Dante

Canto 5 of Dante’s Inferno includes a passing encounter with Dido, described by Dante’s guide . . . who happens to be Virgil:

“The next is Dido, Queen of Carthage, cruel
To the ashes of her husband when she slew
Herself because of love: not love for him,
But for Aeneas. Cleopatra, too—
That dark one there—desire led to a grim
Reckoning. Behold Helen, in whose name
A sea of trouble came to Troy in ships,
And Paris knew it was a sea of flame,
The fire that started when he kissed her lips.
And there’s Tristan . . .” A thousand more at least
He named, the shades who left our life for love:
The gentle women of a time long ceased
To be, and all their cavaliers. (Clive James translation)

Here‘s the Italian original; Longfellow‘s translation; a parallel translation. Giuseppe Mazzotta has a Yale online course  about “Dante in Translation.”

PrincetonDartmouth and Columbia all have digital Dante projects. Notre Dame hosts an online exhibit of Renaissance Dante in Print (1472-1629). Other online resources are cataloged by the Dante Society of America and the ORB Encyclopedia for medieval studies.

Many scholars have puzzled over the fleeting appearance of Dido in the Inferno, including Kevin Brownlee (“Dante, Beatrice, and the Two Departures from Dido”), and Tristan Kay (“Dido, Aeneas, and the Evolution of Dante’s Poetics”), who holds that the passages “not only elucidate the poet’s complex, attitude toward ancient literature but also map his own evolving meditation on desire, poetry, and selfhood.” Alexandra Dawn Mina, in “Dante’s Dido: A Study of Extended Simile in Vergil’s Aeneid and Dante’s Commedia” (2012), argues that “Dante deliberately corrects Vergil with his own reading of what love should be.. . .  the conclusions of this study tend to confirm both the pessimistic reading of the Aeneid and the ironic reading of Virgil and other figures the Inferno and Purgatorio.” David Wilson Okamura asks: “What did Virgil mean to Dante?”

The Italian comedian Roberto Benigni is, not surprisingly, a Dante fan.

Professor Judy Haas visited our seminar to discuss Dante’s fraught relationship to Vergil.

BlakeWilliam Blake, “The Whirlwind of Lovers,” from Dante’s Inferno, Canto V., ca 1825-1827

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