Canto 4: Prepurgatory — The Spiritually Lazy
- Why should we spend time discussing Antepurgatory?
We should spend time discussing Antepurgatory for these reasons:
1) These souls in Antepurgatory are very interesting, and they often have interesting relationships with the sinners whom we saw in the Inferno.
2) We learn about Purgatory as a whole from these sinners.
- Why is there so much ritual throughout Purgatory, including singing?
Of course, we will see a lot of singing, and we have already seen singing. Much of the singing is about doing penance. In addition to the singing, we will see a certain amount of ritual in Purgatory.
Here’s why: Dante was very aware of monastic life. For one thing, during his travels, he would often stay in monasteries. The monks would perform their monastic offices — the singing of the Psalms — several times each day. Seven times per day and once at night, they would meet in order to sing communally.
We see the same kind of communal singing in Purgatory. One thing that Dante is telling us is that the purging process can begin while we are still alive on Earth. We need not wait until we are dead to begin the purging process.
- Which process is Purgatory all about?
Of course, the process is all about getting rid of sin. To do that, you have to go from focusing on what is material to focusing on what is spiritual, and you have to go from focusing on what is external to focusing on what is internal.
Instead of focusing on acquiring wealth and power so that you can be proud, you have to focus on losing your pride.
Why is pride so bad? If you put yourself above other people, you can treat them as things. For example, if you like to look at pornography, you are saying that your pleasure is more important than the lives of the runaways and drug addicts who are manipulated to perform in pornography. (Of course, some performers in pornography are not manipulated.) This is an example of pride.
- Why do Dante and Virgil have to rest after climbing up part of the mountain?
Dante and Virgil find a pathway up the Mountain. It is very steep, and they have to rest after climbing it for a while. However, Virgil explains that the Mountain will become easier to climb the higher one climbs up the Mountain:
And he to me: “This mount is such, that ever
At the beginning down below ’tis tiresome,
And aye the more one climbs, the less it hurts.”
Basically, the higher one climbs up the Mountain, the more one purges his or her sin. The more sin one purges, the easier it is to climb up the Mountain.
Of course, we will find out that the Mountain of Purgatory has seven ledges or storeys, each of which is dedicated to purging one of the deadly sins.
- Which group of repentant sinners does Dante run into in Canto 4?
The second class of the Late Repentant who are in Antepurgatory is the Indolent or Lazy. We saw the unrepentant sinners who were guilty of sloth punished in the Inferno in the circle dedicated to punishing the violent. As you may remember, some controversy exists concerning the existence of the sinners whose presence is noticed only because of the bubbles rising up to the surface. Some critics think that those sinners are the Sullen, but Dante translator Mark Musa points out that they are probably the sinners who are guilty of Sloth because Sloth is purged on the Mountain of Purgatory and therefore sinners guilty of Sloth must be found in the Inferno. (Some critics think that the sinners who are guilty of Sloth are those found in the Vestibule.)
- Write a short character analysis of Belacqua.
Belacqua is a lazy man who put off repenting. Here in Antepurgatory, he is sitting with his head between his knees. He cannot start the purging of his sins yet. He is well known for his laziness.
Chances are, Belacqua has a lazy, drawly way of speaking. He probably speaks slowly. He definitely speaks sarcastically.
- What can lessen the waiting period for the repentant sinners in the “waiting room” outside Purgatory Proper?
Belacqua lets us know that he must wait to begin purging his sins until an amount of time has passed that matches the amount of time he spent putting off his repentance. Prayers from good people will shorten the amount of time he has to wait. Belacqua says,
“Unless, e’er that, some prayer may bring me aid
Which rises from a heart that lives in grace;
What profit others that in heaven are heard not?”
The prayers of an evil person — such as the prayers of a Hypocrite — will do the dead souls no good because such prayers are not heard in Heaven.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
DANTE PDFs and LINKs
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
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