Posted by: vikingsinspace | October 17, 2011

VI.30.021. Read Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

Date Accomplished: January 2005

Well, I have already written about my goal to read Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy (See VI.03. Read Dante’s Divine Comedy), but with the inclusion of goal VI.30. (Read Every Medieval Primary Source I Own), I felt I had to cover this one again.  Mostly because the point of goal VI.30. is to take generic notes on these sources and to type them up.  I had ment to include my notes to The Divine Comedy in post VI.03, but I thought I had lost them.  I was preparing to read Dante again to accomplish this goal, but to my surprise, found my notes from 2005.  They aren’t very good, and I can tell I have come a long way in understanding of the middle ages, but these are good enough to satisfy this goal (VI.30.021).

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, trans. Allen Mandelbaum, Everyman’s Library (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995)


Canto I

60    – The 3 beasts, a leopard (ln. 32), lion (ln. 45), and a she-wolf (ln. 49)

        – Notes give these as personifications of lust, pride, and avarice respectively (pg. 543-4) –

Canto II

63 – ln. 7    – why is he appealing to Pagan ideas (muses, genius)? Is it because Virgil’s there? – Maybe this is why he can’t climb the ‘hill’

64 – ln. 53    – lady called to Virgil – is this Beatrice?

65 – ln. 70    └> Yep

Canto IV

73 – ln. 53    – ‘The Harrowing of Hell’ – description of what Medieval people believed Christ did between his Death and Resurrection – that is rescuing certain people from Hell who could not go to Heaven until his Death

75 – ln. 100    – Joining the poets – bit of a pat on the back…

– ln. 129    – Saladin is here!

Canto V

77 – ln. 4    – Minos acts as judge in Hell – a counter part to St. Peter

Canto VI

84 – ln. 75    – I believe Ciacco is talking about Florence, and the envy, pride and avarice (the 3 beasts) shows up again

Canto VIII

91 – ln. 27    – Weight when Dante enters the boat ‘cutting water / more deeply than it does when bearing others.’ – is this simply because he is not a spirit, or is he trying to make some comment on the ‘weight’ of his sins? Is he trying to find forgiveness for what exiled him from Florence?

– Seems friendly enough with Ciacco (Canto VI) so who was he?

– lns. 37-61    – Okay, Filippo Argenti is obviously an enemy some sort…

Canto IX

96 – lns. 73-103    – A messenger from God comes to open the gate to Dis

97 – ln. 115    – ‘the plain uneven’ surely like how heretics made different sects of the church with different ideas. A visual representation of what they did to Christianity

Canto XII

107 – ln. 34    – Virgil tells that the first time he went to the lower circles of Hell was before Christ’s death – the ‘Harrowing of Hell’ was responsible for the loose boulders

108 – ln. 82    – ‘Dead Soles’ – cute.

Canto XIV

119 – ln. 124    – Virgil giving us a physical description of Hell as a whole

        └> Round, large, and winds to the left

Canto XVI

128 – lns. 106-8    – The cord ‘to catch the leopard.’ → If it is a cords to catch the personification of Lust, why does he throw it away? Could it be that what Dante means is that the cord was some sort of fashion accessory that was to attract women and not a means to chastity as thought in the notes (pg. 582)?

Canto XVII

131 – ln. 99    – Again, mention of Dante’s ‘weight’

Canto XIX

137 – ln. 25    – ‘Soles’ mentioned again. Is this a double meaning in Italian as well as English?

Canto XXI

147 – ln. 82    – Interesting how the will of God holds sway in Hell (see also the Gates of Dis and pretty much every new circle/section the two have come to)

148 – ln. 112    – A time given to when the bridge was destroyed – most likely from the Harrowing of Hell – If that is the case, Dante left on Good Friday (I think). Will he come out of Hell in 3 days, or will the whole Comedy take that much time?


159 – ln. 148    – So why is Virgil suddenly leaving marks?

Canto XXVI

170 – ln. 1    – Really blasting Florence here

173 – ln. 133    – Ulysses describes a giant mountain in the Southern Hemisphere. This is Purgatory (pg. 604)


180 – ln. 35    – Another example of punishment fitting the sin

Canto XXIX

187 – ln. 103    – Dante has done just this – made these men (and earlier) forever known to mankind, and in the case with the Inferno, known as bad people (in Dante’s view)


199 – lns. 1-6    – Is he making a comparison to female genitalia and reproduction in general?

└> ‘Crude and Scrannel’ (meaning weak – weaker sex’), ‘melancholy hole,’ ‘juice of my conception’

    – perhaps I’m just seeing something in an unfortunate translation – but then he does reference his ‘jesting’ (ln. 7)

– ln. 8    – This being the ‘Base of the Universe’ would keep with the joke if one considers original sin

201 – ln. 74    – Interesting to note that when Dante is talking about Gravity he says that weight is drawn towards the center, not down. Medieval people knew that the world was round. The belief that people thought the world was flat before Columbus was a myth created by Washington Irving.


Canto III

226 – ln. 52    – Seems things are changing in who is the guide – Virgil does not know where to go – ‘eyes upon the ground, consul(ing) his mind’ – whereas Dante ‘looked up’ toward Heaven – he is the Christian after all

Canto VII

245 – ln. 40    – Sordello says that there is no fixed spot for spirits in Purgatory, and yet some people (like those who died of Violence in the previous Canto) do seem to be stuck in one spot like Hell.

