| Quote #4
What use was there in a Justinian’s
The cure for Italy’s corruption, Dante believes, is a just emperor, metaphorically illustrated here as a rider for Italy’s “empty saddle.” Emperor Justinian “mend[ed the] bridle” by codifying Roman laws, thus directing the ways in which an emperor could control Italy, but these laws are useless if Italy has no emperor. Given free rein, the steed of Italy has “become recalcitrant and savage,” roaming wherever it pleases and bucking whichever laws it wants. “Ah you” is directed at the Church, whose lust for political power has blinded it to “things devout” and, out of envy, has kept anyone from taking the throne. Dante lambastes the “German Albert” I for being more concerned with expanding the empire (“greed for lands that lay more close at hand”) than for quelling the strife in Italy. He considers Italy the “garden of the Empire” because the heart of the Church, the Vatican, dwells in Rome and marks the place where the Holy Roman Emperors are crowned. This entire passage shows Dante’s belief that communities of people (countries) need governance by a virtuous ruler. In other words, people are too selfish to direct their own communities well and require external checks to flourish.
| Quote #5
My Florence, you indeed may be content
In this satirical passage, Dante criticizes his hometown of Florence for its undeserved reputation. Instead of “having justice in their hearts,” Florentines only have it “on their lips”; in other words, their professed virtue is insincere. The “weight of public service” here seems to mean political office, a cesspool of dirty money. Thus, Florentine citizens “eagerly […] shout: ‘I’ll take it on’” not out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of greed for the wealth to be gained. Dante’s heavy sarcasm here reveals just how much contempt he has for his corrupt city. Its depravity, he suggests, stems from its politics, stained by its self-serving nature.
| Quote #6
[Oderisi of Gubbio]: …“Provenzan Salvani,”
The reason given for Provenzan Salvani’s time in Purgatory is his presumption that “his grip could master all Siena.” By “overreach[ing]” past the boundaries of his human ability, Salvani is punished. Pride is the vice that pushes an individual to reach for political power, to desire political control over others for purely selfish reasons.