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Woman Earthly and Divine in the Comedy of Dante

Woman Earthly and Divine in the Comedy of Dante

Copyright Date: 1975
Pages: 188
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  • Book Info
    Woman Earthly and Divine in the Comedy of Dante
    Book Description:

    This study examines all the characterizations of the female personality in the Divine Comedy, including representations of things traditionally categorized as feminine. Marianne Shapiro treats different traditional feminine roles such as wife, lover, and mother, and places Beatrice in the latter group.

    The problem of woman is studied within the general context of medieval literature. Shapiro's conclusions center largely upon Dante's adherence to a generally misogynistic tradition. While in his earlier works his concept of woman was as a comprehensive whole encompassing good and evil, in the Comedy polarities are established and affirmed.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6465-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-8)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 9-10)
    (pp. 11-16)

    In theComedy,Dante’s investigation of the potential horrors and glories of one man’s soul clearly has universal associations. But his constructive reactions do not necessarily follow; the effort to make them seem a matter of course is heroic. “Dream-work or the making of symbols involves displacement, condensation and secondary elaboration. The last and simplest of these is giving an air of coherence to latent disorder. . . . The literary symbol is not dream but art or an element in a work of art. Belonging as much to the external world as to the internal, the literary symbol, mediating...

    (pp. 17-35)

    Patriarchal mythology starts from the assumption that the spirit is a priori eternal, that the spirit was in the beginning. In complete identification with the father, the male makes himself the source from which the feminine, such as Eve, originated in a spiritual and supernatural way. From that standpoint, as in theComedy,derive the representations both of the devouring primeval female embedded in materiality and of the Lady of wisdom who extends her fullest efforts in the supreme gesture of giving. The roles of women are determined chiefly by the identification of the upward-striving consciousness with the male and...

    (pp. 36-66)

    Most of the women who are mentioned or depicted as wives in theComedyare sinful mainly in that they incite their husbands to sin. None of them are great sinners themselves—few are more than one-dimensional. We know that Francesca’s greatest sin is adultery and that Dido had a husband, but it is impossible to think of them as wives. The woman whose role as a wife defines her place in theComedyis lacking in distinctive personal traits. Her virtues and vices are the same, by and large, as those of a young girl; what differentiates her from...

  6. Chapter III LOVERS
    (pp. 67-105)

    Heir to a pervasive misogynous tradition that exacted a response from every writer who wrote about women, Dante accepted the fall of man as the fall of woman. In the Terrestrial Paradise he speaks only of the sin of Eve, not of Adam, “colpa di quella ch’al serpente crese”(Purg.32: 32). It is through her transgression that all mortals, “figliuoli d’Eva,” (Purg.12: 71) inherit a corrupt nature and mortal body, “quel d’Adamo,”(Purg.9: 10) which is everywhere hindered in the quest for its lost peace and internal justice (see alsoPurg.9: 44-45).¹ Dante accepts together with...

    (pp. 106-175)

    The maternal character in theComedyrefers not only to a relationship of filiation but also to a complex situation of the mind. Life and death join, according to theParadiso (Par.32: 4-6), in the person of Eve. Earlier Thomas Aquinas had explained to the pilgrim that the process of generation was perfect on only two occasions, the creation of Adam and that of Christ(Par.13: 49-87). That both of these were accomplished without the intermediary of a physical father is instrumental in the creation of the female archetypes in theComedy.

    Eve represents the negative death vessel...

    (pp. 176-180)

    Saint Augustine accused poetry of functional untruthfulness and condemned poets as the exponents of paganism.¹ In this he was supported by Thomas Aquinas, who claimed that poets were “inveterate liars and poetry . . . the science which contained the very minimum of truth.”² When Dante placed himself in the group of the great ancient poets who did him honor in hisComedyhe attributed a different status to poetry. The title of poet is the “nome che più dura e più onora”(Purg.21: 85). The contrite pilgrim hears the spirits expiating sins of pride and identifies himself with...

  9. INDEX
    (pp. 181-187)