X. No.

1-2.

1989

Madison

158

U. Sowell

Inferno 25 marks the passage of Dante the Character and his prod-

ding guide Virgil to the seventh bolgia of the eighth

circle, the

pouch

of the transmuting thieves. The canto ends with Vanni Fucci's meteorogically dense and woefully dark prophecy of the expulsion of the

White Guelphs from Florence,

The

Poet's exile.

the event

which

spiteful thief climaxes his

terzina of canto 25 with a

results in

speech

Dante the opening

in the

blasphemous ejaculation directed towards

God: a screamed vulgarity and obscene gesture with upraised hands. A serpent immediately silences Vanni by coiling itself tightly around his neck,

"come

dicesse 'No vo' che

diche' " (6), the

pili

first in

a

A sec-

series of "silencings" in a canto resonating with poetic voices.

ond snake simultaneously wraps around and immobilizes the thief's arms. There follow, in vss. 10-33 and in quick succession, a bitter invective against Pistoia, the thief's

hometown;

a parting

about Vanni's rebelliousness and swift departure from

comment

sight;

and a

description of the arrival and actions of the dragon-bedecked centaur

Cacus,

The

who

both guards and

late

Charles Singleton

is

punished

in his

in this bolgia.

commentary

states that

Dante's

Cacus distinguishes itself from that of the Virgilian and Ovidian traby being a centaur (rather than a "half-human," as in Aeneid 8.194) and by having a fire-belching dragon on its back (rather than dition

emitting flames from

its

own mouth,

asserts, in addition, that the

as in

Aeneid 8.198-99).

He

underlying text for Virgil the Guide's

remarks about Cacus (25-33) comes from the eighth book of the Aeneid, 190ff., and he deemphasizes (unfortunately,

Ovid's role

in

in

my

view)

the Dantean narrative.^ Ettore Paratore, on the other

hand, stresses that

when

Virgil the

Guide

details are decidedly Ovidian; for instance,

tells

Cacus's story, some

Cacus

is

clubbed

to death

(as in Ovid's Fasti 1.575-78) rather than strangled (as per Virgil's

Aeneid). Paratore finds such a correction highly notable "in quanto

il

ricordo dell'episodio è posto proprio in bocca a Virgilio" (93-94).

I

agree and believe that such a modification to

come. Dante the Poet,

in

other words,

is

only a shadow of things

makes

Virgil the Character

replace a detail found in his Latin epic with one traceable to the

Ovidian Fasti; ter's

this act anticipates,

on one hand, Dante the Charac-

remarkable silencing of his Guide and, on the other, Dante the

Poet's replacement of the Aeneid as a subtext in the remainder of this virtuoso

canto of metamorphoses.

Dante's Nose and Publias Ovidius Naso In narrative

sequence Inferno 25 next records

159

that, as Virgil

con-

tinues to speak, three spirits (Agnello, Buoso, and Puccio) arrive

who

and ask

and Guide are and where one of

the Pilgrim

number, Cianfa, was

behind (34-43). Virgil,

left

who was

their

own

previously

discoursing, does not have time to respond before Dante silences him

with a finger to his lips

from (Dante's) chin

or, as vs.

to nose:

(emphasis added here and This gesture, as a

symbol of

sive gloss, and

details the action, with a finger

"mi puosi

dito su dal

'1

mento

al

naso"

later).

found

illustrated in

Renaissance emblem books

silentiiim (see illustration), never receives an exten-

commentators almost always follow

they emphasize a

In brief,

offer

later

45

no suggestion

that

literal

the

same

lines.

interpretation of the gesture and

Dante may be engaging

in subtle but signifi-

cant wordplay."* Fourteenth-century commentators find the Pilgrim's silencing action as basically that and

little

more.

L'Ottimo

states,

quite succinctly, that Dante "fa certo segno a Virgilio, perchè stea

Da

attento" (1: 429). to

nose

"uno

is

et attento,

atto

Buti simply remarks that the finger from chin

che l'uomo

fa,

quando vuole

ch'altrui stia cheto

quasi ponendo stanga e chiusura alla bocca" (1: 646). Ser-

ravalle, near the

beginning of the fifteenth century, writes that the

placing of a finger "a mento usque ad nasum"

is

a

"signum optimum

ad reddendum aliquem attentum" and that Dante has made a recognizable "actum meditationis" (311). That the act or referent In our

is

an important sign

readily agree.

I

own

century Natalino Sapegno, in his magisterial com-

mentary, says that "Dante

fa

segno a Virgilio

di tacere,

perchè ha

udito nominare Cianfa e ha compreso che quel gruppo di dannati

dev'essere formato da suoi concittadini" (278).

"Dante places urging silence"

mentary,

we

(2:

More

436).

read that

a Virgilio, perché

comprende

Singleton remarks,

his forefinger over his lips in the familiar gesture

"il

recently, in the

Bosco-Reggio com-

gesto, naturalissimo, è per imporre silenzio

avendo

sentito

il

nome

trattarsi di Fiorentini" (368).

di

Cianfa Donati, Dante

Last of

all,

the Pasquini-

Quaglio gloss simply paraphrases the verse as "feci un cenno (mimico) di silenzio" (294).*^

As

early as the fifteenth century, however, at least one classical

parallel

had been adduced for Inferno 25.45. Christophoro Landino

describes the Pilgrim's action as a "cenno pel quale dimostriamo vol-

160

Madison

U. Sowell

In Silcntium.

Cm tdcet hdud quicquam Sultitié: cji

trgo promt

differt fapicntibm

mei,

index lingua^ uoxq;fu£.

labU$^digitoq; jìUnùafìgnct,

Bt fefe phdiwrtHcrtat in Hurpoçratcm. Illustration from Livret des Emblèmes de maistre Andre Alciat mis en rime francoyse e presente a monseigneur Ladmiral de France (sic)

Chrestien Wechel, 1536). Courtesy of Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. (Paris:

Dante ere che

's

Nose and Puhlius Ovidius Naso

faccia silcntio" and cilcb, as an analogue, Juvenal's "dig-

si

compesce labellum"

ito

[put your finger to your lip] (Satire 1.160).

This citation, although not did find

161

its

way

popular

at all

peo Venturi and Baldassare Lombardi, original observation (Venturi 313;

nineteenth century,

Tommaseo

commentaries of

who

Lombardi

n.

(212).

P.

Pom-

Landino with the

credits

more

Somewhat

mid-

In the

pag.).

refers readers to a

Metamorphoses 9.692

cal source:

today's commentaries,

in

into the eighteenth-century

likely classi-

later in the

Otto-

cento, G. A. Scartazzini, after noting that the verse under discussion is

same Ovidian

a "gesto naturale di chi chiede silenzio," cites the

passage (244). The line

in

Ovid occurs

in the story

of Ligdus and

his pregnant wife Telethusa. Just before giving birth at midnight, the

wife has a dream-vision

who

including one

vocem

in

which she sees various Egyptian gods,

enjoins silence with his finger ("quique premit

digitoque silentia suadet").^ This Egyptian god of silence

is

whose name appears in other classical poets, such as Catullus (74.4 and 102.7).^ The detail perhaps implied in Ovid but Harpocrates,

nevertheless missing

Loeb

the

lips."

exactly where Harpocrates places his finger;

is

Metamorphoses suggests

translation of the

Surely this

where Dante

is

well, but Dante the Poet insists

the finger's position a gesture suggestive

word naso at

it

we

to

make of

this

(when

in the lofty

nose ("dal mento

in

by having

first

rhyme

bolgia

But what are

eight times in the

is it?

Commedia, although

Paradiso. The appearances occur

naso

'1

is

lecchi"), 18.108

such "che con

li

(when

in

Inferno 17.75

mento

al

occhi e col naso facea zuffa"), 25.45 ".

.

has

".

.

'1

.

and 28.65

(in the description

naso tronco

(when Carlo d'Angiò maschio

dito su

'1 .

naso") and 128 (when the serpent-thief Guercio de'

Cavalcanti transforms his superfluous snakeskin into a la faccia"),

come

the stench of the flatterers'

(when, as noted, Dante silences Virgil by placing dal

a finger pointed

the usurer Reginaldo Scrovegni sticks out "la lingua,

bue che

that

naso"). In

al

position.

emphasis and how unusual

The word naso appears never

"on his

of an Ovidian passage, Dante's nose and the

are both emphasized, the

and the second by occurring

to

is

it

on wording the description so

from chin

is

that

the Character places his finger as

naso''), 10.62

is

.

naso a

who

Purgatorio 7.113

referred to periphrastically as first

.

of Pier da Medicina

infin sotto le ciglia"); in

(when, on the

".

".

.

.

colui dal

cornice. Dante refers to his

Madison

162

U. Sowell

senses of sight and smell metonymically as

".

.

.

li

occhi e

and 15.7 (when, on the second cornice, the rays of sun

'1

naso"),

strike

Dante

mezzo '1 naso"). Although in all three occurrences in the Purgatorio the word is in rhyme position, in the inferno only at 25.45 does the word appear in rhyme, and in the Commedia as a whole only in Inferno 25 does naso appear twice in the same canto, thus ultimately calling more attention to its presence and Virgil

there.

in full face or ".

.

per

While Luciano Graziano

that the

word

Enciclopedia dantesca claims

in the

always used "in senso proprio,"^

is

appearance

its

.

in

I

shall argue that

25.45 also constitutes a play on Ovid's

Publius Ovidius Naso.

My

last

name:

reasons for such a gloss are summarized

which follow.

in the six sections

(1) After Dante the Character silences Virgil the Guide, Dante

the Poet completely replaces the

Aeneid with subtexts by Ovid and

Lucan, though especially by Ovid, for the remainder of

this particular

canto. (Cf. Inf. 25.58-60 [image of ivy clinging to a tree] and

4.365 [the same image]; the

man] and Metam.

Inf.

Metam.

25.69-72 [Cianfa the snake and Agnello

A. 313-19

[Salmacis and Hermaphroditus];

Inf.

25.97 [Cadmus and Arethusa] as well as 25.103-08 [the series of infernal

metamorphoses] and Metam. 4.576-80, 586-89 [Cadmus]

and 5.572-641 [Arethusa].) The pointing

to the naso, therefore, is

not only a sign to Virgil the Guide to be silent but also a signal to the reader that (Publius Ovidius)

Naso

is

about to replace Virgil the

Poet as auctor for the canto's remaining verses. That naso to capture the reader's attention is attested

which follows immediately Se

in the

che is

next tercet (46-48):

io

che

'1

non sarà maraviglia,

vidi, a

pena

the reader addressed in vs.

Dante the Poet

meant

tu se' or, lettore, a creder lento

ciò ch'io dirò,

Not only

by

is

the remarkable address

is

then the Pilgrim

heard is

Perhaps because of

il

46

mi consento. (as "tu"

in the future tense in vs.

and "lettore") but

47

("io dirò")

and

represented in the past tense in vs. 48 ("vidi"). this close juxtaposition

most fused Pilgrim-Poet,

at least

of the reader to an

al-

one major commentator has even

interpreted the Pilgrim's gesture to Virgil in vs. 45 as an early warn-

ing signal to the reader to pay closer attention to narrative action

about to transpire.^

No commentator

has suggested that the gesture

invites deeper interpretation than that.

But Dante assuredly silences

Dame Virgil, narratively

clearly the ian verses.

Nose and Publias Ovidius Naso

and tcxtually, so

somewhat

that the reader

in the canto, a

may

63

more

discern

Ovid echoing through

altered voice of

I

the Ital-

be silent

to

later

shall treat next.

The subsequent appearance,

in

vs.

97, of Ovid's

Cadmo

di

name

in

d'Aretusa Ovidio")

e

Latin poet's importance to this canto of dra-

the

explicit

Ovid

the paradoxical ordering of

is

problem

unique rhyme position ("Taccia

makes

1

Perhaps what has previously hindered readers from sur-

mising as much

(2)

's

matic transformations, as does the canto's subject matter. Dante was acutely aware of the nature of Ovid's chief the

title

De Rerum

of the Metamorphoses as

monarchia 2.7.10. Certainly

in a

itself

ing Ovid, too, to be silent ("Taccia

contrast to that of Virgil,

my

is

done

in

.

.

would be appropriate

else. .

That Dante

is

that

command-

Ovidio") should not surprise

argument. The silencing of Ovid,

it

must be recalled

that

that, in

in

Ovid's silencing

a rhetorical fashion (the Latin convention of taceat

documented by Curtius [162-65]) calculated

name and

De

in

not a silencing on the level of narrative

is

Rather

action or imagery.

is, it

and something

the reader nor undermine

Transmutatione

canto dealing with the "transmuta-

tions of things," such as Inferno 25

naso signify both

work and even recorded

is

to call attention to his

point of fact, the rest of the canto resounds with

reworked Ovidian passages.

Does Dante,

then, only pretend to silence Ovid, or

poet truly silenced is

in

some

other sense?

that Dante, while incorporating

outdoes Ovid (and Lucan)

in the

The

is

the classical

traditional response

Ovidian (and Lucan) passages,

number and complexity of

trans-

formations and can, therefore, claim to silence the boasts of his predecessors. While such

may

well be the case,

silencing serves two other functions. First,

close poetic connection between that the craft of

making verse

is

it

I

believe the purported

actually dramatizes the

Ovid and Dante: both recognized

very similar to the acts of metamor-

phosis their poetry describes. Second, the racda-sequence points to the ultimate difference

between

classical poetry of transmutation

and

Christian poetry of conversion and transfiguration. For the reader to

recognize these two

facts,

however, Ovid's name and poetry must

be very much

in the forefront

on Ovid's

name

last

of the reader's mind

(in truth, a

placement of "Ovidio"

in

— hence

the play

metamorphosis) and the even bolder

rhyme with

"io non lo 'nvidio" (99). (Note,

Madison

164

U. Sowell

too, that "lo 'nvidio" contains the

Ovid's name

is

name "Ovidio" within

dismembered and remembered

"Ovidii," Latin genitive for "of Ovid"



in

and

it

that

every "io vidi"

142

as in vss. 48, 112, and

The

of Inferno 25 but also throughout the Commedia.)



Christian

poet performed a similar (admittedly inverted but nevertheless effective) act of

comparison

had the Pilgrim claim tentionally

numerous

make

parallels to

drowning

shipwreck

of his

St. Paul.

to them); later it

when he

2.32)

(Inf.

Paul (thereby in-

St.

of course he introduces

clear that the Pilgrim

a figure of

is

(Inferno 2.32 also encourages us to reread

sailor simile of Inferno

at the

poem

be neither Aeneas nor

drawing attention

both Aeneas and the

at the outset

to

1.22-27

in light

beginning of the Aeneid and also of

of Aeneas's St.

Paul's as

detailed in Acts 27.) (3)

as

Dante knew the cognomen of Ovid and even referred

Naso

in Epistola 3.4 in a significant

phrase referring to the au-

thority of the Latin poet: "Auctoritatem vero

even had Dante not indicated

aware of Ovid's

known Naso

it

last

name,

it

Nasonis" (2:534). But

in his writings that is

him

to

he was keenly

impossible that he could not have

given the extraordinary medieval debate over exactly what In Ghisalberti's exhaustive study of medieval bio-

signified.

graphies of Ovid, the classicist quotes from numerous manuscripts

which discuss possible possibility that that

it

rationales for

Naso

as a

cognomen, from

the

referred only to the size of his nose to the likelihood

referred symbolically to his

ity that

to

it

wisdom

(10-59).'°

The probabil-

Dante would have been familiar with and seriously attracted

such discussions

is

very high.

In addition to the large

number

and widespread locations of the medieval manuscript biographies of Ovid,

I

need only

cite

Dante's

own

Vita

Nuova dictum

that

"names

are the consequences of things" ("nomina sunt consequentia rerum")

and

his

own

preoccupation with the meanings of names

vanna and Beatrice) from the very beginning of

(e.g.,

Gio-

his poetic career.

Consider also the care with which he introduces souls whose names are remarkably appropriate, given their punishment or state,

Pier della Vigna

(who

Costanza (who appears

as a suicide has in the lunar

become

from

precisely a tree) to

sphere ironically because of her

lack of constancy). (4) is

That Dante

widely known.

is

capable of such wordplays as

In addition to his obvious play

I

am on

arguing for

VOM

(man)

Dante's Nose and Publias Ovidius Naso

famous Purgalurio 12.26-63

in the

where

subtle case of Inferno 8.62,

acrostic, '"1

I

165

would

more

cite the

fiorentino spirito bizzarro"

refers not only to Filippo Argenti but also to the irascible spirit of

But perhaps the most germane example, for

the Florentine people.

my in

purposes, occurs with the probable double meaning of "omero"

Paradiso 23.65:

Ma e

chi pensasse

ponderoso tema

il

V omero mortai che se ne carca,

noi biasmerebbe se sott' esso trema.

As

R. A. Shoaf insightfully points out in his discussion of this

passage, the mortal shoulder

'Omero'



////.

"Dante, with he

this

pun,

Homer; humble

is

Homer

"also the mortal

is

is

to

once bold and humble:

at

assume

('omero'

Shoaf argues

mortal because blind."

4.88),

the mortality implied

bold to say

by Homer's

blindness" (70)." Certainly the attitude of both Pilgrim and Poet Inferno 25 also underscores the boldness of both Dantes

grim when he points

own

to his

to

is

about

show how metamorphoses may

A truly

to

illustrate

be silent

to

God's purposes.

puns on the names of Homer and Ovid, then

role in the

Commedia'] Thanks

Jacoff of Wellesley College,

I

in

the Pil-

outperform both of them and

question to entertain but parenthetically at this point:

perform something similar for

tial



nose and silences his guide Virgil

and the Poet when he commands both Lucan and Ovid about their prowess as he

/

that

Virgil, to a

Dante

if

why does

he not

given that poet's fundamental

reminder from Professor Rachel

can refer the interested reader

to poten-

play in the case of Virgil (read Vergil) in Inferno 9.89's reference

to the

Angelic Messenger's "verghetta" and

sion to Tiresias's "verga."

in

As Robert Hollander

Inferno 20.44's allustates in his

informed

discussion of verga, virga, and Virgil in "The Tragedy of Divination in

Inferno 20": "[i]n both Inferno 9 and 20 Dante

shade of Virgil's involvement with divination the far-flung medieval speculations on the Vergil's) it

name

.

.

summons up ."

(183).

etymology of

(not to mention the superstitions tying

Virgil's (or

him

to

magic),

seems probable that the infernal appearances of verghetta and verga

are intended to remind us of the

Roman

with divination. Such wordplays,

if

poet's suspected connection

intentional, certainly

would help

prepare the ground for Dante's more pointed pun on Ovid's in

the

Given

"

Inferno 25.

last

name

Madison

166 (5)

Dante draws clear attention

poem by

"maschio naso" of France

III

is

discernment

(cf. St.

of Naples)

I

in his

7, in the Valley is

referred

which associated the nose with the

Gregory'^

two mighty princes by

),

me-

gift

unusual nasal characteristics are

their

activities; they

must pay

in

—may 1,

may

—one

over-

well reflect iconographically their

distorted discernment in spiritual matters. For even

as in the case of Charles

re-

Ante-Purgatory for the skewed

perspective they had while alive. Their abnormal noses sized and one undersized

in-

whose

preoccupation with worldly affairs kept them from more eternally

warding

of

the implications of Dante's referring

to the Valley of the Princes are rulers

Those confined

of

113) and as "nasuto" (vs. 124), while

(vs.

called "nasetto" (vs. 103). Because of the

dieval exegetical tradition

triguing.

two other personages

d'Angiò (Charles

the Princes episode. Carlo

to

to

reference to their noses. In Purgatorio

to as both

Philip

U. Sowell

be interpreted

if

a large nose,

bono as a sign of

in

wisdom would still make of his "maschio statement. The whole nasuto-nasetto episode in-

sagacity, his lack of earthly

naso" a most ironic

duces the attentive reader to re-evaluate for symbolic meaning previ-

ous noses

in the

Commedia,

especially the Wayfarer's, and raises the

distinct possibility that noses in

and characters

may be

closely linked

Dante's poetic imagination.''* (6)

As

an elaboration on and extension of

my

should like to close by calling attention to Dante's for identifying or describing so

some memorable or

many

fifth

argument,

artistic

I

propensity

of his characters by reference to

anatomy. Consider,

distinct part of their physical

few scattered examples in the Inferno alone, the emphasis on Beatrice's eyes (2.55); the hands of Virgil and the Pilgrim as the latter is initiated into the secret things of Hell (3.19); the mouths as a

of Francesca (5.136), Ugolino (33.1), and Satan (34.55); the chest

(and brow) of Farinata (10.35) and the petto of the

eyebrows of the sodomites when we

later the private parts

of one in

Mohammed

(28.29);

meet them (15.20) and particular (15.114); the feet and legs first

of the simonists (19.23) and later of Judas (34.63) and even Satan (34.90); the tongue and teeth of the ten

leader (21.137-39); the severed nose,

demons and

slit

throat,

the arse of their

and missing ear of

Pier da Medicina (28.64-66); and the head and hair of Archbishop

Ruggieri (33.2-3).

Why

does Dante record so many physical characteristics of souls

Dante's Nose and Publius Ovidius Naso

who

temporarily without bodies (except for the Pil-

are, after all,

Almost

grim)?

of the anatomical parts alluded to have been

all

abounds on Dante, and

discussed in the literature that

vious answer

that the

is

167

most ob-

the

medieval Poet/Artist was keenly aware of

the iconographie possibilities inherent in poetry, especially allegorical poetry.

(He exploits those

possibilities quite self-consciously

perhaps even more masterfully rio.)

He saw

in the

in the "visibile parlare"

various body parts not only a

way

and

of Purgato-

make

to

vivid

his portrayal of dead souls but also an opportunity to introduce, nat-

urally his

and

poem.

in

most cases unobtrusively, potent icons or symbols

When

cal characteristics,

"Why

this detail

into

the Poet chooses to highlight one of those physiit

especially incumbent

is

why

and

here?"

And

upon

the reader to ask,

so readers have been doing

The problem with the Pilgrim's gesture to his naso in Inferno 25.45 is that it works so well literally that it has not been heretofore elevated to the status of crux and begged for close scholfor centuries.

arly attention. Yet purposefully placed in

one of the most

theoretical of cantos,

naso requires not only

but also a gloss that

at least

commences

plastic

to take into

account the

larger context of Dante's poetic iconography as well as his

relationship with disturbs,

I

all

his auctores.

If

my

la

dynamic

particular reading of

can only plead as did the Poet before Così vid'io

and

a literal interpretation

me

{Inf.

naso

25.142-44):

settima zavorra

mutare e trasmutare; e qui mi scusi novità se fior la penna abborra.

la

Brigham Young University

NOTES *

The author

gratefully

participants in the

first

acknowledges

1985, and funded by the National ular,

I

should

director,

the assistance of

Dartmouth Dante

like to note the

Institute, held

Endowment

DDI

him as co-author of

participant

10,

that year's

"naso" as a pun

Roy Rosenstein of The American

to

College

listed

August

-

for the Humanities. In partic-

for the gloss of

on Ovid's name belongs I

faculty and fellow

June 30

encouragement and enthusiasm of

Kevin Brownlee. The original idea

in Paris.

all

this article until referees

pointed

out that the responsibility for writing, arguing, and presenting the gloss must lie

with the actual writer, arguer, and presenter. While accepting

full liability

Madison

168 for

any shortcomings

manner

in the

my

nevertheless acknowledge

I

U. Sowell

in

which

have glossed Inferno 25.45,

I

indebtedness to and esteem for Professors

Rosenstein and Brownlee by dedicating this commentary to them. 1

All quotations from the

Commedia

are

from the

by Giorgio

text established

Petrocchi as found in the edition and translation of Charles S. Singleton. In

my

any quoted translations of the Commedia are also by Singleton.

article

2 Guido Di Pino, for example, speaks of the "persistenza delle fonti ovidiane le quali, a partire dai canti del

a quelle virgiliane" (174).

located

A

paradiso terrestre,

sono

si

end of Ettore Paratore's entry on "Ovidio"

at the

sostituite di fatto

convenient bibliography on Dante and Ovid

would add

is

Enciclopedia

in the

work of two Dartmouth Dante

dantesca, to which

I

Institute colleagues:

Kevin Brownlee, "Ovid's Semele and Dante's Metamor-

the recent

Paradiso 21-23," and Peter

phosis:

S.

Hawkins, "Transfiguring the Text:

Ovid, Scripture and the Dynamics of Allusion" and "Dante's Ovid." 3 See Singleton, Inferno 2: striking respects

from

Commentary 432: "Dante's monster and Ovid.

that of Virgil

.

.

.

Dante most

differs in

other details of his description from Virgil (see Aen. 8.193-99).

mode

regard to the but Livy.

.

.

With

." .

.

who

Palmieri, S. I.,

is

dall'inferiore al superiore, seppure

Domenico

of

literal interpretations is that

says that Dante's action

a "gesto per indicar che si stia

comando che però non

suol farsi

non s'accompagna con qualche

tratto del

solo gesto porta con sé l'impronta di

il

.

of Cacus's death, Dante apparently followed not Virgil

4 Perhaps the most extended of the

zitto:

two

borrowed

likely

viso, che somigli a preghiera" (444).

5 But see note 9 below.

6 Ovid, Metamorphoses with an English Translation by Frank Justus Miller 52.

The verse quoted agrees

thoritative edition, P. Ovidii

7 Dante did not

know

in all its particulars

Nasonis Metamorphoses,

rather than

ed.

W.

Anderson.

S.

Catullus's poems, where references to Harpocrates are

charged with eroticism and where the god's finger

mouth

on the

lips.

is

assumed

to

Certainly Alciati's Harpocrates-like

scholarly reflection (see illustration) also suggests that the finger least partially in the

from chin

to

2:

with that of the more au-

mouth. Dante the Pilgrim,

nose and, therefore, on his

in contrast,

be in the

emblem of

may be

at

places his finger

lips.

8 In Enciclopedia dantesca 4:12, Graziano states that

"Il

termine [naso] ricorre

solo nelV Inferno e nel Purgatorio (una volta nel Detto). ...

È sempre

in

senso

The absence of the word naso in Paradiso stimulates speculation on of this word in Dante's poem. I believe naso's disappearance from the

proprio." the role

last canticle's

vocabulary possibily parallels the non-presentation of

same

at the

end of the poem symbolizes a new

canticle.

no

If there is

the Pauline raptus and described

then perhaps the

what

word naso must

the Paradiso as well.

Why?

I

St.

St.

Paul

Paul because Dante the Pilgrim/Poet

in the

the

St. first

Paul (one

who

has shared

in

Paul would not or could not),

necessarily be absent from the poetics of

can only respond with a conjecture.

The

Dante Dante whose nose

is

's

Nose and Puhlius Ovidius Naso

pointed to

in

who addresses Commedia concludes,

Inferno 25.45 and the Dante

the reader immediately thereafter

and

169

become one

as the

Dante's portrayal of trasumanar supplants completely the

that unified

now

Christian poet's need for any direct reference to the original (and

un-

questionably transfigured and surpassed) classical model of metamorphosing poetrv: Publius Ovidius Naso. Instead the

veiled formula of "io vidi"

in

name

will appear only in the highly

Paradiso, and even then

it

will recall with equal

force the Vulgate "vidi" of the Apocalypse.

9 See, for example, A. Momigliano, on Inferno 25.45:

medesimo tempo impone

della scena e nel

silenzio

"verso che dà

al

l'aria

lettore e fìssa già la

sua stupefatta attenzione su quello che seguirà" (188-89, emphasis added).

more extensive comment on

Cf. Pasquini-Quaglio, in the concluding,

canto: "L'improvviso,

ma non

dei pellegrini, voluto anzi dal vivo (v. 45), cade sotto le

stupito e

ammirato

forme

un appello diretto

di

al lettore

come richiamo

d'allarme, squilla

the entire

gratuito, stacco narrativo, nel silenzio intenso,

suona come un campanello

(vv. 46-48),

d'attenzione ad un incredibile spettacolo"

(301-02).

"As

10 Ghisalberti writes, ing

be an allusion

to

it

to the poet

cognomen Naso,

not every one agreed in believ-

to a physical characteristic

and one particularly suited

on account of the moral sagacity which enabled him

the difference

between virtue and vice" (27-8).

Hawkins of

ter S.

to the

the Yale Divinity

am

I

School for

to

smell out

indebted to Professor Pe-

drawing

first

how

Ghisalberti 's study and for offering suggestions as to

my

attention to

improve

to

my own

article.

11

For a favorable assessment of Shoaf's somewhat revisionist study, see

"Chaucer and

my

Three Crowns of Florence (Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio):

the

Recent Comparative Scholarship." 12 See Hollander's entire discussion of verga

Ovid, Statius, and Virgil on

in

pp. 176-84, as well as Dante's other uses of verga in Purgatorio 14.102 and

27.80.

I

here should like to express

for his lectures at the earlier draft of

my

1985

"Thy nose

the nose

as the tower,

is

appreciation to Professor Hollander

for his having read

and critiqued an

bk. 31, sec. 44, on the

Song of Solomon

work.

13 See S. Gregory the Great, vol. 3, 7:4,

my

DDI and

between odours and

pt. 2,

which

is in

foul smells.

And what

but the farseeing discernment of the saints?" sect. 37,

is

is

distinguish also by

designated by the nose,

See also vol.

2, pt. 3, bk.

on Job 21:5, "And lay your finger upon your mouth": "seeing

our fingers

by the

"We

Libanus":

we

fingers.

distinguish things severally, discretion .

.

.

And

so the finger

bridled by discretion, that by what

is laid to it

utters,

the

is

15,

by

not unfitly represented

mouth, when the tongue

may

it

that

not

fall into

the sin of

foolishness."

14

One commentator

has even proferred

a possible

connection between Dante's

gesture to the nose and another Valley of the Princes event. letto

suggests that "questo luogo

[Inf.

25.45]

fa,

in parte,

Giacomo Po-

rammentar

l'altro

Madison

170

U. Sowell

dell'Anima nella valletta de' Principi {Purg.

mano" (emphasis

in the originai).

8.9),

che l'ascoltar chiedea con

Most commentators, however, would

likely

see a biblical, rather than classical, source in the purgatorial passage cited by Poletto



Acts 13.16, where

to wit.

St.

Paul motions with his hand for silence.

(See, for example, Singleton's gloss. Purgatorio 2:

Commentary

160.)

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Alighieri, Dante.

Ed.

P.

V. Mengaldo

et al.

Vol. 2.

Milano:

Ricciardi, 1979.

Bosco, Umberto, and Giovanni Reggio, eds. La Divina Commedia: Inferno.

By

Dante Alighieri. Firenze: Le Monnier, 1982. Brownlee, Kevin. "Ovid's Semele and Dante's Metamorphosis: Paradiso 21-

Modem Language Notes

23."

101 (1986): 147-56. Published

version, as "Dante's Poetics of Transfiguration:

in

an expanded

The Case of Ovid."

Literature

and Belief (1985 [published in 1987]): 13-29. Curtius, Ernst Robert. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans.

W.

Da

R. Trask. Princeton: Princeton

Buti, Francesco.

di

Dante

UP, 1973.

Commento di Francesco Da

La Divina Commedia

Buti sopra

Allighieri. Ed. Crescentino Giannini. Vol. 1. Pisa: Nistri, 1858. di critica dantesca. Bari: Adriatica, 1973.

Di Pino, Guido. Temi Ghisalberti, Fausto.

and Courtauld

"Mediaeval Biographies of Ovid." Journal of the Warburg

Institutes 9 (1946):

10-59.

Graziano, Luciano. "Naso." Enciclopedia dantesca. 6 vols. Roma:

Istituto della

Enciclopedia Italiana, 1970-78.

Gregory the Great. Morals on the Book of Job

.

.

Translated.

.

Oxford:

J.

H.

Parker, 1850.

Hawkins, Peter

S. "Transfiguring the Text:

Ovid, Scripture and the Dynamics of

Allusion." Stanford Italian Review 5.2 (1985): 115-39.

"Dante's Ovid." Literature and Belief {\985 [published in 1987]): 1-12. Hollander, Robert. Studies in Dante. Ravenna: Longo, 1980.

Comento

Landino, Christophoro.

Comedia

di

di Christophoro

Dante Alighieri poeta

fiorentino.

