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Gravity and Piety: Machiavelli's Modern Turn

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2009


It has recently been suggested that in Machiavelli's appreciation of what is grave and what is ridiculous “can be recognized … the spirit of modernity in its early phases, when it was fresh, bright, and eager.” This admittedly problematical assertion draws attention to Machiavelli's transformation of the premodern perception of gravity, wherein gravity and piety are closely associated. In this article, we consider how Machiavelli changes men's approach to gravity and piety by examining in particular his treatment of Dante, a representative of the premodern point of view. We find that Machiavelli discards the old view of gravity and piety because of its utility to the church and because Christian gravity is a safeguard against too readlly taking oaths, one of the things critical for Machiavelli's enterprise.

Research Article
Copyright © University of Notre Dame 1990

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1. Mansfield, Harvey Jr., Machiavelli's New Modes and Orders (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979) p. 11;Google ScholarPrince XV (49),Google Scholar hereafter Pr.; and Discourses I. 54 (209),Google Scholar II. 1 (231), hereafter Disc. Citations to Machiavelli, unless otherwise noted will be to Tutte le opere di Niccolo Machiavelli, ed. Flora, Francesco and Cordie, Carlo, 2 vols. (Milan: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1949).Google Scholar Page numbers to this edition are included in parentheses.

2. Machiavelli, , Dialogo intorno alla nostra lingua, 26, in Niccolo Machiavelli e il “Dialogo intorno alla nostra lingua,” ed. Pollidori, Ornella C. (Florence: Olschki, 1978),Google Scholar hereafter Dial; Mansfield, , Modes and Orders, p. 11.Google Scholar Mansfield does not, I think, intend that we, having been exposed to the spirit of modernity, should lose heart entirely. In his next lines, he implies that Machiavelli's attempt to bring all within the control of his version of politics—i.e., to render all things grave and ridiculous—is the act of a philosopher, and later (p. 411, glossing Disc. III. 34 [410]) he identifies Machiavelli's grave men with philosophers. Machiavelli himself, this suggests, demonstrates that philosophy and old-style gravity, nonutilitarian gravity, are still possible, which is not to say that philosophy must necessarily be grave.

3. For Machiavelli and both traditions, but particularly the republican, the critical contemporary work is Pocock, J. G. A., The Machiavellian Moment (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975).Google Scholar The view that Machiavelli is both liberal and republican goes back much further, of course. In probably the most influential political theory text of the century, for example, George Sabine could say, in 1937, that “Despite the cynicism of Machiavelli's political judgments, there is no mistaking his esteem for liberal and lawful government” and his “favorable judgment of popular government,” A History of Political Theory, rev. ed. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1950) p. 348.Google Scholar For an introduction to the issues that divide Mansfield and his teacher Leo Strauss from other interpreters, see Mansfield's, Strauss's Machiavelli,” Political Theory 3 (1975): 372–84,CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Peterman, Larry, “Approaching Leo Strauss,” The Political Science Reviewer 16 (Fall 1986): 317–24.Google Scholar

4. Trattatello in laude di Dante, Sect. 8, in Le vite di Dante, Petrarca e Boccaccio, ed. Solerti, Angelo (Milan: Francesco Vallardi, 1904), p. 36.Google Scholar

5. Disc. I. 54 (209).Google Scholar See Aeneid I. 155;Google ScholarMansfield, , Modes and Orders, p. 159.Google Scholar The argument on gravity's calming men attributed to Virgil in Disc. I. 54Google Scholar may be contrasted with the argument on rousing men attributed to Virgil in Disc. 21.

