David Bruce: Dante’s PURGATORY: A Discussion Guide — Canto 4: Prepurgatory — The Spiritually Lazy

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.”

(Longfellow 4.88-90)

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?”

(Longfellow 4.133-135)

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





Free eBooks by David Bruce (pdfs) (Includes Discussion Guides for Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise)

















































Posted in Dante, Discussion Guide, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s RICHARD III: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 1-5

 — 5.1 —

In a field of Salisbury, the Sheriff and some halberdiers led Buckingham to the place of execution.

“Won’t King Richard let me speak with him?” Buckingham asked.

“No, my good lord,” the Sheriff replied. “Therefore be patient.”

“Hastings, and Edward IV’s children, Rivers, Grey, Holy King Henry VI, and King Henry VI’s fair son — Edward, Prince of Wales — as well as Vaughan, and all others who have died because of underhand, corrupted, foul injustice, if your angry, discontented souls do through the clouds behold this present hour, get your revenge by mocking my destruction!” Buckingham said.

He then asked, “This is All-Souls’ Day, fellows, is it not?”

“It is, my lord,” the Sheriff said.

On All-Souls’ Day, Catholics pray for the souls of the dead, including souls in Purgatory.

“Why, then All-Souls’ Day is my body’s doomsday — it is my final day,” Buckingham said. “This is the doomsday that, in King Edward IV’s time, I wished that might fall on me, if I was ever found to be false and disloyal to his children or to his wife’s allies. This is the day on which I wished to fall by the false faith of the man I most trusted — Richard.

“This All-Souls’ Day to my frightened soul is the appointed day on which the respite for the punishment of my sins ends. That high All-Seer Whom I trifled with has turned my feigned prayer on my head and given to me in earnest what I begged for in jest.

“Thus does He — God — force the swords of wicked men to turn their own points on the wicked men’s bosoms. Now old Queen Margaret’s curse has fallen upon my head. ‘When Richard,’ said she, ‘shall split your heart with sorrow, remember that Margaret was a prophetess.’

“Come, sirs, convey me to the block of shame where my head will be cut off. Wrong has only wrong, and blame is the due of blame. I have done wrong, and so I will suffer wrong. I am blameworthy, and so I will be blamed.”

 — 5.2 —

At their camp near Tamworth in central England, the Earl of Richmond stood with some of his followers: the Earl of Oxford, Sir James Blunt, Sir Walter Herbert, and others. Near them were drummers and flag-bearers.

Using the royal plural, the Earl of Richmond said, “Fellows in arms, and my most loving friends, bruised underneath the yoke of tyranny, thus far into the middle of the land have we marched on without impediment and resistance and here we receive from our stepfather, Lord Stanley, some lines of fair comfort and encouragement in a letter.

“The wretched, bloody, and usurping boar — Richard — spoiled your summer fields and fruitful vines. He also swills your warm blood like hogwash and makes his trough in your disemboweled bodies. This foul swine lies now even in the center of this isle, near the town of Leicester, as we learn. From Tamworth to Leicester is only one day’s march.

“In God’s name, let us cheerfully go on, courageous friends, so we can reap the harvest of perpetual peace by this one bloody trial of sharp war.”

Oxford replied, “Every man’s conscience is a thousand swords that will fight against that bloody homicide — Richard.”

Herbert said, “I don’t doubt that Richard’s friends will fly to join us.”

Blunt said, “Richard has no friends but those who are loyal to him out of fear of what he will do to them if they are not loyal. When he needs their help most, they will shrink from him.”

The Earl of Richmond replied, “All of this is to our advantage. So then, in God’s name, march. True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings. Kings it makes gods, and creatures of lower status it makes Kings.”

 — 5.3 —

On a field in Bosworth, where the battle would be fought the following day, stood the fully armed King Richard III. With him were the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Suffolk, and others.

King Richard III ordered, “Here pitch our tents, here in Bosworth field.”

He then asked, “My Lord of Surrey, why do you look so sad?”

“My heart is ten times lighter than my looks,” the Earl of Surrey replied.

“My Lord of Norfolk —” Richard III said.

“I am here, most gracious liege.”

“Norfolk, we must have blows in battle, ha! Mustn’t we?”

“We must both give and take blows, my gracious lord,” the Duke of Norfolk replied.

“Put my tent up there!” Richard III ordered. “I lie here tonight, but where will I lie tomorrow? Well, all’s one for that. It doesn’t matter.”

He then asked, “Who has reconnoitered the number of the foe?”

“Six or seven thousand is their utmost power,” the Duke of Norfolk replied.

“Why, the number of soldiers in our battalion triples that number,” Richard III said. “Besides, the King’s name is a tower of strength, which they in the adverse party lack.”

He ordered for the third time, “Up with my tent there!”

Then he said, “Valiant gentlemen, let us survey the battlefield to see which part is most advantageous to place our troops. Call for some men of sound tactical knowledge. Let’s lack no discipline and make no delay, for, lords, tomorrow is a busy day.”

On the other side of the battlefield, Richmond stood with Sir William Brandon, the Earl of Oxford, and others. Some soldiers were pitching his tent.

Richmond said, “The weary Sun has made a golden set, and by the bright track of his fiery chariot, gives token of a good day tomorrow.

“Sir William Brandon, you shall bear my standard — my flag.

“Give me some ink and paper in my tent. I’ll draw the form and layout of our army, appoint each leader to his individual charge, and share in just proportion our small strength.

“My Lord of Oxford, and you, Sir William Brandon, and you, Sir Walter Herbert, stay with me.

“The Earl of Pembroke is staying with his regiment. Good Captain Blunt, bear my ‘good night’ to him and tell him that by the second hour in the morning I want him to go to my tent and see me. Yet one thing more, good Blunt, before you go, where is Lord Stanley quartered — do you know?”

“Unless I have greatly mistaken his colors — battle flags — which I am very sure I have not done, his regiment lies half a mile at least south from the mighty army of King Richard III.”

“If it is possible to do without great danger, good Captain Blunt, bear my ‘good night’ to him, and give him from me this very important letter.”

“Upon my life, my lord, I’ll undertake the task,” Sir James Blunt replied, “and so, God give you quiet rest tonight!”

“Good night, good Captain Blunt,” Richmond said. “Come, gentlemen, let us plan tomorrow’s business inside our tent; the air is raw and cold.”

On the other side of the battlefield, the Duke of Norfolk, Ratcliff, Catesby, and others went to Richard III, who asked, “What time is it?”

“It’s suppertime, my lord,” Catesby replied. “It’s nine o’clock.”

It was late for suppertime, but Catesby knew that Richard III had not eaten.

“I will not have supper tonight,” Richard III said. “Give me some ink and paper. Is the beaver of my helmet easier to manipulate than it was? And is all my armor laid in my tent?”

“It is, my liege,” Catesby replied. “All things are in readiness.”

“Good Norfolk, hasten to your charge,” Richard III said. “Put up careful watch, choose trusty sentinels.”

“I go, my lord,” the Duke of Norfolk replied.

“Get up with the morning lark tomorrow, noble Norfolk,” Richard III said.

“I promise you that I will, my lord.”

He exited.

“Catesby!” Richard III called.

“My lord?” Catesby replied.

“Send out a Pursuivant-at-Arms to Lord Stanley’s regiment. Tell him to bring his army before the Sun rises, lest George, his son, fall into the blind cave of eternal night. If Lord Stanley fails to obey my order, his son will die.”

A Pursuivant-at-Arms is a junior officer who attends a herald.

Catesby exited.

Richard III ordered, “Fill me a bowl of wine. Give me a clock. Saddle my horse, which is named White Surrey, for the battlefield tomorrow. Look that my lances are sound, and not too heavy.”

He then called, “Ratcliff!”

“My lord?” Ratcliff replied.

“Have you seen the melancholy Lord Northumberland?” Richard III asked.

“The Earl of Surrey and he, at around twilight, the time for shutting away chickens, went from troop to troop through the army, cheering up the soldiers.”

“I am satisfied,” Richard III said. “Give me a bowl of wine: I don’t have that brisk readiness of spirit, nor cheerfulness of mind, that I used to have. Set the wine down. Are ink and paper ready?”

“They are, my lord,” Ratcliff replied.

“Tell my guard to keep watch; leave me. Ratcliff, about the middle of the night come to my tent and help to arm me. Leave me, I say.”

Ratcliff and Richard III’s attendants departed, leaving the guard behind.

On the other side of the battlefield, Lord Stanley, the Earl of Derby, went to visit the Earl of Richmond. This was a secret meeting between stepfather and stepson because Lord Stanley was supposed to fight for Richard III during the upcoming battle.

Lord Stanley said, “May fortune and victory guide your destiny! May you be victorious tomorrow!”

“May all the comfort that the dark night can afford be yours, noble stepfather!” Richmond replied.

Using the royal plural, he said, “Tell me, how is our loving mother?”

“I, as your mother’s deputy, bless you from your mother, who prays continually for your good. So much for that. The silent hours steal on, and flakes of darkness break in the East.

“In brief — for the time bids us to be brief — prepare your army early in the morning, and put your fortune to the arbitration of bloody sword strokes and death-dealing war.

“I, as I may — that which I would like to do, which is to support you openly, I cannot — will as best I can secretly support your side and aid you in this doubtful shock of arms. But I may not be too openly on your side lest, if I am seen supporting you, your stepbrother, young George, be executed in his father’s sight.

“Farewell. The lack of leisure time and the fears of this time cut off the ceremonious vows of love and ample interchange of sweet discourse, which family members as long separated as we should dwell upon. May God give us leisure for these rites of love! Once more, adieu. Be valiant, and prosper well!”

Richmond ordered, “Good lords, conduct Lord Stanley to his regiment. I’ll strive, with troubled thoughts, to take a nap, lest leaden slumber weigh me down tomorrow, when I should mount with wings of victory. Once more, good night, kind lords and gentlemen.”

Everyone except Richmond exited.

He prayed, “Oh, You, Whose captain I account myself, look on my military forces with a gracious eye; put in their hands Your bruising irons of wrath, so that they may crush with a heavy fall the usurping helmets of our adversaries! Make us Your ministers of chastisement, so that we may praise You in the victory! To You I commend my watchful soul, before I let fall the windows — the eyelids — of my eyes. Sleeping and waking, defend me always!”

He fell asleep.

On the opposite side of the battlefield, Richard III was also asleep.

Ghosts began to appear in the dreams of King Richard III and the Earl of Richmond.

The ghost of Prince Edward, son of King Henry VI, appeared.

To Richard III, he said, “Let me sit heavy on your soul tomorrow! Think about how you stabbed me in the prime of my youth at Tewksbury. Despair, therefore, and die!”

To Richmond, he said, “Be cheerful, Richmond; for the wronged souls of butchered Princes fight in your behalf. King Henry VI’s son thus comforts you, Richmond.”

The ghost of King Henry VI appeared.

To Richard III, he said, “When I was mortal, my anointed body was punched full of deadly holes by you. Think about the Tower of London and me. Despair, and die! Harry VI tells you to despair, and die!”

To Richmond, he said, “Virtuous and holy, you will be conqueror! Harry, who prophesied that you would be King, thus comforts you in your sleep. Live, and flourish!”

The ghost of Clarence appeared.

To Richard III, he said, “Let me sit heavy on your soul tomorrow! I, who was washed to death with nauseating wine, am poor Clarence, who by your guile was betrayed to death! Tomorrow in the battle think about me, and drop your blunt sword. Despair, and die!”

To Richmond, he said, “You offspring of the House of Lancaster, the wronged heirs of the House of York pray for you. May good angels guard your army! Live, and flourish!”

The ghosts of Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan appeared.

Rivers said, “Let me sit heavy on your soul tomorrow. I am Rivers, who died at Pomfret! Despair, and die!”

Grey said to Richard III, “Think about Grey, and let your soul despair!”

Vaughan said to Richard III, “Think about Vaughan, and with guilty fear, let your lance drop. Despair, and die!”

All together, the three ghosts said to Richmond, “Awaken, and think that our wrongs in Richard’s bosom will conquer him! Awaken, and win the day!”

The ghost of Hastings appeared.

Hastings said to Richard III, “Bloodthirsty and guilty, guiltily awaken, and in a bloody battle end your days! Think about Lord Hastings. Despair, and die!”

To Richmond he said, “Quiet untroubled soul, awaken, awaken! Arm, fight, and conquer, for fair England’s sake!”

The ghosts of the two young Princes appeared.

To Richard III they said together, “Dream about your nephews who were smothered in the Tower of London. Let us be led within your bosom, Richard, and weigh you down to ruin, shame, and death! Your nephews’ souls tell you to despair and die!”

To Richmond they said, “Sleep, Richmond, sleep in peace, and wake in joy. May good angels guard you from the boar’s annoyance! Live, and beget a happy race of Kings! Edward IV’s unhappy sons tell you to flourish.”

The ghost of Lady Anne appeared.

To Richard III she said, “Richard, your wife, that wretched Anne who never slept a quiet hour with you, now fills your sleep with perturbations. Tomorrow in the battle think about me, and drop your blunt sword. Despair, and die!”

