Study Guide

Paradiso Paradise Canto IX: (Third Heaven: Sphere of Venus)

By Dante Alighieri

Paradise Canto IX: (Third Heaven: Sphere of Venus)

  • Dante invokes Charles Martel's wife, Clemence, telling her how their bloodline is headed for bad luck. Dante claims that Charles told him to "be silent" about this; in other words, Dante has been sworn to secrecy, but vaguely tells Clemence that her family's wrongs will be avenged.
  • Then Charles turns towards the Sun and Dante praises him for doing so.
  • Now another soul approaches Dante, growing brighter to show that she wants to talk to him, and Dante secures Beatrice's permission.
  • Dante asks her to speak.
  • She talks about her birthplace. She comes from the hills of Romano where a "firebrand descended" and brought a lot of grief to the land.
  • She reveals that this firebrand is her kin, saying that she and he came from one root. She names herself as Cunizza and identifies herself as a lover, which is why she's here on Venus. She isn't bitter about being this low in Heaven because she has turned her love toward God. She then introduces the shining soul beside her as a man who is and will remain famous for centuries to come.
  • But now Cunizza turns away from her shiny friend to convey an ominous prophecy about the people of March of Treviso whom she calls "rabble" and the Paduan Guelphs who refused to listen to the crown. She talks about the murder of despots and about the ransom of the King's men. She foreshadows that these people will spill so much blood that it would take a huge vat to contain all of it.
  • She justifies her words by invoking the judgment of the Angelic Intelligences that rule Venus, called the Thrones. She claims that since they shine down with the judgment of God, it is her right to speak such truths. She joins the dance of the spirits again while her shiny friend comes towards Dante.
  • Dante says that it's obvious the soul knows what he (Dante) is thinking because the soul is one of God's blessed.
  • The soul answers, starting with his birthplace. He details the geography of his home city, Marseilles France. Finally, he identifies himself as Folco. He was also a lover. In his life, he was so "impressed with [Venus'] rays" that he was rivaled famous lovers like Dido (who was in love with Aeneas), Phyllis (who committed suicide when she thought Demopho├Ân was cheating on her), or even Hercules (abductor of Iole).
  • But Folco says he's grateful that God put him here.
  • But enough about me, says Folco. I know you're curious about this brilliant soul beside me.
  • Folco names his really bright neighbor as Rahab and says she has the "highest rank" in Venus. Since she lived before Christ, she went to Hell upon death, but was the first one taken up to Heaven when Christ harrowed Hell. This was a just act because she was always sympathetic to Christ.
  • (Note: According to the Book of Joshua in the Bible, Rahab was a prostitute. When Joshua sent two messengers to spy on the city of Jericho, Rahab aided them by hiding them in her house and helping them escape. As thanks for her help, Rahab's family was spared when the Israelites destroyed Jericho.)
  • Then Folco discusses Dante's city, Florence. He claims Florence's founder was Lucifer himself and the golden lilies, its emblem, turn good priests into greedy men. Because of that, the Church no longer studies the Gospels but only its own decrees.
  • But don't worry, Folco says grinning, Florence will soon be rid of those corrupt priests.