Canto 3: Prepurgatory — The Excommunicated
- How do we know that a living body follows laws that are different from the laws affecting a soul without a body?
Dante looks at the ground and sees his own shadow, but he does not see Virgil’s shadow. He thinks that Virgil has left him, but Virgil explains to him that the laws that a dead soul follows are different from those that a living human being follows. Occasionally, souls in Purgatory will be amazed that Dante has a shadow.
Of course, in the Inferno damned souls and guards occasionally realized that Dante was still living. For one thing, his feet would leave footprints. However, because it is always night in the Inferno the question of his shadow never came up.
The souls may not cast a shadow or breathe, but Virgil explains that they do feel pain and cold and heat:
“To suffer torments, both of cold and heat,
Bodies like this that Power provides, which wills
That how it works be not unveiled to us.”
- How steep is the Mountain of Purgatory?
The Mountain of Purgatory is incredibly steep. We read:
The craggiest, the cruelest precipice
between Turbia and Lerici would seem,
compared with this, inviting stairs to climb.
Of course, Dante is referring to a section of Italy with steep places.
- Write a character analysis of Manfred. Who was he, historically?
Manfred (1232?-1266) is the bastard son of King Frederick II (1194-1250), who is damned in Hell with the other heretics.
Manfred was famous, and he asks if Dante recognizes him, but Dante does not. However, this does not make Manfred angry. Certain sinners in the Inferno want to be remembered on Earth, but the process of purgation is much more important to Manfred than mere Earthly fame.
Some people probably would not think that Manfred belongs in Purgatory. They may think that he belongs in the Inferno. For one thing, he struggled against the Pope, and he was excommunicated. He was killed in the Battle of Benevento in 1266, the battle that led to the return of the Guelfs to Florence — Dante was one year old at the time.
Pope Clement IV hated Manfred. At first, Manfred was buried beneath a pile of stones, but Pope Clement IV ordered that his body be removed and that his bones be scattered outside the territory controlled by the papacy.
Note that Manfred is not angry. Many of the sinners in the Inferno are very angry. In contrast, Manfred is happy that he was saved, and he does not mourn how his corpse was treated on Earth.
Manfred speaks to Dante because he has a message for him to give his daughter. Dante writes:
When with humility I had disclaimed
E’er having seen him, “Now behold!” he said,
And showed me high upon his breast a wound.
Then said he with a smile: “I am Manfredi,
The grandson of the Empress Costanza;
Therefore, when thou returnest, I beseech thee
Go to my daughter beautiful, the mother
Of Sicily’s honour and of Aragon’s,
And the truth tell her, if aught else be told.”
The souls in Purgatory sometimes have requests of Dante, but they are not self-centered. Manfred wants his daughter to know that he is a saved soul; that will give her some comfort.
Why is Manfred smiling as he says that? There are a few possible answers:
1) He may simply be amused that Dante does not recognize him.
2) It could be because Dante will be able to give the good news of his salvation to his daughter.
3) Perhaps because he is aware that Dante is likely to think that he does not belong here in Purgatory, he may be thinking, I bet you didn’t think I was saved, did you?
4) Manfred knows that his daughter will pray for him, this enabling him to climb the mountain faster.
Manfred’s soul has the wounds that his body suffered when he died. In Virgil’s Aeneid, the ghosts of the dead also bear those wounds, as we see when Aeneas speaks to Deiphobus.
- How did Manfred die? Why is he in Purgatory?
Manfred tells what happened when he lay dying on the field of Benevento:
“After I had my body lacerated
By these two mortal stabs, I gave myself
Weeping to Him, who willingly doth pardon.
Horrible my iniquities had been;
But Infinite Goodness hath such ample arms,
That it receives whatever turns to it.”
Manfred waited until the very last moment to give his soul to Christ. His story has a happy ending — it emphasizes that God will forgive anyone who wants forgiveness. God’s mercy has no limits. Note that it does not take years of penance to get God’s mercy. All it takes is a moment, and Manfred repented his sins in the very last moment of his life.
- Who make up the first group whom Dante encounters in Antepurgatory?
The first group is those who were Excommunicated. However, Manfred also fits in well with another group: those who waited until the last moment to repent.
- What is excommunication? Manfred was excommunicated. Does that keep him out of Purgatory?
“The church’s curse is not the final word,
for Everlasting Love may still return,
if hope reveals the slightest hint of green.”
Excommunication is being expelled formally from a religious body. Excommunication is not the same thing as damnation, as Manfred is well aware. God decides where you will go in the afterlife, not the Church.
Manfred does have to wait a long time until he can begin to climb up the Mountain; however, prayers can shorten the length of time he has to wait.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
PURGATORY: CANTO 1 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 2 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 3 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 4 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 5 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 6 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 7 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 8 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 9 RETELLING
PURGATORY: CANTO 10 RETELLING
DANTE PDFs and LINKs
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