To Richmond she said, “You quiet soul, sleep a quiet sleep. Dream of success and happy victory! Your adversary’s wife prays for you.”

The ghost of Buckingham appeared.

To Richard III he said, “I was the first who helped you to the crown; I was the last who felt your tyranny. In the battle think about Buckingham, and die in terror of your guiltiness! Dream on, dream on, dream of bloody deeds and death. Fainting, despair; despairing, yield your breath!”

To Richmond he said, “I died because I hoped to render you aid before I was able to yield you aid. But cheer your heart, and do not be dismayed. May God and good angels fight on Richmond’s side, and may Richard fall from the height of all his pride.”

The ghosts vanished.

Still half-asleep, Richard III called, “Give me another horse! Bind up my wounds! Have mercy, Jesus!”

He woke up and said, “Wait! I was only dreaming. Coward conscience, how you are afflicting me! The candle flames burn blue — a sign of the presence of ghosts. It is now exactly midnight. Cold fearful drops — tears — stand on my trembling flesh.

“What do I fear? Myself? There’s no one else nearby. Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I. Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, a murderer is here because I am here. Then fly away from here. What, from myself? Here is a great reason why I should flee from myself — lest I get revenge on myself. What, revenge myself upon myself? Alas. I love myself. Why? For any good that I myself have done to myself? No! Instead, I hate myself because of the hateful deeds committed by myself! I am a villain. Yet I lie. I am not a villain. Fool, of yourself speak well. Fool, do not flatter yourself.

“My conscience has a thousand different tongues, and every tongue brings in a different tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain. Perjury, perjury, in the highest degree. Murder, stern murder, in the direst degree. All different kinds of sins, all used in each degree — bad, worse, worst — throng to the bar of justice, all of them crying, ‘Guilty! Guilty!’

“I shall despair. No creature loves me, and if I die, no soul shall pity me. Why should they, since I myself find in myself no pity for myself? I thought that the souls of all whom I had murdered came to my tent, and every soul threatened vengeance tomorrow on the head of me, Richard.”

Ratcliff arrived and said, “My lord!”

“By God’s wounds! Who is there?” Richard III said.

“Ratcliff, my lord; it is I. The early village rooster has twice crowed and saluted the morning. Your friends are up and buckle on their armor.”

“Ratcliff, I have dreamed a frightening dream!” Richard III said. “What do you think? Will all our friends prove to be true and loyal?”

“No doubt, my lord.”

“Ratcliff, I fear, I fear —”

“No, my good lord, do not be afraid of shadows.”

Richard III replied, “By the apostle Paul, shadows tonight have struck more terror to the soul of Richard than can the substance of ten thousand soldiers armed in proven-to-be-impenetrable armor, and led by shallow Richmond. It is not yet near day. Come, go with me. Under our tents I’ll play the eavesdropper in order to see if any soldiers mean to desert me.”

On the other side of the battlefield, some lords went to Richmond’s tent.

“Good morning, Richmond!” they said.

“I beg your pardon, lords and wakeful gentlemen,” Richmond said. “You have found me acting like a tardy sluggard here.”

A lord asked, “How have you slept, my lord?”

“Since your departure, my lords, I have enjoyed the sweetest sleep, and the fairest-boding, most encouraging dreams that ever entered a drowsy head. I dreamed that the souls whose bodies Richard murdered came to my tent, and shouted ‘Victory’ to me. I promise you that my soul is very joyful as it remembers so fair a dream.”

He then asked, “How late in the morning is it, lords?”

“It is almost the stroke of four.”

“Why, then it is time for me to arm and give orders,” Richmond said.

He said to his soldiers, “Loving countrymen, the lack of time available before we fight forbids me to say much more than I have already said, but remember this. God and our good cause fight upon our side. The prayers of holy saints and wronged souls, like high-reared fortified walls, stand before our faces. With the exception of Richard, those whom we fight against prefer to have us win than Richard, whom they follow.

“For what is the man whom they follow? Truly, gentlemen, he is a bloodthirsty tyrant and a murderer. He is a man who was raised to the throne because of bloodshed, and a man who has kept the throne because of bloodshed. He is a man who used people to get what he has, and he slaughtered those who were the means to help him achieve the throne.

“He is a base and foul stone, made precious only by the foil of England’s throne, where he is falsely set.”

Richmond was comparing Richard to a stone of little worth — Richard was not a precious jewel — that had been placed in a foil, or setting, of great worth.

Richmond continued, “Richard is a man who has always been God’s enemy. If you fight against God’s enemy, God will justly protect you as his soldiers. If you sweat to put a tyrant down, you will sleep in peace once the tyrant is slain. If you fight against your country’s foes, your country’s fat — its wealth — shall pay the wage for your pains. If you fight to keep your wives safe, your wives shall welcome home the conquerors. If you free your children from the sword, your children’s children will repay you in your old age.

“So then, in the name of God and all these rights, raise high your flags, draw your willing swords. As for me, the ransom of my bold attempt to save England from Richard shall be this cold corpse on the Earth’s cold face. If I am captured, I shall pay no ransom to be freed — Richard will have to kill me. But if I thrive, the least of you shall share in the gain of my attempt to save England from Richard.

“Play the drums and trumpets boldly and cheerfully. God and Saint George! Richmond and victory!”

On the other side of the battlefield, King Richard III and Ratcliff spoke. With them were attendants and soldiers.

“What did Northumberland say about Richmond?” Richard III asked.

“That he was never trained as a soldier,” Ratcliff answered.

“He said the truth, and what did Surrey say then?”

“He smiled and said, ‘The better for our purpose.’”

“He was in the right; and so indeed it is,” Richard III said.

A clock began to strike, and Richard III said, “Count the strokes.”

After the clock had finished striking, he said, “Give me an almanac. Who has seen the Sun today?”

“Not I, my lord,” Ratcliff replied.

After looking at the almanac, Richard III said, “Then he — the Sun — disdains to shine; for according to the almanac, he should have adorned the East an hour ago. A black day will it be to somebody. Ratcliff!”

“My lord?”

“The Sun will not be seen today,” Richard III said. “The sky frowns and scowls upon our army. I wish these dewy tears were off the ground — I wish the Sun would dry the dew. Not shine today! Why, what is that to me more than it is to Richmond? The same Heaven that frowns on me looks sadly upon him.”

The Duke of Norfolk arrived and said, “Arm, arm, my lord; the foe vaunts and exults in the field.”

“Come, bustle, bustle,” Richard III said. “Caparison and make ready my horse; put my horse’s trappings on it. Call up Lord Stanley and tell him to bring his army.”

He then pointed to a map as he said, “I will lead forth my soldiers to the plain, and my army shall be ordered like this. My front line of soldiers shall be drawn out all in length, consisting equally of cavalry and infantry. Our archers shall be placed in their midst. John, Duke of Norfolk, and Thomas, Earl of Surrey, shall lead these foot soldiers and horse soldiers. They thus deployed, I will follow with our main forces, which on either side shall be well flanked with our best cavalry. We will have all this and the help of Saint George to boot! What do you think, Norfolk?”

“This is a good plan, warlike sovereign,” the Duke of Norfolk replied. He then showed Richard III a piece of paper and said, “I found this on my tent this morning.”

Richard III read the piece of paper out loud, “Jockey of Norfolk, be not too bold, for Dickon your master is bought and sold.”

“Jockey” was a nickname for John; John was the Christian name of the Duke of Norfolk. “Dickon” was a nickname for Richard. “To be bought and sold” meant “to be betrayed for money or something of worth.”

Richard III said, “This is a thing devised by the enemy. Go, gentleman, every man go to his charge. Let not our babbling dreams frighten our souls. Conscience is only a word that cowards use; it was first invented to keep the strong in awe. Let our strong arms be our conscience, and let our swords be our law. March on, join bravely, let us go pell-mell if not to Heaven, then hand in hand to Hell.”

“What shall I say more than I have said? Remember with whom you are to cope. They are a sort of vagabonds, rascals, and runaways. They are a scum of Bretons from Brittany, France, and they are base lackey peasants, whom their over-filled country vomits forth and so they go to desperate ventures and assured destruction.

“You sleeping safe, they bring to you unrest. You having lands, and blest with beauteous wives, they would steal the one, and stain the other.

“And who leads them but a paltry fellow, long kept in Brittany at our brother-in-law’s cost?”

Charles, Duke of Burgundy, had financially supported the Earl of Richmond at the court of the Duke of Brittany.King Richard III’s sister, Margaret of York, had married Charles, Duke of Burgundy.

Richard III continued, “He is a milk-sop, one who never in his life felt as much cold as is felt by one standing in snow higher than his shoes. Let’s whip these stragglers over the seas again; let’s lash away from here these overweening rags of France, these famished beggars, who are weary of their lives, and who, poor rats, except for dreaming on this foolish exploit, would hang themselves because they lack the means of supporting their lives.”

He was comparing Richmond’s soldiers to poor vagabonds who, if they were found wandering outside their own parish, would be whipped and sent back to their parish.

Richard III continued, “If we shall be conquered, let men conquer us, and not these bastard Bretons, whom our fathers have in their own land beaten, struck, and thumped, and left them the heirs of shame in the history books.”

He was referring to English victories over the French. In 1346, on a French battlefield, Edward the Black Prince, the son of King Edward III, played the role of a hero as he and his soldiers defeated the French army in the Battle of Crécy.In 1356, he also defeated the French in the Battle of Poitiers. On 25 October 1415, on the plains near the village of Agincourt, King Henry V and his army, despite being vastly outnumbered, decisively defeated the French army.

Richard III continued, “Shall these Bretons enjoy our lands? Shall they lie with our wives? Shall they rape our daughters?”

Military drums sounded.

Richard III continued, “Listen!I hear their drums. Fight, gentlemen of England! Fight, bold yoemen! Draw, archers, draw your arrows until the arrowhead touches the bent bow! Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in full vigor and in blood from your spurs. Amaze the sky with your lances that break as they hit their target!”

A messenger entered, and King Richard III asked, “What does Lord Stanley say? Will he bring his army?”

“My lord, he says that he will not come.”

“Off with the head of George, his son and heir!” Richard III shouted.

The Duke of Norfolk said, “My lord, the enemy has advanced past the marsh. Let George Stanley die after the battle.”

Richard III said, “A thousand hearts are great within my bosom. Raise our flags, set upon our foes. May our ancient word of courage, fair Saint George, inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons! Let us set upon them! Victory steers our course.”

 — 5.4 —

In the middle of the battle, Catesby shouted for help for King Richard III, “Rescue, my Lord of Norfolk, rescue, rescue! The King performs more wonders than seems possible for a man! He dares every opponent to fight to the death! His horse has been slain, and he is fighting on foot, seeking Richmond in the throat of death! Rescue, fair lord, or else the day is lost!”

King Richard III appeared and shouted, “A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!”

He did not want to flee; he knew that he could fight more valiantly on horseback.

Catesby said, “Withdraw, my lord; I’ll help you to find a horse.”

Richard III was unwilling to withdraw from the battle; he wanted to fight.

He replied, “Slave, I have set my life upon a cast of the die, and I will stand the hazard of the die, win or lose. I think six Richmonds are on the battlefield; I have slain five copies today instead of the real Richmond. Those five copies were dressed like Richmond to fool me.”

He then shouted, “A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!”

 — 5.5 —

Later, King Richard III and the real Richmond met on the battlefield, and Richmond killed Richard III. Fighting continued until a retreat was sounded, and Richmond and his army were victorious. Now he stood on the battlefield with many lords, including Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby, who was holding the crown.

Richmond said, “God and your arms be praised, victorious friends. The day is ours; the bloodthirsty dog — Richard — is dead.”

Lord Stanley said, “Courageous Richmond, you have acquitted yourself well.Look here, I have plucked off this long-usurped crownfrom the dead temples of this bloody wretchso that you can grace your brows with it. Wear it, enjoy it, and make much of it.”

“Great God of Heaven, say ‘Amen’ to all!” Richmond said. “But, tell me, is young George Stanley living?”

Lord Stanley, George’s father, replied, “He is, my lord, and he is safe in Leicester, where, if it pleases you, we may now go.”

“What men of high rank are slain on either side?”

Lord Stanley replied, “John, the Duke of Norfolk; Walter Lord Ferrers,Sir Robert Brakenbury, and Sir William Brandon.”

“Inter their bodies as is suitable for their births,” Richmond said. Using the royal plural, he said, “Proclaim a pardon to the enemy soldiers who fledand who will in submission return to us. We took the sacrament when we vowed to marry young Elizabeth of York,and together she and Iwill unite the white and the red.”

He meant that by marrying young Elizabeth of York, he and she would unite the House of York and the House of Lancaster. The emblem of the House of York is a white rose, and the emblem of the House of Lancaster is a red rose. The marriage would end the enmity between the two Houses and bring peace to England. He would also be the first Tudor King.

He continued, “May Heaven smile upon this fair conjunction, this marriage; Heaven has long frowned on the enmity between the two Houses!What traitor hears me, and does not say, ‘Amen’?

