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4 - Moral Structure

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 provides a comprehensive overview of the moral structure of each of the three realms of Dante’s afterlife: Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. It examines Dante’s sources, ethical criteria, and topography, as well as his representation of moral structure in the narrative itself, and its political implications. The first section analyses the four principal regions of Hell through Virgil’s rationale: the circles of incontinence, the ‘rings’ of violence, the ‘pouches’ of simple fraud, and the pit of treacherous fraud. It then explores the three groups of souls that Virgil strikingly leaves out: the ‘neutrals’, the virtuous pagans in Limbo, and the heretics. The second section addresses four key differences between Infernal and Purgatorial suffering, explains the moral theories of disordered love and the seven capital sins underpinning the seven terraces of Dante’s Purgatory, and examines the theologically original antechamber of Purgatory, and the Earthly Paradise at the mountain’s summit. The third section highlights Dante’s distinction between what Paradise is and how it is conveyed, and shows how his layered vision of Paradise overlaps the scheme of the four cardinal and three theological virtues with the theory of astral influence on personality.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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