Autore: Peter Armour
Tratto da: Patterns in Dante. Nine literary essays
Editore: The Foundation for Italian Studies - Four Courts Press, Dublin
In the first chapter of his Convivio, Dante explains that the food or meat ("vivanda") of his reader's banquet will be fourteen canzoni of love and virtue. However, since these contain some shadow of obscurity, he will cast light upon them by providing an allegorical exposition of the literal sense of what they recount ("la litterale istoria"), and this will be the accompanying bread which will make the meal tasty and digestible (Convivio, I. 1. 11-15, 18). Then, in Book n, after having served the first dish, the canzone "Voi che 'ntendendo il terzo ciel movete", he pauses to describe how it should be eaten, namely, accompanied by a commentary consisting of both a literal and an allegorical exposition.
In order to explain how the allegorical sense is contained within the literal, Dante adduces the parallel with "le scritture" ["Scriptures, writings"], which can be interpreted and must be explained principally through four senses-a statement which applies above all, indeed exclusively, to the understanding and exegesis of the Bible, the "scritture" of God himself. In thenextsentence,however, as reconstructed conjecturally by editors faced with an unfortunate lacuna in the rnanuscripts, Dante discards the example of God's true writings and presents the literal sense as entirely contained within "fictitious words" such as "the fables of the poets". The allegorical sense is that hidden beneath the mantle of these fables, "a truth hidden beneath a beautiful lie"; and Dante gives the example of Ovid's Orpheus who, in the literal sense of the fable, tamed beasts and moved trees and stones with his music; allegorically, he stands for the "wise man", that is, specifically the poet, who with his words tames cruel hearts and wins over to his side those people who lack knowledge and skills and who, like stones, do not lead their lives according to reason (Convivio, II. 1.2-3).
No orthodox Christian could have applied the phrases "fictitious words" and "a beautiful lie" or the parallel with Ovid-to the divinely inspired Scriptures, however subtly and marvellously the other senses might be hidden within the literal. Indeed, for St Thomas, Holy Scripture differs from poetry, "the lowest of all forms of learning", precisely because in its metaphors and corporeal comparisons the Bible employs things accessible to human senses in order to convey divine knowledge and spiritual truths to the intellect. St Thomas goes on to expound the four senses of the Scriptures, but he also clearly distinguishes them from what he calls the "parabolic sense" such as when the Bible refers to "the arm of God", that is, not to a literal limb but to his operative power (Paradiso, IV. 40-45), in which the literal sense is "not the figure but what is figured", not the immediate meaning of the words but the true meaning contained within them, for there can be nothing false in the literal sense of the Scriptures. Dante's definition of allegory as a true sense hidden beneath a false literal sense not only side-steps the correct application of the term in fourfold exegesis, but is also fundamentally different from, indeed the opposite of, the parabolic sense of the Scriptures, in which the literal sense is to be found not in the humanized imagery or, in the case of Christ's parables, the "story" (which is clearly not "true" in the sense that it happened in history but is not thereby in any way "false"), but in the spiritual truths expressed through the images. Dante, however, with his insistence here on the literal sense as a "beautiful lie", limits allegory to the tradition of detecting moral truths and lessons concealed within the false fictions of the pagan poets. It is this "modo de li poeti" that he intends to follow in the Convivio (Convivio, II. 1. 4).
Having just acknowledged that theologians interpret the allegorical sense differently (Convivio, II. 1. 4), Dante nevertheless continues by expounding and exemplifying the two remaining senses identified by exegetes of the Bible. The moral sense refers to the duty of the readers of "le scritture" to perceive underlying lessons which will be useful to themselves and to those whom they teach; in this sense, Christ's choice of only three apostles to witness the Transfiguration shows that admission to the deepest mysteries should be reserved to a chosen few. Again, Dante does not use the example of some story or metaphor pertaining to the parabolic sense of the Bible, or even one of Christ's own fictional but literally true parables; instead, he adduces a historical action by Christ which he interprets as transmitting also a moral lesson, a model for action. The fourth sense is the anagogical, that is, "leading upwards" or "ascending, though Dante apparently, and somewhat imprecisely, interprets it as "super-sense". In this the literal sense of a text is true and, at the same time, it signifies higher things pertaining to eternal glory. Thus the psalm In exitu ("When the people of Israel went out of Egypt, Judea was made holy and free", in Dante's paraphrase of Psalm 113 [Av 114], verses 1-2) is both literally true-the Israelites once really did make their Exodus from Egypt-and signifies that when a soul emerges from sin, it becomes holy and free in its autonomy and powers (Convivio, II. 1. 5-7).
From this passage in the Convivio it has become traditional in Dante criticism to distinguish between the "allegory of poets" (Dante's actual phrase is "the allegorical sense as it is used by the poets") and the "allegory of theologians" (a phrase not used by Dante at all). It is the former which he avowedly states will be his mode of explicating first the" outside" (the literal sense) and then the "inside" (the hidden meaning) of the canzoni (Conv. II. 1. 9). In the event he employs this technique only in Books II and m of the unfinished treatise, where the hidden allegorical meanings of the two canzoni are revealed and explained within the overall scheme of his love for lady Philosophy.
Dante's exposition of the fourfold interpretation of texts in Convivio II. 1 is somewhat sketchy, not to say inaccurate, although in his defence it should be pointed out that his intention as commentator to the allegorical sense of his poems would be to elaborate what had, after the death of Beatrice, become a new object of his love, a personified abstraction modelled principally upon Boethius's lady Philosophia and not really requiring exposition in any further senses. Moreover, all his examples of the three senses hidden in the literal sense of a text refer to entirely different texts-a pagan myth, the Gospel narrative of an action, and a psalm--and all are related to human conduct in this life: Orpheus and the effects of his music represent the poet and his moral, intellectual, and educative role in society; the three apostles exemplify the elite who alone can be admitted to the most esoteric mysteries of the Faith; and the historical fact of the Exodus illustrates, spiritually, the exodus of the soul, of any Christian soul, from sin to a state of grace and freedom. Whilst the anagogical sense is correctly, if generically, defined as pertaining to eternal glory, the actual explanation of Psalm 113 (Av 114) is related to the afterlife only indirectly and by anticipation since it is effectively confined to the theme of conversion in this life, that is, like the other examples, to the sphere of human conduct, to the moral sense alone.
