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Vertical Readings in Dante's Comedy. Volume 2

 | 
George Corbett
, 
Heather Webb

13. ‘Would you Adam and Eve it?’

Robert Wilson

Texte intégral

1The vertical reading is a problematic proposition which touches on some of the most fundamental assumptions about Dante and his text, as well as the critical study of literature in general. As a critical approach it is open to the charge of putting the cart before the horse insofar as it begins with a conclusion: that there is some special connection between similarly numbered cantos in the Commedia, and that attention to this fact will uncover hitherto unnoticed details and insights which are in some way peculiar to the cantos concerned, both individually and as a group. The reader is charged with proving this by finding these connections before knowing whether they actually exist. ‘Seek and ye shall find’ (Matthew 7.7). Is it worse then to find nothing, or to find something which is not really there (even if some people take the view that the latter is the very business of literary criticism)? I note that some of my questions about the approach have been shared by other readers in the series, including the editors, but I would like at least to signal them again as I believe they are important.

2For the spoken version of this paper I considered various possible subtitles; ‘Strange but True: Sights and Sounds in Dante’s 13th Cantos’, or ‘Improbable Interlocutors’, or ‘Don’t Jump to Conclusions, Even if You Think You See One’, or the flippant but possibly more apposite ‘Would you Adam and Eve it?’ (rhyming slang for ‘would you believe it?’). Since the vertical reading approach applied to the whole of the Commedia is new, I also shared some of the ways in which I had tried to look for possible connections, albeit without success much of the time, and I will include those here as I think they have some interest for the project as a whole. Following a brief survey of previous lecturae of the individual cantos, I will consider some further problems, and conclude by suggesting a few possible links across these cantos, though I leave the question of plausibility open.

  • 1 George Corbett and Heather Webb, ‘Introduction’, in Vertical Readings in Dante’s ‘Comedy’: Volume 1(...)

3There have been some readings of individual sets of cantos before, which have been listed in the introduction to the first volume of Vertical Readings, but there is no previous attempt to apply the method to the whole poem.1 In that respect a full set of vertical readings shares a feature of the standard Lectura Dantis in obliging readers to address some of the less popular cantos in the interest of comprehensiveness. The self-contained study focussed on the isolated canto guarantees at least the possibility of a kind of equal treatment, however the vertical reading, positing as it does connections across three cantos, introduces a sort of unevenness, as it is clear that the approach works better in some cases than in others. We might say that the connective thread ‘… risplende in una parte più e meno altrove’ [shines forth in one place more and less elsewhere] (Par., i. 2–3). This is also evident in the simple fact that there have been prior readings of this sort for some groups of cantos, whilst others, to put it mildly, have not immediately lent themselves to this kind of reading.

  • 2 Richard Kay, ‘Parallel Cantos in Dante’s Commedia’, Res publica litterarum 15 (1992), 109–13; Corbe (...)
  • 3 Kay, p. 112
  • 4 Ibid., pp. 111–12. The canto groups for these ten examples are (in order of discussion) 1. Inf., xx (...)
  • 5 See Amilcare A. Iannucci, ‘Autoesegesi dantesca. La tecnica dell’ “episodio” parallelo’, Lettere It (...)

4Before we begin reading linked cantos there is a fundamental issue to be addressed, which was raised by Richard Kay in 1992, and noted again in the introduction to the first volume in this series.2 Kay explains that he was prompted to pursue this approach by the very well-known detail that all three cantiche of the Commedia end on the same word, ‘stelle’. We may note here that he opts for the term ‘parallel’ rather than ‘vertical’ in considering similarities. Taking the final word in each cantica of course gives a numbered set of Inferno xxiv, Purgatorio xxxiii and Paradiso xxxiii. This approach would exclude Inferno i, which fits well enough with the common understanding of the organisation of the Commedia that posits Inferno i as proemial to the entire poem and Inferno ii as the real beginning of Inferno. Following this methodology we would be looking at Inferno xiii, Purgatorio xii and Paradiso xii, or Inferno xiv, Purgatorio xiii and Paradiso xiii for the present discussion. As it happens, Kay includes an example drawn from the first of these groupings. Pier della Vigna (Inf., xiii) is contrasted with St Dominic (Par., xii): both rhetoricians of different sorts, serving different masters, and the difference between them, pride, is revealed by Purgatorio xii, exemplified in the reliefs described there. Furthermore, Pier’s speech is characterised by self-praise while Dominic is praised by another, St Bonaventure, from the ‘rival’ order of Franciscans no less.3 Kay explains that, despite having established a great number of correspondences of this type, his purpose here is simply to demonstrate that the approach is able to yield fruit, and he provides ten examples to that end. These also illustrate the range of types of connections which might be posited, from simple verbal repetition or echo to looser groups of referents (which may be similar or contrasting), or instances where parallel reading in different directions has one canto reveal underlying principles in another, or provide a progressive clarification and so on.4 The real difficulty which is beginning to emerge here is establishing the permissible range of types and methods of connection and deciding where to draw the line before we are pulled into a six stages of separation scenario in which everything is interconnected to everything else. Verbal echoes, rhyme repetitions, related characters, the interwoven nature of the text, all make for a particularly dense infratextuality. It is not surprising that such a highly self-referential work as the Commedia has a well-established critical tradition of reading Dante with Dante, modelled in many ways on the practices of reading scriptural texts.5

  • 6 Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, ed., trans. and notes by Robert M. Durling a (...)
  • 7 Ibid., II, p. 33.
  • 8 Ibid.
  • 9 Ibid., II, pp. 46–47.
  • 10 Ibid., III, p. v. Corbett and Webb note the ‘intensive self-referentiality of the entire poem’ (‘In (...)
  • 11 The vulgate text runs ‘hic sapientia est qui habet intellectum conputet numerum bestiae numerus eni (...)

5Another, more comprehensive, parallel reading is found in the second volume of the three-volume commentary and translation of the Commedia by Robert Durling and Ron Martinez.6 At the end of the notes on every canto is an ‘inter-cantica’ section in which they discuss the poem’s ‘system of recall of the earlier cantiche, often in the form of parallels between similarly numbered cantos’.7 The first such section largely examines links between Purgatorio i and Inferno i, although the discussion is not bound by a rigid adherence to same numbered cantos.8 There is sometimes a matching similar to that proposed by Kay, so that the note on Purgatorio ii, for example, draws out many connections with Inferno iii, but reference is also made to Inferno xxiv, xxxii, i, ix, and xxvi.9 In the preface to their edition of the Paradiso, Durling and Martinez explain that there will not be ‘inter-cantica’ sections in this volume since, with the preceding two cantiche now involved, the cross-references ‘…become particularly dense and frequent’.10 The flexibility of the inter-cantica does respond to a potential problem with the matching of numbers suggested by Kay, which sometimes seems to work well, but would preclude parallel readings across all three cantos with the same number. The best-known matching of this type is probably in the cantos vi. The depiction of ever expanding evil and the infamous number of the beast from Revelation 13.18 seems to work well, although perhaps more obviously apparent in Arabic rather than Roman numerals.11

  • 12 Corbett and Webb discuss this ‘thorny question’ (‘Introduction’, pp. 6–8).
  • 13 Benvenuto da Imola, Comentum super Dantis Aldigherij Comoediam, ed. by G. F. Lacaita, 5 vols (Flore (...)

6Authorial intention is one of the most fundamental questions in any study of literature, and must also be addressed in the vertical reading approach.12 Not only must we find connections, but must we also then detect some intention on the part of Dante to put them there; the discovery of meaning as against its manufacture? ‘Dante Studies’ as an activity (or ‘industry’) has been criticized for its imperviousness to literary theory, not unlike the walled city of Dis, perhaps, in its self-reflexive circularity. These are larger questions than we can discuss here, and, of course, we are free to read a text however we please. On the other hand, particular attention to authorial intention is well-established in the Middle Ages, and particularly evident in the case of Dante’s earliest readers: ‘Intentio autoris est optima; intendit enim facere hominem bonum’ [The intention of the author is excellent; for he intends to make man good] writes Benvenuto da Imola at the outset of his commentary, which prioritises the author throughout.13

Numerology

  • 14 Noted also by Zygmunt G. Barański, ‘Without Any Violence’, in Vertical Readings in Dante’s ‘Comedy’ (...)

