Dante, Beatrice, and the two departures from Dido.
It is a commonplace of Dante criticism to say that the Divine Comedy is, in many important ways, a first-person, Christian re-writing of Virgil's Aeneid.(1) Yet the full implications of this central fact of the Commedia's structure and meaning are still being explored and extended--so dense and so rich are the Italian poet's readings and transformations of his Latin model. One of the most complex and suggestive aspects of this master-example of intertextuality is the Divine Comedy's presentation of its protagonist as a new Aeneas: the Christian poetic--and prophetic--vocation of Dante Alighieri is underwritten by the story of the pagan--but providentially inspired--Aeneas's founding of Rome. The explicit initial link between the protagonist of the Commedia and the protagonist of the Aeneid occurs in a famous passage in Inferno 2: After having been informed by Virgil of his extraordinary election to the privilege of a journey to the afterlife before he has experienced death, Dante-protagonist expresses his incredulity and his sense of unworthiness. First he adduces successful past models for such a journey: while still alive "di Silvio il parente" (If. 2.13) |the father of Silvius~ visited the underworld and "lo Vas d'elezione" (If. 2.28) |the Chosen Vessel~ journeyed to Heaven in order to advance Christian providential history. Then, Dante-protagonist affirms his difference from these models: "Ma io, perche venirvi? o chi'l concede? / lo non Enea, io non Paulo sono" (If. 2.31-32) |But I, why do I come there? And who allows it? I am not Aeneas, I am not Paul~.(2) This famous double denial has long been read as a kind of negative self-definition: Dante is in effect affirming that he is both Aeneas and Paul. That is to say, his journey will be modeled on theirs; he will be a new Aeneas and a new St. Paul.(3)
The present essay explores a particularly striking and suggestive way in which Dante functions as a new Aeneas: how the two departures of Dante's guides in the Commedia are informed by Aeneas's two departures from Dido in the Aeneid.(4) First, I will consider the final exchange between Dido and Aeneas at the moment of the latter's departure from Carthage (Aen. 4.305-96) as a subtext for the elaborate "confrontation" between Beatrice and Dante in Purgatorio 30 and 31, initiated by Dante's reaction to the disappearance of Virgil. Second, I will consider the final meeting and definitive separation of Dido and Aeneas in the underworld (Aen. 6.450-76) as a subtext for Dante's reaction to the disappearance of Beatrice in Paradiso 31. What is at issue, I would like to suggest, is a multiple set of parallels in Dante's alignment of these four textual loci. Of central importance to the way in which these various textual parallels function is the question of effective communication, of the power of words to move the listener.
Let us start with Aeneid 4. When Dido learns that Aeneas is secretly preparing to leave Carthage and to abandon her, she confronts him in a long passage of accusation and reproach (vv. 305-330). She presents herself explicitly as weeping and as praying: "mene fugis? per ego has lacrimas dextramque tuam te . . . oro, si quis adhuc precibus locus, exue mentem" (vv. 314; 319) |Do you flee from me? By these tears and your right hand, I pray you . . . if yet there be any room for prayers, put away this purpose of yours~. The introduction to Aeneas's reply clearly indicates that he has given no external signs of having been moved by Dido's words: "Dixerat. ille lovis monitis immota tenebat / lumina et obnixus curam sub corde premebat" (vv. 331-32) |She finished: he by Jove's command held his eyes steadfast and with a struggle smothered the pain deep within his heart~.
It is this lack of responsiveness that Dido emphasizes at the opening of her reaction to Aeneas's attempt at self-justification (vv. 333-61):
nec tibi diva parens, generis nec Dardanus auctor, perfide, sed duris genuit te cautibus horrens Caucasus, Hyrcanaeque admorunt ubera tigres. nam quid dissimulo aut quae me ad maiora reservo? num fletu ingemuit nostro? num lumina flexit? num lacrimas victus dedit aut miseratus amantem est?
