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Following the Gaze: Beatrice’s Eyes and Beauty in The Divine Comedy

Introduction

In the Convivio, Dante writes about his admiration for a Florentine girl named Beatrice. Here Dante reveals that he first looked at Beatrice when he was only nine years old, and she was only eight. It was at this moment that, in a chivalric manner befitting of a young medieval man, Dante fell in love. Over the course of the next nine years, Dante saw Beatrice occasionally, but he did not have the chance to speak to her. This changed, however, when Dante was eighteen years old. Walking down the street with her two friends and veiled in a dress, the young Beatrice looked at Dante to say hello. The two did not exchange any more words, yet this encounter would remain one of the most memorable of Dante’s life.[1] Dante again meets and memorializes Beatrice in his magnum opus The Divine Comedy. In particular, Beatrice is given a central role as Dante’s guide through the heavens. As the woman who Dante loved in real life, Beatrice symbolizes in the poem the beauty of the highest heavens. Throughout the poem, special treatment is given to Beatrice’s eyes which, as symbols of beauty, reflect like mirrors the splendor of God.

Beatrice as Dante’s Guide in the Paradiso[2]

In real life, Beatrice died at the young age of twenty-four. Dante writes in the Convivio that after her death, he immersed himself in the study of philosophy. This was, Dante explains, in order to cope with Beatrice’s death. The mourning Dante first turned to Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy and then to Cicero’s On Friendship. Over time, however, Dante’s philosophical studies became more serious, prompting him to read the philosophical masters, especially Aristotle. In the dark years that followed the death of Beatrice, Dante had the “gentle lady” of philosophy to comfort him. Dante explains in the Convivio that, due to Lady Philosophy’s comfort, during this time he thought of no other woman. Here Dante also reveals that, in order to receive a more serious education in philosophy, he watched public disputations and attended the schools of the religious orders for over two years. He writes:

“And just as it often happens that a man goes looking for silver and apart from his intention finds gold, which some hidden causes presents, perhaps not without divine ordinance, so I who sought to console myself found not only a remedy for my tears but also the words of authors, sciences, and books. Pondering these, I quickly determined that Philosophy, who was the lady of these authors, sciences, and books, was a great thing. I imagined her fashioned as a gentle lady, and I could not imagine her in any attitude except one of compassion, so that the part of my mind that perceives truth gazed on her so willingly that I could barely turn away from her. I began to go where she was truly revealed, namely to the schools of the religious orders and to the disputations held by the philosophers, so that in a short period of time, perhaps some thirty months, I began to feel her sweetness so much that the love of her dispelled and destroyed every other thought.”[3]

In his book Dante and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ralph McInerny writes that Dante’s motive for studying was not merely to cope after Beatrice’s untimely death. More specifically, Dante wanted to compose poems dedicated to her memory, many of which would be included in the La Vita Nuova. Although Dante had other motives for pursuing academic studies, one of them was to sing the praises of Beatrice. Academic study, he hoped, would give him the intellectual tools to accomplish this ambitious task. Toward the end of his life, Dante fulfilled this goal by writing The Divine Comedy, his greatest masterpiece. In this regard, Dante was successful in writing the greatest poem ever composed in honor of a woman.[4]

McInerny’s analysis is confirmed by the words of Dante himself in the La Vita Nuova. After writing this final sonnet about the death of Beatrice, a miraculous vision appeared to him. After this vision, he would write nothing else of Beatrice until he could do it more worthily — a task he completed by writing the Divine Comedy. He writes:

“… a miraculous vision appeared to me, in which I saw things which made me decide to write nothing more of this blessed one until such time as I could treat of her more worthily. And to achieve this I study as much as I can, as she truly knows. So that, if it pleases Him by whom all things live, that my life lasts a few years, I hope to write of her what has never been written of any woman. And then may it be pleasing to Him who is the Lord of courtesy, that my soul might go to see the glory of its lady, that is of that blessed Beatrice, who gloriously gazes on the face of Him qui est per omnia secula benedictus: who is blessed throughout all the ages.”[5]

