Lecture 16 - Paradise I and II

Dante in Translation

Yale

This lecture deals with Paradise IV, VI and X. At the beginning of Paradise IV, the pilgrim raises two questions to which the remainder of the canto is devoted. The first concerns Piccarda (Paradise III) who was constrained to break her religious vows. The second concerns the arrangement of the souls within the stars. The common thread that emerges from Beatrice's reply is the relationship between intellect and will. Just as Piccarda's fate reveals the limitations of the will, the representation of the souls in Paradise, a condescension to the pilgrim's human faculty, as Beatrice explains, reveal the limitations of the intellect. By dramatizing the limitations of both faculties, Dante underscores their interdependence. In Paradise VI, Dante turns his attention to politics. Through the emperor Justinian's account of Roman history, Dante places the antithetical views of Virgil and Augustine in conversation. Key to understanding Dante's position between these two extremes is the vituperation of contemporary civil strife that follows Justinian's encomium of the Empire. In Paradise X, the pilgrim enters the Heaven of the Sun, where St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure introduce him to two rings of spirits celebrated for their wisdom. The unlikely presence of Solomon and Siger of Brabant among the first of these concentric rings is discussed as a poetic reflection on the boundaries between knowledge and revelation.

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