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by Dante Alighieri

Purgatorio Theme of Language and Communication

In Purgatorio, virtuous language adheres to truth. However, Dante has also added courtesy here. When meeting a penitent for the first time, Virgil urges Dante to address him politely. There is also pressure for one’s language to reflect one’s beliefs. Many speeches come forth in song and praise the Lord for His compassion. Finally, towards the end of the narrative, the restriction of truth is applied to Dante’s craft, poetry. Whereas Inferno casts doubts upon the truthfulness of poetry, in Purgatorio Beatrice charges Dante with writing only the truth in his poetry.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. What concepts about language from Inferno hold true in Purgatorio? Is vice still characterized by a person's language or by something else?
  2. How can language in Purgatorio help initiate change in the other realms (the mortal world and Purgatory)?
  3. In Canto XXXIII, what does Beatrice charge Dante to do with his art? How does this resolve a conflict that arises over the truth of poetry in Inferno?
  4. Why is there so much less emphasis on Dante’s Tuscan accent in Purgatorio than in Inferno? What does it say about people’s concerns in Purgatory?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In Purgatorio, the truth of one’s words – a theme underscored in the Inferno – becomes even more important, because Beatrice, a heavenly creature, charges Dante’s craft with it.

Unlike in the scenes of the sinners’ recognition of Dante in the Inferno, little emphasis is placed on Dante’s peculiar Tuscan accent in Purgatorio; this reflects a distinct change in the penitents’ concerns as opposed to the sinners’. The penitents are more concerned about the future (entering God’s true city where men are united) than the past (the earthly life where men’s allegiances are divided by nationality and social rank).

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