Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Human Vices and Human Worth in Dante's Comedy

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Human Vices and Human Worth in Dante's Comedy

Article excerpt

Patrick Boyde, Human Vices and Human Worth in Dante's Comedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). X + 323 pp.; 2 illustrations. ISBN 0-521-66067-X. L40.00.

Human Vices and Human Worth in Dante's Comedy completes a trilogy in which Patrick Boyde locates Dante's oeuvre within the context of medieval culture and thought. It does not, however, require familiarity with the previous volumes, Dante Philomythes and Philosopher: Man in the Cosmos (Cambridge, 1981) and Perception and Passion in Dante's 'Comedy' (Cambridge, 1993). This is a book accessible not only to Dante scholars but to all educated readers with an interest in the poet and in medieval culture.

Human Vices and Human Worth is concerned with Dante's system of ethical values - his treatment of vice and virtue in the Comedy. Boyde believes that 'Dante can become more of a living force in our time if we restore him to his own' (p. 4). With this aim in mind, he argues that modern readers must equip themselves with the same moral, cultural, and intellectual tools as were used by Dante and his contemporaries, and, given the topic of discussion, Boyde believes it essential to consider Dante's moral philosophy and theology. Boyde is aware that he is dealing with concepts far removed from his twenty-first-century readers, and therefore employs metaphors and 'proportional likenesses' in order to elucidate them, making his exposition both lively and accessible. In order to expound fully upon Dante's ethics, Boyde splits his discussion into four parts culminating in a masterful case study of Ulysses.

The first part provides an overview of Dante's literary authorities in the field of ethics, from classical antiquity and the church Fathers to thirteenth-century scholasticism, which is represented predominantly by St Thomas Aquinas. …

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