6. Disc. II. 1 (231).Google ScholarMansfield, , Modes and Orders, pp. 189–90.Google Scholar

7. See, e.g., “Dante and the Setting for Machiavellianism,” APSR 76 (1982): 630–44;CrossRefGoogle ScholarMachiavelli versus Dante: Language and Politics in the Dialogue on LanguageInterpretation 10 (1982): 201–21;Google ScholarMachiavelli's Dante and the Sources of MachiavellianismPolity 20 (1987): 247–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar Machiavelli's references to Dante combine his various approaches to former writers and thinkers. For a start, Machiavelli often appeals to Dante as an authority. Overt Dantean references and reminiscences are liberally scattered through his formal and familiar writings, and he uses Dante to underscore both the theoretical and practical ends of his teaching. Thus, to offer widely divergent examples, the section of the Disc, devoted to the difference between ancient and modern religion relies on Dante to reinforce the undependability of princely succession (I. xi [127]) and a letter to Francesco Guicciardini (19 December 1525) uses Dante as the centerpiece of a discourse on the best strategy for marrying off daughters, a matter less exalted, perhaps, than that of princely succession but not unconnected. And as is the case with his other authorities, Machiavelli will alter Dante when it suits his purpose, even in the contexts where he quotes directly from him. The Disc's two explicit references to the poet, for instance, confuse Dante with Dante's Sordello (I. xi [127]) and Dante's Monarchy with his Convivio (I. liii [206]). Dante shares with others writers, as well, in sometimes serving as a silent target in Machiavelli's sallies against no longer acceptable ways of thinking. That is, Dante has a place, a particularly prominent place, among the other writers to whom Machiavelli compares or opposes his own views. Thus, in the case of the opening of Disc, book 2, Dante would be among the “many” who are of the wrong “opinion” about why the Roman Empire was successful. Machiavelli expressly mentions only Plutarch and Livy here, but the same wrong opinion provides the core of the Monarchy, which was available, and apparently well-known, in Ficino's Italian translation at the time Machiavelli composed the Disc. Indeed, Machiavelli calls attention to it just a few chapters before opening the discussion on the sources of Roman strength. For further development of the connection between the Disc. and Monarchy, see below n. 11.

Machiavelli's references to Dante also function as one of the devices through which he mitigates his silence regarding the most notable ancient writers. When he calls attention to Dante, he calls attention to a celebrated “philosofo-poetico” openly identified with the ancients, and especially Aristotle: the Divine Comedy places Aristotle, “the master of those who know,” together with Plato and Socrates in the forefront of the philosophic family in Limbo (Inf. 4. 130–5).Google Scholar Thus we find that Machiavelli's Dante, like the philosophers mentioned in Disc. II. v (246),Google Scholar articulates doctrines originally and most visibly set forth by Aristotle. In the formal debate which forms the core of the Dial., for example, Machiavelli has Dante quote a contemporary poet—Pulci—on the point that innovation is perilous, an idea that Dante, acknowledging Aristotle's influence, develops at length in his own writing (Dial. 47;Google ScholarConv. I. x).Google Scholar

8. David was “un uomo per arme, per dottrina, per giudizio eccellentissimo” (Disc. I. xixGoogle Scholar [I. 146]); Savonarola's writings demonstrate “la dottrina, la prudenza e la virtu dello animo suo” (Disc. I. xlvGoogle Scholar [I. 192]). See, on these similarly phrased judgments, Strauss, Leo, Thoughts on Machiavelli (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1958) pp. 305306,Google Scholar n. 68. On the verita effettuale, see Pr. XV (48).Google Scholar

9. Dial. 2226.Google Scholar

10. Republic 334a–b;Google Scholar“Lyceum Address,” in Collected Works, ed. Basler, Roy (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953) I. 114.Google Scholar

11. At the beginning of Monarchy II. i,Google Scholar the central of its three books, Dante derides the idea that Rome's imperial success rested on armed force rather than providence, a theme he carries through the remainder of the book. In the course of his argument, he identifies the Roman idea of fortune with the contemporary idea of providence: “by Hera (Pyrrhus) meant fortune, the cause which we more rightly call ‘divine providence’ (II. ix. 9).” At the beginning of Disc. II. i,Google Scholar the central of its three books, Machiavelli derides the idea that Rome's imperial success rested on fortune rather than virtue of arms, and uses the spurious attribution to Plutarch about Romans erecting temples to fortune to demonstrate this conventional, and pious, view. Thus, the Monarchy's conventionally pious position, wherein pagan fortune and divine providence are equated, is opposed by the Disc's attack on the conventionally pious position, wherein fortune becomes just another pagan god. This cannot, of course, definitively establish that Machiavelli intended to remind us of Dante at the outset of Disc. II.Google Scholar There are, however, other things that support the idea that the intention is present. Leo Strauss, for example, notes that the book has thirty three chapters, a number associated with Dante. For the latter and the connection, among other things, of Dante's statement on the volatility of the people with Virgil's on the effect of gravity and piety, see Strauss, , Thoughts, pp. 305306, 313, 314.Google Scholar Numerological determinations can offer nothing more than hints to a reader—Dante's identification of pagan fortune and Christian divine providence, we might mention, occurs in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Monarchy according to some editors (see Opere di Dante Alighieri, ed. Chiappelli, Fredi [Milan: Mursia, 1965]Google Scholar)—but in this case they add support to the idea that Machiavelli also has Dante in mind when he recalls Plutarch at the beginning of Disc. II. i.Google Scholar