The accessus section, or general expository introduction to the Commedia, contained in the Epistle to Can Grande sets out to illustrate how the poem is "polysemous" or" of several senses" by using-this time correctly-the four senses of the Scriptures, which have a literal sense and senses which are signified by the letter: the allegorical or the moral or the anagogical. As an example of a pol ysemous text-one of the most traditional in Biblical exegesisin §7 the Epistle too cites the first verses of the psalm In exitu but this time allotting to this single text all the four senses: the literal, when the children of Israel, led by Moses, made their Exodus from Egypt; the allegorical, when Christ redeemed us; the moral, when a soul is converted from the grief and misery of sin to a state of grace; and the anagogical, when a saved soul makes its exodus from the slavery of this corrupt world to the freedom of eternal glory (see pages 40-41, §I). The Epistle does not apply the four senses directly to the Commedia; indeed, no mention is made of the damned going to Hell, and in fact, since in Inferno and Paradiso the souls are not going anywhere, the theme of Exodus as such can be used as an interpretative model directly only for Purgatorio, the cantica which describes the pilgrim's moral exodus and the souls' anagogical exodus from this world to Heaven. From the Epistle one should not therefore immediately conclude that all, or indeed perhaps any, of the Biblical senses of the Exodus or of any other Old Testament event or person are present in Dante's poem or that, even if they are, they are present in the same way or are the only ones to be found there; nor, of course, does the Epistle claim that the Commedia has the same status as the psalm, a song composed by the Holy Spirit through King David (Paradiso, XX. 38; XXV. 72).
When the Epistle turns from the psalm back to the Commedia, it is in fact quite modest in its claims that this "polysemous" poem simultaneously possesses a literal and an allegorical sense. The three "mystical" senses of the Biblical text can all generally be called" allegorical", from the Greek alleon ("other" or "different), because they are different from the literal or "historical" sense; and it is with this broader acceptation of the word "allegorical" that in §8 the Epistle goes on to define the subject of the poem as, literally and in its entirety, "the state of souls after death"; and, allegorically, "man inasmuch as by his merits or demerits through his use of his free will he is subject to the justice which rewards or punishes". This passage gives what is in effect an alternative title to the poem, encapsulating its narrative subject, The State of Souls after Death; it then proceeds to identify a general underlying allegorical sense which pertains to the area of human choice and conduct covered by the moral sense of the Exodus, but with specific orientation towards the anagogical, the exodus to Heaven: human beings must use their free wills during their earthly lives in the light of their subjection, after death, to God's justice and to his eternal punishments or rewards. Taken together, both statements indicate that the poem's literal sense or "story (historia)" is a description of the realms of the dead, where the results of human choices of evil or good have already been subjected to infallible judgement in the light of eternity.
Whilst the Convivio focuses on the allegorical sense as employed by poets and gives examples of hidden moralizing meanings in pagan and biblical texts, §7 of the Epistle to Can Grande supplies elements which are absent or imprecise in the earlier work: the theologians' understanding of the allegorical sense, as referring specifically to the Redemption through Christ; and an accurately delineated explication of the presence of all four sensesincl uding, but not limited to, the moral-within the same text, the psalm of the Exodus. The Epistle thus furnishes an admirably succinct example of the technique of typological or figural interpretation of the Bible, according to which events narrated in the Old Testament were given Christian theological meaning by being interpreted as prefigurations of future events. History is not blind or random or the product of merely human political, social, or economic forces, or conspiracies or errors, or the class struggle, or some mysterious interaction between exceptional individuals and these collective forces, but is controlled by an infinitely higher power, God's all-knowing mind and His omnipotent will. History therefore has significance as a divine plan first revealed in the story of the origins of the human race and the formation and destiny of the Jews, a story which consisted of "types" ("imprints") whose hidden meanings were only revealed later when they were fulfilled by their "anti types" in the Christian era. Hence the historical persons and events of the Old Testament constituted a great scheme of figural prophecy to be interpreted by the typological method in the light oflater historical persons and events, and in the first place those at the time of Christ. This technique of Old Testament prefiguration and New Testament fulfilment has its origins in St Paul, notably in I Corinthians 10. 1-11, where the events of the Exodus are presented as a "type" (in Latin, "figura") of Christian baptism and spiritual food and drink, and also as a warning against sin to us who live in the last days of the world.
Examples of this relationship of prefiguration and fulfilment, according to Christian theologians, are innumerable: Adam, who sinned through the tree, prefigured Christ, the new Adam, who redeemed him and all his descendants on the tree of the Cross; Eve prefigured both Mary, when the sin of Eva was reversed by the angel's Ave, and the Church, since she was created from Adam's rib, just as the Church was founded through the blood and water which issued from Christ's side on the Cross; the Flood and Noah's ark adumbrated baptism and the Church; Abraham's two sons, by Hagar and Sarah, are to be interpreted, in St Paul's words, as an allegory of the servitude of the Old Law and the freedom of the children of the New; Esau and Jacob likewise looked forward to the Jews and the Christians. Above all, Moses, the founder of the Old Law, which was then veiled, was the principalfigura of Christ, who removed that veil; and the Exodus of the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt through the Red Sea and the desert, fed on Heavensent manna, bearing the Tabernacle to the freedom of the Promised Land, was fulfilled when Christ died, descended into Hell and rose again, leading all mankind from sin to freedom, establishing the descent into the waters of baptism and providing the spiritual food of doctrine and the Eucharist for his Church in its pilgrimage to the final, eternal freedom of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Within this tradition of typological interpretation, therefore, the first historical fulfilment of the Old Testament types by Christ also established, through him, a great redemptive scheme of moral allegory in which the Biblical texts furnished patterns and examples, parallels and lessons, showing how, on the model above all of Christ, the Christian Church as a whole should conduct itself and how the individuals in it should live here and now. As the Epistle to Can Grande also states, through Christ the Exodus prefigures the Christian's moral conversion from sin to grace in this life. This moralizing method of Biblical exegesis is often termed "tropological", that is, pertaining to "conversion", in the original, wider sense of "metaphorical". With its roots in Classical literature and sometimes called "Greek" allegory, this mode of interpretation is particularly associated with the device of personification and, as regards the Bible, with the Hellenized Jewish scholar, Philo of Alexandria, who sought to extract lessons for his living readers from the historical events narrated in the Old Testament. It was, however, an interpretative technique which could be and was applied to a wide variety of other texts, and indeed to the composition of new ones. In particular, the pagan and therefore theologically false poetry of antiquity might be interpreted as hiding some moral truths which did not conflict with but contained lessons which remained valid in the new Christian dispensation. Even Ovid, of all poets, was so moralized in the Middle Ages; and this is clearly the tradition to which Dante refers and adheres in the Convivio when, using the highly apposite Ovidian example of Orpheus the poet, he identifies his own technique as the explication of the "allegorical sense as it is used by the poets". The moralizing interpretation of classical texts is, however, quite rare in Dante's own works; perhaps the only explicit and direct example of it is his use of Aeneas in Virgil's Aeneid, Books IV-VI to demonstrate the virtues appropriate to "gioventute", the second stage of human life (Convivio, IV. 26. 8-9, 11, 13, 14). Elsewhere he explains the pagan poets' gods and other forces and entities as personifications in order to justify his own representation of Amore as a person in the Vita nuova (XXV). Such personification allegory was, of course, a major device in medieval literary composition, and it flourished in Dante's own time with the Roman de la rose in France and, in Florence, Brunetto Latini's Tesoretto and Bono Giamboni's II libro de' vizf e delle virtudi, which is modelled on Pruden ti us' s allegorical "battle of the soul", the Psychomachia. Yet, whilst there are, of course, many examples in Dante's works of prosopopoeia within apostrophes, congedi, and so on, he has direct recourse to quasihuman embodiments but rarely: the lady Pity in Vita nuova xm; Love himself; Lady Philosophy in the Convivio; lady Drittura in his canzone, "Tre donne intorno al cor mi son venute"; Lady Poverty in Thomas's eulogy of St Francis in Paradiso, XI. 58-114.
