Boccaccio's Expositions on Dante'sComedy

Boccaccio's Expositions on Dante'sComedy

Translated, with introduction and notes, by Michael Papio
LUIGI BALLERINI
MASSIMO CIAVOLELLA
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 832
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442697393
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  • Book Info
    Boccaccio's Expositions on Dante'sComedy
    Book Description:

    Michael Papio's excellent translation finally makes the entirety of Boccaccio's often overlooked masterpiece accessible to a wider public and supplies a wealth of information in the notes that will prove useful to specialists and to general readers alike.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9739-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Boccaccio as Lector Dantis
    (pp. 3-38)

    Giovanni Boccaccio’sExpositionshave for centuries been considered the best of the early commentaries on Dante’s masterpiece. They reach levels of competence and precision never before seen and, after his volume on the genealogies of the gods, are the most learned book that Boccaccio ever wrote.¹ Although these casual complimentary descriptions would probably not cause most modern readers to raise an eyebrow, seldom does anyone devote much energy to understanding the elements that would give rise to such widesweeping and yet powerful characterizations. Instead, it has become commonplace to attribute Boccaccio’s stature among early commentators and scholars of theComedy...

  5. Accessus
    (pp. 39-52)

    ‘In the middle of the road of our life,’ etc. Although ennobled by our Creator with numerous privileges, we mortals are by own nature so weak that, in the absence of divine grace, we are unable to do anything well or completely, no matter how insignificant our task may be. Aware of this fact, illustrious men of ancient times and of our own day encourage us piously and with paternal affection both to seek that grace prayerfully and to request it with as much devotion as possible, at least at the outset of their endeavours.

    Everyone who reads what Plato,...

  6. Canto I: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 53-78)

    We must now come to the organization of the text itself, first the divisions.¹ The present volume is divided into three principal parts, which are the three books into which the author himself divided it. The first of these, which we are now about to read, may be divided into two parts, that is, the proem and the treatise (which begins at the opening of the second canto). The proem may be divided into two parts as well. In the first, the author describes his ruin and, in the second, he portrays the help that was given for the benefit...

  7. Canto I: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 79-110)

    ‘In the middle of the road of our life,’ etc. Now that we have, by the grace of God, expounded on what can be explained from the literal meaning, we must return to the beginning of the canto and to what is hidden beneath the rough bark of the text, that is, the allegorical meaning, in order to explain it and make it clear. I believe you will hear things on this subject, regarding which one could quite rightly repeat to you the words the author himself wrote in the second canto ofParadiso:

    Those glorious men who sailed to...

  8. Canto II: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 111-136)

    ‘The day was ending and the dark air,’ etc. Here begins the second section of this first canticle called Inferno, with which, as I mentioned, the author began his work. Although the canticle can be divided in various ways, I intend to set out a single method and apply it throughout. I will divide it into as many parts as there are cantos, since it would appear that each canto deals with subjects that are unique. I will divide this canto into six parts: in the first, the author picks up where he left off at the close of the...

  9. Canto II: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 137-144)

    ‘The day was ending,’ etc. In the preceding canto, Reason showed the sinner which road he had to take in order to rise to the blessed life and leave behind the misery of the dark valley. Since the sinner, convinced of this explanation, then began to follow Reason down that road, the author again takes up the aforementioned narration at the opening of this second canto. Here he describes the time at which they entered upon this road, saying that it was at nightfall.

    Regarding the allegorical content of the present canto, one must consider three principal things: the first...

  10. Canto III: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 145-160)

    ‘Through me one goes to the woeful city,’ etc. In this canto, the author tells us how they came to the gate of Hell, how Vergil led him inside, how he saw there the miserably tormented sinners, and how they at last came to the river Acheron. The canto is divided into two parts: in the first, he tells how he came to Hell’s first gate, through which he was led by Vergil; in the second, he describes what he heard and saw once inside. This second part begins: ‘Here sighs, cries …’ (22).

