Interpreting Dante: Essays on the Traditions of Dante Commentary [Illustrated] 0268036098, 9780268036096

In Interpreting Dante: Essays on the Traditions of Dante Commentary, Paola Nasti and Claudia Rossignoli gather essays by

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Interpreting Dante: Essays on the Traditions of Dante Commentary [Illustrated]
 0268036098, 9780268036096

Table of contents :
Series List
Title Page
Series Description
1. Reading, Writing, and Speech in the Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century Commentaries on Dante’s Comedy
2. Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators: “bella menzogna” to “roza corteccia”
3. Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana
4. How to Read the Early Commentaries
5. A Friar Critic: Guido da Pisa and the Carmelite Heritage
6. Guido da Pisa’s “Chantilly” Dante: A Complex Exegetical System
7. Presenze del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum nell’Ottimo Commento alla Commedia
8. Pietro Alighieri and the Lexicon of the Comedy
9. Modes of Reading in Boccaccio’s Esposizioni sopra la Comedia
10. Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento alla “Commedia” di Francesco da Buti (con una nota sulla cultura grammaticale e lessicografica dell’autore)
11. A “Commentary for the Court”: Guiniforte Barzizza
12. A Text in Movement: Trifon Gabriele’s Annotationi nel Dante, 1527– 1565
13. Castelvetro on Dante: Tradition, Innovation, and Mockery in the Sposizione
14. A Pictorial Interpretation of Dante’s Commedia: Federigo Zuccari’s Dante historiato
15. Notes on Nineteenth-Century Dante Commentaries and Critical Editions
Index of Names and Subjects
Index of Passages from Dante’s Works

Citation preview

T h e W i l l i a m a n d K at h e r i n e D e v e r s S e r i e s

“Just as the University of Notre Dame has become the central point in American Dante studies, its press is now recognized as the most vital current source of publications dealing with the Florentine poet. These fifteen essays, composed by Italian, American, and British scholars, gather to form an essential companion to such collections of the early commentaries as that found in the Dartmouth Dante Project.” — R o b e r t H o l l a n d e r , Princeton University (emeritus) “Interpreting Dante is an extremely valuable and timely contribution to scholarship on the Dante commentary tradition. Such a collection, devoted both to methodological problems and to single cases, is a novelty. Additionally, as the first comprehensive volume on the topic in English, it will serve as an invaluable resource for students and scholars.” — A n n a P e g o r e t t i , University of Warwick “Interpreting Dante presents a genuinely top-notch collection of essays written by some of the most innovative and influential scholars in the field, on both sides of the Atlantic. A joy to read, from beginning to end, this volume will make a lasting impact on the study of Dante’s reception.” — M i ch a e l P a p i o, University of Massachusetts Amherst

i n t e r p r e t i n g da n t e

i n D a n t e a n d M e d i e v a l It a l i a n L i t e r a t u r e

i n t e r p r e t i n g da n t e Essays on the Traditions of Dante Commentar y e d ite d by pao l a n a sti a n d cl au d i a ros s i g n o li

P a o l a N a s t i is associate professor in Italian Studies at the University of Reading. C l a u d i a R o s s i g n o l i is lecturer in Italian at the University of St. Andrews.

nasti and rossignoli

C o n t r i b u t o r s: Lucia Battaglia Ricci, Saverio Bellomo, Steven Botterill, Corrado Calenda, Massimiliano Chiamenti, Massimiliano Corrado, Simon Gilson, John Lindon, Andrea Mazzucchi, Paola Nasti, Spencer Pearce, Lino Pertile, Claudia Rossignoli, Claudia Tardelli, and Robert Wilson.

university of notre dame press Notre Dame, Indiana 46556 • Cover Design by Faceout Studio, Charles Brock Cover image: “Dante and Beatrice,” title page of section 3 [incipit: Qui cominciano le cançoni distese del chiarissimo poeta Dante Allighieri]. Reproduced by courtesy of the Director and University Librarian, The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester.

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Zygmunt G. Baran´ski, Theodore J. Cachey, Jr., and Christian Moevs, editors

—————— VOLU M E 13 Interpreting Dante: Essays on the Traditions of Dante Commentary • edited by Paola Nasti and Claudia Rossignoli VOLU M E 12 Freedom Readers: The African American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy • Dennis Looney VOLU M E 11 Dante’s Commedia: Theology as Poetry • edited by Vittorio Montemaggi and Matthew Treherne VOLU M E 10 Petrarch and Dante: Anti-Dantism, Metaphysics, Tradition • edited by Zygmunt G. Baran´ski and Theodore J. Cachey, Jr. VOLU M E 9 The Ancient Flame: Dante and the Poets • Winthrop Wetherbee VOLU M E 8 Accounting for Dante: Urban Readers and Writers in Late Medieval Italy • Justin Steinberg VOLU M E 7 Experiencing the Afterlife: Soul and Body in Dante and Medieval Culture • Manuele Gragnolati

VOLUME 6 Understanding Dante • John A. Scott VOLUME 5 Dante and the Grammar of the Nursing Body • Gary P. Cestaro VOLUME 4 The Fiore and the Detto d’Amore: A Late 13th-Century Italian Translation of the Roman de la Rose, attributable to Dante • Translated, with introduction and notes, by Santa Casciani and Christopher Kleinhenz VOLUME 3 The Design in the Wax: The Structure of the Divine Comedy and Its Meaning • Marc Cogan VOLUME 2 The Fiore in Context: Dante, France, Tuscany edited by Zygmunt G. Baran´ski • and Patrick Boyde VOLUME 1 Dante Now: Current Trends in Dante Studies • edited by Theodore J. Cachey, Jr.

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INTERPRETING DANTE Essays on the Traditions of Dante Commentary

Edited by

Paola Nasti and Claudia Rossignoli




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Copyright © 2013 by University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, Indiana 46556 All Rights Reserved

Manufactured in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Interpreting Dante : Essays on the Traditions of Dante Commentary / edited by Paola Nasti and Claudia Rossignoli. pages cm. — (The William and Katherine Devers Series in Dante and Medieval Italian Literature) Includes bibliographical references and indexes. ISBN 978-0-268-03609-6 (pbk.) ISBN 978-0-268-17052-3 (web pdf) 1. Dante Alighieri, 1265–1321— Criticism and interpretation. I. Nasti, Paola, editor of compilation. II. Rossignoli, Claudia, editor of compilation. PQ4390.I65 2014 851'.1—dc23 2013037186 ∞ The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources

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                                                     The William and Katherine Devers Program in Dante Studies at the University of Notre Dame supports rare book acquisitions in the university’s John A. Zahm Dante collections, funds visiting professorships, and supports electronic and print publication of scholarly research in the field. In collaboration with the Medieval Institute at the university, the Devers program initiated a series dedicated to the publication of the most significant current scholarship in the field of Dante studies. In 2011, the scope of the series was expanded to encompass thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italian literature. In keeping with the spirit that inspired the creation of the Devers program, the series takes Dante and medieval Italian literature as focal points that draw together the many disciplines and lines of inquiry that constitute a cultural tradition without fixed boundaries. Accordingly, the series hopes to illuminate this cultural tradition within contemporary critical debates in the humanities by reflecting both the highest quality of scholarly achievement and the greatest diversity of critical perspectives. The series publishes works from a wide variety of disciplinary viewpoints and in diverse scholarly genres, including critical studies, commentaries, editions, reception studies, translations, and conference proceedings of exceptional importance. The series enjoys the support of an international advisory board composed of distinguished scholars and is published regularly by the University of Notre Dame Press. The Dolphin and Anchor device that appears on publications of the Devers series was used by the great humanist, grammarian, editor, and typographer Aldus Manutius (1449 –1515), in whose 1502 edition of Dante (second issue) and all subsequent editions it appeared. The device illustrates the ancient proverb Festina lente, “Hurry up slowly.” Zygmunt G. Baran´ski, Theodore J. Cachey, Jr., and Christian Moevs, editors

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A        B    

Albert Russell Ascoli, Berkeley Teodolinda Barolini, Columbia Piero Boitani, Rome Patrick Boyde, Cambridge Alison Cornish, Michigan Claire Honess, Leeds Christopher Kleinhenz, Wisconsin Giuseppe Ledda, Bologna Simone Marchesi, Princeton Giuseppe Mazzotta, Yale Lino Pertile, Harvard John A. Scott, Western Australia

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List of Illustrations





Reading, Writing, and Speech in the Fourteenth- and FifteenthCentury Commentaries on Dante’s Comedy • Steven Botterill


 

Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators: “bella menzogna” to “roza corteccia” • Robert Wilson



Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana • Spencer Pearce



How to Read the Early Commentaries • Saverio Bellomo



A Friar Critic: Guido da Pisa and the Carmelite Heritage • Paola Nasti


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Guido da Pisa’s “Chantilly” Dante: A Complex Exegetical System • Lucia Battaglia Ricci



Presenze del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum nell’Ottimo Commento alla Commedia • Massimiliano Corrado



Pietro Alighieri and the Lexicon of the Comedy • Massimiliano Chiamenti



Modes of Reading in Boccaccio’s Esposizioni sopra la Comedia • Simon Gilson



Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento alla “Commedia” di Francesco da Buti (con una nota sulla cultura grammaticale e lessicografica dell’autore) • Claudia Tardelli



A “Commentary for the Court”: Guiniforte Barzizza • Corrado Calenda


    

A Text in Movement: Trifon Gabriele’s Annotationi nel Dante, 1527–1565 • Lino Pertile



Castelvetro on Dante: Tradition, Innovation, and Mockery in the Sposizione • Claudia Rossignoli



A Pictorial Interpretation of Dante’s Commedia: Federigo Zuccari’s Dante historiato • Andrea Mazzucchi


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Contents ix


Notes on Nineteenth-Century Dante Commentaries and Critical Editions • John Lindon


List of Contributors


Index of Names and Subjects


Index of Passages from Dante’s Works


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We should like to thank the many people and institutions who contributed to this project. Our gratitude goes first of all to the University of Manchester and the AHRC for financing the 2005 international conference from which this volume partially stems. We are immensely grateful to the editorial board, the reviewers for the University of Notre Dame Press and the editors of the Dante Devers Series for allowing this project to come to its conclusion. Finally we owe immense thanks to the people who have supported us in the long and complex gestation of this book: Zygmunt Baran´ski for his encouragement and expert advice and Anna Pegoretti and Lucia Battaglia Ricci for their enthusiasm and esteem. We would also like to thank the translators of the many contributions that were originally written in Italian: Avi Lang, Toby Wagstaff, Anne Leone, Paola Gotti, Anna Cavallaro, and Philippa Nickolds. Equally important recognition goes to our postgraduate editorial team: Stefano Bragato (University of Reading) and Shanti Graheli (University of St. Andrews). They have all supported us with painstaking discipline, competence, and attention. We would not want to forget our families; since the inception of this project some have departed, some have arrived. They are our greatest assets. This volume is dedicated to our friend and colleague Massimiliano Chiamenti, a talented scholar and poet, whose contribution to the world of Dante studies will be thoroughly missed. He showed great enthusiasm in Manchester and was excited at the idea of the publication of our volume on the Dante commentary tradition. Unfortunately, his contribution to this project is now posthumous. xi

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Special thanks are due to Demetrio S. Yocum from the series and volume editors for his painstaking work in providing the majority of the English translations of Italian quotations, including translations of primary sources, as well as for preparing the indexes to the volume. Translations of Dante’s Italian writings have been taken from standard editions, which are acknowledged in the notes.

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The illustrations, in chapters 6 and 14, follow pp. 200 and 416, respectively. Figure 6.1. Ms. Chantilly, Musée Condé 597, fol. 1r: Dante, Inf. 1: Dante auctor at his desk and the poet Virgil. Figure 6.2. Ibid., fol. 31r: Guido da Pisa, Expositiones, Prologus: The prophet Daniel interprets Baltasar’s vision; the commentator at his desk; the presentation of the book to Lucano Spinola (bas de page). Figure 6.3. Ibid., fol. 33v: Guido da Pisa, Expositiones, Deductio textus de vulgari in latinum, Inf. 1: Sleeping Dante; Boniface and the jubilee, the empty imperial seat. Figure 6.4. Ibid., fol. 34r: Guido da Pisa, Expositiones, Deductio textus de vulgari in latinum, Inf. 1: Dante and Virgil between the selva and the colle (bas de page). Figure 6.5. Ibid., fol. 43r: Guido da Pisa, Expositiones, Deductio textus de vulgari in latinum, Inf. 2: “Lo giorno se n’andava”: Dante and Virgil are about to move from the emisfero diurno to the emisfero notturno (bas de page). Figure 6.6. Ibid., fol. 48r: Guido da Pisa, Expositiones, Deductio textus de vulgari in latinum, Inf. 3: Dante and Virgil in front of the threshold to Hell (bas de page). Figure 6.7. Ibid., fol. 50r: Guido da Pisa, Expositiones, Expositio lictere, Inf. 3: Dante, Virgil, and damned souls on Charon’s boat (bas de page). Figure 6.8. Ibid., fol. 61r: Guido da Pisa, Expositiones, Expositio lictere, Inf. 5: Minos and the lustful (bas de page). xiii

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Figure 6.9. Ibid., fol. 70v: Guido da Pisa, Expositiones, Deductio textus de vulgari in latinum, Inf. 7: Pluto (bas de page). Figure 6.10. Ibid., fol. 127v: Guido da Pisa, Expositiones, Expositio lictere, Inf. 18: Venedico Caccianemico, damned souls, and demons (bas de page). ——— Figure 14.1. Zuccari, Dante historiato, Florence, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, 3474 F. All Zuccari images except 14.20 are reproduced by permission of the S. S. P. S. A. E. for the Photographic Department of the Polo Museale of Florence (Uffizi Gallery). Figure 14.2. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3476 F. Figure 14.3. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3477 F. Figure 14.4. Dante con l’espositioni di Christoforo Landino, et d’Alessandro Vellutello, sopra la sua Comedia dell’Inferno, del Purgatorio & del Paradiso. In Venezia, appresso Gio. Battista & Gio. Bernardo Sessa, Fratelli, 1596, xylography at p. 24r. Courtesy of the University of St. Andrews Special Collections Department. Figure 14.5. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3479 F. Figure 14.6. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3481 F. Figure 14.7. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3507 F. Figure 14.8. Dante con l’espositione di Christoforo Landino et di Alessandro Vellutello, xylography at p. 170r. Courtesy of the University of St. Andrews Special Collections Department. Figure 14.9. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3515 F (detail). Figure 14.10. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3535 F. Figure 14.11. Dante con l’espositione di Christoforo Landino et di Alessandro Vellutello, xylography at p. 228r. Courtesy of the University of St. Andrews Special Collections Department. Figure 14.12. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3545 F.

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Illustrations xv

Figure 14.13. Dante con l’espositione di Christoforo Landino et di Alessandro Vellutello, xylography at p. 259r. Courtesy of the University of St. Andrews Special Collections Department. Figure 14.14. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3553 F. Figure 14.15. Dante con l’espositione di Christoforo Landino et di Alessandro Vellutello, xylography at p. 318r. Courtesy of the University of St. Andrews Special Collections Department. Figure 14.16. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3557 F. Figure 14.17. Dante con l’espositione di Bernardino Daniello da Lucca, in Venetia, appresso Pietro da Fino, 1568, engraving at p. 482v. Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. Figure 14.18. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3478 F. Figure 14.19. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3480 F. Figure 14.20. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3489 F. Reproduced by permission of the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo. Figure 14.21. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3495 F. Figure 14.22. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3496 F. Figure 14.23. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3498 F. Figure 14.24. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3502 F. Figure 14.25. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3522 F. Figure 14.26. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3528 F (detail). Figure 14.27. Zuccari, Dante historiato, 3549 F. Figure 14.28. Zuccari, Federico Zuccari e Vincenzio Borghini discutono le invenzioni per gli affreschi della cupola di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, 11043 F.

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‘The poetry of Dante may be considered as the bridge thrown over the stream of time, which unites the modern and ancient world’ (Percy Bysshe Shelley, A defence of poetry).

The Divine Comedy’s critical fortune is the longest and richest enjoyed by any poem written in a vernacular language. The poet had died just a year earlier, shortly after completing his masterpiece, when in 1322 his son Jacopo deemed it necessary to provide his father’s readers with a gloss that would contribute to the appreciation of its “deep and true meaning”: Aciò che del frutto universale novellamente dato al mondo per lo illustre filosofo e poeta Dante Allighieri fiorentino con più agevolezza si possa gustare per coloro in cui il lume naturale alquanto risplende sanza scientifica apprensione, io Iacopo suo figliuolo per maternale prosa dimostrare intendo parte del suo profondo e autentico intendimento. (Inf., Nota)1 —— 1



[In order for you to enjoy with greater ease the universal fruit given anew to the world by the illustrious Florentine philosopher and poet Dante Alighieri, I, his son Jacopo, intend to show—for those in whom the natural light shines quite without systematic learning—part of its deep and genuine meaning by using maternal prose.]

Jacopo’s commentary opened the gates to a flood of critical works on the Comedy: commentaries, glosses, lectures, and every kind of academic study which to this day continue to enrich the critical reception of the “sacred poem.” There was only one period when this flood somewhat abated: the relative disinterest of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century scholars, which resulted in a clear decrease in the tradition until a new surge of popularity in the 1800s. So central and definitive is this scholarly approach to the Comedy that from the early manuscripts to modern printed editions, the poem has usually been offered with a commentary that explains a text described and perceived as otherwise too obscure to be accessible to an unmediated reading.2 Among the Comedy’s early commentators were prestigious writers such as Boccaccio and Torquato Tasso, intellectuals of the standing of Landino and Castelvetro, the lay diplomat Guglielmo Maramauro, and the Carmelite friar Guido da Pisa. Their works canonized Dante as the greatest voice of modern vernacular culture, as a philosopher and scholar of great knowledge,3 and as the father of a new poetic language who had not only written to morally educate his readers, but also to instruct them in the eloquence of the vernacular language: “Fines vero alii qui possunt assignari in hoc opere sunt tres: Primus, ut discant homines polite et ordinate loqui; nullus enim mortalis potest sibi in lingue gloria comparari” (The aims of this work can be considered as three. Firstly it teaches men to speak properly and elegantly; no man can be compared to [Dante] with regard to linguistic greatness).4 The tradition of literary criticism that Dante’s work generated not only erected a monument to him but also, and more important, revolutionized the study of literary texts. The Comedy was the first text written in a language other than Latin to attract such obsessive critical attention. No other vernacular text had ever been deemed worthy of study to the same extent and in such different environments, from the monasteries to the universities and from the court to the city. Whether or not Dante de-

Introduction 3

served such canonization (and of course we think he did), the early critics visibly contributed to the sustained success of the poem and the establishment of Dante as an auctoritas.5 Once included in the canon of auctores by his first commentators, the study of the Comedy required the use of further auctoritates, of sources we would now say, which could help expand the meaning of the poem’s richly connotative words. This necessity brought a man like Guglielmo Maramauro to acknowledge the effort involved in glossing Dante. The commentator revealed how he had to familiarize himself with Dante’s library and consult a long list of essential theological, philosophical, classical, and historical sources, as well as the already rich secondary literature published on Dante: E bene che io sollo da me stesso non sia messo a volere exponere questa altissima opera: io vidi lo scripto de Iacomo de la Lana, el qual è assai autentico e famoso, e quel de miser Gratiolo Bambaioli da Bologna. . . . E tanto con l’aiuto de questi exposituri, quanto con l’aiuto de miser Zoan Bocacio, e de miser Francesco Petrarca, e del pivan Forese e de miser Bernardo Scanabechi, io me mossi a volere prendere questa dura impresa. Ancora me fu necessario, per compire questa opera, vedere recapitulare e studiare li infrascripti libri, videlicet: Tito Livio, Gregorio, Augustino, Ambrosio, Ieronimo, la Biblia, el Maestro de le Istorie, el Magistro de le Sententie, Vincentio Ystoriarum, Ugo de San Victore, Isodero, Pap[i]a, san Tomaso d’Aquino, Iosepo, Orosio, Lactantio, Macrobio, Policrate, Svetonio, Boetio, Sedulio, Casiodoro, Seneca, Tulio, Quintiliano, Vegiecio, Sollino, Platone, Aristotile, Frontino, Plinio, Salustrio, Iustino, Iulio Florio; item el Maestro de la Spera, el Speculo de astrologia, el Computo, Tolomeo, Albumasar. Ancora me fu de necessità rivedere Vergilio, Oratio, Ovidio, Lucano, Plauto, Terentio, Iuvenale, Perseo, [Eu]stacio Venusino. E sopra tuto ciò me fo de necessità de vedere la Cronica de Gervasio, Eutropio, Valerio, Alexandro, Panteon, la Martiniana, Fulgentio, Ioanne De apologiis, Ma[rtia]no Capella, Alino, la Poetria de Aristotile, el libro De proprietatibus rerum, Avicena e la Geomancia de Satelliense.6 —— [It was right for me not to wish to expound this most excellent work all by myself: I turned to the text by Jacomo della Lana, which is very valuable



and famous, and that of messire Gratiolo di Bambaioli from Bologna. . . . And so with the help of these commentators, and with the help of messire Giovanni Boccaccio, and messire Francesco Petrarca, and Forese Donati (from Pievano of S. Stefano) and messire Bernardo Scanabechi, I decided to undertake this challenging task. In order to accomplish this goal, it still was necessary for me, to review and study the books written by: Livy, Gregory, Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, the Bible, the Master of the Historiae, the Master of the Sententiae, Vincentio’s Historiarum, Hugh of St. Victor, Isidore, Pap[i]a, St. Thomas Aquinas, Josephus, Orosius, Lactantius, Macrobius, Polycrates, Suetonius, Boethius, Sedulius, Cassiodorus, Seneca, Tullio, Quintilian, Vegetius, Sollinus, Plato, Aristotle, Frontinus, Pliny, Sallust, Justin, Julius Florio, and also the Master of the Spera, the Speculo de astrologia, the Computo, Ptolemy, Albumasar. I also needed to look at Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Lucan, Plautus, Terence, Juvenal, Perseus, [Eu]stace Venusino. Moreover, I needed to consult the Chronicle of Gervase, Eutropius, Valerius, Alexandro, Panteon, the Martiniana, Fulgentius, John’s De apologiis, Ma[rtia]nus Capella, Alinus, Aristotle’s Poetria, the book De rerum proprietatibus, Avicenna and the Geomancia of Hugo of Santalla.]

By the end of the fifteenth century, secondary literature on the Comedy had become so substantial that Dante had acquired a unique position of prominence in the influential medieval and early modern tradition of commentary, a standing that no other poet has ever managed to gain.7 The effects of this literary event on the history of culture are clearly perceived by many, but its implications have been less well understood and analyzed. The greatest impact of Dante’s privileged position in European literary history has been felt at a linguistic level. The commentary tradition, as Guido da Pisa’s words quoted above show, identified Dante as the father of the Italian language and contributed to the adoption of the Florentine vernacular as the literary language of the Italian peninsula. Moreover, the extraordinary critical attention of the Dante commentary tradition inevitably granted the Comedy remarkable creative influence. No later poet could avoid his literary ghost, just as no medieval poet could silence the classical echoes of Virgil and Ovid. The unwavering reception of the Comedy, its continuous success among readers of all backgrounds and nationalities, is the result of its promotion by its earliest and most re-

Introduction 5

cent critics, who continue to enhance the fame and the merits of this unique poetic tour de force. While all this is acknowledged by contemporary Dante scholars, the critical tradition under discussion has further and subtler bearings on the study and understanding of literary phenomena. First, the examination of the Dante commentary tradition offers a unique opportunity to observe the changes that have affected exegetical and critical practices of literary texts through centuries of reception and scholarship. Second, and more specifically, it allows the observation of such developments from a very privileged viewpoint. As a result of the fact that Dante was the first vernacular poet to attract extensive scholarly attention, commentaries on the Divine Comedy, at least the early ones, are often at the avant-garde of literary criticism per se. Scholars who have contributed to this tradition can be seen to be testing and applying interpretive models from other fields and developing a new critical language for the analysis of poetry in their commentaries. For instance, Iacomo della Lana, one of the first Dante commentators, noted that to expand on the poem’s subject matter and form (ad intelligenzia), a method used by commentators of other sciences (“li espositori in le scienzie”) would be necessary: Ad intelligenzia della presente Comedia sì come usano li espositori in le scienzie è da notare quattro cose. La prima cioè la materia overo subietto della presente opera. La seconda cosa quale è la forma e onde tolle tale nome overo titolo del libro. La terza cosa quale è la cagione efficiente. La quarta cosa ed ultima quale è la cagione finale overo a che utilitade ell’è diretta e sotto quale filosofia ella è sottoposta.8 —— [To expand on the present Comedy, we should take into consideration four elements, as commentators of other sciences do. The first is its subject matter. The second is its form, whence it takes its name, that is its title. The third is its efficient cause. The fourth and last thing is its purpose, its usefulness, its underlying philosophy.]

Thanks to this kind of methodological osmosis, not only Dante but also vernacular literature in general soon gained the authority granted to other, “nobler” subjects and attracted serious scholarship. Metaliterary



language also found a stimulus. Dante’s use of metaliterary terminology and technical inventiveness invited the development of a critical lexicon, of new definitions and categories. Boccaccio, for example, felt compelled to explain the poet’s use of the term cantica in a specialist fashion: E ad evidenzia di questo, secondo il mio giudicio, è da sapere sì come i musici ogni loro artificio formano sopra certe dimensioni di tempi lunghe e brievi, e acute e gravi, e delle varietà di queste con debita e misurata proporzione congiunta, e quello poi appellano “canto”, così i poeti: non solamente quegli che in latino scrivono, ma eziandio coloro che, come il nostro autore fa, volgarmente dettano, componendo i loro versi, secondo la diversa qualità d’essi, di certo e diterminato numero di piedi intra se medesimi, dopo certa e limitata quantità di parole, consonanti, sì come nel presente trattato veggiamo che, essendo tutti i rittimi d’equal numero di sillabe, sempre il terzo piè nella sua fine è consonante alla fine del primo, che in quella consonanza finisce; per che pare che a questi cotali versi, o opere composte per versi, quello nome si convegna che i musici alle loro invenzioni danno, come davanti dicemmo, cioè “canti”, e per conseguente quella opera, che di molti canti è composta, doversi “cantica” appellare, cioè cosa in sé contenente più canti. (Accessus, Intro., Nota) —— [In support of this conclusion, in my opinion, one must take into consideration how musicians compose their works, combining beats short and long, sharp and flat, mixing them with appropriate and measured proportions, and calling their arrangements a “canto,” just as poets do—not only those who write in Latin but also, indeed, those who, like our author, compose in the vernacular. In creating poetry, poets take into account the varying nature of their verses, of the definite and fixed number of metrical feet in them, and of their precise and limited number of words and consonants. We see such a process in the present poem; each verse comprises the same number of syllables and each third verse repeats the same consonance of the preceding one with which it rhymes. It therefore follows that such verses, or works that comprise verses, can be given the name that musicians use for their own works, namely “canto,” as we said earlier. Hence, a composition that is made up of

Introduction 7

many cantos can be called a ‘canticle,’ that is, something that contains several cantos.]9

Similarly, Guido da Pisa, an accomplished Latin scholar, often applied to the text what we would now call “close reading,” and was keen to record his observations regarding the style of the poem or the different types of hendecasyllables employed by Dante to instruct his readers in matters of rhythm. In addition, the exegetical tradition on the Comedy continuously displays an interest for commentary as a genre, paying attention to its functions, its rules and conventions. Guido’s Expositiones et glose are methodically divided into sections that include the deductio textus de vulgari in latinum (summaries and translations of the subject matter in Latin), the expositio lictere (a careful commentary on the text and its sources), a list of comparationes, where metaphors and similes are explained, and notabilia (appendixes, explorations of specific terms and figures, and even indexes of names and subjects). Five centuries later, Gabriele Rossetti would offer even clearer guidelines to explain his modes of reading as well as the function of his commentary’s structure and methodology: Introduzione. Varj sono i fini {di queste} delle note aggiunte: I. L’esporre qualche cosa d’importanza che possa contribuire a far abbracciare di un’occhiata il sistema della Divina Commedia, o di alcuna sua parte essenziale; II. Il rischiarar maggiormente col raziocinio e con l’autorità quel che nelle note al testo ho talvolta non pienamente dimostrato, per timor di riuscir lungo; III. Il dichiarare se qualche interpretazione, che potrebbe credersi mia, perchè poco comune, sia di alcun altro comentatore antico o moderno; IV. Il confutare alcune erronee opinioni già troppo radicate, o da lungo tempo spacciate, o di recente sostenute, perchè non faccian ombra allo spirito del lettore; V. Il fare utili osservazioni intorno alla lingua, e giustificare qualche novità grammaticale da me introdotta nella interpretazione: il che sarebbe riuscito di peso e deviamento sotto il testo; VI. Il dar notizia di fatti storici che possano fare pienamente conoscere ciò che nel Poema e nel Comento è sol di passaggio accennato; VII. Il mettere in veduta qualche erudizione opportuna che abbia una stretta connessione col poema; il che sarebbe sembrato



esuberante nel corso del canto; VIII. Ed altro ed altro ancora, che possa contribuire a sparger lume su quel che precede, o quel che siegue. Da ciò è chiaro che la lettura di queste note riuscirà (o ch’io spero) di utilità e diletto.10 —— [Introduction. There are various purposes for these added notes: I. To explain something important that can help to embrace the whole system of the Divine Comedy, or any of its essential parts; II. To further enlighten, using reason and authority, what I did not fully explain, for fear of being prolix; III. To clarify when some unusual interpretation, which could be taken for mine, is by some other ancient or modern commentator; IV. To refute any false opinions already too well-established, or for a long time passed off, or recently sustained, so they do not obfuscate the spirit of the reader; V. To make useful observations about the language, and justify some new grammar introduced in my interpretation, which would have been a burden and distraction below the text; VI. To report about historical facts that can fully explain what is only vaguely mentioned in the poem and commentary; VII. To highlight some appropriate erudite information that has a close connection to the poem, which would have been redundant while dealing with a single canto; VIII. And much more intended to shed light on what precedes or what follows. Hence, it is clear that the reading of these notes will be (or at least I hope) of utility and enjoyment.]

The study of the Dante commentary tradition also highlights how, with the passing of time, the relationship between commentators of different ages evolves, becoming at times tense and problematic. Whereas early commentators considered it valuable to accumulate multiple interpretations of their predecessors to create compendia of the extant “secondary literature” on Dante, modern literary scholarship on the Comedy is often keen to depart from the tradition and mark its originality, its new conquests, labeling the commentaries of the past faulty and ignorant. Modern commentaries are also used more explicitly to pursue critical controversy. Such for example is the case of J. Berthier, who accused both antiqui et moderni for their lack of method and understanding. In his view, nineteenth-century Dante commentators and scholars had become insensitive to the theological dimension of the Comedy (its “bone mar-

Introduction 9

row,” according to Father Berthier), thereby betraying a lack of historiographical awareness. For him the poem was a translatio of scholastic ethics: Oggi, secondo noi, si suole fermarsi un po’ troppo esclusivamente alla sola esposizione laicale, e non si va, quanto sarebbe necessario, all’esposizione più midullata e intrinseca. Il medesimo fatto s’incontra negli studi biblici. . . . Ma, scusate! Se Dante è teologo scolastico, come tutti dicono, ne segue che quei signori, i quali si dicono dantisti, ma non sanno niente di catechismo, nonchè di Teologia scolastica, non possono, senza impertinenza, tentare un’interpretazione del poema sacro, nè discutere le nostre pretensioni, perchè non possono giudicare o condannare le cose che non sanno, argomentando contro quelli che scambio le studiano.11 —— [Today, in our opinion, it is customary to stay a little too exclusively on a specific secular elucidation, without attempting, as it would be necessary, a more in-depth and intrinsic one. The same fact is evident in biblical studies. . . . Well, excuse me! But if Dante is a scholastic theologian, as everyone says, it follows that those gentlemen, who repute themselves to be Dante scholars, but know nothing of catechism, or scholastic theology, may not, without impertinence, try to interpret the sacred poem, nor discuss our claims, because they cannot judge or condemn things they do not know, arguing against those who instead study them.]