In spite of this relative paucity of specific examples, there has long been a tendency to interpret the Commedia too along the same lines, as if its overall inspiration and design depended on some sort of serial allegory of disguised personifications, with Virgil as human Reason, Francesca as Adultery, Cato as Liberty, Beatrice as Theology or Divine Wisdom or Grace, and so on. Thus the poem became, in effect, a moralizing sermon centred on Dante as principally a representative of the sinful Christian-an anticipation of Everyman in the morality play or of Bunyan's Christian--who learns how to be good by visiting a world of symbols: Inferno, with its series of demons, devils, and emblematic sinners is a complex exemplary allegory of human and diabolic evil, Purgatorio a somewhat abstract and schematic representation of the moral life in this world, and Paradiso an analysis of degrees of bliss as the reward for virtue, culminating in the goal of the entire allegory, the good Christian pilgrim's vision of God. This classification of the poem as, essentially, a moral fiction goes back to the earliest commentators, justifiably preoccupied in some cases by the potentially heretical implications of Dante's explicit claim to have visited and to be describing the actual afterlife, which contains such unorthodox elements as the inclusion of adults and pagans in Limbo and the salvation of Cato. Even in the absence of such concerns, it remains an acceptable, indeed in some ways admirable, approach which is in line with the statement in the Epistle to Can Grande (§16) that the poem pertains to the branch of philosophy which is concerned with moral action or ethics. Nevertheless, it effectively limits the Commedia to the interpretative scheme of poetic fables, hidden moral meanings, and personification, as outlined in the Convivio.
In fact, the most superficial reading of the Commedia shows that Dante's poetic technique is very different indeed, if not the opposite, to this. Even the three beasts of Inferno, I. 31-60, for instance, are not explicitly identified as Lust, Pride and Avarice but are presented as, literally, wild animals which attacked him in the dark wood. Having already projected his past self into the historia of a real journey, Dante leaves it to his readers to uncover any possible allusions or symbolism. Hell's demons too are not mere symbols but named servants of Satan and ministers of infernal torments, and indeed, even though Gery on is described as "that filthy image of fraud" (Inferno, XVII. 7), he is also a creature so physically "real" that he can carry the weight of Dante's body on his back. As regards the humans whom Dante meets, Virgil is not Reason but Virgil, a man who once lived - "omo gia fui" - at the time of Augustus, who sang of Aeneas, and who died before the birth of Christ (Inferno, I. 67-75); Francesca is not Adultery but a murdered adulteress of the late thirteenth century (Inferno, v. 97-107); Cato is not Liberty but the Roman republican leader who committed suicide in order to demonstrate its value (Purgatorio, I. 70-90); Beatrice remains always the Florentine lady who had died ten years before (Purgatorio, XXXII. 2) and is now a citizen of Paradise.
The literal or "historical" sense of Dante's poem is his story of a journey recounted as if from his memory, as if he had really made it in 1300; and in the course of this journey he claims to have encountered a whole series of real, other-worldly beings - demons, devils, angels, and finally God himself - and hundreds of souls of people who once really lived. This fundamental narrative realism, the mimesis in words of an objectively real external world, suggests that the Commedia is not an "allegory" in the terms expounded in the Convivio - that is, a false poetic fiction concealing a predominantly moralizing "true" sense - but that its "polysemy" might best be explained in the light of the more accurate analysis of scriptural interpretation summarized in the Epistle to Can Grande and exemplified not by a fiction but by an event that really happenedthe Exodus. The essential difference between fourfold typological exegesis and the moralizing allegory of Philo is that in the former both the Old Testament types and the New Testament fulfilments are real, historical facts: "Both the sign and the thing signified are conceived as historical and would have no significance if they were not":
In the Old Testament the New Testament is concealed, in the New Testament the Old Testament is revealed. [...] Typology is a figure of speech that moves in time: the type exists in the past and the antitype in the present, or the type exists in the present and the anti type in the future. What typology really is as a mode of thought, what it both assumes and leads to, is a theory of history, or more accurately of historical process: an assumption that there is some meaning and point to history, and that sooner or later some event or events will occur which will indicate what that meaning or point is, and so become an antitype of what has happened previously. (Northrop Frye)
In this way the four senses expounded and exemplified in the Epistle to Can Grande may also be seen to correspond to four phases in history: the pre-Christian past, when the historical Exodus took place under the leadership of Moses; the time of Christ, the Redemption, and the foundation of the Church; the present, when living Christians, members of Christ's Church, must turn from sin to grace in order to die good deaths; and the eternal glory of Heaven, whither the saved will ascend after death and which, after the end of the world, will be the final, eternal fulfillment of the Redemption, the Church Triumphant.
