Divine Comedy: Paradiso Imagery

Divine Comedy: Paradiso Imagery

Light Imagery

As Dante ascends from the Inferno through Purgatory to Paradise, the amount of light dramatically increases in proportion with the presence of divinity and goodness. The Inferno is dark and gloomy, permeated by mist and fog, while Purgatory is notably lighter and sunnier. Paradise, being the location of God Himself, is brilliant in light and clarity, as noted throughout the text (e.g. Canto I, where Dante compares the increase in brightness from Purgatory to Paradise to adding another sun in the heavens).

Ship Imagery

Throughout the Divine Comedy, Dante's journey is compared to the voyage of a ship. This imagery is particularly evident in Canto II of Paradiso, where Dante invites readers to bring their small ships behind and alongside his to experience the wonders of Paradise (ln 1-3, 13-15, Longfellow trans.):

"O Ye, who in some pretty little boat,

Eager to listen, have been following

Behind my ship, that singing sails along...

Well may you launch upon the deep salt-sea

Your vessel, keeping still my wake before you

Upon the water that grows smooth again."

The Great Sea of Being

In a maneuver that recalls the imagery of the ship, Dante compares the entirely of "being" in the universe to a "great sea," over which souls pass to reach different destinations. This imagery emphasizes the control of God over all being, a control that mirrors that of God over the seas and oceans in His creation.

Blood and Snow

In Canto XXXI, Dante describes his vision of the saints and angels in Heaven in the highest level of Paradise:

"In fashion then as of a snow-white rose

Displayed itself to me the saintly host,

Whom Christ in his own blood had made his bride." (XXXI.1-3, Longfellow trans.)

This imagery, that of the redness of blood cleansing a soul to purify it and turn it "snow-white," is taken from Isaiah 1:18, where God says, "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (KJV). This whiteness-as-holiness imagery is also prevalent through Paradiso; the sheer amount of brilliant white light bathes everything in a glow of holiness.

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