Landino fiorentino sopra

Brescia:

la

Boninus de Boninis,

1487.

La Divina Commedia, novamente

Lombardi, Baldassare. difesa

da

F. B. L.

corretta spiegata e

M. C. Roma: Fulgoni, 1791.

L'Ottimo commento della Divina Commedia: Testo inedito d'un contemporaneo di

Dante

citato dagli

Accademici della Crusca. Voi.

1.

Pisa:

Niccolò Capurro,

1827.

Momigliano, A. La Divina Commedia commentata da A. Momigliano. Firenze: Sansoni, 1951.

Ovid.

Metamorphoses with an English Translation by Frank Justus

vols.

Cambridge,

MA:

P. Ovidii

Miller.

2

Harvard UP, 1946.

Nasonis Metamorphoses. Ed.

W.

S.

Anderson. Leipzig:

Dante

Nose and Puhlius Ovidius Naso

's

171

Teubncr. 1977.

Domenico,

Palmieri, Voi.

S.

I.

Commcnio

Commedia

alla Divina

di

Dante Alighieri.

Prato: Giachctti, 1898.

1.

Paratore, Ettore. .

Nuovi saggi danteschi. Roma:

Signorelli, 1973.

"Ovidio." Enciclopedia dantesca.

6 vols.

Roma;

Istituto della

Enciclopedia Italiana, 1973. Pasquini,

Commedia:

Emilio and Antonio Quaglio, eds.

Inferno.

Milano:

Garzanti. 1982. Poletto,

Giacomo.

Prof.

Giacomo

La Divina Commedia

Dante Alighieri con commento del

di

Roma: Desclée, Lefebvre, 1894. La Divina Commedia. Voi. 1. Firenze: La Nuova

Poletto.

Sapegno, Natalino, ed.

Italia,

1968. Scartazzini, G. A.

La Divina Commedia di Dante Alighieri riveduta nel

commentata da G.

De

testo e

A. Scartazzini. 3rd ed. Milano: Hoepli, 1899.

Serravalle, Frater lohannes. Fratris lohannis de Serravalle Translatio et co-

mentum

totius libri

Dantis Aldigherii

cum

textu italico. Prato: Giachetti, 1891.

Shoaf, R. A. Dante, Chaucer, and the Currency of the Word: Money, Images, and

Reference

in

Late Medieval Poetry. Norman,

Singleton, Charles S.

OK:

The Divine Comedy of Dante

Pilgrim Books, 1983.

Alighieri. 6 vols. Princeton:

Princeton UP, 1970-75.

Sowell, Madison U. "Chaucer and the Three Crowns of Florence (Dante, Pe-

and Boccacio):

trarch,

Recent Comparative Scholarship."

Journal of the

Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association 6 (1985): 173-82.

Tommaseo, Niccolò. Commedia

di

Dante Alighieri con ragionamenti e note

di

Niccolò Tommaseo. Milano: Rejna, 1854. Venturi, P.

del P.

Pompeo. La Divina Commedia

Pompeo

di

Dante Alighieri

Venturi. Firenze: Ciardetti, 1821.

.

.

.

col

commento

Margherita Frankel

Juno among the Counterfeiters: Tragedy vs. Comedy in Dante's Inferno 30

Canto 30 of the Inferno begins with an unusually extended simile,

Commedia:

the longest in the

Nel tempo che lunone era crucciata per Semelè contra M sangue tebano,

come mostrò una

e altra fiata,

Atamante divenne tanto insano, che veggendo la moglie con due andar carcata da ciascuna mano, gridò: la

"Tendiam

leonessa

le reti, sì

ch'io pigli

e' leoncini al

e poi distese

figli

varco";

dispietati artigli,

i

prendendo Tun ch'avea nome Learco, e rotollo e percosselo ad e quella s'annegò

E quando

la

con

un sasso;

l'altro carco.

fortuna volse in basso

l'altezza de' Troian che tutto ardiva,

che 'nsieme col regno



Ecuba

trista,

re fu casso.

il

misera e cattiva,

poscia che vide Polissena morta, e del suo Polidoro in su la riva del

mar

fu la dolorosa accorta,

si

forsennata latrò tanto

Ma



si

dolor

il

di

Tebe



come

le fé la

cane;

mente

torta.

furie né troiane

vider mài in alcun tanto crude,

non punger quant'io vidi

bestie, in

nonché membra umane,

due ombre smorte e nude,

che mordendo correvan che

'1

di

quel

porco quando del porcil

Almost unanimously

the

modo si

schiude. (1-27)

commentaries record

a

puzzled reaction.

Bosco points out the "scarsa rispondenza" between the figures of Atamante and Hecuba and those of Gianni Schicchi and Mirra compared QUADERMI

diialianisiica

Volume X. No.

1-2.

1989

Margherita Frankel

174

coming out of the

to pigs

States:

"Atamante, Ecuba e

sty:

il

porco coesistono

una sola molecola fantastica" (425).

Momigliano

"Dal classico siamo piombati nel grottesco:

tragicamente

malamente

in

ma non

bello l'uno, plebeamente stupendo l'altro; l'altro" (613).

Emilio Bigi admits

fusi l'uno

and "sproporzione" between the simile and the rushing

two

"E

falsifiers:

con

an impression of "dissonanza"

to

of the

in

chiede perché mai Dante abbia voluto intro-

ci si

durre questa rapida e brutale descrizione mediante un così vistoso

indugio su due episodi

makes cordi rosa,

the point even

"Ma

strongly:

pettegolezzi di farmacia,

e

contaminano

di

ri-

gazzettino

il

diffamazioni municipali

le

fra gl'ingredienti capitali della vasta

XXX"

per chi tanto lusso di

La cronaca nera

regie sventure? ...

illustri, di i

mitologica pazzia" (1064). Contini

illustri di

more

.

.

.

sono

Dante" ("Sul

449).

Let US examine the few solutions offered to explain the presence

Sapegno believes

of the simile.

that

it

expresses "la disposizione

distaccata e curiosa del pellegrino" as he examines the contemptible sins of this bolgia. Bigi sees in

Dante

it

a "precisa funzione morale" since

each mythological scene the "colpa religiosa" and

states in

the ensuing "ineluttabile effetuarsi di una terribile punizione divina."

The two myths would make

explicit the presence of the "giudizio

divino" in the torments of the counterfeiters (1067-68).

words, the two sets of punishments



in the

myths and

—would be product of same kind of divine work and God would be equated with Juno— an unacceptable hypothesis. Besides,

bolgia

the

the

if

"moral function," one wonders

for

justice at

the vengeful

the Christian

punishment only

justify divine

In other

in the tenth

the simile had this

why Dante would in the

feel the

need

to

case of the falsifiers and not

any other of the damned souls.

It

is

difficult to

perceive the necessary tertium comparantionis

between the two terms of the comparison. The protagonists of the mythological stories are undone by a vengeful goddess through no fault of their

sinners to sin

punished

placed

of the

own; they bear no conceivable resemblance

whom

at the

in this bolgia.

Let us remember that the simile, though

beginning of the canto,

falsifiers

to the

they are compared, either in terms of guilt or of the

which has

then resumes in canto 30.

is

inserted into the episode

started in the previous canto,

The

and which

simile thus constitutes a break in the

Juno amon^

the Counterfeiters

75

1

plebeian and ribald atmosphere of the tenth bolgia, an odd interlude

of royalty and tragedy

of petty sinners.

middle of

the

in

way,

In a

it

mostly low-class group

a

the opposite of

is

what Dante does

in

Purgatorio 6 where the zara simile introduces a jarring note of coarse venality after the dramatic stories of noble souls in Purgatorio 5. In either case the result

is

an imbalance of tone and a startling contrast

What emerges

of contents and style registers. is

mismatching of expressive means,

a

a

clearly in canto

30

promiscuous mixture of

high and low tones, a lack of connection between the mythological

exempla and the

poem

the

is

One of

infernal reality.

given one of the

Moreover, as Bosco observes non

si

scorge

the

in his

commentary:

ragione dell'avere accomunato

la

most vulgar cantos of

loftiest exordia.

il

fosse

il

Gianni e

This

is

di

Mirra ...

invece

e

an important point:

il

if

mas episode to Juno's

is

regina

pazzia. Se questa

la

malattia anche di

there

is

is

no connection between the

there a

common

denominator

between the two protagonists of the mythological

Dante takes

la

la

poeta parla più volte di rabbia. (425)

vehicle and the tenor of the simile, at least

tebano e

re

hanno di comune tra loro, se non denominatore comune, essa dovrebbe essere

troiana: nulla essi

stories?

his material

from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The Atha-

described in

Book 4 (416-562), and Dante's

wrath against the Theban blood

is

reference

indeed based on Ovid's

Hecuba episode

descriptions of her irate jealousy of Semele. In the

(13.399-575), conversely, Ovid does not ascribe her fate to Juno's hatred.

Accordingly, Dante does not mention Juno

in the lines

he

devotes to Hecuba's sad plight. It

is,

however,

my

contention that the

tween Athamas and Hecuba

is

common

reasons not immediately apparent, seems to

episode of the previous canto, introduces a

falsifiers

Non

simile on the

same

subject:

credo ch'a veder maggior

quando li

il

fu l'aere

tutti, e

secondo che

i

tristizia

popol tutto infermo, pien di malizia,



animali, infino

cascaron

In the

sees the punishment of these sinners, he

fosse in Egina

che

Dante, for

have placed the whole

under the shadow of Juno's wrath.

when he

first

denominator be-

indeed Juno's revenge.

al

poi

poeti

picciol

le

vermo,

genti antiche,

hanno per fermo.

Margherita Frankel

176

seme

ristorar di

si

di

formiche;

ch'era a veder per quella oscura valle languir

per diverse biche.

spirti

li

29.58-66)

{Inf.

In this case, as in that of Hecuba, Dante does not mention Juno as Yet, in Ovid's version of the

the cause of the catastrophe.

myth

"A dire pestilence came on my wrath, who hated us for that our land

(7.523-660), King Aeacus says:

people through angry Juno's

was

called by her rival's name."^

Juno

refer to

mean

in the

he seems to have her wrath

Thebes and Troy.

Ovid

If

in

either,

does not necessarily

unconnected with Juno.

mentions Juno only

explicitly

Dante does not

the fact that

Hecuba exemplum

that he sees her fate as

Dante

Thus

mind

in the first line in all three

Although

of canto 30,

legends of Aegina,

attributes to Juno's

revenge only the

undoing of Aegina and Athamas, we can find Juno's involvement the Trojan tragedy elsewhere, specifically in Dante's principal

in

and

constant source: Virgil.

who knows

Dante,

Aeneid

the

"tutta quanta" {Inf.

20.114), must

poem

of course be aware of the fact that the Virgilian

ascribes to

Juno's intervention not only the obstacles facing Aeneas throughout, but also the

bemoans

fall

After asking the

deum" could perils,

From

of Troy.

the enmity of Juno:

Muse to tell him the cause for which man remarkable for his "pietas" "Can resentment so

And more at

wrath and her

.

.

.

"^

the "regina to so

many

dwell in heavenly

down:

mindful of the old war which erstwhile she

Troy for her beloved Argos bitter

fierce

explicitly he explains further

The daughter of Saturn had fought

"cruel Juno's unforgiving wrath.

drive a

he wonders:

breasts?""'

the very beginning of his epic, Virgil

— not

yet had the cause of her

sorrows faded from her mind: deep

in her heart lie

judgment of Paris and her slighted beauty's wrong, her hatred of the race and the honors paid to ravished Ganymede {Aen. 1.23-28)'* stored the

.

These and other examples, too numerous Virgil's choice of the root of all the that will afflict

revenge.

As

W. Johnson

Aeneas and recurs it

a dark

.

to quote,

that

clearly

show

had befallen Troy and

Aeneas: Juno's undying wrath and burning desire for

R.

observes (14), Juno's anger

being the central theme of the Aeneid.

upon

ills

.

It

insistently until the

shadow of

cruelty.

underlies the

is

close to

whole story of

end of the poem, conferring

Juno among Dante's digression

177

the Counterfeiters

Inferno 30, with the account of the dire

in

effects of Juno's vindicliveness, as well as his reference in the Vita

Nuova that

to

Juno as "una dea nemica de

Troiani" (25.9),

li

may

suggest

he shared the AcneiiCs concern with the theme of Juno's wrath.

Like Virgil before him, Dante too seems to have been struck by the irrational

and all-encompassing hatred of Juno, not

families, descendants, or even their

whole

just

of their immediate

races.

She exterminates

the entire population of Aegina, just as she destroys

and kin and

towards her

all

direct rivals for Jupiter's love, but also towards

conspires to bring about the fall of

Semele's

sister

Troy and thus the

annihilation of Paris's family.

Juno may represent,

in

Dante's eyes, the essence of the pagan

conception of divine power, arbitrarily exercised to evil and unjust ends. that

It

is

some

therefore unreasonable to believe, as

critics do,

Dante could equate the punishing justice of the Christian

with the atrocities

her path to revenge. to the true

who

God's

God

of Juno indiscriminately sowing destruction on If

anything, Dante

justice

is

the

is

showing how

pagan vengeance

essentially are innocent victims.

antithetical

inflicted

upon those

Let us remember

that,

when

entering the tenth bolgia Dante says: e aller fu la

mia

vista pili viva

giù ver' lo fondo, là 've

de

la

ministra

l'alto Sire infallibii giustizia

punisce

i

falsador che qui registra. {Inf.

It

would be surprising indeed

if

29.54-57)

Dante deemed necessary

to call

on

Juno's help to show the fairness of what he himself defines as the infallibii giustizia

Of

course,

if

problem: what explanations



of l'alto Sire.

we

is

reject that hypothesis,

my

still

are left with the

30? The other

ironic detachment, display of erudition

as they are implausible. in

we

the purpose of the simile in Inferno



are as easy

Undoubtedly, an imitation of Ovid and,

opinion, Virgil seems to be a reasonable justification for the

simile.

Dante

at

times admits to his

illustrious predecessors, as he

own

desire of emulating his

does for example

in

Inferno 25.94-99.

But this could only be the beginning of an explanation. Bigi sees the simile elaborated with an explicit rhetorical effort,

even

if

"not always poetically valid. "^ In

my

opinion, Contini seems

Margherita Frankel

178 to

be more to the point when he speaks of the "andatura prosaica we place side by side this simile with the

dell'elocuzione" (448). If

extended comparison

we

find in Inferno 24.1-21,

the striking difference between the

can but notice to their

first six lines of the villanello simile are laden

The

rhetorical devices.

we

two passages with respect

with circumlocutions, personifications, metaphors, literary allusions and conceits. There is nothing comparable in Inferno 30.1-27. Here the language l'un ch'avea

simple, even pedestrian, as in line 10 ("prendendo

is

nome

Learco"), not too elegant, as in line 15

casso"). Besides the few elements noted by Bigi, the presence of a few alliterations, i

dispietati artigli."

But there are no

villanello simile or

segment of the

most notably

Commedia. Dante would seem

I

("il re

in line 9:

"distese

rhetorical figures as in the

even

in the

fu

would only add first

general language of

the

have deliberately refrained from giving an

to

ornate vesta to this trope, establishing an almost peculiar contrast

between the high tone of the content and the "prosaic" style of the elocution. But why? If what Dante is doing is setting himself in competition with to use their

there

may

is

Virgil, he

may be

lofty material in a plain,

suggesting that he

is

able

unadorned language. That

a certain polemical intent in his citation of classical sources

perhaps be manifest

in the first

"Juno" simile

29.58-66).

{Inf.

he relates that the exterminated population of Aegina was re-

When

stored "di poeti

Ovid and

same

seme

di

formiche," he interjects the

hanno per fermo"

sarcastic since

eration

it

(63).

line:

"secondo che

precedes the unlikely dénouement of a

from the seed of

i

That "per fermo" undeniably sounds

ants.*^

But

is

human gento make a

Dante just trying

not too novel point about the untruthfulness of the classical poets?

Moreover, the two other examples concerning Athamas and Hecuba are not vitiated by the

Considered by

same character of improbability.

itself,

interpretive difficulty.

of course, the simile of canto 30 presents no It

is

the context that

makes

it

appear wrong

and puzzling. The downfall of Theban and Trojan royal houses

is

what Bosco appropriately calls "peccati da commeevoked dia" (425). Perhaps it is in this remark that we can find a solution to set off

to the I

problem.

have already argued elsewhere

that

Dante

is

concerned with

establishing a contrast between Virgil's alta tragedia and his

own

Juno amun^

comedìa^

1

had used the theme of Juno's wrath

Virgil

develop his of

the Counterfeiters

epic poem, from

the

to introduce

79

and

of Troy to the violent battles

fall

Tales about tragedies of cataclysmic proportions, mournful

Italy.

individual deaths, the destiny of a race, the future of

Rome and

of the

world, are the subjects of the Aeneid through which the vindictive

anger of the goddess

is

interwoven. Dante selects the same starting

point of Juno's resentment to

running

What

us about two infuriated "ombre"

tell

fashion of the "porco quando del porcil

in the

way

originates alia tragedia in Virgil gives

si

schiude."

low comedy

to

in

Dante.

What may

also strike us as unusual is

had pretended

be someone else

The other ombra

her father.

is

mule

who

lie

incestuously with

Gianni Schicchi, a

man from modem

His sin of impersonation

times. a

to

the identity of these souls

is

Mirra, a character from classical antiquity,

thus paired: one

in

to

order to

draw

for himself can only elicit an

a fake will

and thus gain

He By having him

amused

of a joker, a trickster, than an evil sinner.

reaction.

more

is

defined

as a "folletto," Dante signals the playful and mischievous character

of the Florentine

falsifier.

surely no madness

in

It

him or

is

hard to take him seriously. There

modest greed. His

in his rather

is

farcical

story of course clashes with the darkness of desperate and unnatural

love surrounding "l'anima antica the

words used

dignity in evil. a

hog

let

/

di

Mirra scellerata," where even

to describe the soul confer

What Dante

takes

on her an aura of

away when he

tragic

assimilates her to

out of the sty and therefore, as Singleton indicates (549),

running on

all

back

fours, he gives

in the lines identifying her.

But,

by pairing her with Gianni Schicchi, he reinforces her debasement.

Tragedy racing along with comedy on hands and

feet

can hardly

What Dante has done at the beginning of the canto, comparing Athamas and Hecuba to the two "ombre smorte e nude" moving in a hog-like fashion, he continues doing in preserve

its

original loftiness.

same two

the subdivision of these

low side by side and,

in the

A

different kind of contrast

Master

Adam

is

new

awe and

comedy wins over and terror.

established for the central character

appears as a grotesque figure.

the language used to introduce the the beginning of a

Again he places high and

contamination,

blankets out any possible effect of

of the canto.

spirits.

episode:

new

soul

is

"Io vidi un

solemn

...

"

Yet,

in signaling

(49).

The

Margherita Frankel

180

deformities caused by his dropsy are horrifying. Yet, the description is

formulated by means of rare and

difficult

expressions and rhymes

of the refined {a guisa di lento, dispaia, rinverte)

in a juxtaposition

and the vulgar (anguinaia, forcuto, ventraia). Master Adam's speech, with a single exception,

is

couched

an

in

elevated language:

"O

vol che sanz'alcuna pena siete,

e

non so

io perché, nel

mondo gramo,"

"guardate e attendete

diss'elli a noi,

Adamo; ..."

a la miseria del maestro

(Inf.

As

generally noted, these words echo Jeremiah's Lamentations:

vos omnes qui sicut dolor

passate,

grave"

on

as a

per viam, attendite

transitis

meus"

(7.3).

It is

/

s'elli è

si

"O

est dolor

Nuova Dante had la via d'Amor

dolor alcun, quanto

'1

mio,

important to remember that the sorrow Dante refers

that occasion is only a pretense:

schermo

/

same passage: "O voi che per

attendete e guardate

/

videte

et

In a sonnet of the Vita

(1.12).

already paraphrased the

to

30.58-61)

the lady Dante had adopted

to hide his true love for Beatrice

and, afraid that his ruse

would be unmasked

ness, he wrote that sonnet.

To

if

had

left

Florence

he displayed no sad-

feign grief, Dante thus resorted to the

hyperbole of Jeremiah's Lamentations, as though only an exaggerated display of despair could lend credibility to his false complaint. In Inferno 28 Bertran de

Born addresses Dante by resorting also

to

Jeremiah: .

.

.

"Or vedi

la

pena molesta,

tu che, spirando, vai

veggendo

vedi s'alcuna è grande

i

morti:

come questa ..." (Inf 28.130-32)

Bertran paraphrases only the si

last part

of the Biblical passage ("videte

est dolor sicut dolor meus") while Master

"O vos omnes

qui ...

,

attendite et videte

Adam ..."

only the It

/

first part:

would almost

seem as though the speeches of Bertran and Master Adam complemented each other. But are they meant to be a sincere expression of sorrow or

is their

going back

to so

noble a source as a Lamentation

of Jeremiah rhetorical affectation and hence a signal that their suffering in that

is

much Nuoval

not to be taken too

episode of the Vita

at heart, as

Dante's

own was

not

Juno amony,

The

181

(he Counterfeiters

Biblical references continue in the next lines: "io ebbi, vivo,

assai di quel ch"i" volli,

(62-63).

It

is

un gocciol d'acqua bramo"

e ora, lasso!,

/

now Luke's

parable about the rich

The

evoked (16.23-24).

man and

the poor

wealth of citations

from

Lazarus

that

classical

and Biblical sources increases the contrast with the venal

is

milieu of petty falsifiers and counterfeiters.

Master Adam's speech then

shifts to a lyrical tone:

Li ruscelletti che d'i verdi colli del Casentin discendon giuso in

faccende

sempre mi stanno innanzi, che l'imagine

che

La

'I

Arno,

lor canali freddi e molli,

i

male ond'io

non indarno,

e

lor vie più

m'asciuga

mi discarno. mi fruga

nel volto

rigida giustizia che

tragge cagion del loco ov'io peccai a metter più

li

miei sospiri

in fuga.

30.64-72)

{ìnf.

The

rhetorical virtuosity continues,

noted by Singleton (555)

among

now

with a

bow

to Virgil.

As

others, the "canali freddi e molli"

is

an erudite allusion to Eclogues 10.42: "Hie gelidi fontes, hic mollia prata."

It

somehow incongruous

is

that this ludicrous figure

address his desperate desire for water

words, while recognizing

at

the

should

such poetic and delicate

in

same time

the justness of divine

punishment.^

The

last

part of

Master Adam's speech centers on

hatred for the counts Guidi of nolfo,

who had

instigated

his violent

Romena, Guido, Alessandro and Aghi-

him

to counterfeit the

gold florin of Flo-

To have his revenge by seeing them in Hell too, he would give up a whole fountain. While the counterfeiter's vengeful rage rence.

has something

awesome about

it,

we may

question Dante's choice

of the episode because of the thoroughly negative light

it

projects

on

a family whose hospitality he had benefited from. Besides, Alessan-

dro and Aghinolfo had fought in 1303 and 1304 (Aghinolfo also 1305, Alessandro having died probably

behalf of the White exiles, the other of the

in

among whom was Dante

himself.

two brothers had even been the leader of

troops. Later, Aghinolfo had been a faithful supporter of

first Italian

lords to pledge loyalty to the emperor.

One

or

the rebel

Henry VII's

expedition in Italy between 1310 and 1313, and he had been the

in

1304) against Florence on

among

Dante met

Margherita Frankel

182

Aghinolfo

in

Pisa in the spring of 1312 at the court of

Sapegno explains away

Henry

VII.^

negative judgment in Inferno 30 merely

this

as proof that Dante's superior moral stance sub specie aeternitatis

overrides earthly allegiances (444). sible that

Dante

is

views both with regard against Florence

to the initial enterprise

—what

by himself against his

after all

own

city

prise of the emperor, another

by him

for

It is

in

might however also be posmore profound change in his

It

signaling to us a

was

civil

of the White exiles

war brought by them and

— and with regard

to the failed enter-

war on Florence advocated and wished

at the time.'"

any case hard

to

be sure of Dante's intentions as he does

when hearing Master Adam's

not reveal any personal feelings burst against the Conti Guidi.

Dante does not show

either

But

any

is

it

out-

also important to note that

irritation

when

the counterfeiter, at

"O voi che mondo gramo" (58-

the beginning of his speech, rather unpleasantly, says:

sanz'alcuna pena

siete,

/

e

non so

io perché, nel

Let us remember

59).

That "non so

that,

on a previous occasion, a much more harmless question had

io

perché"

elicited an irate riposte

is

rather insulting.

from Dante.

In Inferno 8.33, Filippo Ar-

genti asks Dante: "Chi se' tu che vieni anzi ora?" interpreted the question as a slight or

was

Whether Dante

just being infected with

the sin of the wrathful, he responds with angry and contemptuous

words. But when Master

Adam

interjects his spiteful

remark

in the

only rhetorical lapse of his address, Dante does not react. At the end

of the soul's speech, Dante merely asks about the two other damned lying close by.

Here we have who had falsely

another striking juxtaposition. Potiphar's wife, she

accused Joseph of attempted seduction,

is

seem-

ingly given the role of representing the world of the Bible in this

continuing contamination." The "falso Sinon greco di Troia" in turn represents classical culture, in an apparent return of the text to the

milieu dominating the beginning of the canto. But,

how debased not so much liar



as for

that culture appears

for

how

when we

what he represents he

remains dignifiedly

now behaves

silent



see

it

at the

same

time,

embodied by Sinon,

the quintessential treacherous

in Hell.

While Potiphar's wife

throughout the episode, Sinon engages

in

an active interchange with Master Adam.

What

is

extraordinary

is

that

Dante uses

this Virgilian creature

Juno

183

Counterfeiters

il/noni; the

one of the most heated and coarse quarrels of the Commedia

for

The two men exchange

insults

were fishmongers

market place. Forgotten

in the

elegant and refined tone. Even

and vibrantly rhetorical

more forgotten

Sinon 's speech

style of

truthful, as the counterfeiter

tu

non

ver testimonio

fosti sì

But

(112-114).

remarks: "Tu

/ là

Aeiietd (2.69-

in the in

Hell Sinon finally

ver di questo;

di'

ma

/

've del ver fosti a Troia richiesto"

now

this truth is

Master Adam's

is

the highly eloquent

is

194) by which he ensnared the Trojans. Here is

.

and physical blows as though they

banal and

it

comes

at

the cost

of the high register he had used in the Latin poem. Through Sinon,

Dante places the world of Virgil

in direct

world of the counterfeiter and from

clash with the small Tuscan

this contact the Virgilian creature

emerges withered. In order to see the scene in

its

proper perspective,

it

superfluous to go over the key role played by Sinon

may

not be

in the fall

of

What Sinon achieved is what makes this episode in Inferno 30 so striking and maybe more deserving of our attention than it has so far received. Without Sinon, Ulysses' ingenious ploy of the wooden

Troy.

horse could not have been carried out and Troy would not have

been conquered. Sinon was the indispensable link between Ulysses' conception and

brilliant

on Sinon 's eloquence

its

semblance of

lies in the

whole

the

The whole plan depended

materialization.

persuading the Trojans to take the horse into

Thus Sinon was no common

the city.

war and

in

liar.

hinged the

truth

On

his ability to

final issue

speak

of the 10-year

Greece and Troy. Yet, Dante takes

fate of

this

accomplished master of rhetoric and has him humiliated and reduced to silence in

by a relatively ordinary and

little

known

falsifier

of coins

modern Tuscany. It

is

though

true

remarked by Bigi among others (1082-

that, as

84), the altercation, vulgar as

and

skilful

gravi, braccio tu andavi

"la

.

it

may

be, is

touches of verbal virtuosity:

.

.

.

.

.

non

l'avei

.

.

.

.

.

this

a

debate than

("membra

much

.

.

.

("Quando

più l'avei quando coniavi," 109-11;

,

.

,

125), repetitions, annominationes,

circumlocutions (as the famous "specchio is

replete with learned

sciolto," 107-08), chiastic constructions

bocca tua per tuo mal

haps, there

still

antitheses

di Narcisso").

Oddly

per-

greater deployment of rhetorical devices in

in the presentation

As noted by Momigliano

of the simile opening the canto.

(222), the quarrel alternates between the

Margherita Frankel

184

two contenders, each being exchange of

Adamo," who two

end and thus having the

at this point,

while Dante

and prompt

risso!" (131-32).

Dante

mortified and embarrassed, he

by what he sees as Dante's

word.

last

listening with fascinated attention,

is

"Or pur mira,

that Virgil harshly chides him:

non mi

tercet in a rapid

seemingly wins the contest by monopolizing

in fact

tercets at the

It is

one

allotted

wits, until the "larga e vittoriosa conclusione di mastro

/

che per poco che teco

so upset by Virgil's rebuke that,

is

unable to speak. Virgil, appeased

is

contrition, quickly

words, "la

crisi purificatrice del

As

a result,

have interpreted the whole scene as having been engi-

critics

neered by Dante to show his

genre

in Bigi's

discepolo" (1086), and sententiously

warning him: "voler ciò udir è bassa voglia" (148).

many

He

pardons him.

concludes his conciliatory speech, and the canto, praising,

own

repudiation of the comic-realistic

which he had indulged himself when exchanging the famous

in

genre and hence be

in

now

ashamed of

that

agreement with Virgil's condemnation of

it/^

tenzone with Forese Donati. Dante would

feel

Contini himself adopts such interpretation although noting amusedly the paradox that

giving

full

it

Dante allows free

first

his "coscienza morale-estetica" ("Sul

More the

cautiously.

voyage

Bosco notes

to the afterworld,

subgenre" as

realistic

And

in the

rein to the "bassa voglia"

by

expression, and only thereafter yields to the control of

Dante was

testified

Commedia

XXX"

that, after

456).

1300, supposed date of

engaged

still

"comic-

in the

by a tenzone with Cecco Angiolieri.

itself there is still to

come Dante's squabble

with Bocca degli Abati {Inferno 32.85-123). Bosco hence concludes that

Dante considers comic poetry necessary

rejecting

it,

amusement.

through Virgil, Virgil is

when

in certain contexts

practised for the sake of

while

mere

prodding Dante to concentrate on his vocation,

which would supposedly be I

is

it

that of

believe that Dante's message

"high" poetry (426-27).

is

more complex than what may

appear on the surface. There might be here an underlying intent to assert the legitimacy of "comic-realistic" poetry

and of the esthetics

based on the intermingling of genres of which the whole Commedia itself is

composed, alternating between high, middle and low tones.

The polemical

position implicit in the very

in direct contrast

find

one of

its

title

with the alta tragedia which

more clamorous restatements

of the poem, setting

is

in

the Aeneid,

seems

it

to

Inferno 30. Far from

Juno

Counterfeiters

(irnoni^ the

185

repudiating the "comic-realistic" genre of the tenzone, Dante gives in this

it

of

its

its

own

canto

its

A

suggesting.

expressed

the richness

not the substance or contents

is

It

seems

the quality of a piece of poetry, Dante

tale

of sublime tragedies, such as

prosaic style does not possess

in

showing

realization,

wealth of rhetorical techniques inherent in

nature of verbal contest.

which determine

if

most perfected

possibilities, the

to

be

in the initial simile,

much

intrinsic beauty.

Conversely, a vulgar brawl between two debased characters can be lifted to

and I

an

am aware

reaction to I

artistic level

thanks to the virtuosity of rhetorical devices

skills.

of the objection

my

to

believe that there

is

try to

understand what

the often

made

distinction

its

in

lines

133-41.

But

perhaps here a certain mischievous play

work. To

and Dante as

by Dante's

thesis suggested

Virgil's reprimand as described

happening,

is

we

between Dante as character

The character

author.'^

at

should remember in the

poem

blushes, mortified by the

rebuke, and sheepishly displays his desire to apologize, thus eliciting

forgiveness from Virgil who, placated, generously comforts him.

But

whole

that this is not the

hints provided in the scene.

First

story

of

all,

may be by

seen from a few

his very

words, Virgil

reveals an uncharacteristic loss of control over himself, something that critics

have generally neglected

intervention. is still

and

Only Bigi observes

"fortemente legata

that the phrase

al

tono e allo

"Or pur mira!"