On the other hand, even if dantisti of all ages had contributed to the interpretation of the poem, for the Dominican scholar the moderni had made genuine giant steps in the philological establishment of details and facts about the author and his text. In his commentary Berthier also highlighted the nature of his critical approach through the careful use of technical keywords, thus displaying a sophisticated awareness of the impact of methodology and ideology on critical discourse. His would be, in his own words, a new type of commentary: an archaeological reconstruction of Dante’s culture, a new exegesis focused on the lost world of Dante.12 In other words, as these brief notes suggest, reading, studying, and analyzing the Dante commentary tradition teaches us not only how different readers have read the Comedy but also how the practice of reading has



changed: it opens a window onto how scholarly studies on literature have developed, how critical debates move backwards and forwards, how the genre of commentary has evolved and devolved to shape the reception of literary texts. It demonstrates how ideology influences literary criticism. It also reveals how and why our critical dictionary changes, how ways of creating textual meaning differ from generation to generation. The focus of Dante readers’ moves from theology to science, from science to politics, from style to sources; and each of these moves perpetuates the story both of Dante and of his readers, proving what we have come to expect—that a text is also the history of its reception. The study of the Dante commentary tradition has had at least one additional essential impact on medieval Italian studies: it helps us write an interesting chapter on the intricate intellectual history of Italy (and, in some cases, beyond). Each commentator has left a testimony of different intellectual milieus, schools, trends, and personalities. If Barzizza’s commentary reveals how literature was used at court, Castelvetro’s echoes the influence of the Reformation and Guido da Pisa’s the character of Carmelite scholarship. The more the inestimable value of this corpus emerges, the greater the interest in the Dante commentary tradition. Interest in it has matured considerably especially over the past decade or so. This is exemplified by two recent monumental projects: the Edizione Nazionale dei Commenti Danteschi, which aims at publishing new critical editions of the vast corpus of glosses and commentaries on the Comedy produced during seven centuries of Dante scholarship; and the Censimento dei Commenti Danteschi, which will offer a complete survey and analysis of the entire manuscript and print tradition of the Dante commentaries.13 These initiatives follow the creation in the 1980s of the Dartmouth Dante Project, a searchable online database of seventy Dante commentaries, conceived and directed by Robert Hollander.14 The renewed attention paid by textual critics to both the material and historiographical aspects of this facet of Dante’s reception finds its roots in the groundbreaking studies of scholars such as Mazzoni,15 Bellomo, and Barański, who called for a new appreciation of the exegetical tradition of the Comedy which would go beyond the utilitarian approach to the commentaries practiced by previous scholars, who mainly used

Introduction 11

medieval and Renaissance commentaries on the Comedy to solve hermeneutic cruces. Such piecemeal appropriation, in the view of the three scholars mentioned, failed to take proper account of the partial nature of any interpretation, and, as a consequence, recourse to the commentaries was often methodologically flawed, neglecting to consider the glosses as exegetical projects with specific cultural and often ideological agendas. In this regard, the current project of the Edizione Nazionale to create critical editions of the Dante commentaries is very much a move in the right direction as it will provide a fundamental platform for further studies on the intrinsic value of the glosses, as well as on the reception of Dante per se. The present collection was conceived almost a decade ago to bring together scholars who were directly involved in the philological editorial project of the Edizione Nazionale and those who had long been engaged in the study both of Dante’s glosses considered as historical and intellectual documents and of the methodological implications of the archaeological reconstruction of such traditions. The gestation of this project has been long, but the place of this volume in the recent process of “reevaluation” of the commentary tradition is still unique. No other volume collects essays devoted to both methodological problems and single commentaries; no other volume gathers scholars from different continents with the intention of attracting the interest of the English-speaking academic world to Dante’s exegetical tradition. The Dante commentary tradition is not the private affair of a small group of dantisti but a phenomenon that deserves to be appreciated by all those who study the development of critical discourse, the theory of reception, and the history of intellectuals. Our volume seeks to reconsider several of the most important Dante commentaries in their historical, intellectual, and cultural context by bringing together some of the most innovative and distinguished scholarship in the field. While providing new critical perspectives from which to consider the critical strategies developed by commentators to deal with the many questions posed by the Comedy, the book also examines how Dante commentators developed interpretive paradigms which contributed to the advancement of literary criticism and the creation of the Western literary canon. Dante commentaries illustrate the evolution of notions of “literariness” and literature, genre and style, intertextuality



and influence, literary histories, traditions and canons, authorship and readerships, paratexts and textual materiality. Contributors address a series of vital research questions: How can the study of the exegetical tradition on the Comedy aid our understanding of the complex dynamics of interpretation? What do the critical choices made by Dante’s interpretive communities tell us about the readers themselves? Finally, what is the impact of critical trends on the processes of literary fruition? In addition, contributors investigate the relationship between illustration, exegesis, commission, patronage, and political affiliation on the creation of commentaries. The volume includes methodological essays which explore theoretical aspects of the tradition as a whole, as well as case studies of individual commentaries, some of which were illustrated. Methodological essays concentrate mainly on theoretical questions: namely, the creation of a taxonomy for categorizing typologies of commentaries; the relationship between commentators and readers, as well as the connections linking different types of glosses and the materiality of textual transmission; the interplay between written and visual commentaries; the impact of patronage on the forms of exegesis; the impact of textual revision on the ontological status of literary texts. The essays which approach the question of the Dante commentary tradition by looking at case studies give an account of the modus operandi of Dante’s exegetes by relating these to the cultural, ideological, and political agendas of the community of readers and scholars to which the commentators belonged. These essays also call into question some of the dominant critical approaches to several of the most important early glosses to Dante’s poem. Two essays focus on textual critical matters and therefore, given the technical nature of the language employed, have not been translated. Contributions are presented in chronological order, on the basis of the date (supposed or ascertained) of composition of the commentaries discussed. Since the conference held at the University of Manchester, some of the essays—those by Bellomo, Battaglia, Mazzucchi, and Pertile—have appeared in Italian in specialist publications. These contributions have been translated specifically for this volume and made available to a wider scholarly audience.

Introduction 13

G. Eliot once wrote, “All meanings, we know, depend on the key of interpretation.” Exhausting the meaning of Dante’s Comedy is luckily beyond our reach, but our search for the keys is perhaps a worthwhile revenge.

N  1. Jacopo Alighieri, Chiose all’“Inferno” (ca. 1322). This and other commentaries are cited here from the online editions uploaded to the Dartmouth Dante Project. 2. For introductions on the history of Dante’s commentary tradition, see S. Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi: L’esegesi della “Commedia” da Iacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olschki, 2004); A. Vallone, La critica dantesca nell’Ottocento (Florence: Olschki, 1975); A. Vallone, La critica dantesca nel Novecento (Florence: Olschki, 1976); A. Vallone, Storia della critica dantesca dal XIV al XX secolo (Milan: Vallardi, 1981), 2 vols. 3. Boccaccio, Dante’s greatest admirer and promoter in Florence, considered him as such: “E però egli primieramente dalla sua puerizia nella propria patria si diede agli studi liberali e in quelli maravigliosamente s’avanzò, per ciò che, oltre alla prima arte, fu, secondo che appresso si dirà, maraviglioso loico e seppe retorica, sì come nelle sue opere apare assai bene; e per ciò che nella presente opera apare lui essere stato astrolago, e quello essere non si può senza arismetrica e geometria, estimo lui similemente in queste arti essere stato ammaestrato. Ragionasi similemente lui nella sua giovaneza avere udita filosofia morale in Firenze e quella maravigliosamente bene avere saputa: la qual cosa egli non volle che nascosa fosse nello XI canto di questo trattato, dove si fa dire a Virgilio: ‘Non ti rimembra di quelle parole, / con le quali la tua Etica pertratta’, quasi voglia per questo s’intenda la filosofia morale in singularità essere stata a lui familiarissima e nota. Similemente in quella udì gli autori poetici, e studiò gli istoriografi, e ancora vi prese altissimi princìpi nella filosofia naturale, sì come esso vuole che si senta per li ragionamenti suoi in questa opera avuti con ser Brunetto Latino, il quale in quella scienza fu reputato solenne uomo” (One must know, therefore, that from his childhood in his homeland he gave himself over to the study of the liberal arts and remarkably distinguished himself in the first of them before going on to become, as we shall say below, a marvelous logician and master of rhetoric, which is quite clear in his works. Since it is evident in the present work that he was an astrologer which is a title that cannot be obtained without mathematics and geometry, I believe that he was similarly learned in both of these arts as well. It is said, moreover, that he studied moral philosophy in Florence during his youth



and that he did particularly well in it. This is a fact that he chose not to hide in the eleventh canto of this work where he has Virgil ask: “Don’t you remember those words, / With which your Ethics treats . . . ” almost as if to say that moral philosophy, above all else was especially well known and familiar to him. Likewise, he studied poets of moral philosophy and historians and even learned the highest principles of natural philosophy, which he means to show us in this work through his conversation with Brunetto Latini, who was highly respected in that field) (Giovanni Boccaccio, Esposizioni sopra la Comedia di Dante [ca. 1373– 75], Inferno: Intro. Nota). For a good English translation of and commentary on this fundamental commentary, see M. Papio, Boccaccio’s Expositions on Dante’s “Comedy” (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), here at 43– 44. 4. Guido da Pisa, Expositiones et Glose super Comediam Dantis [ca. 1337], Inferno: Intro. Nota. The translation is mine. 5. On the novelty of the Dante commentary tradition and its impact on canon and literary authority, see the fundamental essays collected in Z. G. Barań­ski, “Chiosar con altro testo”: Leggere Dante nel Trecento (Florence: Cadmo, 2001). 6. Guglielmo Maramauro, Expositione sopra l’“Inferno” di Dante Alighieri [ca. 1369– 73], Inferno 1: Nota. See the critical edition: Gugliemo Maramauro, Expositione sopra l’“Inferno” di Dante Alighieri, ed. G. Pisoni and S. Bellomo (Padua: Antenore, 1998). 7. For a general introduction to the medieval literary commentary: The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, 2: The Middle Ages, ed. A. Minnis and I. Johnson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), in particular, H. Ralph, T. Hunt, R. G. Keightley, A. Minnis, and N. F. Palmer, “Latin Commentary Tradition and Vernacular Literature,” 363– 421. On medieval commentaries, see C. H. Lohr, “The Medieval Intepretation of Aristotle,” in The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy, ed. N. Kretzmann, A. Kenny, and J. Pinborg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 80– 98; A. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009). On different exegetical genres, the useful “Intorno al testo”: Tipologie del corredo esegetico e soluzioni editoriali: Atti del Convegno di Urbino 1– 3 ottobre 2001 (Rome: Salerno, 2003). 8. Iacomo della Lana, Comedia di Dante degli Allaghieri col Commento di Jacopo della Lana Bolognese, Intro. Nota. See the new critical edition: Iacomo della Lana, Commento alla Commedia, ed. M. Volpi, 4 vols. (Rome: Salerno, 2010). 9. Papio, Boccaccio’s Expositions on Dante’s “Comedy,” 41. 10. Gabriele Rossetti, Comento analitico all’ “Inferno” e al “Purgatorio,” Inferno [1826– 27], Inferno 1: Nota. 11. G. Berthier, La Divina Commedia con commenti secondo la Scolastica (Friburgo: Libreria dell’Università, 1892– 97), Inferno: Nota. 12. “L’illustrazione ha, quanto si è potuto osservare, il carattere archeologico, di modo che il lettore abbia sott’occhio ciò che vide Dante in tempo suo,

Introduction 15

donde informi la sua fantasia d’immagini dantesche, siccome abbiamo tentato di rimettere nella mente del lettore la dottrina stessa dell’Allighieri” (The commentary, as observed, has an archaeological aim, so that the reader can see what Dante saw in his own time, what informed his imagination and imagery, in the same way we have tried to remind the reader of the poet’s doctrine and knowledge) (G. Berthier, La Divina Commedia con commenti secondo la Scolastica, Inferno: Nota). 13. Censimento dei commenti danteschi, 1: I commenti di tradizione manoscritta (fino al 1480), ed. E. Malato and A. Mazzucchi, 2 vols. (Rome: Salerno, 2011); and Censimento dei commenti danteschi, 3: Le “Lecturae Dantis” e le edizioni delle Opere di Dante dal 1472 al 2000, ed. C. Perna and T. Nocita (Rome: Salerno, 2013). Some of the commentaries published by the Edizione Nazionale dei Commenti Danteschi by Salerno Editrice, Rome, are (here in order of publication year): Cristoforo Landino, Comento sopra la Comedia, ed. P. Procaccioli, 4 vols. (2001); Chiose filippine, ed. A. Mazzucchi (2003); A. Cesari, Bellezze della Commedia di Dante Alighieri, ed. A. Marzo (2003); Matteo Chiromono, Chiose alla Commedia, ed. A. Mazzucchi, 2 vols. (2004); Niccolò Tommaseo, Commento alla Commedia, ed. V. Mariucci, 3 vols. (2004); Federigo Zuccari, Dante historiato da Federigo Zuccaro, ed. A. Mazzucchi, 2 vols. (2004); Chiose Palatine (Ms. Pal. 313 della Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze), ed. R. Abado (2006); Alessandro Vellutello, La Comedia di Dante Aligieri con la nova esposizione, ed. D. Pirovano, 3 vols. (2006); Vittorio Rossi, Commento alla Divina Commedia, con la continuazione di Salvatore Frascíno, ed. M. Corrado, 3 vols. (2008); Francesco Torraca, Commento alla Divina Commedia, ed. V. Marucci, 3 vols. (2009); Iacomo della Lana, Commento alla Commedia, ed. M. Volpi (2010). 14. In addition to the online Dartmouth Dante Project, Robert Hollander’s contribution to the study of the commentary tradition includes several publications. See for example: “A Checklist of Commentators on the Commedia (1322–1982),” Dante Studies 101 (1983): 181– 92; Dante’s “Epistle to Cangrande” (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993); Boccaccio’s Dante and the Shaping Force of Satire (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997); “Dante and His Commentators,” in The Cambridge Companion to Dante, 2nd ed., ed. R. Jacoff (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 270– 80. Dartmouth is now renewing the website and will relaunch it by the end of 2013. 15. See, by F. Mazzoni: “Guido da Pisa interprete di Dante e la sua fortuna presso il Boccaccio,” Studi danteschi 35 (1958): 29–128; “La critica dantesca del secolo XIV,” Cultura e scuola 13–14 (Jan.– June 1965): 292– 93; “Iacopo della Lana e la crisi nell’interpretazione della ‘Divina Commedia,’” in Dante e Bologna nei tempi di Dante (Bologna: Commissione per i testi di lingua, 1967), 265– 306; “Il culto di Dante nell’Ottocento e la Società Dantesca Italiana,” Studi danteschi 71 (2006): 335– 59. For Barański and Bellomo, see above notes 2, 5, 6. A scholar who has recently contributed to the study of the Dante commentary tradition is



Massimo Seriacopi; he has brought to light a wealth of anonymous and unpublished glosses to the Comedy: “Un commento anonimo inedito della Laurenziana all’ ‘Inferno’ e al ‘Purgatorio’. Parte prima: ‘Inferno,’” Letteratura Italiana Antica: Rivista annuale di testi e studi 1 (2000): 69–193; “Un commento inedito di fine Trecento ai canti 2– 5 dell’ ‘Inferno,’” Dante Studies with the Annual Report of the Dante Society 117 (1999): 199– 244; “Notizie su un commento inedito in volgare alla ‘Commedìa’ dantesca di Antonio di Tuccio Manetti,” L’Alighieri: Rassegna bibliografica dantesca, n.s., 40.14 (1999): 77– 85; “Un commento anonimo inedito della Laurenziana all’ ‘Inferno’ e al ‘Purgatorio’: Parte prima: ‘Inferno,’” Letteratura Italiana Antica: Rivista annuale di testi e studi 1 (2000): 69–193; “Un commento anonimo inedito della Laurenziana all’ ‘Inferno’ e al ‘Purgatorio’: Parte seconda: ‘Purgatorio,’” Letteratura Italiana Antica: Rivista annuale di testi e studi 2 (2001): 99–156; “Esegesi dei canti I e II del ‘Purgatorio’ in un commento inedito quattrocentesco,” Tenzone: Revista de la Asociación Complutense de Dantología 3 (2002): 245– 62 (available online at; “Un commento inedito di fine Trecento ai primi sedici canti dell’ ‘Inferno’ (con un’Appendice quattrocentesca),” in Intorno a Dante (Florence: Libreria Chiari, 2004), 13– 47; Graziolo dei Bambaglioli sull’ “Inferno” di Dante: Una redazione inedita del commento volgarizzato (Reggello: FirenzeLibri, 2005; Collana Dantesca, 3); Fortuna di Dante Alighieri (Reggello: FirenzeLibri, 2005; Collana Dantesca, 4); “L’analisi dei commenti inediti medioevali alla ‘Commedia’ come elemento per ridiscutere le questioni esegetiche dantesche,” Trasparenze 25 (2005): 71– 76; Volgarizzamento inedito del Commento di Pietro Alighieri alla “Commedìa” di Dante: Il Proemio e l’“Inferno” (Reggello: FirenzeLibri, 2008; Collana Dantesca, 9); Un volgarizzamento del commento di Benvenuto da Imola all’“Inferno” e al “Purgatorio” di Dante (Reggello: FirenzeLibri–Libreria Chiari, 2008).

  


Reading, Writing, and Speech in the Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century Commentaries on Dante’s Comedy  

The ongoing rediscovery of the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century tradition of commentary on the Comedy has been probably the most exciting area of innovation in Dante studies for at least the past thirty years (and may yet turn out to be the field’s best insurance against the steady decline into twittering irrelevance that has befallen so many other areas of literary scholarship during the same period). The commentary texts themselves, of course, have for the most part been known for some time; they began to reemerge from centuries of obscurity around the middle of the nineteenth century, thanks to the explosion of scholarly work on the earliest forms of writing in the Italian vernaculars that coincided with — or more likely was inspired by—the development of a nationalist consciousness in the newly founded Italian nation-state.1 But the narrowly 17



philological basis of much of that work left readers of the commentaries with little more than a set of would-be critical editions, ranging from the admirable to those hardly worthy of the name; the commentaries themselves were barely studied at all, being used, at best, as arsenals of annotatory ammunition, to be more or less aggressively ransacked at will by modern dantisti conducting interpretive campaigns of their own. Only in the 1950s, as the work of a generation of scholars led by Francesco Mazzoni began to put the textual criticism of the commentary tradition on a more secure basis than it had ever enjoyed before, did it become possible to analyze the Trecento commentaries with the precision that their depth and scope deserve; and only since the 1970s has serious attention begun to be paid either to the theories and methods that the commentaries embody and deploy or to the evidence they can provide about reactions to and understandings of Dante’s masterpiece that were current among the earliest generations of his readership.2 The term commentary, as used in this context, covers a wide and disparate range of generic possibilities, including full-scale commentaries, in which theoretical prologues, proems to each canto of the Comedy, and textual glosses of individual words, phrases, or lines are combined to form an organic whole; sets of individual glosses (chiose), either discontinuous or in connected prose; and a variety of paraphrases, summaries, introductions, biographies, and other prolegomena—not infrequently in verse—which flourish on the margins of commentary proper (especially in the 1320s). New material, some of it substantial, continues to come to light.3 Commentators wrote in Italian and Latin, all over Italy (Naples, Milan, Bologna, Venice, Verona, Pisa) and abroad (Giovanni da Serravalle’s commentary, commissioned by two English bishops, was written during the apparently copious spare time afforded him by his participation in the Council of Constance). Even Dante’s loved and hated native city paid tribute in commentary to the poem that so ruthlessly dissects it: Giovanni Boccaccio and Filippo Villani lectured and wrote on Inferno in Florence, while the so-called Ottimo commento and the work attributed to the “Anonimo Fiorentino” almost certainly originated there as well. All the principal commentaries and most of the minor ones are now readily available to researchers through the Internet-based Dartmouth Dante Project (though in some cases the only available text is still

Reading, Writing, and Speech in Commentaries on Dante’s Comedy 19

one of the nineteenth-century editions whose inadequacy I have already mentioned).4 Although the process of collecting and identifying fourteenth- and fifteenth-century commentary material is well advanced by now—and continues to progress—little has been done so far in the direction of analyzing the Trecento and Quattrocento commentaries on their own terms, of classifying or categorizing them according to type, or, in most cases, of studying the detailed circumstances of their production and circulation.5 We lack, in other words, a sufficiently historicized understanding of the commentaries themselves, or one informed by a fully rounded sense of commentary as a genre; and, largely as a consequence, we have not yet learned to make the most fully productive use of the increasingly abundant material that philological scholarship is making available. As a first attempt at sketching a historical taxonomy of the fourteenthand fifteenth-century Comedy commentaries, I would argue that the tradition is characterized by three broadly defined phases, which together take the story of its development from the immediate aftermath of Dante’s death (and the beginning of the completed Comedy’s circulation history) in 1321 to the radical shift in methodology and interpretive assumptions heralded by the appearance of Cristoforo Landino’s commentary—not insignificantly, the first to be printed—in 1481. The dominant model for commentary on the Comedy in the first decade after Dante’s death is that of a reader of Dante’s text writing his own text for other readers (the first of whom, in most cases, may very well have been the commentator himself ). The work of the earliest generation of Dante commentators— Graziolo de’ Bambaglioli of Bologna, Dante’s own son Jacopo Alighieri, and the Bolognese Iacomo della Lana, all active between 1321 and the end of the decade—demonstrates close adherence to this model. Though they vary in their choice of language, their analytical approach, and the closeness of their treatment of different parts of the poem, what they produce are, essentially, annotations: self-contained bits of commentary that appear sporadically in relation to Dante’s continuous text, as inspired by the perceived need for interpretation or explication, and which clearly reveal, in their brevity, their specificity, and, in some manuscripts, still in their arrangement on the page, their origin as literally interlinear or marginal observations. Although Iacomo della Lana adds to



this glossatorial system the noteworthy innovation of a prefatory explication of each canto—a structure whose effectiveness and simplicity have kept it popular to this day, as modern editions continue to reveal—what the works of this founding generation have to offer is, ultimately, little more than a congeries of localized textual observation: commentary, if you will, as the apotheosis of marginalia.6 After della Lana’s commentary embarked on its ultimately very successful career (in around 1328), a period ensued in which commentators seem, by and large, to have remained content with the structural conventions which his work had enshrined. For almost half a century, while several important commentaries were produced— including the three versions of the vernacular Ottimo commento in the 1330s, the similarly triplicate Latin Commentarium of another of Dante’s sons, Pietro Alighieri, in the 1340s and 1350s, and the remarkably interesting, even controversial Latin Expositiones of the Carmelite friar Guido da Pisa, which have been variously dated between the late 1320s and the mid-1340s7— and while several less comprehensive sets of chiose were generated in various locations around the Italian peninsula, no seriously innovative attempt was made to modify the formal presentation of commentary material or, apparently, to reconsider the assumptions on which the practice of commentary was based. Readers wrote for other readers, or sometimes, as far as we can tell, chiefly or exclusively for themselves; commentary on the Comedy was an essentially private practice, an art of the study, or the cloister, or the library, in the circumstances of both its production and its consumption. All that changed in the 1370s, with the arrival on the scene of what we might call the second generation of Comedy commentators: Giovanni Boccaccio, Benvenuto da Imola, and Francesco da Buti. No closeted clerics these; not for them the tentative marginal gloss or the modest introductory paraphrase; all three enter the realm of Dante commentary as practitioners, on a large scale, of a public and essentially oratorical art: the exposition and elucidation, to not only an implied, but an actual audience, of the seemingly endless polysemy of Dante’s text. They are, in a word, lecturers, habitués of the podium rather than the writing desk; even, perhaps, in some premodern sense, “public intellectuals.” It was Boccaccio who, in a course of esposizioni of Inferno given in the Florentine church of Santo Stefano in Badia in the winter of 1373– 74 (and in-

Reading, Writing, and Speech in Commentaries on Dante’s Comedy 21

terrupted at canto 17 only by the onset of the illness that eventually killed him), invented the exegetical method known and practiced to this day as the lectura Dantis, the reading aloud of a canto of the Comedy and the reader’s interpretation thereof. Benvenuto followed him with similar lectures on the whole poem at Bologna in 1375 and at Ferrara in 1375– 76, and Buti staked his claim to commentatorial immortality in a series of lectures given at Pisa, probably in 1385, and turned into a written version over the following decade. It is their disciples and imitators—especially Benvenuto’s— who carry the tradition forward into the mid-fifteenth century, at which point it is overtaken by an intellectual revolution connected with what unrepentant nostalgia still sometimes impels me to call the Renaissance. Two things crucially distinguish this second generation of commentaries from their predecessors: their origins in public lectures and, as a corollary, their new underlying model of the commentator as a reader speaking to listeners. The extraordinarily bold self-confidence on display in all three of these commentaries, in comparison with the respectable but far less audacious critical enterprises that had preceded them, owes everything, in the end, to this shift in approach. But we, of course, as twenty-first-century students of the Trecento commentaries, are not normally in a position to appreciate the significance of this change to the full, for the obvious reason that what we know about the work of this trio of lecturing commentators is mediated for us exclusively through written versions of their texts—written versions, moreover, that are sometimes of such inordinate length and complexity as to require us to think very hard indeed about their relationship with their presumed, orally delivered, originals. It simply beggars belief that any human being could have mustered the concentration necessary to follow one of, say, Benvenuto’s subtly extended analyses from beginning to end while listening to an oral delivery of what we now possess as his commentary. And in fact we can be reasonably certain that nobody did. Benvenuto’s commentary, like several others from the Trecento (perhaps in some kind of cosmic homage to the Comedy itself?), survives in three versions. We have the final written version (as published by Lacaita in 1887); a preliminary and still unpublished draft of that version, based on the Ferrara lectures and preserved in the Florentine MS Laurenziano Ashburnhamiano 839; and, most usefully for our present purposes, a reportatio of



his Bologna lectures prepared by another hand, which was mistaken by its first modern editors for an original commentary by Stefano Talice da Ricaldone, the (fifteenth-century) copyist of the work’s unique manuscript.8 Study of the “Talice” version alongside the two later ones can often throw light not only on the relationship between these variant forms of Benvenuto’s text but also on that between oral and written discourse in the production of Trecento commentary itself. Let me take an example.9 The complex ingenuity of Benvenuto’s exegetical technique is amply displayed in his commentary on Par. 1.46– 48, as found in the final version of his text.10 At this point in Dante’s narrative, Beatrice is staring at the sun, and is therefore compared by the narrator to an eagle, the bird famous in medieval lore for the acuity of its power of sight. The commentator Benvenuto, though naturally aware of this folkloric commonplace, sets out to provide an explanation in his own terms. It rests on his basic identification of Beatrice with theology: Firstly, the eagle is a great bird, as sacred knowledge is great, and it has huge wings, a large beak, and strong claws, so that the noble eagle is queen over the other birds; and theology is above all things, for the divine rules and governs everything human. The eagle flies higher than other birds, and sees more clearly, as Beatrice alone ascends into heaven and sees God; for the inquiries of theology are the means of knowing God. Wherefore theology is called knowledge by its very nature, which is to be the end of all knowledge and its perfection; for theology itself is the goal to which all inquiry tends and in which it rests. The eagle is the only bird that is not struck by lightning (so Pliny asserts), as the laurel is the only tree; and theology, alone among the branches of knowledge, cannot be eclipsed. . . . The eagle alone can gaze upon the sun’s rays, and those of its offspring that cannot do this, it does not feed, but casts out; and so does Beatrice. . . . So we have the most noble eagle, which feeds only on the hearts of other birds, which it consumes for its nourishment; and thus this noblest of branches of knowledge alone embodies the principles of all the others.

(And so on, and on; there is at least as much verbiage again before we reach the end of Benvenuto’s explication of these three lines.) Almost

Reading, Writing, and Speech in Commentaries on Dante’s Comedy 23

baroque in the elaboration of its detail, this gloss is typical of Benvenuto at his most professorial; it positively stinks of the lamp. But we may legitimately doubt whether every word of it was really read aloud to Benvenuto’s presumably entranced audience of bolognesi. Some notion of the likely difference between the written commentary and the oral version of Benvenuto’s lecturae, and thus perhaps some indication of the challenge inherent in attempting to analyze the relationship between oral and written in the Trecento commentary tradition, can, rather, probably be arrived at by comparing it with the equivalent gloss in the “Talice” version: “And he shows this in a comparison with the eagle, which sees more clearly and flies higher than any other creature. So sacred theology is more noble than other branches of knowledge.”11 Punto e basta. There are, of course, several possible ways of interpreting the difference between “Talice” and Benvenuto on this point—and innumerable others.12 To start at one extreme of a spectrum of hypotheses, “Talice” may have faithfully recorded what a listener heard on the day (though if it is indeed a literal transcription, as opposed to a summary, of Benvenuto’s oral delivery one might think that the audience was not receiving, at least in quantitative terms, much of a return on its investment of time and attention). Or it may be that Benvenuto’s orally delivered lectures were indeed much shorter than the final version of the commentary (and may have varied significantly between Bologna and Ferrara, as Laur. Ashb. 839 would suggest), so that “Talice” offers a more or less reasonably accurate summary of the lectures as given on the day its recorder heard them, while the two later versions reflect accretions owed to Benvenuto’s further (and possibly deeper) thinking about his lectures’ subject matter. Or the lectures may have been much longer than the text of “Talice” suggests, perhaps even as long as one or other of the written versions, but the recorder of what became “Talice” may have lacked the competence, or the desire, or the flexibility in the muscles and joints of his writing hand, to have taken down everything that Benvenuto said. Or, however long or short the original lectures may have been, the recorder of “Talice” may have taken a deliberately polemical approach to Benvenuto’s text, adding or subtracting according to his own sense of what was accurate and/or important in the work of his commentatorial model. Or the “Talice” recorder and Benvenuto may—or may not—have shared conceptions of what an orally



delivered or a textually transmitted critical exercise might entail, and have adjusted their texts accordingly. Or, at the other end of our hypothetical spectrum, the recorder of “Talice” may not have heard Benvenuto’s lectures orally delivered at all but may instead have worked exclusively from a written manuscript, consciously (or otherwise) adopting the role of editor (and/or popularizer?) of Benvenuto’s lengthy and difficult original. (It has to be said that verification of this last hypothesis would blow a good deal of commentary scholarship, including this essay, out of its usually tranquil waters, not least because Paolazzi’s study provides ample evidence against it.) Because all that we know for sure about the “Talice” commentary is that it is associated with the Bologna version of Benvenuto’s lectures and that its sole surviving manuscript was copied, by the scribe whose name has recently been appropriated for it, in 1474 (long after all who heard the lectures a century before, including their putative recorder, were dead), we cannot answer any of these questions with certainty.13 In short, given the absence of probative information about either the material circumstances of the lectures’ delivery or the identity, qualifications, or intentions of the recorder of “Talice”—information of a kind that we simply do not have (as yet)—we are compelled to fall back on (hopefully well-informed) speculation and our own definitions of the plausible. And this, in fact, is ordinaria amministrazione for scholars of the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century commentaries. The way in which the texts we study are constituted by the interaction of reading, writing, and speaking is often far from easy to define, and yet in many cases some kind of definition is needed if the fullest possible understanding of what the commentaries do (and think they are doing) is ever to be achieved. My point is not that this is necessarily a bad thing, nor that it makes useful work on the commentaries impossible, still less that I myself have reached definitive conclusions that improve on my scholarly predecessors’ achievements, but simply that questions of this kind have scarcely, so far, begun to be asked—and that they urgently need to be. I have tried above to suggest (1) that a “first generation” of Dante commentators in the 1320s works with an essentially private model of the commentator as a reader writing for himself alone or for himself and other readers; (2) that that model then remains unchallenged in the field

Reading, Writing, and Speech in Commentaries on Dante’s Comedy 25

of Comedy commentary for fifty years or so; (3) that a later generation, in the 1370s and 1380s, works with an essentially public model of the commentator as a reader speaking to listeners; and (4) that traces, at least, of the different ways in which assumptions about speech and writing work themselves out in the commentary tradition can be seen to be exemplified in the relationship between the final version of Benvenuto’s commentary and the so-called Talice version. As a closing flourish, let me very rapidly hint at what I take to be a further fundamental shift in assumptions during the fifteenth century, one which produces the work of what may be thought of as the third of our three generations of Trecento and Quattrocento commentators on the Comedy. The critical models of the 1370s flourished well into the next century—in the early 1420s Serravalle, mentioned earlier, is almost slavishly dependent on Benvenuto in both form and content—but another profound methodological transformation occurs with the commentary of Cristoforo Landino, printed, as we have seen, in 1481.14 Landino’s, in fact, is the first commentary clearly conceived for the age of print; and with his work the underlying commentatorial model once again becomes that of a reader writing—but this time writing not for another individual reader (or for himself ) but for the large public readership (as opposed to listenership) that only print technology (especially in an unusually literate city like Florence) could offer. It thereby becomes a fusion, one might say, of the private model of the reading writer with the public model of the lecturing reader, so that reader, writer, and lecturer are combined not in a single, if durable (private), manuscript or in a collective, if evanescent (public), oration but in a printed text which, by virtue of its theoretically infinite capacity for mechanical reproduction, becomes capable of addressing either an individual or a multitude—and doing so without regard to limitations imposed by time and space.15 Hence the stress, in his commentary’s long theoretical preface, on the work’s explicitly civic role as, in essence, propaganda for Tuscan language and culture; hence the sponsorship he received from the city of Florence and the Medici; hence the clear signs, throughout his work, of a desire to detach, even to rescue, Dante and his poem from their historical context and the embrace of the Trecento commentators and make them available for his own public and even political purposes. With Landino, Dante commentary enters a recognizably modern world.



The fourteenth- and fifteenth-century commentators remain our best, because most tangible, source for ascertaining what early readers of the Comedy thought they were doing as they read it, and for the assumptions and preconceptions that they brought with them to the experience of reading Dante’s poem. Of course in each case these are conditioned by individual and often irrecoverable quirks of preparation and circumstance, which so affect their interpretations that no single commentator can plausibly be taken as normative; and the commentators as a group are obviously slanted toward a particular point in the sociocultural hierarchy: all male, all educated, all members of the learned professions (clergy, jurists, notaries, public officials), all demonstrably or presumably Latinate. But, even so, the Trecento and Quattrocento commentaries on Dante’s Comedy offer a rare opportunity to document readerly response, on a relatively large scale, to a text recognized by its own medieval audience as unusually challenging and prestigious; and the sixteen or so major commentaries—which I would define as those that provide not only annotation of the Comedy but also a prefatory statement of the theoretical assumptions underlying their annotation16—open a window onto ways of thinking about the poem in the first stage of its reception history that were surely not confined to this group of individuals alone, and that therefore continue to have both historical and interpretive value for contemporary students of the masterpiece that is the object of their loving, if sometimes quirkily inflected, attention.

N  I have given versions of this essay on several occasions in recent years, and I would like to thank my audiences, for helping me sharpen my thinking, and my hosts, for their generous welcomes. Thanks are therefore due to all those connected with the conference “The Culture of the Book,” University of California, Berkeley, April 2002 (especially David Hult); the annual meeting of the Illinois Medieval Association, Chicago, February 2003 (Bill Fahrenbach); the conference “The Dante Commentary Tradition: Critical Discourse in the Making,” University of Manchester, April 2005 (Paola Nasti and Claudia Rossignoli); the Department of Italian Colloquium, University College Dublin, National University of Ireland, April 2005 (John C. Barnes); and the Colloquium on Medieval Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, February 2006 (Edward English).