|False one! no goddess was your mother, nor was Dardanus founder of your line, but rugged Caucasus on his flinty rocks begat you, and Hyrcanian tigresses suckled you. For why hide my feelings? or for what greater wrongs do I hold myself back? Did he sigh while I wept? Did he turn on me a glance? Did he yield and shed tears or pity her who loved him?~
Even after Dido's second prayer speech (vv. 365-87), then, Aeneas shows no signs of being moved and continues in his original intention, i.e., to leave Carthage for Italy.(5)
In Purgatorio 30, a complex recasting of this first departure from Dido by Aeneas is at issue.(6) The program is set in motion at the extraordinarily important moment that introduces Beatrice's first direct appearance in the Commedia. For the advent of Beatrice is heralded by the disappearance of Virgil. When Dante-protagonist sees Beatrice for the first time, his intense affective reaction is so powerfully mediated by a key subtext from the Aeneid that the scene is presented as a recasting of that moment in Aeneid 4 when Dido begins to realize that she has fallen in love with the Trojan hero. Having just seen Beatrice, Dante turns to Virgil with the intention of saying to him "conosco i segni de l'antica fiamma" (Pg. 30.48) |I recognize the signs of the ancient flame~, thus echoing the words of Dido's initial confession to her sister Anna: "adgnosco veteris vestigia flammae" (Aen. 4.234) |I recognize the traces of the old flame~. This initial evocation of the Virgilian subtext, as many commentators have pointed out,(7) thus presents the Commedia's Virgilio as Anna to Dante's Dido and Beatrice's Aeneas. The striking gender reversal in this construct is both modified and exploited in the following narrative sequence--arguably the most dramatic in the entire Divine Comedy--as Dante--protagonist, confidently turning toward his beloved guide, discovers that Virgil has disappeared. The tears that Dante sheds over this event constitute, I submit, a transitional moment in terms of the Virgilian subtext, as Dante-protagonist--still playing the role of Dido--weeps over the sudden and inevitable (i.e., providential) departure of Virgil who now plays the role not of Anna, but of Aeneas.
A second shift (in terms of the Virgilian model text) occurs as Beatrice, in her first direct discourse in the Commedia (and in the poem's only naming of its author), simultaneously reproaches Dante for his tears on Virgil's behalf, and exhorts him to cry in a different--and better--way:
Dante, perche Virgilio se ne vada, non pianger anco, non piangere ancora; che pianger ti conven per altra spada.
|Dante, because Virgil leaves you, do not weep yet, do not weep yet, for you must weep for another sword!~
It is worth noting that the last words of the two speeches which flank Dante's discovery of Virgil's disappearance in the context of an Aenean/Didonian subtext are fiamma (48) and spada (57), thus evoking the fire that first metaphorically then literally burns Dido in Aeneid 4, and the sword which transforms her metaphorical wound of love at the opening into the literal wound which kills her at the close of Aeneid 4.(8)
In terms of the progressive transformation of the Virgilian model effected by the unfolding plot line of Purgatorio 30, Beatrice--at the moment of her initial reproach to Dante--figures the Dido of Aeneid 4 in bono, while Dante, as we shall see, figures the Aeneas of Aeneid 4 in bono.
First of all, Beatrice here is presented as speaking regalmente |royally~ (v. 70): she is a queen, like Dido. Second, her words to her former lover are a reproach for faithlessness, as Dido's were to Aeneas in Aeneid 4.(9) Third, Beatrice's insistance that her interlocutor look at her is one of the strongest parts of her rebuke (Pg. 30.73).(10) Finally, Dante--unlike his negative Aenean model--does respond to the reproaches of his Beatrice-Dido: In a passage that dramatically "corrects" Aeneas's response to Dido's reproaches in Aeneid 4 in a Christian context, Dante reacts to Beatrice's condemnation of his behavior by crying and sighing:
lo gel che m'era intorno al cor ristretto, spirito e acqua fessi, e con angoscia de la bocca e de li occhi usci del petto.