12. It must be noted that some commentators, especially those who seem disturbed that Machiavelli could be so harsh to another Florentine hero, call in question the Dial's authenticity. The most recent work on the matter, that of Pollidori already cited, supports, however, the traditional view that the work is Machiavelli's. For the summary argument against Machiavelli's authorship, see Martelli, Mario, Una giarda fiorentina. Il ‘Dialogo della lingua’ attribuito a Niccolo Machiavelli (Rome: Salerno, 1978),Google Scholar and “Paralipomeni alla Giarda: venti tesi sul Dialogo della lingua,” Filologia e Critica ¾–4 (1979): 212–79.Google Scholar For the argument in favor of Machiavelli's authorship, see Pollidori, , Dial and Nuove Riflessioni sul “Discorso o dialogo intorno alla nostra lingua” di Niccolo Machiavelli (Rome: Salerno, 1981).Google Scholar I follow Pollidori's argument and position and adopt her critical edition of the text, included with an extensive commentary in her first volume and without commentary in the second. The best available translation of the Dial, is that of Hale, J. R. in The Literary Works of Machiavelli (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961).Google Scholar The troublesome relationship of Machiavelli's political and linguistic critiques of Dante in the Dial, is noted by Longfellow, who says, concerning its indictment of Dante, “there spake the politician, not the scholar,” in Dante in America, ed. Giamatti, A. Bartlett (Binghamton, NY: Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 1983), p. 42.Google Scholar

13. Dial. 6668,Google Scholar and Pollidori, , p. 247,Google Scholar n. 103; IIHIV II. iv. 279.Google Scholar The connection is well stated, I think, by the Earl of Shaftsbury: “I was the saying of an ancient sage that humour was the only test of gravity, and gravity of humour. For a subject which would not bear raillery was suspicious; and a jest which would not bear a serious examination was certainly false wit” (Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour, Sec. 5.). On these matters, I think, Strauss's reply to Burnet, (Socrates and Aristophanes [New York: Basic Books, 1966] p. 316,Google Scholar n. 20) is helpful: “To state my criticism of Burnet more simply, one of his two canons for the interpretation of comedy is based on the premise that ‘statements of facts are not funny’—a premise that would be true only if there were never any funny facts.”

14. Clizia, Prologo (II. 610, 611).Google Scholar

15. Machiavelli's examples, Dial. 66,Google Scholar are a cheating servant, a ridiculous old man, a love crazed youth, a wheedling harlot, and a greedy parasite. The list may be usefully compared with those of the Mandragola, Prologo (II. 561),Google Scholar and the Clizia, Prologo (II. 611).Google Scholar Insofar as method is concerned, of course, Machiavellian comedy is not very far removed from classical comedy. Insofar as gravity and piety are concerned, however, the matter is different. The greatest ancient comic poet Aristophanes, for example, looked to remind his audience of what happens when piety and gravity fail, whereas Machiavelli appears to mock piety and gravity. Machiavelli, in short, can be said to subscribe to the version, the modern version, of comedy denounced by Rousseau: “the more the comedy is amusing and perfect, the more its effect is disastrous for morals [manners],” “The Letter to M. D'Alembert on the Theatre,” trans. Bloom, Allan, in Politics and the Arts (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1960), p. 34.Google Scholar On the other hand, given the seriousness with which he approaches comedy and the emphasis he puts upon it in the Dial., Machiavelli may be said to appreciate the claim that “in the end the comic reveals the truth more profoundly than the tragic,” Jaffa, Harry, “John Adams Wettergreen: 1943–1989,” The Proposition, June–July 1989.Google Scholar