Reading, Writing, and Speech in Commentaries on Dante’s Comedy 27

1. The best starting point for work on the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century commentaries is now Saverio Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi: L’esegesi della “Commedia” da Iacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olschki, 2004). A short synthetic introduction for the English-speaking reader is available in Steven Botterill, “The Trecento Commentaries on Dante’s Commedia,” in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, 2: The Middle Ages, ed. A. J. Minnis and I. Johnson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 590– 611. B. Sandkühler, Die frühen Dantekommentare und ihr Verhältnis zur mittelalterlichen Kommentartradition (Munich: Hüber, 1967), broke new ground in its time and retains much of its value. 2. On the study of the commentaries in the twentieth century, see Bellomo, Dizionario, 9–11. 3. The most substantial recent discovery has been that of the work of Guglielmo Maramauro, on which see Z. Barański, “‘Li infrascripti libri’: Guglielmo Maramauro, l’auctoritas, e la ‘lettura’ di Dante nel Trecento,” in “Chiosar con altro testo”: Leggere Dante nel Trecento (Florence: Cadmo, 2001), 117– 52. More recent still is a series of publications by Massimo Seriacopi that restore previously unknown or unpublished manuscript glosses to circulation: Intorno a Dante (Florence: Chiari, 2004); Graziolo dei Bambaglioli sull’“Inferno” di Dante (Reggello: FirenzeLibri, 2005); Fortuna di Dante Alighieri (Reggello: FirenzeLibri, 2005). A variety of anonymous glosses have also been partially published in recent years (Palatine, Filippine, Ambrosiane, but also Laurenziane and Latine). These glosses enhance our comprehension of the mechanism that governs what is here identified as the first phase of commentary production. 4. Most of this paragraph is condensed from my article in the Cambridge History of Literary Criticism (see n. 1 above), to which I refer, in the first instance, the reader interested in more detail. 5. Exceptions include those few commentators to whom close critical and biographical attention has been paid, chief among them Giovanni Boccaccio (for obvious reasons) and Benvenuto da Imola, on whom Bellomo, Dizionario, 157– 62, provides an exhaustive bibliography. But see at least L. M. La Favia, Benvenuto Rambaldi da Imola: Dantista (Madrid: Porrúa Taranzas, 1977); C. Paolazzi, “Le letture dantesche di Benvenuto da Imola a Bologna e a Ferrara e le redazioni del suo Comentum,” in Dante e la “Comedìa” nel Trecento (Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 1989), 223– 76; G. C. Alessio, “Sul Comentum di Benvenuto da Imola,” Letture classensi 28 (1999): 73– 94; G. C. Alessio, “Un’edizione sconosciuta del Comentum di Benvenuto da Imola,” Rivista di studi danteschi 7, no. 1 (2007): 162– 76; and Z. G. Barański, “Benvenuto da Imola e la tradizione dantesca della comedìa” and “Boccaccio, Benvenuto, e il sogno della madre di Dante incinta,” in “Chiosar con altro testo,” 77– 97 and 99–116, respectively; and Paolo Pasquino, “Per l’edizione delle ‘Lecturae’ dantesche di Benvenuto da Imola,” Rivista di studi danteschi 6, no. 1 (2006): 25– 51. Some of the more detailed entries on individual



commentators in the Enciclopedia dantesca (most of them by either Francesco Mazzoni or one of his students) do take at least preliminary steps in this direction, reinforced more recently by the equivalent entries in The Dante Encyclopedia, ed. R. Lansing (New York: Garland, 2000). 6. For factual information about all the commentaries mentioned in this and the succeeding paragraphs, I again refer the reader to Bellomo and to my article in the Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. 7. Bellomo, Dizionario, 268– 80, argues convincingly that there are two redactions of Guido’s Expositiones, one prepared before 1333, the other between 1335 and 1340. This Solomonic judgment would certainly help to settle the quarrel between the partisans of Vincenzo Cioffari’s dating to the late 1320s and Francesco Mazzoni’s to 1343– 50. For the former, see Vincenzo Cioffari, “Guido da Pisa,” in The Dante Encyclopedia, 463– 64, and Guido da Pisa’s “Expositiones et Glose super Comediam Dantis” or “Commentary on Dante’s ‘Inferno,’” ed. V. Cioffari (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1974); for the latter, F. Mazzoni, “Guido da Pisa interprete di Dante e la sua fortuna presso il Boccaccio,” Studi danteschi 35 (1958): 20–128, and “Guido da Pisa,” in Enciclopedia dantesca, 6 vols. (Rome: Treccani, 1970 – 79), 3 (1971): 325 – 28. On Guido da Pisa, see P. Locatin, “Una prima redazione del commento all’‘Inferno’ di Guido da Pisa e la sua fortuna (il ms. Laur. 40.2),” Rivista di studi danteschi 1, no. 1 (2001): 30– 74; F. Franceschini, “Per la datazione fra il 1335 e il 1340 delle ‘Expositiones et Glose’ di Guido da Pisa (con documenti su Lucano Spinola),” Rivista di studi danteschi 2, no. 1 (2002): 64–103. 8. Benvenuto da Imola, Comentum super Dantis Aldigherij Comoediam, ed. J. P. [G. F.] Lacaita, 5 vols. (Florence: Barbèra, 1887). For the relationship between Benvenuto and “Talice,” see the relevant entries in the Enciclopedia dantesca and two articles by Michele Barbi, “Benvenuto da Imola e non Stefano Talice da Ricaldone,” in Problemi di critica dantesca: Prima serie (Florence: Sansoni, 1934), 429– 53; and “La lettura di Benvenuto da Imola e i suoi rapporti con altri commenti,” in Problemi di critica dantesca: Seconda serie (Florence: Sansoni, 1941), 435– 70. 9. I have used this same example, for somewhat different purposes, in my article in the Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, 605– 6, from which I also recycle some phrasing here. 10. Benvenuto, Comentum, 4:312–13. 11. La “Commedia” di Dante Alighieri col commento inedito di Stefano Talice da Ricaldone, ed. V. Promis and C. Negroni, 3 vols. (Milan: Hoepli, 1888), 3:10. 12. Drastic curtailment, be it noted, is not the only way in which they differ: “Talice” sometimes includes, for example, factual or informational material not found in Benvenuto, resulting in a version that, at particular points, is longer or more detailed than Benvenuto’s.

Reading, Writing, and Speech in Commentaries on Dante’s Comedy 29

13. On “Talice,” see Bellomo, Dizionario, 380. 14. On Landino as a Dantist, see S. Gilson, Dante and Renaissance Florence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 163– 230; and D. Parker, Commentary and Ideology: Dante in the Renaissance (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993). There is now, at last, a modern critical edition of his commentary: Cristoforo Landino, Comento sopra la “Comedia,” ed. P. Procaccioli, 4 vols. (Rome: Salerno, 2001). 15. It might be argued that this is no less true of a text copied by hand— that there too the theoretical possibility of infinite reproduction exists, albeit perhaps at a slower rate. My claim would be, however, that manuscript culture did not consciously entertain this possibility and that print culture—arguably—did. 16. By this definition, at least the following commentaries, for all that they vary considerably in length and intellectual stature, could be classified as “major”: those of Jacopo Alighieri, Graziolo de’ Bambaglioli, Jacopo della Lana, Guido da Pisa, the Ottimo commento (three versions), Pietro Alighieri (three versions), Giovanni Boccaccio, “Stefano Talice da Ricaldone,” Benvenuto da Imola, Francesco da Buti, Filippo Villani, and Giovanni da Serravalle.

  


Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators: “bella menzogna” to “roza corteccia”  

While we may agree that “one of the basic functions of allegory is to make literary documents relevant,” we can also see that another of its functions is, at times, to render them partly irrelevant, at least with regard to their literal meaning.1 This essay follows from the paper I originally delivered at the conference in Manchester, which examined some of the responses of Dante’s early commentators when their author appears to make a mistake.2 Although notionally limited to Trecento commentaries, that paper included a comment by Filippo Villani on Inf. 1.70, in which he had recourse to allegorical interpretation of a quite specific statement by Dante in order to avoid the problem of a factual error at the literal level.3 Among the Trecento commentators’ explanations of this verse, Villani’s was the most direct example of switching to an allegorical mode of 30

Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators 31

reading in order to resolve a problem at the literal level. Here I consider some allegorical readings proposed by some of the early commentators on the Comedy which seem to be for the purpose of avoiding problematic literal readings and consider their treatment of the literal sense. First, I would like to touch on some relevant points in the history of allegory. Avoidance of the literal meaning is found as a motive for allegorical interpretation at the very origins of its history. A well-known explanation of the actual term ἀλληγορία is given in Plutarch’s Moralia (19E), where he explains that the practice of such interpretation, or “distortion” as he puts it, previously went by the name ὑπόνοια.4 As Plutarch attests, the basic concept is older than the term used by his time and which continues into the present. The earlier term ὑπόνοια, which can mean “under meanings” or “hidden meanings,” is used by Plato, who is critical of some of the allegorical interpretations of Homer offered by teachers often characterized as Sophists.5 The opening words of a much later response to Plato by Heraclitus (ca. .. 100) have a very familiar ring for readers of Pietro Alighieri’s commentary on Dante: “If he meant nothing allegorically, he was impious through and through, and sacrilegious fables, loaded with blasphemous folly, run riot through both epics.”6 The term allegoria was initially used in a rhetorical context, taking in many other sorts of “under meaning,” or “other meaning,” such as riddles, enigmas, and irony. The much-quoted definition from Isidore of Seville, “allegoria est alieniloquium. Aliud enim sonat, et aliud intellegitur” (Allegory is “other-speech” for it literally says one thing and another thing is understood), is actually located in the first book of his Etymologies, which deals mainly with grammar.7 In book 1, the definition of allegoria is found in chapter 37, on tropes, and is placed in the list between “hyperbole” (21) and “ironia” (23), so that for Isidore (in the Etymologies at least) it is classified primarily as a figure of speech.8 Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria, Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia —— [The letter teaches what happened, the allegory what to believe, the moral sense what to do, the anagogical what to strive for.]



This well-known aide-mémoire, found in a number of exegetical and theological texts in the Middle Ages, provides a succinct description of the allegorical approach to the reading of scripture known widely as fourfold allegory.9 Although Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla on the letter to the Galatians, written in 1330, had been cited as the source, Henri de Lubac traced this particular formulation back to Augustine of Dacia, a Dominican who published a simple guide to theology around 1260, the Rotulus pugillaris.10 De Lubac goes on to trace the ideas contained in the lines back through a series of patristic writers to John Cassian in the fourth–fifth century. Writing on the subject of spiritual knowledge (“de spiritali scientia”) in his Collationes (XIV 8), Cassian gives an explanation of the four senses, first dividing them in two, the literal, which he calls the “historicam interpretationem,” and then the spiritual, which is the “intelligentiam spiritalem.” The spiritual is then further divided into three types of knowledge: “scientiae genera, tropologia, allegoria, anagoge.”11 Despite the popularity and the formulaic appearance of the verses, we should note that their application as a method was not always methodical, clear, or consistent.12 The allegorical sense is sometimes described as the mystical or the spiritual sense, sometimes the moral and anagogical appear to be included in a more general category called allegorical, and the allegorical and anagogical are often interchangeable and difficult to distinguish, as are the literal and the historical.13 A recurrent concern in the allegorical interpretation of scripture from the patristic period through to the Middle Ages is the tension between the literal and the spiritual, or allegorical, meaning. There is no space here for a lengthy account, but this verse from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is indicative of one approach to the literal sense: “littera enim occidit Spiritus autem vivificat” (For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life) (2 Cor. 3:6). Augustine tells us that he heard Ambrose quote this verse many times in his sermons, in which he would open up the spiritual meaning of passages of scripture which seemed perverse when read literally: Saepe in popolaribus sermonibus suis dicentem Ambrosium laetus audiebam, “littera occidit, spiritus autem vivificat,” cum ea quae ad litteram perversitatem docere videbantur, remoto mystico velamento spiritaliter aperiret. ——

Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators 33

[I was pleased to hear that in his sermons to the people Ambrose often repeated the text: “The written law inflicts death whereas the spiritual law brings life.” And when he lifted the veil of mystery and disclosed the spiritual meaning of texts which, taken literally, appeared to contain the most unlikely doctrines, I was not aggrieved by what he said, although I did not yet know whether it was true.]14

This is only part of the verse in Paul’s letter, but it is this part which is widely quoted by the early church fathers, including Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great.15 This idea of a relationship between letter and meaning sometimes described as being akin to the relationship between body and soul runs through much patristic writing on scripture, and it is easy to see how the literal sense starts to be of secondary importance, even possibly hindering the proper understanding of scripture. The letter becomes a covering (integumentum), or the husk around a seed, or the bark on a tree, or the shell of a nut, so that this “other” hidden, internal meaning is privileged. One obvious conclusion of this line of thought is the devaluing of the literal sense to the point where it might be discarded, ignored, or even destroyed. While the allegorical interpretation of secular pagan texts in the Christian period may be regarded as throwing them a sort of lifeline, it also places their literal sense in a precarious position. The allegorizing of Virgil’s Aeneid by Fulgentius and then Bernardus Silvestris is a very clear example of the infusion of a pagan text with a spiritual meaning beyond the mere letter. This becomes the discovery of a spiritual meaning through the so-called allegory of the poets, a meaning clearly not in the mind of the author but claimed to be by the allegorizer.16 Although the practitioners of “allegoresis” usually regard themselves as seeking out the true meaning contained within the text, their activity might equally be seen as an attempt to add something of greater value to the letter of the text, and by extension an admission that the literal sense is, of itself, already judged to be insufficient. The short commentary on Statius’s Thebaid attributed to Fulgentius begins with this observation: Non incommune carmina poetarum nuci comparabilia videntur; in nuce enim duo sunt, testa et nucleus, sic in carminibus poeticis duo, sensus litteralis et misticus; latet nucleus sub testa: latet sub sensu litterali mistica intelligentia; ut habeas nucleum, frangenda est testa: ut figurae pateant,



quatienda est littera; testa insipida est, nucleus saporem gustanti reddit: similiter non littera sed figura palato intelligentiae sapit. diligit puer nucem integram ad ludum, sapiens autem et adultus frangit ad gustum; similiter si puer es, habes sensum litteralem integrum nullaque subtili expositione pressum in quo oblecteris, si adultus es, frangenda est littera et nucleus litterae eliciendus, cuius gustu reficiaris. —— [The verses of poets are not uncommonly seen as comparable to a nut; for as there are two parts in the nut, the shell and the kernel, so are there two in poetic verses, the literal and the mystical sense; the kernel is hidden under the shell, and the mystical understanding is hidden under the literal sense. The shell must be broken for you to have the kernel; and the letter must be shattered for the figurative meaning to be opened. The shell has no taste, but the kernel gives flavour: likewise it is not the letter but the figurative meaning that provides flavour to the palate of understanding. The child loves to play with the whole nut, but the wise and mature person breaks it in order to taste it. Similarly, if you are a child, you have the literal sense intact and free from any subtle exposition so that you can delight in it. If you are an adult the letter must be broken and the kernel of the letter taken out so that you are refreshed by its taste.]17

This proposes nothing less than the destruction of the “shell” of the letter in order to get to the “nut” of the “mystical” sense. This is a very clear indication of the vulnerability of the literal sense in a pagan text which is undergoing Christian interpretive rehabilitation.18 As we might expect, the case of scripture is different; however, this fascinating comment by Jerome uses precisely the same metaphor: “totum quod legimus in divinis Libris, nitet quidem, et fulget etiam in cortice, sed dulcius in medulla est. Qui edere vult nucleum, frangat nucem” (All that we read in the divine Books shines, and is bright even in the shell, but sweeter inside. Let whoever wants to eat the kernel, break the nutshell).19 In fact what Jerome is urging here is an appreciation rather than a disregard for the literal sense of scripture, although the primacy of the allegorical is maintained and a similar, rather destructive metaphor used. It is interesting, in view of Jerome’s own anxieties about his aesthetic preference for pagan literature, to note that even here he cannot avoid echoing a verse from Plautus.20

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Dante’s own views on, or use of, allegory are not for discussion here, but there are two specific points I would like to recall. In Monarchia, 3.iv.6– 7, he reminds his readers of the limits of what he there calls “mystical” interpretation, normally understood to refer to allegorical interpretation, and he quotes Augustine’s De civitate dei, XVI.2, in support.21 In Convivio, 2.1.1–12, Dante famously discusses the four senses, the allegory of theologians, and the bella menzogna of poets. The tantalizing and frustrating lacuna at Conv., 2.1.3, leaves us without Dante’s direct explanation of the literal sense. Instead it is the indirect reference to the literal in the treatment of the allegorical which has become so widely known and discussed: E a ciò dare a intendere, si vuol sapere che le scritture si possono intendere e deonsi esponere massimamente per quattro sensi. L’uno si chiama litterale, e questo è quello che [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . L’altro si chiama allegorico, e questo è quello che] si nasconde sotto ’l manto di queste favole, ed è una veritade ascosa sotto bella menzogna.22 —— [To convey what this means, it is necessary to know that writings can be understood and ought to be expounded principally in four senses. The first is called the literal, and this is the sense that [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The next is called the allegorical, and this is the one that] is hidden beneath the cloak of these fables, and is a truth hidden beneath a beautiful fiction.]23

He then goes on to stress the fundamental importance of the literal sense: Onde con ciò sia cosa che nelle scritture [la litterale sentenza] sia sempre lo di fuori, impossibile è venire all’altre, massimamente all’allegorica, sanza prima venire alla litterale. . . . Onde, con ciò sia cosa che ‘l dimostrare sia edificazione di scienza, e la litterale dimostrazione sia fondamento dell’altre, massimamente dell’allegorica, impossibile è [al]l’altre venire prima che a quella.24 ——



[Consequently, since in what is written down the literal meaning is always the outside, it is impossible to arrive at the other senses, especially the allegorical, without first arriving at the literal. . . . Consequently, since explication is the building up of knowledge, and the explication of the literal sense is the foundation of the others, especially of the allegorical, it is impossible to arrive at the other senses without first arriving at it.]25

With these Dantean caveats in mind, we can see that Filippo Villani, in trying to extricate his author from a factual, historical error, has himself perhaps committed a greater error in his utilization of allegory simply to avoid an uncomfortable acknowledgment of Dante’s fallibility. This is his comment on Virgil’s statement that he was born “sub Iulio” (Inf. 1.70): Sanctus Gregorius in Moralibus dicit quod quoties licteralis intentio substineri non potest, quod tunc ad allegoricum sensum decurrendum est. Hoc vere ad licteram sustineri non potest, ut vides, licet quidam voluerit quod per idem tempus, quo predicti consulatum tenebant, Iulio Cesari utramque Galliam senatusconsulto fore decretam et, ut sic, natum fore sub Cesare. (Expositio, 269– 70) —— [Saint Gregory says in the Moralia that whenever the literal meaning cannot be sustained, then one must have recourse to the allegorical sense. This, in fact, cannot be sustained at the literal level, as you can see, although someone would have it that at the same time as the men mentioned above (Crassus and Pompey) held the consulship, both Gauls had been given to Julius Caesar by decree of the senate, and thus he (Virgil) was born under Caesar’s rule.]

I would suggest that the quotation from Gregory is indicative of Villani’s own discomfort with the solution he has chosen in order to resolve the difficulty. In fact he has already provided, earlier in his commentary, a lengthy and detailed explanation of allegory and of the method he intends to use.26 There should, therefore, have been no need to discuss the matter again, except that in this case he is faced with a very simple literal statement that is causing him a problem that he wishes to avoid. He could have done so in other ways, and his choice of allegory

Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators 37

here may indicate a rather literal understanding of the literal sense.27 The section from Gregory’s Moralia which Villani appeals to runs as follows in the original: Aliquando vero exponere aperta historiae verba neglegimus, ne tardius ad obscura veniamus: aliquando autem intellegi iuxta litteram nequeunt, quia superficie tenus accepta nequaquam instructionem legentibus, sed errorem gignunt. . . . Aliquando etiam, ne fortasse intellegi iuxta litteram debeant, ipsa se verba litterae impugnant. —— [Sometimes, indeed, we neglect to explain the plain words of the account, in order not to arrive at the hidden meaning too late; sometimes, however, they cannot be understood according to the letter, because taken according to the surface, they produce, not instruction, but error for readers. . . . And sometimes, in case perhaps they should be understood according to the letter, the very words of the letter oppose that.]28

Gregory is permissive, but the types of errors that concern him relate to morality and orthodoxy rather than the sort of simple, factual mistake that troubled Villani. Furthermore, allegorical interpretation has its limits, as Gregory goes on to clarify: Aliquando autem qui verba accipere historiae juxta litteram negligit, oblatum sibi veritatis lumen abscondit; cumque laboriose invenire in eis aliud intrinsecus appetit, hoc quod foris sine difficultate assequi poterat, amittit. . . . Quae videlicet si ad allegoriae sensum violenter inflectimus, cuncta ejus misericordiae facta vacuamus. —— [Sometimes, however, whoever chooses not to accept the words of the account according to the letter, conceals the light of truth that has been shown to him; and when he laboriously strives to find something different inside them he loses what he could easily have obtained on the outside. . . . Clearly, if we violently bend these words towards the allegorical sense, we make all his acts of mercy empty.]29

We can see then that a complete distortion of the literal sense is cautioned against.



Thomas Aquinas provides a fuller defense of the validity of the literal sense some centuries later when he addresses directly the matter of the different senses of scripture. In fact, he prefaces his response to the questions by citing another section of Gregory’s Moralia which states that scripture transcends all other branches of knowledge in its expression, at once narrating an event and revealing a mystery. Aquinas follows the same pattern of an initial division into the literal and the spiritual meaning, before subdividing the spiritual into the three senses we have seen above: Respondeo dicendum quod auctor sacrae Scripturae est Deus, in cuius potestate est ut non solum voces ad significandum accommodet (quod etiam homo facere potest), sed etiam res ipsas. Et ideo, cum in omnibus scientiis voces significent, hoc habet proprium ista scientia, quod ipsae res significatae per voces, etiam significant aliquid. Illa ergo prima significatio, qua voces significant res, pertinet ad primum sensum, qui est sensus historicus vel litteralis. Illa vero significatio qua res significatae per voces, iterum res alias significant, dicitur sensus spiritualis; qui super litteralem fundatur, et eum supponit. Hic autem sensus spiritualis trifariam dividitur. —— [I answer that, the author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves. So, whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science has the property, that the things signified by the words have themselves also a signification. Therefore that first signification whereby words signify things belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal. That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal, and presupposes it. Now this spiritual sense has a threefold division.]30

He goes on to say that there are other senses which are dependent on, and fall within, the literal sense too: “Ad secundum dicendum quod illa tria, historia, aetiologia, analogia, ad unum litteralem sensum pertinent” (Reply to Objection 2. These three—history, etiology, analogy— are grouped under the literal sense).31 And he notes that the literal sense includes what he describes as the parabolical sense, by which he means figurative language as well as direct description and narration:

Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators 39

Ad tertium dicendum quod sensus parabolicus sub litterali continetur, nam per voces significatur aliquid proprie, et aliquid figurative; nec est litteralis sensus ipsa figura, sed id quod est figuratum. Non enim cum Scriptura nominat Dei brachium, est litteralis sensus quod in Deo sit membrum huiusmodi corporale, sed id quod per hoc membrum significatur, scilicet virtus operativa. In quo patet quod sensui litterali sacrae Scripturae nunquam potest subesse falsum. —— [Reply to Objection 3. The parabolical sense is contained in the literal, for by words things are signified properly and figuratively. Nor is the figure itself, but that which is figured, the literal sense. When Scripture speaks of God’s arm, the literal sense is not that God has such a member, but only what is signified by this member, namely operative power. Hence it is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Writ.]32

The short excerpts that we have looked at so far are concerned specifically with the interpretation of sacred scripture rather than any sort of text. Aquinas states very clearly that the text he is speaking of is divinely authored and therefore unique, an approach shared by Gregory, Augustine, and Ambrose, among others. Thus the use of allegorical interpretation is characterized as an attempt always to discover the true meaning of the author’s text, supremely important in this case since the author is God. However, Aquinas’s more developed understanding of the figurative and metaphorical possibilities of the literal sense is a significant step in the regulation of allegorical interpretation.33 More serious than the problem of factual inaccuracy which faced Villani is the issue of Dante’s orthodoxy for more literal readers of the literal sense.34 Despite the possible solution to such questions offered by Aquinas’s distinctions within the literal sense, some of Dante’s commentators still appear to prefer an allegorizing approach to that problem. Graziolo Bambaglioli’s Latin commentary on the Inferno of 1324 shows a particular sensitivity to any charge of unorthodoxy which might be leveled against Dante’s poem, and not without reason. Some five years later Guido Vernani’s attack on Dante’s Monarchia was ominously dedicated to Bambaglioli, then embroiled in religious rivalry and controversy which would culminate in exile.35 Although Bambaglioli does not use the term allegoria to describe his comments, we do find the expression “aliam



significationem” used in juxtaposition to “licteram.”36 His concern for Dante’s orthodoxy comes to the fore at two points in his commentary. The first is in Inf. 13.103– 8, where Pier delle Vigne explains that the suicides will return to the forest with their bodies after the Last Judgment. Bambaglioli is unequivocal: “sed quamvis hec verba sic sint ab auctore descripta, nichilominus teneo quod aliud scriptum fuerit et alia fuerit auctoris intenctio” (but although these words are written down in this way by the author, nevertheless, I maintain that what was written is one thing, and what was the author’s intention is something else). He goes on to explain the reason for severity of the punishment for suicide: according to scripture it is a sin of despair and therefore excluded from divine mercy and forgiveness. For this reason Dante sets out here to frighten and warn his readers about the gravity of this particular sin. The comment concludes with a firm declaration in defense of Dante’s orthodox Catholicism: “credo autem auctorem prefatum, tamquam fidelem captolicum et omni prudentia et scientia clarum, suo tenuisse iudicio quod Ecclesia santa tenet videlicet” (I believe, however, that our author, as a faithful Catholic and renowned for his prudence and knowledge, clearly held in his judgement what the holy Church holds).37 As an alternative allegorical reading this falls a little short, since the commentary does not actually elucidate the allegorical sense. However, the distinction drawn between the letter and the author’s intention, which is subsequently privileged to the extent that the “verba” no longer mean what they say, fits with allegorical interpretive practice. The second example is in the zone of Tolomea, in Inf. 33, and concerns the idea that some souls are sent to hell before their death, so grave is their sin. Again, Bambaglioli is very direct: “sed quamvis hec ita scripta sint, tamen simpliciter non sunt vera, quia falsum est, et contra naturam et fidem” (but although these [words] have been written thus, they are plainly not true, since this is false, and against nature and faith). There then follows an explanation: Hec siquidem sunt figurative ab auctore descripta; nam hoc nichil aliud significat vel figurat nisi quod tanta est gravitas prodicionis et proditoris, quod statim ex peccati pondere pena sequitur et sequi deberet auctorem suum. ——

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[So these have been written figuratively by the author; for this can mean or represent nothing other than the idea that the seriousness of betrayal and being a traitor is such, that from the weight of this sin punishment follows immediately and must fall upon its perpetrator.]38

The term figurare is used by Bambaglioli for allegorical representation, in particular for simple personification-type allegory, so the sense is clear and the motive explicit. A sustained allegorical approach is found in the commentaries by Dante’s sons. Jacopo Alighieri’s commentary is regarded rather unfavorably by more recent critics on account of its relatively unsophisticated personification allegory, including the charge that it is the original source of the Virgil– human reason equation.39 Saverio Bellomo identifies a precise motive for the use of allegorical interpretation by the early commentators.40 He cites the well-known story from Boccaccio of the women in Verona who literally believed (according to the story) that Dante made the journey to Hell as evidence that precisely such a literal, actual reading of the Comedy was eminently possible in that historical and cultural context. Dante’s poem described a journey to places which really existed for his contemporaries. Bellomo suggests that the promotion of allegorical readings by early commentators was intended to lift the poem beyond this most basic reading level—the literal—and demonstrate that it contained “real truth,” and a real truth available to the initiated only, those of “’ntelletti sani” (Inf. 9.61– 63). The exaltation of the text is a very plausible motive for an allegorizing agenda in the commentaries, especially those of Dante’s sons. However, in the case of Pietro a sustained allegorical reading might, in addition, be described as one long single act of avoidance, as this famous statement from the second redaction of his commentary makes clear: “Nam quis sani intellectus crederet ipsum ita descendisse, et talia vidisse, nisi cum distinctione dictorum modorum loquendi ad figuram?” (For who of sane mind would believe that he made such a descent, and saw such things, unless with the distinction of the modes of figurative speech?).41 Having adopted the method of fourfold allegory, Pietro still has the problem of dealing with a literal sense which he does not wish to be read also as historical. He addresses this by going on to explain that the literal sense may also use metaphorical language, and chooses to give the example of the arm of



God (Isa. 51:9), precisely that given by Aquinas at the conclusion of the question from the Summa. Although the statement quoted above disappears from the third and final version of Pietro’s commentary, much in the same vein is his comment on the passage in Inf. 33 which so vexed Bambaglioli. Pietro is equally concerned, and having described the problem, namely, that souls cannot die before their bodies, he introduces his allegorical explanation thus: “Quare, obmissa cortice dictorum verborum et superficie, veniamus ad medullam, idest ad intentionem veram auctoris” (Wherefore, having removed the rind and the surface of the words in question, we arrive at the kernel, that is, at the true intention of the author).42 We can see the fundamental principle that the allegorical sense reflects the author’s true mind, and note the use of the usual metaphors associated with allegorical interpretation (“cortice,” “medullam”). Boccaccio too uses these metaphors. As might be expected, the term corteccia is used regularly in his Esposizioni, but it is also found in the Trattatello, with some slight changes that bear further examination. His story of Dino Lambertuccio’s identification of the first seven cantos of the Inferno states: Li quali veggendo Dino, uomo d’alto intelletto, non meno che colui che portati gliele avea, si maravigliò sì per lo bello e pulito e ornato stile del dire, sì per la profondità del senso, il quale sotto la bella corteccia delle parole gli pareva sentire nascoso.43 —— [When Dino saw them, being a man of great intellect, he marvelled no less than he who had brought them to him, both at the beautiful and polished and ornate style of speech, and at the depth of the meaning which he seemed to see hidden under the beautiful bark of the words.]44

The second redaction adjusts the text slightly, to read: Li quali avendo veduti Dino, e maravigliatosi sì per lo bello e pulito stilo del dire, sì per la profondità del senso, il quale sotto la ornata corteccia delle parole gli pareva sentire, senza fallo quegli essere opera di Dante imaginò.45 ——

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[When Dino saw them, he was amazed by both the beautiful and elegant style of the language, and the depth of meaning, which he thought could be understood under the ornate bark of the words, and without hesitation he supposed that they were the work of Dante.]

So the literal sense, while still simply a barklike covering (corteccia) over the allegorical “profondità del senso” (depth of meaning) is, nevertheless, “bella” and then “ornata.” This then changes in the Esposizioni. The first “esposizione allegorica” describes the process thus: Poi che, per la grazia di Dio, è quello, che secondo il senso litterale si può, dimostrato, è da tornarsi al principio di questo canto e quello che sotto la roza corteccia delle parole è nascoso, cioè il senso allegorico, aprire e dichiarare.46 —— [Now that we have, by the grace of God, expounded on what can be explained from the literal meaning, we must return to the beginning of the canto and to what is hidden beneath the rough bark of the text, that is, the allegorical meaning, in order to explain it and make it clear.]47

The literal level of the text has now gone from “bella” to “roza corteccia” (rough bark). Like Bambaglioli and Pietro, Boccaccio is concerned with the reputation for orthodoxy of his author, and goes on to state: “Fu adunque il nostro poeta, sì come gli altri poeti sono, nasconditore, come si vede, di così cara gioia, come è la catolica verità, sotto la volgare corteccia del suo poema” (We can clearly see, then, that our poet, like other poets, concealed the precious jewel that is Catholic truth beneath the rough bark of his poem).48 There are a number of points of interest here. Boccaccio is clearly linking allegory and poetry, and situating orthodoxy and truth in the hidden, allegorical sense, while the letter of Dante’s poetry is reduced to a “corteccia,” which, even if the term is somewhat formulaic, is then further qualified as “roza” and “volgare.” This distinction between the two senses is also explicit in the structure of Boccaccio’s commentary, divided into the “esposizione litterale” and “esposizione allegorica” for each canto.49 There is some unevenness in these treatments, and it has been suggested



that the commentary was left unfinished not solely due to Boccaccio’s ill health, but because of criticisms leveled at him, in particular, for having opened up Dante’s poem to the “vulgo” (common people).50 We can see then that the description “volgare corteccia” has additional resonance. It is not surprising that Dante’s early commentators sometimes turn with a certain ease to allegorical interpretation as a means of avoiding difficulties in the letter of his text. They have behind them a whole tradition of doing so, and not only in dealing with pagan, secular texts, but sacred scripture as well. It is not surprising either that they should employ the metaphorical language and imagery we have seen, since this too is such an established part of the tradition of allegorical interpretation that it would come naturally. Allegorical interpretation not only offers a way around problematic literal statements; it also raises the status of Dante’s poem. However, the tension between their praise of the artistic merits of their author, including his own recognition of the “bella menzogna” of the poets, a praise which must rest on the letter, and their reduction of the literal level of his text to a “roza corteccia,” appears to go unnoticed by these first commentators.