“England has long been mad, and scarred herself. The brother has blindly shed the brother’s blood. The father has rashly slaughtered his own son. The son has been forced to butcher the sire. All this divided York and Lancaster; they were divided in their dire division, for the divided Houses led to other divisions.

“Now let Richmond and Elizabeth, the true successors of each royal House, by God’s fair ordinance join together! And let their heirs, God, if Your will be so, enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace, with smiling plenty, and with fair prosperous days!

“Dull the swords of traitors, gracious Lord, who would bring these bloody days again, and make poor England weep in streams of blood! Let those who would with treason wound this fair land’s peace not live to taste this land’s prosperity!

“Now civil wounds are closed up, and now peace lives again. So that she may long live here, may God say, ‘Amen!’”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Buy the RICHARD III Paperback Here:


David Bruce’s Lulu Bookstore (Paperbacks)

David Bruce’s Amazon Author Bookstore

David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore

David Bruce’s Apple Bookstore

David Bruce’s Barnes and Noble Books

David Bruce’s Kobo Books

davidbruceblog #1

davidbruceblog #2

davidbruceblog #3


Posted in Shakespeare | Tagged | Leave a comment

David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s RICHARD III: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 4-5

 — 4.4 —

Standing in front of the palace, old Queen Margaret said to herself, “So, now prosperity begins to ripen, grow soft, and drop into the rotten mouth of death. I was prosperous, I matured, and soon I will die. The same is happening to my enemies. Here in these confines I have slyly lurked in order to watch the waning of my adversaries.

“I am witnessing the dire beginning of a tragedy, and I will go to France, hoping that what follows will prove to be as bitter, black, and tragic as the beginning.”

Hearing a noise, she said to herself, “Withdraw out of the way and hide yourself, wretched Margaret. Who is coming here?”

Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of York, wearing mourning clothes because of the deaths of the two Princes, walked onto the scene.

Queen Elizabeth was the widow of King Edward IV and the mother of the two Princes. The Duchess of York was King Richard III’s mother and the grandmother of the two Princes; she was the widow of Richard, the third Duke of York, Richard III’s father. In 1460, Richard, the third Duke of York, had died in the Battle of Wakefield.

“My young Princes!” Queen Elizabeth mourned. “My tender babes! My flowers with the buds unopened; my newly appearing sweets! If yet your gentle souls fly in the air and have not yet been judged and gone to Heaven, hover about me with your airy wings and hear your mother’s lamentation!”

Old Queen Margaret said to herself, “Hover about her, and say that justice for the sake of justice has dimmed your infant morn to aged night.”

Old Queen Margaret had suffered, and now Queen Elizabeth was suffering. Old Queen Margaret regarded this as just and rightful retribution — a just punishment for a crime against justice. Queen Elizabeth had aged due to grief, and old Queen Margaret also regarded that as just. She also regarded the deaths of the two Princes — they had gone quickly from the beginning to the end of their lives — as a just punishment for the deaths of her own loved ones.

The Duchess of York said, “So many miseries have cracked my voice that my woe-wearied tongue is mute and dumb. Edward Plantagenet, why are you dead?”

Edward Plantagenet was Edward, Prince of Wales, the older of the two Princes who had been murdered in the Tower of London.

Old Queen Margaret said, “Plantagenet does requite Plantagenet. Edward for Edward pays a dying debt.”

Both Edwards were Princes of Wales. Old Queen Margaret had had her only son, Edward, with her husband, King Henry VI. This Edward had married Lady Anne. The other Edward was the older of the two Princes who had been murdered in the Tower of London. Old Queen Margaret believed that the only way the murder of her Edward could be requited or avenged was by the death of another person. That person turned out to be the older of the two Princes who had been murdered in the Tower of London.

Queen Elizabeth said, “Will you, God, flee from such gentle lambs as the two Princes, and throw them in the belly of the wolf? When have you ever slept when such a deed was done?”

Still talking to herself, Old Queen Margaret answered in place of God: “When holy Harry died, and my sweet son.”

Holy Harry was Old Queen Margaret’s husband, King Henry VI, and “my sweet son” was their son, Edward, Prince of Wales.

Regretting that she had lived long enough to experience the grief caused by the murders of the two Princes, the old Duchess of York sat and said, “Blind sight, dead life, poor mortal living ghost, woe’s scene, world’s shame, grave’s due by life usurped, brief summary and record of tedious days, rest your unrest on England’s lawful earth, unlawfully made drunk with the blood of the two innocent Princes!”

Queen Elizabeth sat by her and said, “Oh, that you — England’s lawful earth — would as well give me a grave as you give me a melancholy seat! Then I would hide my bones in my grave, not rest them here. I wish that I were dead.”

Old Queen Margaret revealed herself and said to them, “Who has any cause to mourn but I?”

She sat down by them.

She continued, “If ancient sorrow be most reverend, give my sorrow the benefit of seniority, and let my woes frown on the upper hand. If sorrow can admit society, count your woes again by viewing mine.

“I had an Edward, until a Richard killed him.

“My son, Edward, was killed by Richard, who is now Richard III.

“I had a Harry, until a Richard killed him.

“My Harry was my husband, King Henry VI, who was killed by Richard, who is now Richard III.

“You, Queen Elizabeth, had an Edward, until a Richard killed him.

“Your son Edward, Prince of Wales, was killed in the Tower of London, by Richard, who is now Richard III.

“You, Queen Elizabeth, had a Richard, until a Richard killed him.

“Your son Richard, the young Duke of York, was killed in the Tower of London, by Richard, who is now Richard III.”

The old Duchess of York said to old Queen Margaret, “I had a Richard, too, and you killed him.

“You killed my husband, Richard, the third Duke of York, Richard III’s father.

“I had a Rutland, too, and you helped to kill him.

“Rutland was one of my sons, and he was murdered just before my husband was murdered.”

Old Queen Margaret replied to the old Duchess of York, “You had a Clarence, too, and Richard killed him. Richard, who is now Richard III, killed his brother Clarence in the Tower of London.

“From forth the kennel of your womb has crept a Hellhound that hunts us all to death. That Hellhound is Richard, who was born with teeth. That dog, which had his teeth before he had his eyes, since dogs are born blind, to bite lambs and lap their gentle blood, that foul defacer of God’s handiwork, that killer of humans created in the image of God, that excellent grand tyrant of the earth, who reigns in the inflamed eyes of weeping souls — that is the creature your womb let loose to chase us to our graves.

“Oh, upright, just, and true-disposing God, how do I thank you that this carnal cur preys on the children who came from his mother’s body, and makes her share a pew in church with other mourning mothers!”

The old Duchess of York said to old Queen Margaret, widow of King Henry VI, “Oh, Harry’s wife, do not triumph in my woes! May God witness with me that I have wept for your woes.”

“Bear with me,” old Queen Margaret said. “I am hungry for revenge, and now I fill myself by beholding it.

“Your Edward is dead, who stabbed my Edward.

“Your son, King Edward IV, stabbed and helped kill my son: Edward, Prince of Wales.

“Your other Edward — the older of the two young Princes, died, to requite Edward, my son.

“Young Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the two Princes, is only a little something added to the revenge, because both your Edward IV and your Edward, Prince of Wales, together cannot match the loss of the high perfection of my Edward, Prince of Wales.

“Clarence, your son, is dead who helped kill Edward, Prince of Wales, my son.

“And the beholders of this tragedy that is the murder of my son by your Edward IV, Clarence, and Richard III are all untimely smothered in their dusky graves. Those beholders — bystanders — are the adulterer Hastings, and Rivers, Vaughan, and Grey.

“Richard III still lives. He is Hell’s black agent, kept alive only to serve Hell by buying souls and sending them there. But at hand is his deplorable and unpitied end. Earth gapes, Hell burns, fiends roar, and saints pray to have Richard III die and suddenly be conveyed away from the Land of the Living. Cancel his bond of life, dear God, I pray, so that I may live to say, ‘The dog is dead’!”

Queen Elizabeth said, “You prophesied that the time would come that I would wish for you to help me curse that bottle-bodied spider, that foul hunchbacked toad, that Richard!”

Old Queen Margaret said, “I called you then the worthless ornamentation of my fortune. I called you then a poor shadow and image, a painted — not real — Queen. I called you the mere semblance of what I was. I called you the flattering preface of a dreadful pageant.

“You are a person who has been heaved high on the Wheel of Fortune, only to be hurled down below.

“You are a mother who has been only mocked — not blessed — with two sweet babes who have so quickly been taken from you.

“You are only a dream of what you used to be; you are a breath, a bubble, an empty symbol of dignity, a garish flag that is the target of every dangerous soldier. You are a Queen only in jest, brought onto the scene only to be an extra.

“Where is your husband now?

“Where are your brothers?

“Where are your children?

“What makes you rejoice?

“Who pleads to you and cries, ‘God save the Queen’?

“Where are the bowing peers who flattered you?

“Where are the thronging troops who followed you?

“Go through all this point by point, and see what now you are.

“Instead of being a happy wife, you are a very distressed widow.

“Instead of being a joyful mother, you are one who mourns the name.

“Instead of being a Queen, you are a very wretched creature who is crowned with care and worry.

“Instead of being a person to whom people plead, you are a person who humbly pleads.

“Instead of being a person who scorns me, you are now scorned by me.

“Instead of being a person who is feared by all, you now fear one person — Richard III.

“Instead of being a person who commands all, you are obeyed by none.

“Thus has the course of justice wheeled about, and it has left you a prey to time. Now if you think about what you have been, you are tortured all the more, because of what you are now.

“You usurped my position as Queen of England, and therefore don’t you usurp the just and proper proportion of my sorrow? Now your proud neck bears half of my burdensome yoke, from which now and here I slip my weary neck, and leave the burden of it all on you.

“Farewell, York’s wife, and farewell, Queen of sad mischance. These English woes will make me smile in France.

“Goodbye, old Duchess of York and Queen Elizabeth. I am going to France, where I shall enjoy your misery.”

Queen Elizabeth pleaded, “You are well skilled in making curses. Stay awhile, and teach me how to curse my enemies!”

Old Queen Margaret replied, “Cease sleeping during the nights, and fast during the days. Compare the dead happiness of the past with the woe that lives today. Think that your babes were fairer and better than they were, and think that he who slew them is fouler than he is. Magnifying your loss makes the bad causer of your loss worse. Meditating on these things will teach you how to curse.”

“My words are dull,” Queen Elizabeth said. “Make my words lively like your words!”

“Your woes will make them sharp and make them pierce like mine,” old Queen Margaret said, and then she exited.

The old Duchess of York asked, “Why should calamity be full of words?”

Queen Elizabeth replied, “Words are windy attorneys that plead the woes of their client, they are the heirs of joys that died without leaving a will to pass on good things, and they are poor breathing orators of miseries!

“Let words have scope. Although the content that they impart helps not at all, yet words do ease the grieving heart.”

“If that is true, then do not be tongue-tied,” the old Duchess of York said. “Go with me, and in the breath of bitter words let’s smother my damned son, Richard III, who smothered your two sweet sons. I hear his army’s drums. Let’s be copious in our outcries.”

King Richard III and his army entered the scene. The old Duchess of York and Queen Elizabeth stood in his way. Because they were wearing veils as part of their mourning clothing, Richard III did not recognize them.

He asked, “Who intercepts my setting out for war?”

His mother, the old Duchess of York, said, “I am she who might have intercepted you, by strangling you in her accursed womb, and kept you from committing all the slaughters, wretch, that you are responsible for!”

Queen Elizabeth asked, “Do you hide your forehead with a golden crown? On your forehead should be engraved, if justice prevailed, the slaughter of the true Prince who owned and possessed by right that crown, and the dire deaths of my two sons and brothers!

“Tell me, you villain slave, where are my children?”

The old Duchess of York asked, “You toad, where is your brother Clarence? And where is little Ned Plantagenet, his son?”

Queen Elizabeth asked, “Where are kind Hastings, Rivers, Vaughan, and Grey?”

Queen Elizabeth had no reason to call Hastings kind except to magnify one of Richard’s sins.

King Richard III called for martial music to drown out the cries of the two women: “A flourish, trumpets! Strike the call to battle, drums! Let not the Heavens hear these telltale, gabbling women rail against the Lord’s anointed King. Play, I say!”

Military music filled the air, and Richard III said to his mother and sister-in-law, “Either be calm, and talk to me with respect, or with the clamorous noise of war I will thus drown out your exclamations.”

“Are you my son?” the old Duchess of York asked.

“Yes, I thank God, my father, and yourself.”

“Then patiently hear my impatience.”

Richard III replied, “Madam, I have a touch of your temperament, which cannot endure the tone of reproof.”

“Let me speak!” the old Duchess of York demanded.

“Speak, then, but I’ll not listen to you.”

“I will be mild and gentle in my speech.”

“Also be brief, good mother, because I am in a hurry.”

“Are you so hasty?” his mother asked. “I have waited for you, God knows, in anguish, pain, and agony. I gave birth to you.”