7A question as unavoidable for a number based approach as it might be unwelcome is that of numerological significance. Dante himself draws the numbering of the cantos into the poetic text in the well-known opening to Inferno xx: ‘Di nova pena mi conven far versi / e dar matera al ventesimo canto / de la prima canzon, ch’è d’i sommersi’ [Of a strange new punishment I must make verses / and take matter for the twentieth song / in this first canticle, which is of those submerged] (Inf., xx. 1–3).14 This is not the only time Dante refers to the formal structures of the poem but it is the only mention of the numbering and is enough of an imprimatur for us to consider the numbers, especially since they form the basis of the vertical reading of the poem.

  • 15 Vincent Foster Hopper, Medieval Number Symbolism: Its Sources, Meaning, and Influence on Thought an (...)
  • 16 Pietro Bongo, Mysticae numerorum significationis liber, 2 vols (Bergamo: Comino Ventura, 1585). Thi (...)
  • 17 Bongo, Mysticae numerorum significationis liber, II, pp. 31–35.
  • 18 The list begins: ‘Haec numerus Iudaeorum taxat impietatem’. Ibid., II, p. 131. Besides the murmurin (...)
  • 19 Bongo, Mysticae numerorum significationis liber, II, pp. 31–32. Bungus names Hugh as his source for (...)

8Although 13, or XIII, might initially seem promising as a number of such ill portent that it has its own named phobia, the association of the number with bad luck seems to originate after Dante’s time. According to Vincent Foster Hopper, the first mention of the specific idea of thirteen at table being unlucky is found in the late sixteenth century in what is almost a passing remark in Montaigne’s Essais (III. viii).15 A more general negative interpretation of the number is also found in the sixteenth century, in a work specifically focussed on numerology, the Mysticae numerorum significationis liber (1585) of Petrus Bungus, or Pietro Bongo, of Bergamo.16 Each number is usually dealt with in a single section, but ‘De numero XIII. et XIV’. puts thirteen together with fourteen in quite a short treatment, most of which is taken up with a discussion around the number fourteen as it relates to the dating of Easter.17 Bungus links the number thirteen with the impiety of the Jews and gives a few examples from the Old Testament, beginning with the Jews murmuring against God in the desert when they set up camp for the thirteenth time.18 He states that since thirteen is the first number after twelve it denotes transgression of the teaching of the apostles and he concludes by quoting Hugh of St Victor’s Miscellanea.19

  • 20 Hugh of St Victor, ‘De Scripturis et Scriptoribus Sacris’, in Patrologia Latina, ed. by J. P. Migne (...)
  • 21 Peck, pp. 59–62.

9It is in Hugh’s De Scripturis et Scriptoribus Sacris that we find guidelines for numerological exegesis, in chapter xv De numeris mysticis sacrae Scripturae.20 These take the form of nine principles: order of position, composition, extension to other numbers, disposition, computation, multiplication, aggregate parts, number of parts, and exaggeration. Russell Peck follows this list with a description of some of the more typical glosses on each number: one signifies unity, of course, and so God and everything to do with God; two represents ‘the other’ and can be negative, indicating the devil, division, cupidity and so on, but it can also be positive, in referring to the second person of the trinity for example; three is very positive, representing the trinity, perfection, the soul (man in the image of the triune God), and, by extension to thirty, the number of books in the Bible (according to Hugh of St Victor anyway); four denotes elements, humours, conditions, directions, gospels, evangelists, cardinal virtues, branches of knowledge (theoretical, practical, mechanical, logical) etc.; five is quintessence; seven, too much to mention here; and so on up to twelve, the number of months, apostles, tribes of Israel, completeness and the Apocalypse, with which his list ends.21

  • 22 Hopper (p. 103) suggests that the creation of such a list indicates Hugh’s awareness of the problem (...)

10Numerological interpretation allows for almost infinite variations; virtually any number can be interpreted, often through manipulations themselves accepted as legitimate, so that it may represent almost anything else. Hugh’s methodology has been seen as an attempt to introduce some order, and place restrictions on the sort of ‘free form’ association which might otherwise result, although it does itself present quite a range of interpretative options.22 So the number XIII, according to Hugh’s rule six (factorization, including addition), may be interpreted as X, a number of perfection, plus III, associated with the Trinity among other things. Thirteen is also the number of St Paul as the thirteenth apostle, as Isidore of Seville explains in his Liber de numeris, on numbers in the Bible:

Denarius ternarius numerus propter tria et decem designat legem, et legislatorem, Decalogum, videlicet, et Trinitatem. Competenter autem hic numerus apostolo Paulo ascribitur, qui ejusdem tenet numeri locum in ordine apostolorum.

  • 23 Isidore of Seville, ‘Liber numerorum qui in sanctis scripturis occurrunt’, in Patrologia Latina, ed (...)

[The thirteenth number as three and ten designates the law and lawgiver, the Decalogue, and the Trinity. Moreover this number is properly assigned to Paul, who holds the place of the same number in the order of the Apostles].23

  • 24 Hopper, p. 129.
  • 25 Ibid., pp. 4–6.

11Three and ten have many other interpretations, and we might well share Hopper’s assessment in his discussion of the equally polysemous number seven: ‘In this twilight zone of symbolism, it is extremely hazardous to attempt or even look for an interpretation of such a widely significant number as 7’.24 In the context of the vertical readings, the cantos iii and x must have a prior claim to any numerological significance those numbers may have, and whilst it may shed light on other cantos, the numerological approach doesn’t appear to be particularly fruitful for the cantos xiii. Nonetheless, there is still perhaps a lesson in Hugh’s concern to set some ground rules. The Commedia has the potential for almost infinite connection, so how can the vertical reading stay grounded? Must any suggested connection be demonstrable in all three cantos? Hopper notes that three as a number of proof has deep roots in human culture, certainly antediluvian, perhaps even primeval.25 In addition, should there be some measure of exclusivity which limits the connection to the three same numbered cantos?

Lecturae of the Cantos xiii

  • 26 Now in De Sanctis, Opere V. Lezioni e Saggi su Dante, ed. by Sergio Romagnoli, 2nd edn (Turin: Eina (...)
  • 27 In alphabetical order of author for ease of reference: Cesare Angelini, ‘Canto XIII’ in Lectura Dan (...)
  • 28 The lecturae of Purgatorio xiii consulted, by author: Salvatore Accardo, ‘Il canto XIII del “Purgat (...)
  • 29 The lecturae of Paradiso xiii consulted, by author: Marcello Aurigemma, ‘Il canto XIII del “Paradis (...)
  • 30 Del Castello, p. 382; Rati also notes the negative response to the didactic nature of the canto (Ra (...)
  • 31 As a single example of cross-referencing, Musumarra, in discussing Purgatorio xiii makes reference (...)