N  1. The quotation is from M. Bloomfield, “Allegory as Interpretation,” New Literary History 3 (1972): 301–17 (301). 2. Now R. Wilson, “‘Quandoque bonus dormitat Dantes’? The Treatment of Dante’s Errors in the Trecento Commentaries,” Rassegna europea di letteratura italiana 29– 30 (2007): 141– 56. I would like to thank the editors of this volume for suggesting the inclusion of the present essay. Unless otherwise indicated translations from Latin are mine. 3. “Ultimo dei commentatori trecenteschi” (Last of the fourteenthcentury commentators) is how Saverio Bellomo describes Villani in the introduction to his critical edition of the text: Filippo Villani, Expositio seu comentum super “Comedia” Dantis Allegherii, ed. S. Bellomo (Florence: Le Lettere, 1989), 21. 4. “By forcibly distorting these stories through what used to be termed ‘deeper meanings’, but are nowadays called ‘allegorical interpretations’ (ταῖς πάλαι μὲν ὑπονοίαις ἀλληγορίαις δὲ νῦν λεγομέναις), some persons say that the Sun is represented as giving information about Aphrodite.” Plutarch, Plutarch’s Moralia. 1, 1a– 86a, ed. and trans. F. C. Babbitt (Cambridge, MA: Har-

Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators 45

vard University Press, 1927), 101. Plutarch’s explanation is discussed by, among others, N. J. Richardson, “Homeric Professors in the Age of Sophists,” in Oxford Readings in Ancient Literary Criticism, ed. A. Laird (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 62– 86 (64– 65); P. Giannantonio, Dante e l’allegorismo (Florence: Olschki, 1969), 52. L. Brisson, in his How Philosophers Saved Myths: Allegorical Interpretation and Classical Mythology, trans. C. Tihanyi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 58– 59, notes that Plutarch only uses the term once in the Moralia, and the cognate verb twice, and lists the other terms Plutarch prefers. Brisson also provides an outline of the origins of allegory, designated by the earlier term “ὑπόνοια,” 32– 40. See too Eraclito, Questioni omeriche sulle allegorie di Omero in merito agli dèi, ed. and trans. F. Pontani (Pisa: ETS, 2005), 26– 31. A detailed account of the history of the term allegoria is provided by J. Whitman, Allegory: The Dynamics of an Ancient and Medieval Technique (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 263– 68. 5. Homeric Problems, I 1; quoted in Richardson, “Homeric Professors,” 64– 65; see too the introduction in Heraclitus, Homeric Problems, ed. and trans. D. A. Russell and D. Konstan (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005), xix– xxi. A version of this problem finds its way into Guido da Pisa’s commentary, in his comment on Inf. 4.88: “Iste Homerus, ut ait Seneca, apud Athenienses pro insano habitus est, eo quod deos inter se belligerasse diceret; et quia deos belligerasse dixit . . . sed re vera Homerus non fuit insanus, sed iuxta morem antiquorum theologorum, ipse et Plato et multi alii, in tradendo eorum philosophiam, tradiderunt sub integumentis, idest fabulis, quorum occasione multi eorum sequaces a veritate deviaverunt, licet ipsi forte bonum et sanum intellectum habuerint. Mos enim poetarum est uti fabulis et integumentis et frequenter locutionibus impropiis” (This Homer, as Seneca says, was held to be insane by the Athenians, because he said that the gods fought amongst themselves[;] . . . in truth Homer was not insane, but according to the custom of ancient theologians, he and Plato and many others, in handing down their philosophy, handed it down under coverings, that is, fables, by occasion of which many of their followers deviated from the truth, even though they happened to possess good and sound understanding. For it is the custom of poets to use fables and coverings and, often, improper expressions). Guido da Pisa’s “Expositiones et Glose super Comediam Dantis,” or “Commentary on Dante’s Inferno,” ed. V. Cioffari (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1974), 72. 6. Translation from Homeric Problems, 3. The Italian translation by Pontani is less free: “se egli non ha usato l’allegoria, ha scritto un cumulo di empietà,” Questioni omeriche, 61. Pietro is quoted below; see n. 39. 7. Isidore of Seville, Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum Sive Originum Libri XX, ed. W. M. Lindsay, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911), I, I.xxxvii.22. Translation from Isidore of Seville, The Etymologies of Isidore of



Seville, trans. with introd. and notes by S. A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach, and O. Berghof (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 63. 8. “Isidore generally avoids, in the Etymologies, providing ‘spiritual’ or ‘mystical,’ or ‘figurative,’ that is, allegorical, interpretations of the items he adduces,” is the judgment of the translators in their introduction to The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, 21. Isidore’s use of allegory in his Allegoriae Quaedam Sacrae Scripturae is discussed by P. B. Rollinson, Classical Theories of Allegory and Christian Culture (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1981), 70– 73. In fact Filippo Villani provides a version of the explanation from Isidore, including seven figures of speech under the heading of allegory, Expositio, praef. 22, 36. 9. Although A. C. Charity, Events and Their Afterlife: The Dialectics of Christian Typology in the Bible and Dante (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), 174– 75, notes no actual mention of exegetical method in the verses, Henri de Lubac’s monumental Exégèse medieval: Les quatres sens de l’écriture, 2 vols. (Paris: Aubier, 1964), remains fundamental for this subject. See too Beryl Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983), esp. 1– 36, 41– 42, 89– 95. 10. See de Lubac, Exégèse medieval, 1:23– 24; and Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, trans. M. Sebanc (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans; Edinburgh: Clark, 1998), 1. Noted also by R. Tuve, Allegorical Imagery: Some Mediaeval Books and Their Posterity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), 45– 46; A. J. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages, 2nd ed. (Aldershot: Scolar, 1988), 34. 11. John Cassian, Joannis cassiani abbatis massiliensis collationum xxiv collectio in tres partes divisa. Pars secunda, collatio decima quarta, de spiritali scientia. Caput viii, PL. v. 49. col. 0843; de Lubac, Exégèse medieval, 1:190– 95. 12. “The four senses . . . in many modern writings are more dogmatically and perseveringly applied than we find them to be by mediaeval writers.” Tuve, Allegorical Imagery, 3. 13. “It would be false to think that mediaeval readers always agreed on where the line could be drawn between these two functions we are emphasizing, for they could not always separate quid credas and quid agas.” Tuve, Allegorical Imagery, 46. With regard to Pietro Alighieri’s commentary, which manages to describe seven senses, adding three to the standard four, Robert Hollander rather candidly writes, “I must admit that I cannot judge whether Pietro is confused or whether I am.” Allegory in Dante’s Commedia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 269. Minnis describes Pietro’s discussion in the Proemio of the third recension as an analysis of the modus scribendi. See A. J. Minnis, A. B. Scott, and D. Wallace, eds., Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism, c. 1100–c. 1375: The Commentary Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 452. Steven Botterill, in his “The Trecento Commentaries on Dante’s Commedia,” in The Cambridge History

Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators 47

of Literary Criticism, 2: The Middle Ages, ed. A. J. Minnis and I. Johnson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 590– 611 (595– 96), also notes the change from four to seven senses, which then disappear from the second and third recensions of the commentary. 14. Confessions, VI 4.6. In Augustine: Confessions, ed. J. J. O’Donnell, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 1:61. O’Donnell notes that Ambrose was not strongly wedded to this approach in practice. See 2:350. Translation from Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1961), 115–16. 15. Jerome, Commentarii in librum Job, XLII, PL 26, col. 0800C; Augustine, De spiritu et littera, I.14; 17, PL 44, cols. 0215, 0328. Gregory writes: “Littera occidit, scriptum est, spiritus autem uiuificat. Sic enim littera cooperit spiritum, sicut palea tegit frumentum. Sed iumentorum est paleis uesci, hominum frumentis. Qui ergo humana ratione utitur, iumentorum paleas abiciat et frumenta spiritus edere festinet. Ad hoc quippe utilis est, ut mysteria litterae inuolucris tegantur, quatenus sapientia requisita plus sapiat. Hinc enim scriptum est: sapientes abscondunt intellegentiam: quia nimirum sub tegmine litterae spiritalis intellegentia cooperitur” (The letter kills but the spirit gives life. For the letter covers the spirit just as the husk covers the grain. But the husk is food for animals, the grain for men. So, let whoever uses human reason throw away the husks fit for animals, and hasten to eat the grain of the spirit. To this end, in fact, it is useful that the mysteries are wrapped in the covering of the letter, as knowledge which has been sought after has more flavour. Hence it is written: wise men conceal knowledge: since the spiritual meaning is truly concealed beneath the cover of the letter). In S. Gregorii Expositiones: in Canticum canticorum, in librum primum Regum, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, ed. P. Verbraken (Turnhout: Brepols, 1963), 5. D. Turner, Eros and Allegory: Medieval Exegesis of the Song of Songs (Kalamazoo, MI, and Spencer, MA: Cistercian Publications, 1995), 111, sees a neglect of the literal meaning in Gregory’s reading of the Song of Songs, influenced by Origen. See too 92–123 for a general discussion of the problem of the literal sense. On the Song of Songs in medieval exegesis, see too P. Nasti, Favole d’amore e “saver profondo”: La tradizione salomonica in Dante (Ravenna: Longo, 2007), 24– 33. On Gregory’s commentary in particular, see Gregory the Great on the Song of Songs, trans. M. Delcogliano (Minneapolis, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012). In his translation Delcogliano notes a problem in the passage quoted above, and reads “utilis” as “utile”: 111 n. 7. 16. “But this act of supplying an ulterior structure is not equivalent to imposing a value from a position outside the text: it is for this reason that Rosemond Tuve’s influential formulation ‘imposed allegory’ is inadequate to describe the workings of allegoresis. To read the text as allegorical (which is what allegoresis does) is to propose a structure of reference which is presented as anterior to



the text and from which the text is seen to emerge as if organically. While allegoresis figures itself— even modestly — as disclosure, it in fact operates as a deep recausing of the text as if from within the text. In supplying an anterior structure of reference the allegoresis radically changes the status of the text. The commentary inserts itself as the originary point of the text by exposing and rehearsing the ulterior aspect of the intentio scribentis (‘et veritatem philosophie docuit’).” R. Copeland, Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages: Academic Traditions and Vernacular Texts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 80. 17. Lactantii Placidi in Statii Thebaida commentum, Volumen 1. Anonymi In Statii Achilleida commentum. Fulgentii ut fingitur Planciadis super Thebaiden commentariolum, ed. R. D. Sweeney (Lipsiae: B. G. Teubneri, 1997), 697– 98. The passage is also quoted by A. Laird, “Figures of Allegory from Homer to Latin Epic,” in Metaphor, Allegory and the Classical Tradition: Ancient Thought and Modern Revisions, ed. G. R. Boys-Stones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 151– 75 (151– 52). Authorship is discussed by L. G. Whitbread, Fulgentius the Mythographer (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1971), 235– 36. 18. Copeland, Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages, 123– 24, discussing the slightly different situation of the Ovide moralisé, notes the problem of Ovid’s original text having no claim to historical veracity. 19. Epistula LVIII.9, in Jerome, Sancti Eusebii Hieronymi Epistulae, ed. I. Hilberg, 3 vols., Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 54– 56 (Vienna: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1996), 1:538. 20. The similarity to Plautus’s Curculio 55 is noted by Hilberg. The context is rather different, as the slave Palinurus offers amatory advice to his young master: “Qui e nuce nuculeum esse volt, frangit nucem” (whoever wants to get the kernel out breaks the nut). 21. “Hoc viso, ad meliorem huius et aliarum inferius factarum solutionum evidentiam advertendum quod circa sensum misticum dupliciter errare contingit: aut querendo ipsum ubi non est, aut accipiendo aliter quam accipi debeat. Propter primum dicit Augustinus in Civitate Dei: ‘Non sane omnia que gesta narrantur etiam significare aliquid putanda sunt, sed propter illa que aliquid significant etiam ea que nichil significant actexuntur. Solo vomere terra proscinditur; sed ut hoc fieri possit, etiam cetera aratri membra sunt necessaria’” (Once this has been grasped, then to reach a better understanding of the refutation of this point and those that follow, it must be borne in mind that one can make two kinds of error when dealing with the mystical sense: either looking for it where it does not exist, or taking it in some inadmissible way. À propos of the first of these Augustine says in the De civitate Dei: “It must not be thought that every reported event has a further meaning; but those which have no further meaning are included for the sake of those which do have such a meaning.

Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators 49

Only the ploughshare breaks up the soil, but for this to happen the other parts of the plough are necessary as well”). Text and translation in Dante Alighieri, Monarchia, ed. P. Shaw (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 108– 9; J. Pépin, Dante et la tradition de l’allégorie (Montréal: Institute d’études médiévales, 1970), 96– 97, cites this as a statement which limits the extent of allegorical interpretation. 22. Conv., 2.1.3– 4, in Dante Alighieri, Convivio, ed. F. Brambilla Ageno, 3 vols. (Florence: Le lettere, 1995), 2:65. For suggested variant readings and discussion, see Dante Alighieri, Convivio, in Opere minori, 3 vols., ed. C. Vasoli and D. De Robertis (Milan and Naples: Ricciardi, 1995), 1:2.108–17; Giannantonio, Dante e l’allegorismo, 188– 89. Vasoli and De Robertis include in their text a solution to the lacuna proposed originally by Mario Casella, “Per il testo critico del ‘Convivio’ e della ‘Divina Commedia,’” Studi di filologia italiana 7 (1944): 29– 77 (38). Instead of the lacuna, Vasoli and De Robertis include Casella’s suggestion: “e questo è quello che non si stende più oltre che la lettera de le parole fittizie, sì come sono le favole de li poeti.” 23. Dante’s Il convivio (The Banquet), trans. Richard H. Lansing (New York: Garland, 1990), 40. The edition Lansing follows is Dante Alighieri, Il Convivio, ed. Maria Simonelli (Bologna: Pàtron, 1966). Simonelli also accepted Casella’s proposed solution. I have omitted that part of Lansing’s translation, which runs: “and this is the sense that does not go beyond the surface of the letter, as in the fables of the poets.” 24. Conv., 2.1.8, 12, in Brambilla Ageno, Convivio, 2:67– 68. 25. Dante’s Il convivio, trans. Lansing, 41. 26. Expositio, Praef. 16– 29, 34– 38. In the introduction to his edition (17), Bellomo notes that Villani insists on the polysemous nature of poetic and scriptural texts in a lengthy discussion in the section of the praefatio noted above, and in sections 196– 203 of the expositio. S. Gilson, Dante and Renaissance Florence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 74– 75, gives this same section of the commentary (Expositio 270– 71) as a “good example of Villani’s disinterest in the literal sense of the poem” (74). 27. The other commentators’ responses to this issue are discussed in Wilson, “‘Quandoque bonus dormitat Dantes’?,” 152– 54. 28. Moralia in Job, Epistola ad Leandrum, III. In Gregory the Great, S. Gregorii Magni Moralia in Iob, ed. M. Adriaen, 3 vols., Corpus Christianorum Series Latina (Turnhout: Brepols, 1979), 1:4– 5. 29. Moralia, Epistola IV. Ibid., 5– 6. 30. Summa Theologiae, I 1.10. See Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae: 1, Christian Theology (1a. 1), ed. and trans. T. Gilby (London: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 36– 40, for all quotations and translations. 31. Summa Theol., I 1.10 ad.2.



32. Summa Theol., I 1.10 ad.3. 33. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship, 73– 217, has an extended discussion of this new appreciation of the literal sense and human authors, concluding (217) that pagan and Christian writers could be examined in more “literary” terms by the time of Boccaccio and Petrarch. 34. The well-known 1335 prohibition on the reading of the Comedy and other works of Dante by the Dominican Chapter at Santa Maria Novella is documented by Roberto Antonelli, “L’ordine domenicano e la letteratura nell’Italia pretridentina,” in Letteratura italiana, I: Il letterato e le istituzioni, ed. A. Asor Rosa (Turin: Einaudi, 1982), 681– 728 (714). G. Padoan, “Il Boccaccio ‘fedele’ di Dante,” in his Il Boccaccio, le Muse, il Parnaso e l’Arno (Florence: Olschki, 1982), 229– 46 (236– 37), notes the hostility surrounding the Comedy’s initial reception and up to the time of Boccaccio’s Esposizioni. M. Picchio Simonelli, “L’inquisizione e Dante: Alcune osservazioni,” Dante Studies 118 (2000): 303– 21 (312–13), sees a danger for the Comedy in the description in the letter to Cangrande, and subsequently in some of the early commentaries, of its subject matter at the literal level as the “status animatum post mortem,” since the inquisitors’ manual of Bernard Gui in its section on dealing with soothsayers and other practitioners of divination specifically sets out the question “quid sciunt aut sciverunt . . . de animabus perditis seu dannatis . . . de statu animarum defunctorum” (what they know or have known . . . concerning lost or damned souls . . . concerning the state of the souls of the dead). Bernard Gui, Manuel de l’inquisiteur, ed. and trans. G. Mollatt and G. Drioux, 2 vols. (Paris: Champion, 1926– 27), 2:20, 22. 35. F. Mazzoni, “Per la storia della critica dantesca, I: Jacopo Alighieri e Graziolo Bambaglioli (1322–1324),” Studi danteschi 30 (1951): 157– 202 (183), interprets the dedication of the De reprobatione Monarchiae by Vernani as a warning to Bambaglioli. On that episode, see A. K. Cassell, The Monarchia Controversy: An Historical Study with Accompanying Translations of Dante Alighieri’s Monarchia, Guido Vernani’s Refutation of the Monarchia Composed by Dante and Pope John XXII’s Bull, Si fratrum (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2004), 5– 49; on Bambaglioli in particular, 47– 49, 341 n. 2. 36. On Inf. 1.37– 38, commenting on the mention of the sun, he writes: “et hec est expositio quantum ad licteram. Item ad aliam significationem trahi potest, et hanc reputo veriorem” (and this is the explanation as far as the literal sense is concerned. In the same way it can be drawn out to another meaning, which I judge to be truer). In Graziolo Bambaglioli, Commento all’“Inferno” di Dante, ed. L. C. Rossi (Pisa: Scuola Normale Superiore, 1998), 11. This is clearly an allegorical interpretation. The term allegoria and cognate terms are absent from the commentary, except for a single occurrence of alegoricum, used in reference to a classical story, not to Dante’s text. See Bambaglioli, Commento, 202.

Allegory as Avoidance in Dante’s Early Commentators 51

37. Commento, 106 (Inf. 13.103– 4). 38. Commento, 212–13 (Inf. 33.125– 26). 39. See Jacopo Alighieri, Chiose all’“Inferno,” ed. S. Bellomo (Padua: Antenore, 1990), 3– 5, where the editor promises the reader disappointment. F. Mazzoni, “Per la storia della critica dantesca, I: Jacopo Alighieri e Graziolo Bambaglioli (1322–1324),” 157– 202 (181), concludes rather negatively too, comparing Bambaglioli favorably with the “opaca sordità” of Jacopo. 40. S. Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi: L’esegesi della “Commedia” da Iacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olschki, 2004), 34 – 35. Also S. Bellomo, “La Commedia attraverso gli occhi dei primi lettori,” in Leggere Dante, ed. L. Battaglia Ricci (Longo: Ravenna, 2003), 73– 84 (77– 78). 41. Il Commentarium di Pietro Alighieri, nelle redazioni Ashburnhamiana e Ottoboniana, ed. R. Della Vedova and M. T. Silvotti (Florence: Olschki, 1978), 7. 42. Pietro Alighieri, Comentum Super Poema Comedie Dantis: A Critical Edition of the Third and Final Draft of Pietro Alighieri’s Commentary on Dante’s “The Divine Comedy,” ed. M. Chiamenti (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2002), 270. 43. Trattatello, first redaction, 181. In Giovanni Boccaccio, Trattatello in laude di Dante, ed. P. G. Ricci, in Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio, ed. Vittore Branca, 10 vols. (Milan: Mondadori, 1964– 98), 3:423– 538 (483). 44. Adapted slightly from Boccaccio, The Life of Dante, trans. Philip H. Wicksteed, ed. W. Chamberlain (Richmond, Surry: Oneworld Classics, 2009), 57. I have changed Wicksteed’s translation of bella corteccia as “fair crust” to avoid unhelpful connotations. 45. Trattatello, second redaction, 118. In Boccaccio, Trattatello in laude di Dante, 526. 46. G. Boccaccio, Esposizioni sopra la “Comedia” di Dante, ed. G. Padoan, in Tutte le opere, I, Esp. alleg. 1; 6:53. 47. Boccaccio’s Expositions on Dante’s “Comedy,” trans. Michael Papio (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 79. 48. Boccaccio, Esposizioni sopra la “Comedia” di Dante, I, 18, p. 57; trans. Papio, Boccaccio’s Expositions on Dante’s “Comedy,” 82. Boccaccio’s concern to defend Dante’s orthodoxy against potential criticism is well known although Bellomo notes that there are no extant documents attesting to any particular religious polemic at the time, and views Boccaccio’s mentions of orthodox positions when Dante seems to depart from them, as more didactic than apologetic in purpose. Dizionario, 174– 75. 49. Though not the first to offer an allegorical interpretation Boccaccio is regarded as the first to do so in a more rigorous way, e.g., Bellomo, Dizionario, 172– 73; L. Battaglia Ricci, Boccaccio (Rome: Salerno, 2000), 244, notes Boccaccio’s earlier use of this approach in the Genealogiae Deorum Gentilium. There



Boccaccio uses allegorical interpretation precisely to rehabilitate pagan poetry: “Addebas preterea ut explicarem quid sub ridiculo cortice fabularum abscondissent prudentes viri, quasi rex inclitus arbitretur stolidum credere homines, fere omni dogmate eruditos, simpliciter circa describendas fabulas nulli veritati consonas nec preter licteralem sensum habentes, trivisse tempus et interpendisse sudores” (Moreover, you added that I should explain what wise men had hidden under the absurd outward covering of fables, as if the illustrious king thought it stupid to believe that men who were educated in virtually all learning had wasted their time and toil simply telling fables with no relation to the truth and having no meaning beyond the literal sense). I. Prohem. I. 16, Giovanni Boccaccio, Genealogie Deorum Gentilium, ed. V. Zaccaria, in Branca, Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio, VII–VIII 1:50. 50. T. Boli, “Treatment of Orthodoxy and Insistence on the Comedy’s Allegory in Boccaccio’s Esposizioni,” Italian Culture 9 (1991): 63– 74, argues that the Esposizioni contains indications that Boccaccio was finding the allegorical reading difficult to sustain. Bellomo (Dizionario, 172), Boli (“Treatment of Orthodoxy and Insistence,” 64), and Gilson (Dante and Renaissance Florence, 42) all note Boccaccio’s response in his late sonnets to these criticisms.

    


Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana  

Internal evidence suggests that Iacomo della Lana wrote his commentary on the Comedy—the first to deal with all three cantiche of the poem— between 1324 and 1328. Even if 1328 cannot be held to be a secure date, further evidence points to the commentary having been in circulation by 1333 or 1334.1 Lana was the first of Dante’s commentators to make use of the Monarchia, and the negative assessment of the policies of the papacy and of the parte guelfa that recurs in the course of his work suggests that he substantially shared Dante’s political outlook, at a time when, in his native Bologna, such views were under attack. For it was during this time, in 1328, that the papal legate in Bologna, Bertrand de Pouget, condemned the Monarchia to the flames, in Boccaccio’s words, “sì come cose eretiche contenente” (for having contained heretical reasoning);2 and Guido da Vernani, who had taught at the Dominican Studium generale in Bologna in the second decade of the century, wrote his refutation of Dante’s political 53



philosophy, De reprobatione Monarchiae, probably in Rimini, between 1327 and 1334.3 That Lana’s views on society as well as politics coincided with those of the poet is suggested by numerous remarks that lend support to Dante’s criticisms of the lay and ecclesiastical leadership of the contemporary Christian world. “Alla virtú divina dispiace cherico tesaurizante” (Divine virtue dislikes a greedy cleric), writes Lana dismissively of the avaricious clergy condemned to Hell;4 and when he observes that “quelle scienze sono lucrative che sono contumeliose” (the lucrative fields of knowledge are the contumelious ones), the lucrative field of knowledge he has in mind is—almost inevitably, given his Bolognese origins—the law, and the insolence that goes with profit is that of lawyers who deliberately protract legal proceedings for their personal gain.5 About Iacomo della Lana himself nothing is known for certain, but Alberico da Rosciate, who translated his commentary into Latin sometime between 1336 and 1350, tells us he was a layman qualified in arts and theology.6 Lana, then, appears to have been an exponent of the lively lay culture that had emerged in the Italian communes in the course of the thirteenth century, especially in such centers as Bologna, whose university enjoyed a European reputation as a center of learning, particularly in Roman and canon law. Legal studies in Bologna had encouraged the study of rhetoric and letter writing, that is to say, the development of an ars dictaminis designed to meet the professional needs of jurists, notaries, public officials, and chancery clerks. Crucially—and this is where the thirteenth century in Italy witnessed a genuine cultural revolution—this cultivation of style and effective expression was applied to the vernacular by members of the professional classes, predominantly lawyers and teachers, who were thereby responsible for the creation of an alternative culture that grew up alongside the Latin culture of the church and the university. The man whom Dante hails in Purg. 26.97– 98 as “il padre / mio e di gl’altri miei miglior” (father / to me and to others, my betters),7 the poet Guido Guinizelli, was a native of Bologna, a lawyer, and father of that manifesto movement of lyric poetry in Italian, the dolce stil nuovo. Dante, himself a product and promoter of this alternative, lay culture, explains in the Convivio that he intends this work of vernacular philosophical learning for those who exhibit “la bontà de l’animo” (goodness of mind) but who “per malvagia disusanza del mondo hanno lasciata la litteratura a coloro che

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


l’hanno fatta di donna meretrice” (because of the world’s wicked neglect of good have left literature to those who have changed it from a lady to a whore).8 In other words, the Convivio is not addressed to those educated in Latin—the lawyers, the physicians, the clergy, who mostly prostitute their learning—but to those men and women “che sono molti e molte in questa lingua, volgari, e non literati” (of which there are many in this language who know only the vernacular and are not learned):9 those whose language is the vulgar tongue, not Latin, and whose learning and desire to learn have been acquired in the burgeoning lay schools and not through a scholastic education.10 Although Lana ostensibly writes his commentary for a narrower readership than that envisaged by the poet, in that he specifically addresses the student of Dante,11 his consciousness of a wider potential readership—and, plausibly, of a duty to educate, such as that articulated by the author of the Convivio—must have governed his choice of the vernacular as the language in which to present his work. That he was commenting on a poem written in the vernacular by no means dictates this linguistic preference; for the majority of early commentaries on Dante’s text produced by non-Tuscan commentators were written in Latin, for such perfectly sound reasons as that Latin was often more immediately intelligible to many traditionally educated Italians, particularly those from the north, than was Tuscan, and a Latin paraphrase of Dante’s poem was an aid to its comprehension. In this respect, Lana’s commentary was brought into conformity with the norm, in that within a relatively short period a number of Latin translations were made, most notably the reelaboration by Alberico da Rosciate, who hailed from Bergamo. It was because the vernacular in which Lana’s commentary was written was “not known to everyone” that Alberico thought it worthwhile to translate it into Latin.12 The same motive, of course, lies behind his provision of “una parafrasi costante, talvolta ai limiti della traduzione, del poema dantesco” (a constant paraphrase, at times almost a translation, of Dante’s poem).13 If we are to judge by the number of extant manuscripts—between texts of the commentary, complete and partial, and translations, the list in Saverio Bellomo’s indispensable Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi includes 118 items14—Lana’s commentary, whatever its shortcomings, was very successful in finding a readership and continued to provide readers of the Comedy with the guidance they sought for well over a century: it was, after



all, the first and only commentary to appear in print before that of Cristoforo Landino.15 Benvenuto da Imola was apt to dismiss Lana’s reading of Dante as a complete misunderstanding;16 but among the early commentaries Lana’s is the only one to surpass that of Benvenuto himself for the number of manuscript witnesses in which it is preserved. That Lana’s commentary has its shortcomings has been widely acknowledged, not least by Francesco Mazzoni in an influential essay on Lana and the “crisis” in the interpretation of Dante’s poem that Lana’s commentary represents.17 The root of Mazzoni’s disappointment with Lana is his failure to appreciate the profoundly personal character of the Comedy as a spiritual biography. Rather than illuminate the individual moral itinerary of Dante the poet and Florentine citizen, his commentary treats the protagonist of the Comedy as an abstract symbol of the human race; and the allegorization to which Lana subjects Dante-pilgrim and the poem’s other major figures ignores their importance, in Dante’s conception of his poem, as concrete historical personages. This concentration on the generic, the abstract, characterizes the commentary as a whole, in which doctrine, speculation, and didacticism replace the sort of concrete interpretation that Mazzoni finds in the commentary on the Inferno by Graziolo Bambaglioli. It is in this sense that Lana’s commentary represents a crisis in the interpretation of the Comedy, “una frattura profonda tra l’intento originario del poeta e il modo di leggere del chiosatore” (a profound rift between the original intent of the poet and the commentator’s reading),18 with the predominance of the encyclopedic, the doctrinal, the scholastic, over consideration of the genesis and profounder motivation of the poem. From the perspective of the contemporary scholar, Mazzoni’s observations regarding Lana’s procedures and results are justified to the extent that other early readers of the Comedy — Graziolo and, after him, Pietro di Dante — may voice insights into the general economy of the poem that escape Lana. But rather than concentrate on what Lana’s commentary does not provide, I would like to consider the patterns of thought (or some of them) that inform it, as symptoms of the culture that he brought to his task, in an attempt to understand what Lana thought he was offering to readers of the Comedy and of his commentary thereon. If Alberico da Rosciate’s description of him as licentiatus in artibus et theologia is correct, then Lana was licensed to teach arts and theology.

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Whether or not he studied theology in Paris, as has been suggested,19 he would have had no difficulty in coming by the requisite education in Bologna, where studies in arts, medicine, and theology flourished alongside the two dominant universitates, or unions, of scholars devoted to the study of law. A fully fledged faculty of theology was not established in Bologna until 1364, but chairs of theology had long existed at the cathedral school and in the city’s religious houses: the Dominican Studium generale for the study of arts and theology dates from 1219, and in the thirteenth century in particular, in Bologna as elsewhere, the Dominicans and the Franciscans led developments in theological studies that took account of the philosophical texts, predominantly works of Aristotle, that had become available in recent Latin translations. As for education in the arts, it appears that students in arts and medicine were granted their own “university,” after a long struggle with the jurists, toward the end of the thirteenth century. In 1287– 88 Taddeo Alderotti, at the time the most eminent professor of medicine in Italy and a teacher in Bologna since 1260, won for himself and his students the same rights, privileges, and immunities enjoyed by professors and scholars of law; and the universitas artistarum that thus came into being was recognized early in the fourteenth century by the “universities” of the legal fraternities.20 In order to obtain his license to teach, Lana would have had to pursue lengthy programs of study in the liberal arts, philosophy, and theology. In the course of his commentary on the Comedy, apart from the Bible, to which he makes constant reference, he cites or alludes to a great many works of philosophy and theology. Preeminent among the theological texts are those by Thomas Aquinas, an extensive list of whose works is given in the proem to Par. 10.21 Works by Augustine, Gregory the Great, the pseudo-Dionysius, and John Damascene are also cited, but it is Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae and Summa contra Gentiles to which reference is most frequently made. Besides such basic arts as grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, the arts subjects which inform Lana’s commentary are, principally, natural philosophy and astronomy. At one point or another he makes reference to practically all the Aristotelian and pseudo-Aristotelian texts that appear in the syllabus for the three-year philosophy course at Bologna and virtually all the texts studied during the four-year course in astronomy and astrology followed by the students of medicine.22 Among the philosophical works, Aristotle’s scientific texts—Physica, De coelo, Meteorologica, De generatione et corruptione, and



so on—predominate, but allusion is also made to the Analytica and the Metaphysica and, repeatedly and in particular, to the Ethica Nicomachea. What Lana’s license to teach entitled him to do was conduct “ordinary” readings of the Bible and the primary theological textbook, the Sentences of Peter Lombard, and the texts prescribed for study in the arts faculty of the university. An “ordinary” reading, as distinct from a “cursory” one, was not limited to expounding the meaning of the text that was the subject of the lectio, the reading or lecture, but also dealt with the problems raised by the text. In the fourteenth century there was a marked tendency for discussion of these problems, or quaestiones, to predominate over exposition of the text: the treatment tended to ignore the text to which it was supposed to relate, and the quaestiones assumed the status of independent discussions of authoritative and contemporary views on the issues raised. A good example of such a fourteenth-century quaestio is Dante’s own discussion of a scientific problem concerning the distribution of the elements of earth and water, his Quaestio de situ et forma aquae et terrae.23 The typical quaestio, as exemplified in the earlier thirteenthcentury tradition by, for example, Thomas Aquinas, is designed to bring together authoritative statements that appear to contradict one another and to demonstrate by rational argument how they may be reconciled. The usual procedure, in discussing “whether x is the case,” is first to point to an authority who appears to deny that x is the case, then to adduce a second authority who asserts that x is the case. A conclusion is then stated and argued for; and, finally, the authoritative statement or statements that appear to contradict the conclusion are revisited and explained in a way that removes the contradiction. Among the many instances in Lana’s commentary of this pattern of reasoning perhaps the most conspicuous example occurs in the proem to Purg. 7, where Virgil’s assertion in verses 25– 27 of that canto— Non per far, ma per non far ho perduto a veder l’alto Sol che tu dixiri e che fu tardi per me cognosuto— —— [Not for what I did but what I did not do I lost the vision of the lofty Sun you long for and which I came to know too late]24

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


raises the “dubitazione” or quaestio “s’elli richiede alcuna operazione umana, acciò che ssi ottegna beatitudine da Dio” (if any human action is required in order to obtain beatitude from God). Lana says, first, that it would appear no action on the part of a human being is required in order to obtain beatitude from God, since God’s infinite power is such that, unlike natural agents, it does not require the material on which it works to be suitably disposed to receive a given form but is able to produce something new out of nothing; and, second, that as the author of beatitude, God confers it without mediation or prior disposition, just as in the original creation he brought his creatures into being without the need for any preparatory phase. On the other hand, Dante has Virgil say that he lost Heaven “per non far” (not for what I did) but because of something he did not do. In considering this problem, says Lana, it must be borne in mind that God alone has beatitude without some movement or change, because he is himself beatitude; but if any of his creatures are to achieve beatitude, as an end to which they tend, there must be movement toward that end. This movement is a direction of will, the ordering of the will to the end. The attitude this implies must find expression in meritorious deeds, according to Aristotle’s dictum in his Ethica, book 10, to the effect that beatitude or happiness consists in activity in accordance with virtue.25 Lana responds to the first argument by saying that some meritorious act is required of a man in order to obtain beatitude, not because God’s power to confer this grace is insufficient without it, but because there is a determinate path to beatitude that the creature must follow, an order which it is essential to respect. In response to the second argument, he points out that while it is true that God created the first creatures without any prior disposition, subsequent creatures appeared in accordance with an established natural order. The original creation was therefore a unique event, and it does not follow that creatures descended from the first creatures should obtain beatitude without prior merit. It is, then, clear that in order to attain beatitude meritorious actions are required; and these are not possible without faith, as Saint Paul says: “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). The way in which Lana articulates this argument follows the traditional pattern very precisely: the statement of the question is followed by the arguments against (“E’ pare che non bisogni operazione umana. . . . Ancora . . . ” [Apparently, no action on the part of a human being is needed. . . . Further . . . ]) and



then the contrary view (“In contrario è le parole di Virgilio . . . ” [Contrary to this are Virgil’s words . . . ]). The question is resolved in terms of some underlying general principle (“Alla quale dubitazione è da sapere che . . .” [As for this quaestio, it should be known that . . . ]) and concluded by appeal to another authority, “the Philosopher.” The arguments against the proposition are then countered (“e al primo argomento si risponde. . . . Al secondo argomento si risponde . . . ” [and to the first argument one answers. . . . To the second argument one answers . . . ]), and the whole quaestio is rounded off with the authoritative quotation, reported above, from “the Apostle.”26 Now all this is of doubtful relevance, if in glossing Virgil’s words “per non far” it suffices to say, with the Anonimo fiorentino, “Ciò è, non per peccato commesso, ma per non avere avuta fede hae perduta l’eterna Gloria” (That is, he lost eternal glory not for a committed sin but for lack of faith), perhaps adding, to take account of the criticism we have seen Francesco Mazzoni direct at Lana, the words of Anna Maria Chiavacci Leonardi: “Ritorna come un’eco dal triste canto del Limbo il grande problema degli “infedeli negativi” . . . , che diventa qui profondamente drammatico in quanto vive in una persona storica, la persona stessa che lo enuncia” (The central question of the “negative infidels” echoes back to the moving canto 4 of Limbo . . . , which here becomes deeply dramatic as it is enfleshed in a historical person, the same person who utters it).27 In comparison with comments such as these, Lana’s quaestio—“Is any human action required in order to obtain beatitude from God?”— appears abstract and remote. So why does he introduce it? The question was clearly of interest to him, and he would have been aware that it involved a serious theological issue that was the subject of much contemporary debate. He is conscious, in his response to the question he raises, both of God’s unrestricted power to act as he sees fit and of the “order of things,” including the process ordained by God for the attainment, on the part of his creatures, of ultimate beatitude. Behind his argument lies a distinction of great significance for fourteenth- and fifteenth-century theology: that between the absolutely unconditioned nature of God’s freedom to act (the potentia Dei absoluta) and the particular order which God has freely willed to establish and by which his creatures are governed (the potentia Dei ordinata).28 Among Lana’s contemporaries the question

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


of merit and of acceptance by God was one of the matters that divided those thinkers who, following Thomas Aquinas, adopted an “intellectualist” approach to theological topics such as grace, merit, justification, predestination, and beatitude and those, best exemplified by William of Ockham, who, in the wake of Duns Scotus, adopted a “voluntarist” approach. What this means, in the case of merit, is that for Aquinas there is a rational relationship between an action on the part of a believer and the merit attributed to it: the merit is directly proportional to the moral value of the action.29 For William, on the other hand, no action is intrinsically meritorious: given the complete and utter freedom of will that God enjoys, an action is meritorious only if God accepts it as meritorious.30 Implicitly, in relating the solution of the question he raises to an objective “order” that God has established, Lana follows his strongly Thomistic instincts. The contrast between “intellectualist” and “voluntarist” positions—recognizable as the contrast between Dominican and Franciscan theological preferences to which Dante himself alludes in the Comedy—is not an aspect of the issue that Lana considers.31 However, the presence and liveliness of such debates in early-fourteenth-century theological circles help to explain why a theological student like Lana should take the opportunity presented by Virgil’s words in Purg. 7.25 to raise a question about meritorious action. Some of the matters Lana discusses in his commentary have an even more tenuous connection with the text of Dante’s poem than the question I have been considering. An apparently extreme instance is the discussion prompted by Par. 12.42: when Bonaventure says that in providing the Church Militant with two such champions as Saints Dominic and Francis God acted “per sola grazia” (by grace alone), Lana offers a comment on the appropriateness of the Incarnation. He does so simply because, in the case of this supreme example of God’s graciousness in his dealings with mankind (“sua gloriosa pietade” [his glorious compassion]), the question may possibly occur to his reader: Or qui non è da lassare una dichiaragione che potrebbe nascere uno dubbio: come fue convenevole al Figliuolo di Dio per riparare la umana generazione caduta per lo peccato a venirsi ad incarnare e prendere la umanità.32 ——



[Now it is not the case to make here a dubious statement: how appropriate it was that the Son of God was made flesh and became man to restore humanity fallen into sin.]

