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Courtly Love in Dante’s The Divine Comedy (Part 2)

June 15th, 2010 Comments off

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31). The fact that he swooned illustrates the idea that he was so overcome by emotion that this idea of courtly love must in fact be right. Furthermore, The Pilgrim continues to express his pity towards the two lovers: “Regaining now my senses, which had fainted at the sight of these two who were kinsmen lovers, a piteous sight no confusing me to tears” (p. 32). This passage, in fact, is supposed to be confusing for Dante the Pilgrim, because throughout his life, he had believed that this idea of courtly love was in fact correct. But it is Dante the Author here who is showing the correct light. The Author puts these two lovers in Hell, so that should be the first clue that this is not a proper love. The Author is even revealing that The Pilgrim is starting to understand, because when The Pilgrim “swooned,” The Author also included the fact that he “fell to Hell’s floor,” as if to say it is not proper to swoon at this scene or you will end up on Hell’s floor. This scene shows the differentiation of the Author from the Pilgrim, but both relate to the central idea that courtly love is not a good thing and that there must be a higher love because if courtly love was all there was, everyone would end up in Hell.

Another example of courtly love in The Divine Comedy is Dante’s relationship with Beatrice. Throughout the entire journey, the Pilgrim expresses how he adored Beatrice and how she was the picture of perfection to him on Earth. This love for Beatrice can be seen when he first encounters her: “And instantly—though many years had passed since last I stood trembling before her eyes, captured by adoration, stunned by awe” (p. 365). The Pilgrim’s impression of Beatrice exemplifies the ideas of desire and longing by describing “adoration” and the “many years” that had passed since he saw her last. The Pilgrim’s suffering can also be seen since Beatrice left him on Earth: “To such depths did he sink” (p. 369). These characteristics of Dante’s love for Beatrice are perfect examples of courtly love. But yet this love is still not the best love. The Author tries to illustrate this point to both the reader and the Pilgrim as he describes this scene of rebuking: “and though I speak to you, my purpose is to make the one who weeps on that far bank perceive the truth and match his guilt with grief” (p. 368). This example can be perceived two ways. First, it is of Beatrice talking to her companions. Therefore, it can be seen as a way that The Pilgrim is being educated by Beatrice that his courtly love for her was not proper and that he needs to find a higher love. Secondly, it can be seen as Dante the Author speaking on his purpose to also show that there is a higher “truth” and courtly love contains “guilt. ” By taking into perspective the fact that The Author is writing this after the fact, it is evident that he is trying to educate and enlighten, and Beatrice’s rebuking of The Pilgrim is a prime way to show how courtly love is wrong and that a higher love needs to be found.

However, this scene raises the question, ‘If courtly love is wrong, and Dante the Pilgrim understands that he courtly loved Beatrice, then why doesn’t he end up in Hell? ’ Francesca and Paolo both ended up in Hell for their actions and it appears that Dante and Beatrice shared the same love for each other. Beatrice describes to her companions of a time when she shared this love with the Pilgrim: “There was a time my countenance sufficed, as I let him look into my young eyes” (p. 368). Beatrice continues to elaborate on this when talking to The Pilgrim: “In your journey of desire for me…” (p. 370). It is clear that there was definite courtly love between them. All three of the characteristics were present: desire, longing, and suffering. Yet, this love is still justified, even though the Pilgrim must first repent for this lustful act of courtly love: “Those things with their false joys…led me astray” (p.

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Courtly Love in Dante’s The Divine Comedy (Part 3)

June 15th, 2010 Comments off

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370). This idea of repentance is the first step towards salvation; however, he still does not understand fully what Beatrice is getting at. This scene of understanding is aided by another pair of scenes from The Divine Comedy. The first occurs when the Pilgrim is in Hell and encounters those who committed suicide. Here the man he meets tells of his suffering: “My mind, moved by scornful satisfaction, believing death would free me from all scorn, made me unjust to me, who was all just” (p. 70). Here the man is describing how he committed suicide to save himself from his punishments. For his crime against himself, he ended up in Hell. The second is when the Pilgrim first reaches Purgatory, he encounters another man, Cato, who reveals his story of suicide: “You know, you found death sweet in Utica for freedom’s sake” (p. 198). Here, Virgil is describing how Cato took his own life instead of becoming a slave of Caesar’s. This illustrates the idea of free will. The first man is in Hell because he killed himself in order to escape his sins, while Cato killed himself in order to not be oppressed. This idea of motive is what lead one to Hell and the other to Purgatory. This same idea applies to Dante and Beatrice. The love that Dante has for Beatrice was bad on Earth because it was only courtly love; however, Beatrice leads him “toward that Good beyond which naught exists to which a man’s heart may aspire” (p. 370). This is what both the Pilgrim and the Author understand. They understand that courtly love is wrong, and that there is a need to attain this higher love, which is described at the end: “I felt my will and my desire impelled by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars” (p. 585). Dante the Pilgrim is not going to Hell because he repented for courtly loving Beatrice, and further used her as a guide to find this higher love. By first repenting, and then by understanding, Dante (both the Pilgrim and the Author at this point) realizes the truth, and therefore attains salvation.

Through Dante the Pilgrim’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, he develops an understanding of the proper way to love. When he first beings his journey, he believes that courtly love is a just love. But once he encounters Francesca de Rimini in Hell, he starts to realize it may not be the correct love. Dante the Author also tries to show this point as well. Once The Pilgrim reaches Beatrice, however, his ideals of love are corrected and he repents for his past thoughts. Here is when The Author’s ideals are revealed: courtly love is wrong, and divine love is correct. The Pilgrim understands courtly love is wrong with Beatrice, and finally understands divine love at his final meeting with God. Therefore, Dante Alighieri views courtly love as a sin, and divine love as salvation.

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