    Now, in this first part, the...

  11. Canto III: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 161-168)

    ‘Through me one goes to the woeful city,’ etc. At the opening of the present canto, the author continues on upon the events he described at the close of the one before it. He said there that, thanks to the veracious teachings he received from Reason, he was able to quash the cowardice in his mind and to return to his original intention. Thus, following Reason, he resumed his journey towards the acquisition of the state of grace (and with it eternal salvation) just as he desired. He then portrays how he arrived by foot at the gates of Hell....

  12. Canto IV: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 169-239)

    ‘Broken was the deep sleep in my head.’ At the opening of the present canto, the author continues, as he usually does, where he left off at the close of the one before it. He said at the end of the preceding canto that a wind caused a green flash, which made him lose his senses and fall like a man who is overcome by sleep. At the beginning of this canto, he describes how his sleep was broken. This canto may be divided into two parts: in the first, he says how he was awakened and found himself in...

  13. Canto IV: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 240-252)

    ‘Broken was the deep sleep in my head,’ etc. We see here the preceding canto’s allegorical meaning extended from those closing verses to the opening verses of this canto. Having demonstrated above how a man who is beguiled by earthly splendours sometimes mortally sins and consequently becomes a slave to vice, the author here shows how he may come to realize that he is dwelling in the Devil’s prison. He attains this awareness thanks to the revelation of God, Who has bestowed upon him the operative grace that awakens him from mortal slumber and permits him to see where sin...

  14. Canto V: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 253-287)

    ‘Thus I descended from the first circle,’ etc. In the present canto, just as in the earlier ones, the author begins by picking up where he had left off. He described at the close of the last canto how he and Vergil had left the other four poets and had followed another way out of that place (which was illuminated), arriving where no light shone. Here, at the beginning of this canto, he continues his narration of the preceding events, describing how he descended from the first circle of Hell into the second.

    In this canto, the author does six...

  15. Canto V: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 288-302)

    ‘Thus I descended from the first circle,’ etc. Once Reason has made it known that he himself is among those who undergo the torment inflicted here upon the shades who die without having been cleansed by baptism of original sin, he thoughtfully continues on downwards with the purpose of revealing to the author the nature of the graver sins. He shows the author which torments are suffered by those who are damned by Divine Justice for having died while still unclean in their sins.

    Reason does two things in the present canto: first, he portrays God’s severe and unyielding justice...

  16. Canto VI: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 303-318)

    ‘Upon the return of my mind, which had closed.’ Just as he did in preceding cantos, here too the author begins by picking up on what he had already written. At the close of the last canto, he tells how he collapsed out of compassion for Madonna Francesca and Paolo of Rimini. At the beginning of this one, he explains how he returned to his senses and found himself in Hell’s third circle. In this canto, the author does five things: in the first part, he describes the nature of that place; in the second, he recounts what the demon...

  17. Canto VI: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 319-330)

    ‘Upon the return of my mind, which had closed,’ etc. At the beginning of this canto, the author carries on speaking of what he had mentioned earlier, just as he had done in other cantos. In the preceding canto, he had been shown by Reason how the lustful who die in the wrath of God are punished by Divine Justice. Because the sin of gluttony is graver than that of lust (since gluttony is at the root of lust and notex converso), Reason shows him in this third circle why God’s judgment condemns the gluttonous to eternal torment. So...

  18. Canto VII: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 331-353)

    ‘Papè Satàn, papè Satàn, aleppe,’ etc. In this canto, the author again does as he had done in previous cantos, carrying on where he had left off. First, he tells how he descended into the fourth circle of Hell. Then, near the end of the canto, he tells how he descends into the fifth and describes which sins are punished in each. This canto may be divided into two main parts: in the first, the author explains the punishment of the greedy and the prodigal; in the second, he explains the punishment of the wrathful and the slothful. The second...