As Richard Pearce points out, throughout his journey in the Divine Comedy, Dante longs to see Beatrice. The pilgrim descends into the cold darkness of the Inferno, informed by Virgil that he must do so in order to travel upward and see Beatrice. He suffers up the mountain of the Purgatorio, and the hope of meeting Beatrice at the top motivates him to go on. Dante gains the courage to walk through the wall of fire at the top of purgatory only when Virgil reminds him that doing so will bring him to Beatrice. The desire to see Beatrice motivates Dante to move onward when his journey seems difficult.[6] It is worth noting here that Dante’s love for Beatrice as poet and pilgrim was not a physical or sexual love that a reader today might assume. Dante’s love instead had a distinctively chivalric character. To borrow the words of Francis Newman, it was morally elevating, passionate, disciplined, and transcendent.[7]

This background is important to keep in mind when interpreting Beatrice’s presence in the Divine Comedy. After all, Beatrice is not simply a literary figure that Dante invents and places into his poem. She is, instead, a flesh and blood person who Dante loved. Of course, this has for many years been pointed out by scholars. For instance, as theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar writes:

It is true that the figure of the beloved is enriched with symbolic content, but it would be ridiculous to maintain that she is only a symbol or allegory—of what? of faith? of theology? of the vision of God? Only dusty academics could fall for something as abstruse as that. No, the figure of the beloved is a young Florentine girl of flesh and blood. Why should a Christian man not love a woman for all eternity and allow himself to be introduced by that woman to a full understanding of what ‘eternity’ means? And why should it be so extraordinary – ought one not rather to expect it – that such a love needs, for its total fulfillment, the whole of theology and Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell?[8]

Thus, when Dante places Beatrice into the poem, she serves a two-fold purpose. On the one hand, she serves whatever literary purpose Dante has in mind, symbolizing the ideas of beauty and grace. On the other hand, she is the real-life woman from the streets of Florence who Dante loved from the time he was young. Without first understanding the significance that Beatrice had in the life of Dante, it is impossible to understand her significance as a literary figure in the poem.

The Eyes of Beatrice in Dante’s Divine Comedy

In the opening lines of the Inferno, Dante finds himself lost in a dark wood. His pathway to happiness is blocked by three beasts, representing the sins which got Dante lost in the first place. As Dante finds himself wandering in these dark woods, it is none other than Beatrice who coordinates Dante’s rescue. This is, of course, what Virgil reveals to Dante in Canto 2 of the Inferno. “I was among those dead who are suspended, / when a lady summoned me. She was so blessed / and beautiful, I implored her to command me.” [9] In other words, Virgil was in limbo with his fellow pagans when a blessed and beautiful lady summoned him. Virgil implored her to send him on a quest, and she did.

It is Virgil who references Beatrice’s eyes for the first time in the poem. Her eyes, claims Virgil, were brighter than any star in the heavens. Beatrice was beautiful and she sounded like an angel. “With eyes of light more bright than any star, / in low, soft tones she started to address me / in her own language, with an angel’s voice.”[10] Virgil then describes how Beatrice instructed him to find the pilgrim Dante and guide him out of the dark forest. The Roman poet, of course, could not say no to such a request. How could a man deny the request of a lady so beautiful, who has eyes brighter than a star?

At the request of Beatrice, the Roman poet Virgil guides Dante into the underworld of the Inferno. He then struggles with Dante up the mountain of the Purgatorio. It is Virgil who does this indispensable work of showing Dante the ugly reality of sin and damnation, as well as the importance of redemptive suffering to cleanse a sinful yet sorrowful soul. Toward the end of the Purgatorio, however, Virgil’s guidance has reached his limit. Virgil announces that he has “reached the place/ where my discernment now has reached its end.”[11] Since he is completed with the mission given by Beatrice, Virgil knows that Dante will soon need another guide — Beatrice herself.