16. Dial. 65.Google Scholar Machiavelli does not speak of either tragedy or history in the Dial., the two other writing forms which he claims for himself (The Chief Works, ed. Gilbert, Allan, 3 vols. [Durham: Duke University Press, 1965], 2: 987).Google Scholar

17. The combination of civic commitment and piety represented in Cacciaguida may be seen in part of his concluding remarks on his city: “To this serene, to this beautiful live of citizens, to this faithful citizenry (fida cittadinanza), to this sweet home, Mary, besought by pains of birth, gave me; and in your ancient Baptistery together I became Christian and Cacciaguida” (Para. XV. 130–35).Google Scholar The whole Cacciaguida encounter spans Para. XV–XVIII. See on Dante's contrast between old and new Florence, Davis, Charles, “Il buon tempo antico,” in Florentine Studies, ed. Rubinstein, Nicholas (London: Dent, 1968);Google ScholarMorghen, Robert, “Dante and the Florence of the Good Old Days,” in From Time to Eternity, ed. Bergin, Thomas (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967);Google ScholarPeterman, Larry, “Dante and Happiness: A Political Perspective,” Medievalia et Humanistica, New Series 10 (1981): 8485.Google Scholar Machiavelli calls our attention to the elements of Dante's opinion in his indictment of Dante by indicating the similar unbelievability of Dante's attack on Florence and three occurrences in the Comedy: Brutus in the mouth of Lucifer, the encounter with 5 Florentine thieves in Hell, and the meeting with Cacciaguida in Paradise. In combination these examples show Dante's resistance to the contemporary world as understood by Machiavelli and his acceptance of ancient standards. In punishing Brutus Dante opposes the positive evaluation of Brutus by Machiavelli and his republican contemporaries; the meeting with the thieves indicates Dante's view of what Florence has become—it eventuates in one of his harshest invectives on the condition of the city; and the encounter with Cacciaguida reveals the old view of nobility, and of the noble lifestyle of ancient Florence, upon which is based Dante's criticism of contemporary politics.

18. Compare, e.g., Dante's opening quotations in the debate, Dial. 36, where he raises the old ideas of transformation identified with the pagan Glaucus and of reformation identified with the Christian Folco, with Machiavelli's closing quotations, Dial. 50,Google Scholar where he recalls the religious discord created by Mahommet and Vanni Fucci's act of religious defiance and prediction of civil strife, which together bespeak conditions that deny any hope for a recreation of the politics of the older time. In other words, Dante's recollection of the possibilities and hopes represented by the medieval Christian-Aristotelian world are counterbalanced by Machiavelli's recollection of examples that point to the sad conditions, religious and political, of the real world.