But, while aware of

how

the tone

Bigi limits himself to discerning a

to note

is is

stile

praising Virgil's

its

rampogna"

della scena precedente"

"quasi popolaresco" (1085). atypical of the elegant poet,

in this last

"progressivo annobilimento" of

when

that Virgil's "energica

section of the canto only

means of expression. He does

not question the reasons or need for Virgil's temporary lapse from his

customary dignity and propriety of language.

While

it

is

not the

first

time that Virgil expresses disapproval of

Dante (see for instance Inferno 7.70-72; 20.27-30), he displays here an unusually intense anger

made

evident by his threat of a "rissa"

with Dante and even more by the slightly irregular syntax of the

phrase ("che per poco che teco") and by the cacophonous sounds {che co-che co) in addition to the "r's" of "Or pur mira."

It is

almost

as though Virgil himself had been infected with the vulgarity of the

scene and reacted accordingly, almost eager

to enter

himself into a

Margherita Frankel

186 scuffle with

own

his

Dante

in imitation

of

tiie

one between Master

Adam

and

Sinon, and, in addition, forgetting his mastery of linguistic

The very choice of the verb rissare, from fare rissa (where rissa means brawl, with exchange of insults and blows) reveals a surprisingly excitable Virgil. To reproach Dante for listening to an rules.

altercation illogical,

by adopting a similarly

One wonders how answered back

we

tone

irate

to say the least,

is,

and especially inappropriate for the "savio duca." the scene could have developed had Dante

in a similar tone. Fortunately,

can detect a sense of pained surprise

133, "Quand'io

'1

senti'

a

me

parlar con

in

he holds his peace. But

Dante's wording of line

ira,''

as though he really had

not expected that Virgil should speak to him in anger. Besides, interesting that, in describing his to the

own

subsequent

same wealth of annominationes

Adam

exchange between Master

that

state,

it

is

Dante resorts

had characterized the

and Sinon and,

earlier, Griffolino's

speech (lines 39, 41, 44 and 45): Qual è colui che suo dannaggio sogna, che sognando desidera sognare, sì

che quel eh 'è, come non fosse, agogna,

mi

tal

non possendo

fee' io,

parlare,

che disiava scusarmi, e scusava

me

tuttavia, e noi

mi credea

fare.

{Inf.

Dante, therefore, even after his master's reproach, to the style of the literary aspect

damned

and not

If

we

is still

souls, but only with respect to

to its

instead adopted by Virgil

30.136-41)

its

resorting

precious

quarrelsome and plebeian tone which

when he

is

gives vent to his wrath.

accept the premise that Dante really aims at defending the

genre censured by Virgil,

we may

then see falling into place the

heterogeneous and mutually contradictory pieces of the puzzle that this

canto

cal whole.

is,

and we can see

The

it

form

a

comprehensible and logi-

insistent succession of jarringly contrasting juxta-

positions of highs and lows, of tragedy and

comedy, of

classical

characters and farcical pranksters, of an impersonator for love and a falsifier for a mule, of a prevaricator causing the fall of a king-

dom and

a counterfeiter of greed, of elegant allusions to Biblical or

literary texts

and tavern-like

difficult to explain if

we

scuffles:

all

of this mingling

is

indeed

take Virgil's condemnation of the tenzone

Juruf amon}^ the Counterfeiters

as Dante's

we

own. Bui

the coniaininatio can find

recognize the struggle Dante

unprecedented attempt classical

canons of

to create a

is

not.

pursuing

what

its

in

of taste and decorum, of the

permissible within a particular

is

Dante seems

once

justification

the defence of his

poetry which follows none of the

stylistic hierarchies,

rigid limits restricting

and what

is

187

to be rejecting here

mode

once and for

all

the strictures of a consistently high tone in favour of the freedom to let

low comedy

and

infiltrate the text

to

interweave a multiplicity of

levels in an enriching dialectic of styles.

Dante's polemic audience.

is

probably addressed

Within the

general to an educated

in

however,

text itself,

it

is

primarily and un-

avoidably directed against Virgil as the representative par excellence

of alta tragedia and, hence, as the natural adversary and authoritative antagonist of the product he is witnessing at first-hand, the

foremost obstacle that Dante has In a

way, Dante

is

to

surmount

to this dizzying interchange of styles and,

of Virgil's

own

in his

directly confronting Virgil both

novel enterprise.

by exposing him

even more, by using one

creatures to be the interlocutor of a tenzone with a

near-contemporary of Dante from Dante's that Virgil is perturbed

and angered.

own

No wonder

territory.

When Dante

had entered into

a squabble with Filippo Argenti in Inferno 8, Virgil, far

from rebuk-

ing his protégé, had lavished praise on him; and in the next debate,

between Dante and Bocca degli Abati (Inferno 32), he abstains from any comment. His position seems to be that these are just matters

among men His leniency

of Dante's in

own

these cases

time and place, of no interest to him.

seems

or lack of concern with what

of Dante's is

Virgil's

milieu.'"*

own

to

imply a certain contempt for

may seem

to

him

to

be the vulgarity

But the situation changes when what

is at

stake

world, contaminated by the clash with the shabby

underworld of modern Tuscany. clever Sinon who, by the sheer

In Virgil's presence, the

power of

supremely

his brilliant eloquence,

had

made possible the defeat of otherwise unconquerable Troy, is brought down in turn as the Greek engages in a coarse scuffle and is outwitted by a petty falsifier of coins. Let us also remember that Virgil had probably noticed Master Adam's impertinent allusion to the Aeneid when he says to Sinon: "e sieti reo che tutto il mondo sallo!" (120). It is not flattering for Virgil to see his poem cited by a common criminal. Virgil, thus challenged in his own creation, reacts singlehandedly

Margherita Frankel

188

angrily to that debasement and to the

whole enterprise of Dante's

tinkering with literature, language and style. Virgil's real motivation

may be shown also by the fact that, in this case, he angrily intervenes when Dante is only passively watching a squabble, while he does not disapprove in the two other cases mentioned above where Dante actually

humbled

in the quarrels.

an active participant

is

Virgil

would seem

achieve a quick and easy victory over the

to

disciple as he harshly rebukes him.

the author allows his alter ego in the

powered and put

to

shame may

own

welcome

uncertainty about the kind of critics to the stylistic

literary

succeed

The

hostility

whole

would be reserved by is to

difficult relationship

the

later,

he would encounter in

in his literary enterprise is to strive to liberate

the Inferno and Purgatorio

if

come much

thing Dante must do in order

first

from the tutelage of Virgil and of the the

Dante

experimentations and his

that

exchange with Giovanni del Virgilio

the cultured community.'^

fact that

be so promptly over-

"promiscuity" of his poem. Even

Dante may already be aware of the

to

The very to

Dante's acknowledgement

testify to

of the controversial character of his

most

poem

classical examples.

himself

Perhaps

between Dante and Virgil throughout

may

stem, to

some

extent,

from

this

very

struggle.

We

should remember that Dante himself has shown his concern

with the problem of style

in

As

P.

vulgari Eloquentia 2.4. to his edition of

DvE

his writings, in particular in the

V. Mengaldo notes

De

in the Introduction

(xxxvi-1), Dante's rhetorical culture derives

mostly from the artes dictamini and the poetriae of the 12th and 13th centuries.'^ These treatises in turn depend to a large extent on classical

works such as the Rhetorica ad Herennium, Cicero's De /I rs Poetica. Dante knew these works and

Inventione and Horace's

we

can thus presume that he was influenced by them directly as well

as through the medieval rhetoricians.

Geoffroi de Vinsauf states that the three styles, grandiloquus,

mediocris and liumilis, depend on the persons and things being written about

(Documentum hominum,

to the status

Virgil's three chief

3.145).

John of Garland, tying the styles

elaborates the

works become

the

famous Rota Vergila where models

for the three kinds:

the Bucolics for the stylus humilis, the Georgics for the mediocris

and the Aeneid for the gravis. Style becomes connected with social

JufKJ amoni; ihc Counterfeiters

As

dignity and social class.

sonnes,

non plus

et

1

FaraJ notes, "c'est

89

qualité des per-

la

celle de la locution, qui fournit le principe de la

change by compari-

classification" (88). This of course represents a

son with the Ciceronian doctrines as formulated, for instance,

in the

Rhetorica ad Hcrcnnium (4.8), where the three styles are exclusively defined by the choice of words used and by the presence or lack of

ornaments. But, aside from the addition of a social dimension, the

medieval classifications conform

to the classical rules in prescrib-

ing a definite hierarchy of terms in the vocabulary adopted and a

hierarchy of rhetorical figures divided between the ornutus

and the ornatus

facilis, to

Without going into the details

at.

the subject,

let

modus

course characterizes the suitable for the

cilis,

that

two other

ornatus

to the

gravis.

aimed

far

from

which of

difficilis

Conversely, the ornatus fa-

styles, includes figures

intriguing for our present subject

treatises,

of speech such

according

is that,

to the

medieval

both the annominatio and the simile are to be shunned

or,

used only very sparingly.

at least, is

pointed out by Mengaldo,'^ Dante,

quentia 2.4.5-7, follows

But

would take us too

annominatio and figures of thought such as the simile. What

as the

As

difficilis

to the style

us only note that metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche,

and periphrasis belong

antithesis

is

be applied according

in practice,

when

in

in his

De

vulgari Elo-

theory the medieval tripartition of styles.

discussing stylistic levels, Dante concentrates

on the binary opposition between tragoedia and comoedia {E. D. 5: 437a), the

first

ular, the latter

requiring a "superior" style or the illustris vernac-

an "inferior" style which can fluctuate between the

"mediocre" or "humble" ("quandoque mediocre, quandoque humile

Mengaldo observes

vulgare sumatur" 2.4.6). terizza

maggiormente

that "ciò

che carat-

posizione dantesca è precisamente

la

il

fatto

che da questa fluttuazione sia esclusa proprio, a differenza che nella tradizione oraziana ortodossa, la tragedia, così isolata nella propria

altezza" (437b). In his unfinished treatise. Dante indicates only the

elements that should characterize the "tragic"

style:

tentiarum," metric structure, "constructionis elatio

cabulorum"

(2.4.7).

But

for a stylistic flexibility

in the Letter to

when

as allowing the authors of

\\o\2iCt' s

comedies

authors of tragedies and viceversa."*

It

et

Cangrande

"gravitas senexcellentia voa case

Ars poetica 93-96

to express

may

is

is

themselves

made

quoted like the

be interesting to note that

Margherita Frankel

190

passage has been cited by some

this

critics as invalidating

authorship of the Letter to Cangrande, since tion of the

would argue

comedy) given

and remisse

citation of

in accord with the stylistic pluralism of the

Horace would be

Commedia.

Particularly important in Dante's treatise on language

of convenientia, that

between

style

is,

dealt with.

And

the notion

is

the relationship of suitability or congruence

and subject {materia: res

persona). In other words

dind

must be appropriate

the stylistic register

et

just before the reference to Horace.

on the contrary the

that

Dante's

contradicts the defini-

styles (elate et sublime for the tragedy

two

humiliter for the I

it

to the

persons and things

each of the styles there must be a correspondence

to

of lexical choices.

This convenientia Inferno 30.

To

is

exactly what

we may

recapitulate, the initial simile,

persons and things of the

loftiest kind, is

cipitously slides into the

despite the fact that

for the

humble

in

deals with

it

simple

in a

right.

content and in lexical choice, is

The tone somehow goes up

figure of Griffolino

mode

then pre-

stylistic level

one of the two characters involved

own

tragic figure in her

low both

though

worded

The

which we may define as mediocris.

notice as lacking in

who

Mirra, a

illogically

uses elegant terms and figures

And when Master Adam

such as periphrases and annominationes.

speaks, an analogous inversion takes place as this petty counterfeiter is

given a speech lofty both

And

in lexicon

and

while the altercation between Master

in tone

and words,

is full

it

in rhetorical

Adam

adornments.

and Sinon

is

vulgar

of figures of speech such as the already

mentioned antitheses, chiastic constructions,

repetitions, periphrases

and annominationes. If

that

we examine all these various sections of the canto, we may note Dante departs here both from the medieval prescriptions about

the accord

between

style

concerning elocutio, that figures

and materia and from the classical rules is

the choice of vocabulary and rhetorical

which should agree among themselves and with the stylistic Dante mixes it all, using in the mouth of the same

level adopted.

characters the high and the low lexicon, the ornatus facilis and the

ornatus

difficilis.

different to

He

ignores the convenientia, he

any sense of consistency and

to

what

is is

apparently inappropriate for

a character or for the circumstances. If any canto should be chosen to

embody

the

message Dante wanted

to

convey when he gave

his

Juno amonfi

poem

the

the Counterfeiters

of coincJia, as well as the pluralism of styles he meant

title

to adopt, this

canto 30 of the liijcnio.

is

has often been noted that cantos bearing the same number

It

development of similar themes, or

a recurrence of

between cantos 30

similarities

in the

some kind of mutual correspondences,

three canticas tend to have

The

191

a

analogous events.

Purgatorio and Paradiso

in the

are indisputable: in Purgatorio 30 Virgil disappears and Beatrice ap-

30 Beatrice makes her

pears. In Paradiso

guide, to be followed by as

making some

St.

Bernard.

sort of rite of

If

passage

appearance as Dante's

last

we

can see these events

— from

the tutelage of Vir-

of Beatrice, from the guidance of Beatrice to that of

gil to that

St.

Bernard, higher and higher on the ladder of spiritual progress and

enlightenment



there anything similar in Inferno

is

relationship with these other I

believe that the

He

to

show

a

of passage taking place in Inferno 30 has to

rite

do with Dante's emancipation from language.

30

two cantos? Virgil in the matter of style

and

achieves independence on the strength of his newly

claimed role as a Christian poet writing a truthful poem. already seen that

in

Inferno 29.58-64,

when

We

have

citing the regeneration

of the population of Aegina from the seed of ants, Dante slyly interjects:

"secondo che

out as a deliberate,

of the pagan poets

countered to

now by

hanno per fermo." This assertion stands

poeti

i

implicit, denunciation of the blatant

if

who may the

be seen as analogous

two wayfarers. And,

mendacity

to the falsifiers en-

just before the reference

Ovid's myth, Dante, describing the tenth bolgia, specifies: ...



de

've la ministra

l'alto Sire infallibii giustizia

punisce

i

falsador che qui registra. {Inf 29. 55-57)

Hollander convincingly makes the point in line

57

is

the text of the

common poem which poet, but in

it

the

is

Commedia

that the

itself,

"here" referred to

which therefore

is

not a

could be just as false as any other product of a

"uniquely veracious" since divine justice herself registers

damned she

punishes: "Justice, as God's minister, takes her

place as the dittator of what will be recorded

in the text

by the agency

of Dante's pen." Dante would thus be pitting himself as the scriba

Dei or scriba

lustitiae against the

"pagan fabulators."

Hollander

also points out that this passage "constitutes perhaps [Dante's]

first

Margherita Frankel

192

which conceals

drawing back of the

veil

by the Holy

("Book of

Spirit"

Having thus made

in

canto 29 his

poem, instrument of God's

his

his identity as poet inspired

Dead" 43-44).

the

first

claim for the veracity of

Dante

justice,

sets himself at the

poems and

opposite pole of the pagan poets with their misleading their "dei falsi e bugiardi."

proceeds

From

this

new

exalted position, Dante

canto 30 to reject the literary authority of the classical

in

poets and the lessons of their examples.

He

subverts the classification

of styles, the sense of decorum and restraint, the appropriateness of

what should be said by freedom of

style,

whom

Christian poem.'^

He

freely

his

meanings or imports they had character

may

lays claim for full

borrows materials from Ovid and from

and adapting them for

Virgil,

He

and how.

of language and of the uses of rhetoric for the new

own

purposes, he undermines the

works. While Dante the

in the original

temporarily be shamed into submission by the scolding

master, in effect the Christian poet

had not hitherto dared us, displaying the full

is

The

to do.

scope of

revolting against Virgil as he

text of canto

30 remains before

subversive enterprise, regardless

its

of Virgil's rebuke. It is

also important to note that the scene closing canto

30 appar-

ently leaves an aftermath of bitterness in Dante: at the beginning of

canto 31, he compares Virgil's tongue in the



rebuke and then offering a medicina

wounded and

then healed

cut (1-6).

its

which shows how deeply hurt Dante conciliatory strated

words have not

is at

fault

felt.

to Achilles' spear

which

a rather strong

image

is

Moreover,

really closed Dante's

Virgil

(9).

which he

Dante by the hand and does so

will not in a

In the

two

wound

demon-

is

they pro-

to sense that

do again), namely, he takes

first

ened; the second time, in the

wood

to Pier delle

needed

time, in Inferno 3, Dante has just

seen the inscription on the gate of hell and

he cannot speak

manner

affectionate

"Poi caramente mi prese per

earlier cases, Virgil's gesture is a

response to Dante's fears: the

that

that Virgil's

travelers:

would appear

much more

than in the two previous occasions: (28).

him ("mi morse")

because he does what he had not done since Inferno

3.19, and 13.130, (and

mano"

— It

by the ensuing silence between the two

ceed "sanza alcun sermone" he

biting

first

is

obviously disheart-

of the suicides, he

Vigne (13.82-84) and

is

so upset

his horror is

increased by the pack of black bitches tearing to pieces the miserable

Juno among

the Counterfeiters

sinners. In canto 31 conversely, there to

prompt

to

be towers are

Virgil's act (only later,

is tacitly

trying to

no fear displayed by Dante

he sees that what he believed

could be argued that Virgil takes Dante

It

by the hand anticipating his Virgil

93

does Dante say "fuggiemi errore e

in fact giants,

crescemi paura," (39).

is

when

1

But

fright.

make up

it

also

is

very probable that

for his earlier burst of anger.

Additional support for the thesis that the ending of canto 30 was not meant to be a recantation in

which Dante continues

to

may

be found

in the

manifold ways

and

violate the separation of styles

the convenientia or to question implicitly the ethics of Virgil's high

and

style

31 Virgil

rhetoric. is

shall

I

speech which

is

just a

few examples:

in

canto

rather surprising in the blatant deceitfulness of

flattery (1 15-29).'° In

e

mention

seen addressing the classical character Antaeus with a its

canto 32 Dante claims the need for "rime aspre

chiocce" to speak of the

last circle,

but modestly denies having

them. Paradoxically he uses low words such as "abbo," "pigliare a

gabbo,"

"mamma

o babbo" (5-9), which he had proscribed in the

vidgari Eloquentia 2.7. Yet, while saying that this

is

De

not the language

apt for describing the bottom of the universe, he does not resort to the lofty style that is

and

ends

it

would be

the logically necessary alternative.

actually full of "harsh and grating"

canto

in a

Skipping

words

in a

low

The

register,

brawl between Dante himself and Bocca degli Abati.

now many

other similar instances,

let

me just

cite in

con-

clusion two of the most flagrant cases of inconvenientia. In Paradiso 30, in the

Empyrean, Beatrice's very

disappearing from his side

last

speech to Dante before

a not too elegant expression of anger

is

predicting death and damnation for two popes. in the

phers and preachers

"comic," going as

ancor più porci,

At

/

first sight,

mouth of

in a

strikingly,

tone alternating between the high and the

exclaim (with echoes of

far as to

"Di questo ingrassa

26).

Even more

previous canto, she uses some 60 verses to attack the philoso-

il

porco sant'Antonio,

pagando

di

/

woman

30.27?):

che sono

moneta sanza conio" {Par. 29.124-

these are astonishingly inappropriate

the blessed

//;/.

e altri assai

and

in the

words

heaven where God

ble as a resplendent point surrounded by the angelic choirs.

commentators agree with Tommaseo's observation

that "il

porci non è cosa degna di Beatrice e del Paradiso."'' But

conforms with Dante's

linguistic

and

in the

is visi-

Many

cenno dei

it

certainly

stylistic objectives as implicitly

Margherita Frankel

194

proclaimed

in

Inferno 30 and,

the author did not

As many simile

is

believe,

is

one more proof

that

Dante

there to recant his "comic-realistic" style.

a time before and after Inferno 30, an apparently simple

used by Dante to make the reader pause and wonder

reasons for its

mean

I

its

at the

Because of

lack of correspondence to the context.

incongruity, the simile calls attention to itself and to the

whole

In a poem whose author demonstrably is in command of means of expression, anything odd or inappropriate is probably meant to make some important point. In this case, what Dante aims

canto. his

at is,

I

believe, the justification for the very

his novel stylistic enterprise. Inferno

30

is

of his

title

poem and

for

Dante's battlecry for the

independence he sought from the tyranny of classical examples and of the rhetoricians' rules.

"new

It is

Dante's manifesto for his revolutionary

style."

NOTES 1

"dira lues ira populi lunonis iniquae

incidit

/

exosae dictas a paelice terras"

{Met. 7.523-24).

2 "saevae

memorem

lunonis ob iram" {Aen.

1.4).

3 "tantaene animis caelestibus irae?" (Aen. 1.11).

4

... veterisque

memor

Saturnia belli,

prima quod ad Troiam pro caris gesserai Argis

(necdum etiam causae irarum saevique dolores exciderant animo; manet alta mente repostum

iudicium Paridis spretaeque iniuria formae, et

genus invisum

Ganymedis honores)

et rapti

.

.

.

{Aen. 1.23-28).

5 Bigi cites the symmetry in the syntactical structures as evidenced in the use of a temporal clause at the

che lunone ...

first

E quando

la

tercet of each mythological episode ("Nel

fortuna

.

.

each of the second tercets ("Atamante the frequency of difficult ("trista,

misera, cattiva,

.

rhymes and .

.

.

"); the

.

.

.

naming of

Ecuba

.

.

.

"), etc.;

he mentions

the accumulation of epithets for

dolorosa,

.

.

.

tempo

the protagonist in

Hecuba

forsennata") (1063-64).

6 In Convivio 4.27.17, Dante had already referred to the same Ovidian story as "favola." See Hollander, "Dante's 'Book of the Dead,' " esp. 32-33.

7 See M. Frankel, "Dante's Anti-Virgilian villanello

{Inf.

XXIV

1-21)."

8 Oddly enough, lines 64-72 also anticipate the punishment inflicted on the gluttons in Purgatorio 22 to 24, where, from the high rock

chiaro" which "si spandeva per

words about

le foglie

fell

"un liquor

suso" (22.137-38). Master Adam's

the drying out of his face are echoed in the description of the

gluttons in lines

22-27 of Purgatorio

23.

And

as Forese Donati explains to

Juno among

the Counterfeiters

"De Tetterno

consiglio

195

Dante: .

.

.

cade vertu nell'acqua e ne rimasa dietro ond'io

Di bere

e di

pianta

la

m'assottiglio ....



mangiar n'accende cura

pomo

l'odor ch'esce del

e

..."

de lo sprazzo

(23.61-63, 67-68) It

is

of course

heavily. Master

somehow unexpected that in Hell, where matter counts so Adam may be tormented by a mere mental image of the more

water, while in the

the wasting thirst felt

spiritual Purgatory an actual

by

But

the souls.

resemblance between the torments of Master sixth circle

upon Forese and

water

is

any case there

in

Adam

needed

and those

to trigger

an undeniable

is

inflicted in the

on the "monte ove ragion ne fruga"

the gluttons

{Purg. 3.3), another echo of the counterfeiter's words (70).

9 Cf. Enciclopedia dantesca

Alessandro" 10

We

(3:

v.

s.

"Guidi," "Guidi, Aghinolfo

do not know, of course, when Inferno 30 was

after the death of in the

Henry VII, and hence

in a

far

may have

discussion about the dating of the at

hand.

1

which Dante displays

his expectations about

he had written

in

it

am

written,

whether before or

has been suggested

knows about

altered his textposi-factum.

from the subject

attitude

and "Guidi,

crumbling of Dante's hopes

after the

As

re-establishment of the empire.

Inferno 19.81-84, where Dante already 1314, he

II"

318b-20b).

I

do not intend

case of

in the

the death of

V

Clement

to

Commedia which would

in

engage here

me

bring

too

simply noting the surprisingly unfavorable canto towards a family which had shared

in this

Henry VII and from whose

1311 his fiery Epistles

in

castles "sub fonte Sarni"

favor of or to the

Emperor

(6

and

7).

11

Colin Hardie has pointed out

in a letter to

avoided the addition of a Biblical character of

this

was

me

that

Dante could easily have

to the already

ample contaminatio

canto by using the classical figure of Phaedra. Dante

guilty of the

same

knew

that

Phaedra

sin of false charges of seduction as Potiphar's wife,

since he refers to Hippolytus' stepmother as "spietata e perfida noverca" in

Paradiso 17.46-^8. The

show Dante's decision as

chose the unnamed Egyptian

woman may

the mixture of different worlds

and cultures

fact that he

to

make

wide as possible. Incidentally, we may remark

fact

when we

the visionary

think that the

power

that in this line

Commedia. This

the only reference to Joseph in the

Hebrew

is

patriarch shares with the prophet Daniel

to foretell the future

on the basis of dreams: a

should perhaps have made the two Biblical figures attractive of his

own

prophetic aspirations.

And, while he does mention Daniel

97 we have

perhaps a puzzling

to

Dante

gift that in

view

Yet Dante never mentions Joseph again. three times, he does so always in passing,

giving him only scant attention (see Purg. 22.146-47, Par. 4.13-15, 29.134). 12 Colin Hardie reminded

me

that Virgil

himself

is

the tenzone, as can be seen in the rather animated

not averse to the genre of

exchange between the two

Margherita Frankel

196 shepherds 13 See,

in

among

Eclogue 3.1-27.

others, Contini,

"Dante come personaggio-poeta della Commedia"

in Varianti.

may also feel a certain disdain for Dante's own way of expressing may be revealed by his rather overbearing attitude in Inferno 26.72-75

14 That Virgil

himself

where, not very

he

tactfully,

tells

Dante

"Lascia parlare a me, ch'i' concetto

/

to refrain

from speaking

to Ulysses:

ciò che tu vuoi; ch'ei sarebbero schivi,

Whatever the reasons

perch'e' fuor greci, forse del tuo detto."

imposed mediation, the use of the Greek language

is

/

for Virgil's

not one of them, as

otherwise Dante would not have been able to follow the exchange between Virgil

and Ulysses. Rather, Virgil seems

imply

to

that

Dante's "detto" would

not be elegant enough for the Greek heroes, in short, that Dante

of adopting the high style which was necessary to

when addressing

Ulysses. In fact, "alti versi"

he had written

in particular

15 Cf.

in the

two Greek heroes,

the

world above

was incapable

a response from

elicit

Virgil refers to the

(82).

Eg. 1.6-7, 15-22, 33-34 (from Giovanni del Virgilio to

Dante); and Dante's answer to Giovanni's rebuke in Eg. 2.36-37, 52-54;

and especially his proud claim about the richness, uniqueness and freedom

from conventions of

poem:

his

"ovis gratissima

Nulli iuncta gregi nullis assuetaque caulis,

/

.

.

.

abundans

lactis

sponte venire solet,

.

.

.

nunquam

vi,

poscere mulctram" (58-62). 16 In particular by Matthew de Vendôme, Geoffroi de Vinsauf and John of Garland.

See Farai.

17 Introduction to "stili.

De

vulgari Eloquentia, and in Enciclopedia dantesca

435a^38b. For

Dottrina degli," 5:

also Hollander,

// Virgilio

18 "sicut vult Oratius

in

s.

v.

a discussion of this subject, see

dantesco 117-25.

sua Poetria, ubi licentiat aliquando comicos ut tragedos

loqui, et sic et converso" {Ep. 13.30).

19 See on this subject Erich Auerbach's seminal essay "Sacrae Scripturae sermo humilis," originally published in 1944.

20 See Bosco's uneasy comment: "Per

far di

Anteo uno sciocco che

lascia

si

imbrogliare dal discorsetto di Virgilio (che sarebbe dunque da interpretare tutto in

chiave ironica) bisogna anzitutto ammettere che Virgilio sia disponibile

all'imbroglio, laddove è chiaro che la sua alta nobiltà [non] gli permette di trarre

alcuno

in

.

.

.

inganno" (452).

21 For a typical example of the puzzlement

ments: "la pagina che segue, più lasciano perplesso

il

critico,

e alle soglie della visione di Dio porci ingrassati e di

felt

by the

tra le più violente del

critics,

see Getto's

Paradiso

[è] tra

com-

quelle che

posta com'è in bocca alla femminile Beatrice

..." (1958): "Con queste immagini

rudi di

muove

e fruga

monete senza conio

su un orizzonte brutalmente terreno.

lo

sguardo del poeta

L'atmosfera celeste

mente remota ..." (1961-62); and more: "crude

si

si

è fatta estrema-

terrestrità,"

"qualcosa

di

stonato, che spezza la raffinata misura del Paradiso" (1962-63); "l'innegabile

debolezza di questo luogo

.

.

.

malgrado

tutte le giustificazioni possibili, ri-

Juno among mane come un vero che mancanza

197

the Counterfeiters

e proprio difetto:

perché quella disarmonia altro non è

poesia e assenza di ispirazione." But Getto does admit that

di

Dante's language

open "su ogni forma

is

di vita"

(1965).

WORKS CITED Alighieri, Dante.

La Divina Commedia.

Umberto Bosco and Gio-

Ed.

Inferno.

vanni Reggio. Firenze: Le Monnicr, 1979. Inferno. Firenze: Sansoni, 1972. Vol.

.

con

i

commenti

di

T.

of La Divina

1

Commedia

Casini-S. A. Barbi e di A. Momigliano. Ed. F. Mazzoni.

3 vols. 1972-74.

La Divina Commedia.

.

La Nuova

Italia,

Inferno.

The Divine Comedy. Inferno

.

Ed. Natalino Sapegno. Firenze:

1975. 2:

Commentary. Trans, with notes

by Charles Singleton. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1970. Auerbach, Erich. "Sacrae Scripturae sermo humilis." 1944. Studi su Dante. Ed. D. Della Terza. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1963.

"Canto

Bigi, Emilio.

XXX."

Lectura Dantis Scaligera.

Le

Firenze:

Inferno.

Monnier, 1971. 1063-86. Contini, Gianfranco. "Sul

XXX âtW Inferno."

Varianti e altra linguistica.

Raccolta di saggi (1938-1968). Torino: Giulio Einaudi, 1970.

"Dante come personaggio-poeta della Commedia."

.

Farai, E.

Les Arts poétiques du Xlle

et

du XlIIe

Paris:

siècle.

Una

447^57. Varianti.

Honoré

Librairie

Champion, 1962. Frankel, Margherita. "Dante's Anti-Virgilian villanello

(Inf.

XXIV,

Dante

121)."

Studies 102 (1984): 81-109. Getto, Giovanni.

"Canto XXIX." Letture dantesche.

Paradiso.

Ed. G. Getto.

Firenze: Sansoni, 1964.

Hollander, Robert.

//

Virgilio dantesco:

Tragedia nella Commedia.

Firenze:

Olschki, 1983. .

"Dante's 'Book of the Dead:'

A

Note on Inferno

XXIX

57."

Studi Danteschi 54 (1982). 31-51.

Johnson, R.

W. Darkness

Visible.

A

Study of Vergil's Aeneid.

Berkeley:

U

of

California P, 1976.

Mengaldo,

V., ed.

P.

De

vulgari Eloquentia.

By

Dante.

Padova:

Editrice

Antenora, 1968. .

"stili.

Dottrina degli."

Instituto Enciclopedia Italiana, Virgil.

Eclogues.

Georgics.

Enciclopedia dantesca.

1970-78.

Aeneid.

5:

6 vols.

Roma:

435-38.

Trans. H. Rushton Fairclough.

Classical Library. Rev. ed. 2 vols. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1978.

