The Divine Comedy is one of the greatest samples of the world literature, the synthesis of the medieval philosophy and the premonition of the Renaissance. It is the brightest embodiment of Dantes thought.
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Dante was born in 1265 in Florence in the atmosphere of the political passions and the civil discords. Being the scion of the ancient and the noble house, Dante was the typical representative of its time and of the local clerisy, which was tightly connected with the local cultural traditions.
The impulse for the creation of the poem was Dantes love for the daughter of his fathers friend Beatrice. The peculiarity of the Divine Comedy is its distinct composition. The poem is divided into three big parts, the so-called canticles, which are devoted to the description of the three parts of another world. They are the Inferno, the Purgatory, and Paradise. In the way of traveling through these spheres, Dante describes the arrangement of another world by the Catholic doctrine.
The entire poem is full of symbols that may be found practically in every canto of it. When the main hero wends his way from the dusk forest to the light peak, he sees three beasts on his way.
“Then lo, not far from where the ascent began,
a Leopard which, exceeding light and swift,
was covered over with a spotted hide…
…but not so, that I should not fear the sight,
which next appeared before me, of a Lion,
— against me this one seemed to be advancing…
…and of a she-Wolf, which with every lust
seemed in her leanness laden, and had caused
many are now to lead unhappy lives…”( Alighieri 34).
Each beast is the symbol of a certain human vice. The leopard symbolizes the salacity, the lion is the pride, and the wolf is the greediness. The allegory of Dante is obvious – on the way to the persons salvation. There are dreadful obstacles, represented by these vices. (Barker par.4).
At the national center of the poem, at the point that divides it in half, there is the scene of Beatrice appearance.
“Over her snow-white veil with olive cinct
Appeared a lady under a green mantle,
Vested in the color of the living flame.” (Alighieri 392).
The colors of her clothes are white, green, and red. They symbolize the highest human virtues – the faith, the hope, and the love. At the beginning of the heros way, there were three obstacles, impersonated by the vices. Now Beatrice is the embodiment of a bright, heaven-sent opportunity of the ascension to the Paradise.
Paradise is described by Dante as a welter of the light. The higher he soars the clearer his sight is. Dante has made his grand journey in order to see the light and at last, this light is presented to him. The author describes the emergence of the apparition of the Rose of Paradise.
“In fashion then as of a snow-white rose
Displayed itself to me the saintly host,
Whom Christ in his own blood had made his bride” (Alighieri 786).
The image of the rose always attracted the artists. In medieval times, this image was imbued with a special sacred sense. It was a symbol of the highest harmony and beauty. Dantes Rose of Paradise represents the blossom, the highest manifestation of the life that, developing gradually from the lowest forms, increasingly improves.
Dantes Divine Comedy is strictly calculated. There are three parts of the poem. In each part, there are thirty-three cantos. The usage of figure three is symbolic in itself. To these ninety-nine cantos, Dante adds one introductory canto. In such a way, the total amount of cantos is one hundred, which generates a quadrate. In medieval times, the quadrate was a symbol of the perfection and the completeness. In such a way Dantes poem is organized in the ternary system, symbolizing the divinity, and in the dual system, symbolizing the perfection.
The appearance of Beatrice is also strictly calculated. She appears in the second part of the poem, in the middle part of it. It is also very symbolic. Dante said that there were several semantic levels in his poem. The first one he called the verbal level, which was represented by the events described in the poem. The second one is the political level. It presupposes the broader semantic field. It deals not with a single person, but with the whole country. It was Italy that had lost its way in the dark forest of its political passions. The greater semantic level is the allegory. In this sense, it is meant the whole of humanity.
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It must be admitted that there may be some other levels in Dantes masterpiece, which are still hidden from us. In the researching of his poem, we only begin to get out of the wood of our suppositions.
Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy. The Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso, New York: First New American Library Printing,2003. Print.
Barker, Melanie. The Divine Interpretation: A Study of Metaphor in Dantes Inferno. n.d. Web.