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The Divine Comedy presents three aspects of objective reality such as personal drama of the poet, the story of humanity and the structure of the universe. Also it may be interpreted as three different steps of existence: Inferno of life, Purgatorio of human’s inner struggle and the Paradiso of the belief. At the same time, The Divine Comedy is also a kind of excursion into the historical domain of past and future.
Dante the Poet, Dante the Traveler
It is also a poem about Dante himself and simultaneously, about a person, who travels through “other” worlds, purifies and acquires perfect cognition. Dante’s main character is a soul of a human, Dante. Still, many genius works present us the stories of their authors’ souls. Nevertheless, in The Divine Comedy Dante is not an indifferent historian, but also a person who passionately protects his ideals. His work is devoted to a human, his/her weaknesses and virtues but not about society or social relationships. Thereby, Dante’s character, Dante the Traveler is incarnation of the whole humanity which suffers from its sins and craves for the way to the bliss of heaven. The fact, that Dante the Poet associates himself with his character, Dante the Poet, serves as a mean of humanization of such obscure sphere as the Paradiso. Placing himself into the Paradiso, Dante expands the humans sphere to the divine one, brings heavens closer to earth. Noble, loving and inquisitive spirit earns the right to get to heavens; thereby, one of the main ideas, implied into The Devine Comedy is that the only way to God lies inside a human.
Still, there are some biographical data which also indicate the close connection between Dante the Poet and Dante – protagonist of The Divine Comedy. The poet had a kind of Platonic Love to an innocent and beautiful girl, Beatrice: “by his own account, Dante’s devotion to Beatrice was what we call platonic” (Bloom 2). Dante was a deeply religious person; thereby he interpreted The Divine Comedy as the only measure to express all perfectness of the girl. The image of Beatrice turns from an image of a plain girl into a symbolical ideal of spiritual love and femininity, a young sister of angels: “the myth or figure of Beatrice is fused with Dante’s lifework; in a crucial sense she is the Commedia, and cannot be understood if you stand outside the poem” (Bloom 3). The meeting with her becomes his goal during his pass through Inferno and Purgatorio. In the Paradiso she meets him and, as a pure and innocent soul, guides him on his way through heaven. It is also a great metaphor of Dante’s creative path of perfection his inner feelings and their oral representation in the poem.
The way to the Inferno as the Way to Dante’s Inner Essence
One may say that The Divine Comedy is a drama of a Human, as well as a soliloquy of a Human, self-examination, self-cognition and self-understanding of a Human. The Divine Comedy presents the search of truth and salvation which can be achieved only through self-examination and belief, which must save both, Dante and the whole humanity. Still, the way to heavens lies through the Inferno. Whereas Dante wanted to get out from the forest on his own, Vergil suggested him the only possible way: if he wanted to walk up and become purer he should first go down and see the truth. Though, one can see a circle here: Dante the Traveler follows Vergil when he says that he was sent by Beatrice, but the meeting with Beatrice is also needed for Dante the Poet as a reason to go down to the Inferno, as long as this trip is a way for self-cognition. Thereby, Dante comes down to the Inferno, looking not so much for meeting with Beatrice as for his own real essence and salvation. Love for Dante is the appeal to the spiritual part of a human which gives us the possibility to create and develop ourselves: “what is unusual in Dante’s view of love, particularly after the thirteenth century is that human love between man and woman is not just a figure for the love of man and God, but a necessary step towards that love. One love does not cancel out the other: the one arguments the other” (Ferrante 130).
Dante’s work has some existential features which are presented by the cult of his personal essence expressed in the poem. The poet percept the surrounding world and culture through his own outlook; he is subjective and examines his own thoughts and feelings. Being both, the author of the poem and its main character, Dante solves various problems, such as sacralization of a personality, proofs his right for subjectivity, as well as implements a particular experience of self-examination.
In The Divine Comedy the main character is not an abstract character; he is the author himself, with all peculiarities of author’s personality and memories about real events in his earth life. Dante the Traveler meets people, who are well-known the Dante the Poet. All this meetings are presupposed by the life of Dante the Traveler. Thereby, Dante’s unusual position which unites real events and literary narration gives birth to special feature of Dante’s character which may be characterized as the feeling of being the chosen one. Thereby, Dante the Travelers’ trip to the Inferno is also the pass to the depths of his own souls, fulfilled by the Dante the Author.
Bloom, Harold. Dante Alighieri. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2004. Print.
Ferrante, Joan M. Women Images in Medieval Literature: from the Twelfth Century to Dante. Jamestown: Labyrinth Press, 1985.Print.