Language in Paradiso

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Language in Paradiso
Now that Beatrice serves as guide through the third realm, it's important to remember her several names that emerged in the last cantos of Purgatorio - Revelation, Sanctifying Grace, Wisdom.

Name of Beatrice literally means "bearer of beatitude"

  • Language of God - Latinate

  • By inserting vernacular into Latin - grammatical language. Latin as a constant. Vernacular as living and dying.

  • Latin as the language of eternity and the divine - thus, hardly any in the Inferno, then a lot in Paradiso.

  • Closer to Go, lighther

  • Vision = issue in Paradiso

  • Paradiso - so embedded in mind of God - knows things, can't verbalise them. Experience as overwhelming. No words for it. Commedia ends - vision. Language stops. Writing begins

  • Caccia Guida - DC - mankind new gospel?

  • Shmoop:
    Unlike language in the first two canticheParadiso focuses more on the inadequacy of language in expressing God and his blessed. Most of what Dante encounters cannot be adequately described in words. Part of this has to do with language's function in relation to memory. Anything that can be said or written down can technically be memorized.

What cannot be put to memory (i.e., a lot of what Dante experiences in Heaven), cannot be put to paper. The issue of plain speech versus elaborate and highly metaphorical speech comes into play, further complicated by the fact that this text is in the form of poetry. Finally, Dante plays with language, using various puns, metaphors, and anagrams.

  • And here my memory defeats my wit:
    Christ's flaming from that cross was such that I
    can find no fit similitude for it.
    But he who takes his cross and follows Christ
    will pardon me again for my omission –
    my seeing Christ flash forth undid my force. (Par. XIV, 103-108)

  • Like all of the souls in Paradiso, Cacciaguida can read Dante's mind. This means that Dante's voicing of his questions is unnecessary. Thus, the telepathy of the blessed renders Dante silent. A minor theme in Paradiso is speaking only at the proper time; this makes silence an appropriate counterpoint to effective speech

  • Cacciaguida and the heavenly voice: Dante introduces his Christlike role in Mars by having Cacciaguida echo the heavenly voice heard at Christ's baptism--"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17)--when he identifies himself: "O my branch, in whom I took pleasure just awaiting you, I was your root" (Par. 15.88-89). 


  • (1) - Word 'gloria' in line 1 immediately distinguishes Paradiso in style and theme from Inferno and Purgatorio. Whilst other 2 cantiche focused largely on emotional and intellectual experiences of Dante himself (as traveller or poet), the Par draws reader's attention outwards to contemplation of a completely different realm of reality: glory = a word with scriptural and liturgical history which carries (in Italian) associations of light and illumination; in Latin, 'gloria' means a triumphal 'boast'.
    In Latin, the word derives from 'gloriari' - 'to boast' - and thus can be associated with triumphal displays of power and merit, eg. Paradiso 23:139.
    In biblical terms, word refers to the display of God's power and beauty in the created world, thus referring to the glory of God, his majesty, power and light. These are visible manifestations of divine light (though distinct from God himself). Psalm 19 uses 'glory' in this sense - "the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork".

  • From the Vita nuova onwards, Dante associates word with Beatrice - there describes her as 'la gloriosa donna della mia mente' - Beatrice is the principal reflection of divine light to Dante. She also reflects triumph of the Creator over death - through her that Dante realises the full significance of the Resurrection.

  • Human flesh is referred to in paradiso 14:43 as 'la carne gloriosa e santa'. Here, as with Beatrice, human form is celebrated as God's ultimate creation and triumph.

  • GLORY = a light expressing the creative power of God, in the order of the created universe. Appropriate response to the light = v. precise account of its operation.

  • Thus, fist terzina analyses how light is distrivted within its universal frame - through emination and reflection.

  • Order seen in opening cantos of Paradiso as a matter of quantity - of more and less.

  • Later (as early as canto 3) will see that order makes possible the diversity and variety of existence to Dante.

  • Extraordinary elevation of language (13-36) - classical allusion; sustained syntax; subtlety of vernacular rhythm = formal invocation more elaborate and daring than anything in Inferno or Purgatorio.

  • Addressing himself to the Christian God, he doesn't hesitate to employ the language of classical mythology - defines his appeal here to wisdom and intelligence of God through detailed allusion to sun god Apollo.

  • Virgil, as a character, has disappeared from Dante's poem but here, as throughout the Paradiso, the classical culture that Virgil (along with many others, especially Ovid) represents continues to provide a source of rhetric and elevated eloquence.

  • Linguistic texture of the Paradiso - strands woven together from Christian liturgy. astronomical science, political history, language of the street - myths and diction of classical texts make contribution.

  • "Inexplicable as the totality of Dante's vision may be, his 'ultimo lavoro' still allows him to make confident, even flamboyant, use of his classical learning.

  • Dante makes first distinction: Mount Parnassus (16) has twin peaks. One - Helicon - is sacred to the muses, invoked in Inferno 2:7 and Purg 1:8. Second, Cirra, is sacred to Apollo himself - ultimate power of wisdom and knowledge to which Dante appeals at line 36.

  • (28-33) refers to laurel crowns bestowed on poets and conquerors. Dante makes references to the origins of the laurel. Daphne (daughter of river Peneus, and loved by Apollo) - transformed into a laurel bush (Ovid Metamorphoses)

  • Apollo fleels joy 'born anew', 'letezia in su la lieta' whenever a conqueror or poet shows devotion to his own love (ie. God.)

  • (31-33) - cycle of flight, growth, rebirth, desire in lyrical flow of alliterations and enjambments.

  • 46-99 - Focus turns to Dante and Beatrice again: how can human be assimilated into the heavenly spheres - does it include the body?

  • Rich vein of imagery - light, fire, heat - how 'day and day were joined' (61-2).

  • Myth and latinate phrases employed - how D's present vision transcends highest precedents.

  • 70-72 - Speaks of insufficiency of Latin phrases. 'per verba' - through words.

  • Focus on vision and eyes; reflection; seeing through reflection; light and the sun - increases towards heaven; vision that D will have whilst Beatrice guides him

  • (70) - Neologism - Trasumanar - "transhumanizing" - D will now literally rise with Beatrice through the spheres and high above the moral condition. The kind of vision he will have while Beatrice guides him - now passes into the mode of vision possible through the special grace which she represents - grace desursum descendens - infused from on high. Not transcendence of humanity but its transference from one dimension to another. Implication - that body is carried over into an eternal world. Compare to paraidiso 14:43-5!

  • 75 - col tuo lume mi levasti - Beatrice, in the allegory, is the light that lifts the pilgrim Dante - she is a God-given light, which she is "infused" from above.

  • (97) - "Già contento requïevi" - LATINISM. "I was resting"

  • (103) - Beatrice's answer - beginning is typical. (103-5) - similarity of form between created universe and its creator. Invites intelligent beings such as humans and angels to participate in enjoyment of that order. No suggestion here that order is a kind of restrain tor chain of being - Beatrice offers a picture of a dynamic universe, driven by desire, in which each created object, whether intelligent or not, seeks to perform to the full the part that has been given to it.

  • 127-32 - admits form nt always perfectly realised, due to imperfections or unresponsiveness. Whilst Inferno and Purgatorio focused on these failings, the Paradiso is focused on the freedom and diversity of experience that comes with acceptance of Beatrice's logic and its 'novita' or newness, line 82.

  • NB: reflection of light - pilgrim and also falcon. The pilgrim wants to return back to creator - the light - so the light shines down from creator and he is created, thus will return back to the light. Falcons dive, then return to sky. Light is reflected from a mirror at the angle of incidence.


  • GLORIARE - 6; 24:44

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