19. Dial. 26.Google Scholar In general, Machiavelli, an exile himself of course, is somewhat ambiguous on the subject of exile and exiles, although exiles clearly appear worse off than those viewed as mad. The questions which exile raises may be seen by comparing Flor. Hist. IV. 33 (II. 217–18),Google Scholar where Rinaldo degli Albizzi argues that exile with freedom is better than citizenship with slavery, and, 100 chapters later, VII. 27 (II. 366–67), where Bernardo Nardi says that it is better to die in Florence than live in exile. One thing, however, is clear about exiles. In their desire to return home, they are always threats to their native cities. On the possibilities inherent in being considered mad, see Disc. III. ii (332–33).Google Scholar Historically, Machiavelli's analysis of Dante's behavior leaves a number of loose ends. The Dante of the Flor. Hist. and the Dante of the Dial, turn out, for example, to be different. Whereas the Dial, leaves the impression that Dante's exile followed his transformation and that his suffering might have eased had he behaved more consistently, the Flor. Hist. portrays the exile more as a consequence of party politics than of anything Dante individually said or did—Dante was included among the Whites exiled by the papally supported Blacks in 1302—and it does not suggest that Dante's actions after his exile had anything to do with his not being allowed to return to the city; “the larger part of the Ghibellines and a few of the Whites,” among them Dante, were not restored because they were mentioned by name in the original exiling order (Flor. Hist. II. 20, 24Google Scholar [83–84, 89]). Disparities like this understandably offend the sensibilities of historically oriented critics of the Dial., but they serve to underscore the tract's dramatic force. Coupling Machiavelli's characterization of Dante with his statements on how to write well in the vernacular and on comedy, one finds that the Dial.'s Dante better meets the standards of a dramatic than a historical figure. This not only resolves, or at least diminishes, the bothersome historical details of the Dial.—e.g., Machiavelli's description of contemporary Florence as prosperous, famous, happy, and tranquil (24) —it also allows the reader to take a fresh look at Machiavelli's characterization of Dante and what it represents. It is intriguing, for example, that Dante, who in Flor.Hist. II. 18 (II. 81)Google Scholar is said to a leader of the Signors—his “advice and prudence” are singled out—becomes “Dante the poet” when he and the other Whites are banished in Flor.Hist. II. 20Google Scholar (II. 83). For Machiavelli's general admiration for Dante, see Quaglio, A. E., “Machiavelli,” in the Enciclopedia Dantesca (Rome, 1971).Google Scholar For an earlier, more theoretical, account of the relationship of Dante and Machiavelli, see Ercole, Francesco, “Dante e Machiavelli,” Quaderni di Politica 2 (1922): 554.Google Scholar

20. Cf. Dial. 24,Google ScholarInf. 26. 16.Google Scholar The latter passage is where Dante mentions the 5 thieves Machiavelli recalls at Dial. 26.Google Scholar

21. Dial. 79;Google Scholar“Letter to Guicciardini,” in The Chief Works and Others, ed. Gilbert, Allan, 3 vols. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1965), 2: 987.Google Scholar For the religious overtones of Dante's use of confessione, see, e.g., Para. 31. 638,Google Scholar where confession points to a “desire” for the good beyond that is interrupted when men lose “hope.” References to the Divine Comedy will be to the John Sinclair text and translation, 3 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1961).Google Scholar Cf. Mansfield, , Modes and Orders, pp. 159–60.Google Scholar In his initial indictment of Dante, , Dial. 24,Google Scholar Machiavelli says that if Dante could “see” Florence as Machiavelli sees her he would have to “accuse himself” or choose to “die anew.” Dante's “confession” and “departure” at the end of the Dial, amounts to a vitiated form of this penalty, i.e., “confession” stands to “self-accusation” as “departing” stands to dying a second time.

22. Dante's only alternative to regaining his gravity and accepting the silencing of the old point of view, Machiavelli suggests in his indictment, Dial. 26,Google Scholar would have been to forgo any semblance of gravity by looking upon everything as he looked upon Florence, which would have meant being looked upon as a “madman.” Short of being considered mad in the present environment, in other words, Dante's only recourse was either to adopt the Machiavellian view of gravity and dispose of piety or continue to associate gravity and piety and accept that there was no place for himself in Machiavelli's world. As Dante's departure signifies, he takes the latter course.

23. Dial. 5859.Google Scholar Machiavelli's animus to the organized church, and his “antitheological passion”—Leo Strauss's phrase, History of Political Philosophy, ed. Strauss, Leo and Cropsey, Joseph, 2nd ed. [Chicago: Rand McNally, 1972] p. 269)Google Scholar–reverberate here. Machiavelli makes sure we know what the court of Rome stands for when, twenty-two paragraphs and exchanges earlier (Dial. 38)Google Scholar, he has Dante say that his curial language is that of the pope and the duke. In this respect, Machiavelli reminds us of Dante's argument, most explicitly stated at the end of the Monarchy, for independent and simultaneous secular and religious rulers. Machiavelli's savage statement about the “filthy usages of Lombardy” at the very end of the Dial, may be connected to his concern about the potential for a Milanese court.