Most notoriously, perhaps, the mention in Inf. 9.127 of “li eresïarche” (the arch-heretics)33 prompts, in Lana’s proem to that canto, a list of heresies that runs to over ten pages. In an account entirely dependent on Aquinas’s De articulis fidei, Lana enumerates fifty-seven errors in all, divided between six articles concerning Christ’s divinity and six concerning his humanity.34 The gloss on Inf. 10.13 concerning the beliefs of the Epicureans, while more pertinent, includes discussion of three arguments, attributed to the Epicureans, for the soul’s mortality and a further argument in favor of the incorruptibility of the intellective soul. Lana’s approach in all of this is perhaps best encapsulated in the form of words he uses as he embarks on a discussion of envy in the proem to Purg. 13: “Ed acciò che piú pienamente s’abbia la intenzione dello autore, si è da toccare alcuna cosa del vizio della invidia speculando” (And in order to more fully understand the author’s purpose, we shall touch, while speculating, on some aspects of the vice of envy).35 However, while frequently the “speculation” in which Lana indulges does little to reveal the profounder intentions of the author, many of the questions he raises are of relevance for an understanding of the Comedy: the question concerning the physical punishments experienced by the souls in Purgatory, for instance, raised in the proem to Purg. 3 in anticipation of the later discussion in the introduction to canto 25; that concerning the immunity to temptation of the souls in Purgatory in the proem to canto 11; or the discussion concerning absolute and relative will and that concerning the significance of the ecliptic in the proems to Par. 4 and Par. 10, respectively.36 These discussions have a definite point, even though they may be conducted independently, without reference to the context or substance of the poem, on the pretext offered by Dante’s text. That text, as we well know, is open to a variety of readings; and one of these readings considers the Comedy an encyclopedic poem, a summa of medieval learning. Before it can be appreciated in its fullness, the reader, and hence the commentator, must understand the doctrinal basis of the poem. It is therefore natu-

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


ral that Lana, at the very beginning of the long tradition of commentary on the Comedy, should pay a great deal of attention to matters of doctrine, philosophical, scientific, and theological; and it is hardly surprising that, as licentiatus in artibus, he should treat Dante’s text in the manner in which he was accustomed to “reading”—that is to say, teaching—the texts on which he lectured, if indeed he exercised the profession for which his licentia qualified him. Excursuses and freestanding quaestiones designed to broaden the treatment of what he perceived to be relevant issues were part of this method of reading, and when we come across them in his commentary on the Comedy it is appropriate to ask to what extent the matter considered has contemporary resonance and so has a function other than merely to display the commentator’s philosophical and theological learning. The measure in which they are relevant and the degree to which they are justified may vary considerably, and Lana undoubtedly indulges his own intellectual curiosity in the choice of matters he selects or introduces for comment; but their presence in an early-fourteenthcentury commentary should be no cause for surprise. Lana, then, as a student of philosophy and theology, has his personal interests and a practice of reading that encourages him to expound notions for their own sake in a way that is not subordinate to the requirements of the reader of the Comedy. His commentary, as a series of observations developed in parallel with Dante’s text, furnishes his reader with supplementary information and arguments that may be studied along with and in addition to the text. What, in the end, governs this approach appears to be Lana’s conception of the nature of Dante’s poem as a doctrinal text: that is to say, both a text full of learning and a text of use for teaching purposes. He will suggest meanings for words, identify dialectical commonplaces, and briefly remark on rhetorical features of the text, but his interest in poetry as such is minimal. For Lana, the chief characteristic of the poet is the employment of poetic license, which allows him to specify in concrete images and statements “quello che secondo vero non è in essere” (that which, according to the truth, is not real); and Lana appears to regard the poetic dimension of the Comedy as superficial when compared with its doctrinal substance: the poet adds poetic embellishment to the content of his work for the sake of “la continuazione del poema, la quale dée interporre parole poetiche per mantenere suo stile”



(the continuation of the poem, which must interpose poetic words to maintain its style).37 Lana conveys the impression that the Comedy is an open, extensible text to which the glossator may add material for which the text itself had no room or which the generic conventions of poetry allowed the poet to dispense with. This is the implication of the gloss that he puts on the words Dante addresses to his readers in the first three verses of Par. 2: O voi che sete in piçoletta barca, desiderosi d’ascoltar, seguiti retro al mio lengno che cantando varca —— [O you, eager to hear more,

who have followed in your little bark my ship that singing makes its way]38

Here, says Lana, Dante apostrophizes those who “hanno desiderio di studiare la presente Commedia” (those who wish to study the Comedy), and he goes on to say: si è da sapere che a volere perfettamente intendere la presente Commedia ha bisogno allo intenditore esser istrutto in molte scienze, imperquello che lo autore usa molte conclusioni, molti argomenti, molti essempli, prendendo principii tali cose e diverse che senza scienza acquista non se ne potrebbe avere perfetta cognizione. E perché poetria non è scienza a cui aspetti sí demostrativa mente come necessaria, non è però la presente Commedia imperfetta perché non provi ogni suo principio; ma puòssi di licenza poetica metaforizare, essemplificare e fingere una per uno altro39 —— [one should know that to understand the Comedy experts need to be trained in many sciences, because the author uses many conclusions, many topics, many examples, taking for principles several different things that without acquired knowledge cannot be clearly understood. And since poetry is a science to which demonstrations need to be necessarily applied, the Comedy is not imperfect because it does not demonstrate every

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


principle, but by employing poetic license it can create metaphors and examples and pretend that one is the other]

The demonstrations the reader cannot expect to find in a poem may, on the other hand, be supplied by the commentator, as may distinctions of which the reader should be aware. So when the narrator of Inf. 32.73– 78 recounts his strange and fortuitous encounter with Bocca degli Abati and confesses “se voler fu o destino o fortuna, / non so” (if it was will or fate or chance, / I do not know),40 Lana feels justified in defining the words volere, destino, and fortuna as denoting causes productive of effects; and he excuses Dante’s “non so” with the words, “Quaxi a dire: a poeta non pertiene di fare la sopradetta distinzione, è piú considerazione filosofica, imperò ch’elli è scritto in primo Phisicorum: ‘Scire est propter causas’” (As if to say, it is not pertaining to a poet to make the aforesaid distinction as it is more a philosophical consideration, because, as it is written in the first Phisicorum: “Proper knowledge is knowledge of causes”).41 Where the philosophical consideration is lacking, it is the commentator’s self-appointed task to supply it. It is important, says Lana, to avoid simple affirmations or negations, “sí che sempre si vuole rispondere non simpliciter ma secundum quid, e con distinzione” (so that one always wants to respond not simply but in a certain respect, and making distinctions); and he adds in another revealing phrase, “La quale moralitade non solo c’insegna rispondere segacemente, ma etiamdio c’insegna considerare e trovare quello che vogliamo imparare” (This morality [i.e., this approach to dealing with questions] not only teaches us to answer cleverly, but even teaches us to consider and find what we want to learn).42 There are things to be learned from Dante’s text, then, but it is also a stimulus to further learning. The ultimate justification for the commentator’s procedures is to be found in the text of Dante’s poem itself, in the fact that “in tutti i luoghi ove Dante mostra admirazione, si è dubio o titolo de questione” (in all places where Dante shows admiration, there is reason for doubt or investigation).43 So that when, for example, in Inf. 10.95– 99 Dante-protagonist employs an expression like “solveteme quel nodo / che qui ha invelupata mia sentença” (untie for me this knot / which has entangled and confused my judgment),44 before formulating the problem he wishes Farinata to resolve for him—



El par che voi vegiate, se ben odo, dinanci quel che ’l tempo seco aduce, e nel presente tenette altro modo— —— [From what I hear, it seems you see beforehand that which time will bring, but cannot know what happens in the present]45

it is unmistakably clear to Lana that Dante is formulating a quaestio. Lana says of Dante: “Qui fa sua dimanda per modo di questione” (Here he asks his question in the manner of a quaestio); and he goes on to treat the quaestio in thoroughly scholastic fashion, in two articles, the first “se l’anime de’ dannati sanno quel che ssi fa al mondo” (if the damned souls know what goes on in the world) and the second “se le predette anime possen saper di quello che dé avenire” (if the aforesaid souls know what will happen in the future).46 Similarly, in the case of the discussion of the macchie lunari in Par. 2, Lana sees, in the various opinions that Beatrice examines, the material of a scholastic disputation: “E per ampliare sua materia lo autore nel presente capitolo vuole cerca le predette oppinioni alquanto disputare” (And to broaden his subject, the author, to some extent, wants in this chapter to discuss the aforesaid beliefs).47 In other words, it is obvious to Lana that in the Comedy the poet exploits forms of exposition and argument with which his scholastic training has made him very familiar; and for him these features of the poem are of considerably more interest and significance than the poetic and aesthetic character of the text. Lana’s approach offers a good illustration of Walter Benjamin’s remark that “criticism is concerned with the truth content of a work of art, commentary with its subject matter.” Of course, “the relationship between the two determines that basic law of literature, according to which the more significant the truth content of a work, the more profoundly and intimately it is bound up with the subject matter.”48 This is the case with the Comedy; but it is subject matter on which Lana focuses his attention. One of the engaging features of his commentary is his love of the novella and the gusto with which he recounts and—with little regard for accuracy or historical truth—embellishes the tales on which the material

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of the poem draws. For Lana a novella is a tale of any kind: a fiction, a myth, a historical narrative.49 Thus the story of Buonconte da Montefeltro is a novella, just as much as that of Procne and Philomela.50 Although Lana’s retelling of this latter tale does not rival in length the account given in Ovid (Met. VI 424– 674), he omits none of the more gruesome details; and in general he can be relied upon to include the most striking or shocking elements in any myth or history he recounts. His commentary deals with a wide range of matters, but one aspect of the Comedy to which consistent attention is paid is anything to do with natural philosophy; and in this connection it is of interest that when he offers an interpretation of a myth it is, with few exceptions, a philosophical or “scientific” interpretation, rather than a moral one, that he provides. This is the case with the two Ovidian favole alluded to in Inf. 30.1–12 and 38 – 41. The first is the story of Jupiter, Juno, Semele, and Semele’s son by Jupiter, Bacchus. Among the elements, Lana tells us, Jupiter signifies fire and Juno air, so that when they come together they create lightning as the humidity in the air ignites. Semele represents a mixture of earth and water; and so the result of her impregnation by Jupiter is Bacchus, meaning “wine,” since the humid content of earth, if subject to heat, brings forth fruit. The second myth is the story of Myrrha, whose tears, when she is rejected by her father, signify the gum of the species of tree into which she is transformed and to which she gives her name. What the poets speak of beneath the veil of such myths—in a manner disapproved of by the Aristotle of the Physics —is nature and the origin of natural species in the world.51 It is understandable that in commenting on the Comedy Lana should show a particular interest in the branches of natural philosophy that deal with meteorology, astronomy, and the relationship between the celestial and elemental worlds. The pedagogic intent that lies behind his approach is evident in the provision of diagrams in a number of places where astronomical or optical matters are discussed, as in the gloss to the opening six lines of Purg. 15, one of those occasions on which Dante employs an astronomical periphrasis in order to indicate the time of day. These diagrams were not reproduced by Luciano Scarabelli in his edition of Lana’s commentary, as he deemed all such diagrams “figure . . . estranee al fine dell’edizione” (figures . . . unrelated to the purposes of



the present edition); they are, however, restored to their rightful place in the Edizione Nazionale.52 As with the proem that precedes the glosses to most of the cantos of the poem, in which the commentator conducts the divisio of the text that was customary in medieval commentaries and deals with issues that exceed the scope of the individual glosses that follow, these diagrams are an innovation on Lana’s part that have remained part of the tradition of Dante commentary ever since. The processes these diagrams illustrate are features of a cosmic order that in the course of the commentary receives very full treatment. In keeping with the increasing influence exercised by astrological thinking, questions of natural philosophy are often viewed by Lana sub specie astrologiae. While recognizing the part that the heavens play in forming the physical and psychological “complexion” of human beings, Lana is clear about the limits of astral determinism, and, like Dante, he is firmly committed to the concept of free will: [i]l figliuolo hae dal padre l’essere uomo e dal cielo hae li costumi; e nota: non quelli che sono cagionati da libero arbitrio, ma quelli che segueno la complessione. —— [from the father the son takes his humanity, and from heaven his demeanor, and note: not that caused by free will, but that which comes with complexion.]

“La costellazione,” therefore, the system of the heavens as a whole, “non induce necessità al libero arbitrio umano” (does not cause obligations on human free will).53 This is made clear in the proem to Purg. 16, where the discourse on the freedom of the will pronounced by Marco Lombardo in that canto is supplemented by further argument supported by authoritative references to Aristotle’s Physica and De Anima.54 The human soul is free and immortal because it is God’s individual, direct creation; as such, it is not subject to the system of secondary causation that operates in the material world in virtue of the influence exercised by the heavens. Respect for and conformity with the order, both natural and moral, that the cosmos enshrines allows man to exercise the freedom that is properly his; disregard for that order, on the other hand, enslaves him:

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


Ogni cosa è sottoposta a l’animo de l’uomo quando elli tiene ordinata norma, e non solo li terreni corpi, ma etiamdio li celesti, sí come dice Tolomeo nel Centiloquio: “Anima sapientis dominabitur astris.” E quando ella tiene inordinata norma, non signoregia nulla, anzi è ella signoregiata.55 —— [Everything is subject to the soul of man when it keeps orderly rule, and not just the corporeal bodies, but also the heavenly, as Ptolemy says in the Centiloquio: “The soul of the wise dominate the stars.” But when the soul holds a disorderly rule, it rules nothing, and is ruled instead.]

Given the power that demonic forces also exercise over the material world, a careful distinction must be drawn between what occurs naturally or is achieved by natural means and the work of demons. Lana confronts this issue most fully in the proem to Inf. 20, when considering the punishment of the diviners and sorcerers.56 Demons may appear in visible form; they may respond to solicitation through dreams, or through occult arts of all kinds: necromancy, augury, spathimancy (scapulimancy), geomancy, molten metals, aeromancy, pyromancy, hydromancy, chiromancy. It is obviously sinful if demons are deliberately conjured or invoked to reveal future occurrences by these means. However, says Lana, “Ver è che in alcuna delle sopradette si è mischiate alcune veritadi, le quali a considerare quelle non è peccato alcuno” (It is true that in some of the aforesaid arts there is some truth, on which it is not at all a sin to reflect):57 as in the case of auguries derived from living animals that are known to reliably forewarn of a change of season or a change in the weather; or in the case of chiromancy, insofar as natural phenomena are involved. For it is possible for human beings to foresee things “per scienza naturale e secondo umano modo considerata” (considered according to natural science and human customs).58 Strictly speaking, this applies only in the case of effects produced by “necessary” causes, such as the eclipses produced at determinable intervals by the constant revolutions of Sun and Moon. Despite his insistence on necessary causes, however, Lana acknowledges as being generally valid inference from contingent effects produced by causes that mostly produce these effects but may occasionally fail to produce them. The case he cites is that of meteorological changes produced by planetary



conjunctions or by the changing aspect of planet with respect to planet, or planet with respect to the zodiac.59 In this connection he alludes to the Liber coniunctionum and the Flores astrologiae of Albumazar, the renowned Abu¯ Ma‘šar, ninth-century author of Introduction to Astrology and other astrological works that won widespread acceptance in the later Middle Ages. He is an authority to whom Lana makes frequent reference in the course of his commentary as a source of a reliable “scienza naturale.” Lana accepts the validity of genethliacal astrology and the casting of nativities.60 This is underscored for him by the words with which Beatrice begins her arraignment of Dante in Purg. 30.109–11, where she emphasizes that the poet’s guilt is the greater in view of the fact that he has been so gifted by God and by the heavens: . . . per ovra de le rote mangne, che driçan ciascun seme ad alcun fine secondo che le stelle son compagne. —— [ . . . by the working of the wheels above that urge each seed to a certain end according to the stars that cluster with them.]61

Lana, invoking two further astrological authorities, al-Qabı¯sı¯ (Alcabitius) and Ptolemy’s Quadripartitum or Tetrabiblos, comments on Dante’s intellectual gifts: fu disposto a dovere essere savio per costellazioni, le quali secondo che sanno per aspetti e per coniunzione, come nello Alcasibi d’astrologia appare, e nel Quadripartito di Tolomeo, hanno a produrre complessione atta a scienza.62 —— [he was destined to be wise by the constellations, which according to what is known by means of their positions and conjunctions, as it appears in Alcabitius’s judicial astrology, and Ptolemy’s Quadripartitum, are capable of producing a benign constitution toward science.]

Lana insists that the influence the heavens exert on the matter of this world, in inducing in persons a “complexion,” a physical and physiologi-

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


cal constitution that suits them for a certain role in life or predisposes them to certain illnesses or medical conditions, does not affect the freedom of the will. Movements of the will, he says, are known only to God; and so astrologers who claim to predict effects that are subject to free will have no scientific way of knowing what they claim to know and therefore sin against God. Astrology does not allow you to predict individual choices, to say that someone will become a doctor or a blacksmith, or that a particular arrangement of the heavens will produce friendship or enmity between two individuals. Such conclusions non sono né possono per via naturale, e secondo apprensione umana essere vere. E molto magiormente la parte De interrogationibus astronomie non può essere vera né dritta, imperquello che ’l principio del velle si muove da volontà libera.63 —— [are not and cannot be true according to nature, and according to human understanding. Even more so the De interrogationibus astronomie cannot be true or accurate, because volition is moved at its start by free will.]

This restricts the scope and the application of astrology. However, along with genethliacal astrology, Lana accepts Abu¯ Ma‘šar’s most famous thesis from his On the Great Conjunctions: that concerning the influence of the heavens on the great historical movements, such as those that result in the founding of empires and new religions. In his glosses to Inf. 1.100 and 101, Lana remarks how successive ages in human history are governed by the planets in cyclical fashion and how the growth of avarice in the age of Mercury in which he lives will get worse before people revert to being “larghe e cortesi” (generous and courteous) in a new Golden Age, a new age of Saturn.64 It is in these terms that he justifies Dante’s famous prophecy in Purg. 33.40– 45 concerning a leader who will eventually emerge to restore order to a disordered world: an enigmatic “cinquecento diece e cinque” (DXV) who will be sent by God, but whose time is already in preparation through the influence of the stars (“io vegio . . . a darne tempo già stelle propinque” [I see . . . stars already near at hand promise us a time]). This means, Lana tells us in his proem to the canto, that a dux will come to liberate the church and that Dante “vede tale essecutore per costellazione” (foresees such a leader by reading the stars).



While Lana acknowledges that what is hidden in the divine intellect cannot be known except by divine revelation, the contemporary situation is such that, given the extent of the evils suffered by the church, the fact that they must be greatly displeasing to God, and the need for the intervention of some very powerful force if they are to be corrected, it is natural and reasonable to foresee a time when some great temporal lord, some signoria, capable of bringing this about will in fact intervene: Or questa signorìa quando dée avvenire nel mondo si può bene sapere per astrologìa, sí come chiaro appare in lo libro di Albumazar Delle coniunzioni, che le coniunzioni de’ superiori pianeti in alcuni segni aduceno nel mondo principii li quali sono di tanta possanza c’hanno potere di mutare sette e fare grandissime varietadi e usanze nel mondo.65 —— [It can be well known through astrology when this lordship must take place in the world, as it clearly appears in Albumazar’s Book of Conjunctions where the conjunctions of the superior planets in some of the astrological signs bring in the world lords who are so powerful they can change sects and create an enormous variety of customs around the world.]

In his treatment of astrological matters, as in his philosophical and theological opinions generally, Lana treads a careful and orthodox path. There is no hint of the Averroism or radical Aristotelianism associated with Bologna in the fourteenth century, and Lana constantly asserts the preeminence among the sciences of theology, for which other branches of learning are a preparation.66 There are points in his commentary where the reader will recognize the arid scholasticism of which Francesco Mazzoni complains, but scholasticism also encouraged conceptual precision, and there are passages of explanation and paraphrase in the commentary, such as the discussion of volontà and talento in the proem to Purg. 21, that serve the reader’s need for clarification well.67 This is true also of the distinction between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in those occult sciences which are no longer a part of our scientific culture and the importance of which for Dante and his contemporaries is not always easy for us to grasp. The reader is also often served by Lana’s treat-

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ment of questions of natural philosophy, where his explanation of Dante in terms that Dante used and understood can be illuminating. The discussion, in the proem and glosses to Purg. 25, of human reproduction and of the “aerial body” in which the souls in Purgatory may experience pain is a case in point.68 We have seen that Lana’s stated aim in commenting on the Comedy is to clarify the intention of the author. He may fail in this aim for want of a comprehensive grasp of Dante’s vision and purposes; but he is successful in laying the foundations for an appreciation of the scientific content of the poem, where “science,” understood in the broad sense, includes questions relating to theology and philosophy as well as the universe of nature. Lana does not approach the poem in the spirit of the poem itself so much as in the spirit of the Convivio, as he seeks to make available the fruits of Latin learning to a readership ignorant of Latin and with no immediate access to the sources of the doctrines he expounds. His is a “horizontal” reading designed to relate the Comedy to the horizon of philosophical and theological learning within which he sees himself and the poet operating, and in this respect he performs a valuable task. The more profound and revealing “vertical” reading that relates the poem to its genesis and ambitions is, in 1328, still to be achieved.

N  I am grateful to members of the Italian Research Seminar at the University of St. Andrews and to colleagues present at the conference for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay. Since it was written, Mirko Volpi’s critical edition of Lana’s commentary has appeared, and it is from this edition that I quote: Iacomo della Lana: Commento alla “Commedia,” ed. M. Volpi, 4 vols., Edizione Nazionale dei Commenti Danteschi, 3 (Rome: Salerno, 2009). The editor of this outstanding contribution to Dante studies and to the study of the early Italian vernaculars resolves the issues raised by a complex manuscript tradition by offering the reader two texts of Lana’s commentary: the earliest and most important, written in Bolognese and preserved in a manuscript divided between Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, MS 1005, and Milan, Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, MS AG XII 2 (before 1350); and a Tuscan redaction which follows Milan, Biblioteca Trivulziana, MS 2263 (1405). For ease of comprehension I have quoted the Tuscan text, and reference will be made below to “Volpi” followed by volume and



page number(s). The text of the Comedy I use is the antica vulgata transmitted in the MS Riccardiano-Braidense, as reproduced by Volpi in his edition of Lana’s commentary. All translations of Latin in the text and notes are mine. 1. In the proem to Par. 10 Lana alludes to the canonization of Thomas Aquinas, which took place in 1323 (Volpi, 3:1999), but echoes in his work of Graziolo Bambaglioli’s 1324 commentary on Inferno suggest this latter date as the terminus post quem; and in a number of manuscripts the gloss to Inf. 20.94 states that Passerino Bonacolsi, who was assassinated in August 1328, still holds exclusive sway in Mantua (Volpi, 1:601). Of course, that the reference to Passerino Bonacolsi was penned before his assassination does not necessarily mean that the entire commentary was finished by that date. Lana, whose care in such matters is not great, may simply have failed to revise an earlier comment in the light of a subsequent event. A terminus ante quem within five or six years of 1328 is, however, indicated by the fact that the Ottimo commento contains glosses on Purgatorio and Paradiso derived from Lana, and the first version of the Ottimo commento dates from 1333– 34: see L. Jenaro-MacLennan, The Trecento Commentaries on the Divina Commedia and the Epistle to Cangrande (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 7– 8, 16–19; S. Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi: L’esegesi della Commedia da Iacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olschki, 2004), 281– 82. 2. Giovanni Boccaccio, Trattatello in laude di Dante, ed. L. Sasso (Milan: Garzanti, 1995), 73. Translation from Boccaccio, The Life of Dante (Trattatello in Laude di Dante), trans. Vincenzo Zin Bollettino (New York: Garland, 1990), 53. 3. N. Matteini, Il più antico oppositore politico di Dante: Guido Vernani da Rimini (Padua: Milani, 1958), 33 n. 5. 4. Inf. 7, proem: Volpi, 1:243. 5. Gloss on Par. 9.134: Volpi, 3:1981. 6. “Hunc comentum tocius huius comedie composuit quidam dominus Jacobus de la Lana bononiensis licentiatus in artibus et theologia” (This commentary on the entirety of this Comedy was compiled by a certain Iacomo della Lana of Bologna, licensed to teach arts and theology). Thus runs the declaration that Alberico da Rosciate appends to his version of Lana’s commentary in MS Vaticano Barberiniano Lat. 4037, fol. 108r: see Bellomo, Dizionario, 21. For further information on Alberico, see Bellomo, Dizionario, 53– 60; A. Fiammazzo, Il commento Dantesco di Alberico da Rosciate col proemio e fine di quello del Bambaglioli / Notizia dal codice Grumelli raffront. col Laur. Pl. XXVI, Sin 2 (Bergamo: Istituto Italiano d’arti grafiche, 1895); M. Petoletti, “‘Ad utilitatem volentium studere in ipsa Comedia’: il commento dantesco di Alberico Rosciate,” Italia medievale e umanistica 38 (1995): 141– 216 (for the dating of Alberico’s commentary, see 185– 88).

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7. Translation from Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 2003), 541. 8. Translation from Dante’s Il convivio (The Banquet), trans. Richard H. Lansing (New York: Garland, 1990), 22). 9. Translation from Lansing, Dante’s Il convivio, 22. 10. Dante Alighieri, Convivio, ed. C. Vasoli and D. De Robertis, in Opere minori, ed. P.V. Mengaldo, 3 vols. (Milan and Naples: Ricciardi, 1979– 88), Conv. 1.2 and 9.5, 61– 62. For some general indications concerning the cultural situation from which Dante emerged, see C. Segre, “Introduzione,” in La prosa del Duecento, ed. C. Segre and M. Marti (Milan and Naples: Ricciardi, 1959), vii – xliii; for some of the details, see C. T. Davis, “Education in Dante’s Florence,” in his Dante’s Italy and Other Essays (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984), 137– 65; and H. Wieruszowski, “Ars dictaminis in the Time of Dante,” “Arezzo as a Center of Learning and Letters in the Thirteenth Century,” and “Rhetoric and the Classics in Italian Education of the Thirteenth Century,” all reprinted in H. Wieruszowski, Politics and Culture in Medieval Spain and Italy (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1971), 359– 78, 387– 474, 589– 627. 11. See the glosses to Inf. 13.25 and 151; Par. 1.136; II, proem: Volpi, 1:415, 425; 3:1705, 1715. 12. After the reference to Lana in the declaration reported in n. 6 above, Alberico observes that Lana employed in his commentary the sermo vulgaris and continues: “et quia tale ydioma non est omnibus notum, ideo ad utilitatem volentium studere in ipsa comedia transtuli de vulgari tusco in gramaticali scientia literarum” (and because this manner of speech is not known to everyone, for the benefit of those wishing to study this Comedy I have translated it [Lana’s commentary] from the Tuscan vernacular into Latin): see Bellomo, Dizionario, 21, where the writer notes that the exception constituted by Lana to the rule that non-Tuscans preferred the use of Latin in their Dante commentaries was “prontamente normalizzata da almeno quattro traduzioni latine” (readily standardized by at least four Latin translations). 13. Petoletti, “Il commento dantesco di Alberico Rosciate,” 163. 14. Bellomo, Dizionario, 286– 99; the 118 items include the considerable portions of Lana’s text found in manuscripts of the Ottimo commento and exclude a further seven items “perduti o non identificabili” (lost or unidentifiable). 15. Dante Alighieri, La Comedia di Dante Alighieri col commento di Benvenuto da Imola (Venice: Vendelin da Spira, 1477), actually contains Lana’s commentary, mistakenly attributed to Benvenuto: see Bellomo, Dizionario, 299. Landino’s commentary first appeared in print in 1481. 16. In Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS Ashburnham 839, one of the manuscripts in which recollectae of Benvenuto’s courses on Dante have been preserved, the gloss on Inf. 16.102 (“ove dovria per mille esser receptor”



[where there might well have been a thousand (Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander [New York: Anchor Books, 2002], 301)]) dismisses as ridiculous the suggestion, found in several manuscripts of Lana’s commentary, that Dante had it in mind to become a monk at a Cistercian monastery downstream from the Benedictine Abbey of San Benedetto in Alpe: “cave ne dicas sicut ille de lana, qui nihil intellexit a capite usque ad finem; dicit rem ridiculam” (mind you don’t repeat what Lana says, for he understood nothing from beginning to end; what he says is ridiculous). See L. Rocca, Di alcuni commenti della Divina Commedia composti nei primi vent’anni dopo la morte di Dante (Florence: Sansoni, 1891), 136. The suggestion (which depends on reading “dovria” as first-person singular and “mille” as a Latinism for miles, “soldier” of the Church Militant) is not present in the Tuscan redaction edited by Volpi but is found in the Bolognese text, which glosses ove as follows: “Là, çoè in la desesa overo nella costa de quisti munti appellada Apenino, et presso ’l ditto fiume poi ch’è partido dal munistero de San Benedetto, si è un altro munistero de frà de l’ordene de san Bernardo, nel quale l’autor dovea esser recevudo per frade, et avea proposto in quel ordene consumare soa vita” (There, that is to say, in that slope of those mountains called the Apennines, and nearby that aforesaid spring, further from the monastery of St. Benedict, there is another monastery of the order of St. Bernard, where the author must have been received as a monk, and where he had decided to spend the rest of his life): Volpi, 1:492. 17. F. Mazzoni, “Jacopo della Lana e la crisi nell’interpretazione della Divina Commedia,” in Dante e Bologna nei tempi di Dante, ed. Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia dell’Università di Bologna (Bologna: Commissione per i testi di lingua, 1967), 265– 306. 18. Ibid., 301. 19. F. Schmidt-Knatz, “Jacopo della Lana und sein Commedia kommentar,” Deutsches Dante–Jahrbuch 12 (1930): 1– 40, suggests (2– 3) that references in Lana’s commentary to locations in Paris (Inf. 13.151; Par. 10.133 and 19.118: Volpi, 1:425; 3:2013, 2257) and a certain knowledge of French (Inf. 15.106: Volpi, 1:473) render probable a period of study in the city (he speaks, p. 3, of “die Wahrscheinlichkeit eines Studiums in Paris”). However, the evidence supplied by these references amounts to very little. 20. I am dependent for all this information on A. Sorbelli, Storia della Università di Bologna, 3 vols. (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1940), 1:105– 47. 21. Volpi, 3:2001. 22. In the light of information provided by Sorbelli, Storia della Università di Bologna, 1:124– 26, the content of these syllabuses may be summarized as follows: Philosophy, Year 1: Physica; De generatione et corruptione, partly in “ordinary” and partly in “extraordinary” lectures; De somno et vigilia; De physiognomia; Year 2: De coelo et mundo; Meteorologica; De sensu et sensato; and, in “extraordinary” lectures, De mundo; De memoria et reminiscentia; De respiratione; De