Therefore, in Canto 29 of the Purgatorio, Dante discovers that Virgil has vanished. The pilgrim and his guide have reached the garden of Eden at the top of Purgatory and now, unable to go higher, another guide is needed. Virgil is gone, but the pilgrim Dante is not abandoned. Beatrice replaces Virgil as Dante’s guide in the poem, and the poet makes clear that Beatrice represents not only a flesh and blood woman who Dante loved. As the woman who Dante loved in real life, she also represents the splendor of Christian revelation itself. It is for this reason that Canto 29 of the Purgatorio is filled with rich symbolism representing the treasures of revelation which Dante now has available. “Yes, look at me! Yes, I am Beatrice!”[12] Beatrice’s entrance into the poem is the climax of the Purgatorio. Dante can now look into the beautiful eyes of his lover. Even better than on Earth, however, the gaze of Beatrice is now the means through which Dante can soar into the highest heavens.

Dante is approached by humble handmaids, who sprinkle him with the four cardinal virtues and three theological virtues. In doing so, they purify his vision and prepare him to gaze into Beatrice’s eyes. With his vision now purified, the handmaids encourage the pilgrim Dante to join them in approaching Beatrice. As Dante stands before Beatrice, the handmaids remind him that he stands before her beautiful eyes, which they refer to as “emeralds.” The handmaids remind him that these are the same eyes which in the past shot darts of Love at him. “’Look deeply, look with all your sight,’ they said/ ‘for now you stand before those emeralds from which Love once shot loving darts at you.’” With this reminder, Dante gazes into the eyes of Beatrice for the first time in the poem. He has this to say:

A thousand yearning flames of my desire

held my eyes fixed upon those brilliant eyes

that held the griffin fixed within their range.

 

Like sunlight in a mirror, shining back,

I saw the twofold creature in her eyes,

reflecting its two nature, separately.[13]

 The reader is never given a lengthy description of Beatrice’s eyes. The reader, in fact, is only given a few clues about what they might look like. They are green, the color of hope. They are also wonderfully bright, reflecting the radiance of the highest heavens.[14] Most importantly, we know that Beatrice does not return her lover’s gaze. As a symbol of the beautiful, the eyes of Beatrice always points Dante to something higher. Her eyes, furthermore, do not return back to the pilgrim Dante to form a self-enclosed stare. As Peter Kalkavage puts it, “Her gaze leads her lover not by a return gaze but by directing his gaze upward and beyond Beatrice herself.”[15]

Indeed, the beautiful always leads us upward rather than downward toward the passing things of this world. The beautiful leads us to an encounter with God and it changes us. To gaze into Beatrice’s eyes therefore changes the pilgrim. As Dante puts it, he becomes “transhumanized,” entering into a state that cannot be put in words. Dante writes:

And Beatrice stood there, her eyes fixed

on the eternal spheres, entranced, and now

my eyes, withdrawn from high, were fixed on her.[16]

 

Gazing at her, I felt myself becoming

what Glaucus had become tasting the herb

that made him like the other sea-gods there.

 

“Transhumanize” – it cannot be explained.”

In Canto 2 of the Paradiso, Dante makes another reference to Beatrice’s eyes. In this description, we see an important pattern that is repeated throughout Dante’s journey. Dante looks at Beatrice, and Beatrice looks at the higher heavens. In this instance, the pilgrim relates that as he looks into the eyes of Beatrice, he finds himself engulfed in a cloud.

My gaze on Beatrice, hers on Heaven, ­

in less time than an arrow strikes the mark,

flies through the air, loosed from its catch, I found

 

myself in some place where a wonderous things

absorbed all of my mind, and when my lady

from whom I could not keep my thirst to know,

 

turned toward me as joyful as her beauty:

“Direct your mind and gratitude,” she said,

“to God, who raised us up to His first star.

 

We seemed to be enveloped in a cloud

as brilliant, hard, and polished as a diamond

struck by a ray of sunlight.”[17]

It is no wonder that Dante is enveloped in a cloud. The beautiful, after all, envelops us. Unlike the true, it does not tell us what to believe to the sound of post-modern hackles. And unlike the good, it does not tell us how to behave to offended accusations of moralizing. It rather, in all of its splendor, captures and delights us. It is hard to resist the captivating power of beauty. And Dante, much to his delight, is captivated by the beauty of his beloved Beatrice, whose eyes reflect like mirrors the splendor of God. Indeed, before he knows it, the cloud envelops him.

