Next classes

I hope you all enjoy the break. Please refer to our course schedule and final paper assignment to prepare for our next two classes. I also copy here the timeline:


  1. By the end of April you will email me (or write in a post) about the topic of your final paper.
  2. You will bring a proposal of your paper to class on May 1 for peer-review. You will show a picture/slide to the class representing the topic of your paper. The class has to be ready to ask questions and give suggestions.
  3. You will bring a hard copy of an outline of your paper (introduction, questions to be addressed and thesis statement, and bibliography you believe you will use to write the paper) on May 8. We will peer review the outline.

Remember that we read Purgatorio 32-33 and Paradiso 1-2 for May 1.

Giusto di Gand’s portrait of Dante (ca 1473)


Garden of Eden vs. Forest of Harpies

Image result for canto 13

Image result for canto 28 purgatorio

indrasmusings –

Paris Review

In Canto 28, we can see the first major juxtaposition of Purgatorio and Inferno. As both scenes embody a forest environment, Dante uses his great ability of imagery to illustrate what we find out is the Garden of Eden in canto 28. Dante starts the canto with with a lively attitude: “eager already to search within and about the dark forest, thick and alive, which tempered the new day to my eyes.” This reading portrays the first scene of livelihood–without worry– and “eagerness” of Dante. Dante no longer is to be cautioned or held back by Virgil because there is nothing to caution against.

The amount of beauty reflected in Dante’s words are unparalleled throughout his journey of Inferno and Purgatorio. Unlike the dark forest in canto 13 with the harpies and souls of the suicides, the Garden of Eden has but a sweet breeze, graceful enough to disturb the branches of the trees but not the resounding birds with their lovely songs. Dante elevates the beauty of the Garden to that of a beauty of scenic art; just as Dante incorporates fictional characters in inferno, he does the same in the garden of eden by incorporating Matelda as a nymph. She is a figure of beauty inhabiting the garden along the river and serves as partial tour guide of the Garden by explaining that the garden was meant to be a “token of eternal peace” for man because he was made in the image of God but fell from sanctity into sin.

Furthermore, canto 13 in Inferno depicts a forest that tokens the eternal suffering of sinners that think they can end their lives on their own terms. The forest of the harpies is inaccessible to the souls that aren’t victims of suicides–we know this– but it isn’t brought into full perspective until we read this canto of the garden of eden. The garden of eden is placed on top of the mountain, therefore being inaccessible to those unworthy of the perilous mountain climb. Dante does very well in comparing and contrasting the layout of inferno and Purgatorio, they seem to be perfectly juxtaposed in their structure and therefore in their scenic elements.

Dante’s True Paradise

(this post accidentally got erased late at night and i was really mad and re wrote it in the morning)


Canto 28 opens up with dante in the Garden of Eden. Dante seems to be free now to go about with his free will as he wants. According to Digital Dante, the first word of the Italian translation is “Vago” which means “desirous.”  Translated into English, the first lines go as follows: “Now keen to search within, to search around that forest, dense, alive with green, divine, which tempered the new day before my eyes, without delay, I left behind the rise and took the plain advancing solely, slowly across the plain, advancing solely, slowly across the ground where every part was fragrant.” Here he is describing the garden and his newly realized freedom to roam about it. How beautiful it is and how alive he feels within it. Beatrice claims Dante to be a witness of the “Earthly Paradise” and to write down everything he sees. This Canto is much brighter and more positive than anything we have read so far. In canto 30, digital Dante points out that the Italian words “altrui” and “altrove” are both “powerful indicators of the seduction of the new.” These last canti are all geared towards the future which is something new to the comedy. Virgil is finally gone and Beatrice has arrived.


A few ideas i have had for the final paper pertaining to Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio is to write about some of my favorite scenes in relation to the art that I saw at the MET. Another subject I could touch on is more of a personal one where I could explain how difficult it has been for me to understand the comedy as a whole but then towards the middle of the semester become more interested and actually enjoying the read.

Final Piece for True Paradise

The final piece for Dante’s salvation is Beatrice. In canto 30 Dante is awestruck at finally seeing Beatrice after all those years “I saw the lady who had first appeared/ to me beneath the veils of the angelic/ flowers look at me across the stream” (Alighieri 64-66). But, this does not mean that Dante is going to Paradise. Here, Beatrice is depicted with a stern and harsh stance towards Dante, “just as a mother seems / harsh to her child, so did she seem to me/ how bitter is the savor of stern pity!”(Alighieri 79-81). Dante is to undergo one last trial or reflection in order to ascend. It makes you wonder if the journey through Hell and Purgatory was enough to grant entry to Paradise, but it is not that simple; Dante passed and spectated throughout his journey, not participating. Dante merely took lessons from cautionary stories. In order to truly grant access to Paradise he must look into himself, and renounce all his sins by feeling anguish and sorrow: “my reply/ be understood by him who weeps beyond,/ so that his sorrow’s measure match his sins”(Alighieri 106-108). We have come to know since the beginning of Inferno that Dante has overwhelming love for Beatrice. With that in mind, there is no room for self deception for Dante. He cannot hide or lie about his sins to himself or even his love. Thus, he finally rids himself of sin by acknowledging them and feeling remorseful.