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


morte et vita; Year 3: De anima; Metaphysica, proem, Books I, II, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XII; plus “extraordinary” lectures on Metaphysica, Book IV; De longitudine et brevitate vitae; De causa motus animalium. Astronomy, Year 1: The Algorismus of John of Holywood (Sacrobosco); Euclid, Geometria, Book I, with Giovanni Campano’s commentary; the Alphonsine Tables with the canons of John of Saxony; Theorica planetarum (possibly that of Giovanni Campano); Year 2: John of Holywood’s Tractatus de Sphaera; Euclid, Geometria, Book II; the canons for the use of the astronomical tables of Jean de Linières; the Tractatus astrolabii of M sh ’all h ibn Atarı¯ (Messehallah); Year 3: the Liber introductorius ad magisterium iudiciorum astrarum (also known as the Introductorium or Libellus isagogicus) of Ab ’l– Saqr ‘Abd al–‘Azı¯z ibn ‘Uthm n ibn ‘Alı¯ al–Qabı¯sı¯ (Alcabitius); Ptolemy, Centiloquium, with the commentary erroneously attributed to ’Ali Ibn Ridwan (Haly); Euclid, Geometria, Book III; the Tractatus quadrantis of Robertus Anglicus; Year 4: Ptolemy, Quadripartum; the treatise De urina non visa of Guilielmus Anglicus; Ptolemy, Almagest, Part III. 23. Dante Alighieri, Quaestio de situ et forma aquae et terrae, ed. F. Mazzoni, in Opere minori, 2:693– 880. See the pertinent remarks on forms of commentary, quaestio, and disputatio, in S. Vanni Rovighi, “Le ‘disputazioni de li filosofanti,’” in Dante e Bologna nei tempi di Dante, 179– 92 (181– 84). A useful summary account of university education in philosophy and theology in the later Middle Ages is provided by J. Marenbon, Later Medieval Philosophy (1150–1350) (London: Routledge, 1987), 7– 34. 24. Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 133. 25. “Or conviene seguire a tal drittura [della voluntade] vertudiose e meritorie opere le quali sono etiamdio secondo lo Filosofo in lo xo dell’Ethica. La beatitudine è primo delle virtudiosi operazioni” (In order to direct the will correctly we should follow virtuous and meritorious deeds, which is also in line with the Philosopher’s Ethica, Book X. Beatitude is the supreme virtuous act): Volpi, 2:1065. William of Moerbeke’s translation of Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea, X 7.1177a12–13, reads, “Si autem est felicitas, secundum virtutem operatio, rationabile secundum optimam” (If happiness is an activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that this should be the highest virtue): see S. Thomae Aquinatis doctoris angelici In decem libros Ethicorum Aristotelis ad Nicomachum expositio, ed. R. M. Spiazzi (Turin: Marietti, 1949), Lib. X, lect. X, 1477: 542. 26. Volpi, 2:1065– 67. 27. Commento alla Divina Commedia d’Anonimo del secolo XIV, ed. P. Fanfani, 3 vols. (Bologna: Romagnoli, 1866– 74), 2:117; Dante Alighieri, Commedia, ed. A. M. Chiavacci Leonardi, 3 vols. (Milan: Mondadori, 1991– 97), 2 (1997): 208. 28. For an account of the theological issues, see P. Vignaux, Justification et predestination au XIVe siècle (Paris: Vrin, 1981); G. Leff, William of Ockham: The Metamorphosis of Scholastic Discourse (Manchester: Manchester University



Press, 1975), 455– 526 (an account of William of Ockham’s influential discussion of merit and related issues, such as omnipotence, predestination, grace, and free will); and, more briefly, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, 15 vols. and supplements (Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1930– 72), XI (1932), Art. “Nominalisme,” cols. 769– 76. 29. See, for example, Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (Rome: Textum Leoninum, 1889), Ia q. 95 a. 4 arg. 1: “quantitas meriti ex duobus potest pensari. Uno modo ex radice charitatis et gratiae; et talis quantitas meriti respondet praemio essentiali, quod consistit in Dei fruitione: qui enim ex maiori charitate aliquid faciat, perfectius Deo fruitur. Alio modo pensari potest quantitas meriti ex quantitate operis; quae quidem est duplex, scilicet absoluta, et proportionalis” (degree of merit may be estimated in two ways. One way has regard to its root in grace and charity, and merit thus considered corresponds in degree to its essential reward, which consists in the enjoyment of God; for the greater the charity that prompts a deed, the more perfect the enjoyment of God. The other way measures degree of merit in terms of the import of the deed itself, and this is of two kinds, absolute and proportional). Thus, in the parable of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41– 44; Luke 21:1– 4), the poor widow gave to the Temple treasury proportionally much more than the rich men gave, although in absolute terms it was less; so the reward for the greater charity that informed her action must be accounted proportionally greater. 30. “Ideo dico quantum ad istam conclusionem quod caritas nec quecunque alius habitus necessitet deum ad dandum alicui vitam eternam, imo de potentia absoluta potest alicui conferre caritatem et eum post annihilare, et similiter in perpetuum in caritate custodire et nunquam disponere dare vitam eternam. Secunda conclusio est quod deus potest de potentia sua absoluta aliquem acceptare sine omni tale forma informante. . . . Item quicunque potest habere actum meritorium simpliciter potest cum tali actu acceptari sine omni habitu: . . . quia ideo dicitur actus meritorius quia acceptatur a deo” (Therefore, in respect of this conclusion, I say that neither charity nor any other condition necessarily requires God to bestow eternal life on anyone, and it is even within his absolute power to confer charity on someone and then annihilate him, or, similarly, perpetually preserve him in charity yet never see fit to grant him eternal life. The second conclusion is that it is within God’s absolute power to accept someone without any such predisposition at all . . . so that whoever has to his credit a meritorious deed can simply be accepted on account of that deed without any other requirement; . . . the reason being that it is called a meritorious deed precisely because it is accepted by God): William of Ockham, Super IV Libros Sententiarum, III 5, H–I, in Opera plurima, 4 vols. (London: Gregg Press, 1962), IV (facsimile reprint of the Lyon 1495 edition: no folio or page numbers). 31. See Par. 28.109–14 and the related notes in Dante Alighieri, Commedia, ed. Chiavacci Leonardi, 3:782– 83.

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


32. Volpi, 3:2055. 33. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 175. 34. Volpi, 1:289– 309. 35. Ibid., 2:1193. 36. Ibid., 2:989, 1453, 1149– 51; 3:1765– 69, 1991– 95. 37. Gloss to Purg. 3.139 and proem to Par. 10: Volpi, 2:999 and 3:1999. 38. Translation from Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 35. 39. Par. 2, proem: Volpi, 3:1715. 40. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 591. 41. Glosses to Inf. 32.76 and 77: Volpi, 1:881. 42. Par. 13, proem: Volpi, 3:2105. 43. Gloss to Inf. 3.31: Volpi, 1:162 (the Bolognese text in this instance clearer than the Tuscan). 44. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 191. 45. Ibid. 46. Gloss to Inf. 10.97: Volpi, 1:339. 47. Par. 2, proem: Volpi, 3:1717. 48. “Die Kritik sucht den Wahrheitsgehalt eines Kunstwerks, der Kommentar seinen Sachgehalt. Das Verhältnis der beiden bestimmt jenes Grundgesetz des Schrifttums, demzufolge der Wahrheitsgehalt eines Werkes, je bedeutender es ist, desto unscheinbarer und inniger an seinen Sachgehalt gebunden ist”: Walter Benjamin, “Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften,” in Gesammelte Schriften, ed. R. Tiedemann and H. Schweppenhäuser, 7 vols. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1972– 99), I 1 (1974), 123– 201 (125); translation mine. 49. “E bisogna stare all’espressione usata da lui; perchè le sue narrazioni, o storiche o mitologiche, hanno di solito l’aria di novelle” (And we must stay with the expression used by him, because his accounts, either historical or mythological, usually look a lot like novelle), in Rocca, Di alcuni commenti della Divina Commedia, 183; and Rocca goes on (183– 201) to provide examples of Lana’s confused and inaccurate accounts of myths and historical events, even recent ones—a manner of treatment that suggests, in the case of myths and ancient history, reliance on compendia rather than firsthand acquaintance with the sources. 50. Glosses to Purg. 5.91, and 9.13: Volpi, 2:1035, 1111–13. 51. “Per essemplo adutto è nel presente capitolo due fabule poetiche, nelle quali, acciò che ’l processo della esposizione non passasse troppo chiuso, è da scrivere le sue allegorie. La prima di Iuppiter, di Iunone, di Semele e di Bacco. Onde è da saper che Iuppiter significa la vertude attiva, e però nelli elementi ha a significare il fuoco; Iunone hae a significare l’aiere, e però quando insieme si coniungeno fulminano, imperquello che l’umido de l’aiere s’aprende e diventa fuoco; Semele ha a significare terra e acqua mista, e però quando si congiunge con Iuppiter genera Bacco, cioè vino, imperquello che l’umido nella terra composto, se



riceve influenza dal calore, genera frutto. Sí che altro non ha a significare la detta fabula, se non che fittivamente li poeti sotto cotale velame trattavano della natura e della generazione delle cose nel mondo. / La seconda favola è quella di Mirra, per la quale s’intende una generazione d’albori li quali adamano molto il sole e senza esso non tochiscono, né vanno a compimento. E però di tale spetia d’albori non si trova se non in oriente, dove, per lo calore del sole e abondanza di sua influenza, sí crescono in tale regione; aduceno frutto, lagrime e gomma, le quali nella favola hanno a denotare il pianto di Mirra quando fu dal padre cacciata. . . . Li quali modi di trattare sotto allegoria di natura sono reprovadi in libri della Physica d’Aristotele, imperquello che lla scienza naturale intende de veris et necessariis e non pure de apparentibus. E questi sermoni poetici sono pure apparenti e ffittivi” (Two poetic tales are provided in this chapter as examples, of which, for the sake of clarity, it is worth explaining the allegories. The first is the story of Jupiter, Juno, Semele, and Bacchus. It should be known that Jupiter signifies active virtue, but his element is fire, whereas Juno signifies air; so that, when they are united, they create lightning, as the humidity in the air ignites. Semele represents a mixture of earth and water; and so when she is united with Jupiter she generates Bacchus, which means wine, since the humidity present in the soil, if it is subject to heat, brings forth fruit. Beneath the veil of this myth we can see the poets created fictions to veil the truth about nature and the origin of species . / The second story is that of Myrrha, which represents the origin of certain trees which are very fond of the sun, without which they do not grow or reach maturity. And yet this species of tree is not found except in the east, where, thanks to the sun’s heat and the abundance of its influence, they grow a lot bearing fruit, tears, and rubber, which in the myth denote the tears shed by Myrrha after her father pursues her. . . . These ways of dealing with nature by means of allegory are rejected in the books of Aristotle’s Physics, because natural science deals with what is real and necessary and not with appearances. And these poetic sermons are also illusory and fictitious): Inf. 30, following the gloss to 142; Volpi, 1:841– 43. For another example, see Lana’s discussion of the significance of Tithonus in the gloss to Purg. 9.1; Volpi, 2:1109–11. 52. Comedia di Dante degli Allagherii col comento di Jacopo della Lana bolognese, ed. Luciano Scarabelli, 3 vols. (Bologna: Tipografia Regia, 1866– 67), 1:514 n. 1; see Volpi, 2:1232, 1233. 53. Par. 8, proem; gloss to Inf. 15.55: Volpi, 3:1931; 1:467. 54. Volpi, 2:1249– 51. 55. Gloss to Inf. 24.53: Volpi, 1:695. 56. Volpi, 1:581– 91. 57. Ibid., 1:585– 87. 58. Ibid., 1:581. 59. “Sì come quando alcuna coniunzione è o aspetto di pianeto a pianeto, o da pianeto ad imagini, le quali produceno mutazioni in lo tempo, o in umido

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


o in secco, o in caldo o in freddo, sì come appare in libro Coniunctionum Albumasar e in eiusdem Floribus, in alcuna fiada falla e raro”: Volpi, 1:587. Flores astrologiae is a compendium by John of Seville (Johannes Hispalensis) that draws on several of Abu¯ Ma‘šar’s works, in particular the book for which he is best known, the Liber coniunctionum: see Abu¯ Ma‘šar, Abu¯ Ma’šar on Historical Astrology: The Book of Religions and Dynasties (On the Great Conjunctions), ed. and trans. K. Yamamoto and C. Burnett, 2 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 2000). 60. “Può etiamdio predire secondo natività delli uomini, la sua complessione per constellazione, o sanguinea o colerica o melanconica o flematica, ed etiamdio la figura e la statura, da’ quali principii procede l’arte della finosomia [i.e. fisionomia], la quale in le corpore convenienze è vera, e per consequens può prescire delle passioni overo movimenti proceduti dalle complessioni” (It can also predict through astrology, and according to men’s birth, if one is of sanguine, choleric, melancholic, or phlegmatic temperament, as well as one’s shape and size, from which the art of physiognomy originates, which in bodily matters is true, and as a result it can predict moods, that is, movements proceeding from the temperaments): Volpi, 1:589. 61. Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 625. 62. Gloss to Purg. 30.109: Volpi, 2:1585. The allusion is undoubtedly to alQabı¯sı¯’s Liber introductorius or Libellus isagogicus, a tenth-century work (again in a translation by John of Seville) that became one of the standard introductions to astrology in the West: see al-Qabı¯sı¯, The Introduction to Astrology, ed. and trans. C. Burnett, K. Yamamoto, and M. Yano (London: Warburg Institute, 2004). Ptolemy’s treatise on astrology, with the addition of elements derived from Indian, Persian, and Arabic astrology, was the ultimate source of many such later works: see Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, ed. and trans. F. Egleston Robbins (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980). 63. Inf. 20, proem: Volpi, 1:589. 64. Volpi, 1:125– 27. 65. Purg. 33, proem: Volpi, 2:1641. 66. In the proem to Purg. 18, for instance: “E però sí alla dimanda che fa l’autore a Virgilio, . . . fa bisogno ricorrere alla detta scienza di teologia, acciò che se la naturale è defettiva elli si soccorra con quella perfetta e compiuta scienza che ’l suo subietto è creatore del mondo” (however, regarding the question asked by the author to Virgil . . . there is the need to resort to the science of theology, because if natural science is defective, it can be sustained by the more perfect and complete knowledge whose subject is the creator of the world): Volpi, 2:1287; and, explicitly, in the gloss to Inf. 2.54, where, in having Virgil seek direction from Beatrice, Dante “segue suo poema mostrando come tutte le scienze sono suddite a teologia” (follows his poem showing how all the sciences are subject to theology): Volpi, 1:145.



67. “È da sapere che la volontade tende universalmente in quel fine in che è somma felicitade [textual lacuna], ma non simpliciter secundum quid: che quello ragionamento s’intende per modo ragionevile e ordinato ad acquirere quella somma felicitade overo beatitudine, sí come chiaro in Prima Secunde di santo Tomaxo, questione 4, articolo 4. Or mette l’autore che l’anime poi che sono alla seconda vita e sono nel purgatorio, già ogni sua volontà si conferma alla volontà e iustizia di Dio, sí ch’è in confuso quanto per sua volontade tendeno a beatitudine, cioè d’ascendere al paradiso a vedere Dio. Ma perché sua volontà, com’ è detto, si conforma con quella della iustizia di Dio, hanno sovra essa lo talento, cioè che non hanno appetito d’ascendere se non per modo ordinato, e questo modo in quanto si repetta colla divina iustizia è secundum quid. Mo’ dice l’autore: tutte l’anime del purgatorio simpliciter vogliono montare al paradiso, ma secundum quid non se non quando sono purgate; sí che sí tosto come sono abili e disposte a ricevere tale beatitudine, adesso hanno talento di montare e innanzi non tutto simile come nelle naturali cose che sí tosto come sono disposte a ricevere nuova forma adesso ella li sovraviene, e fino che non sono disposte non li sovraviene, tutto che siano in possanza di potere venire in tale disposizione” (It should be noted that the will universally tends to that ultimate goal, which is supreme happiness [ . . . ], not simply in a certain respect, since that reasoning is construed logically and systematically to achieve the greatest happiness or beatitude, as it is clear in St. Thomas’s Prima Secunde, question 4, article 4. The author says that the souls, because they are experiencing a second life and are in purgatory, have already all their will conformed to the will and law of God, to the point that it is hard to tell the extent to which they tend to beatitude by their own will, that is to ascend to heaven and see God. But because their will, as said earlier, acts in accordance with God’s justice, their desire is stronger than their will, namely, they desire to ascend but in an orderly manner, and in this way, which is consistent with divine Justice, it is in a certain respect. The author then says: simply all souls in purgatory want to go to heaven, but in a certain respect only when they are cleansed, so that as soon as they are able and willing to receive such beatitude, they will have then the desire to ascend, and not before, as in the natural order of things where as soon as they are willing to receive a new form it immediately happens, and if they are not, it does not happen, so that they can fully come to such disposition): Volpi, 2:1363. 68. Volpi, 2:1449– 67. A different example, which may be illustrated more briefly, is provided by the Aristotelian explanation of comets and meteors in the gloss to Purg. 5.37, in which Dante alludes to vapori accesi seen at sunset in the month of August (the month of the regular Perseid meteor shower): “sí come lo Filosofo mostra nella sua Methaura, li vapori ch’escono della terra ascendeno secondo la qualitade di quelli, che alcuni ne sono che sono sí materiali che non possono passare la seconda regione de l’aiere e lí si gelano alcuni e caggiono

Uses of Learning in the Dante Commentary of Iacomo della Lana


giuso, altri sono che si resolveno in acqua e pioveno giuso; altri sono c’hanno piú materia sottile, li quali ascendeno fino alla terza regione de l’aiere, e lí si resolveno in vento, e lí circularmente descendeno fino alla terra. Altri ne sono che sono di quella sottile materia ma tiene di vescositade, la quale non si può risolvere in vento, ma ascendeno tanto che per la vicinità del cercolo del fuoco e del movimento s’accendono: s’elli sono in poca quantità tosto si risolveno e per lo movimento apparno pure che ’l cielo s’avra; s’elli è in maggiore quantità brigase piú a risolvere, ed è molte fiate che durano parecchi mesi. E quelle sono apellate comete, perché ’l vapore acceso fa fummo e par quasi come una treccia. Or fa la comparazione l’autore di quelli vapori accesi che sono in poca quantità che hanno velocissimo moto, e fa etiamdio anco di quelle nuvole che per la calura de l’aiere descendeno alla terra quasi espulse dal detto calore: e questo avviene molto del mese d’agosto quando lo sole è in Leone, o presso ad alcun’altra costellazione c’ha nome Canis maior, che di quel tempo ascende col sole, come appare per Albumasar nel suo Introduttorio” (Just as the Philosopher shows in his Methaura, the vapors coming out of the ground ascend according to their quality, so that some are too heavy that they cannot pass the second region of the sky, and there they will freeze and fall down, while others are dissolved in water and rain down; others have subtler matter, and ascend to the third region of the sky, and there become wind, and there circularly descend to the earth. Others are of thin matter but viscous, which cannot become wind, but ascend so close to the circle of fire that the movement enflames them: if they are in small quantities immediately they dissolve, and because of this movement the sky seems to open, if they are in greater quantities it takes more to dissolve, and in many cases it takes several months. And those are called comets, because the falling star makes smoke and seems almost like a braid. The author here makes a comparison with the falling stars which are in small quantities and have a very fast motion, and he also mentions those clouds that in the heat of the air descend to the earth as they are almost expelled from the aforesaid heat: and this happens a great deal in the month of August when the sun is in Leo, or near that other constellation whose name is Canis major, which at that time ascends with the sun, as Albumasar argues in his Introduttorio): Volpi, 2:1029.

   


How to Read the Early Commentaries             

Anyone who reads the Commedia with the support of a good modern commentary knows how much we owe to the early commentators, whose works have shed light on obscure historical episodes, giving us information about unknown characters to whom the poem refers and indications of the meaning of certain words. While amply plundered by modern scholars, the early commentaries do not cease to spring surprises. Such is the case, for example, with the glosses written by the Florentine notary Andrea Lancia between 1341 and 1343 which assert Dante’s authorship of the Letter to Cangrande—in both its epistolary and exegetical parts—sixty years before Filippo Villani. The same commentary also attributes to Dante the dispute with Forese Donati, thereby proving, contrary to recent ludicrous hypotheses that consider it a forgery of the early fifteenth century, that the tenzone was certainly known before the first half of the thirteenth century.1 But over and above this obvious usefulness, the early commentaries establish the horizon of expectation of the Commedia at its origins and allow us therefore to see it through the eyes of its first readers.2 84

How to Read the Early Commentaries 85

Since the early commentators share Dante’s mind-set and culture, their opinion is likely to come closer than ours to grasping the poet’s authentic thought. Obviously, the adoption of an unconditional adherence to their critical perspectives does not necessarily follow from this. We must, in fact, consider the specificity and breadth of each commentator’s cultural background (influenced by his time, among other things) alongside the fact that the attitude of the exegete in general, and of the medieval exegete in particular, is basically apologetic. Its intent is to make the text accessible, by softening its most innovative elements, in order to carry it back into the crib of tradition and thus into contexts familiar to the reader.3 From such necessities one would probably not even exempt Dante as commentator on his own work, because a commentary on poetry must use the established critical categories to be comprehensible to its readers, whereas art has its own reasons and its liberties. This would perhaps explain certain trivializations of the Letter to Cangrande, as for example the hasty justification of the title of the poem, which has raised many suspicions concerning the authenticity of the text in recent criticism.4 It therefore seems necessary to contextualize the early commentators’ claims in order to gain useful hermeneutical insights from their work. This means examining not only the relationship between the gloss and the commentary (and the proems to each canto, if there are any) but also the relationship between the commentary itself and other commentaries. Finally, it will be necessary to contextualize all these against the backdrop of the exegetes’ readings which interact and react with Dante’s text; a complex process, in short, of the hermeneutics of hermeneutics, for which even the most useful electronic instruments of consultation, such as Robert Hollander’s Dartmouth Dante Project or Paolo Procaccioli’s CDROM, appear entirely insufficient.5 In fact, a critical reading of the commentaries in their entirety, laborious as it may be, might still reveal some novelties, or at least confirm some interpretations. To demonstrate this I choose to take into account, by way of example, some cantos of the poem that have had particular critical fortune, namely, the first and fifth cantos of Inferno, and I examine the commentaries of Dante’s century, listed here with their date of composition: Jacopo Alighieri (1322), Graziolo Bambaglioli (1324), Iacomo della Lana (1324– 28), Guido da Pisa (the first



draft before 1333, the second draft between 1335 and 1340), Ottimo (1334), Pietro Alighieri (three versions, between 1340 and 1364), Chiose Ambrosiane (around 1355), Guglielmo Maramauro (1369– 73), Giovanni Boccaccio (1373– 74), Benvenuto da Imola (1379– 83), Francesco da Buti (1396), Filippo Villani (1391–1405).6 Ab Iove principium: so we begin our analysis from “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita.” In their literal interpretation of this verse, almost all the early commentators agree that the verse is a periphrasis indicating more or less the age of thirty-five years, with two exceptions, both in explicit polemic with the popular interpretation. One of these is Guido da Pisa, who claims that “medium namque vite humane, secundum Aristotelem, somnus est” (10) (the middle of the human life, according to Aristotle, is sleep); the other is Filippo Villani, who refers the expression to the life of all humanity on earth, “the middle” of which, according to some chronological hypotheses, would coincide with 1300 (83). Later critics have drawn on all these indications, with more or less convincing results, culminating in a kind of ranking of credibility. Here, however, I am not trying to solve this age-old problem; on the contrary, I am trying to understand the reasons for these different proposals. Let us begin with Guido da Pisa. It is said that he “aimed to introduce a new exegetical category; that of the Commedia as a ‘visio per somnium’ [vision through dream] . . . in order to make of it a prophetic vision of biblical imprint.”7 On more than one occasion I have tried to prove that this analysis does not correctly bring into focus the thought of Guido. The hypothesis referred to above is flawed by the presupposition that the commentary is from the second half of the century, whereas it actually precedes the year 1333 (in its original form, attested by MS Laur. 40.2). Far from being fideistic, Guido s attitude approaches the poetic theories of the prehumanistic intellectual circles of northern Italy, whether independently or by derivation, I would not know. At the center of these theories was the concept of the poeta theologus, which, in a certain way, is the secular variant of the biblical prophet.8 The reference to “sleep” serves the purposes of another line of exegesis, which aims to identify a genre in which to place the Commedia. In fact, after having affirmed that this is a summa of genres (see in this context the epitaph for Dante formulated by Guido),9 Guido likens it to the Somnium Scipionis in the wake of Macrobius, who

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supplied a model for writing about dreams in the Middle Ages. In this way the Somnium becomes the prototype for the genre of the medieval vision, and it is not by chance that this work is evoked at the beginning of the Roman de la Rose,10 where poetical composition, following an old medieval tradition that goes back as far as Persius, is in fact compared with sleeping and dreaming.11 Moreover, this interpretation, relating as it does the “mezzo del cammin” to the act of writing and its modalities, is clearly connected to the convention according to which the incipit is the appropriate place for considerations of a metaliterary character, and on this, as we shall see, all the early exegetes agree. On this point, Filippo Villani, whose commentary dates to the beginning of the fifteenth century, is an exception. His reading of the first verse is conditioned by a rather radical allegorical interpretation of the poem, which in some places appears truly affected, that sees in the character of Dante the humana species and in his journey the passage of humanity from birth to redemption, ending in the reunion with God on the Day of Judgment. The novelty of this perspective is only apparent; Villani in essence does nothing but relate the chronological indication to the one allegorical meaning attributed to Dante-the-character, amplifying an interpretive thread which had been started much earlier with Iacomo della Lana. But while Iacomo della Lana limited himself to reading the pilgrim’s journey of purification and knowledge as a representation of the subjective moral and personal journey desirable for each man (anticipating the interpretive canon of “Dante-everyman” propounded by Charles Singleton), Villani widened the significance to humanity as a whole, going to great length—even manipulating the text—to find unlikely congruencies. He may perhaps have been persuaded to do so by his preliminary reading of canto 30 of Purgatory, which led him to emphasize the meaning of Eden by associating the arrival of Dante there to the return of man to his place of creation, on account of his redemption from original sin made possible by the institution of baptism, represented by the immersion in Lethe. If Villani attributes the chronological indication offered by the first verse of the Commedia to the allegorical meaning of the character of the viator, Graziolo Bambaglioli, who thinks the poet only represents himself, claims that “Dantes quando hunc tractatum incepit, erat in medio



cursu humane vite” (when Dante began this writing, he was in the middle of the course of human life), running into the error of confusing the date of the vision with that of the composition of the work. Today we might dismiss this misinterpretation, attributing it to the inexperience of poor Graziolo, who was one of the first to gloss the text, if only an exceptional commentator like Giovanni Boccaccio, writing fifty years later, had not run into the same error. Boccaccio, grounded (like very few) in a thorough knowledge of Dante’s biography and equipped with sophisticated interpretive skills, writes in the gloss to the first verse that the poet “cotanti [i.e., trentacinque] anni aveva nel MCCC, quando mostra d’avere la presente opera incominciata” (was aged thirty-five in 1300, when he says to have undertaken the present work).12 Not satisfied, he reaffirms in a note to canto 6, where Ciacco speaks in the future tense of the conflicts between the Whites and the Blacks in 1302, “qui puoi vedere che l’autore cominciò questo libro all’entrata dell’anno di Cristo MCCC” ([y]ou can see here that the author began this book at the beginning of the year of our Lord 1300).13 The sound good sense of the author of The Decameron makes him note candidly the improbability that this is about a true prophecy, and he observes that “certa cosa è che Dante non avea spirito profetico . . . e a me pare essere molto certo che egli scrisse ciò che Ciacco dice poi che fu avvenuto” ([i]t is certain that Dante possessed no power of prophecy. . . . I think it is perfectly clear, moreover, that he wrote what Ciacco said after the fact).14 After having advanced also, but without conviction because of lack of evidence, the hypothesis that a first edition of the first seven cantos written in Florence in 1300 was then modified, Boccaccio concludes: “Ora, come che questa cosa si sia avvenuta o potuta avvenire, lascerò nel giudicio de’ lettori: ciascun ne creda quello che più vero o più verisimile gli pare” (Now, just how all this took place or could have taken place, I shall leave to the judgment of the readers, each of whom can believe whatever seems to him truest or most likely).15 This invitation found a suitable recipient in Benvenuto Rambaldi da Imola, who, having attended Boccaccio’s lectures on the Commedia, did not fail to express his view in his own commentary: Ad primam ergo partem generalem dico, quod autor describit suam visionem; et primo tangit quo tempore apparuerit sibi ista visio, scilicet in

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medio cursu humanae vitae. Sed antequam descendam ad expositionem litterae, oportet praenotare quod autor noster fingit se habuisse hanc mirabilem salutiferam visionem in MCCC anno, scilicet Iubilaei, in quo erat generalis indulgentia peccatorum, et in die Veneris sancti, in quo facta est redemptio peccatorum, ita quod merito autor poterat bene sperare in sui conversionem et operis prosperationem. Describit autem hanc suam visionem distincte per tempora, quam tamen totam simul habuerat, sicut Moyses describit Genesim, et Ioannes Apocalypsim. Quod pro tanto dixisse velim ut multa puncta elucescant, quae viderentur obscura hoc ignorato. Autor enim describit multa facta post istud tempus, et saepe per multos annos, et sic quasi propheta videtur praedicare futura, cum tamen noverit illa iam facta cum scripsit, sed fingit se illa praevidisse in illa visione sua in praedicto millesimo, quae tamen postea diversis temporibus scripsit. (Comentum, 1:22) —— [In relation to the first general part I say that the author describes his vision; and in the first place he mentions when this vision appeared to him, namely in the middle of the course of his human life. But before we move on to the exposition of the letter, it is necessary to note that our author imagines having this miraculous salutary vision in the year 1300, namely (the year) of the jubilee, during which there was a general indulgence of sins, and on the day of Good Friday, on which the redemption of sins was done, and therefore the author could be hopeful about his own conversion and the continuation of the work. Nevertheless he describes this vision of his distinctively as regards time, as Moses described the Genesis and John the Apocalypse. I have said these things in the hope to elucidate many points which would appear obscure ignoring this. The author in fact describes many facts which occurred after this time, and often after many years, and so almost as a prophet he would appear to predict future events when in fact he would have known about those events when he wrote. But he pretends to having seen those events in this vision in the mentioned year, although he actually wrote about them later on.]

Therefore, while retaining the implication of the first verse as referring to the composition of the work, Benvenuto distinguishes the moment of



inspiration and the sudden idea to write the poem (1300) from the long process of writing, which took place over the course of several years. To clarify this not completely fluid thought, Filippo Villani, in his turn, pupil of maestro Benvenuto and of Boccaccio, dedicated an appropriate paragraph of his commentary to this matter, titled “De tempore quo incepit et prosecutus est poeta opus suum” (About the time when the poet began and carried on with his work), where he explains lucidly: De tempore vero distinctio debet haberi: quo scilicet poeta excogitando materiam invenerit et, qua inventa, metrice modulando atque expoliendo ediderit. Ubi scire debemus, anno gratie millesimo ducentesimo sexagesimo quinto, exeunte maio, in hanc regionem caducorum venisse poetam, annoque vigesimo quinto etatis sue cepisse operam impendere in inventione et ordinatione materie, in cuius inquisitione et ordine decennium continuum erogavit, ut ipse testatur dicens: Tanto erano gli occhi miei fixi e attenti a desbramare la decenne sete etc. In millesimo vero trecentesimo, anno Iubilei, et in die Veneris Santi, fingit poeta cepisse metro rithmico opus modulare, ipsumque annis uno et viginti complevit. (Expositio, 39–40) —— [It is necessary to make a distinction about time, namely, between the moment when the poet found his subject matter through his reflection and the moment when, once he had found it, he wrote it down polishing it and putting it into verses. Therefore we have to know that the poet came to this mortal world in the year 1265, at the end of May, and that at twenty-five years of age he started the work in terms of finding and ordering his poetic material, in which search and ordering he spent a decade, as he himself witnessed saying: Tanto erano gli occhi miei fixi e attenti / a desbramare la decenne sete etc. In 1300, year of the jubilee, and on the day of Good Friday, he pretends to have started to put his work into verses, which he completed in twenty-one years.]

This last assertion does not leave any doubt about the fact that Villani also adheres to the idea that the drafting of the poem began in 1300.