24. Prologo, (II. 561–62),Google Scholar The Mandragola directly recollects Dante and the Dial. 26 lines later, when Machiavelli says that “in every part of the world where si is sounded” he does not stand in awe of anyone (cf. Dial. 1314, Mandragola [262]).Google Scholar For the idea of gravity as a quality of the wise, see Mansfield, , Modes and Orders, p. 401.Google Scholar

25. Disc. I. xiii (132).Google Scholar Publius Ruberius replaces Livy's Publius Valerius. On the change, see, Fr. Walker's note in his edition of the Disc., 2 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950) 2:4041.Google ScholarStrauss, Leo, Thoughts, pp. 109110, 317,Google Scholar n. 58, observes that the name translates as public robber. See, too, Mansfield, , Modes and Orders, p. 76.Google Scholar

26. Purg. XVI. 109111.Google Scholar

27. Inf. 4. 3839, 112–13Google Scholar, 8. 69. The difficulty of Dante's use of grave is exposed in the latter case in the various way translators render the description of the inhabitants of Dis as gravi citidin. Some look upon the characterization positively, e.g., Gilbert (“worthy”); some negatively, e.g., Bergin (“sad”), Ciardi (“heavy”); and some neutrally, e.g., Musa (“fierce”), Bickersteth (“stern”). The best translation here, I think, would be to remain literal—”grave citizens”—as do Longfellow, Sinclair, and Singleton.

28. Grave, in this case, is applied both to the cloaks (cappe) and mantles (stole). Inf. 23. 65, 90.Google Scholar Frederick reputedly had condemned traitors dressed in leaden capes, which were then melted on their bodies. It is interesting that Singleton, , The Divine Comedy, vol. 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970): 397, 399,Google Scholar looking forward to line 70, identifies the first grave as weighty, but suggests in the second case that it means both heavy and grave. It would seem similarly arguable that the first grave also has the dual meanings. It is also interesting that the two references are at the ends of 26 lines.

29. Para. 21. 132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

30. Purg. 5. 72,Google Scholar 10. 115, Para. 32. 127.Google Scholar The treatment of the superbi Christians in Purg. 10Google Scholar is balanced by the treatment of the magnanimo Farinata in Inf. 10.Google Scholar The passage from Para. 32Google Scholar is the last use of grave in the Comedy (cf. Inf. 32. 74).Google Scholar

31. Cf. Pr. XV (49),Google ScholarPara. 24. 37.Google Scholar

32. The hypocrites punished by the “grave” cloaks in Inf. 23 are the friars Catalano de'Malavolti and Loderingo degli Andalo. They were members of an order popularly called the Godenti or Jovial Friars because of the laxity of their rules. Singleton quotes Villani on the aptness of the popular name: “their deeds followed their name, that is, they were more intent upon enjoying themselves than upon anything else” (The Divine Comedy [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973], 2: 399400).Google Scholar Following the idea that a Dantean punishment fits the crime, their being weighed down in Hell is a comment on their earthly pretense and undependability, here exchanged as Sinclair puts it for their “monkish gravity of pace and sidelong looks” (Divine Comedy, [New York: Oxford University Press, 1981], 1: 291).Google Scholar It is telling, in this respect, that in his Convivo (IV. xxvi. 197ff.), ed. Busnelli, G. and Vandelli, G., 2 vols. [Florence: Felice le Monnier, 1968],Google Scholar Dante especially associates gravezza, and severity, with old age, the age of fixity, rather than youth or manhood.

33. The references to the hypocrites and modern pastors are at the ends of sixtysix cantos. Those to the modern pastors and the early church are at the end of thirteen cantos. The comment on the superbi is at Purg. 10. 127–29.Google Scholar