The Earthly Paradise

In canto 28, the Earthly paradise reflects man’s origin as an innocent creation susceptible to temptations. Dante implies that all creation including humans were created to follow the will of God. For example, Dante narrates that “by which the pliant branches, trembling, were bent, all of them, toward where the holy mountain casts its earliest shadow,” (Canto 28, lines 10-12). Dante characterizes the breeze that bends the branches as “unchanging in itself” (canto 28, line 7). In a mortal and materialistic world, everything ages and deteriorates. If anything is unchanging, it’s considered immortal and divine. Thus, the wind is an extension of God’s divinity and helps the creations follow the will of God. Moreover, Dante uses the adjective “pliant” to describe the branch to imply that nature itself , including  the trees are created to bend at the will of God. He elaborates that they bent to “where the holy mountain casts its earliest shadows.” Even though the plants are supposed to bend at the will of God, they’re not bending in the “right” direction. Usually, trees and plants naturally bend towards the source of light which represents God, however, in this case, they’re bending towards the shadows where there is no light. In a sense, the plants are a metaphor for humans, Dante is implying that even though humans and all of nature is created to serve God, humans have strayed from their true purpose. The “holy mountain” is designed in such a way that it closest to the heavens so God’s light may always reach its inhabitants . However, humans turned to the “shadows” where God’s light does not reach them, and in doing so, they became shadows of their former selves that once lived in the Garden of Eden.

The body of waters reflects man’s pure origin and inevitable condemnation. Dante narrates that “ All the waters that back here are the purest,” (canto 28, line 28) and “it [they] hide nothing,” (canto 28, line 30). Just like the pure water, God created humans as pure beings devoid of all sins with clear intentions. Just as the water hides nothing about its contents, humans didn’t hide anything from God and each other. However, Dante elaborates that “although it moves dark, dark under the perpetual shade, which never lets sun or moon shine through.” (Canto 28, lines 31-32). The description of the water is contradictory because even though it’s pure, it’s dark. Usually, if water has a dark hue, it means that its contaminated. Since, the Earthly paradise represents the origin of humans, the description of the waters parallels the human transformation from pure creations to morally corrupt beings. Even though the body of water is close to the the stars in the heavens, the celestial light can’t penetrate the water because it’s located in the first place that humans sinned and fell from heaven. God created the Earthly paradise so that his light can always shine on Adam and Eve. However, when they disobeyed him, they fell from heaven and the celestial light in the forms of stars, sun, and moon no longer directly shined on them.  The pure and dark nature of the water shows that the once pure humans are corrupted inside, and God’s light fails to penetrate their heart, hence they’re purposeless and led astray. There is a repetition of the word “shadow” to reiterate that the paradise is full of shadows just like humans are shadows of their original status and glory.

The Garden of Paradise essentially displays what humans have lost. Hence, the garden is physically characterized so that it can show the true story of humans as pure beings who fell from Grace. In fact, Matelda narrates that “Because of his own fault he dwelt here but little; by his own fault he changed into weeping and labor his virtuous laughter and sweet play.” (canto 28, line 94-96). The clauses set up a parallel between “weeping” and “virtuous laughter,” and “labor” and “sweet play” to show how humans live on earth and how they lived on the Garden of Eden.  The earthly Paradise mirrors the punishment for Adam and Eve’s sin and their fall from Paradise. Dante claims “You put me in the mind of where and what Proserpina was,”( canto 28, line 49-50). Dante claims that the Earthly paradise reminds him of the story of Prosperina because just as she lost her virginity and ability to reside on Earth when Hades raped and imprisoned her, humans lost their status and ability to reside on the Earthly paradise. For Dante, the earthly paradise represents the origin of humans and their true narrative which include the purity of their creation and their simultaneous fall from paradise.

Personal Note: I’m not entirely sure what my final paper is, however I am exploring some leads. I’m planning on attending the Harrowing of Hell play. Based on my feeling on it, I may decide to do a comparative essay based on Dante’s inferno  and the play’s interpretation of hell. If I don’t like the play, I might pick something else to do.

Side note: I’m confused about the female characters and what they represent. I read that Persepolina represents the “human err” in the notes and I don’t understand what error she committed. I think her suffering is similar to the humans but its through no fault of her own. Also, while I understand that Matelda is represented as the “ unfallen Eve”, I don’t understand what Beatrice represents? Is she the “redeemed Eve”?