Loeb

Domenico Pietropaolo

Dante's Paradigms of Humility and the Structure of Reading

rhythm of Purgatorio, the tenth canto represents a

In the narrative

moment

of quiescence and reflection, as the wayfarer enters a divine

art gallery

and muses over the carvings exhibited on

This encounter between observer and ginning reciprocally stimulating, so to

come



as

if

objects

much

engaged

in a

is

in

in the

circular wall.

seem

contemplating them

challenging dialogue

being that had previously not been

its

from the very be-

so that the carvings

wayfarer's mind, while

to life in the

he probes

art



possibilities of

foreground of his aware-

ness. The carvings and the wayfarer appear to be confronted with ways of authentically fulfilling their ontological potential in relation to

one another,

The purpose of

in a this

prolonged contact which paper

wayfarer's experience

is

to

is

examine

is

enriching for both.

manner

in

which the

described by the poet and to sketch out the

implications that this text has for a

Reading

the

is

here used in

its

phenomenology of

reading.

general sense of intentional reception

of verbal and nonverbal discourse, such that the analogy between the

wayfarer and the reader before a poetic text to





is

the

one before a sculpted

logically unquestionable

text

and

an inquiry into the nature of the reading experience.

hand, phenomenology

is

not used in

sense of mere description but a science of

in its

its

and the other

fully available

On

the other

general and paraphilosophical

narrow technical acceptation of

immanently experienced phenomena, as these become

human consciousness once the latter assumes the attitude necessary for them to come within the reach of understanding. Our present to

object of investigation

is

the reading process itself in so far as

can be induced from the phenomena that Purgatorio 10, and our goal say

its

is to

fill

determine

it

the narrative space of its

structure, that

is

to

formal features.

Accordingly the

first

task

is

to clarify the nature

of the evidence

available to an examination of the act of reading. Like

of perception, reading involves two different QUADERNI

ditalianistica

Volume X. No.

1-2.

1989

all

other forms

modes of experience:

Domenico Pietropaolo

200

one

in

which there

a direct contact with the text and one in

is

mind

the reader, through self-reflection, objectifies for his act of perception so that

To read

once

is at

it

becomes

be read and to muse on

to

There can be no reading

the thought of the self's role in that act.

how

without such self-awareness, no matter

may

faint the latter

Medieval scholasticism and modern hermeneutics might

two modes of experience as actus

own

an object of consciousness.

itself

on the work

to focus

which

his

be.

label the

exercitus, or the perception of an

external entity, and actus signatus or the mind's apprehension of itself in the

process of perceiving (Gadamer 123).

experience in the intellection of what perceptual

medium,

lies

The

first is

an

outside the self through a

the second an experience in the intellection of

the self by an inward shift in focus.

From

a vantage point located in the text,

one can say

that in the

actus exercitus of reading the reader becomes an executant through

whose agency in

that its

the text, like a musical score,

comes

to perceptual life

order to be apprehended by the mind, while in the actus signatus

apprehension

is

concomitantly subjected to

process of becoming.

Thus, for example,

critical

thought in

in the poet's

account

of the wayfarer's reading of the second carving, his recognition of

David's translation of the ark of the covenant tagliato



55-56)

is

nel

marmo

stesso

/

57) by himself

in-

traendo l'arca santa,"

an externally-focused experience clearly distinct from the

internally-orientated act of consciousness in prets the

Jerusalem ("era

to

lo carro e' buoi,

apprehended

first

recalling

in relation to

text ("per

che

si

teme

and then bringing it

to

which he morally officio

inter-

non commesso,"

bear on the text and on

the sense of yet another text, the biblical

passage describing the punishment of Uzzah for having profaned the ark with his touch (2 Kings 6.3-7).

These preliminary considera-

tions serve to characterize the evidence at hand.

would add only

statistical

weight

tribute nothing to clarity. Suffice

wayfarer's journey

may be

Further examples

to the distinction but it

could con-

to say that to the extent that the

regarded as the narrative analogue of a

reading process involving texts of different nature (rhapsodized biographical narratives, scientific tracts, lectures, spectacle, symbolic

Middle Ages

topographic forms and so on), and given that

in the

an activity that comported the assimilation of

new facts could be we may so analyse

symbolically conceived as reading (Curtius 326),

Dante

Comedy

the entire Divine

running the

risk

plication

in

is

Paradigms of Humility

's

201

with explicit heuristic profit and without

of making gross category mistakes. The chief im-

any case

since in every instance and sort of

clear:

reading the self experiences the text as well as

phenomenology of reading, whether

itself as its reader, a

this is literally or analogically

understood, cannot be carried out without crossing into the realm of ontology. Analytical rigour requires

pension of judgment

in the

on the one hand, the sus-

at this point,

description of the evidence, so as to avoid

imprecise thinking about the structure of reading as well as undue categorical steering by the existing literature (Dufrenne, Poulet, Iser),

and, on the other hand, the conceptual isolation of the act of reading

from adjacent to

come

reality, in

into clear

order to enable

view and

to suggest

manifesting phenomena

its

themselves the best categories

for understanding them. In carrying out this procedure

known



technically

as a reduction, etymologically understood as a leading of the

mind back

to the thing itself

of the paradigms of humility

and only is

a

to

it

—we

find that the episode

remarkably convenient textual base.

For here the poet has rhetorically isolated the passage from rative context

by casting

it

entirely in the static

its

nar-

a

long

manner of

ecphrasis (Mazzotta 241), with the consequence that he compels both the wayfarer

and the reader

to

assume

a contemplative

mode

tention before their respective texts, temporarily blurring

of

away

at-

the

moment.

transitoriness of the

Within the world of the poem, the poet brings the upward move-

ment of

the wayfarer to a temporary halt by having

place which draws attention to itself on account of

its

him reach

a

singularity in

the topography of the journey, while on the textual surface of the

work he suspends the habitual progression of his diegetic discourse by embedding into it a long parenthetical description. All movement is

interrupted as soon as the wayfarer

sii

non eran mossi

the

end of

the

bank ("Ecco

i

his contemplation, di qua,

ma

is,

as

it

when

fanno

100-101). The contemplative carvings

is

pie nostri anco," 28) a i

mode

before the carvings ("Là

and

resumed again

is

at

group of penitents appear on

passi radi,

/

.

.

.

molte genti,"

of the wayfarer looking

at the

were, "bracketed" for the reader standing outside

the text with his gaze fixed on the

manner

fruition described within actually takes place.

in

which the aesthetic

Domenico Pietropaolo

202

The wayfarer's of the sculpted

contact

first

with the actual surface appearance

is

well to remind ourselves that the reading process operation and that therefore our ity

encounter

first

of the text rather than with what

accustomed

are

them or as

to

no barrier

invisible, offering

But

rarity

a sight-dependent

is

with the physical-

is

beyond

it.

Modern

minds, as

readers

texts

if

had

substance were totally

if that

and no object for meditation.

to vision

Middle Ages, when

in the

lies

to read primarily with their

no graphic substance

we would do

approaching the Divine Comedy

text. In

and

made books

artistic status

precious objects of contemplation and symbolism for their physical

must have been

constitution, there

tween

textuality

and

its

total

One of

graphic representation.

was

effects of the printing press

of the book

more intimate connection be-

a

in its intrinsic

objective character and hence

body of

the text. In the

all

almost

but the dissolution of the physical

Middle Ages, therefore, the analogy between

reading a figurative text and a linguistic one, which

wayfarer

that links the reader to the

been much more exact, since

in

in the plastic arts the text's physicality

The

iconicity of the written word, as defined

by the physical nature of hand by

its

its

dependence on

a

"sconcia"

of vision for

formed

in

and most famous instances occur

—"non

ci

ha"

in

artistic

form.

on the one hand

graphic representation and on the other

moment

placed several times in the foreground clearest

the relation

is

Purgatorio 10, must have

cannot be blurred out of focus without dissolving away

The

its

withdrawal from the contemplative glance of the reader. Typo-

graphical progress has caused

is

the major

the domestication and devaluation

its

very existence,

the Divine

Comedy.

graphic rhyme

in the

Inferno 30.85-87, the acrostic

VOM (man)

by the initial letters of three consecutive groups of four ter-

cets in Purgatorio 13.25-60, and the "cinquecento diece e cinque"

prophecy

in

Purgatorio 33.43, the most well

which are actually interpretations of meral.

its

known

In all of these cases, the reader's

channel to knowledge. To

it

is to relate to

its

is to

manner, which

to saying to allow the self-givenness of the text,

physicality, to be seen in

Roman

nu-

eye must allow the text

to exhibit itself in its material concreteness if

see in this

explications of

iconicity as a

genuineness and

function as a is

tantamount

beginning with

in isolation

of

its

all else,

the text in a primordial way.

The wayfarer

is

very sensitive to this

first

level of the reading

Dante

's

Paradigms of Humility

203

experience, and the poet duly records his impressions. 10 phrases such as

rio

"marmo candido

e

32), "quivi intagliato in un atto soave"(38)

marmo

adorno

/

and "Era

In Purf^ato-

d'intagli" (31intagliato

nel



stesso" (56) do not refer to textual elements in the carvings,

components of

a discourse accessible only to the mind, but to the

material side of that text and to the physical expression of artistic

form. Here there

ment of

nothing metaphorical about the wayfarer's mo-

is

His reading experience

vision.

is first

of

coming

a

all

into

contact with the bodily appearance of the text, given that discourse is

an object of perception before

it

The wayfarer, who had conceived image of

becomes an object of intellection. the Vita Nuova on the structural

who was perhaps himself an amateur artist who so admired the skill of Oderisi da Gubbio

the copyist,

{V.N. 34.1-3), and

as an illuminator of manuscripts, quite naturally reserved his

appreciation for the text as an observable phenomenon. But readers,

however familiar they may be with

and concrete poetry, find

it

more

the

geometry of

first

modern

futuristic

natural to transcend immediately all

perceptual contact with the physical signs of discourse and to enter the timeless world of pure textuality entirely metaphorical.

It is

by means of

for this reason that

a vision

we must

which

is

often check

our embarrassing tendency to regard as artistically less than authentic those texts

all

— such

as palindromes and, graver

reversal so central to the Divine in particular

—which

graphic form.

Comedy

the

Primordially,

all

reading

is it

not seek to enter the reality beyond before

is

canto

upon

their

mediation of

a pictorial

authentic

first

Eva-ave

to this

force the reader to prolong his gaze

discourse to the mind, and, to that extent,

that

still,

whole and

as a

when

it

does

interrogating the one

meets the eye.

The movement of

the reader's attention from the text's physi-

which can be sia.

Upon

comports

a different sort

of interaction,

briefly described in terms of retrieval

and synesthe-

cality to its interior reality

contact, textual entities raise in the reader's

ages that belong

to

mind im-

previous reading experiences or are peculiar to

senses other than that of sight.

Before the carving of the Annun-

ciation the wayfarer experiences the consciousness of hearing the

word ave, but no sound

is

produced by the marble

text;

the

same

thing happens in his reading of the second carving ("a' due mie' sensi

/

faceva dir l'un 'No,' l'altro

'Sì,

canta,'" 59-60). which

is

Domenico Pietropaolo

204 further enriched

by the consciousness of smelling, though

had received no stimulation

occhi e

("li

naso

'1

The consciousness of sensory

discordi fensi," 62-63).

out the appropriate referent in external reality

is

that sense

no

e al sì e al

/

data with-

perhaps the most

conspicuous aspect of reading, for as the poet reduces a necessarsynesthetic experience of lived reality to metaphorical language

ily

when he

textualizes

it,

so the reader begins with that language and

reverses the process, directing

own

towards his

it

being, wherein

he gains consciousness of multisensory phenomena without under-

going any stimulation other than through signatus of our perception of reality

of sight by linguistically forcing the Confessions (10.35)

mon and

locutions as "see



how

impressing

this

on wax,

a seal

couched

in

nomenal

life in

in

the visible

the

Augustine observes

as St.

in

how

if,

to

form and

known in exchange among

let

in

it

we

in

its

complete phe-

such a manner that

may be

it

That

the marble characters, recorded

That

is

to say:

is

is

by the

called a

only sight in so far as

the marble text, but sight as well as

phenomenal projection quently, in

by

begin with the text

achieve

an actus exercitus wholly within.

"visibile parlare" (95).

grounded

sounds,"

it

use an expression dear to Dante,

the act of reading

poet as having taken place in the reality of reading,

is

in

such com-

further reduce our perception

our consciousness,

experientially

why

we

the primacy

metaphorical synthesis on the silent physical pres-

ence of a text-in-potency as

by



smells" and "see

it

the act of writing

if in

it

absorb our other senses

to

the actus

If in

sight.

we acknowledge

sound

it

in its

into the reader's consciousness and, conse-

manifestation through the actus exercitus of his reading

its

experience. In technical language this

may

be described as the creation of

intentionalities without a real objective pole in the here

reading.

The

not emanate incense smoke, and does not depict the but

all

and now of

textual reality facing the wayfarer does not speak, does

of these reach

ness with the

in the

Uzzah episode,

reader the status of figurative conscious-

full authenticity

of presence.

the wayfarer and the reader suggests that this

The analogy between is

true of every act of

always a creative experience,

reading.

This implies that reading

whoever

the reader, and that the source of the intentionalities that

is

represent for a given reader the phenomenal

life

of the text

is

en-

Dante

205

Paradii^ms of Humility

's

being none other than his retentional consciousness

tirely personal,

of previous readings and experiences of reality retrieved to presence

by the

A

text before his eyes.

suggestion, however,

is

not an argument, and so the question

Do

of the legitimacy of the generalisation inevitably arises.

the fea-

tures of reading so far induced from Purgatorio 10 indicate general

To

structure rather than empirical contingency?

way

a rigorous

would be necessary

it

many

of the process of reading, as apparently identifiable in

as the

many

number of

and hence

structure,

its

descriptions

distinctive traits

determine by

to

comparative analysis which features are indispensable ception of

its

matter in

settle the

to look at

to the

con-

essence, discarding those that have no general validity.

This procedure, which corresponds to what phenomenological analysis

knows

as free variation in phantasy, cannot be fully carried out

while remaining within the realm of induction, ited

number of cases may be

the episode of the

it

reading and since, as

der the

if

to

first

texts that are progressively

we

Mary on

find again a

In the foreground of the

the right.

male figure on the

female one on the right (Michal); the carving the background, the choruses and the incense is

also the representation of a

a female

before three

carving there are only two figures, Gabriel on

the left and the Virgin

ing

is

the readings are conducted un-

variations of a single structural unit.

In fact, in the

second carving

a singularly convenient

is

warrant that the reader

same conditions and on sculpted

more complex

a very lim-

contains three independent descriptions of

same phenomenon,

instances of the

which

available for examination. Nevertheless

paradigms of humility

empirical base, since

to

one on the

(David) and a

left

further enriched

smoke. The

male figure on the

widow), with

right (the

is

by

third carv-

(Trajan) and

left

a further magnification

of the background (army, flags, horses). Furthermore the figures of the is

first

paradigm are engraved

is still at

the

window.

In the third

suggested more forcefully since in

in a fixed poise.

a clear suggestion of motion, since

the marble ("I'aguglie ne

movieno," 80-81). first

As

its

Toro

David

in the

In the

second there

dancing while Michal

paradigm the sense of motion

is

very form appears to be carved /

sovr' essi in vista

for the reading process,

carving represents a single event

gives rise

is

in

we

time but that

consciousness of the wayfarer

al

vento

si

notice that the

to the

its

reading

nonobjective

Domenico Pietropaolo

206

intentionality of hearing.

The second

also depicts a single event (the

dance of David before the ark of the covenant) but rise to the

its

reading gives

consciousness of hearing and smelling as well as to the

recollection of an event described in another text (the punishment of

Uzzah). The third paradigm

is

again limited to one fixed poise (the

encounter of Trajan and the widow) but

in the act

of perception

it

creates in the reader the intentionality of a dialogue, and this pre-

supposes the

mind

in the

that reading has in

temporalized the spatial form and has sent

search of an objective correlate of the verbal exchange

anecdotal medieval accounts of Trajan's legendary sense of

justice. In all three cases the

mind of

the reader dwells

of intentionalities: those that have an objective pole

and are mediated by the here and

now

sight,

of the

and those

text, either

that

on two

in the

sorts

carving

have no such correlate

in

because they are modalities of

consciousness peculiar to other sensory experiences or because their is

reading

may

structure of

therefore be regarded as the pursuit of the objective

come

polarities of nonempirical intentionalities that

encounter with the

The

The

rooted in an earlier reading experience.

referent

creation of

into being in the

text.

meaning

is

clearly a collaborative effort involving

and affecting both sides of the

relation.

For

in the

reading process

the text changes the reader's state of consciousness while the reader

transforms the state of the text in his consciousness. They are agents of mutual change engaged in the

means

that reading

common

This

pursuit of sense.

cannot be regarded as a mere coming into pos-

session of a textual object but the subjectification of that object into a dialogue partner.

Once to

the text has been raised to this status, to see

is

truly also

be seen (Merleau-Ponty 162), and the very condition that enables

the text to reveal

its

essence automatically causes the self to

under observation as well. At bidirectional process:

to

open

its

a

most authentic

book

is to

level,

come

reading

is

a

open oneself before the

book. This act of reciprocal penetration means that the being of the reader as reader can be thought out only in terms of his projection into the space of textuality

and viceversa, so

that

being

is

always a

being-there in the other, for both self and text. In the narrative of Purgatorio 10, the being-there of the text reveals itself through the wayfarer's vision

and

is

marble

devoid of sense

Dame

's

and existence outside the than

in

Paradigms of Humility

reality

of reading. This

The

his reading of the third carving.

207

nowhere clearer

is

figures of Trajan

and

widow are fixed in the marble, yet the wayfarer's consciousness only comes into possession of the esse intentioimle of imag-

the

not

ined speech, but also "intends" the unfolding of an entire dialogue,

complete with appropriate psychological change

the characters,

in

woman's initial anxiety ("di lacrime atteggiata e di becomes joy, while the emperor's indifference turns

as the

dolore,"

78)

to

passion ("giustizia vuole e pietà mi ritene," 93).

In other

com-

words,

only through the wayfarer's gaze and for his consciousness could the marble composition reach

its

being-there as textuality-before-a-

phenomenon of a nonempirical dialogue. By implication the printed word is only an object until it is read, at which point it becomes a text orientated toward the realisation of its till then only potential ways to be. To read is to enable the graphic form to come to life as text-for-someone. In the age of rhapsodic mediation, when reading had not yet been consigned to solitude and silence but was carried out aloud in the presence of a community, this reader and surface in the

aspect of the process must have been obvious to everyone. Reading a performative as well as a perceptive activity, since

is

text to life prior to

Similarly, farer

As

it

is

making

it

it

brings a

available for interaction with the reader.

through and

in the texts

before them that the way-

and the reader become aware of other possible ways of being.

a system of signs, the text

is

for the reader a projection of or-

der on reality and a set of paradigms for the self's understanding

of itself within that order.

To read

is

to let oneself

be drawn into

the space of textuality and, consequently, to enter a state in it

is

which

necessary to respond with introspection to challenges of one's

The fundamental

self-understanding and view of world order.

mensions of the reading experience,

so far as

in

it

may be

di-

regarded

as a dwelling of the reader in the world of the text, are the interpretation of signs and the disclosedness of the reader's and text's authenticity.

The

first

of these refers to the fact that signs, by their

very nature, are not objects whose value presence, for their referential character

system

in

is

is

which they occur. Their function

jects, thereby

allowing other contexts

to

self-contained in mere

itself constitutive is

of the

to indicate other

become

ob-

accessible to the

reader's awareness though he does not actually encounter them here

Domenico Pietropaolo

208

and now. The emergence of the intentional being of such contexts in the reader's consciousness orientates his hermeneutic attitude to-

wards the

To

text.

Eva

raise the intentionality of

consciousness by exhibiting a textual ave to his eyes

We

vision in a network of Christian typology.

in the reading process, the text presents itself

in the reader's is

to place that

can therefore say

that,

by creating around the

reader a world that reaches far beyond the value of

its

individual

components of discourse.

The demand made on

the reader

relate hermeneutically to the

words

by the



text

is,

that he see

of course, that he

them as signs

—and

not apophantically, for to seek scientific knowledge of the words in the text

would be

contained and tude, with in the

assume

that the essence of discourse is self-

mere presence. Only the hermeneutic

To

modify

Comedy

interpret a text is to

at the

expose areas of one's being and

same time one's self-understanding.

The Divine

challenges the reader's self-understanding in the face of the

Christian hierarchy of being. In the here and is

atti-

clear implication of the reader's share of responsibility

production of textual sense, can have ontological significance

for him. to

its

to

lies in its

now

of actuality being

an orientable dynamic process rather than a static entity, and

only salvific

movement

is

canto by the worm-butterfly metamorphosis (124-126), that ascent of the soul to

mode

authentic direction.

selves

is

God (Mazzotta

exposed by the

passi," 123), they are

le

is

the

Fallen men, in their in-

views of the world and of them-

is

distorted ("fidanza avete ne' retrosi

no different from insects ("antomata

deformed

ginocchia

their

text to the reader as a guide to self-analysis.

Their perspective on reality

giugner

249).

of being, seek ontological fulfillment in a different

The inadequacy of

128), and are

its

upwards, a direction symbolised in this

into caryatids

al petto,"

132).

in difetto,"

by the weight of sin

To see oneself and

("si

vede

the world

through the eyes of a fallen creature, blind to the authentic orientation sought

by being,

is

not to see at

guides the inauthentic reader is

false

because

The its

intentionality that

objective correlate

not God. In order to attain the right perspective, in the context of

this canto,

it

is

necessary to analyse oneself

humility and to follow the

its

is

all.

way

in

terms of pride and

of humility.

The other fundamental dimension of the reading experience is mode of disclosedness. This is a phenomenon which must be

Dilute

l\irudigms of Humilily

s

209

inlerprelcd in terms of Icmporalily, not only because reading essarily a temporal process, but also

and most of

Heidegger's Being and Time abundantly teaches stitutive

is

because

all

— temporality

is

nec-

—as con-

of the reader's being. His involvement with the text and his

reactions to the challenges that

poses are rooted

it

To see how

structure of his being.

temporal

in the

we must

this is so,

look

at the

reader-text encounter from the point of view of the three dimensions

When

of time.

his perspective of the

becomes aware of other verse (the text, as

The

we have

which

in

in the

really a disclosing

Eva-ave typology the Virgin

between God and man

is

And

so

in the last

is:

it

beseeched by

Bernard

St.

is

to

the

Comedy the God in order vision. And to

canto of the Divine to intercede with

may be granted the grace penitents bowed as caryatids is to

that the pilgrim

show

is

the possibility of her instrumentality occurring as an event

in the text.

Virgin

on the uni-

the text or the historical event can

as the mediator of the distance

open up

questioned, the reader

seen, represents one such possibility).

achieve fulfillment. To postulate

Mary

is

of texts and history

figurai interpretation

of other possibilities

world

possibilities of projecting order

of

full

disclose to the wayfarer

the possibility of redemption.

Such gathering of and the

text

is in

the possibilities

open

to the reader, the

effect the disclosing of potential

plicitly already present in

them.

Yet possibilities are by their very

This does not mean that fulfillment

nature futural.

beyond, but rather that

this

beyond, be

it

lies

in the here

of the text and

in the

now

actuality

is

already to

of the wayfarer and

the reader. For though possibilities are always rooted

yond

somewhere

spatial (for the text) or tem-

poral (for the wayfarer and the reader), as a possibility,

be found

wayfarer

ways of being im-

somewhere be-

and must be hermeneutically drawn out from contexts

intentionally present to the self without being perceptually available to

it,

their futural

here and

in the

dimension

now

of the

is

ontologically meaningful to the reader

moment

of vision, provided he does not

yield to the lure of inauthenticity.

For the wayfarer, disclosedness

is

quite simply the progressive

unfolding of his fides implicita, which already contains elechy as a bud Ott





to take

contains embryonically

work being

its full

ent-

advantage of an analogy used by Heinrich its

realised flower (Ott 19).

read, the disclosing of possibilities takes place,

For the

on the

Domenico Pietropaolo

210

one hand, as the mental projection of

potential to be textuality-

its

before-a-reader, and, on the other hand, as the emergence of the indi-

vidual segments' intentionalities, which, in and for the consciousness

of the reader, define the internal structure of the text by linking into

components of discourse

a network of relations

moments of

ferent

belong

that

to dif-

Finally for the reader, the disclosedness

vision.

that occurs in the reading experience is a projection of possible

of relating to the claims of the text and thought. Futurity

its

is

meaningful because

To understand

tology.

mode

questioning of his

which

same

the

is

the text

means

it

it

is

represents personal escha-

of being and of his view of the world,

make

is,

own way

of

becomes aware

In reading he

reality.

of the possibility to be other than he actually to

ways

in reflexive

for the reader to understand

as saying to understand himself his

being and his perspective on

upon

grounded

and he feels called

a decision that will radically affect his

mode

of being

before himself. Disposition to self-analysis and acceptance of responsibility for

God's distance from man

are necessary conditions for a proper read-

ing of both the purgatorial carvings and the Divine

what perspective must

this introspection

Comedy. But from

Where

be carried out?

the objective correlate of his intentional standpoint to be found

reader in

to face this task with ontological authenticity?

is

which

The locus

such an analysis cannot be anywhere but

to stand for

is

the

if

made such

in

the future.

The wayfarer, of

though

the end of his journey he cannot fully transcend the lim-

till

itations of the present

course, has already

a choice,

and interpret the scheme of things from the

But the reader, standing before a text him with what Auerbach described as the authority

clear perspective of eternity.

which speaks

to

and urgency of prophecy (Auerbach 304), must suffer a moment of crisis.

It

is

because

man

has looked

at the

world inauthentically,

hiding in the everyday concerns of the present, that he conversion. being,

is

The

future, as defined

not a circumstantial

now

by

all

vine

to

is

close at hand.

authentically the paradigms of humility as well as the Di-

Comedy

is to

read them relating intentionally to the future rather

than to the past or to the present, since for fallen

only the

need of

open

that has not yet occurred, but that

dimension of the present through which redemption

To read

is in

the possibilities

mode of an

actuality that does not reach

man

the present

beyond

itself

is

and

Dante

's

Paradigms of Humility

the past a reminder that this actuality

Only

his previous choices.

2

1

1

necessary consequence of

is a

the future can offer us the possibility to

choose redemption here and now. This in

the ontological thrust of reading

is

when

it

is

carried out

the authentic mode, with the resoluteness to reach out from the

present to a

more meaningful plane of existence. It represents the level at which the interaction between the reader and

most profound

the text can take place.

As

they dwell in each other, the text and the

reader reach a plenitude of being inconceivable outside this dialec-

The

tic.

text fulfills itself artistically in the fruition process, attaining

synesthetic

life in the

reader's consciousness and drawing sense from

the reader's experience as reader.

comes aware of posed by the

text

of the Divine

At

the

same time

the reader be-

his ontological potential in the face of the challenges

and explores the depths of being. For the reader

Comedy

this

process leads to the discovery that the

possibility of salvation awaits his decision.

University of Toronto

WORKS CITED Alighieri, Dante.

La Divina Commedia secondo

l'antica vulgata.

A

cura di G.

Petrocchi. 4 vols. Milano: Mondadori, 1966-67.

Augustine. Confessions. Trans. R. Warner.

New

York: Mentor, 1963.

Auerbach, E. Studi su Dante. Trans. D. Della Terza. Milano: Curtius, E.R.

New

Feltrinelli, 1971.

European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans. W. R. Trask.

York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963.

Dufrenne, M. Phénoménologie de l'expérience esthétique. Paris: Presses Universitaires

de France, 1967.

Gadamer, H. -G. Philosophical Hermeneutics.

Trans. D. E. Linge.

Berkeley:

University of California Press, 1976. Iser,

W. "The Reading

Process:

A

Phenomenological Approach."

New

Literary

History 2 (1970): 279-299.

Mazzotta, G. Dante, Poet of the Desert.

Princeton, N.J.:

Princeton University

Press, 1979.

Merleau-Ponty, M. TTiePr/mac)'*?/ Percepr/on. Ed.

J.

M.

Edie. Evanston: North-

western University Press, 1964. Ott, H.

"Hermeneutics and Personhood." Interpretation: The Poetry of Meaning.

Hopper and D. L. Miller. New York: Harbinger. 1967. 14-34. "Phenomenology of Reading." New Literary History (1969): 54-68.

Eds. S. R. Poulet, G.

1

Zygmunt G. Baranski

Dante's Three Reflective Dreams*

Introduction

1.

Dante scholars have generally considered the three dreams gatorio from two points of view.

Firstly,

since they

in

Pur-

mark major

divisions of the mountain, they have perceived them as important

elements

in the poet's

dawn dreams have sizes,

Secondly, since

organization of the cantica.

prophetic qualities, as the poet himself empha-

following contemporary belief

{Inf. 26.7,

Purg. 9.16-18 and

27.92-93),' they have seen them as sources of information about future events in the realm.

Although interesting connections can be

established between the substance of the dreams and in

later incidents

Purgatory, such rapprochements are only possible once the reader

has assimilated these subsequent episodes. At the points in the narrative

where

seem

they

to

the

be

dreams occur, they are as arcane

to the

to the reader as

pilgrim-dreamer {Purg. 9.34-48 and 19.40-42,

55-57), and are, thus, characterized by the mystery and the sybilline

which

register

the poet regarded as the basis of the prophetic." In

addition, Robert Hollander has pointed out that, at least as regards

the

dream of

the siren,

its first

structural effect

is

not prospective,

but retrospective. Writing about the second dream, he claims It is

a passage

which looks back

to the first

cantos of Purgatorio (the center of the

on love;

to its

cantos oi Inferno; to the central

poem

immediate context which

is

that:

as a whole),

which discourse

the discussion

and presentation

of "Sloth," or better, accidia, the action of the soul which gives physical

surrounding and moral necessity first

to this

dream; and

to the

context of the

Purgatorial dream. {Allegory 136)

Hollander, however, does not develop this insight, concerned as he is to

trace figurai patterns in the

Comedy. Yet

his observation merits

further investigation, particularly as the backward-looking feature

of Dante's dreams in other

is

unusual

medieval writers.

when compared

While

Hollander recognizes obviously help QUADERNI

diiaUanistica Volume X. No. 1-2. 1989

to

dream-passages

the intratextual contacts to integrate the

which

dream of

the

Zygmunt G. Baranski

214

development of the poem,

siren into the narrative

more than

they are also something fact,

I

seems

to

me

that

elements mark the other

shall argue that similar retrospective

two Purgatorial dreams, and

it

just simple structural devices. In

that the tensions

which Dante establishes

between the prophetic and other functions of dreaming are consistent with medieval attitudes to dreams and with the general directions of his

2.

poem.

Dante's conception of the dream

In the

Comedy, despite what one might imagine from reading Dante

criticism, the poet is actually ambivalent about the connections be-

tween dreams and prophecy. There are ship.^

Two

which

is

del ver

all

che M

power of dreams,"

presented with a certain caution: "A/a se presso

sogna"

si

{Inf. 26.7,

my

è divina" {Purg. 9.18,

not

five references to this relation-

are general allusions to the prophetic

my

Later

italics).

dreams can foresee the

and "a

italics)

it

is

le

clearly implied that

future: "il sonno^

fatto sia, sa le novelle" {Purg.

other two cases, however, Ugolino

27.92-93,

{Inf.

mattin

il

sue vision quasi

che sovente,

I

my

In the

italics).

33.25-37) and

St.

anzi

Bonaven-

made to express such doubts, since they refer to specific dreams whose truthfulness was confirmed by subsequent events. The tentativeness with which Dante presents the rela-

ture {Par. 12.65) are not

tionship between dreaming and prophecy reflects a long-established tradition

which had

some dreams have

origins in the

its

Old Testament, where only

divinely instituted prophetic associations, while

others are examples of ordinary

human

activity or

can even offer

misleading insights.^ The Church Fathers and Doctors added to Biblical positions

between true and

on

this point.

false dreams, and,

little

They continued to distinguish even more than in the Bible,

they presented prophetic dreams as exceptional.' In Virgil too, Dante

would have found 6.893-96).

a warning about true and false

orthodox and prudent

in

Comedy, underlines

The

{Inf.

both

poet, in fact, elsewhere in

the intellectual confusion

which dreams can

bring about: "Qual è colui che suo dannaggio sogna, desidera sognare"

is

expressing reservations about the relation-

ship between dreams and prophecy. the

dreams {Aeneid

Given the weight of these auctoritates, Dante

30.136-37),

"sì

che non

/

che sognando

parli più

com'

om

che sogna"' {Purg. 33.33), and "Qual è colui che sognando vede,

/

Datile s Three Rcjìccinc

che dopo M sogno

la

passione impressa

On

non riede" {Far. 33.58-60).