  19. Canto VII: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 354-382)

    ‘Papè Satàn, papè Satàn, aleppe,’ etc. In the preceding canto, the author showed how Reason explained to him the sin of gluttony and which punishment Divine Justice had meted out to the gluttons who died in that sin. He then elaborates on these things, describing how he followed Reason, who instructed him on the nature of the sin of avarice and, likewise, the sin of prodigality. He also identifies the punishment that had been given to those who lived and died as sinners of these types and him under whose power they suffered it.² The author went on in that...

  20. Canto VIII: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 383-400)

    ‘I say, carrying on, that long before,’ etc. The author continues on in this canto upon his previous narration such that, having shown at the close of the preceding canto how (after skirting a bit around the Stygian swamp) they had come to the base of a tower, he now describes at the beginning of this one what they saw before arriving there. He then describes what happened afterwards. The author intends to recount in this canto how the demon Phlegyas ferried them by boat and how they arrived at the gates of the city of Dis. The present canto...

  21. Canto VIII: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 401-402)

    ‘I say, carrying on, that long before,’ etc. Unlike earlier cantos, this one presents no specific allegory, insofar as it contains nearly nothing that was not already interpreted allegorically in the canto before it. We can therefore make quick work of the few little things that are indeed present here.

    Now, some say that the two towers described by the author in this fifth circle and the fires set atop them are meant to represent the excess of the wrathful man’s fury, which exceeds all logical limits set by reason.² They believe that the three fires on the towers are...

  22. Canto IX: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 403-422)

    ‘That colour with which cowardice outwardly painted me,’ etc. The author continues upon the events of the last canto, here in this one, in the following manner: he described earlier how Vergil, having had the city gate closed in his face, went back to him amidst sighs and complaints. We must believe that Vergil, being upset by all this, had a complexion that differed in colour from its usual tone. At the beginning of this canto, the author says that Vergil restrained this new colour when he saw that the author, on account of cowardice, had also changed colour. The...

  23. Canto IX: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 423-436)

    ‘That colour with which cowardice outwardly painted me,’ etc. The author, having shown in the preceding cantos, according to the explanations given to him by Reason, the sins toward which we are naturally drawn and into which we slip on account of incontinence (as well as the punishments that Divine Justice imposes for each), must now describe those sins that are committed out of bestiality and malice.¹ Once we are acquainted with them, we shall be better able to protect ourselves and, should we fall into them, we would then become distressed and would seek forgiveness through penitence. It seems...

  24. Canto X: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 437-456)

    ‘Now, my master moves along a secret track,’ etc. In accordance with our established procedure, I shall say that the present canto picks up on the last one in the following way. After describing at the end of the preceding canto the nature of this place, which is full of sepulchres, and identifying the souls who are tormented within them, the author recounts at the beginning of this canto how he began to make his way through this place, behind Vergil, and what then happened to them. In the present canto, the author does four things: first, he tells us...

  25. Canto XI: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 457-472)

    ‘Upon the ridge of a tall embankment,’ etc. The author carries on at the beginning of this canto from the end of the preceding one, as he has been wont to do up to this point, and depicts the place to which Vergil led him. He said above that, having left the city’s walls, he began to make his way towards the centre. The present canto may be divided into seven parts: in the first, the author describes the place where they came to a stop and what they found there; in the second, the author meticulously describes the entire...

  26. Canto XII: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 473-499)

    ‘The place was, where we came,’ etc. The author is quite clearly following up on the previous canto in this one, for, after Vergil had explained to him above the complete design of Hell, he now urges the author to resume the journey and points out to him the far-off place where they are to descend. Once they arrive there, Vergil then explains the nature of the place where they will have to go downwards. The present canto is divided into six parts: in the first, as we said, Vergil explains the nature of the place where they will have...