At times, the eyes of Beatrice can also be quite intimidating. This is the case in Canto 4 of the Paradiso when Beatrice shows Dante the souls of those who broke their vows. Dante describes that Beatrice “looked at me, her eyes / sparkling with love and burning so divine, / my strength of sight surrendered to her power — with eyes cast down, I was about to faint.”[18] Dante cannot stand the power radiating from Beatrice’s eyes. As a result, he must avert his own eyes into another direction or else become overwhelmed. It is only as Dante ascends higher into the heavens that he is able, over time, to gaze for longer intervals into Beatrice’s eyes.

Fortunately, by the time Dante reaches Canto 18 of the Paradiso, he is able to look into Beatrice’s eyes for a longer period of time without being overwhelmed. As a result, Beatrice reminds Dante that Heaven is not in her eyes alone. Dante recalls:

“I can recall just this about that moment:

as I was gazing at her there, I know

my heart was freed of every other longing,

 

for the Eternal Joy was shining straight

into my Beatrice’s face, and back

came it is reflection filling me with joy;

 

then, with a smile whose radiance dazzled me,

she said: “Now turn around and listen well,

not in my eyes alone is Paradise.”[19] 

Shortly thereafter, Dante ascends higher into the heavens by a single action. That is, he ascends higher by looking into Beatrice’s eyes. This is the case later in Paradiso 18 when Dante ascends from Mars to Jupiter.[20] The canto begins in the heavens of Mars, but after gazing into the eyes of Beatrice, the pilgrim is carried into the heaven of Jupiter. “It is in the eyes of Beatrice in which this beauty is concentrated,” writes theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. “Beatrice looks up to God, and her eyes mirror Heaven. Dante looks into that mirror and finds himself gradually carried up above.”[21]

Another fascinating reference to Beatrice’s eyes comes in Canto 22 of the Paradiso. At this point in his pilgrimage, Dante is much closer to final blessedness and his vision is clearer. He looks down at the vast universe beneath his feet and he smiles. After looking down at the vast expanse of the heavens, he then looks up to something even more wonderful. “Then, to the eyes of beauty my eyes turned,” says Dante. The pilgrim looks back into Beatrice’s eyes, which, reflecting the highest heavens, are far more beautiful than the vast universe beneath his feet.[22] The role of Beatrice and her “emeralds” throughout the journey are indispensable. When the pilgrim Dante is tired, she encourages him to continue on. When the pilgrim is unable to gaze into the Trinity directly, the eyes of Beatrice provide him with an indirect reflection. Even when Dante is glowing with joy, the eyes of Beatrice are still there for him. Beatrice is a symbol of the beautiful insofar as she encourages, directs, and points Dante to God.

It is clear that, for Dante, beauty is always inseparable from the good and the true. Relatedly, Balthasar discusses beauty as that which “dances in an uncontained splendour around the good and the true and their inseparable relation to one another.”[23] In other words, beauty is not a mere sensual pleasure. It is not just a nice sound or a pleasant scene. Instead, it is that which dances around the good and the true, both of which are transcendentals that permeate all of reality.

The Eyes of the Inferno

Throughout the poem, Dante conveys that eyes are gateways to the soul. In Canto 26 of the Paradiso, Dante refers to his own eyes as the “gates” that Beatrice “entered” with a “fire that burns [him] still.” It was through this burning love that Dante came to better understand the good, which is the “contentment” of the souls in Paradise. In other words, the beauty of Beatrice entered Dante’s soul through the gateway of his eyes.[24] As Dante comes to love the beauty that he sees in her eyes, he comes to love the good and the true. Throughout the Paradiso, then, the eyes of the saved are described as “sacred,” “smiling,” and “lovely,” among other descriptions. Eyes such as these are gateways into souls of holiness. [25]

