by Dante Alighieri
Character Role Analysis
Matilda is basically an information tool. It seems as if author-Dante needs someone who is an expert about the terrain of the Earthly Paradise, so he makes up someone vaguely based on the Biblical Leah (in Dante’s dream) and stuffs her full of useful information. Yes, that’s right: Matilda is the only made-up figure in the entire Divine Comedy. Out of possibly a thousand characters, we think that’s pretty darn significant. Our thought is that Dante wrote himself into a corner (by making the Earthly Paradise) and needed a new character to inhabit it. Does it come as any surprise then that her speech in Canto XXVIII goes on and on? She’s showing off her knowledge. Dante just asks why there’s wind in the Earthly Paradise and instead of simply answering his question, she says, “I know the answer to that,” then goes on to talk about how plants on earth come from plants in the Earthly Paradise and THEN talks about the Lethe and Eunoe rivers. You thought she was done? No; she goes on to tell him that this is the Garden of Eden, the place that poets dream about for inspiration. All helpful info. After this, Matilda barely speaks. Her only other role is to immerse Dante in the Lethe and then in the Eunoe.