Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 June 2022
A first shock of the Paradiso is to discover that it has difference, diversity and degrees. Dante questions Piccarda, the lovely sister of his childhood pal, as to whether she doesn’t yearn to have a more exalted station and to be friends with people in higher places. Her response is that the virtue of charity quiets their will so that they do not want anything other than what they have. Since Piccarda was taken against her will by her powerful brother’s henchmen from the convent where she had wanted to sleep and wake with Christ her whole life, and forced into a marriage she did not want, her acquiescence to the will of others seems to endure even in heaven. Yet appeasement in the face of violent threats turns out to be the opposite of resting in the truth of one’s own particular capacity for goodness, in a spectrum of possible goodness that soars way over our heads.