Characterization and eschatological realism from Dante to Petrarch

  • Laurence Hooper
  • The Italianist, September 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/02614340.2017.1407987

Blessed Souls as Characters in Dante and Petrarch

What is it about?

This article considers the characterization of blessed souls in Dante’s Commedia (1307–21) and Petrarch’s Canzoniere (c. 1356–74) and Triumphi (c. 1352–74). It argues that eschatological realism – the detailed representation of souls in the afterlife – lies at the heart of these three works, each of which depicts a deceased beloved who now resides in Paradise.

Why is it important?

Petrarch and Dante are usually seen as antagonists, especially when it comes to their conception of poetry and poetics. In fact, as this essay shows, when one examines their literary practices, one finds significant continuities, such as the importance of recognizable characters from recent history. Moreover, the divergences Petrarch makes from the Dantean model must be seen in the intellectual context of the time. In this case, Petrarch is clearly conscious of the controversy over the beatific vision that had taken place in the 1330s after Dante's death. This made the application of realist techniques to saved characters much more risky and transgressive and helps to explain why Petrarch's treatment of the Blessed is more limited than Dante's and predominantly chanelled through the figure of his beloved Laura.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Laurence E. Hooper