Ever wanted to read Dante's Divine Comedy? Come along with us! We're not lost in the scholarly weeds. (Mostly.) We're strolling through the greatest work (to date) of Western literature. Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as I take on this masterpiece passage by passage. I'll give you my rough English translation, show you some of the interpretive knots in the lines, let you in on the 700 years of commentary, and connect Dante's work to our modern world. The pilgrim comes awake in a dark wood, then walks across the known universe. New episodes every Sunday and Wednesday.
Virgil Out Of His Depths--Or Maybe Out Of Dante's: PURGATORIO, Canto I, Lines 49 - 84 (Part One)
vor 12 Stunden
33:23We have come to one of the strangest moments so far in COMEDY: the moment we recognize the lone old man is in fact the Roman pagan Stoic suicide Cato. This moment breaks COMEDY in so many ways that we're going to spend two episodes of the podcast looking at this passage from PURGATORIO.In this episode, we're going to focus on Virgil and (to a lesser extent) Dante in the passage (thereby saving Cato and his wife Marcia for the next episode). What does this long speech tell us about Virgil's possibly changing place in the poem? What is Dante the poet up to?Here are the segments of this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[00:58] My English translation of the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto I, Lines 49 - 84. If you'd like to read along, print it off, or drop a comment, please go to my website, markscarbrough.com.[05:06] Virgil in Purgatory: still a strange idea, although we may (or may not) have been set up for it.[08:55] The structure of PURGATORIO, Canto I: mostly a conversation between two father figures, Virgil and Cato. But Virgil's presence still causes lots of problems.[12:17] Making Dante the pilgrim show obeisance: a mistake or a change in the dynamics in the poem?[17:28] What is Virgil doing when he apparently paraphrases Dante the pilgrim to Cato?[20:13] Dante's folly is like Pier delle Vigne's and Ulysses'--except Dante's folly happened before COMEDY, not in COMEDY.[22:28] Humor in the passage, but maybe mean-spirited and at Virgil's expense.[24:58] Freedom: the guiding principle of PURGATORIO (until we get to Beatrice).[27:14] The law--that is, how Virgil and Dante got here.[29:08] Flattery: Does it get the job done?
A Lone Old Man Who Disrupts COMEDY And Changes The Rules Of The Afterlife: PURGATORIO, Canto I, Lines 28 - 48
26:36As Dante the pilgrim gazes at the gorgeous sky, he finds an old man standing next to him, a figure who will startle us (if not the pilgrim) and who will eventually cue us that all is not what it seems in the second third of Dante's COMEDY.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we turn with the pilgrim to PURGATORIO's first great surprise. Let's talk about this old man without identifying him yet--because that's exactly what our text does.Here are the segments of this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:18] My English translation of this passage: PURGATORIO, Canto I, Lines 28 - 48. If you'd like to read along, print it off, or drop a comment, please go to my website, markscarbrough.com.[03:02] Our first task: The Big Dipper. It's a minor translation problem in the passage.[04:35] The on-going movement from Dante the pilgrim: turning, not walking.[06:52] The effects of wonder in this passage have already been noted in INFERNO, Canto XXVIII.[08:00] Our first vision of the lone, old man, emerging at us from the text.[08:58] The old man is not immediately identified--and that may be crucial to our seeing the poem correctly.[12:18] The old man has a paternal quality. Does that make him a potential rival for Virgil?[13:37] The old man has a long, forked beads, reminiscent of the representation of Moses in the Florentine Baptistry mosaics.[14:58] The old man is first seen by Dante the pilgrim after he turns to the north.[15:54] The old man is directly linked to the four stars over the South Pole.[16:51] There is another old man ("veglio") in the poem: the old man of Crete.[18:18] The old man's appearance is reminiscent of Jesus's appearance to Mary Magdalene at the garden tomb.[19:35] The old man seems very keen on the legal niceties.[21:37] The old man is a blocking figure, like many others we've met in INFERNO.[22:30] But there's a significant difference: This old man may be open to change.[23:57] Rereading PURGATORIO, Canto 1, Lines 28 - 48
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Laughter And Loss, The Essence Of Being Human: PURGATORIO, Canto I, Lines 13 - 27