12The cantos xiii make up an unlikely trio at least as far as critical interest goes. Inferno xiii is one of the best known, mainly through the prominence of the character Pier della Vigna; Francesco De Sanctis titled his 1869 lectura, sometimes regarded as the first modern lectura dantis of the canto, ‘Pier delle Vigne’.26 For this discussion I have consulted some of the more well-known lecturae of the cantos xiii, beginning with Inferno.27 The only actual occurrence of the name Pier in the cantos xiii comes not in Inferno but in Purgatorio, where the saintly Pier Pettinaio is named by the Sienese noblewoman Sapia (Purg., xiii. 128), who had informed Dante that despite her name, she was not ‘savia’ [wise] (Purg., xiii. 109).28 For wisdom, we may turn instead to Paradiso xiii and the discussion of Solomon, famous as the proverbial wise king and author of the biblical Book of Wisdom.29 Unlike the other cantos xiii, however, Paradiso xiii has had a rather lukewarm critical fortune: ‘Nella maggior parte dei casi, tuttavia, i lettori moderni non hanno amato il nostro canto’ [In the majority of cases modern readers have not loved our canto].30 I have listed the main individual lecturae of the cantos xiii in the footnotes here mainly to provide a sort of corpus for the general observation that they tend not to cross-refer to the corresponding cantos xiii in the other two cantiche. It is certainly the case that the practice of the lectura Dantis, with its focus on individual cantos might actively discourage cross-referencing, but many of these lecturae do mention other cantos throughout the Commedia with which they make connections; yet there are almost no cross-references in the lecturae to the other cantos xiii.31 There are only three exceptions to this in my list of lecturae.

  • 32 Zenatti, pp. 8–9, 19, 27. Zenatti acknowledges an earlier study as the source of his point on envy (...)
  • 33 De Nicola, p. 273.
  • 34 Ibid., p. 274.
  • 35 Ibid., p. 284.
  • 36 Ibid., p. 284, n. 52.
  • 37 Muresu, p. 37.

13Albino Zenatti’s lectura of Purgatorio xiii mentions similarities with Inferno xiii: the hearing of voices whose source is unseen, though he does also acknowledge that the examples are very different, in keeping with the general dissimilarity between the two locations; a Sienese connection, with the appearance of Lano del Topo in Inferno and Sapia in Purgatorio; the mention of envy, ‘the vice of courts’ in Inferno xiii, now touching republics too in Purgatorio; and, finally, the similar request to be remembered to the living made by both Sapia and Pier, ‘l’invidiosa e una vittima dell’invidia’ [the envious woman and a victim of envy].32 Francesco De Nicola’s lectura of Purgatorio xiii in the Lectura Dantis Neapolitana notes Zenatti’s mention of the unseen voices, concluding ‘ma la situazione pare assai diversa’ [but the situation seems rather different].33 De Nicola also quotes Inferno, xiii. 64–66, but really as part of a list of references to invidia, which includes Purgatorio xiv, xv, xvii and Inferno vi.34 He too later identifies in Sapia’s request to Dante to be remembered to the living an echo of the similar concern of Pier della Vigna in Inferno xiii.35 Although he does not make any reference to Paradiso xiii, De Nicola also mentions what may be the only previous study linking all three cantos xiii, which I will come to shortly.36 Gabriele Muresu’s is the third lectura to make a connection between separate cantos xiii, and mentions Paradiso xiii, 133–35 in the context of a wider discussion of the name of Pier della Vigna and the relative significance of different plants in the Bible and in Dante, in which the vine may be fruitful or sterile.37

  • 38 Pietro M. Viola, ‘Un trittico del comportamento politico. I tredicesimi canti della Commedia’, Trim (...)
  • 39 Ibid., p. 39.
  • 40 Ibid., p. 40
  • 41 Ibid., pp. 42–43.
  • 42 Ibid., pp. 51–53.
  • 43 Ibid., pp. 42–46.

14Not part of any series, nor really a lectura as such, there is a 1969 study by Pietro M. Viola which sets out to read the three cantos xiii together.38 Viola takes as his starting point for a political reading of the cantos what he describes as a symmetrical and unifying structure evident in the cantos vi, which progress through ‘il Comune, la Nazione, e l’Impero’ [the Municipality, the Nation, the Empire].39 For the vertical readings it is interesting to note that Viola describes the case of the cantos vi as ‘un unicum’ [unique] although his intention is to demonstrate that this is not the case, and the political reading he proposes is presented as a counterpart to them, in a schema in which Pier represents the man of the court, Sapia the ‘simple citizen’ and Solomon the king.40 He notes too other common features, such as the constant presence of references to seeing and sight in all three cantos, and the hearing of voices in Inferno and Purgatorio xiii.41 The main focus of the study is on the idea that these three characters offer a counterpart to the political presentation in the cantos vi; here we are presented with a ‘fenomenologia del comportamento politico’ [phenomenology of political behaviour] at the personal level.42 This is an interesting reading of the cantos, but it does appear at times to be looking for evidence to support its argument rather than being led by the text. We might note, for example, that the rather neat progression to ever larger political realities pointed out by Viola in the cantos vi, does not straightforwardly apply to the cantos xiii as we move from empire, to city-state and then to kingdom. Another approach Viola uses is to trace what he calls an ‘idea-parola’ [idea-word] through the cantos, fixing on ‘vedere’ [to see] as the most promising, but the idea is reached by finding examples of sight and its opposites in the cantos, and through a rather metaphorical interpretation of wisdom as a form of seeing which is very loosely linked to the text.43 Having said that, I am now very sympathetic to any reader faced with the difficulties of this endeavour.

Structures

  • 44 This approach may lay claim to an illustrious predecessor in Charles Singleton, ‘The Poet’s Number (...)
  • 45 Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia, ed. by Umberto Bosco and Giovanni Reggio, 3 vols (Florence: Le (...)

15In looking for connections, I tried taking a structural approach of sorts, by placing the Thirteens side by side and looking across them, more parallel than vertical, I appreciate. (In the lecture my rather bizarre miniaturisation of the text to 3 point for the purpose of displaying it on a slide did attract some interest, or curiosity.) What was obvious was the difference in length: 151, 154, and 142 verses respectively.44 Unfortunately there were no immediately evident connections across the cantos xiii. Does the division of the cantos into sections reveal any parallels? Obviously there is some arbitrariness in drawing lines of this kind, but division into parts or units as a practice is at least as old as the fourteenth-century commentators, and Dante himself, of course. In one of the most popular modern editions (Bosco and Reggio), the Thirteens are divided and sections described as following. Inferno is divided into six episodes of varying length: the wood of the suicides (ll. 1–21); Pier della Vigna (ll. 22–78); Pier explains how the suicides are transformed into plants (ll. 79–102); the condition of the suicides after the final judgement (ll. 103–08); the appearance of the spendthrifts, Lano da Siena and Jacopo da Santo Andrea (ll. 109–29); and a Florentine suicide (ll. 130–35). Purgatorio is divided into eight episodes: the appearance of the second terrace (ll. 1–9); prayer of Virgil to the Sun (ll. 10–21); voices in the air calling out examples of charity (ll. 22–42); the condition of the envious (ll. 43–72); Dante turns to the penitent souls (ll. 73–99); conversation with Sapia of Siena (ll. 100–32); reply and confession of Dante (ll. 133–44); and the final words of Sapia (ll. 145–54). Paradiso is divided into three long sections of very unequal length: singing and dance of the two crowns of blessed souls (ll. 1–30); Thomas (Aquinas) explains what the wisdom of Solomon consists of (ll. 31–111); and Thomas’s admonishment on the necessity of not making hasty judgements (ll. 112–42).45

16From the structural outlines alone we can immediately see a real difference between the Paradiso canto and the others, and some similarities, but also differences, in the other two. Both Inferno and Purgatorio open with a description of the place, but this is because both mark a move from one location to another, and this liminality is not a feature of similar numbering but of the specific intersection with another of the organisational structures of the Commedia, the topography of Dante’s afterlife. The formal arrangement into cantos sometimes fits and sometimes crosses the division of the geography of Dante’s otherworld into circles, terraces, and heavens. Inferno xiii is located wholly within the second subcircle of the seventh circle of the nine circles of Hell, where violence against the self in the forms of suicide and profligacy is punished. Purgatorio xiii is on the second terrace of the mountain of Purgatory, or the third of nine divisions if we include the Ante-Purgatory and the earthly Paradise at each end, where envy is purged. The Heaven of the Sun in which Paradiso xiii is situated is the fourth in Dante’s plan of ten heavens, where Dante encounters the blessed souls who are mainly philosophers and theologians. The topographical numbering, then, shows quite a striking lack of correspondence across the cantos xiii.

