Divine Comedy: Purgatorio

“Love Cautiously”: Dante’s Illustration of Natural and Elective Love

Throughout Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio, the theme of love is visited often. Between the two works, it becomes clear that Dante’s notion of love is divided into two parts: Natural and Elective Love. Natural Love does not err -- that is to say, it will not lead you into sin and is intertwined, if not interchangeable, with the concept of Divine Love. God is, however, a loving God and gives us the power of choice, and so we also love Electively. Elective Love leaves us free to love whatever, whomever, however we wish, and we must learn to desire worthy things if we are to live without sin. Failing to understand this, or straying from this, causes us to err. Natural Love inspires Elective Love, and if we do not learn to tend toward Natural Love, then we end up in Hell; similarly, if we learn too late, we must spend time repenting.

In the second canticle of the Divine Comedy, Dante’s definition of love take the theological stance. In Purgatorio (specifically cantos 21-24), Love is described as something that ultimately comes from God. This natural love is virtuous, and by following it, we cannot sin. This notion of pure love is illustrated best in Virgil’s interaction with the shade Statius. As the pilgrim journeys further up...

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