Walking With Dante

Mark Scarbrough

Ever wanted to read Dante's Divine Comedy? Come along with us! We're not lost in the scholarly weeds. (Mostly.) We're strolling through the greatest work (to date) of Western literature. Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as I take on this masterpiece passage by passage. I'll give you my rough English translation, show you some of the interpretive knots in the lines, let you in on the 700 years of commentary, and connect Dante's work to our modern world. The pilgrim comes awake in a dark wood, then walks across the known universe. New episodes every Sunday and Wednesday. read less
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Episodes

Eyes Stitched Shut: PURGATORIO, Canto XIII, Lines 46 - 72
2d ago
Eyes Stitched Shut: PURGATORIO, Canto XIII, Lines 46 - 72
The second terrace of PURGATORIO proves a wild ride into interiority, into the complicated sin of envy, and back into INFERNO.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we explore the first moments in which Dante sees the penitents ahead . . . and delays until the last moment revealing their fate: eyelids stitched shut with wires.Thank you for supporting this podcast through your donations. If you'd like to help our (or continue to help out) with all the fees associated with websites, hosting, streaming, editing, and sound effects, please visit this PayPal link right here.Here are the segments for this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[00:55] My English translation of the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XIII, lines 46 - 72. If you'd like to read along or continue the discussion with me, please go to my website: markscarbrough.com.[03:28] Dante the pilgrim, the livid shades of the envious, and fragmentary prayers in the vernacular.[05:52] Compassion: apparently a virtue of enforced scarcity.[07:51] Envy, interiority, and externality.[09:42] The tried-and-true answers to envy: love, yes; but also uniformity.[13:25] The long wind-up to the revelation of the penitents' pain.[17:30] Dante's (false) etymology of envy and a folkloric explanation of the sin.[21:51] Two callbacks: 1) Provenzan Salvani and 2) the allegorical and/or naturalistic sun.[23:51] The biggest callback of all: to Pier della Vigna and Frederick II in INFERNO XIII.[25:21] Rereading the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XIII, lines 46 - 72.
The Easy Climb Into Complex Meaning: PURGATORIO, Canto XIII, Lines 1 - 21
May 12 2024
The Easy Climb Into Complex Meaning: PURGATORIO, Canto XIII, Lines 1 - 21
Dante the pilgrim and his guide, Virgil, have arrived at the second terrace of Purgatory proper. As readers, we're not even sure what this terrace is about, although we can infer there must be more penitents ahead.Instead, Dante the poet offers us rather straightforward, naturalistic details, a complex neologism (a new word he coined), a crazy line that has many interpretations possible, and then a pagan prayer in the afterlife of the redeemed.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we walk into the second terrace and immediately stumble over what at first glance looks like a fairly simple passage. That's why we're slow-walking across Dante's known universe!If you'd like to help support this podcast by donating to cover hosting, streaming, website, licensing, and royalty fees, please consider visiting this PayPal link right here.Here are the segments of this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:09] My English translation of PURGATORIO, Canto XIII, lines 1- 21. If you'd like to read along or continue the conversation with me, please go to my website, markscarbrough.com.[03:22] The naturalistic, straightforward details complete with a surprising neologism (or newly coined word).[08:12] A deeply ambiguous line smack in the middle of rather simple details.[12:02] Virgil's haste and his internalization of Cato's ethic, as well as Dante's increasingly complicated relationship with the old poet.[15:29] Virgil's pagan prayer to the sun.[23:40] My take: Virgil, the pagan, makes a full appearance here on the second terrace of Purgatory.[29:02] Virgil, blinded.[31:42] A rereading of the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XIII, lines 1 - 21.
Erasing God's Writing Even If Virgil Smiles: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, Lines 118 - 139
Apr 24 2024
Erasing God's Writing Even If Virgil Smiles: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, Lines 118 - 139
Dante the pilgrim and Virgil have a little ways to go before they finally exit the terrace of pride. In fact, Dante has to come to a surprising revelation: It's getting easier. And Virgil has to explain why: Desire is being purified. How? By erasing what God has written.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we look at the interpretive dilemmas and philosophical quagmires of the final moments on the terrace of pride, the first of the terraces of Purgatory proper in Dante's PURGATORIO.If you'd like to help support this podcast and help cover its stream, licensing, web-hosting, and royalty fees, please consider donating at this PayPal link right here.Here are the segments for this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:12] My English translation of the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, lines 118 - 139. If you'd like to read along or drop a comment to continue the conversation, please go to my website, markscarbrough.com.[03:36] The climb in hell and in Purgatory both involve the notion of a throat.[06:44] Pride is the primary sin and delight is the primary motivation forward. But has it always been this way in COMEDY?[12:57] Canto XII ends on a light-hearted note . . . perhaps for poetic reasons.[16:32] First hard question: Is Dante the pilgrim truly expunged of pride?[19:51] Second hard question: Has Dante the poet moved the fence of his world to include himself in his own schematics?[24:56] Third hard question: Why does God's writing have to be erased?[30:53] Rereading the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, lines 118 - 139.