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Probably on account of the clear hints offered by the Malacoda episode (Inf. 21.112–14), he establishes a connection between the poet’s vision (visio) and the process of writing that his tendentious allegorical interpretation of the first verse did not allow him to make. As for the notion that the inventio of the poem precedes the composition, a notion that certainly owes something to an interpretation of the expression “la decenne sete” (ten years of thirst), seen in the light of Dante’s explicit proposal at the end of the Vita nova “to speak more worthily” (degnamente) of Beatrice; it is curious—and I shall later try to give an explanation for this—that Villani never mentions the libello. Indeed this reticence is shared by Benvenuto, who in fact resorts to the very adjective “mirabilis” (miraculous) to describe Dante’s vision, thereby implicitly linking it with the “mirabile vision” which in the Vita nova brought about its interruption and the proposal to write more worthily of Beatrice. To return to my main purpose, I would not fully subscribe to any of the exegetical proposals illustrated here, since each shows evident incongruities; yet, in their entirety, they have important implications. Indeed, all the commentators, even given their remarkable interpretive diversity and with the sole exception of Guido da Pisa, agree on one point: the chronology of the vision and of the drafting of the poem coincide and therefore Dante’s journey is configured as a metaphor for writing. In this conviction, our commentators are not alone; Lana, the Anonymous Florentine, and Guglielmo Maramauro all agree, as many of their glosses (not mentioned here for reasons of space) show.16 Altogether we can see that the commentators have a certain difficulty combining the chronological indication of the first verse of the poem with textual or historical data or simply with common sense. Accusing the early exegetes of naïveté, modern critics have rejected those early interpretations which failed to deal with such difficulties. In doing so, however, scholars have shown their own naïveté in passing such an anachronistic judgment. The early commentators’ confusion between the time of the vision and the time of the composition is surely connected to the obvious lack of categories which we can now borrow from the science of narratology: the distinction between author, narrator, and character introduced when the narration is composed in the first person. The



confusion of these categories is prompted by the distinctiveness of the character who says “I” in the Comedy, connoted as it is with so many of the historical traits of the author to give the impression, to part of modern criticism, that the poem wished to be, at least in Dante’s intentions, a revelatory and prophetic text as much as the biblical ones. In truth, the same Alighieri, for whom the above-mentioned narratological categories were equally unavailable, is responsible for such an impasse. Nor could he have imagined that six centuries later an astute reader such as Gianfranco Contini would have put forward the theory of a distinction between Dante the poet and Dante the character, which is still of great hermeneutic worth for today’s critics. The lack of such a distinction in Dante’s mind might explain his definition of the subiectum of the Comedy in the Letter to Cangrande, a definition that has even contributed to casting doubt on his authorship. If Dante claims that the subiectum (i.e., the topic) is the state of the soul after death, and not his own journey to the other world, we are not dealing with the error of a forger, as Bruno Nardi would have it,17 but probably with a candid assimilation of Dante-narrator with Dantecharacter. In other words, the poet depicts the act of representation in the form of a journey, so the latter is not the subiectum but eventually forms a part of the modus tractandi (i.e., the form of the poem). This, therefore, gives us a sense of the extent to which the poet shared the cultural horizon of his first readers. With much trust, perhaps, we have accepted the allegorical interpretation of Dante’s guides formulated by the early exegetes, probably because they speak with one voice for the most part — even with some significant divergences, discussed below—in recognizing Virgil as “reason” or “rational philosophy” and Beatrice as “faith” or “theology” or the “sacred scripture” (which, according to Boccaccio, is the same thing). We must observe, however, that the poetic text gives the reader very few clues about the significance of the guides and that the clues it does give us are ambiguous. More important, the same presence of an allegorical sense is strongly questioned by the historicity of the characters of Virgil and Beatrice; though their appearance in the opening cantos, immersed in a dreamlike and unreal atmosphere and linked with indisputably allegorical elements (such as the three beasts), testifies in its favor, doubt remains as to what extent their allegorical significance might be limited

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only to the first two cantos and not extended through the whole poem.18 On a closer look, only one passage of the Comedy would be able to suggest, though ambiguously enough, the allegorical meaning—if there is any—of the two guides, where Virgil says: . . . quanto ragion qui vede dir ti poss’io; da indi in là t’aspetta pur a Beatrice, ch’è opra di fede. (Purg. 18.46– 48) —— [. . . [a]s far as reason may see this, I can tell you. To go farther you must look to Beatrice, for it depends on faith alone.]19

One may deduce from this only the most general idea of the areas of expertise of Virgil and Beatrice, “reason” and “faith,” respectively, a difference that might just as easily refer to the degree of knowledge that a damned soul might have in comparison to a holy one. Furthermore, the functions that the two characters fulfill in general, a certain complementary aspect of their roles and, consequently, a close connection between them, can be deduced; thus, their allegorical meanings (if there are any, I insist) must be interdependent. In such uncertain territory we would like to be directed by Dante himself, at least mediated by the words of his sons, to whom we now turn. If it is probable that Iacomo and Pietro gained some special insights from their father, unfortunately we will never know which they were, jumbled up as they are among the many personal opinions offered by their own commentaries. Nor would we know if they had understood them correctly. In this case, concerning the meaning of the guides, we must register with regret that the two brothers are not in agreement. Iacomo claims that Virgil represents human reason and Beatrice divine scripture “since she is perfect and blessed” (Chiose, 96). In his first draft, Pietro evidently notices a flaw in his brother’s reasoning, inasmuch as in opposing a human faculty to a text it does not award correlative meanings to two characters whose correlation is certain. For this reason he proposes for Virgil the significance of “rationalis philosophia” (rational



philosophy) (I draft, 35) well suiting Virgil’s historical character, as the poet “naturalis et moralis ultra alios” (more expert than all in natural and moral sciences) (III draft, 73), and restores the parallelism and the coherence in respect to theology, which is the significance attributed to Beatrice. In so doing, he does not deviate very much from his brother, Iacomo, since for him theological science corresponds to divine scripture. It is also worth noticing that in making such a correction Pietro does not proceed in a linear manner but oscillates, not only between one version and the other, but also within the same first version, sometimes turning to the meaning attributed to Virgil by Iacomo. This attitude is a symptom of difficulty and uncertainty and, surely, not of firsthand knowledge gleaned from the father himself. What prompts the Alighieri brothers to advance this interpretation? I believe that they were influenced by the parallel, absolutely legitimate, with the Aeneid, seen through the distorting lens of the medieval commentaries. To one of these commentaries Pietro returns, affirming that Aeneas’s guide, the Sybil, also represents rational philosophy.20 I do not claim to know which one of the Virgilian commentaries Pietro might have read, but his interpretation very much resembles that of Bernardo Silvestre—surely known by Dante21—which asserted that the Sybil, who comes to aid the human soul represented by Aeneas, signified intelligence.22 After all, an indication of Virgil’s symbolism may be found in the poet’s own Vitae, in which he claims that each of his works represents a part of philosophy and that the greatest part, about rational philosophy, is reserved for the Aeneid.23 As for the significance of Beatrice in a philosophical perspective widely Thomistic, it can be inferred simply in relation to that of Virgil.24 But it is Pietro again (I draft, 63) who suggests a possible independent origin, associating Beatrice with the description made by Alano da Lilla in his Anticlaudianus: theology in the guise of a young girl, reached by a cart guided by Fronesis (Wisdom), Reason, and Prudence, spanning the seven skies symbolizing the liberal arts. As previously mentioned, the interpretations of the Alighieri brothers were very successful, perhaps because of their familial credentials, possibly also because the allegorization (this one in particular) corresponded well with the need of readers perplexed by the shocking innovativeness of the Commedia. In fact, while, on the one hand, prioritizing the

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allegorical sense of the guides averted the temptation to interpret Dante’s journey in a literal way, on the other, it distracted attention from the embarrassing presence of the “I” of the author, revoking its historicity in a generic allegorical meaning. If the first instance responded to the preoccupation that the new public, being unused to the metaphorical language of literature, would be deceived by Dante’s overwhelming realism, the second derived from the difficulty of placing the poem in a definite literary genre. The question, to which I only hint hypothetically, deserves further discussion, starting with the analysis of the glosses that try to justify the title of the work. For the moment it will be enough to instill the suspicion that it is not simply accidental that when speaking of Beatrice not one of the early commentators recalls her role as a protagonist in the Vita nova, even if some of them claim that the author composed other works for her. They acknowledge her biographical reality, but they do not seem to grant her a poetic origin; that is to say, they reject the idea that her character, with the highest place attributed to it in the Commedia, could be carried over from a work of lyrical genre to a didactic poem, that is, from the erotic sphere to one that concerns supreme truth. But just such an interpretive shortcoming, which leads to the libello’s obliteration by Benvenuto and Villani, proves the scandalous innovativeness of the Commedia and is the most important information acquired about this point emanating from the early commentators. Now let us concern ourselves with canto 5 of Inferno. According to an essential procedure in medieval exegesis, also followed by Dante as a self-commentator, almost all the commentators begin with the “division.” And almost all the commentators make an apparently obvious distinction, dividing the canto into two parts: the first in which the souls of the ancients (Semiramis, Cleopatra, Achilles, Dido, etc.) are mentioned; and the second in which the moderns (Paolo and Francesca) appear. The frequently noted absence of historical perspective in medieval thought does not permit a chronological ordering but simply an attribution of all the ancients to an indistinct past, to which Semiramis belongs as well as Tristan, the historical character as well as the fictional. Buti (Commento, 1:148) thinks that the distinction between the ancients and the moderns is not chronological but consists only in the fact that the ancients are famous thanks to the authors. It will therefore be Dante who will give fame to the moderns, making them rise, from the Commedia onward, to



the same role as the characters of the other authors: Francesca as Dido, and the poet of one on the same level and in continuity with the singer of the other. This would clarify the function of the long list of the lustful in the opening of the canto. Some critics considered it a tribute to a questionable taste for cataloging which is not up to standard or homogeneous with the second part of the canto. Instead, Dante confirms here his wish to include himself within the group of auctores; just as in the preceding canto he places himself “sixth” among them, now his characters march among those of the classical authors. If Buti’s claim confirms a detail that has also been detected by the most attentive critics of our time, Benvenuto da Imola sets up a different interpretive line, which could bring to the surface a hypotext of the canto never previously taken into consideration. In fact, he distinguishes, as the others do, the characters into ancients and moderns but adds the adjective “externi” to the first and “italici” to the second. Now, such distinctions go back certainly to Valerio Massimo, whose Facta et dicta memorabilia are divided into foreigners and Latins. Is this one piece of evidence among the few at our disposal that Dante knew this author? Naturally, it could also be a superimposition of the exclusive readings of maestro Benvenuto on the text, but the problem deserves deeper study. With respect to the sources, the insight of the first commentators cannot be underestimated because of their familiarity with the same texts as those of Dante’s “library,” so much superior to ours. This could also apply to the hypotext suggested by Guido da Pisa in his analysis of the simile of the cranes in Inf. 5: E come i gru van cantando lor lai, facendo in aere di sé lunga riga, così vidi venir, traendo guai, ombre portate dalla detta briga. (Inf. 5.46– 48) —— [Just as cranes chant their mournful songs, making a long line in the air, thus I saw approach, heaving plaintive sighs, shades lifted on that turbulence.]25

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Today, electronic concordances allow us to gather, with feeble effort (perhaps too feeble), all or almost all the passages of Latin literature involving the crane, but they do not exempt the modern commentator from having to analyze and make a hierarchy of the search results. In this case, indicating a source for this simile, the modern commentaries return to Virgil, to Statius, and ultimately to Lucan. Here are the passages in question: . . . quales sub nubibus atris Strymoniae dant signa grues atque aethera tranant Cum sonitu fugiuntque notos clamore secundo. (Virgil, Aen. 10.264– 66) —— [ . . . much as cranes coming home to the Strymon, Hidden by the dark storm clouds as they wing their way across heaven, Signal with clangorous cries their flight from the south wind of summer.]26 Qualia trans pontum Phariis defensa serenis rauca Paraetonio decedunt agmina Nilo, cum fera ponit hiems: illae clangore fugaci, umbra fretis arvisque, volant, sonat avius aether. (Statius, Theb. V 11–14) —— [Just so do flocks of screaming birds (i.e., cranes), caught by the Pharian summer, wing thier way across the sea from Paraetonian Nile, whither the fierce winter drove them; they fly, a shadow upon the sea and land, and their cry follows them, filling the pathless heaven.]27 Strymona sic gelidum bruma pellente relinquunt poturae te, Nile, grues primoque volatu effingunt varias casu monstrante figuras; mox ubi percussit tensas notus altior alas, confusos temere inmixtae glomerantur in orbes, et turbata perit dispersis littera pinnis. (Lucan, Phars. V 711–16) ——



[Like as cranes Deserting frozen Strymon for the streams Of Nile, when winter falls, in casual lines Of wedge-like figures first ascend the sky; But when in loftier heaven the southern breeze Strikes on their pinions tense, in loose array Dispersed at large, in flight irregular, They wing their journey onwards.]28

Guido da Pisa (Expositiones, 116), who did not have the concordances but did have a refined ear, indicates only the last text, prompting us to reevaluate it.29 Actually the passage from Lucan describes two types of flight, as well as the cranes. The first is a methodical flight, and the other is an irregular flight, ruffling up these cranes because of the wind: this second could perhaps have evoked the images of the storks that form the basis of the simile used by Dante in the preceding lines. To stay on the ornithological theme, the early exegetes take time to illustrate the characteristics of the birds that play such a significant role in the similes of this canto. Benvenuto explains the reason for this (Comentum, 1:194), probably based on Pietro Alighieri (I draft, 86): “autor multiplicat comparationes avium, quia amor est volatilis sicut avis, unde pingitur et fingitur alatus” ([t]he poet uses a lot of similes of birds because love flies as a bird, and for this reason it is portrayed with wings). After all, the birds are lustful by nature, and their flesh, as Ottimo teaches us (1:75), lights the fire of the libido. Moreover, the storks and the cranes are particularly lustful animals inasmuch as they are attracted in their seasonal migration to the warm countries (in fact, Benvenuto still says, Comentum, 1:193: “calor libidinis vocat eos et fugiunt frigidas [partes] ubi non sunt mulieres pulcrae” [the heat of lust attracts them, and so they flee the cold lands where there are no beautiful women]), and doves are, not by accident, animals sacred to Venus. The insistence on the argument astonishes and therefore prompts investigation. First of all, the early readers analyze the text on the basis of rhetorical training and sensibility, so much so that in the margins of many manuscripts of the Commedia, even if not provided with an exegetical apparatus outright, the abbreviation “Co” appears with the titulus written above to indicate the comparatio (simile),

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followed sometimes by the adjective propria, to highlight an example to follow. The proprietas is the fundamental quality of a good comparatio and depends on the congruence between signified and signifier, that is to say, on the quantity of shared characteristics, even though they are not strictly connected with the tertium comparationis. This way the figure represented by the doves, for example, whose function is to illustrate a soaring flight, is able to boast once more congruence with the flying souls of the lustful, as Ottimo illustrates to us: Questa similitudine fa ottimamente qui per più ragioni: l’una ragione, che siccome il colombo con la colomba per affezione di lussuria si combaciano continuo, così costoro due; ed è da notare che gli antichi poeti consacrarono le colombe alla dea Venus, e chiamavanle universale veneree, cioè lussuriose, però che continuo hanno figliuoli, e nel baciare concepono amore; colombo è uccello mansueto senza fiele, e che volentieri conversa con gli uomini; tutto questo è abito d’amore: così faceano questi due amanti. L’altra cagione si è, che come non senza maggiore affezione i colombi si partono da’ loro pipioni, così questi per la maggiore affezione si partirono da quelle anime, che con loro erano nidificate, e vennero all’Autore credendo da lui avere alcuno compiacimento. (1:83– 84) —— [This simile fits well here for several reasons: first, because doves mate repeatedly as they are given to lust, and so these two; worth noting also is that the ancient poets consecrated doves to the goddess Venus, and they generally used to call them venereal, that is lustful, because they constantly breed, and as they coo they make love; also, doves are docile and without bile, and willingly converse with men; all these are inclinations for love: and so did these two. The other reason is that as doves are keen on leaving their young ones behind, so these left the troop of souls who were with them, and came to the author in the hope of finding some pleasure.]

In a shameless society such as the one in which we live, where culpability can be worn as a badge of pride even by cunning people or scoundrels, one can hardly comprehend how sin was experienced in medieval times. In this sense the first commentaries are also illuminating: they show us they had a strong sense of sin, but at the same time it is not very



internalized; the negative element of sin is principally derived from society’s external judgments. Consequently, Dante and his early interpreters felt the infernal punishments as slanderous more than tragic and distressing,30 to the point that Iacomo della Lana (or the scribe of his copy of the poem) is induced to make a curious but very meaningful Freudian lapsus31 in reading verses 100–102: Amor, ch’al cor gentil ratto s’apprende prese costui de la bella persona che mi fu tolta; e ’l mondo ancor m’offende. —— [Love, quick to kindle in the gentle heart, seized this man with the fair form taken from me. The way of it afflicts me still.]32

He reads mondo (world) instead of modo (manner). The corresponding gloss states: “ancora il mondo l’ofende, çoè la nomenança e fama” (the world offends her, that is her name and honour). Likewise Buti interprets the “death” as that to which “Amore condusse” Paolo and Francesca, not as that tragic and violent death by the hand of Gianciotto, but as infamy that derived from their sin (Commento, 1:165). Indeed, on account of the moral literature (Gregory the Great, Petrus Lombardus), lust is considered particularly disgraceful. Because this sin takes place in hidden corners, as Guido da Pisa deduces (Expositiones, 104), it is shameful. After all, Ottimo says (1:69), the elements that characterize it are “fatica, puzzo, sozzura, vergogna, infamia della fatica” (toil, stench, filth, shame, disgrace of toil). We are struck by the perseverance of almost all the commentators in describing and classifying the vices. If one succeeds in overcoming the tedium of reading these long reprimands, which are often wrongly considered the exclusive prerogative of the clergy, one notes a remarkable consonance in the way they outline a hierarchy of sins. It is probable that Dante shared it as well. Thus we learn that the sin of Paolo and Francesca can be defined generically as lust but more precisely as incestus, in which an illicit relationship is envisaged not only between relatives but also between in-laws. Here we sense that it is not a coincidence if the level of re-

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lationship is made explicit by the poet when he faints for “la pietà d’i due cognati” (pity of the two in-laws). Moreover, given that incest is the worst form of lust, because in the classification of the sins it stands after fornicatio, adulterium, stuprum (or defloratio) (fornication, adultery, rape [or defloration]) and only before sins against nature, to which the poet reserved a different place, we understand better the significance of the expression used by Dante to define Francesca’s guilt: her “mal perverso” (perverse evil). No less boring appear, at first reading, the meticulous lists about the effects of lust, as for example that composed by Francesco da Buti. At the same time, however, even such a reading might be worthy of interest if we were able to verify its impact on an interpretive level, as the commentator suggests. Here we have his words about the “figliuole” (children) of lust, that is to say, the evils that derive from it. E queste figliuole sono otto, cioè cechità di mente, inconsiderazione, incostanzia, precipitazione, amor di sé, odio di Dio, appetito del presente secolo, desperazione delle cose celestiali. . . . E queste otto figliuole à mostrate l’autore nel testo. . . . Et è da notare che le pene che l’autore adatta a quelli dell’inferno litteralmente secondo convenienzia del peccato, allegoricamente si deono intendere di quelli del mondo. . . . E però dico che l’autore intese la prima figliuola, cioè cechità di mente, e la seconda, cioè inconsiderazione, quando disse in questo canto di sopra: Io venni in luogo d’ogni luce muto. Il luogo de’ lussuriosi, mentre che sono nel mondo, è sanza luce, perché ànno cechità di mente; e questa è la prima e seconda pena che finge essere a loro per convenienzia: ché chi è stato cieco nel mondo, degna cosa è che sia in cechità nell’inferno. La terza, cioè incostanzia, intese quando disse: La bufera infernal ec. Li lussuriosi nel mondo sono menati dalla vanità del peccato, e volti e percossi; e questa è la terza parte che finge essere a loro per convenienzia ancora: ché chi è stato nel mondo incostante, sia nell’inferno menato dal vento; e come nel mondo s’è girato di spezie in spezie di lussuria, cosi nell’inferno sia volto e percosso. E questo medesimo dimostra ancora quando dice: Di qua, di là ec. E perché vento non può essere sanza aere, però finge che i lussuriosi sieno puniti dal vento nell’aere: dal vento, per mostrare la loro incostanzia e volubilità; nell’aere, per mostrare la loro debolezza, e fragilezza, ché



agevolmente l’aere cede al vento et ad ogni cosa. La quarta, cioè precipitazione, intese quando disse: Quando giungon dinanzi alla ruina ec. Li lussuriosi nel mondo sono precipitati in molti altri vizi e pericoli, per quello però convenientemente finge che di là sieno precipitati. La quinta, cioè amore di sé stesso, intese quando disse: Quivi le strida, il compianto e il lamento. I lussuriosi nel mondo sono stati amatori della sua carne, e compiagnitori e lamentatori e gridatori, quando ànno cantato e composti sonetti e canzoni d’amore; e però per conveniente pena finge l’autore che di là, cioè nell’inferno, stridano, e compiangansi e lamentinsi, se di qua ànno cantato per amore disonesto, et amatesi troppo. La sesta, cioè odio di Dio, intese quando disse: Biasteman quivi la virtù divina. Li lussuriosi nel mondo ànno in odio Idio et insurgono contra lui, e però degnamente finge l’autore che similmente sieno nell’inferno in sì fatta ostinazione. La settima, cioè appetito della presente vita, intese quando dirà di sotto: Et ella a me: Nessun maggior dolore. Li lussuriosi ànno grande amore al mondo, e però degnamente finge che per tormento abbino quel medesimo amore nell’inferno, acciò che l’assenzia della cosa amata faccia loro dolore. L’ottava, cioè desperazione, intese quando disse: Nulla speranza li conforta. Li lussuriosi si disperano in questa vita delle cose celestiali, e però convenientemente finge che questa desperazione abbino nell’inferno: Quia in inferno nulla est redemptio. (Commento, 1:156– 58)33 —— [And these daughters are eight: blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, inconstancy, impetuosity, self-love, hatred of God, appetite for worldly things, despair of heavenly things. . . . And these eight daughters are shown in the text by the author. . . . Worth noting is that the punishments given by the author to those in hell, which are to be understood literally and are entirely proportional to their sin, must be understood allegorically as experienced by those in this world. . . . And therefore I say that the author was talking about the first daughter, blindness of mind, and the second, thoughtlessness, when he said in the above canto: I reached a place mute of all light. The place of the lustful, while they are in the world, is without light, because their minds are blinded, and this is the first and second punishment that the author, accordingly, imagines for those in hell, for he who was blind in the world, can only expect blindness in hell.

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The third, inconstancy, is intended by the author when he says: The hellish squall, etc. The lustful in the world are led away by the vanity of sin, and are tossed and swept by it, and this is the third torment that the author appropriately imagines for them, because whoever in the world was fickle, shall be led by the wind in hell, and as in the world they indulged in all sorts of pleasure, so in hell they shall be tossed and whirled around. And the author means the same when he says: Here and there, etc. And since wind cannot be without air, he has the lustful punished by the wind, in the air: by the wind, to show their inconstancy and volatility, in the air, to show their weakness and fragility, because air easily gives in to wind and everything else. The fourth, impetuosity, is intended when he says: Caught in that path of violence, etc. As the lustful in the world have fallen into many other vices and dangers, so the author sees them caught in the same path there as well. The fifth, selfishness, is intended when he says: They shriek, weep, and lament. The lustful in the world have been lovers of their own flesh, weepy, criers, and whiners, when they sang and composed sonnets and love songs; so the author appropriately imagines that there in hell, they shriek, weep, and lament if in the world they sang for the sake of dishonest love, and if they have loved too much. The sixth, hatred of God, is implied when the author says: Then how they curse the power of God! As the lustful in the world hate God and rise up against him, the author rightfully sees that also in hell they are similarly obstinate. The seventh, that is appetite for worldly things, is indicated when the author says: And she said to me: ‘There is no greater sorrow.’ The lustful have great love for the world, and so the author fittingly sees them in hell tormented by the same love, since they suffer when they cannot have what they desire. The eighth, that is despair of heavenly things, is suggested when the author says: Never are they comforted by hope. In this life, the lustful despair of heavenly things, and yet conveniently the author shows that they have the same despair in hell: For in hell there is no redemption.]

Notwithstanding a certain degree of overinterpretation, it seems undeniable that the taxonomy of the effects of the sin described by Buti, constituted by largely traditional elements (St. Thomas, Alexander of Hales, and St. Gregory above all)34 that are shared or at least capable of



being shared by Dante, corresponds well enough to the characterization of the punishment according to the known principle of the contrapasso. This shows how the poet is never satisfied by the liberal and free exercise of his imagination; rather, the latter is stimulated by the hurdles imposed by culture on artistic freedom. Moreover, the reader of the well-known essay by Contini on this canto cannot avoid noticing that Buti (writing in 1393) already emphasizes some important literary implications pertaining to the sin of lust when, indicating the fifth “figliuola” (daughter) of lust, he says that they who have sung and composed sonnets and songs of love in the world have been “lovers of their own flesh.” It is worth saying that none of the early interpreters acknowledged the obvious presence of Guinizzelli behind the verse “Amor ch’al cor gentil ratto s’apprende” (Love, quick to kindle in the gentle heart), nor had they heard the echoes of the ethics of courtly love in the discourse of Francesca. Nonetheless, in Buti there is the consciousness that Dante’s emotional involvement, considered particularly intense by all the early interpreters, is also a question of professional nature: a vice that involves all the poets. This is what Benvenuto da Imola states more explicitly when he links the fainting of the poet in front of “the pity of the two in-laws” with what happened to Dante in the presence of Beatrice in the Vita nova, also in this case not openly cited. Less sensitive to the metaliterary thread that runs through this canto, other commentators, such as Ottimo, are more inclined to interpret Dante’s involvement in autobiographical terms, perhaps as a result of a reading of the Vita nova in the same perspective. E dice [l’autore], che poi ch’egli ebbe udito nominare le dette genti [i.e., “le donne antiche e i cavalieri,” v. 71], però ch’elli fu di loro collegio, li prese pietade di loro, e fu quasi smarrito per la paura della pena attribuita al suo peccato. Io cominciai ec. Nota qui, lettore, che il detto Autore fu molto in questo amore inviscato, e però volentieri ne parla. (1:83) —— [And he [the author] says, that after he had heard those people named [i.e., “the ladies and the knights of old,” v. 71], having been himself of the same party, he took pity on them, and almost lost his senses for fear of the punishment attached to his sin. I began, etc. Note here, reader, that said Author was very much caught up in this love, yet he is still willing to talk about it.]

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The shrewder reader will be able to detect that the presentation of Francesca is characterized by a high level of distortion of auto-apologetic intent. In fact, this is how Benvenuto grasps this aspect of Francesca’s characterization when he comments upon the famous claim, “Amor che a nullo amato amar perdona,” after having strenuously denied the truth of these words: [Poeta] fingit istam mulierem luxuriosam hoc dicere ad excusationem sui, sicut sepe loquitur mulier amorata de suo fallo. . . . Dicit enim: ego non sum de natura angelica vel saxea. . . . Ergo bene dixit in persona istius meretricis. (Comentum, 1:211) —— [The poet imagines this lustful woman to say this to excuse herself, as often a woman in love would talk about her guilt. . . . [S]he says in fact: my nature is not that of angels or that of stones. . . . [T]herefore the author was right in making her talk like a whore.]

The crudeness of the epithet will horrify those who see Francesca as the heroine of a love that lasts beyond death, or as a partially innocent victim of an overwhelming passion, or as guilty of a sin, that is all too human to deny her forgiveness. In any case the sensibility of the first readers of Dante was not at all disposed to give a rebate to the “bella polentana.” The only one to defend her is Giovanni Boccaccio, trotting out undocumented and perhaps fictitious developments of the affair. Perhaps influenced in part by the Florentine notary Andrea Lancia,35 Boccaccio reports that Francesca gave her love to the handsome Paolo, believing him to be her future husband; he also notes that she had probably been led into error by the same Gianciotto, whose ugliness gave him little matrimonial hope.36 That is comprehensible, if only one thinks about the role of the woman, and women in general, in the conception of the Certaldese, the most modern and unusual for the times. Less kind are the other commentators. They seem to share the severe judgment of Benvenuto, showing them to be children of their time in their preconceptions concerning the issue of feminine virtue. One example, which can stand for all, is Iacomo della Lana, who reconstructs the tragic affair of love and death in a way ideologically opposed to Boccaccio, by aggravating the guilt of Francesca on the one hand and by lessening that of Gianciotto on the other.



Or questa ystoria si fo che Çoanne Çotto, figlol de miser Malatesta da Rimino, avea una sua muier ch’avea nome Francesca e figlola de miser Guido da Polenta da Ravena; la qual Francesca çasea cum Polo, fradelo del so marito, ch’era so cugnato. Corretta ne fo più volte dal so marido, no se ne castigava; a la fin trovòlli insemme suso ’l peccado, prese una spada e conficòlli insemme in tal modo che abraçati ad uno morìno. (1:216–18) —— [Now this story deals with Gianciotto, son of Messer Malatesta of Rimini, who had a wife whose name was Francesca, the daughter of Messer Guido da Polenta of Ravenna; Francesca was having an affair with Paolo, her husband’s brother, her own brother-in-law. She had been often chided by her husband, but she did not change her ways; eventually he caught them in the act, took a sword and killed them together in such a way that they died in each other’s arms.]

We can presume Dante’s feelings concerning the adulteress from Rimini must not have been so different from those of the first interpreters of his poem: after all, Francesca is in hell.

N  1. See L. Azzetta, “Le chiose alla Commedia di Andrea Lancia, l’Epistola a Cangrande e altre questioni dantesche,” L’Alighieri 44 (2003): 5– 73; and Andrea Lancia, Chiose alla “Commedia,” ed. L. Azzetta (Rome: Salerno, 2012). 2. On this point, see also the considerations of S. Bellomo, “La Commedia attraverso gli occhi dei primi lettori,” in Leggere Dante, ed. L. Battaglia Ricci (Ravenna: Longo, 2003), 73– 84. 3. Z. G. Barański, “Chiosar con altro testo”: Leggere Dante nel Trecento (Florence: Cadmo, 2001), 13– 39. 4. See the intelligent observations of E. Cecchini in the notes to his edition of the Letter to Cangrande (Florence: Giunti, 1995), 42. 5. The first is accessible on the Internet; the second is titled I commenti danteschi dei secoli XIV, XV e XVI (Rome: Lexis, 1999). 6. I list the respective editions of reference: Jacopo Alighieri, Chiose all’“Inferno,” ed. S. Bellomo (Padua: Antenore, 1990); Iacomo della Lana, Commento alla “Commedia,” ed. M. Volpi (Rome: Salerno, 2009); Guido da Pisa, Expositiones et glose super Comediam Dantis, or Commentary on Dante’s Inferno, ed. V. Cioffari (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1974); L’Ottimo com-

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mento della “Divina Commedia”: Testo inedito di un contemporaneo del poeta, ed. A. Torri (Pisa: Capurro, 1827– 29), anastatic edition, pref. F. Mazzoni (Sala Bolognese: Forni, 1995); for the first edition of Pietro Alighieri: Petri Allegherii super Dantis ipsius genitoris “Comoediam” Commentarium, nunc primum in luce editum consilio et sumtibus G. I. Bar. Vernon, curante V. Nannucci (Florentiae: apud Guilielmum Piatti, 1845); for the second version it is necessary to avail oneself of Il “Commentarium” di Pietro Alighieri nelle redazioni ashburnhamiana e ottoboniana, transcr. R. Della Vedova and M. T. Silvotti, introd. E. Guidubaldi (Florence: Olschki, 1978); for the third draft: Pietro Alighieri, Comentum Super Poema “Comedie” Dantis: A Critical Edition of the Third and Final Draft of Pietro Alighieri’s Commentary on Dante’s the “Divine Comedy,” ed. M. Chiamenti (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2002); Le chiose ambrosiane alla “Commedia,” ed. L. C. Rossi (Pisa: Scuola Normale Superiore, 1990); Guglielmo Maramauro, Expositione sopra l’“Inferno” di Dante Alligieri, ed. P. G. Pisoni and S. Bellomo (Padua: Antenore, 1998); Giovanni Boccaccio, Esposizioni sopra la “Comedia” di Dante, ed. G. Padoan, in Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio, ed. V. Branca, 10 vols. (Milan: Mondadori, 1964– 98), vol. 6; Benevenuti de Rambaldis de Imola Comentum super Dantis Aldigherij “Comoediam” . . . , curante J. Ph. Lacaita (Florence: Barbèra, 1887); Commento di Francesco da Buti sopra la “Divina Comedia” di Dante Allighieri, ed. C. Giannini (Pisa: Nistri, 1858– 62), anastatic edition, pref. F. Mazzoni (Pisa: Nistri, 1989); Filippo Villani, Expositio seu comentum super “Comedia” Dantis Allegherii, ed. S. Bellomo (Florence: Le Lettere, 1989). For further information and bibliography on each commentary, see Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi: L’esegesi della “Commedia” da Iacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olschki, 2004); and Censimento dei commenti danteschi, vol. 1, I commenti di tradizione manoscritta (fino al 1480), ed. E. Malato and A. Mazzucchi (Rome: Salerno Editrice, 2011). 7. F. Mazzoni, Saggio di un nuovo commento alla “Divina Commedia,” “Inferno”—canti I–III (Florence: Sansoni, 1967), 17. 8. See Bellomo, “La Commedia attraverso gli occhi dei primi lettori,” 78– 82; and Bellomo, Dizionario, 38– 41, 272. 9. “Hic iacet excelsus poeta comicus Dantes, / Necnon et satirus et liricus atque tragedus” (6) (Here lies mighty Dante comic and satiric and lyric and tragic poet). 10. This is cited through the mediation of Chrétien de Troyes, as noted by Langlois in his edition to vv. 6–10. In Le Roman de la Rose: Par Guillaume de Lorris et Jean de Meun, Publie d’apres les manuscrits par Ernest Langlois, 5 vols. (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1914– 24), 2(1920): 293. 11. From the iconographic apparatus of the main MS of the commentary (the MS of Chantilly), most likely prepared under the direction of Guido himself, the sleeping Dante induces Lucia Battaglia Ricci to classify the concept of the visio a bit differently. See L. Battaglia Ricci, “Testo e immagini in alcuni manoscritti



illustrati della Commedia: Le pagine d’apertura,” in Studi offerti a Luigi Blasucci dai colleghi e dagli allievi pisani, ed. L. Lugnani, M. Santagata, and A. Stussi (Lucca: Pacini Fazzi, 1996), 23– 49 (34– 48); L. Battaglia Ricci, “Il commento alla Commedia: Schede di iconografia trecentesca,” in “Per correr miglior acque . . . ”: Bilanci e prospettive degli studi danteschi alle soglie del nuovo millennio, Atti del Convegno di Verona-Ravenna, 25– 29 ottobre 1999 (Rome: Salerno, 2001), 1:601– 39 (608–13). 12. Boccaccio, Esposizioni, I 5: 20. Translation mine. 13. Boccaccio, Esposizioni, VI 32, 6:352. Translation: Boccaccio’s Expositions on Dante’s “Comedy,” trans. Michael Papio (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 660. 14. Boccaccio, Esposizioni, VIII 16, 6:450. Translation: Papio, Boccaccio’s Expositions, 386. 15. Boccaccio, Esposizioni, VIII 17, 6:450. Translation: Papio, Boccaccio’s Expositions, 386. 16. See Bellomo, Dizionario, 42– 44. 17. B. Nardi, “Osservazioni sul medievale accessus ad auctores in rapporto all’Epistola a Cangrande,” in Saggi e note di critica dantesca (Milan and Naples: Ricciardi, 1966), 268– 305 (295– 96), already in Studi e problemi di critica testuale (Bologna: Commissione per i testi di lingua, 1961), 273– 305. The rest of the commentators who use the Letter to Cangrande, even without knowing its author, accept without objections Dante’s definition of subiectum. 18. See M. Picone, “Inferno II: L’ ‘altro viaggio,’” in Sotto il segno di Dante: Scritti in onore di Francesco Mazzoni, ed. L. Coglievina and D. De Robertis (Florence: Le Lettere, 1998), 249– 60 (252). 19. Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 2003), 365. 20. “Sibilla, quam Virgilius fingit etiam pro ista rationabili philosophia” (I draft, 38). 21. See Bellomo, “‘Una selva oscura’: Il prologo della Commedia,” in “Le donne, i cavalier, l’arme, gli amori.” Poema e romanzo: La narrativa lunga in Italia, ed. F. Bruni (Venice: Marsilio, 2001), 43– 57. 22. “Sibilla quasi scibule, id est divinum consilium, quod accipimus esse intelligentiam, que dicitur consilium quia per eam homo sibi consulit”: Commentary on the First Six Books of Virgil’s Aeneid by Bernardus Silvestris, trans. E. G. Schreiber and T. E. Maresca (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979), 34. 23. “Quot sunt partes principales scientiae? in poemate Virgilii tres: physica id est naturalis in bucolicis, ethyca id est moralis in georgicis, loyca id est rationalis in XIII libris Aeneidis.” In Vitae Vergilianae, ed. J. Brummer (Lipsia: Teubner, 1933), 59 (Vita monacensis, 119– 22). The same concept is also found in Vita noricensis, 46– 47 (55).