|The ice that was bound tight around my heart became breath and water, and with my anguish poured from my breast through my mouth and eyes.~
Within the plot line of the Commedia, this response of Dante as a corrected Christian Aeneas to Beatrice as a corrected Christian Dido, leads directly to the protagonist's salvation: contrition leads to confession which leads to penance.(11) It is also significant to note here that the most important of Beatrice's reproaches to the repentent Dante are strikingly reminiscent of Dido's proleptic reproaches to Aeneas in Aeneid 4. Dido accuses Aeneas of being on the verge of leaving her, of planning to be unfaithful; Beatrice accuses Dante of having already been unfaithful to her, of having forgotten/abandoned her after her death (Pg. 30.106-45; Pg. 31.43-63).(12)
A final significant recall of the Virgilian subtext occurs at the moment when Beatrice, having obtained Dante's confession and fully explained his fault to him, commands him to raise his head and look at her with the striking phrase: "alza la barba, / e prenderai piu doglia riguardando" (Pg. 31.68) |lift up your beard and you will receive more grief through seeing~. The simile used to describe Dante's reluctance to respond to Beatrice is quite significant:
Con men di resistenza si dibarba robusto cerro, o vero al nostral vento o vero a quel de la terra di Iarba, ch'io non levai al suo comando il mento.
|With less resistance is the sturdy oak uprooted, whether by wind of ours or by that which blows from Iarbas's land, than at her command I raised my chin~
The use of the phrase "la terra di Iarba" as a periphrasis for North Africa is the only mention in the Commedia of the name of Dido's unsuccessful suitor, king of the Gaetulians in Numidia. What is evoked is both Dido's love affair with Aeneas, and her abandonment by him. For it is Iarbas who, moved by the fama of Aeneas's affair with Dido (Aen. 4.196-97), prays to Jupiter (Aen. 4.198-218), and thus causes Mercury to order Aeneas to leave Dido and sail for Italy (Aen. 4.219-78). The reference to Iarbas in Purgatorio 31.72 serves to recall the destructive Virgilian erotic passion of Aeneid 4, at the very moment that it is being dominated, corrected--even "sublimated"--by the Christian poetics of Dante-protagonist's successful conversion by and to Beatrice.(13)
In this context, it is worth enumerating each of the three moments when Iarbas is mentioned in the course of Aeneid 4. The first time involves Anna (4.35-43), who invokes both Dido's rejection of Iarbas as an undesirable suitor and the possible military danger such a rejection might pose to Carthage as reasons for Dido to yield to her new love for (and potential resulting military alliance with) Aeneas. The Carthaginian queen's initial fidelity to Sychaeus in rejecting Iarbas and her subsequent breach of that fidelity with the newly arrived Trojan prince are thus evoked simultaneously. Aeneid 4's third and final reference to Iarbas comes in Dido's first speech of reproach to Aeneas for his plans to abandon her: she desperately invokes the possibility of her future capture by Iarbas as a consequence of Aeneas's leaving her alone, dishonored and unprotected (Aen. 4.326). Aeneid 4's central and most elaborate reference to Iarbas, his prayer to Jupiter (4.206-18)--a resentful complaint about Aeneas's amorous success with Dido--serves as the diegetic cause for the divine intervention that ends the lovers' idyll, as I mentioned above. The reference to Iarbas in Purgatorio 31 thus evokes--in a variety of inter-related ways--the failure of erotic love associated with Dido.
At the same time, the comparison between Dante-protagonist and the uprooted oak in Purgatorio 31 evokes and dramatically reverses the culminating moment of Aeneas's first departure from Dido in Aeneid 4. The Virgilian subtext occurs at the point where the frantic Dido, after having failed herself to convince Aeneas to stay with her, sends her sister Anna to attempt to move her former lover, to persuade him to postpone his departure from Carthage (Aen. 4.416-36). Anna's repeated pleading does not succeed: "sed nullius ille movetur / fletibus, aut voces ullas tractabilis audit" (Aen. 4.438-39) |but by no tearful pleas is he moved, nor in yielding mood pays he heed to any words~. Aeneas's definitive resistance to Dido's final (indirect) plea is articulated by means of an extended simile:
ac velut annoso validam cum robore quercum Alpini Boreae nunc hinc nunc flatibus illinc eruere inter se certant: it stridor, et altae consernunt terram concusso stipite frondes; ipsa haeret scopulis et, quantum vertice ad auras aetherias, tantum radice in Tartara tendit: haud secus adsiduis hinc atque hinc vocibus heros tunditur, et magno persentit pectore curras; mens immota manet, lacrimae volvuntur inanes.