Dante’s Voyage

In Purgatorio 30 Dante compares Beatrice to an Admiral that helps guide other people’s ships “Like an admiral who comes to stern and prow to see the people who serve on other ships, and heartens them to do well” (58-60). This line reminded me of Ulysses and his voyage to beyond the edge of the known world. We know that this journey failed and may be one of the reasons for Ulysses’ damnation. Ulysses is portrayed as a gifted individual with talents that can break past the established limits. This is quite similar to how Dante portrays himself as we have seen him place himself just one level below the greatest poets in the world. Dante seems to compare Ulysses’ voyage with his own journey as he makes references of ships throughout Purgatorio like the previous quote or the quote in the beginning of Purgatorio “To run through better waters the little ship of my wit now hoists its sails, leaving behind it a sea so cruel.”

We know that Ulysses’ journey failed and that Dante’s journey will succeed but why does this happen even though they are of similar character? That is because of Beatrice or more precisely faith as we see in Purgatorio 31 we learn that Beatrice is the one that guides Dante onto the true path, she is the reason why Dante made this journey in the first place as he was slowly straying from the true path and needed to be corrected. That is why Dante makes the comparison with the Admiral, Beatrice is able to help guide Dante because of his faith. Ulysses on the other hand wanted to rely on reason and logic, without faith he was destined to never succeed in his voyage. This draws back to the theme of faith vs reason as we have seen with Virgil in where he was unable to get through hell by only using reason and had to rely on faith to get past these obstacles.

Dante and Beatrice on Earth and in the Earthly Paradise

Dante’s first known work, Vita Nova or New Life, heavily centers around the relationship, or lack thereof, between Dante and Beatrice. As I mentioned in a previous post, my first academic encounter with Dante was Vita Nova. I was, and still am, fascinated by the one-sided relationship Dante seems to have with Beatrice in Vita Nova which seems to expand into more of a reciprocal relationship in Purgatorio. I say this because in Vita Nova Dante and Beatrice only have a few interactions of little to no consequence other than in Dante’s mind. I remember wondering last year if Beatrice would have even known who Dante was or just vaguely recognized his face if they passed by each other on the street.

When Beatrice finally comes to Dante’s side for the first time in La Commedia, I immediately found my copy of Vita Nova* to see what comparisons I could find. I decided not to immediately read the Purgatorio footnotes for Canto 30 since I wanted to see what I could come up with organically, almost like a small test of my analyzing skills.

Both times Dante sees Beatrice for the “first” time (the true first time on Earth and the first time during his journey outside the earthly realm) he almost immediately describes her clothing. After three very long sentences in Vita Nova, amounting to about half a page, where Dante uses astrological terms to explain how old he and Beatrice are at the time of this first sighting, in the fourth he writes:

“She appeared, dressed in a very stately color, a subdued and dignified crimson, girdled and adorned in a manner that was fitting for her young age” (page 3).

In Purgatorio, Dante again immediately describes her clothing before he talks about her effect on him, writing:

“her white veil girt with olive, a lady appeared to me, clothed, beneath a green mantle, in the color of living flame” (lines 31-33).

Both times Dante sees Beatrice she is clothed in red. I have a note handwritten in my copy of Vita Nova that I am almost sure was information Professor Van Peteghem told us in class explaining that crimson was linked to grief after death during Dante’s time. If that is true, it juxtaposes the two shades of red perfectly. The first is linked to death and the other to the living flame.

The second time Dante sees Beatrice in Vita Nova he once again describes her clothing, writing that the “marvelous lady appeared to me dressed in pure white, between two gracious women, both of whom were older than she” (page 4). This white is again seen in the description of her veil in Purgatory. The two gracious women that Dante sees Beatrice accompanied by in this quote sparked my interest as well. In Canto 2 of Inferno, I had found it very odd that it took two intermediaries, St Mary and St Lucy, to intercede with Beatrice on Dante’s behalf so that she would ask Virgil to help him. It is a possibility in both cases that Dante has the total be three women due to the holiness of the number three, however, I am curious if there might be a link between the two women Dante sees Beatrice with in Vita Nova and the two women that are intermediaries to Beatrice in Inferno.

Unfortunately, I could not find any mention of the color green in Vita Nova which makes this comparison fall just a little short. I went as far as to find a digital copy and keyword search everything I could think of, including mentions of olives and leaves, which was to no avail. Never the less, I am still satisfied with the comparisons I did find between Vita Nova and Purgatorio.

*All quotations from Vita Nova are from the Andrew Frisardi edition published in 2012.

Paper Idea: I would like to examine the similarities and differences between any women represented by both Dante and Christine de Pizan if you think it is a good idea for a paper.