The typological or figural scheme of scriptural exegesis has been applied to the Commedia by a series of important critics, notably Erich Auerbach (1938), Johan Chydenius (1958 ), and Alan Charity (1966). For Auerbach, the historicity of both types and antitypes is what distinguishes this sort of allegory both from "Greek" allegory, which is purely spiritual and extrahistorical, and from symbols, which are immediate interpretations of life and, above all, of nature by which primitive societies ordered their lives and myths with their "magical" functions. Typology is based on the interpretation of history and specifically of texts, the "real" prophecy contained in the Bible, revealed through history and still to be revealed and fulfilled in the future. Hence the historical Cato was, for Dante, a" figure of future things (figura futurorum)", that is, a real anticipation of Christian liberty; and the Cato whom Dante meets in Purgatorio I-II is "the figure revealed and fulfilled". Similarly, the historical Virgil is interpreted by Dante as fulfilling his earthly life now as an inhabitant, eternally, of Limbo. In this sense, all the souls in the Commedia are "figural"; and the poem presents the historical earthly world in its next stage of fulfilment, already submitted to God's final judgement. In one detail, however, Auerbach is a little misleading, when he defines Bea trice as a "figura [...] Christi", for a figura or type is a reality which refers exclusively to the future. Hence Christ (himself the fulfilment of the figura of Moses) is the figura of all good Christians, his followers, including Beatrice. Only at one point in the poem might she be interpreted as a "figure" of Christ, and that is when, preannounced with the words, "Benedictus qui venis!" ("Blessed are you who come!") (Purgatorio, XXX. 19), she appears in the triumphal chariot in the Earthly Paradise, exemplifying the millenarian return of the world to rule by Christ and prefiguring his Second Coming in judgement at the end of the world.
Chydenius concentrates principally on the fourfold interpretation of three major Old Testament types - Jerusalem, the Earthly Paradise and the Bride of Solomon - in their allegorical fulfilment as the Church, in their moral sense as images of the soul of the good Christian, and in their anagogical status as prefigurations of the Heavenly J emsalem, the E temal Paradise, the Church Triumphant. The literal sense of the Song of Songs refers to the wedding of Solomon and the Pharaoh's daughter; in its allegorical sense, it prefigures the union of Christ and his Bride, the Church, with reference also to Mary, the virgin-mother of Christ; morally, it signifies the union of Christ and the soul in this life, and anagogically the union of Christ and the blessed in Heaven. Upon this traditional typological scheme, according to Chydenius, Dante has constructed also an internal typology of the poem in its function as a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the heavenly patria. In particular, Beatrice performs a mediating function between earthly love and higher spiritual reality when she appears to Dante in the roles both of Christ and of the Bride in the Earthly Paradise (Purgatorio, XXX. 11, 19): "The vision of Beatrice, which is described at the end of the Purgatorio, is consequently a type of the vision of the Church Triumphant, which takes place at the end of the Paradiso."
Charity applies the technique of typological interpretation also to Dante himself in the poem, in the timing of his descent into Hell and his rising on Easter Day, and in his role as a living man travelling among the dead:
What Dante does, in his journey, Christ has done. Dante's descent into Hell, and his release from it, is a typological repetition, a "sub fulfilment" of Christ's. [...] This is not simply a method of allegory or simply a form of it, but the expression of history conforming itself through grace to the pattern of Christ's history, or, to reverse the terms, the expression of an effective history (Christ's) whose effect lies in its repetition in and throughout all history. [...] Dante's own physical presence in a narrative otherwise peopled by shades [...] reverses the typological situation connected with "souls after death". Dante the character only prefigures the afterlife which they already exist in [...]; the shades post-figure the physical life he still embodies. [...] Dante’s journey is a type of his future; the souls' state is the fulfilment of their past.
Thus all three allegorical senses described in the Epistle to Can Grande are revealed - in a use of typology which, at least in these respects, is" akin" to that of the Bible - within the "predominantly eschatological or anagogical narrative" of the Commedia, whose subject is "the state of souls after death" (see pages 40-41, §II).
The main problem in applying fourfold exegesis to the Commedia lies in distinguishing the literal sense from the others based upon it, for, as the account of Dante's visit to the afterlife, the literal sense appears to be identical with that area of meaning covered by the anagogical sense of the Exodus, when a soul leaves this world for the next. Indeed, the Epistle itself confirms that this is so when it goes on to state that the poem's literal sense is anagogical, and ultimately eschatological, in that it describes the state of many souls of the dead as they were in 1300 and thus, as regards Hell and Paradise, as they will be eternally after the end of the world. Moreover, unless one believes, with Boccaccio's women of Verona, that Dante really did travel to the afterlife and then came back to tell us, the living, all about it, the narrative of the Commedia is not a historical event like the Exodus but a fiction, even "a beautiful lie"; indeed, the Epistle to Can Grande too (§9) explicitly defines it as, among other things, "fictive". Thus Henri de Lubac judged the Epistle's application of Biblical typology to the Commedia as not very clear for, however theological its design, a human poem is not Scripture; and Chydenius too points out that in figural allegory both the type and the anti type belong to this world, and so Dante's narrative, being a literary fiction, cannot be typological. Not only, therefore, does the Commedia lack a literal sense which is distinct from the anagogical, it also fails the first test of a polysemous Biblical text: its literal sense is not historical. Despite his constant claims throughout the poem to be recounting a real experience from memory, Dante's journey among the dead in 1300 never took place. In the meantime, between Auerbach and Chydenius, other studies appeared, by Andre Pezard (1950) and Dorothy L. Sayers (1954), which linked the four senses and Dante's allegory. By far the most influential was that of Charles S. Singleton who, in the first volume of his Dante Studies (1957), distinguished between the allegory of poets, in which one thing stands for another ("this for that"), and scriptural allegory, the allegory of theologians, in which more than one sense can exist simultaneously in the same text ("this and that" ). In presenting the literal sense of his narrative as historical-in Singleton's celebrated but not very helpful definition, "The fiction of the Divine Comedy is that itis not fiction" and in so writing a poem constructed according to the allegory of theologians, Dante was using the Bible as his model and was thus imitating God's way of writing. In his article, "The Irreducible Dove" (also of 1957), Singleton developed and somewhat modified these conclusions, giving the reader the choice of whether to consider the Commedia to be a poet's allegory (a fiction conveying a truth) or a theologian's (a real event, like the Exodus, signifying other events). Since only God could write two books-the u:miwerse with its symbolism and the Bible with its allegory in which things point beyond themselves-the poem is Dante's imitation of God's way of writing only in the sense that all human art imitates God's. In fact, however, when Singleton came to apply his general theories to the actual text, he effectively returned to the sphere of moral allegorization alone, neglecting the literal, allegorical, and anagogical senses in favour of a reading of Dante's "Journey to Beatrice" in terms of an itinerarium mentis ad Deum, with Dante the traveller as a theological-moral exemplum of the workings of grace: "The journey is a journey of the mind, after all." Perhaps inevitably, this approach tended to detect a structural pattern of what are effectively theological personifications in the pilgrim's journey with the assistance of Virgil (natural light), Lucia (grace descending from above), Matelda (natural justice), and Beatrice herself (the wisdom and grace through which Dante achieves justification).