  27. Canto XII: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 500-506)

    ‘The place was, where we came to descend the bank,’ etc. Reason, with its useful and wholesome instruction, has now led the author thus far without allowing his desires to be tainted by worldly miseries. Reason has shown him the punishments borne by heretical depravity and has likewise described for him the organization of the lower circles of the eternal prison as well as the nature of the sinners who are punished within them. In this canto, he leads the author to witness the torments of the first type of violent sinners, that is, those who brutally used force against...

  28. Canto XIII: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 507-527)

    ‘Nessus had not yet arrived over there,’ etc. One quite easily sees here that the present canto continues from the one before it, inasmuch as the author says at the close of the last canto that Nessus turned around and started back across the slough after showing him some of those who were boiling in blood. At the beginning of this canto, he tells how, while Nessus had still not yet arrived at the other side of the river, they entered a wood whose characteristics he then goes on to describe. This canto can be divided into four parts: in...

  29. Canto XIII: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 528-530)

    ‘Nessus had not yet arrived over there,’ etc. After Reason explained to the author in the previous canto the sins of those who used violence against their neighbours and their neighbours’ possessions, he proceeds in the seventh circle to show him which torment is dispensed to those who are damned for acting cruelly against themselves or for brutishly dissipating and wasting their own possessions. The author first portrays those who are doomed to eternal suffering for having irrationally killed themselves. For their punishment, Divine Justice has thrown them into Hell, where they become wild plants whose limbs and branches are...

  30. Canto XIV: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 531-545)

    ‘Because the charity for our native place,’ etc. That this canto continues from the preceding one is quite clear. At the close of the last canto, the author writes how he was asked by the spirit who had made a gibbet of his own home to collect the branches and leaves that had been torn off his tree by the onrush of the hounds as they tore Giacomo of Sant’ Andrea apart. At the beginning of this one, he tells how he picked them up. Then, he goes on in the seventh circle to explain that the next group of...

  31. Canto XIV: Allegorical Exposition
    (pp. 546-554)

    ‘Because the charity for our native place,’ etc. Over the course of the last two cantos and in conjunction with the explanations of Reason, the author has seen and come to know the sins and the punishments meted out by Divine Justice to two types of sinners (those who employed violence against their neighbours and against their neighbours’ possessions as well as those who used violence against themselves and against their own possessions). Now, in this canto, the author shows us, with the help of Reason, how he saw the punishment of the third type of sinners, that is, those...

  32. Canto XV: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 555-572)

    ‘Now, one of the hard margins,’ etc. The author is continuing upon the preceding canto, inasmuch as at the end of the last one he explains that the banks of that little rivulet, which runs across the burning sand, form a path for those who wish to descend (for upon them there is no one who is damned to that punishment) and, at the beginning of this canto, he describes how he proceeded with Vergil upon one of those same banks. This canto may be divided into two parts. In the first, the author depicts the nature of the place,...

  33. Canto XVI: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 573-588)

    ‘It was already the place where the roaring of the water could be heard,’ etc.² This canto continues upon the preceding one in the following way. We must realize that, after ser Brunetto had gone on, the author and Vergil straightaway set out at a quick pace to resume their journey. As they move along at the beginning of this canto, the author shows that, following the top of the dike, they have arrived at a place where the little river falls into the eighth circle of Hell. He then goes on to describe what he saw in that place...

  34. Canto XVII: Literal Exposition
    (pp. 589-590)

    ‘Behold the beast with the pointed tail,’ etc. The present canto continues quite obviously upon the previous one, inasmuch as, at the end of the last one, the author describes how, in response to Vergil’s signal, he saw beneath the water a figure that was swimming upwards, that is, towards the top of the river.² At the beginning of this canto, he tells how this figure came to shore. The present canto may be divided into three parts: in the first, he describes the form of the figure that arrived; in the second, he portrays the affliction of the usurers;...

  35. Notes
    (pp. 591-710)
  36. Bibliography
    (pp. 711-730)
  37. Index of the Translation
    (pp. 731-758)
  38. Index of Quotations and Explicit References
    (pp. 759-764)