David Bruce: Dante’s PARADISE: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 9: Venus — Cunizza, Folquet, Rahab”

“Canto 9: Venus — Cunizza, Folquet, Rahab”

  • Which kind of souls can be found on Venus?

Excessive lovers are found on Venus.

Dante does not tell us of his friend Charles Martel’s specific sins, but we do meet three other excessive lovers in this canto.

  • Write a short character analysis of Cunizza da Romano.

Cunizza (1198-1279) is the sister of the tyrant Ezzelino (1194-1259), who is in the Inferno because of the blood he spilled when he was a tyrant.

Cunizza was the lover of Sordello, one of the late repentant of the Prepurgatory. He abducted her from her husband (or perhaps she left her husband for him). She had lots of husbands and lovers: four husbands and two lovers. In other words, she had lots of sex.

According to Cunizza, the planet Venus formed her character; thus, she fell in love easily. Today, we would say that her DNA made her fall in love easily. Of course, Cunizza still has free will and the ability to tell right from wrong.

In later life, she was a good soul and did many good deeds. Sinners can repent and end up in Paradise.

Being in Paradise, she has special knowledge, and she prophesies that some loveless sinners will be punished in northern Italy.

  • What is the importance of Cunizza da Romano’s statement that “gladly I forgive in me / what caused my fate” (Musa Paradise9.34-35)?

This is a joyous utterance. People in Paradise do not beat themselves up because of their sin. They know that God forgives them, and they forgive themselves.

  • Write a short character analysis of Folquet of Marseilles.

Folquet (c. 1160-1231) was a famous troubadour. Folquet, of course, loved women, and his love made him suffer. In fact, he says that his torments equaled those of three classic lovers.

By the way, “c.” means “circa, or around, or approximately.”

Late in life, Folquet became a monk and then a bishop.

Folquet, like Cunizza, does not feel the sting of sin. Instead, he and the other souls in Paradise are happy that their sins have been forgiven. He says,

“Yet here is no repenting, but we smile,

Not at the fault, which comes not back to mind,

But at the power which ordered and foresaw.”

(Longfellow 9.103-105)

  • Folquet says that his love torments equaled those of three classic lovers. Explain those stories.

1) Dido.

Pygmalion, Dido’s brother, killed her husband, and she fled to North Africa, where she founded Carthage. Aeneas, blown off course by a storm sent by Juno, landed in Carthage, and Dido fell in love with him although she had pledged to remain faithful to her husband. Dido and Aeneas had a love affair until Jupiter, through Mercury, reminded Aeneas that he had a destiny to fulfill in Italy: to become the founder of the Roman people. Out of grief, Dido committed suicide.

Jupiter is the king of the gods, and mercury is a messenger-god.

2) Phyllis.

Phyllis, a Thracian princess, loved Demophoon, the son of Theseus. According to Mark Musa, they were supposed to be married, but when he did not show up at the altar, she hanged herself (115). According to another version of the myth, Phyllis and Demophoon married, but he left her behind when he returned home, promising to return quickly. When he did not return, she hanged herself.

3) Deianira.

Deianira was the wife of Hercules. However, he fell out of love with her and pursued Iole instead. She believed that a shirt soaked in the blood of Nessus, a Centaur (which had tried to rape her, but which Hercules killed) would restore Hercules’ love for her. Her source of information was Nessus, but he tricked her. The blood was poison and burned like acid, and Hercules killed himself to escape the agony caused by the Centaur’s blood. Of course, we met Nessus in the Inferno. He gave Dante a ride across the river of boiling blood.

  • Who is Rahab?

We find souls in Paradise praising other souls. Cunizza praised Folquet, and Folquet praises Rahab.

Rahab is the whore of Jericho; she helped the Old Testament general Joshua conquer the city. Rahab hid two of Joshua’s scouts, and she is an ancestor of Christ.

During the Harrowing of Hell, Rahab was released from Limbo.

Folquet says,

“To this sphere where the shadow of your earth

comes to an end, she was the first to rise

among the souls redeemed in Christ’s great triumph.”

(Musa 9.118-120)

We read about Rahab in Joshua 2 (King James Version):

1: And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there.

2: And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country.

3: And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country.

4: And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were:

5: And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.

6: But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.

7: And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.

8: And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;

9: And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.

10: For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.

11: And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

12: Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token:

13: And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.

14: And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.

15: Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.

16: And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way.

17: And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.

18: Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee.

19: And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.

20: And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.

21: And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.

22: And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not.

23: So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them:

24: And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.

Even though Rahab was a whore, she made it into Paradise.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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