The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio

“And of that second kingdom will I sing, wherein the human spirit doth purge itself, and to ascend to heaven becometh worthy.”  Purgatorio is the second part of The Divine Comedy, an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between c. 1308 and his death in 1321. The Comedy continues from Inferno to Purgatorio and concludes in Paradiso each stage represented of the soul’s journey towards God.  Dante and Virgil, ascend out of the Inferno and arriving on the shores of Purgatory.  The Island-Mountain of Purgatory is located on the southern hemisphere and was created by the displacement of rock when Satan’s fall created Hell.  On Easter morning, 1300, Dante and Virgil begin their ascent of the mountain.  Over the course of three full days, Dante will travel through the seven terraces each corresponding to the seven deadly sins, and be cleansed through the seven heavenly virtues that oppose sin, in preparation for his ascent to Heaven.

The major theme that runs throughout the Purgatorio is that of Love, and the theory that all sin arises from love, ether perverted, deficient or the disordered love of good things.  The Inferno exists to punish sin, shades tormented endlessly for their misdeeds.  Purgatorio exists for shades to purge sin through punishment that is welcomed by the shades, with the hope that they will finally ascend to heaven.  As with the Inferno the shades of Purgatorio are punished and cleansed to a degree befitting the gravity of their sins on earth and in a manner matching that sin’s nature.  Prideful penitents, who’s heads always held high now carry immense weights on their backs forcing them to bow, Envious penitents punished by having their eyelids sewn shut with iron wire, the slothful forced to run without rest and so on. The story is focuses on the acceptance of sin and the acceptance of penance through suffering which is in itself God’s love.  The Purgatorio represents the Christian life, ans many themes of the nature of sin and the vices of love and freewill, lessons of morality and virtue and penance through suffering and spiritual growth are apparent throughout.

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