/

Dreams

215

rimane, e l'altro a

the other hand,

Dante

is

la

mente

much more

between dreaming and

open and consistent about

the connections

other intellectual activity.

His emphasis on the psychological and

physiological aspects of dreaming

is

consistent with developments

in medieval Aristotelianism." According to Dante's major definition

of dreams "la

mente

Comedy, they

in the

nostra, peregrina

are the product of the

più da la carne e

/

men

how

is

granted

when

he

is

He

mental process functions.

between the information which the

stresses the intimate relationship

pilgrim

this

/

At the close of Pur-

a le sue vision quasi è divina" (Purg. 9.16-18).

gatorio 18, the poet explains

human mind:

da' pensier presa,

awake, the thoughts

this

knowledge

waking

stimulates in him, and the subsequent transformation of these

thoughts into dream matter:^

novo pensiero dentro e tanto

che e

li

d'uno

a

me

mise,

si

nacquero e diversi;

del qua! più altri

in altro

vaneggiai,

occhi per vaghezza ricopersi,

pensamento

'1

in

sogno trasmutai. {Purg. 18.141-45)

Dante, day,

is

in positing the origins

tradition of c.

3) to

of dreams

in the

preoccupations of the

again drawing from the mainstream of the most illustrious

contemporary dream theory.

Alan of

Lille (col. 256),

From Macrobius

and from Gregory the Great

cap. 48) to the author of the pseudo-Bernardian Liber de

vivendi (cap. 68), this view

was repeated time and

"Igitur ea quae, ut

in

corpore, possunt

quae latenter

cum

et

ita

modo bene St.

Augus-

dicam, vestigia sui motus animus

manere,

et

quemdam

1,

(lib. 4,

again; and, in

Christian culture, this idea goes back at least as far as tine:

(lib.

figit

quasi habitum facere;

agitata fuerint et concretata,

secundum

agitantis

et contrectantis voluntatem, ingerunt nobis cogitationes et somnia"

(Epistolae 9.3).

3.

The dream

of the siren

Given the poet's emphasis tacts

at the

between dreaming and

end of Purgatorio 18 on the con-

reflection (and,

more generally

his

em-

phasis on the pilgrim deliberating on the subject-matter of Virgil's teaching),'"

it

is

satisfying to note that

much

of Danle-personaggio's

— Zygmunt G. Baranski

216

dream of

which follows on immediately

the siren,

of Purgatorio 19,

a

is

Firstly,

"Ne

li

and "la lingua, e poscia al

mal

mosaic put together from elements related occhi guercia, e sovra tutta la

human

pie distorta" (19.8)

i

"ma quando

drizzava" (19.13) mimic

non va con

torce" (17.100) and "e l'anima

si

beginning

account of the functioning of love in

to his guide's earlier

beings.

at the

altro piede, /

se dritta o torta va" (18.44-45);" secondly, "cominciava a cantar

che con pena

/

da

lei

avrei

mio

intento rivolto" (19.17-18) paro-

mai non può da

dies "Or, perchè

sì,

amor

la salute /

del suo subietto

volger viso" (17.106-07); and, thirdly, "L'altra prendea, e dinanzi l'apria

verts

and

/

fendendo

"Or

".

.

.

ti

drappi, e mostravami

i

'1

puote apparer quant' è nascosa

m'hanno amor discoverto"

the siren, in

its

essence,

is

ventre" (19.31-32) sub/ la

(18.41).

veritate" (18.34-35)

In fact, the

dream of

largely prefigured in the conclusion to

Virgil's explanation of the genesis of love:

Or

puote apparer quant' è nascosa

ti

la veritate a la

gente ch'avvera

ciascun amore in sé laudabil cosa;

però che forse appar

la

sua matera

sempre esser buona, ma non ciascun segno e buono, anco che buona sia la cera."'^ (18.34-39)

The shows

dream not only displays

fabric of the

the reflective effort going

on

its

origins,'^ but also

in the pilgrim's

mind, thus offer-

ing tangible evidence for Dante's view of dreams as an integral part

of mental activity. Even in his sleep, Dante-perso/iag^/o goes over

what he has heard

in

order to "search out"

been bidden. However, on account of his he has clear. it

still

far to travel

He muddles

into a disturbing

original

words and

and much

Virgil's lucid

new

synthesis.

to learn

its

significance as he has

intellectual limitations



his thinking is far

The gap which

their return in the pilgrim's

deficiencies of his thought.

It is

from

and logical exposition, fashioning exists

between the

dream displays

inevitable that he should

the

wake up

perturbed (19.40-41, 55-57) and that Virgil should have to reassure

him with

The

a further explanation (19.58-60).

sophisticated rhetorical artistry with which Dante offers a

glimpse of his character's psyche also has more general

effects.

The

poet makes the siren enact allegorically the truth of the doctrinal

Dante's Three Reflective Dreams

At the same lime, through

matter expounded by Virgil.

inter-canto repetitions and antitheses,'"* Dante the moral is

drama with

originally

217

able to

is

his use of

accompany

a concrete, textual demonstration of

good can be transformed

how what

something bad.

into

when

just as people pervert their innate capacity to love

Thus,

they sin

{Purg. 17.91-114), so the siren, a symbol of the perversion of love, ideologically and formally distorts Virgil's words.

Other elements which make up the dream confirm the reflective state

of the sleeping Dante-peisonaggio.

The physical appearance

of the siren recalls, too, the Abbot of San Zeno's description of

Giuseppe della Scala: "mal del corpo e

intero,

speech Dante-character hears before going plausible that

should be fresh

it

in his

mente peggio,

e de la

/

che mal nacque" (Purg. 18.124-25).''^ The Abbot's

is

major

the last

and thus

to sleep;

it

is

However, moments

mind.

after the pilgrim has finished listening to the fleetfooted cleric,

two

of the penitent slothful remind him of Aeneas's companions

who

remained with Acestes

in Sicily.

And

these are the very last words

of the second day:

E

quella che l'affanno non sofferse

fino a la fine col figlio d'Anchise, sé stessa a vita sanza gloria offerse.

{Purg. 18.136-38)

The

— — have

origins of this event

grieving Trojan

women

the deception practised

dream. The details of Virgil's story, with other memories, also

by

come

now

on the

Iris

striking similarities to the

imminent

refashioned and confused

flooding into the sleeper's

mind

stimulated by their earlier periphrastic allusion. Such a reaction on the part of Dante-character

is

not narratively improbable, since he

has been praised for knowing the Aeneid "tutta quanta"

Thus,

Iris's

(//;/.

20.1 14).

metamorphosis (Aen. 5.618-21) and her unmasking by

Pyrgo (5.644-49) foreshadow what happens ties also exist in their

to the siren.

gressus eunti" (5.649) adumbrates "e poscia tutta smarrito volto

I

inciava a cantar

.

.

sì,

.

I

Similari-

appearances: "Qui voltus vocisque sonus vel

Poi ch'ella avea

che con pena

/

da

'1

la

drizzava

parlar così disciolto,

lei

avrei

mio

... lo

/ /

com-

intento rivolto"

(19.13-18). In addition, and providing further evidence of the

mud-

dled state of D'ànit-personaggio, Virgil's description of the goddess also inspires the arrival of the holy lady:

"Divini signa decoris.

/

Zygmunt G. Baranski

218

Ardentisque notate oculos" (5.647-48) presages "quand' una donna

apparve santa

I

.

.

.

I

con

li

occhi

fitti

pur

in quella onesta, (19.26,

30)."

4.

The dream

Given the

which

it

of the eagle

central position of the second

dream and

the

illustrates the poet's explanation of the connections

thought and dreaming which preface

it,

this

in

dream can usefully serve

two dreams: indeed,

as a guide to the reading of the other

ways

between

links be-

tween these dreams and the events which precede them are also discernible.

The dream

Purgatorio

in

famous

9,

for

its

aura of am-

biguity and horror, most notably catches the political resonances of

cantos 6-8 which eagle.

it

However,

crystallizes in the imperial

into a nightmare

by

perfectly rational

waking

this

symbolism of the

the sleeping pilgrim transforms these

memories

superimposing onto the eagle his

irrationally

fear of the snake {Purg. 8.37-42).^^ That

worry should have made such an impact on him again makes

Not only

narrative sense.

is

the threat of the devil an unexpected

turn of events in Purgatory, but, before the actual appearance of the

angels and the snake, DdiniQ-personaggio had listened to the princes singing the

hymn

Te lucis ante (8.13-18)

tection, so that "Procul recédant somnia,

/

which asks God

for pro-

Et noctium phantasmata;

/

Hostemque nostrum comprime, / Ne polluantur corpora."'^ The poet makes explicit these connections between his character's waking and sleeping worlds by modelling the eagle's behaviour on the descent

and swift protective action of the angels: ... mi parea veder sospesa un'aguglia nel ciel con penne d'oro

con

.

.

.

l'ali

come

me

e

aperte a calare intesa

folgor discendesse

rapisse suso

.

.

.

{Purg. 9.19-21, 29-30)

e vidi uscir

due angeli.

.

.

.

.

.

de

l'alto e

scender giùe

.

che da verdi penne

percosse traean dietro a ventilate

Dante

's

Three Reflective Dreams

Sentendo lender fuggì

suso a

'I

serpente, e

219

l'aere a le verdi ali, li

angeli dier volta,

poste rivolando iguali.

le

{Purg. 8.25-26, 29-30, 106-08)

A

recognition of the different points of origin of the

first

dream

enriches our understanding of this event. Given the original positive

connotations associated with two of

demonstrate that the nightmare

He

ing.

is

adequately between good and evil in

own mak-

unnecessarily equates the Empire and the angels with the

snake, the third source of the dream.

days

main elements, the echoes

its

of DaniQ-personaggio's

the next three

a

Purgatory will help rectify

that

Most previous

things which he ought to have kept apart. interpreted the

dream

in a similar

be a symbol of the wayfarer's

his inability to distinguish

It is

— deficiency which — brings together

mind have

They have considered

key.

state:

in his

critics

he

is

it

to

not yet ready to cross

the wall of fire separating Purgatory from the Earthly Paradise or to

pass through the fiery sphere which medieval cosmography placed

between the earth's atmosphere and the

circle of the

moon; nor

is

he

yet able to assimilate properly the intervention of the divine in his

This

life.

is

an excellent reading of the dream-content; yet

the function of the lexical choices the

dream

in

which the poet employs

it

ignores

to describe

displaying these deficiencies. Dante, by repeating and

then synthesizing elements which he had previously presented as separate, not only offers a narratively plausible source for his pro-

tagonist's terror, but,

more importantly, he

into the pilgrim's limitations

the

dream

is

recounted

in the

and condition

is

at the

events in the story, for

very

moment when

poem. The dream-content, on

when example, when it

hand, can only offer such a perspective later

able to offer an insight

Virgil's explanation of the appearance of St.

it

is

is

the other

combined with

measured against

Lucy (Purg. 9.46-63),

or against the travellers' arrival in the girone of the penitent lustful,

or against the vision of the divine eagle in Paradise.'''

5.

The dream

as mental

map: Leah and Rachel

Like the dream of the siren, the pilgrim's vision of Leah and Rachel is

prefaced by his "ruminating" on his adventures as he readies him-

Once again its substance divulges the The dream recalls Forese's descriptions of his

self for sleep (Purg. 27.91-93).

nature of his thoughts.

Zygmunt G. Baranski

220 wife and of his

Nella's virtuous behaviour, "quanto in ben op-

sister.

erare è più soletta" {Purg. 23.93),

me

that "a

remembered

is

in

Leah's revelation

I'ovrare appaga" (Purg. 27.108); while Forese's evoca-

"La mia

tion of Piccarda,

fosse più, triunfa lieta

/

che

sorella,

tra bella e

Olimpo

nell'alto

buona

Non

/

so qual

già di sua corona" (Purg.

24.13-15), affects Dante-personaggio' s vision of both the Biblical

"giovane e bella .../.../ 'Sappia

sisters:

ma mia

suora

.

."

.

.

belle

/ le

mani a farmi

(Purg. 27.97, 100, 102,

una ghirlanda

/

104). Forese's

words provide the basic constituents of the

.

.

/

.

.

.

last

dream.

However, elements from the pilgrim's memorable meeting with Arnaut Daniel also return in his dream, thus underlining more boldly its

In particular, details appear

reflectiveness.

from the Provençal

poet's presentation of himself, "Tan m'abellis vostre cortes deman,

qu'ieu no

me

puesc

ni voill a

vos cobrire.

e vau cantan" (Purg. 26.140-42),

image of Leah: "giovane ...

e

ch'i'

cantando dicea:

mi son

Lia, e

/

which

e bella

.

.

.

/

/

leu sui Arnaut, que plor

the sleeper fashions into the /

donna vedere andar

'Sappia qualunque

vo movendo intorno

/ le

il

.

.

.

mio nome dimanda

belle

mani

.

.

.'

/

/

" (Purg.

27.97-102).

As

is

the case for his treatment of the

two

earlier

dreams, Dante's

recourse to allusion to construct the dream of Leah and Rachel offers a convincing insight into his character's psychology (as well as evi-

dence of the great care with which he he

is

tells his story).^°

By

this

device

thus able to give information on matters which the text does

The

not directly address.

maps, a view which

three

dreams can be interpreted as mental

keeping with Dante's ideas on dreaming as

is in

an intellectual activity. Rather than glimpses of the future, they are sophisticated signs of the pilgrim's emotional, intellectual, and spiritual

condition

at the

moments when

they occur.'^'

taken as yardsticks with which to measure

makes us

reflect

relation to

it.

They can thus be Each dream

his progress.

on the previous day's journey and on the pilgrim's

Thus,

in the

Leah and Rachel, with

its

context of Purgatorio 27, the dream of

serene atmosphere of harmony, and in

contrast to the dark and confused overtones of Purgatorio 9 and 19,

reveals a its

mind which has

learnt

its

lessons well. In particular, given

dependency on elements associated with

love,

and

in

accordance

both with the pilgrim's purified state and with his inevitable thoughts of Beatrice stimulated by Virgil's promises (Purg. 27.36-42, 53-54),

Dante it

's

Three Reflective Dreams

221

suggests that he has achieved a balanced and spiritualized view of In fact,

love.

on account of

the dream,

on

refined insistence

its

"beautiful ladies," can be taken as an ideal stilnovist vignette acted

out against a lightly sketched, yet highly suggestive locus amoenus.

memorized on

All that the pilgrim has seen, experienced, and

his

journey, and most especially on the third day, would point to his

such terms

in precisely

understanding the erotic

development. To emphasize and prepare

stage in his

at this

for this idea, the poet earlier

had both the pilgrim and Bonagiunta declare

that stilnovist

tions are the truest linguistic expression of the internal

conven-

movements

of love and of the relationship between thought and love:

E

"T mi son un che, quando

io a lui:

Amor mi

spira, noto, e a quel

modo

vo significando."

ch'e' ditta dentro

(Purg. 24.52-54)

and ben come

le vostre penne vanno strette, nostre certo non avenne;

Io veggio

di retro al dittator sen

che de

le

e qua! più a gradire oltre si mette,

non vede più da l'uno

a l'altro stilo.

{Purg. 24.58-62)

Dante carefully paves the way for the entry of the stilnuovo into the

dream." During

the course of three closely related encounters,

Ddinit-personaggio had recognized the intellectual and riority

of the dolce

lyric poetry; tie

ments

in this style.

made aware of

and of

this verse to love

his

In their conversation, he

bonds

the especial

own fundamental

anti-stilnovist of

earth. Their

forms

— which

achieve-

and Forese had implic-

that they

and romantic

had been

dolce

their

stil



that

tenzone on

novo was loudly trumpeted, had

right to

acknowledge

their earlier po-

error. Finally, Dante-perso/iagg/o's

Guinizzelli had ratified the lar lyric

had inspired

subsequent meeting with Bonagiunta, during which the

cardinal position of the dolce

confirmed

supeItalian

rejected the conventions of the comico-realistico tradition

most

etic

artistic

novo over other forms of vernacular

he had also been

which

itly

stil

5//7

novo as the supreme

encounter with

Italian

vernacu-

form. These reminders of the values and techniques of the

stil

novo and of

his

own

stile

de

la loda,

remembered

via the

Zygmunt

222

G. Bararìski

"Donne ch'avete" (Purg. 24.49-51), make

reference to

a powerful

impression on the pilgrim, especially as they are bolstered by other related events dealing with love:

proper ways of loving, the penitent

lustful, the

and the passage through the flames.

many

Virgil's exposition of the

mention of Beatrice,

Their return

dream

in the

is

almost "inevitable." Under these circumstances, intellectually, aesthetically, emotionally,

and

wayfarer on the edges of

spiritually the

the Earthly Paradise could not have been capable of a different or

more elevated awareness of love and of

his

own

relationship to

it

than that which he experiences in his dream.

Dante's handling of the dream emblematically hints is

a

good example of

He

polisemia.

episodes

in

power of concision and of

at all this,

the

and

Comedy's

takes a few key details from a couple of purgatorial

which

love poetry,

his

the question of love, or

raised,

is

more

and then reworks them

precisely that of

new

into a

which synthesizes the monolingual conventions of the his youth with the plurilingual structures of the

treatment of the landscape of the dream

is in

narrative

lyric verse

of

Comedy. Dante's

the

same vein

as his

presentation of Leah and Rachel, bringing about a fragile, and, as

we

temporary harmony between the "lyric" and the "comic"

shall see,

moments of

his poetic career.

the pastourelle strand in the

On stil

the one hand, the landscape evokes

novo.

On

the other,

its

more

speci-

Edenic and Golden Age attributes are the product of a whole

fically

array of natural

phenomena already seen by

the traveller

on

his jour-

ney: in particular, the setting of the castle in Limbo,^^ the beach of

Purgatory, the Valley of Princes (especially 7.73-84), the two trees in the

girone of gluttony, one of which,

adesso, si

I

.

.

I

.

should be noted,

it

shoot of the Tree of Knowledge: "e noi

venimmo

legno è più su che fu morso da Eva,

More

levò da esso" {Purg. 24.113, 116-17).

/

is

an off-

grande arbore

al

e questa pianta

generally, the land-

scape recalls the persistent promise of Eden embedded throughout Purgatory.'^''

The need

to

seek the kind of alternative explanations which

I

have

suggested for the function and meaning of the dream of Leah and

Rachel

at the

moment

the inconsistencies

at

which

between

its

it

occurs

in the text, is

vision and

what

sees and experiences in the Earthly Paradise. ^^

confirmed by

the pilgrim actually

The dream

offers

no

clue to the forest, nor to the allegorical obscurity and rigidity of the

liante

Three Rcjlcclivc Dreams

's

223

procession and ol the pagcanl, nor to ihc horrific elements of the

More

latter.

she

crucially,

quite misleading about Beatrice. Firstly,

is

it

anything but an ideal stilnovist lady on her return; and,

is

in fact,

the circumstances of her reappearance, and then her role as eschatological teacher and guide, affirm the deficiencies of stilnovo ideol-

ogy. The balance Dante has established in the third dream, between the love lyric

and the Comedy

poem moves on

is

accordingly

propose more sophisticated

to

left

behind, and the

Secondly,

solutions."''

the dream's emphasis on Leah, in the light of Virgil's promises of

would suggest

Beatrice,

that

Dante's lady, especially as

it

is

in the

she,

who

and not Rachel,

poem

there has been

prefigures

no forewarning

of the meeting with or of the need for Matelda. The connection LeahBeatrice

who,

as

is

we know,

(////.

The

2.102).

far

conditioned by

state is largely

means

fact that,

in

triumph,

it

is

human

ininity, gentleness,

Limbo.

is still

extremely restricted.

cannot see

reason.

When

much beyond

Beatrice arrives

her Christian moral severity and her religious conthat

fem-

and affection which had characterized her

visit

There

notations which are to the fore.

to

even though Dante-

Virgil's intellectual limitations;

that the pilgrim

the range of unenlightened

mi sedea

and learnt much, his knowledge, even

of the true extent of the nature of love,

allegorically this

dream,

distortion of Beatrice's future

and behaviour stems again from the

personaggio has travelled

His

in the

Beatrice's neighbour in Paradise, "che

is

con l'antica Rachele" role

by the presence of Rachel

further stressed

Such

attributes

mark

no evidence of

is

the limits of Virgil's

knowledge

of Beatrice; and they are especially associated with the qualities of her eyes:

"Lucevan

li

che

la

2.55, 116).

It

occhi suoi

lucenti lagrimando volse"

(//;/.

piìi

unforgettable eyes that Virgil spurs on his già veder parmi," Purg. 27.54), and

which

stella" is

and

occhi

companion ("Li occhi suoi

later bids

him, using a formula

two references from inferno,

tellingly blends the

"li

by recalling those

to

enjoy the

beauties of the Earthly Paradise while he awaits Beatrice's arrival:

"Mentre che vegnan

lieti

li

occhi belli

mi fenno" {Purg. 27.136-37).'^

/

che lagrimando, a

Virgil and,

te

venir

by extension, the pilgrim

are unable to envisage a different sort of Beatrice at this point; nor

can either of them see beyond the qualities she shares with Leah.

The dream thus

reveals both T>?ir\{t-personaggio's, achievements and

his deficiencies. Just as he

is

about to describe

a

major new stage

in

Zygmunt G. Baranski

224 the journey, in

Dante pauses

provide an assessment of his character

to

order to help the reader understand the significance and the need

for these

new

experiences.

6.

Contrast and repetition in the three dreams

The

sophistication of the third

arate

decessors.

Its

sense of harmony sep-

its

striking difference in tone, content,

when compared with most

dream and

from the tensions and confusion which define

it

visible

its

and presentation,

dreams of the eagle and of the

the

and accessible

characteristics.'^ In

deficiencies, they are also possibly

its

two pre-

view of

siren, are its its

most revealing

prophetic

traits,

since

they are a record of the enormous progress which the pilgrim has

made during

Such contrasts are many.

his travels through Purgatory.

Stylistically, the lyricism

and stilnovism of the

final

dream

conflict

with the harsh, even infernal sounds used to describe the siren (Purg.

Where

19.7-15, 31-33) and the descent of the eagle {Purg. 9.27-33). a certain similarity of tone and vocabulary

present, as with the

song (Purg. 9.16-24) and Leah's words {Purg. 27.99-108),

siren's

underscore the differences between the singers and their

this helps

The

songs.

found

is

in

last

dream

is

the other two:

quite free of the kind of negative terms

Purgatorio

in

9,

example,

for

"terribil"

exam"femmina balba" (7), "smarrito volto" (14), "fendendo" (32), "puzzo" (33). The dream of Leah and Rachel is characterized by (29), "rapisse" (30), "io ardesse" (31); in Purgatorio 19, for ple,

an overwhelming sense of order and harmony, while the others are

marred by it

is

conflict, violence,

"singularly untroubled.

the kind of lovingness"

.

and opposition. As Hollander writes, .

and simple,

relatively brief

,

full

of

which has escaped the "threat of sensuality

which causes disorder and death" {Allegory 149, 154). On the other hand, such sensuality in the

is

directly depicted in the siren

eagle via the reference to

further supported

27, and

Ganymede.

by the absence

in the third

dream of

of Leah and Rachel

first

dream

is

it

from the

others.

implicit

the

in

theme of captivity

a significant in the

development dreams. This

Lucy had appeared anonymous "donna

Earlier,

dream only by analogy, while

is

Purgatorio

the dominating presence

presence of positive female figures

also distinguishes the

in the final

is

Hollander's point

by the pilgrim's untroubled waking

which marks the other two. Furthermore, in the actual

and

the

.

in .

.

Dame

Ihree Reflective

s

Dreams

225

santa e presta" had to share the stage with the siren,

of Leah's beauty. Finally, the Biblical origins of

ties are the reverse

dream again underline

the third

whose deformi-

separateness and superiority:

its

much more

less ostentatiously learned yet

it

is

complex

sophisticated and

than the other two.

As

I

briefly

mentioned

ing elements, are apparent the three dreams:

for

earlier, similarities, as in the

well as contrast-

presentation and subject-matter of

example, the

common

dreaming formulaically introduced by "Ne 19.1; 27.94); the hints implicit in

all

stress

l'ora

on the hour of

che" (Purg. 9.13;

three that the journey

pilgrim-Ganymede's impending

the verge of ending (the

Paradise-Olympus, the siren's boast that "e qual meco s'ausa, sen parte;



on

/

rado

tutto l'appago!" [Purg. 19.23-24], and the recovery of

Eden and Beatrice hinted their

is

arrival in

at in the third

common dependence on

dream); and, most notably,

However,

intratextual elements.

as

with the rapprochement between Leah and the siren, these shared features do not confuse the three dreams, but help to confirm the

changes

that

have occurred within Danle-personaggio since the

time he slept.

same

the

Thus, the poet organizes

all

three

last

dreams around

structure of intratextual recapitulation and other

common

elements, because this permits him to create, within a single unified system, a differentiated yet coherent

internal

Momigliano canti

and concrete record of the

development of the pilgrim and of the ways says, "quell'ombra solenna che è

ódV Inferno

si

è concretata e svolta in

il

in

which, as

Dante dei primi due

una personalità ricca e

salda" (469) by the time he reaches the edge of the holy wood. It is,

in fact, interesting to

Dante appears had established

to

note that, in organizing the three dreams,

have followed the hierarchy which

for prophetic

dreams and visions.

St.

Thomas

This not only

establishes further distinctions between the dreams, but also supports the

view

that they reveal the

during his three days

in

changes which the pilgrim undergoes

Purgatory.

St.

Thomas

writes:

Secundo autem diversificantur gradus prophetiae quantum ad expressionem signorum imaginabilium, quibus Veritas intelligibilis exprimitur. Et quia signa

maxime expressa

intelligibilis veritatis sunt verba, ideo altior

gradus

prophetiae videtur, quando propheta audit verba exprimentia intelligibilem veritatem sive

in

vigilando, sive in dormiendo,

res significativas veritatis, sicut

nos ubertatis. Gen. 41.

In

quam quando

videt aliquas

septem spicae plenae significant septem an-

quibus etiam signis tanto videtur prophetia esse

— Zygmunt

226

G. Baranski

quanto signa sunt magis expressa; sicut quando Jeremias vidit

altior,

in-

cendium civitatis sub similitudine ollae succensae, sicut dicitur Jerem. I. Tertio autem ostenditur altior esse gradus prophetiae, quando propheta non solum videt signa verborum vel factorum, sed etiam videt vel in vigilando vel in dormiendo aliquem sibi colloquentem, aut aliquid demonstrantem, quia per hoc ostenditur quod mens prophetae magis appropinquat ad causam revelantem. Quarto autem potest attendi altitudo gradus propri-



ex conditione ejus qui videtur.

etalis ille

specie angeli

quam

si

dormiendo vel

tur in I:

Nam

gradus prophetiae

altior

est, si

qui loquitur vel demonstrat, videatur in vigilando vel in dormiendo; in

Vidi

Dominum

videatur in specie hominis: et adhuc altior, in

vigilando

specie Dei,

in

secundum

sendentem. (Summa theol. IIa-2ae,

Dante too moves from

silent signa

account of the presence of

fire



q.

si

174,

art.

3)

albeit highly expressive

as in Aquinas's

videa-

illud Isaiae 6,

example



ones on

to

dreams

shown and spoken by women of ever-higher rank and whose appearance becomes increasingly more attractive.^^ in

which things

are

The dream

7.

Though

I

of prophecy

have underlined the prophetic deficiencies of the pilgrim's

dreams, and especially those of his vision of Leah and Rachel, is

also undeniable that, for instance, the third

dream does

it

prefigure,

with a certain degree of accuracy, both Matelda and the early part of the scene in the Earthly Paradise.

In the

same way,

of the eagle prepares for the pilgrim's resistance

at the

the

dream

wall of

fire,

while that of the siren foreshadows his successful negotiation of the last three purgatorial gironi.

However, as with the

their overall prophetic status is questionable.

specifically

embodies an event contemporaneous

Lucy carrying the

number of general

purged on the

third

first

to

it,

dream,

dream most namely,

St.

the sleeping pilgrim to the Gate of Purgatory, while

second one does not refer

to a

The

to

ones:

last three gironi,

any single recognizable event, only

the nature of the sinful dispositions

Dânie-personaggio's relationship

to

these sins, the roles of reason and grace in overcoming their snares.

Despite the problems affecting the precise prophetic coordinates of the dreams,

I

should not like to deny that they have

this function.

would go against both Dante's own stated belief and the connections which can be established between the dreams and what follows in the poem. Furthermore, in the light of the care with which the poet approaches the general question of the visionary power of

To do

this

Dame dreaming,

is

il

I href

's

Rcjìcclivc

Dreams

227

clear Ihat he wishes to stress the actual prophetic status

of the pilgrims's three dreams, and thus to underline the uniqueness

of his journey.

My

argument rather

is

that this aspect

Such

exclusively and mechanically applied.

Dante's practices

in the

Comedy.

he calls the traditional prophetic both

theory and

in

believe that the main reason

I

powers of the somnia

my

discussion,

men

poem.

In fact, in the

wonder whether when Dante defines the mente nostra, peregrina / più da la carne

I

nature of dreaming as "la e

why

into question

ensure that the reader seeks out

in practice, is to

the full connotative potential they have in his light of

should not be

inflexibility is alien to

da' pensier presa,

a le sue vision quasi è divina" (Piirg.

/

9.16-18), "la mente nostra" does not have a double meaning, so that it

refers not just to "our

mind," but also

which mente has elsewhere supported by the reference

in the

to

"our memory," a meaning

Comedy?^ Such

in the

a reading is also

previous terzina to the nightingale

at dawn remembers its sufferings {Purg. 9.13-15), same hour when the human mente is at its sharpest.

which

8.

the very

Conclusion

Symbolically the dreams do project into the future; however, form, they remain firmly

in the

rhythms of

across

its

his narrative

whole

poem, modulates

the

tempo-

and establishes structural connections

The organization of

area.

With

present and recall the past.

great subtlety, Dante, throughout his ral

in their

their positioning in the text are an

the three

example of

this;

dreams and

they are also

a small clue towards a solution of that "central critical problem,"

among

highlighted,

others, by Sapegno, "of

be read as a unified whole"

(8).

A

how

the

Comedy

is

to

concentration on the "prophetic"

effects of the dreams, important as these are, grants only a partial in-

sight into their structural functions and into their connotative range.

Nor does

demonstrate

it

accounts of dreams rary debate

the

in the

how the Comedy

poet's theoretical statements and

synthesize

much

of the contempo-

on the subject, and occasionally even add

to

it.

Finally,

customary reading of the dreams conceals the care and genius

with which Dante imbues the dreamer's visions with psychological realism.

As

pilgrim's

memories of

fer the

the repetitions confirm, the his journey.

dreams emerge out of the

They, therefore, do not only of-

kind of general meanings which the classical, Biblical, and

Zygmunt

228 Christian traditions

symbolica

saw

G. Bararìski

as characteristic of certain

metaphorica" [Albertus Magnus

et

but, in a highly original

move, they

dreams ("somniat

lib. 3, tr.

the "private" world of Danle-personaggio. In this

cap. 10]),

1,

measure of

are also a symbolic

way, Dante

intuits

and makes use of characteristics of the dream which Freud was study systematically and to stress 600 years If

my own

examine

I

included

every dream

it

experience on the subject of the origin of the elements

content of dreams,

in the

my own

on occasion,

I

must begin with an assertion

that in

possible to find a point of contact with the experiences of

is

the previous day. This

whether

to

later:

view

is

confirmed by every dream that

or anyone else's. Bearing this fact in mind,

I I

look

into,

am

able,

begin a dream's interpretation by looking for the event of

to

the previous day

which

set

it

in

motion. (249)

and, like Freud, Dante also distinguishes between

two

different layers

of the dream:

The dream-thoughts and

the [manifest] dream-content are presented to us

two versions of the same subject-matter in two different languages. Or, more properly, the dream-content seems like a transcript of the dreamthoughts into another mode of expression, whose characters and syntactic like

laws

is

it

our business to discover by comparing the original and the

The dream-thoughts are immediately comprehensible, as soon The dream-content, on the other hand, is expressed

translation.

as

we have

as

it

learnt them.

were

pictographic script, the characters of which have to be

in a

transposed individually into the language of the dream-thoughts.

