Dante’s Purgatory I

Dante Seeks to Save

The question, “Why does Dante seem to be the only human who gets to tour hell?” was once brought up in class.  Although this question was asked in context of Dante as the character, I am going to answer it regarding Dante as the author.  I believe that Dante (author) writes about his self-character exclusively visiting hell namely because he (author) is in the rare position of affecting the salvation of millions of readers.  His personal request to the reader, “Reader, my veil is woven now so thin, / sharpen your eyes to look upon the truth / and easily shall your vision pass within / “ (he then describes two angels, swords-in-hand, descending from Heaven, pgs. 83-85) conveys his sincere desire that this heavenly description be intently focused on.  Dante uses an additional personal address, “Reader, I want you not to lose the power / of your good resolution and intent, / hearing how God demands we pay the debt. / Don’t dwell upon the form of punishment / but on what follows…” (111) to prepare the reader for the point he hammers home in those last two lines of the passage.  One of the most incredible things I believe Dante accomplishes through his Divine Comedy is creating a source of learning about salvation (and damnation) that is appealing (because of it is so well-written) to people who reject Christian teaching from a church, priest, Bible-loving people, or anyone who evangelizes.  Dante (author and, oh what the heck, character) well done!

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