Horizontal Gravity and Artificial Endings

  • 46 This has been fully examined by Luigi Blasucci, ‘Sul canto come unità testuale’, in Leggere Dante, (...)
  • 47 Michelangelo Picone, ‘Canto XIV’, in Lectura Dantis Turicensis. Paradiso, ed. by Georges Güntert a (...)
  • 48 See Sedakova, De Angelis and Sini.

17The dissonance between the formal canto structure and the geography of Dante’s afterlife, or the continuing narrative in a more general sense, can be problematic for the traditional single lectura format, especially when so many cantos do not neatly encapsulate clearly defined narrative blocks.46 Indeed, the individual canto may clearly form part of a group or run of consecutive cantos. In his lectura of Paradiso xiv in the Lectura Dantis Turicensis, Michelangelo Picone designates Paradiso x–xiv a ‘lunga macrosequenza’ [long macrosequence].47 This approach also forms the organisational basis for the Esperimenti danteschi series.48 This pull to the sides, or horizontal gravity so to speak, can be reasonably accommodated in the traditional individual canto reading but is perhaps more difficult when trying to match up three cantos vertically if they are being pulled into a stronger horizontal connection. None of the cantos xiii stands very clearly alone. As we have seen, Paradiso xiii in the Heaven of the Sun is an integral part of the longer run of cantos x–xiv, and so embedded in it that it is in large part taken up with a response to a question put in the first canto in the sequence. Purgatorio xiii is likewise part of a pair on the terrace of envy, xiii and xiv (and for some readers the beginning of xv too). Inferno xiii is closer to a single complete canto, although it does link with the cantos on either side, through the presence of the centaur Nessus at the beginning of the canto, but much more so in the way that it ends. The formal canto ending may be regarded quite reasonably as an artificial ending, but I would like to consider the term artificial in a different sense, and that is that it is evidence of Dante’s artistic craftsmanship, his artifice at work. He chooses where and how to divide the material of his narrative, and we should pay attention to that. Inferno xiii is a striking example. The end of the canto is not the conclusion of the episode, although read on its own it might well be taken as such. The character stops speaking, and that could be the end of the encounter, but canto xiv picks up exactly at that point, still in the same subcircle of Hell, still in the same scene, with a change of tone which delivers one of the most moving tiny episodes in the whole poem: ‘La carità del natio loco mi strinse…’ [Love for the place of my birth gripped me…] (Inf., xiv. 1). If only this were part of canto xiii, the contrast with Sapia’s distinct lack of ‘carità del natio loco’ would fit perfectly, but this would definitely be the wrong place to indulge in canto envy. If Dante is then using the artifice of the formal canto division to emphasise the reality of suicide in its social dimension, with Dante literally left to pick up the pieces in the next episode, he offers a reminder that suicide is not the end that it might seem to be.

Connecting Threads

18So far I have described different approaches to the vertical reading that have raised difficulties in trying to discover some commonality among the cantos xiii. I do not think that there is a single overarching critical exposition such as to reveal some central message or interpretative key or unifying principle not only present in, but also specific and distinctive, indeed exclusive, to these cantos (pace Viola). However, I think it is possible, as others have shown, to detect some less comprehensive connections or linking threads.

Envy

  • 49 The inter-cantica for Purgatorio xiii of Durling and Martinez mentions this (Durling and Martinez, (...)
  • 50 The Dartmouth Dante Project (http://dante.dartmouth.edu) gives Scartazzini as the earliest referenc (...)

19The presence of envy in cantos xiii of Inferno and Purgatorio is obvious and needs no lengthy elaboration here. One interesting if somewhat oblique connection which has often been noted is the simile in the description of the souls being purged of envy, whose eyelids are sewn shut with iron wire ‘… come a sparvier selvaggio / si fa però che queto non dimora’ [as we do to a wild sparrowhawk because it will not be still] (Purg., xiii. 71–72). The blindness is linked with the blindness Pier della Vigna suffered as a punishment, and the reference to the sparrowhawk may be connected to Inferno xiii through reference to the treatise De arte venandi cum avibus, written by Pier’s master, the Emperor Frederick II.49 However, this appears to be a later observation, not one made in the earlier commentaries, and first appearing in Scartazzini’s commentary in 1875.50

20Can envy be linked with Paradiso xiii? Equally obvious is the fact that Paradiso will be no place for sin, and positing a connection to Inferno and Purgatorio through a principle of correction or opposition to sin may simply be such a generality as to apply to any and all cantos in the poem. Jacopo della Lana’s introduction, his nota, to Purgatorio xiii discusses envy, and refers to Aristotle’s Rhetoric book 2 as his source and authority, repeating a lot of what is there. Envy is looking at the achievements, the progress of lo prossimo, the person next to us. He says:

  • 51 Jacopo della Lana, Commento alla “Commedia”, ed. by Mirko Volpi, 4 vols (Rome: Salerno, 2009), II, (...)

Or è da sapere che invidia non cade tra quelli che le sue facoltadi sono molto distanti, ma cade intra quelli li quali sono per gloria vicini; e questi avviene perché quelli che sono cosí distanti non si aprovano da adeguarsi in gloria insieme. E però non si truova invidia da uno villano a uno re, imperquello che sono troppo distanti in facultà; similemente non si truova invidia tra quelli che sono in grande distanza di luogo, come de lo re d’Assiria a quello d’Inghilterra; similemente non si truova invidia tra quelli che sono distanti in tempo, come essere stato al tempo d’Aristotile ad essere mo’; ancora nullo ha invidia a quello ch’elli sa che non è sufficiente, sí come l’uomo ad essere uccello.51

[We should know that envy does not occur between those whose powers are very distant, but occurs between those who are close in glory; and this happens because those who are distant do not strive to make themselves equal in glory. So envy is not found between a king and a peasant, because they are too distant in power, similarly envy is not found between those distant in place, like the king of Assyria and the king of England; similarly envy is not found between those distant in time, such as living in the time of Aristotle and living now; and again nothing has envy for that which it knows is inferior, such as a man wanting to be a bird.]

21So, the peasant doesn’t envy the king, nor distant kings each other, nor the man the bird (pace Petrarch). Aristotle doesn’t mention kings (he simply refers to ‘great men’), but the interesting points here for the cantos xiii are precisely proximity and the example given (added by Lana, not in Aristotle) of kings. The absence of envy permits Aquinas in Paradiso xiii not so much to praise but simply to recognise, and then explain the superiority of Solomon in terms of ‘regal prudenza’ [the prudence of a king] (Par., xiii. 104). In the (mean) spirit of Sapia we might notice that Thomas also spends some time, perhaps just a bit more than he does on Solomon, outlining the different and, it is perhaps implied, superior wisdom of the philosophers and theologians. The explanation given by Thomas is one of categorisation, so that being first in ‘regal prudenza’, does not make Solomon wiser overall than Christ or Adam. There is also perhaps a touch of humour in the way that Thomas almost plays down ‘regal prudenza’ as compared to the more abstruse intellectual questions which Solomon did not ask to know about (Par., xiii. 97–102). In the terms used by Lana and Aristotle (putting aside the fact that being in Heaven means perfection anyway) we might even note that this explanation provides in a way the distance that we are told excludes envy, as their respective wisdoms belong to very different branches of knowledge.

22The biblical account of Solomon’s request has some points of interest for the other cantos xiii:

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I shall give you’. And Solomon said, ‘Thou hast shown great and steadfast love to thy servant David my father, because he walked before thee in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward thee; and thou hast kept for him this great and steadfast love, and hast given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people whom thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude. Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people?’ It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days’. (i Kings 3.5–14)

23It may be rather tenuous, contorted even, but it is possible to draw a connection between the things which Solomon rejected, and the most prominent souls of Inferno and Purgatorio xiii. Long life and riches: Pier accumulated a great deal of the latter, but lost the former. Death to enemies: Sapia, not wise like Solomon, desired the death, not simply of enemies but even of those who should have been friends. The biblical text does have a lesson which might arguably be specific to the souls of the other cantos xiii.