If

attempted to read these characters according to their symbolic relation,

we we

should clearly be led into error. (381-82)^^

As

psychoanalysis, the signifiers of the pilgrim's dreams are the

in

means

to "disentangle" his fears, desires,

and knowledge.

University of Reading

NOTES *

I

should like

to

thank

to

thank Maggie Barariski, John Barnes, and Giulio Lepschy

comments on an

for their

my

seminars;

I

students

am

at

earlier version of this article.

Reading with

whom

I

I

should also like

have discussed the dreams

particularly grateful to Jennifer Biggar

and

Emma

Sansone

in

for

their contributions. 1

On

the

dreams

in the

Commedia,

see Busetto,

views with those of Albertus Magnus

who primarily compares Dante's De somno et vigilia; Speroni;

in the

— Dame 's

Three Reflective Dreams

229

Norton; Stella; Ccrvigni, Dante's Poetry of Dreams. Sec also the essays on

Purgatorio

9,

and 27

19.

in

the standard collections of Ix'clurae Danlis.

addition, see Raimondi; Marin; Ccrvigni,

"The Pilgrim's Dream." See

also Tateo's entries on "sognare" and "sogno"

On dreams

Enciclopedia Dantesca.

in the

Middle Ages, sec Chenu; Le

in the

Goff; Bract (with an excellent hihiiography); Fischer; All references to the

2

Mineo

In

"Demonic and Angelic Forces" and

Comedy

/

sogni nel Medioevo.

from Petrocchi 's

arc taken

critical edition.

writes that "L'oscurità c appunto un elemento del genere profetico"

(179).

3 Although there

is

a sixth reference to

namely, the allusion

does not belong

to the

dream of

dreaming and prophecy St.

woman;

see Lanzoni.

dreams do have prophetic

quite certain that

is

this

of the prophetic morning dream, but to that

to the tradition

of the prophetic dream of the pregnant

4 Dante

Comedy,

in the

Dominic's mother {Par. 12.60),

qualities in both the Vita

Nuova (2.1-8 and 12.1-9) and in the Convivio (2.8.13); see also Appendix 5 to Book 2 of the Convivio (249-52); Mineo 103-41; Hollander "Vita Nuova"; Baldelli.

5

"Sonno" here does not primarily mean "sleep";

it

is

rather Dante's vernacular

rendering of somnium, which, since Macrobius's gloss on this word, as part of his survey of different kinds of dreams,

Ages

dle

quod

to refer to prophetic

example of see

ambagibus non

tegit figuris et velat

significationem

rei

il

Mid-

For an especially pertinent

the medieval fortuna of Macrobius's categorization of dreams,

Guido da Pisa 18-20; and "Lorenzo l'apparve

Purgatorio 27

epizeuxis of sonno

it

"Sì ruminando e

sonno che sovente,

stages:

in the

intellegendam

nisi interpretatione

quae demonstratur" (1.3.10).

(Boccaccio 4.5.12). Furthermore, in

had been extensively used

symbolic dreams: "Somnium proprie vocatur,

is

/

anzi che

clear



[to Elisabetta] nel

sonno"

from the context of the passage

mirando quelle,

mi prese

/

il

sonno;



that the

(91-93)

fatto sia, sa le novelle"

used to distinguish between two different physiological

the falling asleep

caique on somnium,

'I

is

and the dreaming. The

when

fact that

Dante

is

using a

he raises doubts about the relationship between

dreams and prophecy, makes

his uncertainty all the

more

striking.

6 See Ehrlich. 7 See Souvay 155; Braet 23-33.

ad

St.

Augustine's twelfth book of his

litteram offers a notable and vigorous

example of

patristic

De Genesi

views on the

genera visionum (cols 453-86); see also Dulaey. 8 See especially Albertus

Magnus

(lib. 9),

and Thomas Aquinas (lla-2ae,

q. 95,

art. 6).

9 Baldelli writes that

in the

Vna Nuova "appare poi certo che

[dreams and fantasies] abbiano

.

.

.

carattere profetico,

per così dire, da intenso pensamento" (1), and he quotes di

questa cortesissima.

E pensando

di lei,

Nuova

are taken

immaginazioni

".

.

.

puosimi

a pensare

mi .sopragiunse uno soave sonno,

ne lo quale m'apparve una meravigliosa visione" (3.2-3). the Vita

tali

quando siano preparate,

from De Robertis's edition.

AH

references to

Zygmunt G. Baranski

230 10 For example,

"ma come 39).

end of Purgatorio

at the

reflect further

and

tripartito si ragiona,

lacciolo, accio

/

Danle-personaggio

shall argue that

I

encourages the pilgrim

17, Virgil

to

on the lesson on love which he has just heard:

in private

che

tu

per

te

ne cerchi" (138-

doing precisely

is

he

this as

falls

asleep {Purg. 18.141-45). 11

The

words

repetition of these particular

ulous Dante

is

in

should continue in

mind

that has arisen in his

dubbiar più pregno," Purg. 18.42) which his guide cannot

fatto di

properly resolve (46-48).

ways

metic-

Lines 44 and 45 are spoken not

by Virgil but by the pilgrim, and express a doubt

("m'ha

how

an excellent example of

is

constructing the dream.

is,

It

therefore, quite appropriate that this concern

See below for a

him.

to trouble

which Dante ensures

what

that

fuller discussion

remembers

the pilgrim

of the

narratively

is

plausible.

12 Even Virgil's metaphor of the "mal tardato remo" (17.87) seems to peep

through

in the

dream, since

may

it

lurk behind the siren's reference to Ulysses

(19.22-24).

13 Umberto Bosco claims that

e

il

che is

sogno non

"il

necessità, affermata nei canti

male che possono nascondersi le

nostre inclinazioni

even more specific

Dante's reading

in

in

ai

la

riproposta figurata della

di scoprire e respingere

il

brutto

bene

sotto le apparenze del bello e di

piaceri terreni ci

making

Ulysses

che

è

XVIl-XVIII,

"the siren comes, not only from

this point:

literature, but

propongono" (315). Hollander

from the

text of Virgil's discourse

on

love" (Allegory 140; however he only quotes the example oï Purg. 18.44—45 discussed above). that "se

amore déviante ha,

On

the other hand. Margherita

consideriamo

il

sogno solo come

De

Bonfils Templer argues

'profetico'

.

.

.

delle tre

forme

di

delle ultime cornici, finiamo coli 'offuscare la funzione ch'esso

nel contesto poetico del Purgatorio, di

ragionare che l'ha anticipato nei

tre canti

coronamento

di

tutto

il

lungo

precedenti" (42).

14 For a fuller discussion and bibliography on classical and medieval theories of dispositio, see Barariski, "Inferno VI.

73" (11-13).

15 There are other less explicit contacts between the dream and earlier episodes

of the Comedy:

(i)

Hollander compares the

latter part

situation in Inferno 2.49ff (Allegory 141-43);

santa e presta"

who immediately

(ii)

of the dream with the

"quand' una donna apparve

asks a question (Purg. 19.26-29) recalls

"surse in mia visione una fanciulla [Lavinia]"

who

too asks a question (Purg.

17.34-36).

"Nam

16 Note also the relationship between

imago" (Aen. 5.636) and "mi venne borrowing

in

mihi Cassandrae per

raises an interesting critical problem.

belong to the dream;

it

is

more

somnum

sogno una femmina" (Purg.

precisely an

19.7).

vatis

This

Line 7 does not properly

example of

the poet's

knowledge

of Virgil, as, in effect, are the other borrowings from Aeneid 5. However, since these can also be coherently associated with Danlc-personaggio's ("l'alta

mia tragedia

.../...

tutta

quanta,"

Comedy where

the poet

che

they reveal a suggestive area in the

la

sai

Inf.

memory

20.113-14),

and the character

Dante's Three Rejleclive Dreams

made

overlap. In fact, a similar point can be I

discuss

own

of his

They

this article.

in

for all the intratextual allusions

same

at the

time, they are

also evidence of D^nlc-personaggio's "mind," since the poet

echoes

dreams

in the

development of

manner which

in a

memory

are evidence of Dante's remarkable

noted by Contini; yet,

text, a feature

231

employs

the

consistent with the psychological

is

his character.

17 Piero Cali notes that "from the incursion by the serpent into

{Purg. viii.98) of the Kings and Princes

.

.

.

'la

picciola vallea'

springs the dream of Purgatorio

ix" (104).

18

The

entire

where 19

I

hymn

take

my

The dream of

is

given

the eagle, by "displacing" an

new symbolic

{Purg. 8.40-42) into a la lettre

more,

Singleton, Purgatorio:

in

Commentary

2.

unspoken waking preoccupation

narrative, suggestively

example of Freud's theory of

decodes the "latent dream-content" (Purg.

Virgil, like the psychoanalyst,

dubbio

si

è discoperta,

raccerta

/

e che

mi cambia'

/

muta

io; e

embodies an avant

the "return of the repressed." Further-

"A

9.46-63), thus helping to dispel his "patient's" anxiety: 'n

161, from

quotation.

in

conforto sua paura,

come sanza cura

/

vide

/

guisa

d'uom che

poi che la verità

me

'I

duca mio

li

." .

.

{Purg. 9.64-6).

20 Dante's presentation of

the

two dreams of

the Vita

Nuova does

not rely on

intratextual borrowings, although their origins are nominally to be

events which precede them. The rice (3.1-3), the

21

second by the character's appeal

Glyn Norton observes

that "as in the

to

Amore

in

for help (12.2).

preceding dream of Canto

preoccupations of the diurnal world are

found

stimulated by the meeting with Beat-

first is

to intrude

[of canto 19]" (356), and earlier he notes the

upon

mental

9, the

the matter of the

poem's need

dream

for "a periodical

recapitulation of mental states and attitudes to prepare for the final revelation

of some ultimate truth" (351). Despite the emphasis on retrospection title

the

in the

of his article, Norton does not enter upon a detailed discussion of

how

dreams actually connect with what precedes them. See also Armour 125;

Ferrante 220; Cervigni, Dante's Poetry of Dreams.

22 For

a general discussion of

Dante's recovery ol dolce

stil

novo forms

in

Pur-

gatorio, see Bosco.

23 See

Fertile.

24 See Singleton, Journey to Beatrice; Battaglia. 25 Bruno Porcelli goes as far as to label

all

three

dreams "preavvisi

di aspettazioni

fallaci" (288).

26 Scholars are increasingly coming

to

realize that

it

is

a

primary feature of

Dante's extremely original elaboration of the rhetorical category of the "comic" that

it

can accommodate and exploit within

"non-comic"

registers, and, at the

same

its

structures other traditionally

time, supersede

them by highlight-

ing the deficiencies of their conventions; see, for example. Barberi Squarotti;

Barchiesi; lannucci; Picone; Hollander,

dia

is

//

Virgilio dantesco.

Dante's

Comme-

not simply a plurilingual text, nor even a pluristylistic and a plurirhetor-

— Zygmunt

232

G. Baranski

one, but one which proposes a radically

ical

The implications of

rhetoric.

this are too

new

language, style, and

artistic

complex

problem of the nature of Dante's views on the "comic"

book

I

The

develop here.

to

the subject of a

is

preparing; for a preliminary discussion, see Barariski, "Re-viewing

am

Dante."

27

A

clue that Beatrice should be associated with Rachel rather than Leah

is

available in the dream, namely, the reference to Rachel's "belli occhi" {Purg.

27.106).

28 Singleton was the

as far as

first,

fulfilled at the

summit: Leah

Virgil guides;

and Rachel,

yet,

to

recognize that Beatrice combines

when

attained

is

who

is

29 Differences naturally

as those

between the

exist

the siren

first

And

really attained, in

is

two dreams, not

because of are not

dream.

final

For

born of an irrational impulse while that of

is

rational thought; the greater narrative

second dream; and the introduction of a

this

least

However, they

in the pilgrim.

more closely associated with

is

Leah

which divide both of them from the

example, the dream of the eagle

complexity of

attained in Beatrice.

is

is

which

are obliged to recognize, in the

justice, that

which have taken place

the changes

to

with Beatrice" {Journey to Beatrice 123).

final perfection,

marked

and

life

reached

that justice is

contemplation,

no sooner have we said as much than we

matter of Leah as the active

as

know,

I

Leah and Rachel: "the dream of Leah and Rachel

the attributes of both

lyrical register into

the latter {Purg. 19.15-24).

30 There

another suggestive point of contact between

is

Summa

sion of dreams in the

dreams

in

Purgatorio.

"Sciendum

est

in

dormiendo

et

talis

Thomas's discus-

Thomas

argues that there are four causes of dreams:

ergo quod somniorum causa quandoque quidem est interius,

quandoque autem

Una quidem

St.

St.

theologica and Dante's presentation of the

exterius.

animalis, in

autem somniorum causa

Interior

quantum

scilicet ea

quae ejus cogitatio

circa

est duplex.

occurrunt hominis phantasiae

immorata

et affectio fuit

in vigilando;

causa somniorum non est causa futororum eventuum; unde hujus-

modi somnia per accidens simul concurrant, est corporalis:

erit

nam ex

phantasia conveniens

mores, occurrunt

in

—Quandoque vero causa

interiori dispositione corporis

tali

dispositioni; sicut

somniis quod

sit in

dicunt esse intendendum somniis ad

Causa autem somniorum exterior spiritualis.

et si

quandoque

intriseca

somniorum

se habent ad futuros eventus;

casuale.

— Corporalis quidem

in

homini

formatur aliquis motus

quo abundant

in

aqua vel nive;

cognoscendum

et

frigidi

in

hu-

propeter hoc medici

interiores dispositiones.

similiter est duplex, scilicet corporalis et

quantum imaginatio dormientis immutatur

vel ab aere continenti, vel ex impressione coelestis corporis; ut sic dormienti

aliquae phantasiae appareant conformes coelestium dispositioni.

autem causa

est

quandoque quidem

hominibus revelat ter vos

in somniis,

propheta Domini,

illum" (IIa-2ae,

q.

95,

6;

illud

apparebo

italics



Spiritualis

Deo, qui ministerio angelorum aliqua

secundum

in visione

art.

a

in

Num. ei,

12, 6:

originai).

Si quis fuerit in-

per somnium loquar ad

vel

Dante's dreams, too, as

Dante I

have argued

in

rior" influence:

's

Three Rcjlt'cthc Dreams brought about by

this article, arc

St.

233 Thomas's

prophetic status of such dreams. This

is

Thus, Dante's dreams can also be seen

and God, since, whatever

.")

.

do, in Ugolino's words, "rip as regards the

namely

dream of



no place

finds

ratively

be stimulated by

away

in

the poet

own

to his

("Ne

the veil of the future." In addition, Dante,



St.

dream,

Lucy transporting him

That the second "interior" cause is

l'ora

their limitations in this direction they

on the sleeper

Purgatory

needs.

Thomas's

St.

the eagle, invents a further cause behind this

a direct physical action

the Gate of Purgatory.

one

to

it

the heavens at the hour of their occurrence

two "exterior" causes: .

where

not the only instance

absorbs the theologian's lesson on dreams only to adapt

che

"inte-

first

however, Dante and Thomas obviously disagree about the

not surprising, as

and allegorically inconsistent

it



to

the physiological

would have been

nar-

for the pilgrim to suffer illness in this

realm.

31 See Maierù, "memoria" and "mente."

32 Freud

is

adamant about

the originality of his discovery of the disjuncture be-

tween "dream-thoughts" and "manifest dream-content": a

new

class of psychical material

the conclusions of our enquiry:

"We

have introduced

between the manifest content of dreams and namely, their latent content, or (as

means of our procedure.

the 'dream-thoughts," arrived at by

It

dream-thoughts and not from a dream's manifest content that its

meaning" (381). However,

tions

poet

it

is

clear that

is

we

we

say)

from these disentangle

Dante appreciated such

distinc-

when he came to compose his three purgatorial dreams; and, though the owed much to contemporary dream theory, I have been unable to find a

possible source for this aspect of their presentation.

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6 vols.

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Giuliana Carugati

Dante "Mìstico"?* Come

la critica

sa,

si

zione che intercorre

dantesca è profondamente divisa sulla rela-

tra

teologia (intesa nel senso patristico,

esperienza religiosa) e poesia.

simo mal disposto poetici," o in

Da una

parte,

a indagare motivi che

comunque

tendente a escludere

ogni caso indecifrabile

non siano "squisitamente il

motivo religioso come

Come

è noto, per alcuni critici (Nardi, Sarolli),

con voce consapevolmente profetica; per di imitare

modo

il

mente, spiegano si

altri

(Singleton),

di scrivere di Dio. Altri ancora,

i

Commedia con

Così per esempio Giovanni Getto:

"poetica."

come

della Grazia teriore

espressa nella

comune

nello stesso

"Questo sentimento

il

come

cuore, fatto ricco di un improvviso

e di un'ignota ricchezza, è per l'appunto

tempo umanissimo, su

cui

il

a

particolare efficacia

gioia profonda che fa trasalire l'anima,

pace che inonda

propone

si

meno ambiziosa-

poesia di Dante richiamando-

la particolarità della

ma

credenti

Com-

Dante parla

a un'esperienza religiosa, intesa in senso psicologico,

tutti

ri-

che fanno del motivo

le letture

religioso, dell'esperienza religiosa, l'ispirazione centrale della

media.

come

vecchio crociane-

svalutazione del Paradiso

(di qui la

spetto alle altre cantiche). Dall'altra

il

in-

dono

sentimento teologico e

Dante imposta

la

sua massima

espressione poetica" (199). Lx) stesso contenutismo che affianca una teologia e una poesia quanto mai indefinibili

"dopo

cui cito un passaggio tipico: il

mondo

dottrinale, la cultura e la

ha ritrovato

al di fuori di sé

la

trova nel Fallani, di si

placa

storia; ogni prospettiva dantesca

l'ordine dell'universo, dentro di sé la

beatitudine di Dio" (244).

Comune

mente opposte

diciamo

della critica,

si

mistica folgorazione,

alle posizioni solo

apparente-

così, laica e di quella cattolica,

è l'assegnare l'esperienza religiosa, o, in senso generico, mistica, e l'esperienza poetica, o, meglio,

e opposti versanti del contenuto

che inonda

il

il

fare poesia, ai

e della forma.

due tradizionali

L'"interiore pace

cuore" è un sentimento, un contenuto su cui

il

poeta

sua "espressione poetica," forma intoccabile che ha

il

solo difetto di adattarsi male, vestito troppo corto e troppo stretto,

al

"imposta"

la

"dono"

e alla "ricchezza" soggiacenti.

QUADERNI

dualianislica Volume X. No. 1-2. 1989

Giuliana Carugati

238

Prima

procedere

di

Per

stica."

il

conviene intendersi sul termine "mi-

oltre,

Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique

fenomeno mistico

è "in primo luogo un

ma

oggetto o

l'illusoria chiarezza della "gioia

ci

verifica.

si

Il

"il significato attuale

il

seguito dell'artico-

lo del Dictionnaire, trattando della mistica cristiana del

informa che

risparmia

dell'anima" e lascia imprecisato

movimento

terreno su cui questo

personali,

tratti

profonda o cosmica" (voce "mystique").

Vorrei attenermi alla genericità di questa definizione che

ci

se

percezione intuitiva di questo

la

questo essere, sia già caratterizzato da

condizione di entità

sia in

movimento per superare

situato al di là dei limiti dell'esperienza normale,

empirica"; "in secondo luogo, ... di

il

un oggetto particolare, né semplicemente pro-

stessi in direzione di

fano, né eterno,

mystique,

et

Medioevo,

con l'accento

del termine,

sul

carattere esperienziale e l'importanza conferita agli elementi e alle

condizioni psicologiche che permettono di comprenderlo," compare per

prima volta

la

opera

all'inizio del '400.'

di altri autori, si

Nonostante poi

l'articolo,

dell'esperienza mistica cristiana, sempre a proposito di mistica

dievale

si

prosegue

testi,

confronto. le

me-

afferma che dell'esperienza in quanto tale "si ignora tutto,"

mentre l'unico indizio sono dei questi

ad

soffermi dettagliatamente sulle caratteristiche

Quando

prediche,

l'articolo,

poi

le lettere,

si i

testi

passa ad

trattati,

che riferiscono dei ricordi.

sono sempre già

il

il

meno

altri testi

risultato di

E un

personali, quali

livello di redazione é quello del

confronto delle idee ricevute e del linguaggio religioso di un luogo

Sono affermazioni di estrema importanza, dalle quali però gli autori dell'articolo non traggono le conseguenze che si potrebbero trarre, e cioè che la mistica, se si guarda bene, non ha altro

determinato.

luogo che

il

linguaggio, e più precisamente

il

linguaggio in quanto

già dato e cioè la scrittura.^

Mistica e scrittura costituiscono, e non solo nel Medioevo, un bi-

nomio

inscindibile.

dedica tutto un re

il

libro,

Jean Leclercq, monaco benedettino egli stesso,

L 'amour des

lettres et le désir

de Dieu, a studia-

rapporto tra questi due sentimenti, per concludere che

benedettini e cistercensi

— San Bernardo

sciato le loro opere mistiche

in

primis

—che

"non sono veramente

insita nella loro

La

vocazione,

retorica è diventata

tra la

grammatica

una parte

e

il

i

monaci

hanno

la-

divisi tra ricerca

dell'arte e la ricerca di Dio, tra la retorica e l'esigenza di

gico.

ci

superamento

desiderio escatolo-

di loro stessi"

(169-70). Le af-



Danti-

ferma/ioni

Leclercq

di

si

239

Mistico"?

ovviamente

riferisccino

monaci

ai

dotti della

tradi/ione benedettina, a quelli che hanno studiato e scritto (anche se tutti

monaci che vogliono seguire

i

regola devono saper leggere).

la

Tanto più significativo diventa allora

il

confronto con

l'altro filo-

ne della mistica medievale, quello rappresentato dalle donne, spesso

norma meno

colte degli uomini e a volte addirittu-

non monache,

di

ra analfabete.

Angela da Foligno (1248-1309),

dopo essere la

stata

moglie

madre, analfabeta,

e

sua esperienza a un frate francescano.

terziaria francescana

sente spinta a dettare

si

Una

dettatura difficile, sia

dal punto di vista delle circostanze in cui avviene

tutamente richiamato dai suoi superiori per

la

(il

frate viene ripe-

sconvenienza

questa

di

privata registrazione della parole di una donna), sia da un punto di vista direi stilistico

non solo non

si

(ma

non

segreto, ineffabilmente,

A

gurante.

Angela

già molto più che stilistico):

contenta di vivere è

rischio suo e di

paga

altri,

la

di

infatti

sua esperienza "mistica"

una "gioia dell'anima"

Angela

in

trasfi-

"Qua vero causa

detta:

et

quomodo ego

indignus scriptor coactus, ut credo, a deo fuerim ad

scribendum

predicta Christi fidelis

et

dum, reperietur scriptum infra" perchè

ram, et

quando ego relegebam

et ipsa

Ma

(2).

viene criticata

la scrittura del frate

alia vice

omnino coacta

ei ut

come

ipsa videret

respondit quod ego sicce et sine

ammirabatur de hoc.

verba recordor que dixi

dicevo,

arida e oscura: "Et si

ego bene scripsePer

ista

sed est obscurissima scriptura; quia

ista

verba que legis michi non explicant

obscura" (42).

ad dicen-

come

omni sapore loquebar;

Et alia vice exposuit tibi;

fuerit

c'è di più,

illa

illa

dicens:

que portant: ideo

est scriptura

Altre volte Angela sembra ostentare una compren-

sione superiore del funzionamento della scrittura per eccellenza,

Sacra Scrittura: divina; illud,

"intelligo ideo illud,

quomodo

quomodo

facta est difficilis et facilis; illud,

videtur dicere et contradicere" (238).

"Le

que reçoit une fonction scripturaire," ha (139).

beta

Alla funzione

come Angela,

si

la

che entra a costituire

ma

saranno date grazie più grandi istis

in

Michel De Cerleau

una donna analfa-

stessa,

consapevolezza

"esperienza mistica." In un passo del suggestivo, dopo aver detto che lo

Spirito Santo le ha dichiarato che, se

mistica dichiara: "In

scritto

consapevolezza della

Liber de experientie, oscuro

quomodo

saint qui devient mysti-

accompagna, perfino

la stessa

la

facta est Scriptura

lei lo

amerà ancora

di quelle date a

di più, le

San Francesco,

verbis cepi dubitare multum,

et dixit

la

an-

Giuliana Carugati

240

ima sibi: Si tu esses spiritus sanctus, non diceres istud michi, quia non possum inde habere vanam gloriam. Et respondit: Modo cogita, si tu de omnibus istis potes habere unam vanam gloriam qua Et exeas de

extollaris. ta fui velie

quod

habere

dixerat, et

si

istis

vanam

gloriam, ut probarem

erat spiritus sanctus.

neas, ut exirem de

Et ego incepi

verbis si potes.

ilio, scilicet,

de

illa

erat

si

et

verum

cenaillud

Et incepi respicere per vi-

locutione" (48;

corsivo è

il

mio).

Se l'esperienza mistica riveste intrinsecamente un carattere turale,

scrit-

può temporaneamente concludere almeno che mistica e

si

poesia hanno

mediante

in

comune

la scrittura.

di essere sistemi di

organizzazione del reale

Le ascendenze mistiche

bondantemente indicate dagli nella lettera a Cangrande.

Dante sono

di

A me

state ab-

sono riconosciute

studiosi, e del resto

però non interessa tanto sottoli-

neare una similarità di nodi retorici, quanto piuttosto indicare una

comune di al

scaturigine, un

mondo.

scrittore,

il

Se

modo

di porsi davanti alla scrittura e quin-

mistico è un credente che

il

si

come come il

costituisce

credente Dante è uno scrittore che dice "io"

mistico.^ Per indicare l'atteggiarsi del mistico, la tradizione mistica

un termine chiave preso da San Paolo

ricorre a

(Ef. 3.12):

parrhe-

sia, che in greco classico significa la libertà di prendere la parola

nell'assemblea del popolo, privilegio del libero cittadino. General-

mente

i

commentatori non prendono

in

considerazione

la

connota-

zione langagière del termine, soffermandosi invece sul suo conte-

nuto teologico: è l'Incarnazione che rende possible

me sembra

che

in

questo caso richiamarsi

al

\a parr/iesia.

termine non equivale a erigere l'etimologia a metafisica, a illuminare un carattere della mistica anzi tale della mistica,

il

A

valore originario del

carattere

ma

serve

fondamen-

che finora è stato poco visto e poco studiato.

Angela da Foligno, dopo aver affermato che la Scrittura "aliquid balbutii," proclama che "quamvis ego blasphemem dicendo et male dicendo

illud quia

non possum

illud loqui," tuttavia "in ilio

mani-

festare Dei intelligo et habeo totam veritatem" (240), dunque in un

certo senso asserisce, dettando, Scrittura,

o per

lo

meno ad

to sulla verità tanto

quanto

il

proprio diritto a "rifare" la Sacra

affiancarle

parola di Dante o, piuttosto,

un

testo,

parola di Dio.

la il

suo riprendere

il

proprio, costrui-

Così la

il

prendere

parola dopo

la

gli

esperimenti giovanili,^ sgorga da una libertà di parola, parrhesia, ef-

Dante "Mistico"?

241

non

fetto della partecipazione alla grazia deirincarnazione, per cui

sarà semplicemente blasfemo dare

proprio

al

poema

la

qualifica di

"sacrato." Sulla relazione tra zi

i

"poema"

termini

"sacro"

bile, dell'aggettivo si

dove



insiste sulla

sostantivo "poema."

al

loro

un certo senso incontesta-

inscindibilità e sulla subordinazione, in

che

Angelo Jacomuz-

e "sacro,"

scrive delle pagine molto penetranti,

Per Jacomuzzi,

prefigge di ridurre lo iato tra ispirazione religiosa e poesia in

Dante, opponendosi sia all'impostazione che diremo crociana, sia a quella di cui Singleton è al

proponente più

il

culmine della tradizione

letteraria del

Dante

illustre,

medioevo

"si

latino e

pone

roman-

zo, raccogliendo in sé, nella figura dello scriba, la ricchezza vitale

tempo,

e l'attesa escatologica del

un operare

l'idea di

scrivere che è

sempre un

e insieme, nella figura del poeta,

che è intrinsecamente

artistico

'dictare,'

che cerca

artificio e di

uno

la solidarietà del lettore

nell'universo del discorso e non in quello del verisimile e della storia" (99).

Jacomuzzi

l'interdipendenza dell'elemento "sacra-

illustra

le" e di quello poetico soprattutto attraverso

il

topos dell'ineffabilità.

"L'indicibilità del fatto mistico della visione fonda

del fatto linguistico, rivela la

'poema in si

sacro'

non

nel

momento

.

.

l'arbitrarietà

della definizione contenutistica,

quello della definizione strutturale nella quale

dispongono come

.

forma generale della Commedia come

solidali e convergenti,

i

ma

due termini non

ma come

opposti in ten-

sione tra loro" (150). Pur essendo pienamente sottoscrivibile, questa

formulazione va riaggiustata mediante due considerazioni che mi

sembrano fondamentali: una riguarda

il

carattere dell'esperienza mi-

stica, l'altra l'assetto retorico-formale del

Paradiso,

in particolare

dell'ultimo canto.

Ho

già accennato

rienza mistica.

al

carattere intrinsecamente scritturarlo dell'espe-

Resta da esplicitare una considerazione rimasta im-

plicita nelle osservazioni precedenti e tata più

profondamente

che meriterebbe

in altra sede.

è intrinsecamente scritturarla significa

senso.

Se da una parte

il

mistico è

aldilà dell'esperienza empirica

di essere trat-

Dire che l'esperienza mistica

demitizzarne radicalmente la

percezione intuitiva

normale (per attenerci

il

un

alla definizio-

ne tradizionale del Dictionnaire), e dall'altra è una ricerca le,

di

di

paro-

un'ostinata lotta con l'angelo in vista di una ri-scrittura del già

scritto, allora

questo aldilà

si

riduce a un punto, uno zero, un'ori-

242

Giuliana Carugati

gine fuori dal linguaggio

ma

da sempre intrappolata

aldilà demitizzato, cioè radicalmente sciolto dal

e

come

Un

in esso.

mito che

nomina

lo

avvolge. L'esperienza mistica è questo divisorio, questa

lo

superficie a due facce, questa lamina che vibra a contatto dello zero, dell'innominabile,'' del sono-quel-che sono; questa superficiale scrittura tremante, che silenzio.

attraversa per risolversi nel desolato giubilo del

si

linguaggio che così

Il

all'indicibile, è

produce, appoggiato per così dire

si

un linguaggio "falso"

quasi pro

(il

truffìs di

Ange-

la da Foligno), staccato da qualsiasi pretesa di corrispondenza alle

cose. part

Afferma De Certeau: "au

du mensonge

vérité (et

et

qu'à

e

il

Non

"finto"

so se è si

utiliser le

C'è però una differenza: sua dolorosa novità le

comme

menteur" il

"falso"

tocchino, quanto la "falsità" intrinseca all'espressione

mistica non sia di lega diversa dalla

che

préalable mystique pose

le

langage tout entier

caso di sottolineare ancora quanto

il

quelque

qu'il y a

déloger on peut restaurer une

une innocence?) du langage,

un acte qui conduit à (241).

de supposer

lieu

le dépister et

precede.

Il

linguaggio mistico

come

configurano

si

dell'espressione poetica.

fittività

la falsità del

rispetto a

tali

come

la

una autorità

linguaggio mistico è un controcanto a una scrittu-

ra autorevole, nel nostro caso la Sacra Scrittura.

Il

mistico pretende

di fare lo stesso discorso della Scrittura (e dell'autorità ecclesiastica

che lo interpreta), niera diversa.

ma

si

Rimando

arroga alla

il

diritto e l'autorità di farlo in

conclusione

ma-

precisazione inevitabile

la

riguardo alla direzione del linguaggio dantesco. Vorrei adesso soffermarmi brevemente su alcuni aspetti retorico-

formali del Paradiso, per vedere se sul lità,

luogo a cui assegnare

così frequente nella terza cantica,

Jacomuzzi

bile in senso mistico. di ineffabilità

Dante.

non

è

Il

topos dell'ineffabi-

univocamente interpretache

insiste sul fatto

le

dichiarazioni

non hanno come funzione "l'esaltazione del personag-

gio o dell'accadimento"; "ciò che la

trovano qui delle indicazioni

si

la scrittura di

si

evidenzia

trascendenza paradisiaca della visione,

tuazione psicologica e linguistica,

il

ma

.

la

.