In the Inferno, however, eyes are also a gateway into the souls of the damned. Unlike the beautiful eyes of Beatrice, the eyes of the damned are glazed over and unable to see beyond the darkness that blurs their vision. In the Inferno, when Dante sees the eyes of the damned, he notes that they are “glazed” over. Rather than being mirrors of the highest Heavens, they are lifeless eyes that drip cold froze tears.[26] The eyes of the damned are glazed because they did not gaze up to the good and true when they were alive. Trapped in the Inferno, the eyes of the damned see nothing at all worthy of being seen with human eyes. The damned do not see reflections of the good and true, but instead they see only their parodies: the perverse and the false. The eyes of the damned, as a result, are dreadfully ugly. Therefore, unlike the beautiful eyes of Beatrice, the eyes of the damned are glazed over and unable to penetrate the darkness that blurs their vision. In Canto 32 of the Inferno, as Dante sees the eyes of the damned, he notes that they are “glazed” and lifeless. Rather than being mirrors of the high heavens, they are lifeless eyes that drip cold, bloody tears.[27]

Satan himself lives in darkness— a place where eyes are not able to see clearly. The beauty of Paradise is related to its radiance and brightness, whereas the lack of beauty in Hell is related to its privation of light. After seeing Satan for the first time, Dante remarks that he was once a creature “so beautiful.”[28] After his rebellion against God, however, Satan’s new home was in the darkness. Virgil asks Dante to look ahead and see Satan but only “if you can make him out.”[29] The darkness in Hell is so thick that weeping Satan can barely see or be seen. Unable to see, Satan does not notice Dante and Virgil as they pass by him on their way to Purgatory — for Satan’s home is too dark and cloudy for even him to look ahead.[30] But perhaps Satan does not desire to direct his sight beyond the darkness surrounding him because it would mean taking his eyes off himself. The reader can imagine, furthermore, what the eyes of Satan might look like. Along with all of Satan’s attributes, we can imagine that they are hideous. It is probably more accurate to say that Satan does not look with his eyes but instead stares with them — but only at himself, never seeking what is above. If the eyes are gateways to the soul, then what hideous, down-cast eyes Satan must have.

The Eyes of the Virgin Mary

As a man of faith, Dante puts the Virgin Mary into the highest place in Heaven. She is above none other than St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a mystic and abbot of great devotion to Mary, who serves as the pilgrim’s final guide. No other created being is higher than Mary, and only the uncreated, eternal Trinity is above her. That Dante puts the Virgin Mary into the highest heavens is not surprising. As a faithful son of the Catholic Church, Dante probably understood Mary as a mediatrix. Hence, it is quite natural that he would place the Virgin Mary so close to the Trinity. As mediatrix, it is through Mary that Dante is able to reach God. Ad Jesum per Mariam.

At the same time, it is possible that Mary’s position in the highest heavens is related to his real-life love for Beatrice. In the Vita Nuova, Dante writes that Mary was the object of the young Beatrice’s devotion. And in the words of Ralph McInerny, this devotion was “contagious.” As a result, due in large part to his love for Beatrice, Dante’s devotion to the Virgin Mary intensified during his youth.[31] McInerny also writes that Beatrice’s devotion to Mary was so profound that, after her death, Dante even imagined Beatrice as enthroned in heaven with Mary. This is confirmed in Dante’s La Vita Nuova:

There came into my mind

the gentle lady who through her virtue

was placed by the highest Lord

in the Heaven of humility where Mary is.[32]

When Beatrice emerges as a means of Dante’s salvation in the Divine Comedy, it is in part because, in real life, she brought Dante into a more intimate devotion to the Virgin Mary. In other words, the presence of Beatrice and Mary in the Divine Comedy are inseparably related to one another, and the presence of both women are related to Dante’s own Catholic faith.