Beatrice as Dante’s New Guide

Throughout Inferno, and up to this point in Purgatorio, Dante rarely acts or even speaks to anyone else, without first being told to by Virgil.  He has been the one pointing out what is important. However, from cantos 29 to 31 of Purgatorio, we see Virgil being replaced as the guide of Dante. We see that Virgil is still at Dante’s side in canto 29, lines 55-57, as Dante and the poet exchange glances of amazement over the light and sound emanating from the forest. But sometime between this action and canto 30, line 49-51, he is gone; “But Virgil has left us deprived of himself- Virgil, most sweet father, Virgil, to whom I gave myself for my salvation”.

Even before Virgil disappears, Matelda has been acting as Dante’s guide. In lines 7-9 of canto 29, Dante follow her along the riverbank. She directs him in lines 12-13 of canto 29 “My brother, look and listen”. Again in canto 29, she directs him to look beyond the light, to the people behind it, in lines 61-64; “Why do you burn so with feeling for the living lights and do not look at what comes after them?” This is how Virgil previously had drawn Dante’s attention when there was something of note which Dante has not seen.

Virgil’s absence allows Beatrice to take over as Dante’s guide. She explains in canto 30 how she guided him in life, through Dante’s love for her, and that once she died, he was left to wander away because he lacked her guidance. Now reunited it Purgatory, she resumes her role. She encourages him to speak and confess why he strayed in canto 31, lines 37-57.

For my final paper, I want to compare two paintings and how they represent the same scene. I am thinking of doing how the Prideful are depicted by Gustave Doré, versues Priamo della Quercia in the Yate Thompson manuscript.

The Garden of Eden

Dante is in awe when viewing the Earthly Paradise which is a garden, also dark “which never lets sun or moon shine through” with fresh May branches and streams. He meets a solitary lady who he also calls beautiful (beautiful donna) and she is singing to herself by the riverbank while picking flower from flower and Dante tries to listen. The lady is known as Matelda. According to the notes in the book Purgatorio page 484 it says, “Embodying the innocent happiness of Eden, Matelda is a kind of nymph of the wood or protective spirit of the place.” She sees that Dante and Virgil are new dwellers and Matelda explains the nature and history of the Earthly Paradise. Metelda tells Virgil and Dante that the garden is known as the Garden of Eden, once intended for the eternal peace of humankind but was then abandoned because of sin. Matelda says, “he highest Good, who alone pleases himself, made man good and for the good, and this place he gave as a token to him of eternal peace” (canto 29 lines 91-93). Its trees and plants are created by God, and the weather is pleasurably everlasting. Two rivers, Lethe and Eunoe, cross the Earthly Paradise. Matelda states, “On this side it descends with the power to take away all memory of sin; on the other it gives back the memory of every good deed. Here it is called Lethe, as on the other side Eunoe” (canto 29 lines 127-131). Therefore, if one drinks from the water of Lethe, their sins would be forgotten, but if a soul drinks from the water of Eunoe, the soul will have remembrance of their virtuous deeds. In Greek and Roman mythology Lethe, according to the  notes in the book Purgatorio page 490, is a river that flows through Hell. Those who drink from it, forget both their past deeds as well as their entire life on earth. Dante, however, creates his own version of the river of Lethe by encouraging the sinner to be forgetful of theirs sin but still allows the drinker to still remember everything else, including their earthly lives. The river, Eunoe, doesn’t exist in classical mythology, but is created by Dante. Both Lethe and Eunoe rivers come from a single source and flow through the Garden of Eden which is how it is represented in the Bible. This canto also has important ties with the forest of Inferno1 and Inferno13. The dark wood of the beginning of Inferno is set at the foot of the “delightful” mountain and the pilgrim wants to climb it but is dangerous. Therefore, the first dark wood mentioned in Inferno1 represents the moral struggle while the forest in canto 13 represents how the souls refused the divine plenitude of integration of body and soul. While the wood of suicides is filed with thorns, poison and filth, garden of Eden has flowers, singing and liveliness.


In relation to the Met paintings from last week, this canto (canto 29) reminds me of the painting called “Expulsion from Paradise.” God created man to be deathless and to share his own happiness (cf. Par. 13. 57-60), “good and for the good”; but Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden into hardship and mortality because they disobeyed God and ate the apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the painting the garden’s radiance is surrounded by flowers, plants, and trees which symbolizes the purity and sinless behavior of mankind before the Fall. In the painting Adam and Eve are being discharged from the garden by a graceful angel. Because this angel whose nudity is seen to have human-like characteristics’: thin, fragile, petite, then this angel has a deep understanding and sympathizes mankind after the fall from grace although mankind (Adam and Eve) made unethical decisions.

In regards to my final paper I have thought about two options: one is to discuss the violence in Inferno and as the reader progressively moves downward in the Inferno the sins become worse becoming more violent than the previous circle.


I wanted to write about Paolo and Francesca and how they are still in love so their sin is still on-going + this idea of the will vs the intellect.