.

non

è propriamente

eccezionalità della

ponderoso tema,

il

si-

limite ultimo

toccato dall'artista, la condizione critica, insomma, dell'invenzione

poetica" (124-5). passi,

non

si

Se

si

leggono due

tra

i

più importanti di questi

può non essere d'accordo sull'importanza che

riveste quella che

si

potrebbe chiamare

"Apri

li

la

in essi

metaretorica di Dante.

occhi e riguarda qual son

io:

Dante "Mistico"?

243

vedute cose, che possente

tu hai

mio."

se' fatto a sostener lo riso

come

Io era

quei che

che s'ingegna

di visione oblila e

indarno

risente

si

mente,

di ridurlasi a la

quand'io udi' questa proferta. degna che mai non

di tanto grato,

del libro che

Se

mo

'1

si

stingue

preterito rassegna.

sonasser

che Polimnia con

tutte quelle lingue

suore fero

le

del latte lor dolcissimo più pingue,

per aiutarmi,

non e

quanto

il

e cosi,

convien

come

millesmo del vero il

santo aspetto

figurando

il

santo riso il

facea mero;

paradiso,

saltar lo sacrato

poema,

cammin

chi trova suo

Ma e

al

verna, cantando

si

chi pensasse

il

riciso.

ponderoso tema

l'omero mortai che se ne carca,

noi biasmerebbe se sott'esso trema:

non è pileggio da picciola barca quel che fendendo va l'ardita prora,

né da nocchier ch'a se

medesmo

parca.

{Par. 23.46-69)

Se quanto infìno

a qui di

dice,

lei si

fosse conchiuso tutto in una loda

poca sarebbe a fornir questa vice.

La bellezza ch'io non pur che solo

Da

di là il

vidi si

da noi,

suo

ma

trasmoda

certo io credo

fattor tutta la goda.

questo passo vinto mi concedo

più che già mai da punto di suo tema

soprato fosse comico o tragedo; che,

come

sole in viso che più trema,

così lo rimembrar del dolce riso la

mente mia da

me medesmo

Dal primo giorno ch'i' vidi in

scema. il

suo viso

questa vita, infino a questa vista,

non m'è

ma

il

seguire

al

or convien che

mio cantar mio seguir

preciso; desista

più dietro a sua bellezza, poetando,

come

a l'ultimo suo ciascuno artista.

{Par. 30.16-33)

244

E

Giuliana Carugati

vero,

come afferma Jacomuzzi, che

alle abitudini esegetiche

avvertire

come

o

"solo una lettura arresa a priori

luoghi comuni della parafrasi critica può

ai

prevalente in questi passi l'eco verbale di un'espe-

È

rienza mistica" (121).

che "l'eco verbale

(anzi, lo è raramente, e

sa) eco verbale di

vero anche però, dal mio punto di vista,

un'esperienza mistica" non è necessariamente

di

comunque questo fenomeno non

un'emozione psico-fisiologica,

una "visione" letteralmente

ci interes-

meno

e ancor

se di eco verbale

si

tratta

ormai queste parole sono inadeguate), allora è l'eco

di

uno

intesa:

di

(ma sfor-

zo, già all'origine del linguaggio, di costeggiare da vicino l'aldilà del linguaggio stesso.

non

è tanto

poema, fore



Jacomuzzi continua:

un accadimento,

nella

sua definizione —

l'ardita prora,

il

oggetto proprio

"Il loro

visione oblita e indicibile, quanto

la

poema—

sacrato

il

il

e nelle sue meta-

cantar; o, più precisamente,

modo

il

fictivus,

transumptivus, poeticus insomma, della trattazione, così energica-

mente richiamato

Non

si

nei rinvii letterari e

può non riconoscere che

meno

proprio

to,

al

evidente quando

si

si



gli stessi

nemmeno VArs amandi Quando

da cui nasce

si

oppongono

in

maniera

fenomeni me-

rischia di attribuire al passato categorie di pensiero

si

sono invece solo di

artistica di

la

sfugge all'integralismo,

irriducibile "letteratura" e "religione" a proposito di

Prima

Leclercq,

stanca di sottolineare quanto questa prati-

per dir così, dei santi medievali.

dievali,

indiscrimina-

di qualsiasi fede.

ca fosse diffusa negli ambienti monastici letteratura mistica:

dei rinvii letterari

rifletta sull 'utilizzo

medioevo, degli autori

nell'opera citata, non

mistici e sacrali" (121-2).

La drammaticità

"fatica dell'invenzione" (122). è però

non

in questi passi sia sottolineata la

che

le nostre.

concludere sul

Dante agisce

esaminare brevemente

modo

in cui la

consapevolezza diciamo

sulle ragioni della sua scrittura, vorrei però

altri

due

aspetti formali

buiscano ad accentuare ulteriormente

il

che mi pare contri-

carattere mistico, nel senso

che sono venuta precisando, del Paradiso.

Si tratta rispettivamente

del topos del vedere e di quella che è stata diversamente chiamata

trasparenza, allusività, estenuazione, incorporeità della terza cantica.

Secondo Jacomuzzi, quenza ...

il

'vidi'

che segna con variata intensità

racconto della visione lungo tutto l'arco delle

sta a indicare

denza

"il

di visione e

il

momento

tre

e fre-

cantiche

più alto della mitizzazione, la coinci-

invenzione, rivelazione e linguaggio, e sottolinea

Dante "Mistico"?

energicamente

Mi

(150-1).

mi pare

di

vedere

sul

la

potenza

e

245

sufficienza della rappresentazione"

la

riservo di analizzare questo lopos in altra sede.

Ma

poter affermare che, almeno nel Paradiso, l'insistenza si

un'assenza

ribalta di fatto in

di visione.

avveniva che l'oggetto della visione incalzasse

la

NeW Inferno

rappresentazione

dell'atto del vedere:

Come

rane innanzi alla nimica

le

biscia per l'acqua

ch'a

fin

dileguan

si

tutte,

ciascuna s'abbica,

la terra

vid'io più di mille anime distrutte

fuggir così dinanzi ad un ch'ai passo

passava Stige con

piante asciutte.

le

{Inf.

Nella terza Cantica

il

vedere

esplicita

si

9.76-81)

ben altrimenti:

Beatrice tutta ne l'eterne rote fissa

con

occhi stava; ed

li

le luci fissi, di là

Nel suo aspetto qual

che

Glauco

si fé" "1

non

si

tal

dentro mi

fai,

nel gustar de l'erba

consorto

fé'

Trasumanar

io in lei

su remote.

in

mar de

li

altri dei.

significar per verba

pon'a; però l'essemplo basti

a cui esperienza grazia serba.

{Par. 1.64-72)

Quel che Dante "vede"

Beatrice è questo:

in

una similitudine che

squalifica l'unicità dichiarata dell'esperienza, incalzata da una rifles-

sione metaretorica che qui

commenta:

dire,

al

di



ci fa

i

limiti del linguaggio.

tensione poetica

si

II

Sapegno

colloca, per così

della rappresentazione propriamente detta, nell'entu-

siasmo che accompagna e nello sforzo

toccare

"Il vertice della

che

il

la

rievocazione di un'esperienza ineffabile

poeta compie per renderne partecipe

re" (nota a Par. 1.66).

Ma

si

tratta

il

letto-

davvero della "rievocazione

di

un'esperienza ineffabile," oppure l'esperienza è precisamente quella

dell'impossibilità della visione, della sconfìtta del linguaggio?

canto 30 del Paradiso, dopo

un susseguirsi diatamente

di

annunci

la

di visione,

annunci che vengono o imme-

ribaltati nell'impossibilità di rappresentare,

un oggetto della visione che per un linguaggio preesistente:

Il

preghiera di San Bernardo, non è che

definirsi

o seguiti da

deve ricorrere

ai

modi

di

246

Giuliana Carugati

Nel suo profondo vidi che s'interna legato con

amore

un volume,

in

ciò che per l'universo di squaderna;

sustanze e accidenti e lor costume, quasi conflati insieme, per

modo

tal

che ciò ch'i' dico è un semplice lume. (Par. 33.85-90)

Non che

si

si

può

dire che questa rappresentazione sia

molto originale, dato

limita a riprendere, fin nella terminologia, concetti artistotelici

e scolastici.

E

più avanti:

Ne de

la

l'alto

profonda e chiara sussistenza

lume parvermi

e l'un

da

tre giri

d'una contenenza;

di tre colori e

come

l'altro

parea reflesso, e

iri

da

che quinci e quindi igualmente

Oh al

è

iri

terzo parca foco

'1

quanto è corto

il

dire e

si spiri.

come

fioco

mio concetto! e questo, a quel ch'i' tanto, che non basta a dicer "poco."

vidi,

(115-123)

Anche

qui, la dichiarazione di impossibilità ad esprimere incalza

una

rappresentazione che non fa che riformulare pallidamente, sotto una leggera patina di immagini, un concetto tratto da un linguaggio presistente

(il

lumen de lumine).

simbolo niceno:

Vediamo ancora

i

versi 127-132:

Quella circulazion che

pareva

da

li

in te

come lume



concetta

reflesso,

occhi miei alquanto circunspetta,

dentro da sé, del suo colore stesso,

mi parve pinta de per che

'1

la

mio viso

nostra effige;

in lei tutto era

Sconfitta della rappresentazione nel

intende metterla in gioco:

che appena sto

si

discosta dal linguaggio teologico.

"vede,"

la

visto

la

cose,

stesso in cui

L'Incarnazione è detta

verso— visione che —viene confermata

le stesse

momento

messo.

ma

dirle in

ma

in

il

poeta

un linguaggio

Anche per que-

solo quello che è già stato

scaturigine "mistica" del Paradiso. Dire

maniera "falsa,"

modo

fictivo,

quasi pro

truffisi

E veniamo brevemente

ali

'"incorporeità" della poesia del Paradi-

247

Datile "Mistico"?

La

so.

critica oscilla tra la svalutazione e la celebrazione, poli solo

in

apparenza opposti

la

Commedia come

di

un unico presupposto idelogico che intende

rappresentazione mimetica della realtà.

mentre da una parte

il

Così,

Paradiso viene ritenuto poeticamente

infe-

riore rispetto alla trionfale rappresentatività deW'Infcrno, dall'altra

viene giustificato affetti

in

quanto attinente ad una indefinibile poesia degli

soprannaturali (impostazione, quest'ultima, che fa irresistibil-

mente pensare

me sembra

medievale e dantesca dei corpi

alla dottrina

che

la

A

aerei).

(ammesso che

definizione globale più appropriata

sia legittimo fare tali generalizzazioni) della poesia del

Paradiso

sia

quella di poesia "lasca," poesia dalla maglie larghe, allentata rispetto alla

mimesi, appoggiata

l'altro si riferisce

anche

Come

al silenzio. al

Prendiamo un passaggio che

tra

lopos del vedere: puro mei

a raggio di sol che

per fratta nube già prato di vider, coverti d'ombra,

li

fiori

occhi miei;

vid'io così più turbe di splendori,

folgorate di su da raggi ardenti,

senza veder principio

di fulgóri.

(Par. 23.79-84)

Ecco Dante,

il

sommo

artefice della lingua, passare in

dalla precisa articolazione verbale di bile

ad un balbettio ostinato

Ecco una

agguato.

in cui

il

un brano

di vocaboli, tutti

che mentre si

per ora,

ma

a che prezzo!

questo cedere

le

si

dichiara rap-

frantuma per così dire

in

connotanti "luce" (splendori, folgorate,

raggi, ardenti, fulgori), che stentano a formare

specie di vittoria di Pirro:

due terzine

esperienza sensi-

silenzio è prepotentemente in

terzina, la seconda,

presentazione di un oggetto della vista,

un cumulo

di

vince

la parola,

Questo toccare

una immagine. Una

o piuttosto i

la scrittura,

limiti del linguaggio,

armi, questo "désespoir très proche du ravissement"

(Blanchot 10), non sono altro che l'esperienza mistica, vibrazione nel linguaggio del silenzio dell'origine.

Dante "mistico," allora? esperienza mistica turario, è

in cui sia

Anche accettando una ridefinizione di integrato come essenziale l'aspetto scrit-

ovvio che Dante non

tollera di essere

similato agli scrittori spirituali del medioevo.

tradizionalmente restre,"

ma

per

la

la critica sottolinea, egli sia

semplicemente as-

Non

perchè,

come

troppo preso dal "ter-

coscienza linguistico-retorica che lo sorregge.

Non

Giuliana Carugati

248

a caso Dante nasce alla scrittura prima di approdare alla mistica, e fin nella

Commedia

si

può

rintracciare

to e di distacco nei confronti di

Abbiamo

alle regioni del silenzio.

un percorso che è

modi

visto che anche

il

superamen-

di

poetici anteriori,

meno

vicini

"mistico puro"

è consapevole, intrinsecamente, costitutivamente, della artificiosità della sua scrittura, proprio mentre parlare.

Ma

forse è

piii

pur nel terrore, perchè

si

categoria non c'è che Dante a

una

il

dice implacabilmente spinto a

un silenzio culturalmente

affida "subito" a

connotato in maniera positiva.

guaggio che, per

si

del mistico-poeta disposto a "terminare,"

11

mistico-poeta

(ma

rientrare) oscilla tra

fatto di essere così

il

forse in questa

silenzio e

coscientemente

il

un

lin-

prodotto di

ricerca, di un'arte, rischia di scollarsi dalle ragioni ultime, viven-

do per così dire da ripete volentieri.

solo, di

Dante

una

vita tragicamente precaria.

sta a cavallo tra

Ulisse che per poco non

soccombe

medioevo

il

e l'età

alla follia del proprio volo:

parte, tenuto ancora saldamente da un'adesione profonda

ad una particolare definizione culturale ne ultima, origine; alla propria

gua fatua

Come

di "aldilà" nel

dall'altra, follemente,

(la

da una "fede")

senso di ragio-

coscientemente aggrappato

"orazion picciola" nella quale rischia di consumarsi,

e frodolente.**

che rende possibile

la

si

moderna,

Questo bilico è precisamente

la

lin-

condizione

Commedia.

Vorrei citare per concludere questo brano di Mallarmé (66): Oui, je

le sais,

nous ne sommes que des vaines formes de la matière, mais Si sublimes, mon et notre âme.

bien sublimes pour avoir inventé Dieu ami!, que je veux

me donner

ce spectacle de

d'être, et cependant, s'élançant

pas, chantant

l'Ame

et toutes les

amassées en nous depuis

les

la

matière, ayant conscience

forcenément dans

le

rêve qu'elle sait n'être

divines impressions pareilles qui se sont

premiers âges,

et

proclamant, devant

le

Rien

qu'est la vérité, ces glorieux mensonges! Il

libro di

Mallarmé

è,

come sappiamo,

impossible. Quello di Dante,

nella sua "disagguaglianza" (Par. 15.82), è riuscito per tre cantiche a superare ogni "passo forte" e sta quasi blasfemo, al di là del vero e del falso, a trascinarci nella propria fragilità.

5/.

John

's

University

Dame

249

"Mistico"?

NOTE •

Il

presente saggio è una versione riveduta di una conferenza fatta a Yale

nell'ottobre del 1985.

una precisazione importante: quando

Si tratta di

1

tende a caricare



hanno accresciuto

di cui lo

spagnoli del '500.

gli scrittori

2 Si potrà obbiettare che

nomeno

parla di mistica oggi,

si

termine del peso psicologico

il

riguarda

la

la

può

gioia dell'anima esiste:

psicologia e

neurobiologia, non

la

darsi,

la

ma

questo

poesia e neanche

fela

mistica.

3 Questa affermazione è ovviamente da modificare, e lo sarà nel seguito dell'articolo.

4 L'eccezione, e

grande

di

rilievo,

5

II

luogo obbligato qui è

il

che

inizi del

non dire più

di

di

quale io vidi

la

questa benedetta infine a tanto

potesse più degnamente trattare di lei" {V.N. 42.1).

io

6 Cf. Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable 134: "I'm I've

tion.

1986.

passo della "mirabile visione, ne

cose che mi fecero proporre

De

rappresentata dagli studi di Michel

è

Certeau, prematuramente scomparso agli

in the

two surfaces and no thickness, perhaps

middle, I'm the parti-

that's

what

feel,

I

myself

vibrating."

7

Non

si

deve

trarre

da questo, come qualcuno ha

fatto, la

conclusione che

l'ar-

rendersi di Dante di fronte all'oggetto della visione è un'altra spia dell'assenza di "autentica"

esperienza mistica in Dante: anche

i

mistici canonizzati, se a

volte descrivono qualche "visione," sottolineano che queste non a che fare

8

Mi

con l'essenza della loro conoscenza

ispiro qui alla bella analisi che del canto

Mazzotta nei suo

libro Dante,

hanno niente

di Dio.

26

à&W Inferno

fa

Giuseppe

Poet of the Desert.

OPERE CITATE Alighieri, Dante.

La Nuova .

A

La Divina Commedia.

Italia,

cura di N. Sapegno. 3 vols. Firenze:

1968.

Le Opere

di

Italiana, 1960.

Dante. Firenze: Società Dantesca

Beckett, Samuel. The Unnamable.

New

York: Grove Press, 1958.

Blanchot, Maurice. Le livre à venir. Paris: Gallimard, 1959.

Croce, Benedetto. La poesia di Dante

Da

d'après

De

.

Bari: Laterza, 1921.

Foligno, Angela. Le livre de l'expérience des vrais fidèles le

.

Texte

latin

publié

manuscrit d'Assise par M.-J. Ferré. Paris: E. Droz, 1927.

Certeau, Michel. La fable mystique. Paris: Gallimard, 1982.

Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique

et

mystique. Vol. 10. Paris: G. Beauchesne,

1977. Fallani, Giovanni.

Dante poeta teologo. Milano: Marzorati, 1965.

Getto, Giovanni. Aspetti della poesia di Dante

.

Firenze: Sansoni, 1965.

Jacomuzzi, Angelo. L'imago al cerchio: invenzione e visione nella Divina media. Milano: Silava, 1968.

Com-

Giuliana Carugati

250 Leclercq, Jean.

L'amour des

lettres et le désir

de Dieu. Paris: Éditions du Cerf,

1957.

Mallarmé, Stéphane. Propos sur

la poésie.

Monaco: Éditions du Rocher, 1953.

Mazzetta, Giuseppe. Dante, Poet of the Desert. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1979. Nardi, Bruno.

"Dante profeta." Dante e

la cultura

medievale.

Bari:

Laterza,

1949. Sarolli,

Gian Roberto. Prolegomena

alla

Divina Commedia. Firenze: Olschki,

1971. Singleton, Charles S.

UP, 1954.

Commedia: Elements of Structure. Cambridge: Harvard

Michelangelo Picone

La "viva speranza" problema

e

il

della salvezza dei pagani

Una

virtuosi.

Dante

di

lettura di

Paradiso 20.*

1.

canti del cielo di

I

Giove {Paradiso 17-20) sono dedicati

trattazione della grande tematica della Saliis.

riologica Dante però e

mondana, secondo

non il

intende più nella sola prospettiva terrena

la

modello della poesia delle "armi"

De

de Born, come faceva nel

modello analogico

il

ma

vulgari eloquentia;

ricopiandola direttamente dal Libro che contiene

secondo cioè

alla

Questa tematica sote-

scritturale, in

di Bertran

la trascrive

parola divina,

la

una prospettiva

di-

ventata ormai eterna. Dall'alta specola della sfera paradisiaca Dante

può così ca, del

offrire al

suo

problema della

lettore

una definitiva soluzione, teorica

giustizia: sia del

divina (problematica che sta

al

centro deWinventio del

sia della realizzazione e dei limiti della giustizia

vamente Beatrice, condensazione Virtus,

poema

umana.

Significati-

rimane assente dall'azione narrativa, e non partecipa in questi canti.

viene preso dalla "bella image" dell'aquila: una sorta si

sacro),

delle tematiche della Venus e della

scussione ideologica che prende sviluppo

naggio col quale V actor

e prati-

funzionamento della giustizia

Il

alla di-

suo posto

di arci-perso-

confronta, e nel quale compiutamente

si

ritrova.' Il

canto 20, che qui direttamente

chiasmatico

la

canti la materia dall'aquila:

ci interessa,

ripropone

in

modo

strutturazione del canto che lo precede. In tutt'e due

ma

si

organizza

infatti

i

attorno a due discorsi pronunciati

mentre nel canto 19

il

primo discorso

questione teorica e teologica della giustizia divina, e questione pratica e storica dell'ingiustizia

è centrato sulla il

secondo sulla

umana (si offrono cxemmondo cristiano); nel

pla della presente corruzione della giustizia nel canto 20 invece di giustizia

e mitico), e

il

umana il

primo discorso considera degli exempla (tutti

secondo affronta

QUADERNI d'ilalianistica

positivi

però proiettati verso un passato archetipico

Volume X. No.

1-2.

1989

il

problema teorico della

giustizia

252

Michelangelo Picone

divina, del quale propone due codicilli

due casi-limite

(i

relativi alla

sorte eterna di Traiano e Rifeo). I

nodi tematico-ideologici del 20 canto del Paradiso

incuneati dentro

mo

due partizioni fondamentali del

le

ora evidenziato.

Il

primo nodo

continuità/discontinuità fra

presenta

mondo pagano

la cristallizzazione di

ritrovamento del

filo

mondo

e

problema della cristiano, e rap-

una tematica più generale, quella del

umana

conduttore della storia

primo discorso

ta soprattutto nel

è costituito dal

trovano

si

testo che abbia-

dell'aquila:

do nodo è invece formato dal problema virtuosi, e rappresenta la punta di

(tematica svol-

vv. 31-72);

il

secon-

della salvazione dei pagani

diamante della grave questione

teologica della predestinazione divina (questione agitata nel secondo

discorso dell'aquila: vv. 88-132).

Cercheremo

di sciogliere questi

nodi all'interno di una lectura articolata del testo dantesco.^ I

sei principi giusti

che formano

l'occhio, sono presentati, nel

la parte

più nobile dell'aquila,

primo discorso del "santo uccello,"

nel rispetto assoluto delle proporzioni testuali (due terzine per ogni

personaggio) e secondo una rigorosa struttura anaforica, per mezzo della quale viene enfatizzata l'opposizione fra passato terreno e verità

parziale (prima terzina), e presente celeste e verità totale (seconda

Essi

terzina).

distribuiscono anche in misura uguale fra principi

si

che vissero prima vissero

di Cristo (David, Rifeo,

Ezechia) e principi che

dopo Cristo (Traiano, Costantino, Guglielmo

una linea

di

separazione ideale fra

i

due gruppi.

fine sta l'evento capitale nella storia dell'uomo:

Cristo.

È

a partire da questo

l'uomo

rapporti fra ricucito; e

momento,

infatti,

e Dio, lacerato dalla

A

II);

ciò che crea

segnare

con-

il

l'Incarnazione di

che

il

tessuto dei

Colpa, ha potuto essere

che l'immagine divina dell'uomo, oscurata dal peccato

originale, ha potuto essere restaurata. Di qui la giustificazione ideo-

logica del rinvenimento, in due punti identici dei canti 19 e 20 (ai vv. 103-5), dell'allusione alla fede nella Passione di Cristo, inizio

necessario della reintegrazione

questo regno poi ch'el credi,

/

si

salì

chiavasse

Gentili,

d'i passi piedi. II

non

/

ma

umana

nella condizione divina:

mai chi non credette al

'n Cristo, /

legno"; "D'i corpi suoi non uscir,

Cristiani, in

ferma fede

/

"A

né pria né

come

quel d'i passuri e quel

"^

canone dei principi

fortemente raccorciata,

giusti intende offrirci, in

la storia

una prospettiva

ûeWimperium christianum,

nei suoi

"

La "viva speranza

(David

archetipi, biblico

di

Dante

253

Ezechia) e classico (Rifeo), e nelle sue

e

tappe evolutive essenziali, romana (Traiano), romano-cristiana (Costantino) e feudale-cavalleresca (Guglielmo stra

stanti alla selezione di tali in

II).

Preliminari alla no-

indagine del canto sono l'accertamento delle motivazioni sotto-

nomi,

e la spiegazione del loro inserimento

questo punto particolare del viaggio salvifico/

Se ideologicamente scontata posto d'onore

(la

è la scelta di

David ad occupare

il

"pupilla" dell'occhio dell'aquila) in questa élite

principesca (egli rappresenta uscire la virga di Maria e

il

infatti la

radix Jesse dalla quale dovrà

meno

flos di Cristo),

scontata è

la

fun-

zione testuale del suo inserimento: Colui che luce fu

il

in

che l'arca traslatò ora conosce in

mezzo per

pupilla,

cantor de lo Spirito Santo,

il

di villa in villa:

merlo del suo canto,

quanto effetto fu del suo consiglio,

per lo remunerar ch'è altrettanto.

(37-42)

Le opere

terrene che stanno alla base del "merlo" di

sul quale si è posala l'illuminazione divina)

David ("merlo"

sono politico-religio-

se ("l'arca traslatò di villa in villa"),'' e soprattutto poetiche ("fu

cantor de lo Spirilo Santo"): e andrà enfatizzato fa qui riferimento alla scrittura letteraria ("in

non

suo consiglio"),

divino.^

E

la

il

che Dante

quanto effetto fu del

dWauc-

proprio a proposito di questo

"canto" umano, canto di penitenza per

Dio per

fallo

alla scrittura ispirata del libro sacro,

umano non aWAuctor

tor

il

i

propri peccati e di lode a

sua misericordia; è proprio a proposito di questa storia di

un'anima che dall'abisso del peccato

si

innalza alla vetta della grazia,

crea un evidente parallelismo con

che

si

con

la storia del

il

"canto" della Commedia,

viator che dalla selva infernale

si

è innalzato fino

alla visione di Dio.

Ad

un'esigenza profondamente aulogiustificativa sembra rispon-

dere anche l'inserzione del terzo spirilo, Ezechia (sul secondo, Traiano, cosi

come

sull'ultimo, Rifeo,

dovremo

sostare più a lungo nella

parte finale della nostra lectura):

E di

quel che segue

in la

circunferenza

che ragiono, per l'arco superno,

morte indugiò per vera penitenza:

254

Michelangelo Picone ora conosce che

non

giudicio etterno

'1

trasmuta, quando degno preco

si

de rodierno.

fa crastino là giù

(49-54)

Immotivati appaiono

i

dubbi dell'esegesi moderna sulla validità

dentificazione del terzo "fuoco" dell'occhio dell'aquila con e saggio re d'Israele, Ezechia:

un capitolo

di Isaia,

globale del

poema

il

dell'i-

giusto

il

identificazione basata soprattutto su

trentottesimo, che è vitale anche per \afictio

La

sacro.

Ezechia

vita di

si

divide nel racconto

biblico in due parti: quella che ha già trascorso in una condizione di malattia, e quella che gli resta ancora da vivere, se gli verrà concessa la

guarigione;

centro sta

al

il

vadam ad portam

paventato descensus ad inferos,

"Ego

gio nel regno della morte:

in

dixi:

dimidio dierum

vita del viator appare divisa nella

il

al

centro

si

pone

il

di nostra vita

/

mi

ritrovai per

due

Anche

parti:

la

la

prima re-

temuto descensus ad inferos,

"Nel mezzo del cam-

una selva oscura"; viaggio che

ma

protagonista vorrebbe rinviare,

in

seconda metà nella

viaggio nel regno della morte spirituale:

min il

Commedia

nella regio dissimilitudinis, la

gio similitudinis;

viag-

inferi" (38.10); viaggio rinviato per quindici anni

a causa dell'intervento divino propiziato dal profeta Isaia.

metà vissuta

il

meorum

necessità è affermata da

la cui

Virgilio ("a te convien tenere altro viaggio"), e la cui realizzazione è

predisposta da Dio: attraverso tale catabasi giurata

non

la

potrà essere scon-

infatti

morte terrena, bensì quella eterna del poeta-pellegrino

e dell'umanità che egli rappresenta.

La

funzionalità del successivo medaglione dedicato a Costantino

(lo storico conciliatore dei diritti

dell'Impero con

i

privilegi della

Chiesa) sembra risedere non nel rispecchiamento della biografia teraria del poeta

(come David, Ezechia,

e poi Rifeo),

ma

let-

nell'occa-

sione che esso offre ?\V actor di pronunciare una palinodia rispetto a giudizi precedentemente formulati sul conto dell'imperatore romano: L'altro che segue, con le leggi e sotto

buona intenzion che

per cedere

al

pastor

ora conosce dal suo

come

si il

sia

'1

mal

meco,

frutto,

fece greco:

mal dedutto

bene operar non

avvegna che



li

mondo

è nocivo,

indi distrutto.

(55-60)

"

La "viva speranza

Naturalmente

è qui questione della

di

Dante

255

famosa Donano Constantini

(del-

l'alienazione cioè di poteri di esclusiva giurisdizione imperiale in

favore della Chiesa), sulla quale

manifestato (accetto

moto

riflessione dantesca

la

De Monarchia

precedenza dedicata. Nel

in particolare

si

era già in

Dante aveva

datazione nardiana del trattato politico)^ un

la

di aperta sfiducia nei confronti della provvidenzialità e della

giustizia divine, allorquando

si

sodio-chiave dei rapporti

Chiesa

o Ausoniam

te

fra

felicem,

vel

si

numquam

natus fuisset, vel

era rivolto ad analizzare questo epi-

numquam

infirmator

sua pia intentio

umana,

fellisset" (2.11.8); la ratio

Impero: "o felicem populum,

e

[cfr. v.

mente cambiato:

evento viene

tui

mondo

trattato nel

cristiano.

Paradiso è

Lo

total-

vista dalla specola ûtWdi fides, illuminata dalla luce

della grazia, la donazione,

benché apportatrice

guenze storiche ("avvegna che perfettamente accettabile,

grammazione

Imperii

56] ipsum fe-

se avesse potuto, avrebbe voluto

strappare quella pagina funesta dalla storia del spirito col quale lo stesso

ille

in

sia

'1

mondo

di tristissime

conse-

indi distrutto"), appare

quanto facente parte della superiore pro-

divina, imperscrutabile dagli uomini e

non totalmente

accessibile neanche agli stessi beati; ciò che conta ora, nella prospettiva eterna, è la

"buona intenzion,"

il

dedutto" da azioni compiute obbedendo

Del lungo periodo che intercorre dell'Impero con

la

"ben operar," non

al

cipe giusto viene qui celebrata: quella del re

nozze

II,

il

quale favorendo

di

Svevia aveva propiziato

le

di

di prin-

normanno Guglielmo

Costanza d'Altavilla con Enrico

la nascita

casa sveva, dell'imperatore Federigo

E

"mal

fra la stabilizzazione dei rapporti

Chiesa e l'epoca moderna, una sola figura

VI

il

volere divino.

deir"ultima possanza" della

II (cfr.

Par. 3.118-20):

quel che vedi ne l'arco declivo,

Guiglielmo

fu, cui

quella terra plora

che piagne Carlo e Federigo vivo: ora conosce

come s'innamora

lo ciel del giusto rege, e al

del suo fulgore

il

sembiante

fa vedere ancora.

(61-6)

Guglielmo cioè della

II,

vissuto nella seconda metà del secolo XII, all'epoca

massima

fioritura della civiltà cortese, è delegato a dar

vita all'ultima vibrazione nel

mente tramontato,

ma

poema

sacro di quel

mondo

definitiva-

anche insistentemente rimpianto, delle "donne

Michelangelo Picone

256

La sua fama

antiche e' cavalieri." re corrente, se la

può affermare

Latini

di principe cortese

Cronica fiorentina falsamente ".

di lui:

.

.