|Even as when northern Alpine winds, blowing now hence, now thence, emulously strive to uproot an oak strong with the strength of years, there comes a roar, the stem quivers and the high leafage thickly strews the ground, but the oak clings to the crag, and as far as it lifts its top to the airs of heavens, so far it strikes its roots down towards hell--even so with ceaseless appeals, from this side and from that, the hero is buffeted, and in his mighty heart feels the thrill of grief: steadfast stands his will; the tears fall in vain.~
Aeneas's successful resistance to Dido's words is required by the poetics of the Aeneid, and the figure of the annoso valida cum robore quercus which remains upright is thus positive. The Christian poetics of the Commedia require on the contrary that Dante-protagonist yield to the power of Beatrice's words: the positive figure is here the uprooted robusto cerro. What results is a striking instance of what Robert Ball has termed the difference between Virgilian pietas and Dantean pieta.(14) At the same time, this corrective inversion by Dante of his Aenean model carries the larger Christian implication of "weakness as strength," of "dying into life." At the level of plot, the ensuing vision of Beatrice will lead to the culmination of Dante's contrition, as he faints from the intensity of his remorse (Pg. 32.85-90). What follows is his absolution in Lethe, and his full entrance into the Earthly Paradise, i.e., the successful continuation of Dante's "divine mission" as a new Aeneas (which involves his own personal salvation).
In this connection, I would like to consider an additional textual model for Dante's contrition. In the Aenean/Didonian context set up for Purgatorio 31 (most explicitly) by the larbas reference, I suggest that the wind (vento, v. 71) which uproots the sturdy oak in the simile recalls the venti punishing the Lustful in Inferno 5. Vento is used four times in the canto of Paolo and Francesca, the greatest number in a single canto in the entire Commedia: vv. 30, 75, 79, 96. This recall of Inferno 5 helps to introduce the moment of Dante's contrition in Purgatorio 31. A key contrast is suggested: the right tears and sighs |"lagrime e sospiri"~ of Dante in Purgatorio 31.20 recall and reverse the incorrect lagrimar (of Dante) and the incorrect dolci sospiri (of Francesca) in Inferno 5.117-18. This "redeemed" (and "redemptive") instance of passion leads to contrition and, ultimately, to salvation. Dante's faint in Purgatorio 31.89 plays a crucial role in this network of intra- and inter-textual references: He faints from the intensity of his remorse (penter, 85; riconoscenza, 88): "io caddi vinto" (Purg. 31.89) |I fell overcome~--conquered by/into spiritual life. In Inferno 5, Dante-protagonist was still susceptible to the wrong kind of passion, and fainted from the intensity of pity (pietade, 140), i.e., fellow feeling with "dead" sinners, complicity in Francesca's lust (and her "lustful" language). There his faint involved the risk of spiritual death: "io venni men cosi com'io morisse. / E caddi come corpo morto cade" (Inf. 5.14142) |I swooned as if I were dead, and fell as a dead body falls~. Thus Dante's faint caused by Beatrice in Purgatorio 31 recalls and corrects his faint caused by Francesca in Inferno 5. The Iarbas reference in Purgatorio 31.72 figures simultaneously the powerful threat of Didonian passion, and Dante-protagonist's distance from it at this point in the poem. It thus contrastively places Dante's immanent swoon (in Purg. 31) in the context of Dido's fatal passion, as, in a "complicitous" manner, Dido's presence in the Second Circle had done vis-a-vis Dante's swoon at the end of Inferno 5. In this connection it is interesting to recall Dido's repeated swooning after she has stabbed herself at the end of Aeneid 4, in particular, lines 688-89: "illa gravis oculos conata attollere rursus / deficit" |She, trying to lift her heavy eyes, swoons again~ (cf. also Aen. 4.690-91).
At the same time, Dante-protagonist's faint in Purgatorio 31.88-90 can be seen, I think, as prefigured by the simile of the "uprooted oak" in Purgatorio 31.70-71, which correctively inverts Aeneas's non-reaction (expressed in the simile of the "sturdy oak which is not uprooted" in Aen. 4.441-49) to Dido's final appeal as transmitted by Anna. The Dante who faints from the right kind of remorse in response to the words of his lady thus functions as a correction of the Aeneas who did not respond to the words of his lady, and who is not overwhelmed by (the wrong kind of) remorse.