Aristotle and creation

24Lana, in his discussion of Inferno xiii offers this explanation for the punishment of the souls here based on an Aristotelian model of the soul:

  • 52 Lana, I, p. 411. A similar explanation is found in Benvenuto’s comment on Inferno xiii, though with (...)

Or fa tale trasmutazion Dante per allegoria, ch’elli dice: l’omo quando è nel mondo è animale razionale, sensitivo e vegetativo: quando ancide sé stesso, el conferisce a cotale morte solo la possanza de l’anima razionale e sensitiva, e però c’hanno colpa di tale offesa son prive di quelle due possanze, romanigle solo la vegetative; sí che di uomini si tramutano in arbori che sono animali vegetativi solo.52

[Now Dante makes this transformation allegorically; so that he says: man when he is in the world is animal, rational, sensible and vegetative: when he kills himself, he consigns to death only the rational and sensitive power of the soul, and since the suicides are guilty of such an offence, they are deprived of those two powers, only the vegetative is left to them; so that from men they are transformed into trees which are vegetative creatures only.]

25Lana is given to some imprecisions, and it is not clear that ‘per allegoria’ is the right mode in which to read this, but the explanation does make partial sense. Where there is a problem, which he seems not to notice, is that the rational soul does not die with the body, and that is the essential nature of the punishment of the suicides, the removal of the sensible element, the body, so that the rational is imprisoned in a vegetative form. The text of Inferno xiii does not describe the condition of these souls in Aristotelian or scholastic terminology, but Thomas Aquinas in Paradiso xiii does outline the order and hierarchy of creation in his lengthy speech to Dante:

      ‘Quindi discende a l’ultime potenze
giù d’atto in atto, tanto divenendo,
che più non fa che brevi contingenze;
     e queste contingenze essere intendo
le cose generate, che produce
con seme e sanza seme il ciel movendo’.
(Par., xiii. 61–66)

[Thence it descends from act to act down to the last potencies, finally becoming such that it makes only fleeting contingencies: and by these contingencies I mean the things that are generated, which the heavens produce, with seed and without seed, by their motion.]

26This takes us back again to Pier whose soul is rained down like a seed into the wood of the suicides where it then grows into a plant (Inf., xiii. 94–100). Here Paradiso xiii sheds some light on what is happening in Inferno xiii, though there is no link with Purgatorio xiii.

Il pruno

  • 53 Most of the lecturae of Inferno xiii do not mention these verses in Paradiso xxiv. The verses are b (...)

27Although Pier is often casually referred to as being a tree (we can see the term ‘arbori’ in Lana’s commentary) Dante uses the term ‘pruno’ [thornbush], when he reaches out to break off the twig, ‘e colsi un ramicel da un gran pruno’ [and [I] plucked a small branch from a great thornbush] (Inf., xiii. 32), and when Pier himself talks about the resurrection of the body and reveals that the bodies of the suicides will hang on the bushes ‘ciascuno al prun de l’ombra sua molesta’ [each on the thornbush of the soul that harmed it] (Inf., xiii. 108). The word ‘pruno’ is used by Dante only four times in the Commedia, twice here, once in Paradiso xiii, and, unfortunately, not in Purgatorio at all but in Paradiso xxiv.53 This final instance is so suggestive that we might be forgiven for momentarily stepping outside of our allotted cantos to have a look.

      ‘Se ‘l mondo si rivolse al cristianesmo’,
diss’io, ‘sanza miracoli, quest’uno
è tal, che li altri non sono il centesmo:
     ché tu intrasti povero e digiuno
in campo, a seminar la buona pianta
che fu già vite e ora è fatta pruno’. (Par., xxiv. 106–11)

[‘If the world turned to Christianity’, said I, ‘without miracles, this one miracle is such that the others are not a hundredth of it: for you came into the field poor and hungry to sow the good plant, formerly a vine but now become a thornbush’.]

28This is during the examination on faith by St Peter in the Heaven of the fixed stars. Dante is talking about the Church, which should have been a vine but instead is a thornbush. The souls in Heaven, the ‘alta corte santa’ [the high and holy court] (Par., xxiv. 112), so another court, this time high and holy unlike the envy-ridden court which led to the downfall of Pier (Inf., xiii. 64–69), praises God for Dante’s statement. The description at Paradiso, xxiv. 111 encapsulates almost perfectly the situation of Pier della Vigna, once a vine now a thornbush. This example is a reminder of the particular difficulty for the vertical readings confronted with the wide-ranging infra-textuality of the Commedia, which does not rigidly follow its own well-defined schemata.

29Nevertheless, a return to the cantos xiii, and Paradiso, does have an interesting thread to pick up. In Thomas’s final piece of advice to Dante, not to jump to conclusions or make premature judgements, we find the third use of the term pruno. This is the conclusion of the canto:

      ‘Non sien le genti, ancor, troppo sicure
a giudicar, sì come quei che stima
le biade in campo pria che sien mature;
     ch’i’ ho veduto tutto ‘l verno prima
lo prun mostrarsi rigido e feroce,
poscia portar la rosa in su la cima;
     e legno vidi già dritto e veloce
correr lo mar per tutto suo cammino,
perire al fine a l’intrar de la foce.
     Non creda donna Berta e ser Martino,
per vedere un furare, altro offerere,
vederli dentro al consiglio divino;
     ché quel può surgere, e quel può cadere’.
(Par., xiii. 130–42)

[And let not people be too sure to judge, like one who appraises the oats in the field before they are ripe: for I have seen all the previous winter long the thornbush appear rigid and fierce, but later bear the rose upon its tip, and I have seen a ship run straight and swift across the sea for all its course, only to perish at last when entering the port. Let not dame Bertha and messer Martin believe, because they see one stealing, another offering, that they see them within God’s counsel, for that one can rise up, and this one can fall.]

  • 54 Conte mentions Sapia’s ‘aggressività urtante, bellicosa’ [provocative and belligerent aggressivenes (...)
  • 55 On Pier and Boethius, Pastore Stocchi mentions Benvenuto’s comment (Pastore Stocchi, pp. 419–21). B (...)

30The final verse might well sum up the life of Pier and also the final repentance of Sapia. Although this could apply so generally to the Commedia as to encompass all souls in Inferno and Purgatorio, both these characters include quite detailed accounts of aspects of their earthly lives, a spectacular fall from grace in Pier’s case, and a very blunt confession of sin by Sapia, albeit a vice not yet fully purged and which for some readers seems to exert its influence as she speaks.54 If we read the Paradiso xiii examples more closely they can connect with the two characters; the ‘prun’ which brings forth a rose might well suggest that Pier’s suicide was a hasty misjudgment and not an end to his problems. If he had indeed been ‘giusto’ [just] and not made himself ‘ingiusto’ [unjust] (Inf., xiii. 72) perhaps he would have been destined for the ‘candida rosa’ [white rose] (Par., xxxi. 1) in which Dante is shown the souls of the blessed. Some commentators, including Benvenuto da Imola, describe Pier as a sort of anti-Boethius, and Boethius himself happens to be numbered among those in the Heaven of the Sun, though not in our canto xiii (Par., x. 124–29).55 The other example of hasty judgement which Aquinas mentions, the ship sinking in port, might be linked to the concluding verses of Purgatorio xiii, though perhaps much less obviously in this case. There Sapia delivers a criticism of ‘li ammiragli’ [the admirals] (Purg., xiii. 154) who have placed their hopes in money-making ventures which will come to nothing. The purchase of the sea port of Talamone and the search for the Diana, an underground stream, to provide Siena with sea access at least has a general nautical connection with the second example of the ship apparently safe in port.

Would you Adam and Eve it?