Guiglielmo ... in

fu savio e gratioso sopra gli altri principi del

Nel costui tempo

il

reame del mondo: che questo non actendeano

Et quasi

se

re

mondo

letitie,

Guiglielmo

li

più che nullo altro

teneva in tanta pace,

Dante

fornito a

e dançare.

un'altra Tavola Ritonda."^ Brani cro-

nachistici o narrazioni novellistiche di questo tipo

hanno certo

a quel tempo.

none a sonare e ad cantare

nuovo

fecero di

elli

Brunetto

tucti suoi facti

regnio di Puglia e di Cicilia crebbe e abondò di

richeççe e d'allegramento e di gaudio e

ch'elli

doveva esse-

attribuita a

la

sono quelli che

base documentaria per proclamare

Guglielmo specchio perfettissimo del mondo cavalleresco. in realtà, riflettere sull'opposizione

Basta,

plora/piagne per rendersi conto

che questa è una spia linguistica della dicotomia valori cortesi/valori borghesi: se infatti

il

raffinato latinismo plora

dà voce all'accorato

rimpianto per quell'epoca mitica definitivamente scomparsa,

mine volgare piagne ha contro

i

il

contemporanei reggitori

d'Angiò] e Federigo

[II

il

ter-

rampogna

valore di configurare l'aspra di quella parte dell'Italia,

"Carlo

[II

d'Aragona]." D'altronde l'impiego del verbo

"s'innamora," a descrivere l'amore divino per l'anima

eletta,

sembra

definitivamente consegnare questo termine-cardine della tematologia cortese all'Olimpo delle più alte significazioni poetiche.

Prima

2.

di affrontare lo studio della riscrittura

leggenda di Traiano e del mito

campo

di Rifeo,

dei rapporti intertestuali che

vamente, con

la

il

dantesca della

e di entrare quindi nel

canto 20 stabilisce,

rispetti-

tradizione narrativa mediolatina e romanza, e con

quella poetica classica, è bene svolgere alcune considerazioni terarie

non teologiche ovviamente)

sul

(let-

problema della salvezza dei

pagani virtuosi, e sulla questione connessa dell'intervento diretto di

Dio

nelle cose dell'uomo (che è poi la definizione tecnica di 'mira-

colo').'

Dal canto

19, vv.

106-14,

il

lettore

ha già appreso che

la

salvezza

dei non-cristiani costituisce la rivelazione della faccia positiva della giustizia divina: la sua infinita misericordia.

dei principi falsi-cristiani (vv.

Così come

115-48) rappresenta

la

la

condanna

dimostrazione

dell'aspetto negativo della stessa giustizia divina: la sua ira tremenda.

Il

modello

al

quale Dante

si ispira in

questo brano è naturalmente

La "viva speranza

"

Dante

di

257

quello evangelico di Matteo 8.11-2; "Dico autem vobis quod multi

ab oriente lacob

et

et

al

et

filii

recumbent cum Abraham

autem regni cicientur

Se Cristo aveva sostenuto che

exteriores."

chiuso

occidente venient,

regno coelorum:

in

popolo

il

regno dei

Isaac

verrà

cieli

Dante amplifica

eletto e aperto ai gentili,

et

tenebras

in

il

raggio

semantico del messaggio divino sostenendo che nel giorno del Giudizio

il

Paradiso

si

aprirà agli Infedeli, ai "Perse" e air"Etiòpe," alle

persone cioè che non hanno avuto sulla terra occasione la

di ascoltare

parola rivelata. Questi Infedeli potranno anzi leggere in Paradiso

nel Libro dei Reprobi la lunga lista di coloro che

dovrebbero stare

vicinissimi ("prope") a Cristo, perché suoi rappresentanti sulla terra,

ma pi

che ne sono invece allontanati

in eterno: la lista dei cattivi princi-

dell'Europa attuale, degli iniqui reggitori delle

sorti

ótWimperium

christianiim.

Nell'immediato contesto evangelico citazione che fornisce

il

11.12) troviamo anche la

(A//.

tema che viene poi sviluppato

nel canto 20.

Chi ha voluto avvicinarsi a Dio, anche se vissuto all'interno della cultura pagana, ha ricevuto

i

mezzi per poterlo

fare:

gli è bastato,

afferma Dante, averlo desiderato ardentemente e sperato attivamente.

Benché una simile conversio sembri assurda,

in

quanto forza

le

leggi

stesse della giustizia divina (che richiede la fede esplicita in Cristo

morto

e risorto per ottenere

passaggio

il

al

Paradiso), pure durante la

sua visita del cielo di Giove V actor ha occasione di contemplare due

exempla

di tale

coelorum vim

miracolosa possibilità: Traiano e Rifeo.

patitur

:

per Dante

et violenti rapiunt illud":

"Regnum la

contro-

versa frase evangelica ha un unico significato, e annuncia una verità capitale,

come chiaramente

indicato dalla sua citazione-parafrasi:

Regnum celorum da caldo amore che vince

la

e

violenza paté

da viva speranza,

divina volontate.

(94-6)

Anche

in

absentia della fede,

la pratica

(quell'amore capace di portare verso

eccezionale del "caldo amore"

l'alto,

e della "viva speranza" (quella speranza re

una

vita più autentica)

miracoloso

di

verso

possono creare

Dio elargente

la

la

Fonte della luce),

che permette le

di intravede-

basi per l'intervento

Rivelazione, e condurre quindi alla

salvazione eterna.

Come

viene coinvolto Vactor/auctor nello svolgimento della grave

Michelangelo Picone

258

tematica della salvazione dei pagani? Se

cammino

dall'inizio del suo

magine divina;

la

immettere a

le

concludere positiva-

dei regni dell'Oltretomba, e

suo vero obiettivo:

il

tale acquisizione:

si

la felicità eterna; e, di

accedere

di

fede nella morte e nella resur-

la

La "viva speranza"

di

Dante, insomma, è che

il

trasformi in "cristianesmo"; realizzando così la vera,

stato di peccato a

uno

dunque non che

pagano) venga

con-

che sola può

alla porta

autentica 'metamorfosi,' che è quella cristiana del passaggio da

è

fin

contemplazione, /ac/e ad faciem, dell'im-

venga concesso

rezione di Cristo.

"paganesmo"

deW actor

"viva speranza" étWauctor è quella che l'umanità

possa raggiungere sequenza, che

"speranza"

di poter

speranza de l'altezza"), è stata quella

mente e felicemente l'attraversamento di arrivare così alla finale

la

soteriologico (Inf. 1.54: "ch'io perdei la

La "viva speranza"

stato di grazia.

mondo pagano

il

alla fine salvato;

in

ma

quanto

che

il

tale

di

uno

Dante

(rimanendo cioè

mondo pagano

riesca a

trovare nella sua propria cultura quella base ideologica e conoscitiva sulla quale

morfosi'

si

si

possa posare

realizza al livello

qui celebrato; e

al livello

la

Ora, una simile 'meta-

Rivelazione.

della narrano

nel personaggio di Rifeo,

deWirnitatio e AçXV aiictoritas in quello del

poeta Stazio.

Ma

l'impegno diretto deìV actor /auctor nella tematica

giuoca anche su un

altro versante testuale. In

ambedue

trattata si

casi di pa-

i

gani salvati in questo canto, sia quello di Traiano sia quello di Rifeo, è questione di miraculum, di intervento divino che elargisce la Ri-

velazione, la 'fede esplicita.' Per Dante

una situazione di

la possibilità di

non può

di obiettiva infidelitas

infatti

salvezza in

che essere frutto

una decisione divina, che opera immediatamente (come nel caso

di Rifeo)

o mediatamente (come nel caso

infondendo nell'anima prescelta solo, le opere buone,

il

dono

non bastano

di Traiano/S.

della Grazia.

alla salvazione:

Il

Gregorio) merito da

è necessario

il

merito divino, l'Incarnazione. La precisazione è importante, perché proprio tale punto è quello che spiega

la

particolare funzione rivestita

da questi personaggi nel poema sacro. Nell'analisi che segue cer-

cheremo precisamente

di

dimostrare

come

il

racconto inserito della

miracolosa elargizione, a Traiano o Rifeo, della grazia divina sia uno specchio nel quale e

si

conosce.

Lo

eletta di superare

il

racconto-cornice del poeta-pellegrino

straordinario privilegio concesso da

una condizione

di

si riflette

Dio all'anima

peccato originario, ha una

mo-

"

La "viva speranza

di

Dante

259

tivazione simile a quella vantala udìVacior: mostrare

mal vive"

le verità

eterne che a Lui

La realizzazione

3.

al

mondo "che

riferiscono.

si

testuale della salvazione di Traiano nel

Para-

diso dantesco mantiene qualcosa della spettacolarità che essa aveva

La concessione divina all'imperatore

nella letteratura agiografica.'

romano

della "ferma fede ... de' passi piedi" (104-5)

all'interno di

si

svolge

infatti

una scenografia impregnata del gusto del 'meraviglioso

cristiano' caratteristico dei miracles di Gautier de Coinci o dei mi-

lagros di Gonzalo de Berceo. Si tratta

in realtà di

un evento estemo

universalmente noto da una folta documentazione

e pubblico, reso

leggendaria:

Che

l'una de lo 'nferno, u' non

già mai a

buon

e ciò di viva di

riede

spene fu mercede:

viva spene, che mise

ne' prieghi

si

voler, tornò a l'ossa;

fatti

a

Dio per

la

possa

suscitarla,

che potesse sua voglia esser mossa.



L'anima gloriosa onde

si

parla,

tornata ne la carne, in che fu poco, credette in lui che potea aiutarla;

credendo s'accese

e di

vero amor, ch'a

fu

degna

di

la

in tanto

foco

morte seconda

venire a questo gioco.

(106-17)

Allo scopo (e l'altro

di

meglio comprendere questo episodio della Commedia

ad esso collegato del 10 canto del Purgatorio) è necessa-

rio ripercorrere,

leggenda

anche solo nei suoi

La leggenda

della salvazione di Traiano

grafiche medievali, cosi distinti.

Il

tratti

essenziali, la storia della

Traiano nel Medioevo.

di

primo

è

il

come

nel

poema

si

articola nelle fonti agio-

dantesco, in due racconti

resoconto di un factum memorabile:

si

tratta

dell'aneddoto della consolazione della vedova, nel quale l'imperatore

romano

rinvia pressanti

impegni

bellici per rendere giustizia

un'umile donna che insistentemente gliela richiede;

preoccupazione della salus personale

bene

/

a te che

fia,

se

'1

(cfr.

in

Traiano

ad la

Purg. 10.89-90: "l'altrui

tuo metti in oblio?"), l'esercizio altissimo

della giustizia, "dovere" (92) di ogni regnante, finisce per prevalere

su ogni altra cura terrena (è questo

exemplum che viene

riportato.

260

Michelangelo Picone

per esaltare

la virtù dell'umiltà, in

Purg. 10.73-93, e che viene qui

sermo brevis per affabulare

ripreso in

il

"merto" del personaggio:

"colui che ... la vedovella consolò del figlio," 44-5).

racconto è

miraculum operato da un

Il

secondo

invece di un gesto 'meraviglioso,' del

la registrazione

santo:

papa Gregorio, colpito

dall'atto di

umiltà e giustizia compiuto da Traiano nei confronti della vedova,

Dio che l'imperatore, che pure

ottiene da

persecuzioni

si

era reso colpevole di

venga cioè

ai cristiani, "torni all'ossa,"

risuscitato, per

potersi pentire dei suoi peccati e convertire al cristianesimo (è que-

appunto

sta

materia narrativa che viene riproposta nell'episodio

la

paradisiaco di cui

stiamo occupando).

ci

Del doppio racconto, esemplaristico e miracolistico, nel quale prende forma

sono anzitutto

leggenda

la

di Traiano, circolano nel

comunque

redazioni, tutte

le

Medioevo

Ci

versioni 'agiografiche,' elaborate fra l'VIII e l'XI

Magno. '*

secolo, e inserite all'interno della Vita di S. Gregorio

queste Vìtae (la

varie

riconducibili a tre tipi fondamentali.

piìi

In

importante delle quali è quella del diacono Gio-

vanni) l'attenzione è naturalmente calamitata dal potere spirituale del santo, di cui

il

racconto della giustizia di Traiano e della sua libera-

zione dalle pene dell'Inferno costituisce una delle prove

pili eclatanti.

L'ipotesi dell'assunzione di Traiano in Paradiso, a conseguenza della

negoziazione del papa con Dio, viene te esclusa;

come affermato

in questi testi

categoricamen-

dal diacono Giovanni: "...

non

legitur

Gregorii precibus Traiani anima ab inferno liberata et in paradiso reposita, est:

in

quod omnino

incredibile videtur propter illud

quod scriptum

Nisi quis renatus fuerit ex aqua et Spiritu sancto non intrabit

regnum caelorum; sed

simpliciter dicitur, ab inferno

solummodo

cruciatibus liberata."'" Certo però che la citazione del Vangelo di

Giovanni

3.3: "Nisi quis renatus fuerit.

.

.

,"

offriva ai lettori della

leggenda un'indicazione preziosa dello scenario dentro salvazione poteva realizzarsi.

il

quale tale

In definitiva, ciò che nelle versioni

agiografiche spiega l'interesse e l'amore di S. Gregorio per Traiano è sì l'atto di giustizia nei confronti della vedova,

collegamento tipologico che parole di Isaia (1.17):

tale

"ìudicsite pupillo et defendite

Traiano diventa cioè agli occhi la

ma

parola dei profeti: diventa

di S.

\ix\2i

soprattutto

gesto esemplare stabilisce con

viduam.

il

le ."

.

.

Gregorio colui che ha adempiuto

figura Christi.

Esistono poi della leggenda di Traiano

le

versioni 'umanistiche,'

Im "viva speranza situabili nel la

di

Abelardo) o

di

Giovanni

la

dimostrazione della 'santità'

scopo

di Salisbury).'^ Lx)

'virtù' di Traiano,

Dante

come

considerato

261

in trattati filosofici

politici

(come

queste versioni non è tanto

di

il

migliore degli imperatori ro-

alla

vedova viene pertanto

una prospettiva tipologica (Traiano fif^ura Christi),

in

(come

Policraticus

il

Gregorio quanto l'esibizione della

di

soccorso prestato da Traiano

II

non più

di

corso del XII secolo, e inserite

Thcologia Christiana

mani.

"

visto

ma

se-

condo un'ottica politico-simbolica (Jxaìano speculum principum). E la

drammatica situazione

di

vedovanza deWimperium christianum

(avvertita pressantemente da Giovanni di Salisbury) a richiedere ur-

gentemente l'avvento

di

un principe virtuoso come Traiano, affinché

essa possa essere migliorata.

comporta raculum

la

Il

risalto

limitazione, in questi

testi,

assunto dalla virtus romana della rilevanza presa dal mi-

cristiano, la cui espressione viene affidata a

codicillo (sintomatico

il

un frettoloso

periodo dedicatogli dal Policraticus

[5.8]:

"Fertur autem beatissimus papa tam diu pro eo fudisse lacrimas,

donec

tum pene

.

ei in .

revelatione nuntiatum

.";'* si

noti

infernali, e

come anche

non

sit

Traianum

a penis inferni libera-

qui sia questione di liberazione dalle

di salvazione).

Certo però che l'esaltazione umanistica della virtù fare

zione. rata

di

un notevole passo avanti nel cammino che porta

La soglia

con

le

fra liberazione/salvazione

Traiano fece

alla

sua salva-

venne comunque supe-

versioni 'scolastiche' della leggenda, circolanti durante

XIII secolo

tutto

il

ferte

da Alessandro

In queste versioni

(le

più interessanti delle quali sono quelle of-

di Hales,

il

Tommaso d'Aquino

e Bonaventura).'^

nucleo narrativo esemplare-miracolistico della

leggenda viene mortificato dall'esigenza dimostrativa e didascalica: viene funzionalizzato cioè a una questione teologica precisa; nella fattispecie: se la virtù

ne cristiana. In esse logiche e

si

pagana

sia sufficiente a

procurare

procede inoltre a correggere

gli errori dottrinali registrati nelle

le

la

salvazio-

incongruenze

versioni agiografiche; in

particolare che le pene dell'Inferno possano essere attenuate.

La

so-

luzione soteriologica dell'intricata questione teologica (Traiano, un

pagano, è salvato da un miracoloso intervento zione proposta dai

filosofi scolastici, si

di S.

Gregorio), solu-

basa su unauctoritas ben più

solida di quella fornita dai primitivi agiografi di papa Gregorio: cioè

su un'omelia greca, attribuita a Giovanni Damasceno, della quale

cominciò ad avere notizia

in

Occidente verso

la fine del

si

XII secolo.

262

Michelangelo Picone

La formulazione più coerente nella

Summa

Damascenus,

Praeterea,

di

questa soluzione noi la rinveniamo

Theologiae di S. Tommaso: in

eodem sermone,

Traiano orationem fundens, audivit vocem

quod Gregorius, pro

narrât

sibi divinitus illatam:

Vocem

veniam Traiano do. Cuius rei, ut Damascenus dicit in dicto sermone, testis est oriens omnis et occidens. Sed constat Traianum in inferno fuisse, quia multorum martyrum necem amaram instituit, ut ibidem Damascenus dicit. Ergo suffragia Ecclesiae valent etiam in inferno tuam audivi,

et

existentibus.'^

Ciò che

evince dalla testimonianza del Damasceno è dunque che

si

Traiano, condannato sicuramente all'inferno a causa della sua attiva Infidelitas, per IMntercessione di S.

dei suoi peccati, e

venne quindi

zione di tale salvazione S.

Gregorio ricevette

dono

remissione

salvato. Sulle modalità di realizza-

Tommaso propone due

ipotesi: la prima,

modo da

più radicale, è che Traiano sia stato risuscitato in pentire e usufruire del

la

potersi

della grazia; la seconda, più cauta, è che

Traiano abbia ottenuto un rinvio del suo giudizio particolare fino Giudizio

al

finale:

... de facto Traiani hoc

modo

potest probabiliter aestimari:

quod precibus

beati Gregorii ad vitam fuerit revocatus, et ita gratiam consecutus

quam remissionem peccatorum

sit,

per

immunitatem a poena. [. Vel dicendum, secundum quosdam, quod anima Traiani .] non fuit simpliciter a reatu poenae aeternae absoluta, sed eius poena fuit suspensa ad tempus, scilicet usque ad diem iudicii. habuit, et per consequens

.

La sospensione teristica

della sentenza nelle versioni scolastiche (carat-

anche delle coeve raccolte

Aurea, dove

di

come

leggende,

le ipotesi della restituzione di

Traiano alla

la

vita,

Legenda o quella

del rinvio del giudizio divino, sono le prime fra le tante altre pro-

poste) viene decisamente appellata dalle versioni della leggenda di

Traiano del

in lingua

XIV

secolo).

volgare (sorte verso

la fine del

Potremmo chiamare queste

XIII e nel corso

versioni 'letterarie,'

nel senso che esse, pur tenendo in debita considerazione la questio-

ne teologica, poetica. il

la

I

in realtà la

testi

superano, proiettandola

più rappresentativi sono

Novellino (69) e naturalmente necessità di spazzare via

le

la

i

in

una dimensione

Fiori e vita di filosafi (26),

Commedia. Comune ad

essi è

incertezze delle versioni scolastiche

e di sposare la soluzione narrativamente più efficace:

miracolosa salvazione di Traiano.

quella della

La "viva speranza Significativamente

la

"

Dante

di

263

tradizione manoscritta dei Fiori ripresenta

l'esitazione fra epilogo pietistico del racconto (proprio delle versio-

agiografiche) e epilogo miracolistico (tipico invece delle versioni

ni

scolastiche): fatti

la

maggioranza dei manoscritti (una ventina) offre

la

prima soluzione, mentre

in-

seconda viene sviluppata da un

la

gruppetto di soli quattro manoscritti. Appare chiaro

il

fatto

che l'evo-

luzione redazionale sia qui sintomo della trasformazione del gusto e

segua

il

processo

di letterarizzazione del testo.

'^

L'autore del Novellino, dal canto suo, riduce l'atto di giustizia di

Traiano nei confronti della vedova a un beau geste (a una "bella corogni implicazione trascendentale; e

tesia"), privo di

attribuisce all'intervento miracoloso

"E santo Grigoro orò per

na:

che per

li

tempo

stesso

miracolo

e dicesi per evidente

prieghi di questo santo papa l'anima di questo imperadore

fu liberata dalle stato pagano." il

lui,

al

una valenza puramente monda-

pene de l'inferno,

Ciò che

gli

preme

e

andone

in vita eterna;

ed era

un

enfatizzare, infatti, è da

lato

magnifico spettacolo del trionfo della giustizia e del miracolo

stiano, dall'altro la sua brillante traduzione linguistica:

non a caso

si sigilla

ossimorica

di vita eterna e

con una squisita figura

retorica, nell'opposizione

questo tema, così

la storia di

intende scoprire

la veritas del

di

destino eterno di Traiano;

ciò che coinvolge un dialogo serrato e polemico con

correzione dei loro errori e

la

risposta alle loro

sia pertanto irrilevante porsi

secondo

come

temi dell'immaginario medievale, l'apporto dantesco. La

Commedia

che

cri-

racconto

pagano}^

Decisivo e definitivo per tanti altri

il

la

il

le

'fonti':

domande.

problema della

la

Credo

'fonte' specifica

quale Dante avrebbe costruito quest'episodio, poiché in

realtà egli ha scrutato l'intero ventaglio delle 'fonti' pertinenti per

offrircene un bilancio.

La novitas del messaggio poetico dantesco

sarà allora rinvenibile attraverso un confronto con la serie di testi già

evocata.

Rispetto alle versioni precedenti della leggenda, agiografiche

uma-

nistiche e scolastiche, versioni tutte caratterizzate da un atteggiamento distaccato nei confronti del fatto narrato e

da una

finalità dida-

contemporaneizzazione

scalica, Dante,

portando avanti

ócWexemplum

iniziato dalle versioni novellistiche, fa di Traiano

mito personale, in altre parole,

gli attribuisce

avvicina

la

il

processo

di

un

una funzione autoconoscitiva. Dante,

conversio del personaggio paradigmatico

264

Michelangelo Picone

sua propria conversio,

alla

la cui

à&W Inferno}"^

primi due canti

ai

Traiano viene a rafforzare

il

descrizione noi vediamo affidata

Nel contesto specifico,

la figura di

significato assunto da quelle di

David e

Ezechia, di cui abbiamo già discusso.

E

in realtà, la storia dell'imperatore

da pagano e tal

modo

sia la realtà infernale sia la realtà paradisiaca

"per l'esperienza

/

della sua vita,

per iniziare

mino che

lo

il

la

prima

si

dtW actor

della

ripete

si

Commedia

che, a

ritrova nella selva della lontananza da

suo cammino verso

la

il

Così come

Dio cam-

reintegrazione etema:

condurrà a visitare prima

poi quello della salvazione.

in

(w. 47-8:

de l'opposta"),

di questa dolce vita e

esattamente nel pattern narrativo

metà

che visse due volte,

seconda da cristiano, arrivando a sperimentare

la

regno della dannazione e la

vicenda della miracolo-

sa rinascita di Traiano alla vita della grazia, giustificata dal proprio

"merto" (l'essere simbolo della giustizia terrena) e portata a effetto dall'intercessione di un santo, riflette specularmente la vicenda del

personaggio-poeta, che per intervento miracoloso di Dio e per intercessione delle "tre donne benedette"

della Vita

Nuova)

il

2.124),

{Inf.

amorosa consegnata

(sulla base dell'esperienza

compito

di

combinare

il

vede affidato

si

al libello

giovanile

viaggio classico di Enea

col viaggio cristiano di S. Paolo nell'unico viaggio della cristianità

decaduta verso

Un'indicazione ermeneutica di grande rilievo per poterci spie-

4.

gare il

la definitiva palingenesi.

la

ragione profonda che sta dietro la scelta di Rifeo a completare

sestetto dei principi giusti ci viene da

vio e

Commedia

riguardante

ebraico-cristiano e

mondo

pone una correlazione

fra

le

classico."" il

re

una discrepanza

omologie storiche

Mentre

fra

Convi-

stabilite fra

mondo

infatti

il

Convivio pro-

David, iniziatore della "progenie san-

tissima" che conduce a Cristo, e Enea, iniziatore della progenie im-

"E tutto questo fu in uno temporale, che David nacque Roma, cioè che Enea venne di Troia in Italia, che fu origine cittade romana, sì come testimoniano le scritture"); la Comme-

periale (4.5.6:

e nacque

de

la

dia istituisce una ben diversa corrispondenza fra lo stesso re David e Rifeo: spirituale

personaggio che passa cosi a simbolizzare

deWimperium christianum.

il

nuovo padre

Interpreto tale divario

come

l'indicazione del passaggio da una fase 'umanistica' della cultura di

Dante (rappresentata dall'enciclopedia

filosofica del Convivio),

da

l.a

"

"viva speranza

di

un momento cioè nel quale Dante crede

mondo

classico e

cristiano;

Dante alla continuità fra

fra

e

mondo

vede

Dante

nel quale

il

Commedia),

a un

mo-

rende conto dello sbarramento esistante

si

mondo

classico e

conseguenza

di

mondo

una fase per così dire 'agostiniana'

a

(rappresentata dall'enciclopedia poetica della

mento cioè

265

cristiano (significato dall'Incarnazione),

rapporto fra

mondo

classico e

mondo

cri-

stiano in termini di discontinuità e frattura. Se nel Convivio V Eneide

viene considerata alla stregua delle "scritture" sacre, e Virgilio alla stregua dei profeti del Vecchio Testamento, nella

V Eneide di

è la

premonizione

di

Commedia

un senso cristiano che va integrato (come dimostrato dall'episodio

di Stazio), cosi

come

Virgilio è Vauctor della tragedia per eccellen-

za dell'Antichità, dell'opera cioè che affabula non positiva deir//t'r conoscitivo dell'uomo

dantesca),

no

invece

una verità che va glossata, l'annuncio

infatti

ma

la

Comedia né Enea furo-

Limbo,

la

Né Virgilio momento del descensus

conclusione negativa.

liberati dal

conclusione

la

(come appunto

al

di Cristo

nell'Inferno. Anzi, la ripetizione poetica di tale descensus,

il

poema

sacro, accerta la liberazione dell'anti-Enea, di Rifeo, e l'incorona-

zione dell'anti-Virgilio, di Dante.

Anche

sul

conto

definitiva; tanto più

di

Rifeo

Commedia

la

memorabile quanto

intende apporre

piìi

la

glossa

essa è nascosta e impre-

vedibile:

Chi crederebbe giù nel che Rifeo Troiano

in

fosse la quinta de

mondo

errante

questo tondo

le luci

sante?

Ora conosce assai di quel che 'I mondo veder non può de la divina grazia, ben che sua vista non discerna il fondo. (67-72)

L'interrogazione iniziale che troviamo nella sestina dedicata alla pre-

sentazione di Rifeo, semplice comparsa neìVEneide, serve tizzare

il

senso

di stupita

meraviglia che suscita

sua salvazione nel lettore cristiano, la

in

ma

la lieta



ad enfa-

novella della

vuole soprattutto accentuare

straordinaria novitas del messaggio poetico dantesco, che corregge

modo

tanto rivoluzionario

deìV Eneide troviamo Rifeo

testo virgiliano.

il

fra

i

Nel secondo libro

compagni più valorosi

tentano di opporre un'ultima disperata difesa contro

la

di

Enea che

forza sover-

chiarne dei Greci; finché lo vediamo cadere sopraffatto dai nemici:

Michelangelo Picone

266

"cadit et Riphaeus, iustissimus unus

simus aequi

/

destinato a uscire vivo dalla battaglia: ut

qui fuit in Teucris et servantis-

visum)" (426-8); mentre d'altro canto Enea è

/ (dis aliter

"Danaum

et, si

fata fuissent

/

caderem, meruisse manu" (434-5). La documentazione dantesca

per quanto riguarda \afictio,

il

livello istoriale dell'episodio, è tutta

ricavata da questi pochi versi virgiliani. Sulla base di tale auctoritas.

Dante assume Rifeo a prototipo della dall'affermata presenza

in lui, al

della stessa virtù che caratterizza

Enea; presenza che assume aequi").

Del

attera del

tutto

poema

allegorico,

nuova

umana; partendo cioè

il

suo compagno più fortunato.

toni del rito religioso ("servantissimus

i

è invece la glossa che

Dante appone

alla

classico. L'elaborazione della sententia, del senso

non trova

Virgilio, nei

giustizia

grado superlativo ("iustissimus"),

infatti

commenti cioè

nessun avallo nella lettura secolare di

La

e nelle glosse medievali.

storia della

conversio di Rifeo, affabulata nel secondo discorso dell'aquila,

ci

viene presentata nel silenzio totale dell'esegesi cristiana: che da

L'altra, per grazia

fontana

stilla,

non pinse l'occhio tutto

profonda



che mai creatura

suo amor

prima onda,

infino a la

là giù

pose a

drittura:

per che, di grazia in grazia, Dio

li

aperse

l'occhio a la nostra redenzion futura;

ond'

da indi

non sofferse paganesmo;

ei credette in quella, e il

puzzo più

del

e riprendiene le genti perverse.

Quelle

che

donne

tre

tu vedesti

dinanzi

al

da

li

fur per

battesmo

la destra rota,

battezzar più d'un millesmo.

(118-29)

Mentre

al livello della

costruzione narrativa dell'episodio Dante

attiene scrupolosamente alle informazioni che gli

provengono dal

testo classico, al livello della costruzione allegorica

procede ad una

si

radicale correzione dello stesso testo. latio.

DaìV imitatio passa aWaemu-

L'intervento correttorio tocca in particolare l'inciso del testo

"Dis

di partenza:

aliter

visum."

Mentre

infatti Virgilio

riconosce

nella morte di Rifeo, e nella sua conséquente esclusione dal viaggio fatale di

Enea verso Roma, una decisione avversa

attribuisce a quella stessa

dola

come

il

degli dei;

Dante

morte un significato positivo, interpretan-

passaggio verso

la

vera patria, verso la cittadinanza

Im "viva speranza

La comedìa

paradisiaca.

al

tempo

visione finale di Dio

si

pone

al

in

viaggio di Enea verso

tutto dì si

merca"), e

stesso

la

regrinatio di Rifeo verso "quella

creazione del nuovo mito

un postremo omaggio

mento e

di

alla

ma

tradizionale),

Dante

il

267

viaggio ùtWactor fino alla

una relazione

rapporto

in

di

cristiana diventa così l'inveramento della

tragedia classica; e

spetto

"

Roma

di differenziazione ri-

"dove Cristo

terrena (la città

di identificazione rispetto alla

Roma onde

Cristo è romano."

Rifeo assumerà allora

il

pe-

La

valore non di

poesia di Virgilio (come suona

com-

il

della resa finale dei conti poetici fra Eneide

Commedia.

McGill University

NOTE •

Testo di una lectura tenuta a Napoli

il

3 febbraio 1988 nei contesto della

Pompeo Giannantonio. dell'aquila nella Commedia (simbolo non

Lectura Dantis Neapolitana diretta da 1

Sul significato della figurazione dell'impero,

ma

anche deir"altezza d'ingegno" del poeta-pellegrino)

si

solo

veda

ora Brugnoli 169-86.

2 Delle non numerose interpretazioni

di

questo canto

si

sono soprattutto tenute Spunti interes-

presenti nella nostra lectura quelle di Paratore e di Pézard. santi

si

trovano nei cappelli introduttivi dei commenti di Bosco-Reggio e di

Pasquini-Ouaglio.

3 Su questo punto

4 Per

veda Paratore 293-4.

si

un'analisi complessiva del canone dei principi giusti

si

può

ricorrere al

lavoro di Renaudet 202-20.

5 Si noti l'eco intratestuale dell'analoga operazione compiuta dal Veltro, senso negativo: "questi

6 Sul valore

di

la

caccerà per ogne villa"

questa distinzione

si

ma

in

{Inf. 1.109).

può ora consultare

il

lavoro di Minnis,

soprattutto 103-12.

7

Si

veda r"lntroduzione

al testo

8

alla

Monarchia

di

Dante," ora inclusa

contenuto nel secondo tomo delle Opere minori

Testi fiorentini del

Dugento

9 Per questa complessa

di

come

prefazione

Dante, 241-69.

93.

e dibattuta questione

si

rinvia

il

lettore alla

convincente

trattazione fornita da Foster 156-253.

10 Sulla diffusione della figura

di

Traiano nella cultura medievale verte l'ottimo

lavoro di Whatley. Si vedano ora anche

11

le

pagine di Vickers.

Whatley 27-31.