| Quote #7
[Beatrice] “Not only through the work of the great spheres –
Beatrice describes Dante as a seed that is given every opportunity to succeed by being watered by “the godly graces.” Dante’s free will, though, leaves the environment around him “untilled or badly seeded,” so that his “terrain grows wilder and more noxious.” Beatrice compares Dante’s free will to a farmer’s tending of his lands. Because he neglects to live morally, his seeds grow wildly. Interestingly, Beatrice’s words evoke not only Dante’s moral life, but his poetic talent. He has – she suggests – the “propensity innate in him” which could have “prodigiously succeeded” had he tended it well, but because he runs astray, some of that talent goes to waste. Her goal in telling him all this is to shake Dante up and scare him back into properly tilling his own talent.
| Quote #8
[Beatrice]: “He [Dante] fell so far there were no other means
Through his own bad choices, Dante “fell so far there were no other means to lead him to salvation” except to scare him straight by “let[ting] him see the people who were lost.” Thus fate, which has destined Dante to go to Heaven, intervenes upon seeing that Dante’s free will has led him astray. Virgil, then, appears as an emissary of fate, trying to correct Dante’s path so that he can fix it in accord with “the deep design of God.”
| Quote #9
[Beatrice]: “The eagle that had left its plumes within
Beatrice prophecies that fate will rectify the Church and bring it back to God. The eagle symbolizes the Roman Empire, which is “without an heir” because Frederick II of Hohenstaufen – the last legitimate emperor – died in 1250. The chariot represents the Church, which “became a monster” when the Donation of Constantine bestowed much wealth on the Church, attracting the greedy eyes of politicians and princes. Dante equates the Donation of Constantine to the beginning of the melding of the Church and the state, which has led to disaster. The Church then becomes “a prey” because it caters to the interests of various political figures.
Dante also thinks of this state of the Church as its prostitution, with popes courting the favor of princes and so forth. Thus, the Church is the “whore.” The “giant” is the French monarchy, forever bullying the Church to do its bidding. Beatrice, however, foresees the coming of a figure, the “Five Hundred and Ten and Five” (often glossed in terms of its Roman numerals: 500 = D, 10 = X, 5 = V, forming the anagram DVX or DUX, which is the Latin word for “leader”), who will “slay the whore together with the giant who sins with her.” In other words, this enigmatic leader will purge the Church of its dealings with the secular Empire. Who this mysterious “leader” is, however, is still a topic of heated debate. Thus, author-Dante sees the current corruption of the Church as a historical anomaly, a bad choice made by religious leaders who have poorly exercised their free will. Fate, Dante claims, has a different view of the Church and will work to set it back to rights.