The eyes of Beatrice therefore foreshadow the eyes of the Virgin Mary. Throughout the Paradiso, Dante looks into the eyes of Beatrice and then ascends with her to a higher sphere. However, it is not until the end of the Paradiso, after seeing the glorious eyes of the Virgin Mary, that Dante can look directly at the Light of the Trinity Itself. When Dante approaches the Virgin Mary, St. Bernard begs her to grant Dante “the power to raise his vision higher still to penetrate the final blessedness.”[33] No longer will it suffice for Dante to look only into the eyes of Beatrice. He must, instead, look into the eyes of the mediatrix herself. As Dante looks into the eyes of the Virgin Mary, she does not return his gaze but instead looks “into the Eternal Light.” Dante quickly notes that “no eyes of other creatures,” including Beatrice herself, “pierce with such insight.” Dante sees the highest heavens reflected in the Virgin Mary’s eyes, which is his final preparation for the Beatific Vision. Dante writes:

Those eyes so loved and reverenced by God,

now fixed on him who prayed, made clear to us

how precious true devotion is to her;

 

then she looked into the Eternal Light,

into whose being, we must believe, no eyes

of other creatures pierce with such insight.

 

And I who was approaching now the end

of all man’s yearning, strained with all the force

in me to raise my burning longing high.

 

Bernard then gestured to me with a smile

that I look up, but I already was

instinctively what he would have me be:

 

for now my vision as it grew more clear

was penetrating more and more the Ray

of that exalted Light of Truth itself. [34]

Dante first follows the gaze of Beatrice, but finally he follows the gaze of Mary. If Virgil’s guidance is only a preparation for Beatrice, then Beatrice’s guidance is only a preparation for Mary and the devotion due to her.

Conclusion

The Divine Comedy is one of the greatest poems ever written. And it was inspired, at least in part, by Dante’s chivalric love for a lady who walked the streets of Florence. Dante’s real-life love for Beatrice is critical in understanding her role in the poem. It is indeed true that Beatrice has a certain symbolic significance, representing grace and beauty and even revelation itself. However, this is not the true significance of Beatrice — at least not for the poet Dante. She is instead a flesh and blood woman who walked the streets of Florence. She is a real woman who Dante loved, and it is only through poetry that this love could be fully expressed. In the Divine Comedy, therefore, Beatrice plays an instrumental role in leading the pilgrim to God, and this is primarily due to the personal significance she had in Dante’s real life. Dante meets the woman of his real-life love at the end of the Purgatorio and sees reflected in her eyes the splendor of God. Since she was so beautiful in life, she is in the poem a symbol of beauty and grace itself. Special attention is given to her eyes which, as symbols of beauty, reflect the highest heavens above her.

 

References

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics. Translated by T & T Clark Limited. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986.

Dante Alighieri. Convivio II. Translated by Richard Lansing. 1307; repr., Garland, Texas, 1990.

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Inferno. Translated by Mark Musa. 1320; repr. New York: Penguin Books, 1971.

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio. Translated by Mark Musa. 1320; repr. New York: Penguin Books, 1971.

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Paradiso. Translated by Mark Musa. 1320; repr. New York: Penguin Books, 1971.

Dante Alighieri, The Vita Nuova. Translated by A.S. Kline. 1294; repr. Poetry in Translation, 2001. https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Italian/TheNewLifeIV.php

Grandgent, C.H. The Dartmouth Dante Project. Boston: D.C. Heath, 1909-1913. Accessed online.

Havely, Nick. Dante. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2007.

Hollander, Robert. The Dartmouth Dante Project. New York: Doubleday/Anchor, 2003. Accessed online.

Kalkavage, Peter. “In the Heaven of Knowing: Dante’s Paradiso. The Imaginative Conservative. April 10, 2014. Online. https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/08/heaven-knowing-dantes-paradiso.html.

McInerny, Ralph. Dante and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010.

Newman, Francis. The Meaning of Courtly Love. Albany: State University of New York, 1968.

Pearce, Richard. “The Eyes of Beatrice.” The New Blackfriars 54, no. 1 (1973): 407-416. Print.

 

Notes

[1] Dante, Convivio II, Trans. Richard Lansing (1307; repr., Garland, Texas: Garland Library, 1990), chapter 12. Accessed online through Columbia University’s Digital Dante.