31The final connective thread I wish to present (rather than wholeheartedly propose) is a presence of the story of the fall in each of the cantos. Oddly enough, and I imagine purely coincidentally, the thirteenth terzina of each canto contains references, in varying degrees of strength, to the story in Genesis, however the presence is more general and I am certainly not arguing for a secret thirteenth terzina web of meaning, as alluring as that might be. Paradiso xiii is the most obvious and direct reference:

      ‘Tu credi che nel petto onde la costa
si trasse per formar la bella guancia
il cui palato a tutto ‘l mondo costa…’
(Par., xiii. 37–39)

[You believe that in the breast whence came the rib to form the lovely cheek whose palate is costly to all the world…]

32The context is a discussion about Adam, Christ and Solomon, so the circumlocution used to refer to Adam is of interest as the details of the creation of Eve and allusive inclusion of the story of the fall are actually superfluous to the point at hand, but do very directly introduce the story of the temptation of Eve by the serpent.

33The mention of serpents in Inferno xiii is evident enough:

      ‘Uomini fummo, e or siam fatti sterpi:
ben dovrebb’ esser la tua man più pia,
se state fossimo anime di serpi’. (Inf., xiii. 37–39)

[We were men, and now we have become plants: truly your hand should be more merciful had we been the souls of serpents.]

  • 56 ‘Se state fossimo anime di serpi. Riguarda la grande nemistà, che pose dio tra li serpi e ‘l seme d (...)
  • 57 Noted by Boyde, p. 5.
  • 58 Noted, amongst others, by Durling and Martinez, II, p. 221.

34The earliest mention of the story of the fall in connection with this verse appears to be by Lodovico Castelvetro in 1570, who makes much more sense of the reference by connecting it with Genesis 3.15: ‘I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel’.56 Inferno xiii has other connections with the Genesis story. The wood of the suicides is linked both with the ‘selva oscura’ [dark wood] (Inf., i. 3) which opens the Commedia, and the only other wood in the poem, which is the actual Garden of Eden, the earthly Paradise, at the top of the mountain of Purgatory.57 The voices Dante hears on entering the wood in Inferno xiii, which make him think there are people hiding, recall Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes after eating the fruit.58

35Connecting Purgatorio xiii to this thread may be trickier, but there is a possible way ahead. This is the thirteenth terzina, which basically explains that ‘invidia’ [envy] is purged here:

     E ‘l buon maestro: ‘Questo cinghio sferza
la colpa de la invidia, e però sono
tratte d’amor le corde de la ferza’. (Purg., xiii. 37–39)

[And my good master: ‘This circle whips the guilt of envy, and therefore the cords of the whip are braided of love’.]

36Reading envy into the story of the fall is not difficult, but may well be a rather oblique path to say the least. However, we can find some texts to bolster this proposition. Commenting on Inferno, xiii. 66: ‘morte commune e de le corti vizio’ [the common death and vice of courts], the fourteenth-century commentator Guglielmo Maramauro explains:

  • 59 Guglielmo Maramauro, Expositione sopra L’Inferno di Dante Alligieri, ed. by Pier Giacomo Pisoni and (...)

E questo dice però che Lucifer, vedendo che Dio avea creato Adam ed Eva per meterli al loco ove esso era stato caciato, per questa invidia esso argumentò de far peccare questi; e per lo dicto pecato, tuta la umana generatione meritò la morte.59

[And he says this because Lucifer, seeing that God had created Adam and Eve to put them in the place from which he had been chased out, because of this envy he [Lucifer] planned to make them sin; and for this sin the whole human race deserved death.]

37The basis for this interpretation is scriptural, from the Book of Wisdom: ‘But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world’ (Wisdom 2.24), adding a further (and tenuous) link back to Solomon.

Conclusion

38There is no doubt that this method of reading the Commedia highlights features of individual cantos which have hitherto gone unremarked or remained in the background. However, the question remains as to whether we are discovering connections and readings placed there intentionally by Dante or crossing a line between interpretation and creation. ‘Would you Adam and Eve it?’ I’m not sure.

Notes

1 George Corbett and Heather Webb, ‘Introduction’, in Vertical Readings in Dante’s ‘Comedy’: Volume 1, ed. by George Corbett and Heather Webb (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2015), pp. 1–11 (p. 2). They list existing studies of the cantos vi, vii, x, xi, xv, xvi, xxv, xxvi and xxvii.

2 Richard Kay, ‘Parallel Cantos in Dante’s Commedia’, Res publica litterarum 15 (1992), 109–13; Corbett and Webb, ‘Introduction’, pp. 3–4.

3 Kay, p. 112

4 Ibid., pp. 111–12. The canto groups for these ten examples are (in order of discussion) 1. Inf., xxxi, Purg. and Par., xxx; 2. Inf., xxii, Purg. and Par., xxi; 3. Inf., xvii, Purg. and Par., xvi; 4. Inf., xxiii, Purg. and Par., xxii; 5. Inf., vii, Purg. and Par., vi; 6. Inf., xxix, Purg. and Par., xxviii; 7. Inf., v, Purg. and Par., iv; 8. Inf., xvi, Purg. and Par., xv; 9. Inf., xiii, Purg. and Par., xii; 10. Inf., xxvi, Purg. and Par., xxv.

5 See Amilcare A. Iannucci, ‘Autoesegesi dantesca. La tecnica dell’ “episodio” parallelo’, Lettere Italiane 33 (1981), 305–28. Noted too by Corbett and Webb, ‘Introduction’, p. 4.

6 Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, ed., trans. and notes by Robert M. Durling and Ronald L. Martinez, 3 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996–2011), II (later cited as Durling and Martinez).

7 Ibid., II, p. 33.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid., II, pp. 46–47.

10 Ibid., III, p. v. Corbett and Webb note the ‘intensive self-referentiality of the entire poem’ (‘Introduction’, p. 3).

11 The vulgate text runs ‘hic sapientia est qui habet intellectum conputet numerum bestiae numerus enim hominis est et numerus eius est sescenti sexaginta sex’, so the repetition of ses/sex is evident enough. Biblia Sacra. Iuxta vulgatam versionem, ed. by B. Fischer, R. Weber, R. Gryson, et al. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), p. 1895.

12 Corbett and Webb discuss this ‘thorny question’ (‘Introduction’, pp. 6–8).

13 Benvenuto da Imola, Comentum super Dantis Aldigherij Comoediam, ed. by G. F. Lacaita, 5 vols (Florence: Barbera, 1887), I, p. 17. For the standard discussion of the position of the author see Alastair Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages, 2nd edn (Philadelpha, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988).

14 Noted also by Zygmunt G. Barański, ‘Without Any Violence’, in Vertical Readings in Dante’s ‘Comedy’, pp. 181–202 (p. 182). Dante also uses the term ‘canto’ at Par., i. 12 (though here meaning cantica); v. 139; and xii. 6.

15 Vincent Foster Hopper, Medieval Number Symbolism: Its Sources, Meaning, and Influence on Thought and Expression (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2000), pp. 131–32.

16 Pietro Bongo, Mysticae numerorum significationis liber, 2 vols (Bergamo: Comino Ventura, 1585). This edition can be consulted electronically in the digital library of the Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum at the Bayerische StaatsBibliothek: http://reader.digitalesammlungen.de/de/fs1/object/display/bsb10147847_00001.html. This work forms the basis of the later Numerorum Mysteria (Bergamo: Comino Ventura, 1591).

17 Bongo, Mysticae numerorum significationis liber, II, pp. 31–35.

18 The list begins: ‘Haec numerus Iudaeorum taxat impietatem’. Ibid., II, p. 131. Besides the murmuring against God, Bungus also notes that Psalm xiii illustrates the anger of the Jews, and that thirteen is the age of circumcision. The most relevant biblical texts are Exodus 16.1–35 and Numbers 20.1–5. See too Hopper, p. 131.