“And didn’t I come at last to comfort you?”

“No, you did not, by the Holy Cross. You well know that you came on Earth to make the Earth my Hell. Your birth was a grievous burden to me. In your infancy you were peevish and disobedient. Your schooldays were frightening, desperate, wild, and furious. Your time of prime of manhood was daring, bold, and venturous. Your time of maturity was proud, subdued, bloodthirsty, and treacherous; it was milder, but yet more harmful because you appeared to be kind when actually you felt hatred. What cheerful hour can you name that ever graced me in your company?”

“Indeed, I can name only one cheerful hour — Humphrey Hour,” Richard replied. “Hegraced you in my company by calling you away from my company — he asked you to go and eat breakfast. If I am so disgracious and displeasing in your sight, then let me march on, and not offend your grace.”

He then ordered, “Strike the drum.”

The old Duchess of York said, “Please, hear me speak.”

Richard III replied, “You speak too bitterly.”

“Hear me speak briefly to you because I shall never speak to you again.”


“Either you will die, by God’s just ordinance, before you return as a conqueror from this war, or I with grief and extreme old age shall perish and never look upon your face again. Therefore take with you my most heavy and serious curse, which, on the day of battle, will tire you more than all the full and heavy suit of armor that you are wearing!

“My prayers will fight on the side of the party opposing you, and there the little souls of Edward IV’s children — the two Princes — will whisper to the spirits of your enemies and promise them success and victory.

“Bloodthirsty you are, and bloody will be your end. Shame serves your life and does your death attend.”

Having cursed her son, the old Duchess of York exited.

“Although I have far more cause, yet I have much less spirit to curse you,” Queen Elizabeth said, “but I say ‘amen’ to everything that your mother said.”

“Wait, madam,” Richard III said. “I must speak with you.”

“I have no more sons of the royal blood for you to murder,” Queen Elizabeth said. “As for my daughters, Richard, they shall be praying nuns, not weeping Queens, and therefore you ought not to aim at them and take their lives.”

“You have a daughter called young Elizabeth of York,” Richard III said. “She is virtuous and fair, royal and gracious.”

“And must she die for that? Oh, let her live, and I’ll corrupt her manners and morals, stain her beauty, and slander myself by saying that I was false to Edward IV’s bed and cheated on him. I will throw over her the veil of a bad and infamous reputation so she may live unscarred by bleeding slaughter. I will confess — falsely — that she is not Edward’s daughter.”

“Do not wrong her birth,” Richard III said. “She is of royal blood.”

“To save her life, I’ll say she is not of royal blood.”

“Her life is safest only if she is of royal blood,” Richard III said.

He wanted to marry young Elizabeth of York in order to make his hold on the throne tighter; if she were not believed to be the legitimate daughter of King Edward IV, marrying her would not help him do that.

Queen Elizabeth said, “And only in that safety died her brothers.”

Young Elizabeth of York’s brothers — the two Princes — had died because they were the legitimate sons of King Edward IV.

“At their births, the good stars were hostile to them,” Richard III said.

“No, bad family members were hostile to their lives.”

“Entirely unavoidable is the doom of destiny,” Richard III said.

“True, when avoided grace — you, Richard, lack the grace of God — makes destiny. My babes were destined to have a fairer death, a death without violence, if grace had blessed you with a fairer life, a life with fewer blemishes.”

“You speak as if I had slain my nephews.”

“They were your nephews, indeed, and by their uncle they were cheated of comfort, Kingdom, kindred, freedom, and life,” Queen Elizabeth said. “No matter whose hand pierced their tender hearts, your head, all indirectly, gave the order. No doubt the murderous knife was dull and blunt until it was whetted on your stone-hard heart, to revel in the entrails of my lambs.

“Except that continual experience of grief makes wild grief tame, my tongue should to your ears not name my boys until my fingernails were anchored in your eyes, and I, in such a desperate bay of death, like a poor ship bereft of sails and tackling, would rush against you and be wrecked all to pieces on your rocky bosom.”

Richard III said, “Madam, may I so thrive and prevail in my enterprise and dangerous success of bloody wars to the extent that I intend to do more good to you and yours than ever you or yours were by me wronged!”

“What good is covered by the face of Heaven that can yet be uncovered and do me good?”

“The advancement of your children, gentle lady,” Richard III replied.

“Advancement up to some scaffold, there to lose their heads.”

“No, advancement to the dignity and height of honor, the high imperial symbol of this Earth’s glory.”

“Flatter my sorrows by telling me about it,” Queen Elizabeth said. “Tell me: What rank, what dignity, what honor can you give to any child of mine?”

“Everything I have; yes, I will endow a child of yours with myself and all I have as long as in the Lethe of your angry soul you drown the sad remembrance of those wrongs that you suppose I have done to you.”

The Lethe was a river in the Land of the Dead that causes forgetfulness in the souls who drank from it. Richard III wanted Queen Elizabeth to forget the sins that he had committed against her and her family.

“Be brief, lest the report of your kindness last longer in the telling than in the duration of your kindness,” Queen Elizabeth said.

Richard III lied, “Then know that from my soul I love your daughter.”

Richard III had said that he loved her daughter with all his soul, but Queen Elizabeth deliberately misunderstood him to be saying that he loved her daughter apart from his soul — that is, not with his soul, and not at all.

“My daughter’s mother thinks it with her soul,” Queen Elizabeth said.

“What do you think?”

“That you love my daughter from your soul. So from your soul’s love you loved her brothers; and from my heart’s love I thank you for it.”

“Don’t be so hasty to misinterpret my meaning,” Richard III said. “I mean that with my soul I love your daughter, and I mean to make her Queen of England.”

“Tell me, who do you mean shall be her King?”

“He who makes her Queen. Who else should he be?”

“Do you mean yourself? You shall be her King?”

“I, yes, I. What do you think about it, madam?”

“How can you woo her?”

“How to woo her is something that I want to learn from you, as you are the one who is best acquainted with her temperament.”

“And will you learn how to do that from me?”

“Madam, with all my heart,” Richard III said.

“Then do what I tell you to do. Send to her, by the man who slew her brothers, a pair of bleeding hearts. On those hearts engrave the names Edward and York. Perhaps then she will weep. Therefore present to her — as once old Queen Margaret gave a handkerchief steeped in your brother Rutland’s blood to your father — a blood-soaked handkerchief. Say to her that this handkerchief soaked up the red blood that drained from her sweet brothers’ bodies and tell her to dry her weeping eyes with it. If this inducement does not force her to love you, send her a story of your noble acts. Tell her you killed her uncle Clarence. Tell her you killed her uncle Rivers. Yes, and tell her that for her sake you killed her good aunt Anne.”

“Come, come, you mock me; this is not the way for me to win your daughter.”

“There is no other way unless you could put on some other shape, and not be the Richard who has done all this.”

“Say that I did all this because of love of her,” Richard III said.

“Then indeed she cannot choose but hate you since you have bought love with such a bloody spoil.”

“Look, what is done cannot be now undone,” Richard said. “Men sometimes make mistakes, which later hours give leisure to repent. If I took the Kingdom from your sons, then to make amends I’ll give the Kingdom to your daughter. If I have killed the children born from your womb, then to rejuvenate your offspring I will beget children with your daughter.

“A grandmother’s name is little less in love than is the loving title of a mother. Grandchildren are like children, but they are one step below. Grandchildren are of your substance and your character and your blood. Children and grandchildren cause the same amount of effort and pain, save for a night of groans in childbirth that will be endured by her, young Elizabeth of York, for whom you have already endured a night of groans.

“Your children were a vexation to your youth, but mine shall be a comfort to your old age. The loss you have is only a son who was only briefly King — Edward V— and never crowned, and by that loss your daughter will be made Queen.

“I cannot make you what amends I would like to make, so therefore accept such kindness as I can give to you.

“This fair alliance between your daughter and me shall quickly call home Dorset, your son, who now with a frightened soul leads discontented steps in foreign soil, and his returning home will result in him getting high promotions and great dignity.

“I, the King, who will call your beauteous daughter wife, shall familiarly call your son Dorset brother.

“Again you shall be mother to a King — this time you shall be a mother-in-law to a King.

“And all the ruins of distressful times shall be repaired with double riches of content.

“We have many good days to see in the future. The liquid drops of tears that you have shed shall come again, transformed to orient pearls, advantaging their loan with interest of ten times double gain of happiness.

“Go, my mother-in-law to be, go to your daughter and make bold her bashful years with your experience. Prepare her ears to hear a wooer’s tale that will put in her tender heart the aspiring flame of golden sovereignty. Acquaint the Princess with the sweet silent hours of marriage joys, and when this arm of mine has chastised and punished the petty rebel, dull-brained Buckingham, I will return wearing triumphant garlands, and I will lead your daughter to a conqueror’s bed. To her I will tell about the conquest I have won, and she shall be the sole victress, the conqueror of Caesar — Caesar’s Caesar.”

“Who would it be best I say is wooing her?” Queen Elizabeth asked. “Shall I say her father’s brother wants to be her husband? Or shall I say her wooer is her uncle? Or, he who slew her brothers and her uncles? What title shall I call you that God, the law, my honor, and her love can make seem pleasing to her young and tender years?”

“Say that fair England shall enjoy fair peace as a result of this alliance and marriage.”

“Fair peace that England shall purchase with forever-lasting war.”

“Say that the King, who may command, begs her to marry him.”

“You beg her to do what the King of Kings forbids.”

The church forbids marriage between uncle and niece.

“Say that she shall be a high and mighty Queen,” Richard III said.

“That is a title that she shall bewail, as does her mother,” Queen Elizabeth said.

“Say that I will love her everlastingly.”

“But how long shall that ‘everlastingly’ last?”

“It shall remain sweetly in force until her fair life ends.”

“But how long fairly shall her sweet life last?”

“As long as Heaven and nature lengthen it.”

“As long as Hell and Richard want it to last.”

“Say that I, her sovereign, am her subject love.”

“But she, your subject, loathes such sovereignty.”

“Be eloquent on my behalf when you speak to her,” Richard III said.

“An honorable tale succeeds best when it is plainly told.”

“Then in plain terms tell her my loving tale.”

“Plain and nothonorable is too harsh a style.”

“Your arguments for going against my wishes are too shallow and too quick.”

One meaning of “quick” is “alive,” and Queen Elizabeth deliberately misunderstood Richard to use that meaning rather than “hasty.”

“Oh, no, my arguments are too deep and dead,” Queen Elizabeth said. “Too deep and dead are my poor infants in their grave.”

“Harp not on that string, madam; that is past,” Richard said.

“Harp on it I always shall until my heartstrings break.”

“Now, by my George, my garter, and my crown —”

“You have profaned your George, dishonored your garter, and usurped your crown,” Queen Elizabeth said.

The George is a jeweled ornament depicting Saint George. The garter is a decorative leg-band showing membership in the Order of the Garter, the highest order of English knighthood. Both the George and the garter are emblems of chivalry.

Richard III began to say, “I swear —”

“— by nothing,” Queen Elizabeth interrupted, “because this is no oath. The George, profaned by you, has lost its holy honor. The garter, blemished by you, has pawned its knightly virtue. The crown, usurped by you, has disgraced its Kingly glory. If you want to swear by something that will make your oath be believed, swear by something that you have not wronged.”

“Now, by the world —”

“The world is full of your foul wrongs.”

“My father’s death —”

“Your life has dishonored your father’s death.”

“Then, by myself —”

“You misuse yourself. You are not the person you ought to be.”

“Why then, by God —”

“You have wronged God most of all,” Queen Elizabeth said. “If you had feared to break the oath you made by Him, the unity between opposing factions that King Edward IV, your brother, made would not have been broken, nor had my brother — Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers— been slain. If you had feared to break the oath you made by Him, the imperial metal, the crown that now circles your brow, would have graced the tender temples of my child, and both of the young Princes would still be breathing here in this world, but now they are two young playfellows to dust — your broken faith has made them a prey for worms.

“What can you swear by now?”

“The time to come,” Richard III said.

“You have wronged the future, for I myself have many tears to wash my face in the future because of wrongs that you have committed in the past. Some children live, whose parents you have slaughtered, who will spend their youths without parental guidance, and they will wail for it in their old age. Some parents live, whose children you have butchered, parents who are now old, withered, barren plants, and in their old age they bewail the loss of their children.

“Swear not by the time that is to come; for that you have misused before it is used, by misusing time that has already passed.”

“As I intend to prosper and repent, so may I thrive in my dangerous battle against hostile arms! May I destroy myself if I do not intend to prosper and repent! May Heaven and Lady Fortune keep happy hours away from me! Day, do not give me your light; night, do not give me your rest! Oppose me, all planets of good luck, and ruin my proceedings. May all this happen to me if I do not regard your beauteous Princessly daughter with the love of a pure heart, with immaculate devotion, and with holy thoughts. In her consists my happiness and yours. Unless I have her, what will follow to this land and me, and to you, herself, and many a Christian soul, will be death, desolation, ruin, and decay. These bad things cannot be avoided except by my marrying her. These bad things will not be avoided except by my marrying her.

