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3 - Characterization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2018

Zygmunt G. Barański
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame, Indiana
Simon Gilson
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

¶This chapter studies the nature and meaning of the Comedy's third-person characters. It places them on a static-dynamic axis based on their involvement in Genette's three narrative levels: story, plot, and narration. Such a multi-faceted consideration of character respects, at once: the integrity of the poem’s fictional world (story); the represented personhood of its characters (plot); and the author’s discretion in composing the narrative (narration). ¶Encounters with static characters, who appear in only one zone of the Afterlife, often resemble bounded microtexts. Readers have sometimes viewed these as expressions of Dante’s ideological commitments. But a narrative relies on characterization to enunciate all claims, including conceptual ones. The multiple voices that produce the Comedy are thus inseparable from its engagement with its context, intellectual and otherwise. ¶Like the protagonist, dynamic characters travel across textual or eschatological boundaries. These figures are usually of structural importance and we often gain access to their perspective. They thus mediate between the diversity of dialogues with static characters and the unity of the protagonist’s journey.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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