Divine Comedy Essay Questions
1. Cantos XVI (terrace of wrath) and Canto XVII (Sloth) include important concepts about the corruption of the world, free will, the Emperor and the Pope. Canto XVII is the central Canto of Purgatory. It is the middle terrace where we read about the moral system of Purgatory (which is similar to Canto XI in Inf. when Virgil explains the moral structure of hell). What is the relationship between Mark the Lombard's conception of the human soul and Virgil's explanation of the origin of love? Both the conception of the soul and love originate with God. Marco Lombard explained, “From out of the hands of Him who fondly loves her before she comes to be, there issues forth, like a child at play in tears and laughter, the simple soul without a
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3. Cantos XXI to XXVI. These cantos deal with contrasting groups of poets, one group from the classical tradition and one from the school of the Sweet New Style. (If you do not remember what this expression means, you have to go back to one of the lectures at the beginning of the semester. The Scheme of the Divine Comedy's first page includes a brief description of what this is.) What is Dante's position about the social use of poetry and art in general?
It seems to me that Dante sees a great need for poetry and art in every aspect of life. He uses poetic language and artistry all of the time. He seems to be pretty full of himself and what he at the time, though it is very true even today, thought of himself to be such a great poet. He definitely saw himself as equal to great poets before him, but saw his style (which he coined) the dolce stil novo (sweet new style) as being a better form. “’Oh brother, now I see,’ he said, ‘the knot that held the Notary, Guittone, and me short of the sweet new style which I am hearing. I clearly note how your pens follow closely after the one who dictates to your hearts, which surely did not happen with our pens.” (Pur.XXIV, 55-60)
Discuss the content of the meetings between these two groups, the importance of Virgil for Statius and Dante's declaration of the new poetry he is writing (XXIV, ll. 64-65). Here we have a simile with birds again. How is this simile different from the simile of birds in Canto V of Inferno?