The Climb Out Of Pride: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, Lines 73 - 99
Apr 17 2024
The Climb Out Of Pride: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, Lines 73 - 99
Dante and Virgil begin their exit from the terrace of pride on Mount Purgtory. To do so, they must encounter and angel who implicitly calls back Lucifer (or Satan) into the text yet who welcomes them on their way up the less-steep ascent.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we watch Virgil reassert this role as the guide and see another of the epic angels in Purgatory.If you'd like to help out, please consider donating to keep this podcast afloat. You can do at this PayPal link right here.Here are the segments for this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[02:22] My English translation of the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, lines 73 - 99. If you'd like to read along or continue the conversation with me, please go to my website, markscarbrough.com.[04:47] Virgil returns to being Virgil: a guide to the afterlife who quote himself.[08:08] Virgil and the angel both seem to set the plot in motion again.[11:19] Virgil seems more interested in what's ahead and less interested in the reliefs and carvings. In fact, he seems to mistake the lesson from those carvings: Some days, like Trajan's, happen again and again in an eternal art form.[14:08] The strength of COMEDY is that the complex always resolves into the simple.[16:17] Irony: Virgil's "simple" ethic contains a Dantean neologism.[17:20] The beautiful angel contains an implicit and perhaps redemptive reference to Lucifer (or Satan).[21:11] Who speaks the condemnation against humanity? The angel or Dante the poet?[25:54] Rereading the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, lines 73 - 99.
More Questions Than Answers About The Reliefs In The Road Bed Of Pride: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, Lines 22 - 63
Apr 10 2024
More Questions Than Answers About The Reliefs In The Road Bed Of Pride: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, Lines 22 - 63
We've spent three episodes going over the reliefs in the road bed of the terrace of pride on Mount Purgatory. Now let's step back and look at the whole passage. Yes, its sweet. But also its curiously crafted problems. And the way it leaves us with more questions than answers, even though we're supposed to take away a very distinct moral lesson.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we run through this entire complicated passage in PURGATORIO.If you'd like to help out with the many costs associated with this podcast, please consider donating through this PayPal link right here.Here are the segments for this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:12] My English translation of the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, lines 22 - 63. If you'd like to read along, print it off, or continue the conversation with me, please go to my website: markscarbrough.com.[04:18] Biblical, classical, and historical figures flatten the interpretive landscape. Is Ovid of an equal weight to the Bible?[06:33] The passage is an acrostic poem: each tercet starts with a specific letter, here to spell out "man." But does that rhetorical technique actually work for this passage? Are these all "men"? Or even humans?[10:05] The tercets are thematically in sets of four: the judgment of God, of the self, and of others. Again, doesn't that flatten the moral landscape?[12:46] Do the penitents have to be this learned to glean the intended lesson? And is this the sum total of the reliefs on the terrace? Or are there more?[15:13] How can you be guilty of pride against or toward a God you don't know?[18:12] Where do these figures fit in hell? And while we're at it, where does pride fit in hell?[21:29] Why does this passage end with Troy, the noble city?[22:53] Why is this fake ekphrastic poetry?
Walking On Pride, Part Three: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, Lines 49 - 60
Apr 7 2024
Walking On Pride, Part Three: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, Lines 49 - 60
We've come to the last four reliefs in the paving stones of the terrace of pride. We're almost on our way to the next terrace of Purgatory . . . but not quite. Dante the pilgrim has to pay attention to these final moments, the final exemplars, some of whom are stated outright in the carvings and some of whom are strangely occluded.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we look through this last passage on the reliefs in the road bed. There are still plenty of surprises under our feet!Please consider donating to help me cover licensing, streaming, hosting, web domain, and other fees associated with this unsponsored podcast. If you'd like to make a contribution, you can do so at this PayPal link.Here are the segments of this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:24] My English translation of the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XII, lines 49 - 60. If you'd like to read along or drop a comment to continue the conversation, please visit my website, markscarbrough.com.[02:42] The final figures in the hard pavement: Alcmeon (and Eriphyle), Sennacherib, Tomyris (and Cyrus), and Holofernes (and Judith).[11:16] The craft of the passage: children killing their parents v. women killing warlords, sacred spaces v. profane/political slaughter, occluded v. presented figures.[15:41] Curiosities in the passage: the unnamed figures, the allegory of the hard pavement, the connection between Sennacherib and Satan, and the odd notion of Holofernes' "relics."[21:24] Our final discussion on the virtue of humility: its possible evolutionary necessity for a communal animal.