19 Bongo, Mysticae numerorum significationis liber, II, pp. 31–32. Bungus names Hugh as his source for a reference to the death of Christ, but the wording of the Old Testament examples immediately preceding this reference is also very close to the text of the Miscellanea vi, titulus xxvi, in Patrologia Latina, ed. by J. P. Migne, 221 vols (Paris: Garnier, 1844–55), 177, cols 826–27. The work is attributed to Hugh, but listed in the Patrologia Latina as Incertus since it is not known whether it was compiled by Hugh himself or others.

20 Hugh of St Victor, ‘De Scripturis et Scriptoribus Sacris’, in Patrologia Latina, ed. by J. P. Migne, 221 vols (Paris: Garnier, 1844–1855), 175, cols 22–23. Russell Peck includes Hugh’s nine guidelines in an appendix. See Russell Peck, ‘Number as Cosmic Language’, in Essays in the Numerical Criticism of Medieval Literature, ed. by Caroline D. Eckhardt (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1980), pp. 15–64 (pp. 58–59). Hopper also lists and discusses them (pp. 100–04).

21 Peck, pp. 59–62.

22 Hopper (p. 103) suggests that the creation of such a list indicates Hugh’s awareness of the problem of ‘looseness’ in the practice of numerological interpretation.

23 Isidore of Seville, ‘Liber numerorum qui in sanctis scripturis occurrunt’, in Patrologia Latina, ed. by Migne, 83, col. 193.

24 Hopper, p. 129.

25 Ibid., pp. 4–6.

26 Now in De Sanctis, Opere V. Lezioni e Saggi su Dante, ed. by Sergio Romagnoli, 2nd edn (Turin: Einaudi, 1967), pp. 353–68. It is first in the list of lecturae of Inferno xiii in Censimento dei Commenti danteschi. 3. Le “lecturae Dantis” e le edizioni delle Opere di Dante dal 1472 al 2000, ed. by Ciro Perna and Teresa Nocita (Rome: Salerno, 2012), p. 115.

27 In alphabetical order of author for ease of reference: Cesare Angelini, ‘Canto XIII’ in Lectura Dantis Scaligera. Inferno (Florence: Le Monnier, 1971), pp. 425–45; Ignazio Baldelli, ‘Il canto XIII dell’“Inferno”, in Nuove letture dantesche (Florence: Le Monnier, 1970), II, pp. 33–45; John C. Barnes, ‘Inferno XIII’, in Dante Soundings: Eight Literary and Historical Essays, ed. by David Nolan (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1981), pp. 28–58; Ettore Bonora, ‘Da De Sanctis a Spitzer. il canto XIII dell’Inferno’, in Interpretazioni Dantesche (Modena: Mucchi Editore, 1988), pp. 51–66; Patrick Boyde, ‘Inferno XIII’, in Cambridge Readings in Dante’s Comedy, ed. by Kenelm Foster and Patrick Boyde (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 1–22; Gabriele Muresu, ‘La selva dei disperati (“Inferno” XIII)’, in Il Richiamo dell’Antica Strega. Altri saggi di semantica dantesca (Rome: Bulzoni, 1997), pp. 11–71; Manlio Pastore Stocchi, ‘Canto XIII. “Io son colui che tenni ambo le chiavi / del cor di Federigo […]”’, in Lectura Dantis Romana. Cento Canti per Cento Anni. I. Inferno 1. Canti I–XVII, ed. by Enrico Malato and Andrea Mazzucchi (Rome: Salerno, 2013), pp. 410–23; Giorgio Petrocchi, ‘Canto XIII’ in Lectura Dantis Neapolitana. Inferno, ed. by Pompeo Giannantonio (Naples: Loffredo, 1986), pp. 231–42; Giorgio Petrocchi, ‘Canto XIII: The Violent Against Themselves, in Lectura Dantis: Inferno, ed. by Allen Mandelbaum, Anthony Oldcorn and Charles Ross (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998), pp. 178–84; Vincenzo Presta, ‘In margine al canto XIII dell’“Inferno”’, Dante Studies 90 (1972), 13–24; Gianvito Resta, ‘Il canto XIII dell’“Inferno”’ in Inferno. Letture degli anni 1973-’76 (Rome: Bonacci, 1977), pp. 319–60; Kurt Ringger, ‘Pier della Vigna o la poesia del segno. Per una rilettura del canto XIII dell’ “Inferno”’, Medioevo Romanzo 5 (1978), 85–99; Olga Sedakova, ‘Canti XII–XIII–XIV. Sotto il cielo della violenza’, in Esperimenti danteschi. Inferno 2008, ed. by Simone Invernizzi (Genoa: Marietti, 2009), pp. 107–19; Leo Spitzer, ‘Il Canto XIII dell’Inferno’, in Letture dantesche. Inferno, ed. by Giovanni Getto (Florence: Sansoni, 1955), pp. 221–48; Claudia Villa, ‘Canto XIII’, in Lectura Dantis Turicensis. Inferno, ed. by Georges Güntert and Michelangelo Picone (Florence: Cesati, 2000), pp. 183–91.

28 The lecturae of Purgatorio xiii consulted, by author: Salvatore Accardo, ‘Il canto XIII del “Purgatorio”’, in Purgatorio. Letture degli anni 1976-’79 (Rome: Bonacci, 1981), pp. 263–81; Pietro Conte, ‘Il canto XIII del “Purgatorio”’, in Nuove letture dantesche (Florence: Le Monnier, 1970), IV pp. 129–48; Violetta De Angelis, ‘Canti XIII–XIV–XV. Gli invidiosi e l’ingresso nella cornice dell’ira’, in Esperimenti danteschi. Purgatorio 2009, ed. by Benedetta Quadrio (Genoa: Marietti, 2010), pp. 135–46; Andreas Kablitz, ‘Canto XIII’, in Lectura Dantis Turicensis. Purgatorio, ed. by Georges Güntert and Michelangelo Picone (Florence: Cesati, 2001), pp. 199–209; Carmelo Musumarra, ‘Canto XIII’ in Lectura Dantis Scaligera. Purgatorio (Florence: Le Monnier, 1971), pp. 439–71; Emilio Santini, ‘Il Canto XIII del Purgatorio’, in Letture dantesche. Purgatorio, ed. by Giovanni Getto (Florence: Sansoni, 1964), pp. 921–40; Mirko Volpi, ‘Canto XIII. Dante tra Superbia e Invidia’ in Lectura Dantis Romana. Cento Canti per Cento Anni. II. Purgatorio 1. Canti I–XVII, ed. by Enrico Malato and Andrea Mazzucchi (Rome: Salerno, 2014), pp. 367–99; Albert Wingell, ‘Among the Envious: Seeing and Not Seeing’, in Lectura Dantis: Purgatorio, ed. by Allen Mandelbaum, Anthony Oldcorn and Charles Ross (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008), pp. 129–40; Albino Zenatti, Il canto XIII del Purgatorio (Florence: Sansoni, 1909).

29 The lecturae of Paradiso xiii consulted, by author: Marcello Aurigemma, ‘Il canto XIII del “Paradiso”’, in Nuove letture dantesche (Florence: Le Monnier, 1973), VI, pp. 129–46; Courtney Cahill, ‘The Limitations of Difference in Paradiso XIII’s Two Arts: Reason and Poetry’, Dante Studies 114 (1996), 245–69; Antonio Del Castello, ‘Canto XIII. Il “re sufficïente” e la divina sapienza del governo’ in Lectura Dantis Romana. Cento Canti per Cento Anni. III. Paradiso. 1. Canti I–XVII, ed. by Enrico Malato and Andrea Mazzucchi (Rome: Salerno, 2015), pp. 382–407; Remo Fasani, ‘Canto XIII’, in Lectura Dantis Turicensis. Paradiso, ed. by Georges Güntert and Michelangelo Picone (Florence: Cesati, 2001), pp. 193–202; Giancarlo Rati, ‘Il canto XIII del “Paradiso”’, in Paradiso. Letture degli anni 1979-’81 (Rome: Bonacci, 1989), pp. 353–79; Carlo Sini, ‘Canti XIII–XIV. Salomone e il cielo della luce’, in Esperimenti danteschi. Paradiso 2010, ed. by Tommaso Montorfano (Genoa: Marietti, 2010), pp. 157–68; Ruggiero Stefanelli, ‘Canto XIII’, in Lectura Dantis Neapolitana. Paradiso, ed. by Pompeo Giannantonio (Naples: Loffredo, 2000), pp. 279–98; Giuseppe Toffanin, ‘Canto XIII’, in Lectura Dantis Scaligera. Paradiso (Florence: Le Monnier, 1968), pp. 447–74; Giuseppe Vandelli, ‘Il Canto XIII del Paradiso’, in Letture dantesche. Paradiso, ed. by Giovanni Getto (Florence: Sansoni, 1964), pp. 1601–24.

