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Both realms are conical in shape, both are traversed in spirals: down and to the left in Hell, up and to the right in Purgatory. Dante further binds these two realms by making them the locus of the most deeply human story of the Commedia , that of the love between him and his father-guide, Virgilio.
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But none of these extremely strong bonds between Hell and Purgatory can offset the reality of the abyss between them. As we shall see, the abyss between damnation and salvation will be dramatized in this very canto in the words that Cato will speak to Virgilio: if you dwell on the other side of river Acheron, there is no point in evoking our shared past as great Romans or my wife Marcia. You are damned, while I am not.
The firstness of Adam and Eve—their existential newness—speaks to an important purgatorial theme. This is the place where everyone is working on becoming new again. Those who journey to the top of Mount Purgatory are engaged in a quest to purge themselves of sin.
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This is a process in which humans essentially return to a condition of first innocence, of existential newness. When Adam and Eve were new, they looked upon the stars that Dante sees now, the stars that are only visible in the uninhabited southern hemisphere. The place where Lucifer fell and hit the earth is the place where Christ lived and died, Jerusalem.
That displaced earth rose up on the other side of the globe from Jerusalem, exactly opposite to Jerusalem, and became Mount Purgatory. Mount Purgatory is consequently in the middle of the uninhabited southern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere is completely watery, containing only one land mass: Purgatory. It appears first in Purgatorio 1. Is it this syntactical loophole that allows Dante to say that the stars of the other pole have never been seen except by the first people, when Ulysses certainly indicates that he saw them?
And, again, as in Inferno Where Ulysses is concerned, the world itself and its component parts—the night, the shore—are the only witnesses to his grandeur, and to his failure. In these verses Dante is reminding us that the one previous living human who navigated these waters, Ulysses, was not able to return.
The narrator has created two sets of beings with respect to the right and ability to reach Mount Purgatory: those who reach this shore while alive and those who reach this shore already dead. There are two men who have journeyed to Purgatory in the flesh: these are first Ulysses and later Dante. Ulysses comes by sea as it turns out that the dead souls also do , while Dante comes by land.
The dead souls who journey to Purgatory journey by sea, like Ulysses. However, these souls, who come here licitly, will arrive by a different route. They come from the mouth of the river Tiber at Ostia, near the Vatican in Rome, as we will learn in the next canto. As verses show, Virgilio knows who the identity of the soul to whom he is speaking. He knows enough of Purgatory to know under whose guardianship it is. Virgilio therefore tailors his request to his interrogator, declaring that Dante-pilgrim is on a quest for freedom analogous to the quest for which his interrogator gave up his life:.
Virgilio here defines his interlocutor as one who gave up his life for freedom. How does Virgilio know that the person to whom he speaks gave his life for liberty? Apparently those in Limbo know that one who was once one of their own—Cato of Utica, a Roman and a pagan—is now the saved guardian of purgatory. Here we see Dante save a pagan who killed himself rather than lose the freedoms of Republican Rome, freedoms that were lost when Caesar took absolute power. And yet, in the previous canto, Inferno 34, Dante damned as traitors those who killed Caesar.
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Cato killed himself rather than allow himself to be subjected to Caesar. Dante has therefore a more liberal construction of suicide than we might have expected; he does not view self-sacrifice for the cause of political liberty as a form of wanton self-destruction. In his address to Cato, Virgilio conflates the two quests for freedom: the political quest for which Cato sacrificed his life, and the moral quest pursued by Dante. Indeed, the moral and the political do not truly diverge, as all readers of Dante know. The identity of the guardian of Purgatory is shocking not only because he is a suicide, but most of all because he is a pagan.
Indeed, the identity of the guardian of Purgatory creates shock waves that persist long after Purgatorio 1. This reality that has enormous and discomforting repercussions with respect to our friend Virgilio. As discussed in the Introduction to Inferno 4 , Virgilio specifically told Dante that those in Limbo are guilty only of not being baptized, through no fault of their own, simply because they lived before the birth of Christ. Now it turns out that someone who lived before the birth of Christ can be saved.
Nor is the difference between damned Virgilio and saved Cato presented in a subtle way. But now — in the present tense — Marcia dwells on the other side of the evil river and therefore has no more power to move him, by the law established when he left Limbo:.
The Divine Comedy by Dante, Illustrated, Purgatory, Volume 3
In the Now of Salvation, all that matters is the lady who descended from heaven. This is the Law, and for all the beauty of the sapphire sea and limpid air, we cannot but feel the painful consequences. On the voyage metaphor of Convivio 4. Barolini, Teodolinda. About the Commento. The lovely planet that is patroness of love made all the eastern heavens glad, veiling the Pisces in the train she led.
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Bernard belonged to the Cistercian order, served as the abbot of a monastery in Clairvaux, and was canonized in His numerous theological works established him as one of the most important church leaders of the twelfth century. Bernard in her place. He tells Dante that Beatrice has returned to the Empyrean and has instructed him to guide the pilgrim through the final stage of his journey.
The Empyrean is shaped like a white rose and is the highest heaven where the angels and the blessed reside. Dante Alighieri, and Mark Musa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, Citation: Inf. Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Scott, John A. Good people born before the coming of Christ, such as Aristotle, Plato, and even Virgil himself, are condemned to an eternal state of limbo in the first circle of hell.
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Not even Moses or Noah, faithful men of the Old Testament, could leave limbo for heaven until Jesus had given them permission to do so. To Dante, Christianity is therefore not only the key to salvation, but also integral to his understanding of what it means to be a good, whole person. Despite his commitment to Christianity as the only true faith, however, Dante consigns a high number of church officials to hell. With few exceptions, every sinner Dante meets after leaving limbo had believed in Christ while alive, or at least been baptized.
And yet, as Dante stresses throughout the Inferno, not even extreme faith or a clergy position can protect a true sinner from damnation. As Dante descends deeper into hell, Virgil repeatedly points out high-ranking church officials, including the traitorous Pope Anastasius in the seventh circle and the Archbishop Ruggieri in the second ring of the ninth circle.