A Bad Boy Makes Good On The Terrace Of Pride: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, Lines 109 - 139
Mar 17 2024
A Bad Boy Makes Good On The Terrace Of Pride: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, Lines 109 - 139
If you'd like to make a contribution to help me with hosting, licensing, streaming, editing, and royalty fees, please consider visiting this PayPal link right here.We’ve come to the end of PURGATORIO, Canto XI . . . and the end of the artist Oderisi’s monologue. He finishes up, not with more about himself, but with the tale of the third penitent we see on the first terrace after the gate: Provenzan Salvani, a bad boy from Siena who plotted Florence's demise and who also perhaps foreshadows our poet's exile.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we explore some of the gorgeous poetry in this passage and try to come to terms with how Dante is constructing this very new bit of theology: Purgatory.Here are the segments for this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:31] My English translation of the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, lines 109 - 139. If you'd like to read along or continue the conversation with me, please go to this episode on my website, markscarbrough.com.[04:30] Echoes in the opening lines of this passage: from the Bible, from INFERNO.[08:59] Back to the Battle of Montaperti in 1260 CE.[11:04] The kinds of pride on this first terrace of Purgatory.[12:58] A gorgeous passage in the Florentine.[15:36] Provenzan Salvani, a Ghibelline tyrant from Siena who plotted Florence's demise.[18:09] "Contrapasso" or "debt"?[20:24] The logistics of Dante's Purgatory.[23:37] A murky repentance.[26:52] Another prophecy of Dante's exile.[28:50] The gloss life gives to art.[31:09] Rereading the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, lines 109 - 139.
Oderisi Redux: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, Lines 73 - 108
Mar 13 2024
Oderisi Redux: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, Lines 73 - 108
I said we'd move on to the second half of Oderisi da Gubbio's speech . . . but there's no way we can. There are still so many unanswered questions about the way Dante cryptically inserts himself into the text, the way the art of miniaturization reflects the new style in poetry that Dante practices, and the very fact that Dante meets someone whose life is spent with manuscripts.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we work our way through more questions about the first half of Oderisi's speech in PURGATORIO.Here are the segments for this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:57] My English translation of the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, lines 73 - 108. If you'd like to read along or continue the conversation (yes, please!), go to my website, markscarbrough.com.[04:46] Oderisi and Franco are indeed mentioned by others but mostly centuries after Dante. And for what it's worth, is Dante even writing a history-based poem?[06:48] Oderisi calls Dante the pilgrim "brother"--as in monastic brotherhood or as in the talk of artistic guilds?[08:32] Dante puts the prophetic denunciation in the mouth of a character, rather than in the poet's interpolation.[12:38] Dante meets a miniaturist, an illuminator . . . and the new style of poetry was mostly practiced in small poems like sonnets and canzone.[17:34] In my interpretation, Dante the poet remains unnamed in the tercet about the Guidos. Should we see a psychological or artistic development here?[22:13] Dante meets an illuminator, the sort who our poet might hope would someday work on COMEDY.
Proud Oderisi Confronts The Vagaries Of Artistic Fame: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, Lines 73 - 108
Mar 10 2024
Proud Oderisi Confronts The Vagaries Of Artistic Fame: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, Lines 73 - 108
If you'd like to help underwrite this podcast, WALKING WITH DANTE, you can use this PayPal link right here.On Purgatory's terrace of pride, we turn from noble Omberto to an artist, a manuscript illuminator, Oderisi da Gubbio, who delivers some of the most memorable lines in all of PURGATORIO.Join me, Mark Scarbrough, as we work through the first half of Oderisi's speech, all about the vagaries of artistic fame, the passing of Cimabue in favor of Giotto, and the coming of a poet who can kick two well-known Guido's out of the Italian nest.Here are the segments of this episode of WALKING WITH DANTE:[01:49] My English translation of this passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, lines 73 - 108. If you'd like to read along or continue the conversation about this passage, please go to my website: markscarbrough.com.[05:18] Dante the pilgrim and the illuminator Oderisi appear to know each other--which may well be a first comment on the vagaries of artistic fame.[06:48] Who were Oderisi da Gubbio and the Bolognese Franco?[11:55] Laughter may be near the root of Dante's art.[14:25] And desire may lie near the root of Dante's understanding of human behavior.[18:29] Oderisi mixes his metaphors--he is no poet![20:21] Giotto surpasses Cimabue in the development of craft and its tie to fame.[23:35] And someone (Dante?) may well pass the two Guidos in literature . . . although he may be more humbled than first appears to be the case.[27:28] The prideful in PURGATORIO's first terrace reference the heretics in INFERNO.[29:44] The end of the passage makes Brunetto Latini's grand, heroic speech into a lie.[34:52] Rereading the passage: PURGATORIO, Canto XI, lines 73 - 108.