All of this is directly relevant to the Commedia's intertextual usage of Aeneas's second departure from Dido, in Aeneid 6. In this Virgilian scene, all of the terms of Aeneas's first departure from Dido in Aeneid 4 are reversed.(15) Here, Aeneas encounters the shade of Dido during the course of his visit to the underworld, guided by the Sibyl. While in the earlier departure, Dido wept while pleading in vain with the dry-eyed Aeneas not to leave her, here when the Trojan hero first spies the Carthaginian queen: "demisit lacrimas dulcique adfatus amore est" (v. 455) |he shed tears and spoke to her in tender love~. Having caused Dido's death by abandoning her, Aeneas now attempts to excuse his behavior to the shade of this victim, and it is now he who begs her not to leave him: "siste gradum teque aspectu ne subtrahe nostro. / quem fugis? extremum fato, quod te adloquor, hoc est" (Aen. 6.465-66) |Stay your step and do not withdraw from our view. Whom do you flee? The last word Fate suffers me to say to you is this!"~. The "quem fugis?" |whom do you flee?~ spoken by Aeneas to Dido in 6.466 recalls and symmetrically reverses the "mene fugis?" |do you flee from me?~ spoken by Dido to Aeneas in 4.314, as Austin notes.
The precise inversion of the speech situation in the Aeneid 4 encounter is emphasized here at the conclusion of Aeneas's plea to Dido (Aen. 6.456-66). He now attempts to move her as she had attempted to move him earlier; she is now as unresponsive as he had been earlier:
talibus Aeneas ardentem at torva tuentem lenibat dictis animum lacrimasque ciebat. illa solo fixos oculos aversa tenebat nec magis incepto voltum sermone movetur, quam si dura silex aut stet Marpesia cautes. tandem corripuit sese atque inimica refugit in nemus umbriferum . . .
|With such speech amid springing tears Aeneas would soothe the wrath of the fiery, fierce-eyed queen. She, turning away, kept her looks fixed on the ground and no more changes her countenance as he essays to speak than if she were set in hard flint or Marpesian rock. At length she flung herself away and, still his foe, fled back to the shady grove . . .~
The earlier comparison of Aeneas to stone |cautes, Aen. 4.366), as he is unmoved by Dido's words, is here echoed by a comparison of Dido to stone (cautes, Aen. 6.471), as she is unmoved by Aeneas's words.
The sequence ends with Aeneas, impotent and tearful, watching Dido leave him in the underworld as he had left her on earth: "nec minus Aeneas, casu concussus iniquo, / prosequitur lacrimis longe et miseratur euntem" (vv. 475-76) |Yet none the less, dazed by her unjust doom, Aeneas attends her with tears afar and pities her as she goes.~
In Paradiso 31, Beatrice, after having conducted Dante from the Earthly Paradise to True Paradise (the Empyrean, the 10th--the spiritual--Heaven), disappears from her charge in a way reminiscent of Virgil's disappearance in Purgatorio 30. The parallels between the two scenes require that they be read together, superimposed one on the other. Part of what results from this important intra-textual moment is a measure of the progress made by Dante-pilgrim under Beatrice's tutelage. At the same time, an important contrast is suggested--in terms of Dante-protagonist's diametrically opposed reactions--between, on the one hand, the tragedy of Virgil the character (sent back to the First Circle of Hell) linked to the tragic history of the Aeneid, and, on the other hand, the comedy of Beatrice the character (translated to her position in eternal glory) linked to the comic Christian history of the Divine Comedy, which is also the comic autobiography of Dante Alighieri, whose ultimate happy ending at the level of plot contrasts dramatically with the diegetic conclusion to Aeneas's biography at the end of Aeneid 12. In this context, Dante's joyful prayer of Beatrice after her disappearance in Paradiso 31 is a corrective rewriting of his tearful lament to Virgil after his disappearance in Purgatorio 30. Significantly, the first speech refers to "Virgilio a cui per mia salute die'mi" (Pg. 30.51) |Virgil to whom I gave myself for my salvation~, while the second speech addresses the donna who "soffristi per la mia salute / in inferno lasciar le tue vestige" (Pg. 31.80-81) |suffered to leave your footprints in Hell for my salvation~ (emphasis mine), as Scancarelli Seem notes.
