Divine Comedy: Paradiso Literary Elements

Divine Comedy: Paradiso Literary Elements

Genre

Narrative poem, allegory

Setting and Context

Paradise (outside of time and space, although it is a continuation of his short journey begun in 1300 AD)

Narrator and Point of View

The narrator is Dante, who is both the author and the main character. His knowledge is sometimes limited and sometimes omniscient.

Tone and Mood

Awestruck, reverent, formal

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is Dante, although all characters in Paradise are completely Good

Major Conflict

The sole conflict is the struggle of Dante's mind to comprehend the wonders of Heaven that no mortal mind can completely understand.

Climax

In the last canto, Dante comes into the presence of God and receives the truth he longed for, "smiting [his] mind like lightning flashing bright" (XXXIII.140-141, Esolen trans.).

Foreshadowing

Throughout Paradiso, Dante is ascending farther up into the spheres of Heaven, and each one shows a bit more of God's majesty; in that sense, the entirety of the work is building up to his divine revelation at the end.

Understatement

Since, as Beatrice explains to Dante, Paradise is so far above his level of comprehension that it appears to him in a form that his mind can understand, the whole of Paradise can be seen as a form of understatement. God's beauty and holiness are so mind-blowingly magnificent that this poetic rendition is a mere reduction.

Allusions

The poem is full of allusions to books of Scripture; for example, the "snow-white rose" of angels that appear to Dante in Canto XXXI, alongside the explanation of Christ's atoning blood, reference the book of Isaiah (1:18) with their imagery. Moreover, in the upper spheres of Paradise, Dante speaks with several saints and church fathers, whose works are referenced in their speeches (such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, and St. Bernard).

Imagery

Paradiso is full of imagery, permeating the text. A major example is Light Imagery (taken from the Imagery section):

As Dante ascends from Inferno through Purgatory to Paradise, the amount of light dramatically increases in proportion with the presence of divinity and goodness. 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).

Paradox

This poem itself is a major paradox: Dante is trying to convey with words what by definition cannot be conveyed with words. The majesty of Heaven is so great that it cannot be communicated, and yet Dante is attempting to communicate it to the reader throughout Paradiso.

Parallelism

The journey Dante makes from Inferno to Paradiso parallels the journey of the human soul in the process of salvation (from death to sanctification to eternal life).

Metonymy and Synecdoche

In a sense, Dante can be seen as metonymically representative of man as a whole, especially a man who has become a Christian. His journey to Paradise represents the journey of salvation allowed by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Personification

When Dante describes the beauty of Beatrice's smile, he says, "And if Art or Nature has made bait to catch the eyes and so possess the mind, in human flesh or its portraiture, all joined together would appear as nought to the divine delight which shone upon me when to her smiling face I turned me round" (Canto XXVII.91-96).

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