    – Could it be Dante is trying to make different starting points due to the seriousness of the sin?

246 – ln. 65    – This just may be poetics, but it’s interesting to note that Dante thinks of a Valley as interrupting a mountain, not being formed by two mountains

Canto VIII

251 – ln. 89    – More with the stars. In purgatory they are replaced at night with 3 stars, and the 4 go to the Northern Hemisphere (Notes say these are the virtues – pg. 646-7)

251 – ln. 98    – The serpent – is this suppose to be the Garden of Eden? ← No, pg. 348

Canto IX

254 – ln. 19    – This almost has to be a vision of the Evangelist John. The book of Revelations mentions 4 beasts which were associated with the 4 Evangelists (Angel = Matthew; Lion = Mark; Ox = Luke; Eagle = John)

        – The eagle was John’s symbol because it was believed his book brought people closer to the true divine nature of Christ – carrying people high up to God as in Dante’s Dream. It is also interesting to note that many Medieval lecterns featured an Eagle in the position Dante first mentions the eagle being in (ln. 20)

Canto XI

266 – ln. 70    – Spirits are fixed in their level of Purgatory (now that we are in Purgatory proper) and can only continue their ascent when God wills it

– ln. 115    – Did Dante just get rebuked for his meeting with poets in Hell?

Canto XIV

278 – ln. 1    – The inhabitants of Purgatory seem to make a bigger deal out of Dante still being in his body than those of Hell did. If my understanding of Christianity/Catholicism is correct, Christ was the only person to enter Heaven with his body (until the Last Judgment when all bodies will rise). If this is the case, then Dante’s being in the afterworld either signifies to these people the Last Judgment, or he is trying to compare himself to Christ (which may explain his thoughts on pride in Canto XI ln. 120 – but this could just be in reference to his book).

Canto XVI

290 – ln. 65    – From here to the end of the Canto is a fascinating insight into the Medieval mind. It covers Free Will, and the Justification of Rulers to lead people towards God, including the folly of a church leader being a secular leader

Canto XVII

295 – ln. 85    – Virgil describes the layout of Purgatory that is seven terraces for each of the seven sins

Canto XXI

315 – ln. 64    – Here we have an explanation of how Purgatory works – souls ascend but stop at the appropriate level out of their own desire to do penance

Canto XXVI

336 – ln. 24    – As many times as Dante repeats that his body blocks the Sun has got to mean more than him being alive in the afterlife (unless it’s just poetics). Could this be that since Dante is seeking ‘enlightenment’ (climbing the Hill in Inferno), that he has not yet obtained it, and is in fact blocking it/God (represented by the sun)?


345 – ln. 142    – While this statement may seem innocent enough to us, I wonder how astonishing it would be to someone in the middle ages. Virgil is essentially telling him he has no lord.

        – but then maybe that’s the idea, he is given the choice to continue and have God as his Lord, or to not and continue to be his own lord.

Canto XXIX

352 – ln. 50    – The procession is all symbolic of the Bible. The notes in the back (pg. 693) explain in full detail

Canto XXX

356 – ln. 1    – Interesting – is Dante saying the seven lights are Ursa Major?

        – Couldn’t be – that’s in the other Hemisphere, but he did see 7 lights at the beginning of the Purgatorio – these must be them.

        – An opposite for the Southern Hemisphere

357 – ln. 46    – From here to the end of the Canto is just absolutely beautiful poetry

        – but why must Dante cry? Is it because he has witnessed all of these sins, but has not yet regretted his own (such as leaving Beatrice/Divinity for another more Earth-Bound)?

Canto XXXI

361 – ln. 11    – of course, this is a confession. Dante cannot be absolved of his sins until he confesses, as in the catholic church. I assume from here he will be able to pass through the water (as in baptism – more absolving of sin) to join Beatrice and Heaven on the other side


Canto II

385 – ln. 32    – This seems to suggest that they are not standing on the moon so much as in it

386 – ln. 64    – It seems to make more sense if one were to think of the moon as a cloud

        – This is how Dante sees it, and the Maria are suppose to be more dense ‘cloud substance’ thus making them darker

Canto X

425 – ln. 88    – huh… Is Dante trying to hint at something?

426 – ln. 99    – here on, The Sun seems to be populated by the best theologians and Christian philosophers – this makes sense in that the sun provides the most light of all the spheres

 Canto XIV

444 – ln. 43    – The Spirits in Heaven are stuck in light-points until the Last Judgment, and then shall receive bodies again. Almost seems like there is still punishment going on in Heaven

Canto XV

452 – ln. 148    – Mars is the heaven for martyrs. Mars was the God of war – are the martyrs suppose to be warriors of God?

Canto XX

472 – ln. 4    – This is an explanation of the stars – they are pinpoints in the veil of the sky that shine through to God

475 – ln. 111    – WTF? God resurrected Trajan only to have him die again as a Christian so he could go to Heaven. Weird…

 Canto XXIX

520 – ln. 103    – It’s interesting how often Dante speaks out against the Church and corruption in it. Most writings we receive from the Middle Ages are written by the clergy, so we don’t often get this view.


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