19-20 IT3230: Dante – Divine Comedy II

Purgatory is the place in which "the human spirit purges himself, and climbing to Heaven makes himself worthy." Paradiso is where the human spirit reaches its blessedness.

Though considered for long less attractive than Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso are the two canticles where Dante's design of the afterlife comes to completion. The Divine Comedy cannot be comprehended but through a close reading of the poem as a whole. This course aims to explore Dante's full vision of the otherworld.

Purgatorio is the most original section of Dante's conception of the afterlife, because at the time its existence was disputed and controversial.

Paradiso is the third and final part of Dante’s imagined journey into the realms of the Afterlife. After leaving the darkness, terrors and torments of Hell (Inferno), Dante, still accompanied by Virgil has climbed up the mountain of Purgatory (Purgatorio). In Purgatorio he has encountered the souls of those who are on their way to salvation and the bliss of heaven, but who have to spend a certain amount of time preparing themselves, by purging their sinful tendencies and making reparation (paying their dues) for their sins and sinfulness during their earthly life. All the souls in Purgatorio will one day reach Heaven and so they are characterized by hope and a deep longing to move upwards. At the top of Mount Purgatory Dante enters the Earthly Paradise where he is reunited with Beatrice, and Virgil abruptly leaves him. The Paradiso opens with Dante still in the Earthly Paradise about to ascend with Beatrice to the heavens.
Many of the themes which have preoccupied Dante in the first two cantiche continue to exercise his mind in Paradiso; and he is as interested in meeting the souls of the blessed and hearing their stories as he has been in Hell and Purgatory. Yet Paradiso is qualitatively different from both Inferno and Purgatorio. It has no connection at all with the earth. It is a realm of pure light, in which time and place have no meaning. It is, by definition, suprahuman. Dante thus must find ways of communicating to his readers what is in fact beyond human expression. The Paradiso is thus challenging, but as Dante strives to express the inexpressible, he achieves the greatest and most beautiful poetry of the whole Divine Comedy, culminating in the wonderful images of the later cantos and the supreme vision of the Godhead at the end.

Where his experiences in the Inferno and Purgatorio were troubling and burdensome, Paradiso introduces the reader to a journey of comfort, revelation, and, above all, love - both romantic and divine.