| Quote #7
[Guido del Duca]: “This is Rinieri, this is he – the glory,
Dante nurtures an opinion that considers older times more virtuous than more current times. Thus, he claims, the house of Rinieri, despite starting out well (with “the glory, the honor of the house of Balcoli”), has “lost the good of gentle living.” Rinieri’s descendants, then, have not “inherited his worth.” Here, the sin of envy has spread from one noble family into the peasantry and even into the land itself, which is “full of poisoned stumps.” The idea that a bad monarchy might bring about a reciprocal wasteland (where the land is no longer fertile) is a common one in medieval literature.
| Quote #8
[Marco Lombardo]: “Thus, if the present world has gone astray,
Marco Lombardo blames the political corruption of man on man himself, for God has given him the free will and an intelligent mind with which to avoid such moral depravity. This bolsters Dante’s idea that people need a strong ruler and laws to curb people’s selfish tendencies.
| Quote #9
[Marco Lombardo]: “Therefore, one needed law to serve as curb;
Dante criticizes the political corruption of his times, which have allowed self-serving popes to be elected into office. These popes do “not have cleft hooves,” meaning they do not see the crucial importance of maintaining the “cleft” between church and state, by which the one always checks the other and they reciprocally keep each other in line. Instead, society has allowed “the sword [to] join the shepherd’s crook,” so that the boundaries between state and church are blurred; the Church can often be bought by the wealth of princes and other politicians. This “must of necessity result in evil, because, so joined, one need not fear the other.” By Dante’s reasoning, a country must be ruled by a virtuous king to keep the whole population virtuous. But, this “misrule” by the combined church and state “has caused the world to be malevolent” and the laws to be discarded. Man is wrong in blaming the heavens for this corruption, for “celestial forces […] do not corrupt”; they have only themselves to blame.