“Therefore, good mother-in-law to be — I must call you so — be the attorney of my love to her. Plead what I will be, not what I have been. Do not plead what I deserve, but what I will deserve. Urge the necessity and the state of times, and do not be obstinately foolish when great affairs of the world are at stake.”

“Shall I thus be tempted by the devil?” Queen Elizabeth asked.

“Yes, if the devil tempt you to do good,” Richard III replied.

According to Christian belief, the devil tempts people to do good only when the result will be a greater evil.

“Shall I forget myself to be myself? Shall I forget that I was the mother of a King — Edward V — whom you killed? Shall I forget that simply so that I can be the mother of a Queen?”

“Yes, you should forget that memory if that memory hurts you.”

“But you killed my children.”

“But I will bury them in your daughter’s womb, where in that nest of spicery they shall breed copies of themselves, to your consolation.”

Richard III was referring to the myth of the phoenix, a bird that sets itself on fire in a nest of spices. After burning, the phoenix arises, newly young, from the ashes.

“Shall I go now and persuade my daughter to do what you want her to do?” Queen Elizabeth asked.

“Yes, and by doing so, you will be a happy mother.”

“I am going now,” Queen Elizabeth said. “Write to me very soon, and I will let you know what she thinks.”

Richard III kissed her and said, “Carry to her my true love’s kiss; and so, farewell.”

Queen Elizabeth exited.

King Richard III, who thought that he had persuaded Queen Elizabeth to persuade her daughter, young Elizabeth of York, to marry him, said about her, “Relenting, soft-hearted fool, and shallow, naïve, changing woman!”

Ratcliff, with Catesby following him, came over to Richard III, who said, “How are you, Ratcliff? What is the news?”

“My gracious sovereign, on the western coast of England rides a powerful navy; to the shore throng many doubt-filled hollow-hearted friends, who are unarmed and who are not determined to beat your enemies back. It is thought that the Earl of Richmond is the navy’s admiral, and there they drift, expecting that the forces of Buckingham will welcome them ashore.”

“Some swift-footed friend needs to ride to my ally, the Duke of Norfolk,” Richard III said. “You yourself, Ratcliff, or Catesby. Where is Catesby?”

“Here I am, my lord.”

“Fly to the Duke of Norfolk.”

Richard III then said to Ratcliff, “You ride to Salisbury. When you arrive there —”

Seeing Catesby, Richard III said, “Dull, unmindful villain, why are you standing still? Why aren’t you on the way to see the Duke of Norfolk?”

“First, mighty sovereign, let me know your mind,” Catesby said. “Tell me what message from your grace I shall deliver to him.”

“True, good Catesby,” Richard III said, “tell him immediately to raise the greatest, strongest, and most powerful army he can, and then to meet me soon at Salisbury.”

“I am going now,” Catesby said as he exited.

Ratcliff asked Richard III, “What is your highness’ pleasure I shall do at Salisbury?”

“Why, what would you do there before I go there?” Richard III asked.

“Your highness told me I should ride there before you do.”

“I have changed my mind, sir,” Richard III said. “I have changed my mind.”

Lord Stanley, the Earl of Derby, arrived and walked over to Richard III.

“How are you?” Richard III asked. “What news have you brought?”

“None so good, my lord, as to please you with the hearing, nor none so bad, but it may well be told.”

“A riddle!” Richard III said sarcastically. “Neither good nor bad! Why are you running your mouth so many miles in a circle, when you could tell your tale simply and directly? Once more, what news have you brought?”

“Richmond’s navy is on the seas.”

“There let him sink, and let the seas be on him!” Richard III said. “That white-livered renegade, what is he doing there?”

“I don’t know, mighty sovereign, but I can make a guess,” Lord Stanley said.

“Well, sir, since you can make a guess, what guess do you make?”

“Stirred up by Dorset, Buckingham, and the Bishop of Ely, he is making for England, and he intends there to claim the crown.”

“Is the throne empty? Is the sword of state unwielded? Is the King dead? Is the empire unpossessed?” Richard III said.

Using the royal plural, he said, “What heir of York is there alive but we? And who is England’s King but great York’s heir?”

He ignored any claims the House of Lancaster could make to the throne. As far as the House of York was concerned, Clarence’s son was still alive.

Richard III next asked, “So tell me what is he doing upon the sea?”

“Unless for the reason I have already stated, my liege, I cannot guess.”

“Unless for the reason that he comes to be your liege, you cannot guess why the Welshman comes,” Richard III said.

The Earl of Richmond was Welsh; he was descended from the Welshman Owen Tudor and Katherine of Valois, the widow of King Henry V.

Richard III then said to Lord Stanley, “You will revolt and fly to him, I fear.”

“No, I won’t, mighty liege,” Lord Stanley replied. “Therefore, do not mistrust me.”

“Where is your army, then, to beat him back?” Richard III asked. “Where are your tenants and your followers? They should be soldiers opposing the Earl of Richmond. Aren’t they now upon the western shore, safely conducting the rebels from their ships?”

“No, my good lord,” Lord Stanleysaid. “My friends are in the north.”

“They are cold friends to Richard. What are they doing in the north, when they should be serving their sovereign in the west?”

“They have not been commanded, mighty sovereign, to come and serve you. If it pleases your majesty to give me leave, I’ll muster my friends and meet your grace where and at what time your majesty shall please.”

“Yes, yes,” Richard III replied. “You want to leave so you can join forces with the Earl of Richmond. I will not trust you, sir.”

“Most mighty sovereign, you have no cause to doubt my friendship. I never have been and never will be false to you.”

“Well, go muster men, but — listen to me carefully — leave behind your son and heir, George Stanley,” Richard III said. “Look that your faith to me is firm, or else his head’s assurance is frail. If you are not loyal to me, your son will lose his head.”

“Deal with him in the same way as I prove true and faithful to you,” Lord Stanley said, and then he exited.

A messenger arrived and said, “My gracious sovereign, I am well informed by friends that now in Devonshire several people are in arms against you: Sir Edward Courtney, and the haughty prelate the Bishop of Exeter, his brother there, and many more confederates.”

Another messenger arrived and said, “My liege, in Kent the Guildfords are in arms against you, and every hour more confederates flock to their aid, and continually their power increases.”

A third messenger arrived and said, “My lord, the army of the Duke of Buckingham —”

Angry, King Richard III said, “Damn you, owls! Do you sing nothing except songs of death?”

The cry of the screech owl was thought to be ominous — an omen of death.

Richard III struck the third messenger and said, “Take that, until you bring me better news.”

The third messenger replied, “The news I have to tell your majesty is that because of sudden floods and rainstorms, Buckingham’s army has been dispersed and scattered, and Buckingham himself has wandered away alone, no man knows where.”

This was good news for Richard III, and he said, “I beg your pardon. Here is some money to cure any injury caused by that blow I gave you. Has any well-advised, prudent friend proclaimed a reward to the man who brings the traitor Buckingham in?”

The third messenger replied, “Such proclamation of a reward has been made, my liege.”

A fourth messenger arrived and reported, “It is said, my liege, that Sir Thomas Lovel and Lord Marquess Dorset in Yorkshire are in arms against you. Yet I bring to your grace some good news and comfort. The French navy of the Earl of Richmond has been dispersed by a tempest. Richmond, in Yorkshire, sent out a boat to the shore to ask those on the banks if they were on his side, yes or no. They answered him that they came from Buckingham and were of his party. Richmond, mistrusting them, hoisted sail and set off to return to Brittany, France.”

“March on, march on, since we are up in arms,” Richard III said. “If don’t fight against foreign enemies, yet we can beat down these rebels here at home.”

Catesby returned and said, “My liege, the Duke of Buckingham has been captured — that is the best news. That the Earl of Richmond has with a mighty army landed at Milford Haven, on the coast of Wales, is colder tidings, yet they must be told.”

“Let’s march towards Salisbury!” Richard III said. “While we talk here, a battle to determine who sits on the throne might be won and lost. Someone deliver an order that Buckingham be brought to Salisbury; the rest march on with me.”

 — 4.5 —

In the house of Lord Stanley, the Earl of Derby, Sir Christopher Urswick and Lord Stanley talked.

Lord Stanleysaid, “Sir Christopher, tell the Earl of Richmond this from me. In the sty of this most bloody boar named Richard, my son and heir, George Stanley, is imprisoned and under guard. If I revolt against Richard, off goes young George’s head. The fear of that keeps me from offering aid to Richmond right now.”

The Earl of Richmond was Lord Stanley’s stepson.

Lord Stanley added, “But, tell me, where is Princely Richmond now?”

“He is at Pembroke, or at Haverfordwest, in Wales.”

“What men of name — men with titles — resort to him?”

“Sir Walter Herbert, who is a renowned soldier, as well as Sir Gilbert Talbot, Sir William Stanley, the Earl of Oxford, respected Pembroke, Sir James Blunt, and Rice ap Thomas with a valiant crew. Also, many more of noble fame and worth.”

“Ap” was part of some Welsh surnames.

Sir Christopher added, “They will march toward London if they don’t encounter any resistance. If they do encounter resistance, they will fight.”

Lord Stanley said, “Return to Richmond, your lord. Give him my greetings. Tell him that Queen Elizabeth has heartily consented that he shall marry her daughter, young Elizabeth of York.”

He handed Sir Christopher Urswick a letter and said, “This letter will inform him about what I think. Farewell.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Buy the RICHARD III Paperback Here:


David Bruce’s Lulu Bookstore (Paperbacks)

David Bruce’s Amazon Author Bookstore

David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore

David Bruce’s Apple Bookstore

David Bruce’s Barnes and Noble Books

David Bruce’s Kobo Books

davidbruceblog #1

davidbruceblog #2

davidbruceblog #3

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

David Bruce: Dante’s PURGATORY: A Retelling in Prose —”Canto 3: Prepurgatory — The Excommunicated”

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.”

(Longfellow 3.31-33)

  • 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.

(Musa 3.49-51)

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.”

(Longfellow 3.109-117)

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.”           

(Longfellow 3.118-123)

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?

Manfred speaks:

“The church’s curse is not the final word,

for Everlasting Love may still return,

if hope reveals the slightest hint of green.”

(Musa 3.133-135)

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


























Free eBooks by David Bruce (pdfs) (Includes Discussion Guides for Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise)





























Posted in Discussion Guide | Tagged , | Leave a comment

David Bruce: Dante’s PURGATORY: A Discussion Guide —”Canto 2: New Souls Arrive in Purgatory”

Canto 2: New Souls Arrive in Purgatory

  • How do souls arrive in Purgatory?

Souls arriving in Purgatory have quite a captain piloting the boat they ride on. An angel is their captain. The dead saved souls gather at a certain point (the port by Rome), then they are taken to the Mountain of Purgatory.

The angel uses his wings — not sails — to power the boat.

Purgatory has art. The souls here sing often. The dead but saved souls on the boat are singing Psalm 114, whose topic is the escape of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

The dead but saved souls ask Virgil and Dante the way up the mountain, but Virgil tells them that he and Dante are newly arrived pilgrims, also.

  • A man named Casella died several months ago, but he is just arriving in Purgatory. Why did it take so long?

That man is Casella, a deceased friend of Dante. He greets Dante and asks why he is here. Dante replies that he is here now so that he can return here after he dies.

Casella took so long to arrive in Purgatory because on earth he had delayed repentance. We will see God use this principle quite often in the Ante-Purgatory, the lowest part of the Mountain, before Purgatory Proper. We can regard the bottom of the Mountain as being somewhat like the Vestibule of Hell. These people put off repenting, so God is going to make them wait before they can begin to climb the Mountain.

Casella was able to arrive in Purgatory quicker than he otherwise would have because of the first Jubilee year, which was declared by Pope Boniface VIII. So it turns out that Pope Boniface VIII did something good for Casella. Of course, Pope Boniface VIII is still condemned to the Inferno, but we learn that God can accomplish much even through the deeds of evil men.

Dante tries to embrace Casella three times but fails. This is reminiscent of a scene in Homer’s Odysseyin which Odysseus visits the Underworld, sees the ghost of his mother, tries three times to embrace her, but fails.

  • Who is Casella?

Of course, Casella is a recently deceased friend of Dante. He was also a musician who once put a poem by Dante to music so it could be sung. Dante requests a love song, and Casella begins to sing a song which consists of Dante’s poem set to music:

Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona,

began the words of his sweet melody —

(Musa 2.112-113)

Mark Musa translates “Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona” as “Love that speaks to me in my mind” (26). Longfellow translates it as “Love, that within my mind discourses with me” (2.112).

  • Why is Cato so stern when Casella sings?

Part of Cato’s job is to make sure that the saved souls stay focused on the job at hand: being purged of their sins. Singing romantic love poetry is not going to help in that quest.

The souls in Purgatory are not perfected. Occasionally, they will be distracted from what ought to be their goal: purging their sins. For example, a few times the souls are astonished that Dante is still living. However, although they are interested in this, they take advantage of the opportunity to ask Dante to let other people know to pray for them so that they can climb the Mountain of Purgatory faster.