When Beatrice disappears in Paradiso 31, Dante does not weep as he had at the moment of Virgil's disappearance in Purgatorio 30. Let us consider the narrative context of Dante's discovery that Beatrice is no longer standing beside him. Having feasted his eyes on the ranks of the inhabitants of the Celestial Rose, Dante desires further explanation from his guide:
e volgeami con voglia riaccesa per domandar la mia donna di cose di che la mente mia era sospesa. Uno intendea, e altro mi rispuose: credea veder Beatrice e vidi un sene
|and I turned with rekindled will to ask my lady about things as to which my mind was in suspense. One thing I proposed and another answered me: I thought to see Beatrice, and I saw an elder~.
The discovery that Beatrice has gone away provokes a simple question which is immediately answered. In response to Dante's query "Ov' e ella?" (v. 64) |where is she?~, St Bernard replies that Beatrice is still visible, now in her proper position in the celestial hierarchy of the Rose.
On the one hand this is a corrective recall of Purgatorio 30: Beatrice the fully Christian guide has not disappeared as Virgil did. On the other hand, this scene is also, I would like to suggest, a corrective recall of Aeneid 6.450-76. Dante's final sight of his Lady in her permanent position in the afterworld, is parallel to Aeneas's final sight of Dido in hers. The key difference is not simply that Beatrice in the Empyrean is--among other things--a correction of Dido in the underworld. The most important part of this program involves Dante's famous farewell speech of thanksgiving to his lady (Pr. 31.79-90). For Beatrice, unlike Dido with the repentant Aeneas, shows herself to be responsive to Dante's prayer:
Cosi orai; e qeulla, si lontana come parea, sorrise e riguardommi; poi si torno a l'etterna fontana.
|So did I pray; and she, so distant as she seemed, smiled and looked on me, then turned again to the eternal fountain.~
By way of conclusion, I would like to make two general points about the ways in which Aeneas's two departures from Dido in the Aeneid inform the departures of Dante's two guides in the Commedia. First, there is the question of the power of words to move the listener. At both moments of departure in the Virgilian subtext, verbal communication is ineffective. In Aeneid 4, Aeneas is unmoved by Dido's accusations and by her plea. In Aeneid 6, the roles are reversed and it is Dido who is unmoved by Aeneas's tearful plea. By contrast, the two parallel scenes in the Commedia involve effective--"successful"--verbal communication. Dante responds to Beatrice's reproaches in Purgatorio 30-31 with contrition, confession and repentance. In Paradiso 31 Beatrice (in a final corrective Christian rewriting of Dido in the afterlife) responds favorably to Dante's words--his prayer--with her last smile in the poem. The futile sermones of Aeneas (Aen. 6.470) are made good by Dante's act of prayer (orai; Pr. 31.91). At the same time, the physical sign of comprehension and response in the addressee also has a spiritual dimension in the Commedia. Dante's tears of contrition in Purgatorio 30 and 31 signify the successful completion of a speech act whose direct result is a change in the interlocutor's soul, an essential step forward on the road to personal salvation. Beatrice's smile in Paradiso 31 signifies the salvific quality both of Dante-protagonist's specific prayer, and of Dante-poet's larger vocation and discourse.