In spite of Robert Hollander's synthesis (1969) of Auerbach's typological and realistic approach with the assertion, derived from Singleton, that Dante wrote "in imitation of God's way of writing", many critics have continued to restrict the allegorical sense of the Commedia largely to the moral sense, and specifically to Dante's personal interior journey. The poem has even come to be regarded as some sort of confessional autobiography, like St Augustine's: "Dante's journey is neither a poetic fiction nor an historical account; it is exemplary and allegorical. Like Augustine's life, it was meant to be both autobiographical and emblematic, a synthesis of the particular circumstances of an individual's life with paradigms of salvation history drawn from the Bible" (John Freccero). However, it is hard to think of two works which are, at every level, so radically different, the Confessions being, at least overtly, a factual personal history in Latin prose, the Commedia an allegedly allegorical fiction, with hidden meanings to be uncovered by the reader, in Italian terza rima. 'Taken to its logical conclusion, the assumption that the Commedia is an autobiography, however "exemplary" or"emblematic", must mean that in it Dante is confessing that he was somehow personally involved in, even guilty of, every sin in Inferno; however, after a progressive process of penance for all seven of the Deadly Sins, he eventually achieved complete innocence and earthly happiness, from which, evolving a doctrine of spiritual happiness which is expressed in the great extended metaphor of Paradiso, he proceeded to experience actual visions of God Himself. In fact, however, a part from the conspicuous theme of Dante's Florentine origins and exile, his dedication as a poet to the Muses, and, more generally, the" emblematized" story of his relationship with Beatrice, there is very little in the poem which could be classed as explicit au to biographical detail: merely a few sea ttered references, often in passing, to incidents in his life and to his acquaintance with some of the souls when they were alive (Inferno, XV. 82-85; XVIII. 48-50, 120-23; XIX. 19-21; XXI. 94-96; XXII.1-9; XXIX.133-39; Purgatorio, II. 88- 89, 107-08; IV. 115-26; VIII. 52-55; XXIII. 43-48,55-57, 115-16; Paradiso, VIII. 55; XXIII. 88-89). Whatever else it might have been, Dante's primary purpose in writing the Commedia would not appear to have been to tell his life story, nor even to provide a public, though disguised, confession of his personal inner life.
The limitations and conjectural nature of any autobiographical or excessively internalized reading of the Commedia require that the more general principle of the itinerarium mentis ad Deum be restricted to the poem's non-literal sense at one programmatic level only, that is, to the narrative of Dante the pilgrim's journey from the dark wood to God. In other words, it is Dante the fictional character, the only living person in the poem, in whom is realized the moral sense of the Exodus, conversion from sin to a state of grace, and who thus acts as a universalized model for his hearers and readers so that they too may complete their moral exodus in this life and their anagogical exodus to Heaven in the next (see pages 40-41, §III).
Besides Singleton, other critics too, though in some cases aware of Auerbach's figural reading, have continued to view the poem's allegorical sense as nothing more than Dante's personal and exemplary inner journey to God. Some recognize that the figurative passages, in which this journey is represented and universalized, are not found throughout the poem but alternate or are mixed in with the literal narrative. Others emphasize rather the latter aspect, presenting the poem's realism as based, at least in part, on the allegory of facts and events ("allegoria in factis") rather than the allegory constructed solely of fictitious words ("allegoria in verbis"); thus, for example, the appearance of the real soul of Virgil in Inferno I marks "the moment in the text when the fabula of the allegorical journey comes into contact with the historia" (Z. G. Baranski). In none of these cases is it easy to detect precisely where in the poem allegory gives way to realism, or vice versa, or how the allegedly allegorical elements are combined, integrated and reconciled within the literal sense of the fictional journey presented as a historical event which really happened.
Dante's numerous claims to the truth of his journey, expressed within the poem itself, obviously constitute the foundation and confirmation of its literal sense, whether one goes on to restrict its consequent allegorical senses to Dante's own spiritual itinerarium or to consider them as modelled on a broader historical scheme of "further-signifying" even ts such as the Exodus of the Israelites. In both cases, Dante may be adjudged to have used the "allegory of theologians" to guarantee his poem's truthfulness: "Dante, [...] no matter how veiled the claim, clearly asserts that his poem is divinely inspired and theologically true. Questions of taste and blasphemy prevent him from telling us in so many words what his poetic pose nevertheless requires us to see. He is a theologus-poeta, an inspired poet who begins with the truth of what he tells" (R. Hollander). The suggestion that Dante believed himself to have been" divinely inspired II and that in the Commedia, with its theological allegory, he was imitating God's way of writing - the Bible and even also God's other "book", the world - has given rise to the definition of him as "God's scribe (scriba Dei)". The phrase appears to have gained currency principally because of Gian Roberto Sarolli (1971), who took it from the etymology of the name Nathan ("dantis"), suggesting a "typological equation" between the prophet who admonished King David (but whose book has not survived) and Dante. Be that as it may, the definition must be treated with some caution. Dante nowhere claims to be God's scribe but only, in Paradiso (X. 26-27), the transcriber of his own "materia", that is, of what he remembers and can express of his journey through the heavens. Similarly, in the Vita nuova he had transcribed the essential meaning of certain paragraphs in the book of his memory (Vita nuova 1). In Purgatorio Dante the pilgrim defines his earlier poems in the sweet new style as if they had been the works of a scribe faithfully following the "dictation" of Love within him (Purgatorio, XXIV. 52-54, 58-59). Nowhere in the Commedia, however, does he claim that it was" dictated" by God, least of all in the sense that it might be viewed as a sort of additional book of the Bible;' he could well have ended up at the stake or in a refuge for the insane if he had. Even when he puts himself directly in line with the writer of the Book of Revelation (or, more accurately and audaciously, vice versa), he does not pretend to have been inspired or assisted by any power higher than the Muses (Purgatorio, XXX. 37-42, 100-05). In Paradiso I. 13-36, he appeals directly to Apollo, the" god" of poetry, but it is not until the final cantos that invocations of pagan poetic forces (Paradiso, II. 8-9; XVIII. 82-87; XXIII. 55-60) and his own stars (Paradiso, XXII. 112-23) give way to direct calls upon God to help him as a poet (Paradiso, XXX. 97-99; XXXIII. 67-75); and even here a distinction must be made between a medieval author's prayer to God for assistance and any explicit affirmation that his words are directly inspired by God. Whilst in Dante's time, and even more acutely in later centuries, the relationship between God's word and the human authors through whom He expressed it was problematical, Dante himself regarded even the false interpretation of Scriptures - never mind the claim to be on a par with their authors, the "scribes" of God, the sole "dictator"-as a sin against the Holy Spirit (Monarchia, III. 4. 11).
