David Bruce: Dante’s PARADISE: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 3: Moon — Piccarda and the Empress Constance (Unfulfillment of Religious Vows)”

“Canto 3: Moon — Piccarda and the Empress Constance (Unfulfillment of Religious Vows)”

  • Which kind of souls can be found on the Moon?

Many souls are found are on the Moon. The two souls who are identified are women who have left their religious vows unfulfilled.

  • Is Heaven (Paradise) reserved for those who have lived perfect lives?

No. All of us have sinned. If Paradise were reserved for people who have led perfect lives, it would be empty.

Of course, it may seem odd that we meet people in Paradise who have done such things as leave their religious vows unfulfilled; however, one thing we can learn from these souls is that God can forgive any sin.

  • Which qualities are associated, respectively, with the Moon, Mercury, and Venus?

The first three planets we will visit are the Moon, Mercury, and Venus. Christians of the Middle Ages associated these planets with the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love.

The souls we meet on these first planets were lacking in those particular virtues. Thus, the souls we meet on the Moon were lacking in faith.

Why is the Moon associated with faith? It waxes and wanes, and throughout our lives our faith in God can also wax and wane. It can grow or diminish.

Following Venus we will visit the Sun, where the souls will be known for their positive virtue (in the case of the Sun, wisdom). Before that, we will see souls who in some ways are lacking in a certain virtue.

Dante is clever in the way he organizes The Divine Comedy. In the Inferno, in Canto 9 we go through the Gates of Dis. In the Purgatory, in Canto 9 we go through the gates of Purgatory(we go from Prepurgatory into Purgatory Proper). In the Paradise, in Canto 9 we go from the planets that are touched by the shadow of the Earth to the Sun, which is not touched by the shadow of the Earth (and thus is purer, according to Dante).

  • Write a short character analysis of Piccarda Donati.

Piccarda Donati is someone whose brother we have met in the Purgatory. Her brother is Forese Donati, who while alive exchanged comic insult poems with Dante. Forese was being purged of gluttony in Canto 23 of Purgatory.

Cianfa Donati, another member of the Donati family, was among the thieves in the Inferno.

We learned from Forese Donati that Corso, his brother, will end up in Hell. Piccarda had entered a nunnery, but Corso, a brute (and her brother), forced her to leave the nunnery and make a political marriage — a marriage that politically benefited Corso. Corso was the leader of the Black Guelfs in Florence, and he was the person who persuaded Pope Boniface VIII to send Charles of Valois and his troops to Florence — the military action that led to the exile of Dante from Florence. Corso attempted to gain control of Florence, but he failed. He was captured, and when he tried to escape, he took a spear to the throat and died. He died on 6 October 1308.

Once again, we learn that family does not get you into Heaven or Hell; your own freely willed actions do that.

  • Write a short character analysis of the Empress Constance.

Constance, of course, is in Paradise, but her son, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, is in the Inferno with the other heretics.

Constance’s grandson, Manfred, is among the Late Repentant (the excommunicated) in Prepurgatory.

Dante believed that Constance was also forced out of a nunnery.

Thus, neither Piccarda nor Constance was able to keep the religious vows she had made.

  • Do Piccarda Donati and the Empress Constance wish to be in a higher sphere in Paradise?

We read:

“But thou shalt recognise I am Piccarda,

Who, stationed here among these other blessed,

Myself am blessed in the slowest sphere.”

(Longfellow 3.49-51)

This means that Piccarda knows that she is associated with the lowest sphere of Paradise. She adds,

“And this allotment, which appears so low,

Therefore is given us, because our vows

Have been neglected and in some part void.”

(Longfellow 3.55-57)

This is interesting. Some people in Paradise are higher than others. However, we learn that everyone in Paradise is perfectly happy and blissful. No one wishes to be elsewhere than where they are.

Dante asks Piccarda and the other souls here:

“But tell me, ye who in this place are happy,

Are you desirous of a higher place,

To see more or to make yourselves more friends?”

(Longfellow 3.64-66)

Piccarda replies:

“Brother, our will is quieted by virtue

Of charity, that makes us wish alone

For what we have, nor gives us thirst for more.”

(Longfellow 3.70-72)

She adds,

“In His will is our peace — it is the sea

in which all things are drawn that it itself

creates or which the work of Nature makes.”

(Musa 3.85-97)

 “And his will is our peace; this is the sea

To which is moving onward whatsoever

It doth create, and all that nature makes.”

(Longfellow3.85-97)

So the answer is that Piccarda and Constance and the other souls are happy exactly where they are. Their will is in accordance with the will of God. All of these souls experience all the happiness that they are capable of experiencing.

I don’t see the souls in Paradise as lacking free will. Instead, they have perfected their wills. They always want the right thing. Who has free will? The obese person who sees a doughnut and eats it although he knows that he should refrain from snacking? Or the person with a healthy weight who sees a doughnut and refrains from eating it in order to maintain her good health although she knows it will be tasty. Of course, the person who has free will is the person who is able to resist temptation. The person who sees a doughnut and eats the doughnut, then hates himself for his weakness is the person who lacks free will. (Am I confusing free will and willpower here? I don’t think so. If you lack the willpower to do what ought to be done, then you lack free will. Free will involves making a choice. If you are unable to do something that you want to do, such as refrain from eating a doughnut, then you lack freedom.)

These souls are at peace. Beatrice tells Dante early in the canto:

“Therefore speak with them, listen and believe;

For the true light, which giveth peace to them,

Permits them not to turn from it their feet.”

(Longfellow 3.31-33)

  • Does art exist in Paradise?

Note that lots of art — singing and dancing — exist in Paradise, as does lots of happiness and peace.

When Piccarda and Constance and the other souls leave, we hear the first song of the Paradise: “Ave Maria.” Here is the original Latin and an English translation of one version of the “Ave Maria”:

LATIN:

Ave Maria        

[G]ratia plena            

Dominus tecum          

Benedicta tu    

Et benedictus  

Fructus ventris tui.       

Sancta Maria  

Mater Dei       

Ora pro nobis              

Peccatoribus  

Nunc et in         

Hora mortis nostrae.

ENGLISH:

Hail Mary

[with] grace filled

the Lord [is] with you

Blessed [are] you

And blessed

[Is] the fruit of the womb of you.

Holy Mary

Mother of God

Pray for us

Sinners

Now and in

The hour of the death of us.

Source:http://www.hartenshield.com/avemaria.html

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PARADISE: CANTO 3  RETELLING

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