My final point has to do with a basic difference between the Aeneid and the Commedia that enables verbal communication to be effective at these key textual moments: Dante's Christian "sublimation"--his making good--of erotic love. In the political poetics of the Aeneid, the figure of the Lady is eccentric. Erotic love as figured by Dido is a danger, a temptation, an obstacle to the protagonist's task of (collective) political destiny. In the Divine Comedy, the figure of the Lady is, by contrast, central. The sublimation of erotic love as figured by Beatrice is the essential instrument of the protagonist's (individual) salvation. In this sense, as in so many others, Dante's Commedia is a fusion of (or, perhaps better, a dialectic between) first-person lyric and epic narrative, which relentlessly maintains and exploits the tensions between these two modes.(16)
1 Citations from the Commedia are from the text established by Giorgio Petrocchi as found in the edition of Charles S. Singleton, The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, 3 v. in 6 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970-75). Translations are Singleton's, selectively emended. Citations and translation (selectively emended) from the Aeneid are from H. Rushton Fairclough, Virgil. Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid. Minor Works, 2 v. (Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press/Heinemann, 1969-74). The size of the bibliography on the Dante/Aeneas parallel (and, more generally, on Dante's relation to Virgil) is such as to preclude any but a summary treatment. I mention here selectively those recent studies which have been particularly useful to my work on the question in the context of the present article: Robert Hollander, Allegory in Dantes "Comedy" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), esp. pp. 76-93 on the presence of Aeneid 1 in Inferno 1 and 2, and Il Virgilio Dantesco: Tragedia nella <<Commedia>> (Firenze: Olschki, 1983); Giuseppe Mazzotta, Dange, Poet of the Desert: History and Allegory in the "Divine Comedy" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), esp. pp. 147-91; Albert Rossi, "A l'ultimo suo': Paradiso XXX and its Virgilian context," Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, N.S., 4 (1981), 37-88; Teodolinda Barolini, Dante's Poets: Textuality and Truth in the "Comedy" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), esp. "Vergil: Poeta fui," pp. 201-56; and Jeffrey Schnapp, The Transfiguration of History at the Center of Dante's "Paradise" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), esp. pp. 170-238.
2 For the full context and import of this passage, see Rachel Jacoff and William Stephany, Inferno 2. Lectura Dantis Americana (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989).
3 For Dante's Pauline model in Paradiso, see Kevin Brownlee, "Pauline Vision and Ovidian Speech in Paradiso 1: Marsyas, Glaucus and St. Paul" in Rachel Jacoff and Jeffrey Schnapp, eds., The Poetry of Allusion: Virgil and Ovid in Dante's "Comedy" (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), pp. 202-13 and "Language and Desire in Paradiso 26," Lectura Dantis 6 (1990), 46-59.
4 I would like to acknowledge Lauren Scancarelli Seem's fundamental insight on the presence of this pattern (the first, to my knowledge), as worked out in her 1983 Dartmouth College senior thesis, "The Commedia After Virgil: A Study of the Aeneid in the Paradiso."
5 Cf. the description of Aeneas's actual departure from Dido, which contrasts his inner turmoil with his outward calm and appearance of immobility:
At pius Aeneas, quamquam lenire dolentem solando cupit et dictis avertere curas, multa gemens magnoque animum labefactus amore, iussa tamen divum exsequitur classemque revisit.
|But good Aeneas, though longing to soothe and assuage her grief and by his words turn aside her sorrow, with many a groan, his soul shaken by his mighty love, yet fulfills Heaven's bidding and returns to the fleet.~
6 Dido, of course, appears as a character in her own right in the Commedia, where she is assigned a dominant position in the Circle of the Lustful (If. 5.61-62; 85). For Dante's Dido as a figure of transgressive female desire, see Rachel Jacoff, "Transgression and Transcendence: Figures of Female Desire in Dante's Commedia," Romanic Review 79 (1988), 129-42. See also, Robert Hollander, Allegory, pp. 104-14. For a survey of Dido's presence in Dante's works, see Giorgio Padoan, "Didone," in the Enciclopedia Dantesca.