Whilst Dante certainly exploits both of God's books, the Bible and the cosmos, in the allusions, episodes, and examples of his journey down among the inferi, up the antipodean mountain, and through the heavenly spheres, the opinion that he was consciously imitating God's way of writing has little, if any, justification in the actual text. Dante's 14,233 lines in Italian terza rima do not really resemble the Bible or any of its books or the physical universe in any precise or meaningful way; and to go even further, jumping from the vague notion of the poet as God's imitator to that of him as God's scribe, is potentially even more misleading. More accurately, in fact, the substance and structure of Dante's "beautiful lie", his poetic representation of the afterlife in its entirety, is a development of the medieval visionary tradition and image of the other world which derived principally not so much from the canonical Bible as from such works as the apocryphal Apocalypse of Paul, itself evolved from St Paul's account of his raptus and, like the Commedia, containing a description of Hell and echoes of the Old Testament and of Revelation in its account of the Earthly Paradise (II Corinthians 12. 1-4; Inferno, II. 28-33; Paradiso, I. 73-75; II. 37-39; XV. 29-30; XXVIII. 138-39).
The hypothesis that Dante was, or thought himself to have been, divinely inspired in a Biblical sense is very close - though the connection is not always explicitly made - to the line taken by Bruno Nardi, who concluded that Dante himself regarded his poem not as a literary artifice but, apart from a few allegorical passages, essentially a "true prophetic vision", even a religious "hallucination", which he believed he had actually experienced and in which by a special grace God had allowed him to see the reality of the afterlife so that he might reveal to mankind the corruption of the world. This supposition, which would certainly explain the realism of the poem's literal or historical - narrative sense, has bolstered the oft-repeated definition of Dante as a poetavate, poet, prophet and reformist seer. For Michele Barbi too, though more cautiously, the poem was to be seen as" a 'prophecy', a 'revelation', both in its literal sense and in its allegory", a "revelation and, through this, instruction which encompasses 'both Heaven and earth', what has been and what will be, the history of an individual and of humanity". Even so, for Barbi, the literal sense remained essentially a moral allegory, the story of the straying of the poet and of Christian society, which is figured in the symbols of Inferno I and incorporated into the language and techniques of prophecy, allegory and symbolism in the work of a poeta-vate whose intention was to reform the world, the whole Christian people, as is shown particularly in the visionary scenes of Purgatorio XXIX and XXXII.
Whilst these latter episodes were clearly constructed in an apocalyptic style modelled on Biblical prophecies, especially the Book of Revelation, and whilst the Commedia also contains a series of prophecies -some concerning events which occurred after 1300, others referring to events still in the future at the time of Dante's writing,to label Dante a hybrid "poet-seer" is ultimately as unsatisfactory as to call him "God's scribe". In the first place, since the two Dantes in the poem-the io who made the journey in 1300 and the io who is describing it from memory-are both fictional self-presentations, it is not legitimate to assume that because the pilgrim-poet is commissioned as a prophetic revealer of mysteries, the same status is being claimed by that elusive person, the real poet, the man who, hungry, cold, and often during the night (Purgatorio, XXIX. 37-38; Paradiso, XXV. 3), actually composed and wrote down the words upon the page. Secondly, Nardi's use of the term "prophet" in a literal sense rests ultimately on the assumption of something which can never be known: that Dante actually had visions or dreams or mystical experiences which inspired and formed the basis of his poem. From the Vita nuova onwards, Dante certainly conceived of some poetry at least as initiated by a dream or vision, which might at times turn out to have been significant, providential, or even prophetic, induced by some higher power; but he was also aware that dreams can be false or deceptive and that even" true" dreams may be hidden in figures and - perhaps like poetry itself - need interpreting. In any case, even if Dante saw his story in some sort of inspired "dream" or vision, bestowed upon his fantasy from above (Purgatorio, XVII. 13- 18; XXVIII. 141), it was certainly as a poet that he fashioned this experience into the words and images of a long and complex rhymed narrative which consistently claims to be not a dream or vision but a real experience, in the body and in the waking state.
Singleton's explanation of the Commedia as a true but fictionalized spiritual journey and Nardi's view of it as a God-given vision are sometimes presented as if they were the two antithetical poles in the interpretation of the poem. Between them, the correct method of reading it should regard Dante as a poeta rather than as a vate, and should therefore focus on examining how he creates his credible, realistic world by means of a conscious crafting of the many illusory techniques of fictionality. Yet the Epistle to Can Grande is a unique source for another interpretative framework which combines the main features of all the others: the presence of allegory, both theological and moral; the visionary, and at times quasi-prophetic, quality of the poem; and its expression as a fiction--a fictio in the sense both of its narrative invention and of its moulding into poetry-presented as real, indeed more than real, for it is the ultimate reality.