30 Del Castello, p. 382; Rati also notes the negative response to the didactic nature of the canto (Rati, p. 353). Anna Maria Chiavacci Leonardi in her ‘introduzione al canto xiii’ offers this judgement: ‘Se non ci fosse al suo interno la breve ma grande apertura teologica sul tema […] della creazione dell’ universo, il canto resterebbe forse il più povero, come qualità inventiva e drammatica, di tutta la cantica’. See Dante Alighieri, Commedia, ed. by Anna Maria Chiavacci Leonardi, 3 vols (Milan: Mondadori, 1991–1997), III, p. 357. Cahill is more positive, but does acknowledge the canto’s bad reputation in earlier lecturae (Cahill, pp. 245, 266).

31 As a single example of cross-referencing, Musumarra, in discussing Purgatorio xiii makes reference to the following other cantos: Inferno iii, iv, v, vi, xv, xviii, xxix; Purgatorio xiv, xv, xx, xxxiii; Paradiso v, xiv, xxi, xxiii, xxiv, xxvii, xxxii. No connection is made to the other cantos xiii.

32 Zenatti, pp. 8–9, 19, 27. Zenatti acknowledges an earlier study as the source of his point on envy (p. 37). Not a lectura as such, the study is Giovanni Federzoni, Rispondenze fra il canto XIII. dell’Inferno e il XIII. del Purgatorio. Una noterella sulla espressione dantesca Savia non fui (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1904).

33 De Nicola, p. 273.

34 Ibid., p. 274.

35 Ibid., p. 284.

36 Ibid., p. 284, n. 52.

37 Muresu, p. 37.

38 Pietro M. Viola, ‘Un trittico del comportamento politico. I tredicesimi canti della Commedia’, Trimestre 4 (1970), 39–63. It also appears in the collection of articles by Viola, Ricerche di metodo e di struttura su Dante e Manzoni (Cagliari: Fossataro, 1969), pp. 229–66. Viola explains that the article was awaiting publication in Trimestre when the book came out, hence the unusual sequence of dates (p. 380). The page references here are to the article. I would like to thank Giuseppe Ledda for alerting me to the appearance of the article in the book.

39 Ibid., p. 39.

40 Ibid., p. 40

41 Ibid., pp. 42–43.

42 Ibid., pp. 51–53.

43 Ibid., pp. 42–46.

44 This approach may lay claim to an illustrious predecessor in Charles Singleton, ‘The Poet’s Number at the Centre’, Modern Language Notes 80 (1965), 1–10.

45 Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia, ed. by Umberto Bosco and Giovanni Reggio, 3 vols (Florence: Le Monnier, 2002), I, p. 210; II, p. 241; III, p. 229.

46 This has been fully examined by Luigi Blasucci, ‘Sul canto come unità testuale’, in Leggere Dante, ed. by Lucia Battagia Ricci (Ravenna: Longo, 2003), pp. 25–38. See too Elena Landoni, ‘Lectura Dantis tra Istituzionalità e Libertà’, in Dante in Lettura, ed. by Giuseppe De Matteis (Ravenna: Longo, 2005), pp. 51–62.

47 Michelangelo Picone, ‘Canto XIV’, in Lectura Dantis Turicensis. Paradiso, ed. by Georges Güntert and Michelangelo Picone (Florence: Cesati, 2001), pp. 203–18 (p. 203).

48 See Sedakova, De Angelis and Sini.

49 The inter-cantica for Purgatorio xiii of Durling and Martinez mentions this (Durling and Martinez, II, p. 221).

50 The Dartmouth Dante Project (http://dante.dartmouth.edu) gives Scartazzini as the earliest reference to the ‘De arte venandi cum avibus’, in his comment on Purg., xiii. 70–72. Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia, ed. by G. A. Scartazzini, 6th edn, rev. by G. Vandelli (Milan: Hoepli, 1911), p. 474. Scartazzini refers to Frederick’s De arte venandi cum avibus (II. 53). A more recent edition based on a particular manuscript gives II. 29 as the chapter on the method of sewing up of the birds’eyelids, ‘De modo ciliandi’, mentioning a ‘filo’ [thread], but not specifying what material it is made from. Federico II di Svevia, De arte venandi cum avibus, ed. by Anna Laura Trombetti Budriesi, 3rd edn (Rome: Laterza, 2001), pp. 312–15.

51 Jacopo della Lana, Commento alla “Commedia”, ed. by Mirko Volpi, 4 vols (Rome: Salerno, 2009), II, p. 1193.

52 Lana, I, p. 411. A similar explanation is found in Benvenuto’s comment on Inferno xiii, though with rather strange reasoning: ‘Modo isti non possunt dici habuisse animam rationalem, quia ratio semper fugit mortem…’ [But they cannot be said to have had a rational soul, because reason always flees from death…] (I, p. 424).

53 Most of the lecturae of Inferno xiii do not mention these verses in Paradiso xxiv. The verses are briefly noted by Villa in her lectura of Inferno xiii (p. 191), and in more general studies of Pier, such as Anthony K. Cassell, ‘Pier della Vigna’s Metamorphosis: Iconography and History’, in Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio: Studies in the Italian Trecento in Honor of Charles S. Singleton, ed. by Aldo S. Bernardo and Anthony L. Pellegrini (Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1983), pp. 31–76 (pp. 35–36); and Muresu, pp. 77, 82–83.

54 Conte mentions Sapia’s ‘aggressività urtante, bellicosa’ [provocative and belligerent aggressiveness] (Conte, p. 139). Volpi finds Sapia to be the only soul in Purgatorio to offer a confession of this kind, ‘a narrare con tale precisione la propria vicenda’ [to tell her own story with such precision], making her seem more like the souls in Inferno (Volpi, ‘Dante tra superbia e invidia’, p. 389). On the other hand, Wingell argues for a more sympathetic interpretation of Sapia (Wingell, pp. 137–38).

55 On Pier and Boethius, Pastore Stocchi mentions Benvenuto’s comment (Pastore Stocchi, pp. 419–21). Benvenuto, I, p. 441.

56 ‘Se state fossimo anime di serpi. Riguarda la grande nemistà, che pose dio tra li serpi e ‘l seme della donna, di che si parla nel genesi’. This is from a search of the Dartmouth Dante Project.

57 Noted by Boyde, p. 5.

58 Noted, amongst others, by Durling and Martinez, II, p. 221.

59 Guglielmo Maramauro, Expositione sopra L’Inferno di Dante Alligieri, ed. by Pier Giacomo Pisoni and Saverio Bellomo (Padua: Antenore, 1998), p. 248.

Auteur

Lecturer in the Italian Department at the University of St Andrews. He is the author of Prophecies and Prophecy in Dante’s Commedia (2008), and has written articles on Dante and Ovid, inspiration in Dante, and Dante’s early commentators’ responses to their author’s ‘mistakes’. He is the co-organiser, with Claudia Rossignoli, of the Lectura Dantis Andreapolitana series, started in 2009 (http://lecturadantisandreapolitana.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk).

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