7 See in particular Peter Hawkins, "Dido, Beatrice, and the Signs of Ancient Love" in Jacoff/Schnapp, eds., The Poetry of Allusion, 113-130. See also, in the same volume, Rachel Jacoff, "Intertextualities in Arcadia: Purgatorio 30.49-51," pp. 131-44; and Michael Putnam, "Virgil's Inferno," pp. 94-112. I find particularly important Hawkins's insightful exposition of the significance of the Dantean segni as a rewriting of the Virgilian vestigia, as indicative (among other things) of the distance between the two poets at the very moment of Virgil's disappearance as character from the plot line of the Commedia. I would like to signal an additional important Dantean modification of a Virgilian word in this same key line: antica for veteris. What is at issue here is a semantic shift that also involves chronology: a corrective reversal of Dido's temporal situation in erotic terms. That is, Dido feels the "old" flame but for a new love object, thus betraying a faith hitherto held intact with an old love. Dante, on the contrary, feels the same flame for the same initial love object; for him the betrayal has already taken place and is about to be rectified. In other words, for Dido this moment of feeling anew the traces veteris . . . flammae is the beginning of an "erotic" betrayal of her state of virtuous purity towards a dead beloved (Sychaeus). She moves away from her original love in a trajectory that will end with her tragic death in Aeneid 4 (and her status as shade both in Aen. 6 and Inferno 5). For Dante-protagonist this moment of feeling anew the signs de l'antica fiamma is the beginning of the recuperation of an earlier erotic betrayal of a dead beloved (Beatrice). He moves back to his original love, and simultaneously (in the Commedia's diegetic future) forward towards the Empyrean: his trajectory leads to life and to salvation. See also note 9, below.
8 For the wound and fire imagery in Aen. 4, see R.O.A.M. Lyne, Further Voices in Vergils Aeneid (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987), pp. 120-21; 194.
9 There is an important shift in temporality at issue here: from a betrayal about to happen in Aeneid 4, to a betrayal which has already occurred--with the gentile donna in the "past" of vita Nuova 35-38, reinterpreted as Lady Philosophy in Convivio 2.2, 2.12, and 2.15. See Beatrice's reproaches to Dante on this subject in Purgatorio 30.106-45, and 32.43-63; and in particular the famous declaration that: "Non ti dovea gravar le penne in giuso, / ad aspettar piu colpo, o pargoletta / o altra novita con si breve uso" (Pg. 31.58-60) |Young damsel or other novelty of such brief enjoyment should not have weighed down your wings to await more shots~.
10 "Guardaci ben! Ben son, ben son Beatrice" |Look at me well: indeed I am, indeed I am Beatrice~. Cf. Dido's complaint that Aeneas has refused to look at her during their confrontation: "num lumina flexit?" (Aen. 4.369) |Did he turn on me a glance?~.
11 For the Ovidian subtext to this key penitential moment, see Kevin Brownlee, "Dante and Narcissus (Purgatorio XXX, 76-99)," Dante Studies 96 (1978), 201-06. See also Singleton's plotting of the Christian sacramental subtext in his commentary to Purgatorio 31.
12 See note 9, above. Cf. the Aeneid's presentation of Dido's love affair with Aeneas as a betrayal of her dead husband Sychaeus (Aen. 1.342-60; 719-22; and esp. Aen. 4.15-30 and 547-53). Dido condemns herself to death explicitly in these terms: "non servata fides cineri promissa Sychaeo" (Aen. 4.552) |the faith vowed to the ashes of Sychaeus I have not kept~. This is how she is first introduced in the Commedia, as Virgil points her out to Dante: "L'altra e colei che s'ancise amorosa, / e ruppe fede al cener di Sicheo" (Inf. 5.61-62) |the next is she who slew herself for love and broke faith to the ashes of Sichaeus~. It is worth noting in this context that our last glimpse of the Virgilian Dido in the underworld shows her returning successfully to her former husband: "refugit / in nemus umbriferum, coniunx ubi pristinus illi / respondet curis aequatque Sychaeus amorem" (Aen. 6.472-74) |she fled back to the shady grove, where Sychaeus, her lord of former days, responds to her sorrows and gives her love for love~.
13 See Hawkins, "Dido," pp. 122-23.
14 see Robert Ball, "Theological Semantics: Virgil's Pietas and Dante's Pieta,: Stanford Italian Review 2 (1981), 59-80.
15 For the many of the particular verbal correspondances involved in these reversals, see R. G. Austin P. Vergili Maronis. Aeneidos Liber Sextus. With Commentary (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977) on lines 466-71. Worth emphasizing is Austin's reading (with Servius) of lacrimasque ciebat in line 468 to refer to Aeneas's tears.
16 For an excellent consideration of the lyric/narrative opposition that is fundamental to the Commedia, see Teodolinda Barolini, "Dante's Heaven of the Sun as a Meditation on Narrative," Lettere Italiane 1 (1988), 1-36.