Of course, the souls know that Dante is living for a few reasons:

  • He breathes.
  • He casts a shadow.
  • His body has weight and can move stones when he walks on them.
  • Are Cato and the angels against music?

Note that Cato and God are not against music in general. We will see music and dance in Paradise. On the Mountain of Purgatory we have much singing and art. The Inferno has no art.

Remember that the saved souls were singing a Psalm on the angel-piloted boat that brought them to the Mountain of Purgatory. The Psalm they were singing was about Israel getting out of slavery in Egypt. That music was appropriate for the purpose of their being here. The Psalm tells a story of going from slavery to freedom. These saved sinners have to go from the slavery of their sins to freedom from their sins.

Can a person be a slave to sin? Yes, a person who is addicted to crack cocaine has to feed the addiction. A person who is addicted to alcohol has to feed the addiction. A person who is addicted to TV will find it very hard to get away from the TV and do something worthwhile — such a person is addicted to sloth.

Canto 2 of Purgatory is bookended by two songs: one appropriate and the other inappropriate for the task at hand. In Purgatory souls need to figure what is appropriate and what is inappropriate for the task at hand.

The newly arrived souls in Prepurgatory can be distracted from the task at hand. For example, apparently they listen to the song that Casella plays. In addition, they are very interested in Dante’s shadow.

  • What is Prepurgatory?

It is going to take us a long time to get to Purgatory Proper. Only in Canto 9 does Dante pass through the gate into Purgatory Proper. Before that, we have Prepurgatory or Antepurgatory, and we will have a lot to learn in these cantos.

In Prepurgatory, we will see many souls who kept God waiting:

  • The Excommunicated
  • The Spiritually Lazy
  • Those Who Repented While Meeting Violent, Sudden Deaths
  • The Negligent Princes

Note: Prepurgatory or Antepurgatory refer to the same place: the foot of the Mountain of Purgatory. Both names mean Before Purgatory Proper.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved





Free eBooks by David Bruce (pdfs) (Includes Discussion Guides for Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise)










































Posted in Discussion Guide, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s RICHARD III: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scenes 6-7

 — 3.6 —

A Scrivener, a person who copies documents, looked at a legal document he was holding in his hands.

The Scrivener said to himself about the document he was holding, “This is the document containing the charges against and explaining why the good Lord Hastings was executed. This document is fairly written out in the correct style of handwriting and in the proper legal form, so that it may this day be proclaimed in Paul’s Cross outside Saint Paul’s Cathedral. And notice how well the succeeding events hang together. I spent eleven hours writing this document, for last night Catesby brought the original draft to me. The original draft itself took eleven hours to write, and yet within the past five hours Lord Hastings was still alive, untainted by accusation, unexamined in a law court, and free and at liberty.

“Here’s a good world we live in! Here’s a fine state of affairs! Why, who’s so stupid that he does not see through this obvious fraud? Yet who’s so blind, but he says that he does not see it? Everyone is afraid to speak up about what they know is true.

“Bad is the world, and all will come to evil when such bad dealings must be seen only in thought. Bad things happen when people cannot speak out against such evil.”

 — 3.7 —

At Baynard’s Castle, Richard and Buckingham met.

Richard said, “What is the news, my lord? What do the citizens say?”

“Now, by the holy mother of our Lord, the citizens are completely quiet and do not speak a word.”

“Did you say that Edward’s children are bastards?”

“I did,” Buckingham replied. “I talked about his contract to marry Lady Lucy, and about his contract by deputy to marry Lady Bona, sister-in-law to the King of France.”

Edward IV had been engaged to marry Lady Lucy, with whom he had a child. Also, he had sent the Earl of Warwick to France to negotiate a marriage for him with Lady Bona, but he had changed his mind and married Elizabeth Grey, the widow of Sir John Grey. By this marriage, she became Queen Elizabeth. Richard had wanted these two previous contracts of marriage to be brought up because he hoped that the English subjects might regard them as invalidating King Edward IV’s marriage to Queen Elizabeth. If that were to happen, then Richard would be regarded as the heir to the throne.

Buckingham continued, “I brought up the insatiable greediness of his sexual desires, and his rapes of the city wives, his tyrannous behavior wrought by trifling causes, and his own bastardy. I said that he was begotten when your father was in France. I said that he did not resemble the Duke of York, who was supposed to be his father. I also said that your appearance was an exact replica of your father and that you resembled him both in your form and in the nobleness of your mind. I talked about all your victories in Scotland, your discipline in war, your wisdom in peace, and your generosity, virtue, and fair humility.

“Indeed, I left out nothing that would help to show that you are fit to be the King of England. I emphasized all of your good points, and when my oratory grew to an end I asked everyone who loves their country’s good to cry, ‘God save Richard, England’s royal King!’”

“Ah! And did they do that?” Richard asked.

“No, so God help me, they spoke not a word,” Buckingham replied. “Instead, like dumb statues or breathing stones, they gazed at each other, and looked deadly pale. When I saw that, I reprehended them, and I asked the Lord Mayor what this willful silence meant.”

“His answer was that the people were not accustomed to be spoken to by anyone except the Recorder. Then the Recorder was urged to tell my tale again by saying, ‘Thus says the Duke’ and ‘Thus has the Duke inferred,’ but to say nothing on his own authority.

“When he had done, some of my followers at the lower end of the hall hurled their caps into the air, and around ten voices cried, ‘God save King Richard!’

“I took advantage of those few voices, and said, ‘Thanks, gentle citizens and friends. This general applause and loving shout argue your intelligence and your love and respect for Richard.’ At that time, I stopped speaking and came here.”

“What tongueless blockheads they were!” Richard said. “Wouldn’t they speak?”

“No, indeed, they would not, my lord.”

“Won’t the Lord Mayor and his brethren come here?”

“The Lord Mayor is here at hand,” Buckingham replied. “Pretend that you are afraid that the citizens will hate you because of the execution of Hastings. Do not speak to them until they insistently petition you to speak to them. Get yourself a prayer book to hold in your hand, and stand in between two churchmen, my good lord, for on that ground I’ll build a holy harmony and make you appear to be very religious.

“And do not be easily won to our request that you accept the crown. Play the part of a maiden: Always answer no, but eventually take it. Be like a virgin who says no but really means yes.”

“I go now,” Richard said, “and if you plead as well for them as I can say no to you for myself, no doubt we’ll bring it to a happy issue. I will be convincing when I say no to accepting the crown; if you can be as convincing when you urge me to accept the crown, it will end up on my head.”

“Go, go inside and upstairs,” Buckingham said. “The Lord Mayor is knocking on the door of the courtyard.”

Richard exited.

The Lord Mayor and some London citizens entered, and Buckingham said, “Welcome, my lord. I have been waiting for a while. I have been left to kick my heels while waiting to speak to Richard — I am dancing attendance on him. I am afraid that the Duke of Gloucester will not speak with anyone here.”

Catesby entered the room, and Buckingham said, “Here comes his servant. What is the news, Catesby? What does Richard say?”

“My lord, he entreats your grace to visit him tomorrow or the day after. He is inside with two right reverend fathers, divinely bent to meditation, and he will allow no worldly suit to draw him away from his holy exercise and spiritual devotions.”

“Return, good Catesby, to your lord again,” Buckingham replied. “Tell him that I myself, the Lord Mayor, and the aldermen have come to have some conversation with his grace about deep designs and matters of great moment concerning no less than our general good.”

“I’ll tell him what you say, my lord,” Catesby said, and then he exited.

“Ah, ha, my lord,” Buckingham said to the Lord Mayor. “This Prince is not an Edward! Richard is nothing like his lecherous brother! He is not lolling on a lewd daybed, but instead he is on his knees and saying his prayers. He is not dallying with a pair of prostitutes, but instead he is meditating with two deeply learned divines. He is not sleeping, to fatten his idle body, but instead he is praying, to enrich his wakeful and vigilant soul.

“England would be happy if this gracious Prince were to take on himself the sovereignty thereof and become its King. But indeed I fear that we shall never convince him to become King.”

“May God forbid that his grace should say no to our request that he become King!” the Lord Mayor said.

“I am afraid that he will say no,” Buckingham said.

Catesby returned.

Buckingham asked him, “What is the news, Catesby? What does your lord say?”

“My lord, he wonders for what purpose you have assembled such troops of citizens to speak with him. Because his grace was not previously told that you were coming to see him, my lord, he fears that you mean no good to him.”

Buckingham replied, “I am sorry that my noble kinsman should suspect that I mean no good to him. By Heaven, I come in perfect love to him; return again to Richard and tell his grace what I have said.”

Catesby exited.

Buckingham said, “When holy and devout religious men are saying prayers with their rosary beads, it is hard to draw them away, so sweet is zealous contemplation.”

Richard appeared on a balcony above them. He stood in between two Bishops. Catesby also stood on the balcony.

The Lord Mayor said, “Look! Richard is standing between two clergymen!”

Buckingham said to the Lord Mayor, “The clergymen are two props of virtue for a Christian Prince; they keep him from falling into sin because of vanity. Look! Richard is holding a book of prayer in his hand. The clergymen and prayer book are true ornaments by which you can know that Richard is a holy man.”

He then said to Richard, “Famous Plantagenet, most gracious Prince, lend favorable ears to our request, and pardon us the interruption of your religious devotion and very Christian zeal.”

“My lord, there is no need for such an apology,” Richard said. “I rather ask you to pardon me, who, earnest in the service of my God, neglect the visitation of my friends. But tell me now, what is your grace’s pleasure?”

“Our pleasure, I hope, is that which pleases God above, and all good men of this ungoverned isle,” Buckingham said.

He called the isle ungoverned because it currently had no crowned King. Edward, Prince of Wales, who had become King Edward V with his father’s death, had not been crowned.

Richard replied, “I suspect I have done some offence that seems ungracious in the city’s eyes, and that you have come here to criticize my ignorance.”

“You have committed an offense, my lord,” Buckingham said. “I wish that it might please your grace, at our entreaties, to amend that fault!”

“Why else would I breathe in a Christian land?” Richard said.

“Then know that it is your fault that you resign the supreme seat, the majestic throne, the sceptered office of your ancestors, your state of fortune and position of greatness and your due of birth, the lineal glory of your royal house, to the corruption of a blemished stock. As long as you continue the mildness of your sleepy and contemplative thoughts, which here we awaken for the good of our country, this noble isle will lack her proper limbs. Her face is defaced with the scars of infamy; her royal stock has been grafted with ignoble plants and has almost been shouldered in the swallowing gulf of blind forgetfulness and dark oblivion. In short, because you are not wearing the crown, a lesser, undeserving person shall wear it.

“To right this wrong, we heartily solicit your gracious self to take on you the charge and Kingly government of this your land, not as Lord Protector, steward, substitute, or lowly agent for the gain of another person, but as the rightful successor by blood and inheritance. The throne belongs to you by your right of birth and your sovereignty; the throne is your own.

“For this reason, together with the citizens, who are your very worshipful and loving friends, and by their vehement instigation, in this just suit I have come to move your grace. We want you to be King of England.”

Richard replied, “I don’t know whether to depart in silence or to speak bitterly and rebuke you is best suitable for my social rank and for your social rank. If I don’t answer you, you may perhaps think that I have tongue-tied ambition, which does not reply to you, but which has yielded to your request and has agreed to bear the golden yoke — the crown — of sovereignty, which foolishly you would here impose on me. But if I rebuke you for this entreaty of yours, which is so seasoned — made agreeable and given a palatable taste — by your faithful love to me, then, going to an extreme on the other side, I have criticized my friends.

“Therefore, to speak, and to avoid the first course of action, and then, in speaking, not to incur the last course of action, I answer you thus definitively and once and for all. Your respect for me deserves my thanks, but my lack of merit shuns your high request. I do not have the skills to be King of England.

“Even if all obstacles were cut away, and even if my path were clear and unobstructed to the crown, and even if the people regard the crown as being mine by law and by birthright, yet so much is my poverty of spirit, and so mighty and so many are my defects, that I prefer to hide myself away from my title to the throne. I am a ship that can survive no mighty sea, and I do not desire to be enveloped by my title to the throne and smothered in the vapor of my glory.

“But, thank God, there’s no need for me to become King, and I would need much better qualities to help you, if you should need my help.

“The royal tree has left us royal fruit, which, mellowed by the passing hours of time, will well become the seat of majesty, and make us, no doubt, happy by his reign.”

Richard was referring to Edward, Prince of Wales.

Richard continued, “I lay on him what you would lay on me, the right and fortune of his happy stars, which God forbid that I should wring from him!”

In his speech, Richard had mentioned his birthright, knowing the importance of hereditary succession. When he talked about Prince Edward, he mentioned “happy stars,” or lucky astrological influence. Hearing this, Richard’s audience would think that Richard had the better claim to the throne. And yet Richard could claim that he was saying that he did not want to take away his nephew’s claim to be King of England.

Buckingham said, “My lord, this argues conscience in your grace, but the arguments you make are unimportant and trivial, if you carefully think about all the circumstances of this situation.

