Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 February 2020
This chapter reappraises Dante’s relationship with his reader in Purgatorio through the interpretative paradigm of medieval preaching against vice. The terrace of pride is particularly interesting, in this context, as the medieval Church provides its implicit backdrop. The terrace’s centrepiece is Dante-character’s encounter with three prideful souls (Purg. XI, 37–142), and this encounter is framed by the three examples of humility (Purg. X, 34–93) and the twelve examples of pride (Purg. XII, 25–63). This chapter interprets these three groups together as a triptych.
Dante openly acknowledges that he sinned gravely in pride, and he models a spiritual exercise of conversion from pride to humility. As sinner and preacher, he invites his reader to reflect upon the three prideful souls identified (Omberto, Oderisi, and Salvani) and upon the three groups of prideful examples (delineated by the acrostic ‘VOM’) in counterposition with the three exempla of humility (Mary, King David, and Trajan).
Dante’s choice of exempla (which has puzzled critics) becomes understandable when, and only when, we interpret them in relation to each other in terms of his moral purpose for the terrace as a whole.