35:06Dante the poet leads us in a slow turn toward Dante the pilgrim, his "fictional" alter ego, who is looking up at the heavens--that is, at Venus, at four new-to-him stars, and at the gorgeous sapphire color of a predawn sky.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we come to see the emotional complexity Dante has learned to encode in this short passage after the craft developed in the writing of INFERNO. The turn to the pilgrim is a beautiful moment, with resonances of hope and loss throughout--perhaps, then, a most human moment.This passage of PURGATORIO is also packed with interpretive problems. And you know we love those! So here are the segments of this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:14] My English translation of PURGATORIO, Canto I, Lines 13 - 27. If you'd like to read along or drop a comment, please find this passage on my website, markscarbrough.com.[03:13] Where are we? In a terrestrial poem that yearns for the infinite--with a couple of translation problems right off.[07:03] We turn to Dante the pilgrim in a moment in which he wonders at the sheer beauty of the sky. (Such a contrast to his responses in INFERNO!)[08:30] What is the allegory of the sapphire blue? And how do we know our interpretation of that allegory is correct?[13:27] What is this "gorgeous planet"? It's a representation of love, as Dante tells us. But it's also the potential rehabilitation of the morning star from its traditional interpretation by Christian theologians as a reference to Satan before his fall.[18:07] However, there's a historical problem for the poetry: Venus was not the morning star in 1300, the year of the pilgrim's journey across the known universe.[20:39] Check out the emotional movement in the first nine lines of this passage: from beauty to global peace to internal regeneration to the laughter of the cosmos.[23:09] We see Dante the pilgrim's first physical movement: a turn to the right (that is, to the south). And there's an interpretive problem in these lines: Who are these "first people" he mentions?[26:53] And while we're at it, what are the four stars Dante the pilgrim sees?[29:41] The last lines of the passage only make sense if you've read Virgil's explanation in INFERNO.[31:08] The last lines of the passage also encode a moment of loss, maybe even melancholy. Laughter + loss = human. That's ultimately the equation of (most of) PURGATORIO.[32:47] I read PURGATORIO, Canto I, Lines 13 - 27 again.
Of A Poet, His Hubris, And His Doubts: PURGATORIO, Canto I, Lines 1 - 12
32:56These are the opening lines of PURGATORIO, in whcih we start, not with the Dante the pilgrim (as we did in INFERNO), but with Dante the poet, who puts his hubris and his doubts on full display.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we slow-walk through the opening lines of the second canticle, the second third, of Dante's masterwork COMEDY. We'll hear the poet state his intentions and hear him cite a bit of orthodox theology as well as some possibly heterodox bits. He'll also invoke the muses, not to guide him, but to follow him, before expressing an implicit warning to himself about the work ahead.Here are the segments for this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:01] Reading my English translation of PURGATORIO, Canto I, Lines 1 - 12. You can find these lines on my website, markscarbrough.com, where you can also drop comments or ask questions.[03:01] Dante arrives in PURGATORIO in his own boat, although we know an angel will bring everyone else.[08:13] PURGATORIO is a terrestrial poem that begins with the Dante the poet--whereas INFERNO was a terrestrial poem that began with the Dante the pilgrim.[10:24] Dante offers the third invocation to the Muses in COMEDY, now with distinct references to that most Christian doctrine: the resurrection.[16:39] There's a slight problem with Calliope. For Dante, she may well be the greatest muse, not necessarily "just" the muse of epic poetry.[18:55] What exactly is this thing Dante calls "deadened poetry" ("morta poesí")? The answer is harder than you may think.[22:07] The opening twelve lines of PURGATORIO are jam-packed with the poet's hubris.[26:57] But the poet Dante may also express his fears in these lines.[29:18] Something to consider before we move on in the poem: INFERNO may well have been purgatory for the Dante the poet.[30:49] Rereading PURGATORIO, Canto I, Lines 1 - 12.
The Shores Of Purgatory: PURGATORIO, Cantos I - II
29:20As I told you in the previous episode of this podcast, we're taking PURGATORIO in chunks, rather than small bits. Or more like, first chunks, then small bits. And here's our first chunk: cantos 1 - 2 in my English translation.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we begin our exploration of the shores of Purgatory. I'll first read through the first two cantos of the middle canticle from Dante's masterwork, COMEDY.Then I'll raise some initial interpretive questions--although there will be lots more as we break the cantos down into smaller chunks, starting in the next episode.Here are the segments of this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:54] Reading PURGATORIO, cantos 1 - 2.[18:26] Six initial, interpretive questions. One, are we in the same poem as we were in INFERNO?[20:53] Two, who is this solitary old man?[22:13] Three, why all the astrological and astronomical references in these cantos?[23:28] Four, why all the singing in these opening cantos of PURGATORIO?[24:43] Five, who is Casella?[25:43] Six, what does Dante the poet know about angels?