34. The quotation from Beatrice occurs in the twentieth of the thirty-nine paragraphs and first-person exchanges bounded by Machiavelli's references to gravity. The paragraphs in which these references occur are the ninth of the first and last sections of the Dial. The contrast between ciancia and a sense of weight occurs too at Para. 29. 109–11,Google Scholar the only other occurrence of ciancia in the Comedy. There, Beatrice says that Christ did not say to his “first company: ‘Go forth, and preach ciance to the world’, but gave them, rather, truth as a foundation (verace fondamento)”; Thus, we have ciancia opposing grave in one instance and true fondamento in the other. This reinforces the opposition between ciancia and weightiness, a point reinforced a few lines later when Beatrice says that men “now preach” jokes and wisecracks, and all they want to do in effect is to get a laugh. Insofar as ciancia bears a relationship to “chance,” we might add, it becomes even more interesting from Machiavelli's point of view. From a Dantean vantage, it is equally intriguing that between the cantos in which ciancia is used, and in the middle canto of the Para. (17. 23, 108), Dante asks Cacciaguida about the “grave words” (parole gravi) that he had heard about the harsh future that awaited him, and how to deal with the blow that is “more grave” for the one who is unprepared. Thus, the grave future Dante foresees is contrasted with the gravity he urges upon Christians and the lightness to which contemporary preachers were inappropriately prone.

35. Machiavelli calls attention in Dial. 30 to Dante's attribution of hypocrisy to the Friars.

36. Para. 5.Google Scholar See Summa Theologiae II–II, q. 88, a. 10: The fidelity due to God does not require that one who has vowed something fulfill the vow if it is evil, useless, or a hindrance to a greater good. To avoid this, dispensations are granted, and thus dispensations are not contrary to the fidelity due to God” (Blackfriars, ed. [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963]).Google Scholar

37. Para. V. 6672;Google ScholarJudges 11: 3040;Google ScholarAeschylus, Oresteia; Aen. II. 116–19;Google ScholarOvid, , Meta. 12: 2438.Google Scholar Jephtha, for help against the Ammonites, promised to deliver the first person to emerge from his house and greet him upon his return. This turns out to be his daughter. Dante adopts, in the second case, the version of the Agamemnon story wherein Agamemnon vows to sacrifice the fairest thing born in his realm during the year in return for favorable winds. This turns out to be Iphigenia. Grandgent, (La Divina Commedia, ed. Singleton, Charles [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972], p. 670),Google Scholar notes with regard to this passage that St. Thomas quotes St. Jerome as saying of Jephtha that “in vowing he was foolish, and in keeping his vow he was wicked.”

38. Convivio III. xiv. 8Google Scholar (cf. III. i. 6), Matthew 10: 34–35. On the problems inherent in Dante's treatment of the dual compulsions of truth and friendship, see, Peterman, Larry, “Reading the ConvivioDante Studies, 103 (1985): 131–32.Google Scholar

39. My favorite dramatic example of the problem is that applied to Falstaff, when he is first introduced in IHIV: The depth of Falstaff's problem is exposed by the fact that he —the most voluble character in all of Shakespeare and the quickest at manufacturing defenses—remains silent in the face of this challenge.

40. Para. 5. 8081Google Scholar (Musa's gloss occurs on p. 64 of his edition). Dante refers to Jews one other time in this context, when he notes (1. 49) that it was mandatory (per necessita) that the Hebrews sacrifice though they could substitute one offering for another. This and the passage warning against being ridiculed by the Jews are at the end of 33 lines, at the center of which (1. 65), Beatrice, in the line after that quoted in the Dial., says “be faithful, but do not be unreasonable (siate fedli, e a cio far non biect).”

41. Disc. I. xiii (133).Google Scholar Cf. Livy, III. 20. 5.

42. Summa Theologiae II–II., q. 81, a. 1. In general, Dante can be said to have provided room for classical thought within a Christian world by asking less of men in terms of virtue than was true of the ancients. On this point, see Davis, Charles, “Brunetto Latini and Dante, Studi Medievali, ser. 3 (1967), 449;Google ScholarPeterman, Larry, “Dante and Happiness,” Medievalia et Humanistica, New Series, no. 10 (1981), 9798.Google Scholar

43. Mon. III. xvi. 10, 18, ed. Ricci, Pier (Verona: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1965).Google Scholar Cf. Para. 16. 109111.Google Scholar

44. Leviathan, part 1, chap. 14, ed. Oakeshott, Michael (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1960), p. 92. Cf. part 2, chap. 19, p. 243.Google Scholar

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Gravity and Piety: Machiavelli's Modern Turn
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