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by Dante Alighieri

Purgatorio Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. According to the schema of Purgatory, what is Dante’s greatest vice? Does his vice follow him throughout all of Purgatory?
  2. Consider Virgil’s diminishing role in Purgatory. Which characters correct him or take over his role? What do all of these characters have that Virgil doesn’t?
  3. Think about the punishments for each of the vices. Does Dante’s theory of contrapasso from Inferno (in which the punishment of a sinner matches his crime) apply here?
  4. Compared to Inferno, how is time represented in Purgatorio? Why are Dante and Virgil so rushed? In the same vein, why are the penitents so concerned about time?
  5. Consider the threefold division of sin in Inferno into incontinence, violence, and fraud. How are these categories of sin represented in Purgatorio? Are they ordered differently than they are in Inferno? Why or why not?
  6. Think about the concept of love. According to Virgil, where does love come from and how does it relate to free will? Also, how does it relate to Marco Lombardo’s conception of the human soul?
  7. Consider Dante’s behavior towards the penitents as he journeys through Purgatory. Does he sympathize with them? Does he learn from them? Are we supposed to read Dante as experiencing Purgatory like the souls, purging himself of vice in preparation for Heaven?
  8. What is Dante’s political agenda in Purgatory? What are the ideal roles he imagines for church and state in Italy? Do Dante’s hopes for a saved Italy remain strong throughout Purgatorio?
  9. Many of the penitents Dante meets are poets who advise or inspire him. What is he trying to convey to us about the social use of poetry and art in general? Considering his position relative to Virgil and Statius, Corso Donati and Guinizzelli, how are we supposed to view Dante the poet?
  10. What might Beatrice and Matilda represent? How is Beatrice in particular the final test for Dante in his quest for Heaven? What charges does she bring against him that he has never had to face before?

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