Whilst the Epistle declares that the Commedia is polysemous and offers the first verses of Psalm 113 as an example of a polysemous text, it does not say that the poem has a literal sense and the three allegorical senses in the same way as does the historical type of the Exodus, described in the divinely inspired text of the Old Testament. Dante's journey in the literal sense is not, like the Exodus, a type or prefiguration of some other, future event except insofar as it should, if he has learnt the lessons of his own exemplary moral exodus, guarantee his own return through Purgatory to the freedom of Paradise after death (Purgatorio, I.91- 92; VIII. 59-60; Paradiso, XV. 29--30; XXII. 106-08; XXXI. 85--90; XXXIII. 34-39). The world of the Commedia is, instead, the world of fulfilments: its literal sense pertains to the realm of the anagogical, " the state of souls after death", and allegorically, in the broad sense of the word, it describes the underlying reality of God's Justice, of the eternal punishments and rewards which souls now dead merited in their earthly lives and to which men and women still living will also be subject after death. To the latter, moreover, that is, to the poem's earliest audience and readership, the afterlife consisted of real places, to which each of them would one day go and about which they craved news and information now. The Commedia was produced and received in a culture which had obtained its images of the afterlife, either directly or by oral transmission, from vision literature in Latin, especially the Apocalypse of Paul, and from sermons, folklore, art, theatrical representations and dramatized laude, including dialogues between the living and the dead, in the vernacular. Thus, Dante's simultaneous fictionali ty and claims to truth pertain only to the details of his afterlife and his journey to it; beneath this vividly imagined narrative about souls after death lies hidden, but only barely hidden, the most certain of all Christian truths - as the Epistle says, the subjection of the living to Justice in their next, and more real, lives.
It is, therefore, in terms not of typological prefiguration but primarily of fulfilments that the three "other" senses of the Exodus can be applied to the Commedia, and specifically to Purgatorio. The historical Exodus was, first and foremost, the type of the Redemption, which is the essential foundation for Dante's entire journey, in which it is not he who is the, figura of Christ, but Christ who is the ftgura for him as for all good Christians. Simultaneously or "polysemously", within this pre-existing allegorical sense of the Exodus, is contained also the moral sense in which Dante, the only living Christian in the poem, repeating and even fulfilling Christ's descent into Hell and resurrection, makes his personal and representatively universal journey around Passiontide and Easter in the centenary year 1300. There, in the afterlife, he sees the fulfilments of the earthly lives of Virgil, Francesca, Cato, Beatrice and all the other souls both as they are in 1300 and sub specie aeternitatis, in irrevocable anticipation of their eternal destiny after the end of time.
It is precisely because its literal or historical sense describes anagogical and eschatological realities that the poem functions also at a further level of moral meaning for its living recipients in that it is a vast exemplum of the infallible Justice which will be meted out to humans, as it has already been meted out to the souls, according to their use of their free wills during their earthly lives, and definitively at the moment of their deaths, which will predetermine the same fulfilments of their lives too in eternity. In this broader moral sense as an "allegory" of Justice, the poem, as the Epistle also states, is fundamentally ethical, its practical purpose being to" remove those living in this life" its hearers and readers, both as individuals and as members of the collectivity of society at various levels within the universal Christian People, Church, and Empire-"from a state of misery and lead them to a state of happiness" (see pages40-41, §IV). In an age which studied grammar, rhetoric, and music in relation to poetic and other texts but which lacked the tools of "literary criticism" except for those relating to moral allegorization, personification, and Biblical typology, the Epistle to Can Grande corrects and refines the discussion of fourfold allegory in the Convivio and establishes the Commedia as a "polysemous" text, that is, as the account of a "real" journey to indubitably real places which is open to a range of" other" senses, some simultaneous, some alternating, in its allusions back to preChristian history and the Redemption, in its moral exemplarity, and in its anagogically based programme for personal and collective reform, for the avoidance of vice and the practice of virtue, in this life in relation to its definitive fulfilment in the next.
As the diagram on pages 40-41 attempts to show, underlying the Commedia is the theologians' pattern of Biblical typology, God's plan imprinted in history and revealed in the Bible, but presented, as it were, in reverse: the creatures and souls, landscapes and symbols, experiences and lessons which Dante the traveller and his subsequent hearers and readers learn from the literal sense must be read back into the reform of this life which precedes and will predetermine it. The typology of the Exodus, in the allegorical sense, is fulfilled by Dante in his moral exodus when, following Christ at Passiontide in 1300, he descends into Hell and then rises from the dead to Purgatory (Purgatorio, I. 7, 17-18); there, the anagogical sense of the Exodus is explicitly evoked when the saved souls arrive on the shore singing the psalm In exitu, denoting their exodus after death "from the slavery of this corruption to the liberty of eternal glory" (Purgatorio, II. 46-48). Purgatory, forbidden to pagans but opened by the Redemption to Christians who die good deaths (Inferno, XXVI. 133-42; Purgatorio, I. 130-32; VII. 4-6), is in the literal sense the realm of the anagogical exodus, designed by God to wean souls from the effects of their sins and prepare them for Heaven; and in the course of his ascent of the mountain Dante the pilgrim learns lessons which he must apply in his own moral life when the fiction is finished and he returns to the world of the living, and which the audience of his subsequent poem must likewise apply both to themselves as individuals and to the reform of Christian society as a whole. In this latter respect, Purgatorio too, particularly on the cornici above the door, is a complex exemplum of God's Justice, of His just system of penances and purification with the certain reward of eternal happiness; it constitutes the exemplary model for the moral reform which good Christians must begin in this life so as to have less time to spend in Purgatory after death; and it shows the corrupt earthly Church as a whole the path to its authentic fulfilment in Paradise. In terms of both its literal-anagogical narrative and its ethical purpose, Purgatorio is the pivotal cantica within the pattern of the entire poem, which presents a multivalent or "polysemous" exodus, journey, and pilgrimage, both personal and universal, from slavery to freedom, from Egypt to Jerusalem, from corrupt Florence to the eternal Rome of Paradise (Paradiso, XXV. 55-57; XXXI. 31-40, 85).
Twice in the Commedia Dante instructs his collective audience (as "voi") or his individual reader (as "lettor") to penetrate beneath the veil of his verses in order to find the "doctrine" or "truth" hidden within (Inferno, IX. 61-63; Purgatorio, VIII. 19-21). In both cases, this hidden truth consists in a moral message to the living: Heaven will help the good Christian in the struggle against evil and temptation. Both episodes, however, also have a basis in the typological patterning of the poem as a whole. In the first, Dante's entry through the lower gate of Hell is a re-enactment of Christ's opening of the upper gate when, according to the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus and the Creed, he descended into Limbo (Inferno, VIII. 125-30); the gates of Hell cannot prevail against Christ, his Church, or the follower of Christ who, with heavenly assistance, is uniquely to enter Lucifer's inner city, where he will explore and reveal what is the antithesis of anagogical ascent, by descending through the circles where human evil is finally fulfilled in a structured scheme of eternal punishments. In Purgatorio vm, whether the poet means that the veiled truth is easy to detect or that it could easily be missed, he draws his reader's attention to an episode which evokes the first temptation of Eve by the serpent (Purgatorio, VIII. 98-99); the sending of the two angels with fiery swords illustrates the Christian reversal of the punishment for Eve's sin, humanity's exclusion from Eden by one such angel, and shows the protection which will be given, in response to prayer, by Mary, the anti type of Eve and the mother of Christ and the Church. Moreover, in the following canto, as in Inferno IX, Dante again receives heavenly assistance, this time from Lucia, so that he may enter Purgatory proper, the structured realm of anagogical ascent to the stars.
