The Divine Comedy Act III


As often as I have read the Divine Comedy, I have found profound difficulty with the third part--the part that should be so compelling. It seems that all forward motion stops and Dante enters into a realm of airy speculation (mostly wrong) and cosmology that is both weird and vaguely uninteresting. The people in paradise maunder on and on about abstruse theological theories and oddities of the medieval sort. In short, it is the "most dated" and least "useful" of the three acts. And yet, I am sure that I am missing something in the reading. I am sure that as often as I have been through it, I have been left out of paradise through my own fault.

So I try again. And once again I am treated so some odd explanation of the spheres of the cosmos and to Beatrice (who if you ask me isn't some Divine avatar but a relentless and self-righteous harridan--see the end of Purgatorio. One is left to ponder what in the world Dante saw in this woman.

Not that the rest of the comedy isn't riddled with similar lectures, cosmologies, and oddities, but somehow amid the grotesques and the "poetic justice" they seem to fit in. If the realm of perfection is nothing other than an endless lecture series on the Divine glories, unless I become a completely different person (by which I do not mean simply abandoning sin and growing closer to God, but having something approaching a spiritual lobotomy) I think that the suffering there would be akin to the suffering of some of the souls in Dante's Inferno.

But then, why might Dante think that this endless lecture circuit is Divine? Perhaps because knowledge was so highly valued a commodity in a time when its dissemination was so difficult? Perhaps it was just that particular poet's mind? I don't know, but perhaps that is a focus to pay attention to as I try to ignore the lectures that get in the way of a tourists view of paradise.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 4, 2008 7:37 AM.

Hidden Humor was the previous entry in this blog.

Beatrice--Snide and Smug is the next entry in this blog.

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