“You say that Prince Edward is your brother’s son. We say the same thing, but we say that Prince Edward was not given birth to by King Edward IV’swife. King Edward IV was first contracted to marry Lady Lucy — your mother is a living witness to that vow — and afterward he used a deputy to get himself betrothed to Bona, sister to the King of France.

“These were both put off by a poor petitioner, Elizabeth Grey, a care-crazed mother of many children.”

Elizabeth Grey had petitioned King Edward IV for the return of her late husband’s lands and possessions.

Buckingham continued, “She was a beauty-waning and distressed widow, and she was in the afternoon of her best days. Elizabeth Grey captured King Edward IV’s lustful eye. She seduced the greatest height of all his thoughts and led them to a base decline and loathed bigamy. She led him down and away from the greatness of his noble rank.”

Because King Edward IV had married a widow, many people in his society regarded him as engaging in a bigamous “marriage,” according to canon law. In addition, Buckingham was saying that Edward IV’s pre-contracts of marriage to two other women made his marriage to Elizabeth Grey bigamous.

Buckingham continued, “By her, in his unlawful bed, he begot this Edward, whom we call the Prince of Wales because of etiquette. I could expostulate more bitterly, except that, to show respect to someone who is still alive, I put a limit to my tongue.”

He was referring to the old Duchess of York, the mother of Edward IV and of Richard. Earlier, Richard had told him to hint that Edward IV was illegitimate.

Buckingham continued, “Then, my good lord, take to your royal self this proffered benefit of dignity. Accept the crown, if not to bless England and us, yet to draw forth your noble ancestry from the corruption of abusing times, and lead it to a lineal and truly derived course. Your lineage is true; do not allow a usurper to become King of England.”

The Lord Mayer said, “Do become King, my good lord, your citizens beg you.”

“Do not refuse, mighty lord, this love that is offered to you,” Buckingham said.

“Oh, make them joyful — grant their lawful suit!” Catesby said.

“Alas, why would you heap these cares on me?” Richard replied. “I am unfit for state and majesty. I beg you not to take it amiss, but I cannot and I will not yield to you. I will not become King.”

Buckingham said, “If you refuse to become King — as a result of your being, because of love and zeal, loath to depose the child, your brother’s son, as we well know your tenderness of heart and kind, compassionate pity, which we have noted that you have shown to your kin, and equally indeed to all types of persons — yet whether you accept our suit or not, your brother’s son shall never reign as our King. Instead, we are resolved to plant some other person in the throne to the disgrace and downfall of your house. And with this resolution we now leave you.”

He then shouted, “Come, citizens! Damn! I’ll beg no more that Richard become King!”

Richard said, “Oh, do not swear, my lord of Buckingham.”

Buckingham and the citizens started to leave.

Catesby said to Richard, “Call them again, my lord, and accept their suit. Do, my good lord, lest all the land rue that you do not.”

Richard replied, “Would you force me to go into a world of care? Well, call them again. I am not made of stone; your kind entreaties have penetrated my heart, albeit against my conscience and my soul.”

Buckingham and the other citizens faced Richard.

Richard said, “Kinsman Buckingham, and you sage, grave men, since you will buckle fortune on my back and make me bear fortune’s burden, whether I want to or not, I must have patience to endure the load, but if black scandal or foul-faced reproach follow, your forcing me to put on the crown shall acquit me from all the impure blots and stains thereof — I shall not be blamed because God knows, and you may in part see, how far I am from wanting to be King.”

“God bless your grace!” the Lord Mayor said. “We see that you are reluctant to become King, and we will witness to others that this is so.”

“In saying that I am reluctant to be King, you shall say only the truth,” Richard said.

“Then I salute you with this Kingly title,” Buckingham said. “Long live Richard, England’s royal King!”

The Lord Mayor and the citizen said together, “Amen.”

“Will it please you to be crowned tomorrow?” Buckingham asked.

“Whenever you please, since you insist that I be crowned,” Richard replied.

“Tomorrow, then, we will attend your grace,” Buckingham said, “and so most joyfully we take our leave of you.”

Richard said to the two bishops, “Come, let us return to our holy task again.”

He then said to Buckingham, “Farewell, good kinsman.”

And he said to the departing Lord Mayor and citizens, “Farewell, gentle friends.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Buy the RICHARD III Paperback Here:


David Bruce’s Lulu Bookstore (Paperbacks)

David Bruce’s Amazon Author Bookstore

David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore

David Bruce’s Apple Bookstore

David Bruce’s Barnes and Noble Books

David Bruce’s Kobo Books

davidbruceblog #1

davidbruceblog #2

davidbruceblog #3

Posted in Shakespeare | Tagged | Leave a comment

David Bruce: Dante’s PURGATORY: A Discussion Guide — Canto 1: The Island of Purgatory and Cato the Guard

Canto 1: The Island of Purgatory and Cato the Guard

  • What does Dante do at the start of Canto 1 of Purgatory?

Dante is starting a new major section of The Divine ComedyPurgatory— and he invokes the Muses the way an epic poet should. Previously, in the Inferno, he described the place where sins are punished, and now, in Purgatory, he describes the place where sins are purged.

Dante invokes the Muses in general, and Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry, in particular:

But let dead Poesy here rise again,

O holy Muses, since that I am yours,

And here Calliope somewhat ascend,

My song accompanying with that sound,

Of which the miserable magpies felt

The blow so great, that they despaired of pardon.

(Longfellow 1.7-12)

The reference is to a sin of old. King Pierus had nine daughters, whom he named after the nine Muses. These daughters sinned by being proud, and they challenged the Muses to a contest. Of course, they lost the contest, and as a result they were turned into magpies. This myth is significant because pride is the worst of human sins.

By the way, the time is Easter Sunday, 10 April 1300, just before dawn. Dante went into Hell on Good Friday, and he comes out of Hell on Easter Sunday. Of course, Christ died on Good Friday, and he was resurrected on Easter Sunday. During the time he was dead, he went into Limbo, and he took out the souls who did not belong there. This, of course, is known as the Harrowing of Hell. Those souls may include the soul of Cato, the guardian on the lower part of the Mountain of Purgatory. Some souls apparently began to climb the Mountain of Purgatory after the Harrowing of Hell. Some souls rescued by Jesus went to Paradise immediately, while some other souls, perhaps, started climbing the Mountain of Purgatory. Cato, of course, was put to work.

  • What is the purpose of Purgatory? Why is it so important?

In Purgatory, people get ready for Paradise. They need to be purged of sin so that they can be in the presence of God.

Truly, Purgatory is needed. The Inferno is where the sinners who did not repent go. Paradise is where sinners who have repented and have purged their sins — or been specially forgiven by God — go. Purgatory is where sinners who have repented can purge their sins.

The word “purgatory” comes from two Latin words: purusand agere. Put together, they form “to make pure.” Repented sinners need to be cleansed of their sin.

Here is an example used by Dante scholars William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzmanto explain why Purgatory is needed: Suppose I steal $100 from one of my students, and I feel guilty about it. That night, I can’t sleep, and I decide to go to my student the next morning, confess and apologize, give the $100 back, and then confess to both my priest and the police. However, even though that is my intention, when I get up the next morning and go to the student to make restitution and apologize, I am hit by a truck and killed, with the $100 in my pocket.

I sinned, but I repented my sin, so I can’t go to the Inferno. On the other hand, I did not pay the penalty for my sin and I did not make the necessary restitution of the money I had stolen, although I had intended to do so. Of course, now that I am dead, I can never do the things I intended to do on Earth. Because I am not pure, I cannot go to Heaven. I need a place where I can purge myself of the sin I committed and repented on Earth, but was unable to make atonement for.

Of course, some sins we cannot make restitution for on Earth. If I murder someone, I can repent my sin, but I cannot bring my victim back to life. I need a place in the afterlife where I can purge myself of my sin and make myself pure so that I can enter Paradise.

  • What do people get ready for in Purgatory? How do they get ready for it?

In Purgatory, people get ready for Paradise. Purgatory gets us ready to see God face to face.

Sinners need to be purged of sin so that they can be in the presence of God. By climbing up the seven terraces of Purgatory, they can get ready for it. In Purgatory, we learn not to regard ourselves as being the center of the universe.

  • Where is the island of Purgatory, according to Dante? How is the island of Purgatory organized?

The island of Purgatory is located in the Southern Hemisphere. As Dante understood the world, the Southern Hemisphere on the side of the Earth directly opposite from Jerusalem was all ocean — with the exception of the island that is the Mountain of Purgatory.

This Mountain has several parts:

1) At the bottom of the mountain is Ante-Purgatory or Pre-Purgatory. This is where souls are kept waiting before they can begin to climb the Mountain. If a soul kept God waiting by repenting at the very end of life, God will keep that soul waiting in Pre-Purgatory.

2) Purgatory itself consists of seven terraces or stories on which each of the seven deadly sins is purged. When Thomas Merton titled his spiritual autobiographyThe Seven-Storey Mountain, he had Dante’s Purgatoryin mind. (“Storey” is British English for the American English “story.”)

3) At the top of the Mountain is the Forest of Eden, aka the Earthly Paradise. Souls there drink from two rivers: One revives the memories of the good deeds one has committed, and the other takes away the sting of the bad deeds one has committed.

  • Is Purgatory a good place to be? Are the souls in Purgatory saved?

Purgatory is a place where all the souls are saved. No matter how bad the sins the soul committed, if a soul is here, that soul will go to Paradise eventually. One of the good things about Purgatory is that it is impossible to flunk it. Every soul being purged here will make it to Paradise.

We see some souls suffer as a part of the purgation process, but the souls welcome the purgation process. They know that they are getting ready for Paradise, and the suffering is well worth it.

  • Is Purgatory a place of change?

Purgatory is temporary, while the Inferno and Paradise are eternal. One day no one will be climbing up the Mountain of Purgatory because all the souls there will have been purified, and they will be in Heaven.

In addition, in Purgatory we have day and night. In the Inferno all we had was darkness, and in Paradise, all we have is light. The purging process tends to take place in daylight. An exception is the Slothful, who purge their sin both at night and during the day.

In Purgatory the souls change. They are able to purge themselves of their sins, beginning with the sin of pride. A soul at the top of the Mountain of Purgatory is much different from a soul at the bottom of the Mountain of Purgatory.

In the Inferno the souls suffer forever; in Paradise the souls are blissful forever.

Different people prefer different parts of The Divine Comedy:

1) Many students prefer the Inferno, perhaps because they are busy sinning.

2) Many prisoners preferPurgatory, perhaps because they have sinned and are purging their sin in prison. Many middle-aged people prefer Purgatory, perhaps because they have sinned and wish to purge their sins.

3) Many priests and religious people prefer Paradise, perhaps because they have sinned, have repented their sin, and are looking forward to Paradise.

  • How are Dante and the souls in Purgatory similar?

They are similar in two major ways:

1) They are growing, improving, losing their ignorance and soon to be losing their sin. The Dante who is in Purgatory is much different from the Dante who was in the dark wood of error. He has learned much from his trip through the Inferno.

2) They have a communal experience. Dante and Virgil travel together. They are not isolated. The souls in Purgatory will frequently work together. They will talk to each other. They will not be like Farinata and Cavalcante in the Inferno, who ignore each other although they will be in the same tomb forever.

  • How are Dante and the souls in Purgatory different from the souls in the Inferno?

They are different from the souls in the Inferno in two major ways:

1) They learn, and they grow. The souls in the Inferno do not learn. They do not change. Some souls still rebel against God. Some souls continue to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Some souls regret having been caught for sinning, but other than that they do not regret the sin.

2) They are communal. In the Inferno, the souls are concerned about themselves only; they are the center of the universe. Francesca and Paolo are together for eternity, but they don’t talk to each other. Farinata and Cavalcante are together for eternity, but they don’t talk to each other. Ulysses and Diomed are together for eternity, but they don’t talk to each other. Ugolino and Ruggieri are together for eternity, but they don’t talk to each other.

  • Can you understand Dante after reading only the Inferno?

The answer is a big, fat NO. The rest of The Divine Comedyholds a lot of surprises for readers. It is easy to read the Infernoand to think that you know who will end up in Hell, but you will be surprised at some of the types of people who end up in Paradise eventually or are already there — remember, all the souls we meet in Purgatory will eventually be in Paradise.

Here are a couple of examples:

1) We saw virtuous pagans in the Inferno, but we will see virtuous pagans in Paradise, also.

2) We may think that the excommunicated are kept out of Paradise, but we learn very quickly in Purgatorythat they are not.

Dorothy L. Sayers was a translator of The Divine Comedy, and she once said that trying to understand The Divine Comedyonly by reading the Infernois like trying to understand Paris after visiting only its sewer system.

  • Can every sin be forgiven, as long as a person repents?

Yes. This is one of the many things we can learn from Purgatory. Here in Purgatory, especially in the early cantos, we will see many people who we may think should be in the Inferno, based on their biographies. God is omnibenevolent, and God can forgive any sin.

