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La Divina Commedia, Inferno, Canto 5°: lettura e commento

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As we have seen in the first canto of Inferno, the sins, moral dangers which Dante must face, are Lechery, Greed and Pride. We will find these three sins as the key moments of Dante's infernal experience. He will be mirrored in those who committed these sins, and feels a particular interest for them, having clear biographic marks. The canto regarding Lechery, a meaningful topic to poets of any era, is the fifth and maybe the most beloved of the Entire Divine Comedy, whose main characters are Paolo and Francesca. Wind is the image dominating in the canto: the infernal storm sweeping away lustfuls' souls is an example of the 'counter-penalty' technique, according to which the sin committed by humans in their earthly life is repeated in the Afterlife in a hyperbolic way, as in this case, or in a reversed way, radically changing its signs (direct or reversed counter-penalty). Virgil shows Dante seven sinners, before making him meet Paolo and Francesca. They are characters from the classical tradition: Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Achilles, Paris and Tristan. This composition of the big sinners from the past says much regarding Dante's syncretism, which is the skill of putting together biblical, mythological and historical traditions. Dido, character of the Aeneid, written by Virgilio, is an example of this. The Aeneid represents a small path which will cross Dante's poem each time that love, historical characters like Cleopatra, characters from Homer poems like Helen, Achilles and Paris, and a character from a more recent, vulgar and medieval literature like Tristan will be mentioned. Conversely, Francesca and Paolo are two characters that can reflect the present. Also this contemporary presence of literary characters and local history characters such as Francesca da Rimini and Paolo da Malatesta, which are killed by Gianciotto, who is Paolo's brother and also Francesca's husband, is typical of Dante's literary technique. When I had heard my sage instructor name those dames and knights, by pity, well-nigh in amaze my mind was lost, and I began: Bard! willingly I would address those two together coming, Which seem so light before the wind. He thus: Note thou, when nearer they use us to approach. Then by that love which carries them along, entreat; and they will come. Soon as the wind, sway'd them toward us, I thus fram'd my speech: O wearied spirits! come, and hold discourse, with us, if by none else restrain'd. As doves by fond desire invited, and firm, to their sweet nest returning home, cleave the air, wafted by their will along, Thus issu'd from that troop, where Dido ranks, they through the ill air speeding; with such force My cry prevail'd by strong affection urg'd. O gracious creature and benign who go'st visiting, through this element obscure ss, who the world with bloody stain imbru'd; if for a friend the King of all we own'd, our pray'r to him should for thy peace arise, since thou hast pity on our evil plight. Of whatsoe'er to hear or to discourse it pleases thee, that will we hear, of that freely with thee discourse, while e'er the wind, as now, is mute. The land, that gave me birth is situate on the coast, where Po descends To rest in ocean with his sequent streams. This geographic designation, referred to Francesca origins at the mouth of the river Po, where it descends and flows into the sea with its affluents is typical of Afterlife characters who have a historical and geographical concreteness. This is the well-known anaphora, to which Francesca will be always linked: Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt, Entangled him by that fair form, ta'en in such cruel sort, as grieves me still. Love, that denial takes from none belov'd, caught me with pleasing him so passing well, that, as thou see'st, he yet deserts me not. Love brought us to one death. Caina waits the soul, who spilt our life. Francesca speaks directly and refers to a mute character, who is her lover Paolo. He never talks, and represents Dante's mirror: a silent's double, which Dante places on his biographical and erotic story, which reflects Paolo and Francesca's one, even if it is not explicitely mentioned. In these works, Francesca sums up the Middle Ages erotic thought, in particular the one which is expressed in Andreas Cappellanus treatise named 'De Amore', which imposed that a love thought addressed to a person overflown with traditional 'courtesy' values had necessarily to be requited. Anyway, in reality that love was the cause of the death which was inflicted by Gianciotto to the lovers. The two lovers betrayed Gianciotto, but he was unfaithful to the courtesy love rule and therefore must be sent to the lowest of Inferno's ices: Caina, which is a place for anyone who committed unfaithfulness Such were their words. At hearing which downward I bent my looks, and held them there so long that the bard cried: What art thou pond'ring? I in answer thus: Alas! by what sweet thoughts, what fond desire must they at length to that ill pass have reach'd! Then turning, I to them my speech address'd, and thus began: "Francesca! your sad fate Even to tears my grief and pity moves. But tell me; in the time of your sweet sighs, By what, and how love granted, that ye knew Your yet uncertain wishes? She replied: No greater grief than to remember days of joy, when mis'ry is at hand! That kens thy learn'd instructor. If thou art bent to know the primal root, From whence our love gat being, I will do, as one, who weeps and tells his tale. For our delight we read of Lancelot, how him love thrall'd. Alone we were, and no suspicion near us. Ofttimes by that reading our eyes were drawn together, and the hue fled from our alter'd cheek. But at one point alone we fell. When of that smile we read, the wished smile, rapturously kiss'd by one so deep in love, then he, who ne'er, from me shall separate, at once my lips all trembling kiss'd. The book and writer both were love's purveyors. In its leaves that day we read no more. While thus one spirit spake, the other wail'd so sorely, that heartstruck I through compassion fainting, seem'd not far from death. and like a corpse fell to the ground. Here the love sin comes from reading whereas in the first Canto, literature saved Dante from sin. Conversely, here the writer tells us that literature can lead us to sin in the imitation of the events we read, and in particular in the 'go-between' book dedicated to the loves of the seneschal Galehaut, which Paolo and Francesca were supposedly reading together in the critical day. Literature is ambivalent: it can lead us to salvation, but also to sin and death. And like a dead person, Dante takes leave from this fifth canto.

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 54 seconds
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Genre: None
Producer: Oilproject
Views: 141
Posted by: oilproject on Oct 21, 2011

Il Canto V, dedicato alla vicenda di Paolo e Francesca, è forse in assoluto il più amato della Divina Commedia. L'immagine dominante è quella della bufera infernale, che trascina le anime dei lussuriosi: essa è un esempio della tecnica del contrappasso, dove il peccato di cui si macchiano gli esseri umani in vita viene ripetuto nell'Aldilà in forma iperbolica (come in questo caso) o rovesciata (cambiandolo radicalmente di segno).

Prima di incontrare Paolo e Francesca, Virgilio mostra a Dante sette peccatori della tradizione classica: Semiramide, Didone, Cleopatra, Elena, Achille, Paride e Tristano. Questa composizione dice molto del sincretismo di Dante, il quale riesce a mettere insieme riferimenti biblici, mitologici e storici.

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