In the ninth canto of each of the first two can tic he, therefore, and with specific references to meanings hidden within the narrative, Dante reveals the internal patterning of the poem on the basis of pre-existent, historically validated types and anti types which underlie his entire anagogical journey through the world of their fulfilments, and on which he constructs his moral messages for the benefit of the living. The city of Dis, with its hostile "mosques" (Inferno, VIII. 70), denotes the end-result, the eternal reality of human society entirely corrupted by heresy, violence, fraud and treachery; and Dante's entry into it in Inferno IX is reversed in Purgatorio Ix when he passes through the door, guarded by the angel-vicar of St Peter, into what is effectively Hell's intratextual antitype: the sevenfold community which is the otherworldly model for a reformed Church under a reformed Papacy on earth and whichif that earthly reform is in fact achieved-will prefigure its final typological fulfilment as the Church Triumphant in Paradise.
Biblical typology thus provides a structural model both of how to interpret a polysemous text and of human history itself, past, present and to come; it underpins the realism of Dante's narrative of the afterlife, its function as an exemplum of Justice, and its author's own status in his realistic, historicized fiction, both as the living Christian traveller in 1300 and as, later, the poet-narrator, writing down his memories and messages "for the benefit of the world which lives evilly" (Purgatorio, XXXII. 103). Within this pattern he also furnishes examples of an internal typology of his poem, as in the contrast between Inferno xand Purgatoriox, or in the pre figurative relationship which Chydenius detected between his presentation of the Earthly Paradise and vision of Beatrice at the end of Purgatorio and his vision of the Heavenly Rose at the end of Paradiso.
Indeed the Earthly Paradise is perhaps the most conspicuous instance in the poem of the commingling of typology, "polysemy" or multiple allusion, and exemplarity. In Biblical exegesis, the Earthly Paradise had a literal sense, as the garden described in the Book of Genesis; an allegorical sense as the Church; a moral sense as the Christian soul; and an anagogical sense as the Heavenly Paradise, the Church Triumphant. In his account of it Dante weaves these senses together, presenting the garden lost by Adam and Eve as a complex image of the individual soul and of humanity as a whole, the Christian People, restored to original innocence and earthly happiness as a prelude to the ascent to the Heavenly Paradise (see Monarchia, III. 15. 7). The typology of the garden, Adam and Eve, Christ and Mary, the Bridegroom and the Bride, the tree of the Fall renewed as the Cross, are mixed together in a millenarian vision of the ideal human society as it was once in the past, at the time of Christ, and as it should be made to be once again (Purgatorio, XXIX. 43-154; XXXII. 19-60), in preparation for the persecutions of Antichrist (Purgatorio, XXXII. 109-60), which will be followed by Christ's Second Coming in Judgement and the final renewal of earth and Heaven prophesied in the Book of Revelation.
In this last respect, moreover, the literal sense of the Commedia can be called typological in an even stricter sense of the word:
The full thrust of New Testament typology goes in two directions: into the future and into the eternal world, the two things coinciding with the apocalypse or Last Judgment. [...] The Book of Revelation was later assumed to be a prophecy of the future troubles of the Church, which left commentators on it free to identify its sinister images of Antichrist and the Great Whore with whatever they were most afraid of in their own day. [...] At the end of the Book of Revelation, with such phrases as "I make all things new" (21: 5) and the promise of a new heaven and a new earth, we reach the anti type of all anti types, the real beginning of light and sound of which the first word of the Bible is the type. (Northrop Frye)
In the Middle Ages, the concept of history was not limited to the past, but there also existed a history of the future, enigmatically revealed by Daniel, Esdras and other prophets, by Christ Himself and, above all, by St John in the last book of the Bible. Then, as sometimes even now, preachers and writers employed apocalyptic imagery as a weapon for the moral reform of the present: if the prophesied signs are already visible in the world, if the age of Antichrist is imminent or has perhaps already arrived, then it is the Christian world's last chance for reform in preparation for the Judgement. The ethical motivation of the Commedia led Dante too to experiment with this technique in his other-worldly narrative, to assimilate prophetic and eschatological imagery and language, and even to construct parts of his text on the model of "real" prophecy in order to stress the paramount urgency for reform now: God's punishment of the wicked may be imminent (Purgatorio, VI. 100-02, 118-23; XX. 13-15; also Inferno, XXVI. 7-12); soon He will send a deliverer or avenger, such as the DXV/515, foretold in an "enigma" whose truth will be revealed and proved by the events themselves in the very near future (Purgatorio, XXXIII. 34-51; also Inferno, I. 100-11; Paradiso, IX. 139-42; XXVII. 61--63, 142-48); and in the Earthly Paradise in particular, with its overt borrowings from Revelation, he creates a millenarian vision of how earthly society should be renewed in the new century just beginning.
Not only does this life have an ideal future in the prophesied millennium, in the re-creation of a Paradise on earth, but Dante's afterlife as a whole also contains within itself a future which is certain: when the souls in Hell, reunited with their bodies, will suffer even more; when the tombs of the heretics will be closed for ever; when the bodies of the suicides will be hung upon the branches of their trees; when Purgatory will no longer be needed; when the crimes of the so-called Christian rulers of Europe will have been read out to the scandal of the Africans and Asians; when the bodies of the blessed will be glorified together with their souls-a prophetic vision which is granted to the traveller at the end of Paradiso (Inferno, VI. 103-11; X. 10-12; XIII. 103-08; Purgatorio, X. 110-11; Paradiso, XIV. 61-66; XIX. 106-48; XXII. 58-63; XXV. 124-29; XXXI. 49-51, 77-78, 134-35; seepages 40-41,§V). The literal sense of the Commedia, the description of the ultimate realities of human existence and history, set in the context of the centenary year 1300, also pre-announces the last of all the typological fulfilments-the eschatological pattern of God's Justice of punishments in Hell and rewards in Heaven which will endure beyond history, when there is no further future, only the eternal present, after the end of time.