Divine Comedy: Paradiso

Dante and the Cult of Mary

Next to Beatrice, Mary is probably the most important female character in Danteâs Comedy. Maryâs symbolism in relation to the souls of purgatory appears relatively simple at first: her examples of virtue both reprove the penitent sinners for their sins and encourage them in their purgation. However, Maryâs exact nature is more complex because she is presented as both divine and human, and the juxtaposition of her two natures provides her with a multifaceted relationship to the souls and to Dante. She is at once the exemplum of human perfection and of female perfection, the divine mother of Christ and the bride of the Holy Spirit, and finally a corporeal mother not only to Christ but to us all. As Marianne Shapiro points out in Woman Earthly and Divine in the Comedy of Dante, Mary is, above all, presented as the epitome of a good mother who satisfies the needs of her child, including his spiritual appetites. As a good mother, Mary leads a pilgrim, who is her âspiritual child,â? to goodness, to the childâs father, to God (Shapiro 119).

Referenced throughout Purgatory, the Virgin Mary is a much more palpable presence in the second realm of the afterlife than in the first. In Inferno, Mary is referred to only once when Virgil tells...

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