[2]  The first part of this section, including footnote four, is paraphrased from my unpublished 2020 master’s thesis for Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary titled “Dante Praises Aristotelian Philosophy: Exploring Siger of Brabant’s Presence in the Paradiso.” All citations are still included here.

[3]  Dante, Convivio II, chapters 11-12.

[4] Dante wanted to put into writing what he learned in his academic studies and also to put these ideas into the vernacular so that they would be available to teach both scholars and non-scholars alike. According to Ralph McInerny, “Dante in the Convivio had set himself the task of putting into the vernacular language the Latin learning he had acquired in the schools of philosophy and theology, to make it accessible to non-scholars, both in prose and poetry.” Yet after working for several years on the Convivio, Dante decided to stop writing. He instead began to create a philosophical-theological poem. As McInerny writes, “the result was the most magnificent poem ever written, one with immediate charm for any reader but also one replete with allusions to knowledge he had gained, and with lore to keep scholars busy.” For more, see Ralph McInerny, Dante and the Blessed Virgil Mary (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010), 9-11. For additional information on Dante as a philosophical-theological poet, see Nick Havely, Dante (Hoboken New Jersey: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 52-56.

[5] Dante, The Vita Nuova, trans. A.S. Kline (1294; repr., Poetry in Translation, 2001), online. https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Italian/TheNewLifeIV.php

[6] Richard Pearce, “The Eyes of Beatrice,” New Blackfriars 54 (1973): 407-416.

[7] These are a few of the words that Dr. Newman uses to define medieval chivalry. For more, see Francis Newman, The Meaning of Courtly Love (Albany: State University of New York, 1968), vii.

[8] Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, Volume III: Lay Styles, trans. Andrew Louth, John Saward, Martin Simon, and Rowan Williams (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 31-32.

[9] Inferno, II 52-54.

[10] Ibid., II, 55-57.

[11] Dante, Purgatorio, XXVII 127-132.

[12] Ibid., XXX 73.

[13] Ibid., XXXI 115-123.

[14] C.H. Grandgent (1903-1913) writes that green is considered a color of hope. See the commentary on Purgatorio XXXI 116 by C.H. Grandgent. Found online through the Dartmouth Dante Project. Also, as Robert Hollander (2000-2007) writes, Beatrice’s emerald color (green) eyes are also considered an attribute of feminine beauty. For more, see the commentary on Purgatorio XXXI 115-117. Found online through the Dartmouth Dante Project.

[15] Peter Kalkavage, “In the Heaven of Knowing: Dante’s Paradiso,” The Imaginative Conservative (August 10, 2014), online. https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/08/heaven-knowing-dantes-paradiso.html.

[16] Dante, Paradiso I 63-65.

[17] Ibid., II 22-33.

[18] Ibid., IV 139-142.

[19] Ibid., XVII 13-21.

[20] Ibid., XVIII 52-69

[21] Balthasar, GL, 63-64.

[22] Dante, Paradiso., XXII 154.

[23] Balthasar, GL, 18.

[24] Dante, Paradiso, XXVI, 306.

[25] For instance, see Ibid., III 24; Ibid., III 42; Ibid., XIV 131.

[26] Dante, Inferno XXXII, 43-51

[27] Ibid., XXXII, 364.

[28] Ibid., XXXIV 18.

[29] Ibid., XXXIV 1-3.

[30] Ibid., XXXIV, 379-383.

[31] McInerny, Dante and the Blessed Virgin Mary, 20-21.

[32] Dante, The Vita Nuova, online.

[33] Dante, Paradiso, XXXIII 21-27.

[34] Ibid., XXXIII, 40-54.

Darrell FalconburgDarrell Falconburg

Darrell Falconburg

Darrell Falconburg is pursuing a Ph.D. in humanities from Faulkner University’s Great Books Honors College. He received a master’s degree in philosophy from Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary and a bachelor’s degree in history from the College of Idaho. He currently teaches the integrated humanities for a classical high school.

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