In fact, if you think that God is unable to forgive your sins, you are guilty of the sin of pride. God can forgive any sin. If Adolf Hitler sincerely repented his sins, he would be either in Purgatory or in Paradise. (Of course, Hitler’s suicide — and murders! and genocide! — are problematic, as we know from Pier delle Vigne’s story. Also, I think that Hitler would spend many tens of thousands of years — or more — on the Mountain of Purgatory.)

In the Inferno, sinners refused to repent their sins. In Purgatory, sinners did repent their sins. Purgatory shows that every sin can be forgiven.

  • Do you know of anyone who is or was so proud that they think God cannot forgive their sins?

One of the great scoundrels of all times was Wilson Mizner. He really did care for money. Once, he was married to a wealthy woman, whom he was constantly asking for money. One day, at a restaurant, he was begging her for money, and she took an envelope of money from her purse and started hitting him with it. The envelope burst open, the money flew everywhere, and Wilson Mizner and the other customers in the restaurants got down on their hands and knees, grabbing the money. His wife screamed at him, “YOU CAN HAVE THE MONEY SINCE YOU’RE WILLING TO CRAWL FOR IT!” Wilson Mizner said later, “I’d picked up $4,000 before I realized I’d been insulted.”

On his deathbed, Mr. Mizner was asked to make peace with God, but he knew that he had led an evil life, so he said, “God keeps better books than that,” and died. However, Mr. Mizner may very well be a saved soul. He may not have said the words, but his actions may show that he repented his sins. He was a part-owner of the Brown Derby restaurant and held court there. He would leave home with lots of money in his pocket, and people who were down on their luck would come up to him and ask him for money, and he would give money to them. He gave away thousands of dollars before he died.

And when he died, he left everything to a woman. Everyone thought at first that she must have been his mistress, but she was a woman with whom he had a Platonic relationship — they were friends, not lovers.

  • Where do you suppose a person who is a pagan, a suicide, and an enemy of Julius Caesar would end up: the Inferno, Purgatory, or Paradise?

Most people would answer that this person would end up in the Inferno. After all, the virtuous pagan Virgil ended up in the Inferno, the suicide Pier delle Vigne ended up in the Inferno, and Brutus and Cassius (both enemies of Julius Caesar) ended up in the Inferno — in fact, Brutus and Cassius are two of the three worst human sinners of all time.

  • Who is Cato the Younger?

Cato the Younger, aka Cato the Stoic, is a person who is a pagan, a suicide, and an enemy of Julius Caesar. He committed suicide in 46 BCE, thus he was born before the time of Christ. He opposed Julius Caesar, and out of principle, he committed suicide rather than surrender to him. He believed that life would not be free under the rule of Julius Caesar, so he committed suicide.

Here are a few quotations that are attributed to Cato the Younger:

  • After I’m dead, I’d rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.
  • An angry man opens his mouth and shuts his eyes.
  • Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternatives.
  • The best way to keep good acts in memory is to refresh them with new.
  • The first virtue is to restrain the tongue; he approaches nearest to the gods who knows how to be silent, even though he is in the right.

 — Marcus Porcius Cato, 95-46 BC, Cato the Younger

Source: http://www.stevenredhead.com/quotes/ancient

  • What is Cato’s job in Purgatory?

Dante and Virgil see Cato, who challenges them.Cato is a guardian of Purgatory, and he thinks at first that Dante and Virgil have escaped from Hell. However, as soon as Virgil informs him that Dante is still living and that they are on a mission from God, then Cato welcomes them.

Cato is a rather stern guardian whose job is to help rather than hurt. The guards in the Inferno hurt the unrepentant sinners, but Cato’s job is to welcome and help repentant sinners. Of course, he can and must be stern. Part of his job is to make sure that the repentant sinners keep their minds focused on their job: purging their sins.

Bath Cato and Virgil are determined not to waste time. Virgil wants Dante to keep his eyes on the prize; Cato wants the sinners in Prepurgatory to also keep their eyes on the prize.

Cato’s job is basically to let people climb the Mountain of Purgatory, not to keep people away from the Mountain of Purgatory. No one leaves the Inferno except with the permission of God.

  • Will Cato be saved?

Critics disagree here. Some critics think that Cato will be saved; others think that once his job is finished here, he will return to Limbo.

Cato Will Be Saved

1) Cato’s job is not like the job of the guards in the Inferno.

2) We see in Ante-Purgatory many people whom we are surprised to see are saved. Cato is another example of these people.

3) Cato is separated from his wife. He loved her, but he does not mourn being separated from her. Perhaps that means in Heaven that we do not mourn the loss of loved ones who are in the Inferno. Such mourning would interfere with the perfect happiness that is Paradise. Cato says,

“Marcia so pleasing was unto mine eyes

While I was on the other side,” then said he,

“That every grace she wished of me I granted;

Now that she dwells beyond the evil river,

She can no longer move me, by that law

Which, when I issued forth from there, was made.”

(Longfellow 1.85-90)

Cato would have issued forth from Limbo during the Harrowing of Hell. The “law” (Musa or Longfellow, Purgatory1.89) he refers to may state that certain souls will no longer be confined to Limbo.

4) Virgil tells Cato:

“Thou know’st it; since, for her, to thee not bitter

Was death in Utica, where thou didst leave

The vesture, that will shine so, the great day.”

(Longfellow 1.73-75)

Many critics interpret that as saying that Cato will be reunited — in splendid fashion — with his body on Judgment Day, meaning that he is saved.

5) We will see other pagans in Paradise. Ripheus the Trojan was known for his justness, and he is saved. Cato the Younger was also known for his justness, and he may be saved.

6) True, Cato did commit suicide, but he committed suicide out of a love for freedom, not out of a rejection of life. Cato’s suicide is different from Pier della Vigne’s suicide.

Cato Will Not Be Saved

Some critics think that once Virgil’s job is finished, Virgil will return to the Inferno. Cato is like Virgil.

This is the reason why Cato may not be saved:

Virtuous pagans tend to end up in Limbo.

My Opinion

My opinion is that Cato will be saved. One day he will climb the Mountain of Purgatory, and he will enter Paradise. The point that convinces me is the lines about his wife. Because he is headed toward Paradise, he does not mourn being separated from her. Also, I find convincing the “law” (Purgatory1.90) he refers to — it may state that certain souls will no longer be confined to Limbo.

We can wonder about Paradise. We have loved ones, and some loved ones will not make it to Paradise. Assuming that you make it to Paradise and some of your loved ones do not, can you be perfectly happy? Perhaps. Cato loved his wife, but he does not now mourn being separated from her. Perhaps because Cato is destined for Paradise, he is unable to mourn those who end up in the Inferno, just as those who are in the Inferno are unable to repent their sins.


We are incapable of knowing everything. Some things will always remain a mystery to us. One of those things is salvation. Wherever we end up in the Afterlife, we will probably look around and say, “What is he (or she) doing here?”

Also, some people, including some Christian mystics, believe in an “upset verdict.” God is omnibenevolent, and God will not allow souls to suffer eternally in the Inferno. Eventually, there will be a second Harrowing — or better, a Hallowing — of Hell, and Hell will empty. This will be a triumph for God, Who is Omnipotent Love.

  • Why did Cato commit suicide?

Cato’s reason for suicide is different from Pier delle Vigne’s. Pier delle Vigne thought that by committing suicide, he could get people to sympathize with him.

Cato committed suicide out of his political beliefs. Julius Caesar was engaged in a political struggle — and civil war — to gain control of Rome. When it became clear that Julius Caesar would be victorious, Cato the Younger committed suicide. (He read Plato’s Phaedo, which contains arguments that human beings will have an afterlife, before he committed suicide.) He felt that life in the Roman Republic was free, and that life under Julius Caesar would not be free. Instead of living life under elected officials who changed occasionally, he would be living life under a dictator-for-life. Cato’s suicide was an act of defiance, not the rejection of life that Pier delle Vigne’s suicide was. Cato committed suicide because of his love of freedom. In contrast, Pier delle Vigne committed suicide because he rejected life.

Cato’s suicide was gruesome; it is described by Plutarch’s biography of him:

And now the birds were already beginning to sing, when he fell asleep again for a little while. And when Butas came and told him that harbours were very quiet, he ordered him to close the door, throwing himself down upon his couch as if he were going to rest there for what still remained of the night. But when Butas had gone out, Cato drew his sword from its sheath and stabbed himself below the breast. His thrust, however, was somewhat feeble, owing to the inflammation in his hand, and so he did not at once dispatch himself, but in his death struggle fell from the couch and made a loud noise by overturning a geometrical abacus that stood near. His servants heard the noise and cried out, and his son at once ran in, together with his friends. They saw that he was smeared with blood, and that most of his bowels were protruding, but that he still had his eyes open and was alive; and they were terribly shocked. But the physician went to him and tried to replace his bowels, which remained uninjured, and to sew up the wound. Accordingly, when Cato recovered and became aware of this, he pushed the physician away, tore his bowels with his hands, rent the wound still more, and so died.

Source: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Cato_Minor*.html

From The Parallel Lives by Plutarchpublished in Vol. VIII of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1919

Virgil speaks to Cato with much respect, and he has Dante kneel before Cato:

Then did my Leader lay his grasp upon me,

And with his words, and with his hands and signs,

Reverent he made in me my knees and brow;

(Longfellow 1.49-51)

Virgil speaks at length and with respect to Cato. In the Inferno, he was often curt and insulting when speaking to the sinners and guards outside of Limbo.

Note that Dante never tells us the name of Cato. Dante is writing for an educated audience, and he expects his audience to know that this is Cato because of the references to Utica and to Marcia. Utica was an ancient city in North Africa where Cato committed suicide, and Marcia was Cato’s wife.

  • What happens when Dante plucks a reed?

We will see many good things in Purgatory. The first miracle we see is that when Dante plucks a reed to use as a belt — he lost his belt when Virgil used it to signal Geryon — another reed immediately grows in its place. Purgatory is a place of fertility — things grow here. Dante’s time in Paradise begins with a miracle.

Other good things that we will see in Purgatory are these:

  • The souls are very helpful to Virgil and Dante. They willingly give directions.
  • The souls are communal. They help each other in their purgation. They are not alone, unless apparently by choice.
  • Surprises are good in Purgatory. A couple of souls are surprised — and happy — to meet Virgil.
  • Good deeds are done in Purgatory. Saint Lucia will help Dante climb the Mountain of Purgatory.
  • The prayers of good people on Earth for the dead in Purgatory are listened to and answered.
  • What are the seven deadly sins?

Pride, envy, anger, sloth, avariciousness and prodigality, gluttony, and lust. These sins are purged on these stories of the Seven-Storey Mountain:

Level 1: Pride

Level 2: Envy

Level 3: Wrath

Level 4: Sloth

Level 5: Avariciousness and Prodigality

Level 6: Gluttony

Level 7: Lust

We may have here evidence that the Slothful are punished with the Wrathful in the Inferno instead of being punished separately in the Vestibule of Hell. We see that Wrath is purged on Level 3 and Sloth is purged on Level 4. Possibly, a number of levels purge sins in the reverse order in which sins are punished in the Inferno:


PurgatoryLevel 3: Wrath is Punished

PurgatoryLevel 4: Sloth is Punished

PurgatoryLevel 5: Avariciousness/Prodigality is Punished

PurgatoryLevel 6: Gluttonyis Punished

PurgatoryLevel 7: Lust is Punished


InfernoCircle 5: Wrath is Punished

InfernoCircle 5: Sloth is Punished?

InfernoCircle 4: Avariciousness/Prodigality is Punished

InfernoCircle 3: Gluttony is Punished

InfernoCircle 2: Lust is Punished

Some controversy exists over whether Sloth is punished in Circle 5 of the Inferno. The sin punished there may be Sullenness.

Pride and Envy are purged on the first two levels of the Mountain of Purgatory. They may be regarded as the foundations of sin.

  • Which good things does Dante see at the beginning of this canto?

After coming out of the Inferno, Dante is able to see the night sky. He notices Venus, the planet of love, which is appropriate. He also notices a southern constellation that consists of four stars seen first and last by Adam and Eve. The four stars are allegorical and represent the four cardinal virtues:

  • Prudence
  • Temperance
  • Justice
  • Fortitude
  • Why are they called cardinal virtues?

Here is an explanation:

They are called cardinal (Latin: cardo, hinge) virtues because they are hinges on which all moral virtues depend. These are also called moral (Latin: mores, fixed values) because they govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to faith and reason.

Source: http://www.secondexodus.com/html/catholicdefinitions/cardinalvirtues.htm

Date Downloaded: 6 September 2010

  • Which four classes of Late Repentants will Dante see in Prepurgatory?

These are the four classes of Late Repentants whom Dante will see in Prepurgatory:

The Excommunicated

The Spiritually Lazy

Those Who Repented While Meeting Violent, Sudden Deaths

The Negligent Princes


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved





Free eBooks by David Bruce (pdfs) (Includes Discussion Guides for Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise)



Dante PDFs and Links(davidbruceblog#2)











































Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment