The Purgatorio

The Purgatorio

The Purgatorio

The Purgatorio

Synopsis

The second part of Dante's "The Divine Comedy" describes his journey to the renunciation of sin, and accepting his suffering in preparation for his entrance into the presence of God.

Excerpt

One of the qualities which distinguish Dante's Divine Comedy from most other long narrative poems is the individual character and, as it were, physiognomy peculiar to each of its three great divisions. Readers of the Inferno will recall its frequently harsh materialism, the great variety of intonation, the vivid realism, in which its ghostly figures rapidly seem to become people and the whole scene appears the "hell on earth" Dante probably wished it to represent.

To understand the Inferno, some historical background was obviously essential. It was important to know that Dante, by being born an upper-middle-class Alighieri in the independent commune of Florence in 1265, had inherited the political loyalties of a Guelph and that he had also acquired hereditary enemies called Ghibellines. The history of the civil strife between these parties was of equal importance, for, even if it culminated in a Guelph victory just after Dante's birth, talk of it and of fears lest it flare up again, filled his mind during his formative years. Outstanding members of the preceding generation of both parties such as the great Ghibelline Farinata degli Uberti, and the Guelph states- man and scholar Brunetto Latini, were to supply a number of his infernal figures, and allusions to victories, exiles, and defeats fill its pages.

Since participation in public life would determine Dante's fate, we had to be aware of new dissension among the Guelphs, now divided among themselves into "Blacks" and the "Whites" to which he belonged, and to follow the strange fatal parallel between his political progress and the growth of this new partisan strife. We saw the irony of his rise to the highest magistracy . . .

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