An Introduction To PURGATORIO
24:47Welcome back! We've been on hiatus for a bit, after we finished INFERNO. (If, that is, you're listening to this podcast IRT.) And now we're ready to start our climb up the next third of the poem: the mountain of purgation, the (perhaps) most human section of Dante's divine masterpiece.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as I offer a little introduction to PURGATORIO--not so much to the poem but to our methods in this podcast. I want to tell you how the episodes for PURGATORIO are going to work (different from those for INFERNO). And I want to let you know--in advance!--the five basic ways I interpret (or "read," to use the literary term) this second canticle of COMEDY.Here are the segments for this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE, our first on PURGATORIO.[01:37] The methodology of how we'll walk through (up?) PURGATORIO: chunk, then smaller pieces (rather than the constant smaller pieces we undertook in INFERNO).[04:45] Take heart: no funny voices in PURGATORIO! But that also means there's a translation issue.[06:54] My initial five rubrics for interpreting PURGATORIO. First, PURGATORIO is about the perfection of the will and the correction of the intellect.[09:50] Second, PURGATORIO is moving away from the classical (pagan?) world and more firmly into the Christian world. But that's not an easy move for our poet who so loves his classical learning.[12:05] Third, PURGATORIO is the most heterodox portion of COMEDY.[15:42] Fourth, PURGATORIO is a meta-commentary on the writing of INFERNO.[17:05] Fifth, PURGATORIO is structured by the architecture of the New Testament.
What We Missed And How You Can Further Your Own Slow-Walk Across INFERNO
12:28We have come to the end of our slow-walk across Dante's INFERNO, the first third (or so) of his masterpiece, COMEDY. But there are admittedly things we missed. Perhaps you'd like to deepen your understanding of INFERNO? Join me, Mark Scarbrough, for some hints about how to further your study of this first (and most famous) part of Dante's poem.Here are the segments of this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[00:55] Consider using the medieval Florentine, particularly the rhyme and the rhythm of the original, to unlock new clues to the meaning of passages in INFERNO.[04:01] Read around among scholars who've covered INFERNO and who offer new perspectives on the poem.[06:15] Read the original sources for the poem, particularly Virgil's AENEID, Ovid's METAMORPHOSES, and Lucan's PHARSALIA. If you want to get a jump on PURGATORIO, consider reading Statius' THEBIAD.[07:39] Listen to some of the great music that's been based on Dante's poem.[08:53] Try out other translations of Dante's poem to further your understanding of his art.[10:28] To get ready for PURGATORIO, go back and look over the "great sinners" of INFERNO. They're going to be under our feet in many passages in PURGATORIO.
INFERNO: Final Thoughts Without Firm Conclusions
25:07We've come to the end of our slow-walk through INFERNO, the first third of Dante's masterpiece, COMEDY.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, for some final thoughts on this overwhelming poem. No conclusions, really. Just some access points to help you think more about this incredible journey.Here are the segments of this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:28] One negative assessment: There are some awkward transition points in the poem.[03:34] One possible explanation for those awkward points: Gothic juxtaposition.[05:37] A second negative assessment: Some classical references appear to be a tad ornamental.[07:52] But a possible answer to these rough patches: Dante sets up scenes before we encounter them.[09:18] And INFERNO has begun to fold back in on itself by its end, making reference to its own poetic self.[11:58] Dante is engaged in fantastic world-building.[14:20] Dante offers a developmental hypothesis for both the pilgrim and the poet.[17:20] Dante willingly breaks churchly orthodoxy in the service of a greater, more human orthodoxy.[21:35] Dante democratizes the afterlife.
Reading INFERNO, Cantos 32 - 34
27:31We finish off INFERNO in my English translation, which you can find on my website: markscarbrough.com.But I hope you don't go there. I hope you sit back and listen to the conclusion of the first piece of Dante's journey across the known universe.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we finish reading INFERNO, one of the final steps before we're ready to move on to PURGATORIO.[01:33] Reading INFERNO, Cantos 32 - 34
Reading INFERNO, Cantos 29 - 31
27:01Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we fast-walk (!) through Dante's INFERNO, the first third (or so) of his masterpiece, COMEDY (or "The Divine Comedy," as some insist on calling it--although he never did).We're completed our slow walk through the poem in over 200 episodes of the podcast WALKING WITH DANTE. Now we're celebrating by reading straight through my English translation. You can find this translation on my website: markscarbrough.com. It's broken into smaller passages there. But I hope you don't look for it. I hope, instead, that you listen to it for the plot, for the sheer majesty of the imaginative landscape Dante has created.[01:42] Reading INFERNO, Cantos 29 - 31