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24. This is the hypothesis of A. Vallone, in Enciclopedia dantesca (Rome: Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, 1970– 78), 1:546. Nevertheless such reasoning could be overturned: that is, Virgil’s meaning could be dependent on the one attributed to Beatrice. 25. Translation from Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Anchor Books, 2002), 93. 26. P. Virgil, Aeneid, trans. F. Ahl (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 264– 66. 27. P. P. Statius, Thebaid, 2 vols., trans. J. H. Mozley (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928). 28. Lucan, The Civil War: Books 1–10, trans. J. D. Duff (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1932). 29. G. Gorni draws on the passages from Lucan with regard to Purg. 26 in “Gru di Dante: Lettura di Purgatorio XXVI,” Rassegna europea di letteratura italiana 2 (1994): 11– 34 (28– 29). 30. An analogous sign of such a sense of guilt is to be found in the punitive use within city-state societies of paintings of infamy, a phenomenon that has been studied by G. Ortalli, La pittura infamante nei secoli XIII–XVI (Rome: Jouvence, 1979). 31. See S. Timpanaro, Il lapsus freudiano: Psicanalisi e critica testuale (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1974). 32. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 97. 33. The passage is from the Giannini edition, with some intervention in the punctuation. 34. See C. Casagrande and S. Vecchio, I sette vizi capitali: Storia dei peccati nel Medioevo (Turin: Einaudi, 2000), 149– 80, in particular, on the catalogue about the consequences of lust (167). 35. See L. Azzetta, “Vicende d’amanti e chiose di poema: Alle radici di Boccaccio interprete di Francesca,” Studi sul Boccaccio 37 (2009): 155– 70. 36. Boccaccio, Esposizioni, V 147–155, in Tutte le opere, 6:315–16. Nevertheless the news of a promise of matrimonial arrangements with Paolo would seem confirmed by Guglielmo Maramauro, who drafted his commentary some years before Boccaccio. He writes in fact that Francesca “fu promessa per moglie a Paulo Malatesta, e per alcuna caxone fu cambiata e data a Ioan Cioto, fratello so, el quale mal piacque a la dicta Francesca” (was promised in marriage to Paolo Malatesta, but for some reason she was betrothed and given to Gianciotto instead, Paolo’s brother, whom Francesca disliked) (169). One is not able to exclude the possibility that the note is a “cavallo di ritorno” (shakedown); it is possible that Maramauro would have been able to have heard from the living voice of the same Boccaccio, with whom he had, by judgment of his explicit assertions, a certain familiarity.

   


A Friar Critic: Guido da Pisa and the Carmelite Heritage   

A S     E    The increased interest in Guido da Pisa’s Expositiones has borne, over the last decades, rich fruits: a critical edition; studies on the date of its composition, on its sources and intellectual aspirations; assessments of the dedicatee of the commentary; investigations of the most important MS Chantilly Condé 597 and its iconographic apparatus; and analyses of the author’s interpretation of the Commedia’s visionary and prophetic claims.1 While these scholarly contributions are essential for our study and understanding of the Commedia’s early commentary tradition, the genetic makeup of the Expositiones, as well as its cultural significance, has not been fully grasped yet. The present study stems from a clear lacuna in the critical corpus devoted to Guido. While much effort has been dedi110

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cated to unearthing details of Guido’s biography, little has been done with the fragmentary evidence that has been discovered. Although it has so far been impossible to establish whether Guido was based in Florence or in Pisa, there is no reason to doubt that he was a Carmelite friar active in Tuscany (between Pisa and Florence) across the second half of the thirteenth century and the first decades of the fourteenth. And yet, as far as I am aware, nobody has so far tried to investigate the role and impact that the affiliation with the Carmelite order might have had on Guido and on his intellectual endeavors. Leaving aside Mazzoni’s critical judgment of Guido’s exegesis, blemished by his belief in the work’s late dating,2 recent scholarship has been keen to assess the commentator in relation to the northern Italian protohumanist milieu of Mussato and, later, Salutati.3 Evidence for such intellectual proximity seems to be based on Guido’s noteworthy classical erudition and on his belief in the notion of the poeta theologus, and also on the seeming popularity of the Pisan friar’s glosses among those close to Salutati.4 Yet, as will become clear during the course of my chapter, both elements were not exclusive at the time to the protohumanist or indeed humanist circles of Padua, Bologna, and Venice. Rather it is Guido’s membership in the Carmelite order that helps explain his cultural horizons, his modus vivendi et legendi, as well as his exegetical approach to Dante. Belonging to a religious order should not be considered an incidental biographical detail; instead, it is something that fundamentally shapes the life experience and intellectual formation of a devotee by encouraging distinctive modes of reading, understanding, and writing.5 Guido’s religious affiliation is even more significant when we remember that his Expositiones are the only early long commentary on the Commedia written by a member of the religious community, and even more significantly, by a mendicant friar, at a time when reading Dante was forbidden to other mendicants.6 Paradoxically, despite Guido’s uniqueness within the commentary tradition, scholars have failed to take note of his position within a religious order. Yet, as I will argue, the label—friar critic—which I intend to associate with our commentator is of fundamental importance to our understanding of some vital aspects of Guido’s exegesis and thought.7 My analysis therefore sets the Expositiones in the context of the Carmelite order, thereby associating the Carmelite spiritual and cultural



identity with Guido’s textual and hermeneutic attitudes and aims. To this end, given the general lack of familiarity with this influential mendicant order, I briefly explore its major historical developments, the distinctiveness of its Marian and prophetic approaches to life and reading, and, more important, its position in scholastic and exegetical culture.

R  The scarcity of specialist studies on the Carmelite order in comparison to the considerable body of scholarship on other mendicant orders should not come as a surprise.8 Its origins are vague and often anecdotal. Early chroniclers collapsed legend with history to create a suggestive though problematic tradition. Historians generally agree that the first Carmelites settled as Christian hermits on Mount Carmel more or less at the same time as the first Crusades to the Holy Land—toward the close of the twelfth century.9 The way of life, or rule, to be followed by these contemplative men was probably established by (or at the time of ) Albert, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, between 1206 and 1214. The Albertine Rule, as it was then called, prescribed a hermitic existence based on silence, obedience, and poverty.10 The statute was approved in 1226 by Pope Honorius III and formalized by Innocence IV in 1247. By the 1230s, possibly on account of the precarious political and military situation of Christians in Palestine, the hermits seem to have left Mount Carmel, scattering across Europe: Cyprus first, then Italy (Messina in 1230– 35; Pisa in 1249), Provence (Aygalades, 1244), and northern Europe (reaching England in 1242). The early history of the Carmelite hermits in Western Europe unfortunately is marred by discrepancies and lack of evidence; but, if not much is known about their early days, their expansion seems to have been swift and successful. As mentioned, in 1247, with the bull Quae honorem Conditoris, Innocent IV established the Carmelites as an official order of the church, amending their hermitical rule of life to conform to the new Western setting and transforming the Carmelites into mendicant friars. In 1253 the friars were allowed to preach, and in 1261– 62 they were given permission to build churches and bury laypeople (pending the permission of local bishops). By the early 1270s the order had built

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dozens of houses from Scotland to Catalonia, often “attaching themselves to the patronage of powerful lay magnates,”11 probably benefiting from their association with the Crusades. As late as the 1800s, Carmelite legends claimed that the monasteries of Florence, Pisa, and Siena had been established in the eighth century. In truth these settlements date to the middle of the thirteenth century and were among the first to be founded on the Italian mainland. As such they preserved an aura of antiquity and authority among future generations of White Friars. Documents seem to prove that the first Carmelites settled in Pisa around 1249,12 claiming to have arrived in search of protection from Muslim attacks on Mount Carmel. The arrival of pilgrims and hermits from Palestine could be justified by the strong ties with the Holy Land enjoyed by Pisa in the thirteenth century,13 yet, given the lack of stronger documentary evidence, scholars have failed to confirm the claims of those first Pisan Carmelites. What documents seem to prove, however, is that these new religious figures did find financial support among the population of Pisa. By 1249, in fact, a small group of Carmelite friars was granted land outside the walls of Pisa where they slowly started to build their settlement.14 The history of this group of friars has been poorly studied, yet Paolo Caioli’s old investigation of the Pisan Carmel shows, through archival evidence, that the Carmelite community of Pisa grew in number and influence over the second half of the thirteenth century. Undoubtedly, their growth was slow and difficult: the friars encountered the opposition of the Pisan archbishop, of the local parishes (in particular the parish of Saint Apollinaire), and of the other mendicants. But, probably thanks to the intercession of Urban IV in 1261 and 1262, the local clergy eventually granted the Carmelites permission to build a small church and cemetery outside Porta Legazìa (now known as Porta Mare), as long as the friars respected “i diritti delle altre parrocchie” (the rights of other parishes).15 The first mention of a Carmelite church (dedicated to Saint Margherita and not to the Virgin) dates to 1251, but by 1272 the friars had started to build their new church (dedicated to the Trinity) in Cafaggio. Even in this instance they found obstacles in their path: the opposition of the local chapter of the Primaziale continued well into the 1280s. Yet, in spite of such difficulties, the Carmelites of Pisa seemed to enjoy the support of local benefactors to such an extent that by 1328 they could move



inside the city walls. By mid-1300 the Pisan church was fully established, beautifully decorated and even housing works by Masaccio. In 1344 Andrea Orsini, one of the most influential figures of the Tuscan province and of the order as a whole, stayed at the convent, testifying to the strong links between the Carmel of Pisa and that of Florence, where Orsini was based.16 The origins of the Carmel of Florence also date to the 1260s,17 but their establishment in Oltrarno was faster and easier than that of their Pisan brothers: their magnificent church was countersigned in 1268 by the bishop of Florence, Giovanni de’ Mangiadori, a notable advocate of the order, and then consecrated in 1422 by Archbishop Amerigo Corsini. By that time the Florentine Carmel had become one of the most important centers for the study of theology and philosophy of the Carmelite order, and its studium, founded in 1324, attracted scholars and students from all over the continent.18 The Florentine library was well endowed and, as Humphreys’ catalogues clearly demonstrate, included substantial collections of theological and philosophical works.19 In spite of the concerns and doubts expressed by scholars over the past century, the study of the Carmelite system of education leads me to believe that it is not unlikely that Guido da Pisa spent time in both convents, benefiting from their intense and lively cultural life and having access to their libraries and attending academic lectures, courses, and debates.20 The academic development of the order and their system of studia is analyzed further below, for now it is important to note that, as the story of the Pisan Carmine shows, at least until the 1340s Carmelite successes came at a price. As the Carmelites began to find a position within urban communities, they faced opposition from and conflicts with other established mendicant communities, as well as members of the clergy.21 The Franciscans and Dominicans did little to accept the new Carmelite confraternities, criticizing the Carmelites for their poor erudition and even deriding them for their “eccentric” pallium barratum (striped habit). The frequency and ferocity of such criticism would explain the frequent papal interventions in their defense, “urging the faithful to ‘receive [the Carmelites], when they come to you, benignly, and bestow your favor on them’ (1248).”22 In addition to mockery and scorn, the new friars also had to come to terms with their new mendicant identity, as well as with the demands that the care of souls had on their anchoretic tradition. By the second

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half of the thirteenth century, the aims and therefore the role of the order had been altered to such an extent that, in his poetic address to the White Friars, the Ignea Sagitta (1270), the Carmelite Nicholas Gallicus could not but lament the loss of the traditional eremitical way of life resulting from the new rule of mendicancy embraced by the order. This loss, according to many friars, entailed a threat to the sense of identity and the uniqueness of the Carmelites.23 Challenges to the existence of the order became even more acute toward the end of the thirteenth century. Records show that the Carmelite expansion came to a temporary halt in 1274, when the Second Council of Lyons decreed that orders established after 1215 against the prohibition of the Fourth Lateran Council would not be recognized by the church.24 Both the Carmelite and Augustinian orders were left in a “reserved position” awaiting a final papal decision on their destiny. Scholars have convincingly argued that the probation period, which lasted until 1298, when Boniface VIII finally confirmed the Carmelite order (the reprieve was not made permanent until 1317), and the belated concession of privileges usually given to established orders (1326),25 had a vital bearing on the evolution of the order. It is clear that throughout the last decades of the thirteenth century and well into the fourteenth the Carmelite friars were engaged in a major ideological battle to resist the dissolution of their brotherhood while asserting its value and specificity. The battle unfolded on two major fronts: namely, the creation of charismatic identity narratives and the conquest of academic excellence. These core strategies became fundamental to the Carmelites’ battle for survival, and are examined below, where I also outline the possible effects that such cultural and institutional aspects of Carmelite history might have had on Guido da Pisa’s intellectual and spiritual attitude to texts, both secular and sacred.

T P    C    : T  C    ’ A     A    As Lickteig writes, “Because of their contemplative background and training the new mendicants [Carmelites] were ill prepared to work in the active ministry.”26 Those who opposed the growth of the new mendicant



order accused them of ignorance and inability to take care of the faithful, as they lacked training in preaching, confessing, and administering the sacraments. Their lack of theological expertise cast serious doubts on their ability to offer real service to the church, thus threatening their existence. In 1247, when the Carmelites took on a mendicant rule, the Franciscans and the Dominicans had already conquered the Parisian faculty of theology. In contrast, there are no records of Carmelite friars being university trained before 1281. The first attempts to “bring the Order into the academic world were made by Peter of Millau between 1277 and 1294,”27 when an educational system was slowly set up within the order and a theological school was established in Paris (in 1281); only in 1294 was the Parisian studium expanded to include the teaching of philosophy and logic. By this date all Carmelite provinces were asked to send to Paris as many students as they could, and other studia generalia for the study of the arts were created in London, Cologne, Montpellier, and Toulouse. The first Parisian Carmelite master was Gerard of Bologna, a 1295 graduate. Under his generalate, academic studies within the order received such an energetic boost that between 1297 and 1317 the Carmelites established a systematic and highly regulated program for academic training and excellence following the model of the main mendicant orders. The system was based on a tight web of studia generalia which served the entire order and offered an international milieu where liberal arts and theology were taught to select students coming from all the provinces of the West. In addition to this international system, the Carmelites organized a solid structure of local and regional schools controlled by the provincial chapters. Movements and transfers of students and teachers within the provincial structure were regular and guaranteed a homogeneous system of study and shared curricula. The basic structures of the system were the schools which were created within each friary; these were directed and run by a lector of theology who offered a program of study which included Latin grammar, logic, philosophy, and theology. The larger regional schools (studia particularia) provided the same curriculum but in greater detail; only their best students would then be sent to one of the studia generalia for university training.28 Given the enhanced mobility of the Carmelite system of study, it would be rather difficult to know which friary, regional studium, or even

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studium generale Guido da Pisa might have attended. The lack of records is not significant; the registers of the first decades of the studia are rare and incomplete for most provinces.29 Given the capillary academic system which spread in the first thirty years of the 1300s, it is reasonable to assume that Guido received a good education in the basic Carmelite curriculum at Pisa, and it is not unreasonable to postulate his presence in the studium generale of Florence, which was officially created in 132430 and had been an important regional school before that. It is also possible to imagine Guido frequenting the studium of Siena (which became general in 1440) where the Carmelite order had a very strong presence; but, regardless of where he studied, it is clear that he had access to an impressive academic milieu. To understand how Carmelite training might have prepared Guido, one must consider first and foremost the Carmelite approach to the teaching of Latin. It appears that, in contrast to other orders, “the study of Latin among the Carmelites was not only to fulfill the requirements for ordination to the priesthood but also needed for further academic study.”31 This meant that the Latin education of the ordinary Carmelite friar was generally superior to that of their peers from other orders. More important, their study of Latin involved learning the fine style of classical authors such as Virgil, Ovid, and Seneca. The letters of Joannes de Hildesheim, which include regular quotations from Virgil, Ovid, Seneca, and the like,32 show to what extent a Carmelite was not only familiar with but also fond of his classical authors. This is clearly an important fact when considering Guido. Scholars of his work have often marveled at his knowledge of and love for Virgil and the Latin auctores; yet if we consider his Carmelite background, his erudite and fervent knowledge of classical literature and his elegant use of Latin prose and meter are much less surprising. Similar considerations can be made for the study of logic and philosophy. Their study was essential to the Carmelite basic curriculum and actively encouraged within the order, even in the small friaries, where the presence of teachers of logic and philosophy was compulsory. The textbook for the study of the logica vetus, nova, and moderna was Peter of Spain’s Tractatus (known as Summulae logicales), but use of the Latin translation of the Aristotelian texts was also common.33 Moral philosophy was also taught from the early stages of a friar’s education, but its



study was generally advanced only in the larger studia. As far as theology is concerned, all friaries had academic programs in the sacra pagina, or theology, although generally only the larger schools guaranteed a higher level of teaching. The nature of the theological and philosophical teaching in the Pisan Carmel is so far undocumented, but in Florence, which became a studium generale in 1324, a very high level of academic and didactic excellence was very likely. Further studies into this area are needed to understand the nature of teaching to which a friar like Guido might have been exposed in Tuscany, but a comparison with the German Carmelite provinces leads us to believe that, even for those friars who had not been selected for university training, there were ample possibilities for achieving high levels of expertise thanks to the presence of a highly skilled teaching staff. Such conditions were heightened by the unified nature of studies within the order and the mobility which characterized the Carmelite educational system, as well as by the structure of the curriculum adopted throughout Europe whereby all schools from the friaries to the studia generalia would teach the same subjects but in more or less depth. Moreover, the emphasis given to student-teaching programs “assured that each friary . . . however small, would not be neglected.”34 What is left of the fourteenth-century Carmelite library of Florence offers an insight into a friar’s reading list: theological texts, Aristotelian material (texts and commentaries), biblical commentaries, collections of sermons, preaching guides and various volumes on spiritual and moral issues, historical compendia, mythographers, and texts of the ancient fathers but also, and most notably, works of modern theologians, such as their own Baconthorpe or the Franciscan Peter Olivi, who spent time in Florence.35 Evidence shows that White Friars were allowed to borrow books from other libraries and to buy their own.36 Therefore, even though the Florentine library provides important clues to help re-create a Carmelite’s personal studium, it is difficult to establish the full range of texts that Guido might have read, consulted, or even owned. Yet in spite of such uncertainties, we can be reasonably certain that Guido was one of the first to benefit from the academic reform of Gerard of Bologna and that his erudition closely followed the developments of Carmelite education in the first part of the fourteenth century. While the importance of the intense study of Latin (and its use as a spoken language among the White Friars) has been confirmed, the

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Carmelite interest in vernacular text has not been investigated. Recent studies for the British provinces, however, show that the White Friars did write about theology in the vernacular and were actively engaged in translating from Latin into the vernacular and vice versa in order to involve the laity in their activities and to promote vernacular texts.37 Such kinds of activities remain completely unexplored for the Italian Carmelites, with the exception of the Expositiones of course. Seen from this perspective, in fact, Guido’s commentary and Latin translatio of the Commedia might be seen as taking part in a more general trend or attitude to vernacular texts shared by the friars of his order. Suggestively, Dante’s Commedia was one of the very few vernacular texts held in the fourteenth century by the Carmelite library of Florence. It is thus very likely that the text was also at the friary of Pisa, but that library is unfortunately lost forever. The presence of Dante on the shelves of the Carmelite library in Florence is significant given the ban suffered by the divino poeta among other mendicant orders. I shall return to this crucial crux of the reception of Dante toward the end of this study, where I try to draw conclusions on the importance of Guido’s cultural operation in the wider context of the religious academic world. In the following sections, however, I want to focus on the impact of the Carmelite identity and charisma on the hermeneutical approach of the Pisan friar, who promoted Dante as a prophet and scriba Dei.

I     S   For the Carmelites, “the threat of suppression was a reminder of the importance of historical identity to a religious order.”38 Although it is reasonable to think that a foundation literature had previously existed, the first document which addressed the origin and charisma of the order was in fact the rubrica prima published in 1281 after the 1274 suspension, when it was attached to the Constitutions of the general chapter held that year. The rubric is a brief and formulaic declaration about the origins and early developments of the order and its rule which, e silentio, can be dated to 1238. In truth, there is no evidence to suggest that the text, and indeed the story it narrates, had existed much before the date of its publication. The short rubric officially claimed, for the first time since the



arrival of the Carmelites in Europe, the prophet Elijah as founder of the rule and his miraculous fountain on Mount Carmel as its geographic and spiritual point of origin.39 These claims would be maintained for centuries, though not without opposition. Both Dominican and Franciscan masters questioned and at times ridiculed Carmelite historiography, raising doubts regarding the identity and charisma declared by the rubricae of the new mendicants. In the decades that followed the 1274 suspension, and for more than a century after the 1296 confirmation, the dispute between the Carmelites and other friars eventually moved to the schoolrooms of Oxford and Cambridge, where both Franciscans and Dominicans denied the historiographical credibility of the Carmelites’ foundation accounts and reduced them to the status of simple myths. Such controversies ultimately acquired political and institutional significance, not only delaying the Curia’s final approval of the order for decades, but also fueling widespread distrust among the clergy as regards the legitimacy of the order of Carmel.40 The Carmelites reacted slowly but consistently to such attacks, offering a detailed chronology of events, providing both historical and scriptural evidence for their roots and existence. The sheer number of fourteenthcentury apologetic treatises on Carmelite origins bear witness to the order’s efforts to trace the beginnings of their religious community to before 1215, so as to defend and consolidate its claims of antiquity, uniqueness, and status within the church.41 In particular, from the second quarter of the fourteenth century on, John Baconthorpe and his fellow Carmelites endorsed Elijah’s charisma to authenticate the “original function of the order” as “penitential contemplation in imitation of Elijah.”42 They also reinforced the principle that as imitators and brothers of Elijah and Elisha on Mount Carmel, the holy Carmelite fathers had been among the first followers of John the Baptist and Jesus, thus affirming their role as essential to the continuity between the Old and the New Law, and between Jews and Christians. As attested in Pietro Lorenzetti’s predella for the Sienese Carmelite church, the Elijah mythic narrative had entered the Carmelite tradition by 1329. The altarpiece, the first to present the Elijah myth as a major iconographic theme, informs us “not only about the Order’s supposed

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origin, but also about its aspiration and its attitudes to the past,”43 as it takes the faithful “from the time of Elijah’s birth to the thirteenth century” to “unfold a venerable tradition, carried from the Holy Land to the West and passed from generation to generation within the Carmelite Order.”44 The tabula also testified to another essential motif dear to Carmelite apologists: Mary’s patronage. Drawing inspiration from their alleged Middle Eastern geographic roots, Carmelite writers also exalted their Christocentric spirituality and their links with Mount Carmel on the basis of their claims of a special relationship with Mary, to whom, they claimed, Elijah, Elisha, and the ancient Carmelite fathers had dedicated a chapel on the Mount long before her birth. As supposed guardians of Mount Carmel and lacking a Christian founder, the White Friars elected the Virgin as patron and dedicatee of their order, claiming to have worshiped her before the Incarnation and to have assisted her at the time of her death.45 Carmelite ideologists worked incessantly to leave no uncertainties about the status of Marian devotion in their confraternity. They claimed a title, Ordo fratres Beatae Mariae Virginis de Monte Carmelo, which was meant to signify their special and early relationship with the Virgin. The new white habit, the white cappa and the brown scapular, adopted in 1287, was also meant to symbolize the Marian vows of charity and chastity followed by the friars,46 while their weekly feasts, sermons, songs, and antiphons elaborated on traditional bases an original Marian charisma.47 In conflict with early Dominican legends, toward the end of the fourteenth century the order also crafted a miraculous Marian origin and spiritual value for their scapular. They attributed to the Virgin, who supposedly appeared to the English Carmelite Simon Stock in the thirteenth century, the concession of special privileges for their habit.48 Yet, in spite of their concerted efforts, the friars’ link with the Mother of Christ, based on dubious use of exegetical and historical sources, was so recent and tenuous that, inevitably, the insistence of apologists of the Carmelites’ devotion to Mary came under attack from other mendicants. Unsurprisingly, the controversy that took place in 1375 at the University of Cambridge between Hornby and Stokes focused precisely on the claims that both Dominicans and Carmelites made for having received their habits from the Blessed Virgin Mary.



Regardless of the criticism levied against them, however, and perhaps also because of it, the White Friars’ interest in Marian theological doctrine and liturgical themes surged toward the end of the fourteenth century and culminated in their unrivaled fifteenth-century acts of patronage of Marian art and music, even leading to the fifteenth-century forgery of the famous Bulla Sabbatina. This apocryphal document, falsely dated to 1322 and attributed to John XXII, granted a magnificent indulgence to all Carmelites and reported the pope’s vision of the Virgin assuring him that she would release from Purgatory anyone wearing the Carmelite habit on the Saturday following their death.49 It is clear that by the beginning of the fifteenth century Carmelite historiographers had constructed a coherent narrative centered on a spirituality they proudly defended: the inheritance of Elijah’s prophetic and contemplative charisma, the Marian habitus of silence and obedience, and the imitation of Christ. These fundamental attitudes, as will soon become clear, are vitally relevant to my assessment of Guido da Pisa and his commentary on Dante’s Commedia.

M    P     M    P  From the ninth century to the Fourth Lateran Council and well beyond, the intensification of affective approaches to piety had brought new attention to the figure of the Virgin and in particular to her humanity and experiences of pain and compassion at the death of her son. Liturgy and preaching consistently exalted Mary’s exemplary tears of compassion, providing a model of penitential holiness for all the faithful, who could identify with her human and yet divine dedication to Christ and his redemptive death.50 The central significance of Marian devotion in the Carmelite confraternity confirms that they were among the most proficient Mariologists of the High Middle Ages. Not only did their name point to a special relationship with the Virgin, but their habit was also meant to symbolize the Marian vows of charity and chastity followed by the friars, and their daily feasts, sermons, hymns, and antiphons focused their lives on Mary as exemplar and guide.51 Together with the Franciscans, and in opposition to the Dominicans, the Carmelites were fervent promoters of the doctrine

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of the Immaculate Conception, and were among the first to introduce, in 1306, a feast dedicated to this mystery. The Constitutions of the order, from 1294 on, testify to the celebration of numerous other feasts dedicated to Mary, some of which, like the feast of the three Marys “were uniquely Carmelite celebrations.”52 Likewise, the Carmelite liturgy drawn up around 1312 by Simon of Beka shows how some of the lessons of the order’s regular commemoration of the events of Mary’s life are distinctive, insofar as the antiphonal readings reveal a Virgin who is not tender but is “presented rather as a distant and powerful feudal lady . . . interceding on behalf of her followers to the all-powerful judge.”53 To a certain extent, though with some significant exceptions, the same conclusions can be reached as regards the image of Mary emerging from Carmelite art, proselytism, and theological texts. Given this devotional and religious context, one would probably expect Guido, who has often been described as an extremely orthodox and dogmatic intellectual, to display clear signs of Marian devotion in his commentary. Instead references to Mary in his glosses to Inferno are few, roughly the same number as those found in the commentaries to Inferno by Jacopo Alighieri, Graziolo dei Bambaglioli, and Pietro Alighieri.54 Furthermore, in line with the existing early commentary tradition, Guido does not take the opportunity, which only Tommaseo would seize centuries later, to identify the nameless domina-mediatrix of Inf. 2.94 with Mary. Instead he prefers to keep the name of the “donna gentile” silent: Donna è gentil nel ciel che si compiange. . . . Prima domina non habet nomen, quod patet ibi per textum: “Donna è gentil nel ciel che si compiange”, etc. Secunda vocatur Lucia, quod patet ibi: “Questa chiese Lucia in suo domando”, etc.; et ibi: Lucia, nimica di ciascun crudele, si mosse, et venne al loco dov’io era, etc. Tertia vero dicitur Beatrix, quod patet ibi: “I’ son Beatrice che ti faccio andare.” (46– 47)55

Guido’s parsimony concerning Mary is striking, and, given his Carmelite affiliations, it seems to call for an explanation. Guido’s choice not to identify the “donna gentile” as the Virgin can be read as a sign of respect



for the mother of Christ. Reverence for Mary’s name seems to have been a key feature of Carmelite custom. Already in the order’s Constitutions of 1281 an inflection was prescribed each time the names of Mary and Christ were mentioned during mass; in 1294 the prescription was extended to all prayer; and in 1324 an act of penitence was added to the genuflection when Mary and Christ were named.56 Guido certainly would have known and obeyed the practical regulations of his order, and it is thus not unlikely that he had strong reservations about taking the Virgin’s name in vain. But if such a justification is at best conjectural, there are, in my view, other factors that might explain Mary’s absence in the work of a Carmelite friar. Such factors are of a historical nature. If there can be no doubt about the unswerving Carmelite thirteenthand early-fourteenth-century devotion to the Virgin, this did not entail, at that time, a fully fledged Carmelite Marian spirituality or theology. First and foremost, Marian devotion was not the unique preserve of the White Friars. The Cistercians, the Franciscans, and the Dominicans had all offered a robust contribution to the growth of Marian piety and doctrine.57 By the early fourteenth century many of the Marian dogmas had been upheld by the church, from her Divine Motherhood (Council of Ephesus, .. 431) to her Virginity (Lateran Council, 649). The Assumption had been celebrated in liturgy from the sixth century, and the Immaculate Conception, though controversially, was celebrated liturgically from the twelfth century across Europe. Saint Bernard and Saint Bonaventure had written about Mary as mediatrix. Mary as Queen was present in a vast number of sermons and hymns from the sixth century. There was an abundance of Marian prayers and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin had been collated by Saint Peter Damian in the eleventh century. Emerging in (or moving to) late-thirteenth-century Europe, the Carmelites acquired an established and rich Marian heritage from the wider Christian community. As a matter of fact, a careful consideration of the historical development of Carmelite Mariology reveals that up to the mid-1320s a distinctive Marian awareness had not yet really developed among the White Friars. Their practices did not diverge from the most common aspects of the exuberant twelfth- and thirteenth-century Mariology. The early Carmelites shared forms of Marian devotion and liturgy with other orders and confraternities, and had few reasons to consider themselves

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closer to the Virgin than the Dominicans, who had long claimed her patronage. The move toward a more individual Marian spirituality probably started to develop no earlier than the 1330s, when John Baconthorpe took on the task of rewriting Carmelite history. As mentioned, before his death in 1348, the English doctor resolutus wrote energetically in defense of his order, bequeathing to his brothers the most coherent Marian doctrine developed by a medieval Carmelite.58 The earliest evidence of a specifically Carmelite Marian connection had appeared as late as 1324– 27 in a new and extended version of the order’s rubric. However, it was Baconthorpe who coherently brought together the Marian and Elijah traditions of the order in his Speculum de istitutione and Tractatus Super Regulam Ordinis Carmelitarum (written between 1320 and 1333).59 The Tractatus also established the official title of the order, Fratres Ordinis Beatae Mariae de Monte Carmeli, for the first time.60 The name replaced the more generic denominations used for the fraternity in previous documents, thereby “ensur[ing] that the order and its name transcended mere geography” by pointing at “something more profound”:61 the fostering of a Carmelite devotion and spirituality. Significantly, the incipit of Guido da Pisa’s commentary embraces the new official title of the order: “Expositiones et glose super Comediam Dantis facte per Fratrem Guidonem Pisanum, Ordinis Beate Marie de Monte Carmeli.” While this does not prove Guido’s direct knowledge of Baconthorpe’s text, the use of the official term for his self-identification confirms compliance with the new directives of his order. The fact that the Tractatus was probably written in the late 1320s or early 1330s could also help confirm the date of Guido’s commentary suggested by Franceschini (between 1335 and 1340) as opposed to the one proposed by Locatin for the first version of the commentary (between 1328 and 1333) which did not include the full Marian title of the order.62 Nevertheless, whether or not the publication of Baconthorpe’s works is significant for the dating of Guido’s glosses, it certainly suggests that in the first half of the fourteenth century Carmelite Mariology was still in nuce. This would probably explain the lack of a special emphasis on Mary in Guido’s Expositiones. If, however, we consider some of the most significant and influential aspects of Baconthorpe’s treatment of Mary, Guido’s few references to the Virgin do demonstrate a Carmelite imprint. Baconthorpe was the



first to defend a special Carmelite prophetic genealogy which began with Elijah and Elisha and went on to include Isaiah, Samuel, and Mary herself. In his Laus Religionis Carmelitarum, written between 1317 and 1345– 52,63 the friar expanded on the historical development of an alleged Carmelite Marian charisma, maintaining that the first Carmelite brothers had actually prophesied Mary’s pivotal role in providential history and had honored her advent well before the Nativity. In other words, the Laus seems to be the first Carmelite Marian text that presents a rich and erudite exegetical (and therefore theological) explanation of the order’s Marian traditions. Baconthorpe’s exposition draws on inventive pseudoetymologies, as well as on the most recent Mariological exegetical work on the Song of Songs and on the Gospel of Matthew and the Magnificat,64 to offer a new interpretation of the story of Mary as the Bride of Christ, whose “caput” (head) is compared to Mount Carmel, where she is said to have received her vision and spent time in meditation.65 The Song of Songs, in particular, is also at the center of the Carmelite Office to commemorate the Virgin introduced by Sibert of Beka in 1312. As noted by Edden, “much of it is material found in the Dominican Office (for example, the choice of psalms and the hymn Quem terra, pontus),”66 yet Baconthorpe’s works must have offered, between the 1320s and 1340s, the first glimpse of a specifically Carmelite Mariology based on the biblical bridal song. They were also a clear sign of the importance that the exegesis of the Song of Songs and the Magnificat had among the learned Carmelite circles of those same years.67 It is not a coincidence that these texts, as we shall see, are fundamental to an understanding of Guido’s Marian quotations, as well as of his observations on the textual archetypes and models of the Commedia. In spite of the scarcity of Guido da Pisa’s references to Mary, his most extended allusion to the Virgin is far from negligible. Commenting on Geryon in Inf. 17.106– 8, he writes: “Vel per Phetontem accipere possumus potentes et arrogantes, qui semper appetunt altiora, sicut primus angelus qui diuinitatis currum scandere attentauit, iuxta illud: In celum conscendam, super astra celi exaltabo solium meum. Sed frangit Deus omne superbum, iuxta illud Isaie: Quomodo cecidisti Lucifer, qui mane oriebaris [Isa. 14:12]. Et beata Maria in cantico: Deposuit potentes de sede” (327– 28).68 The quotation attributed to Mary is taken from Luke’s Mag-

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nificat.69 The passage had been at the heart of Western liturgy, which had been sung “in vespertino officio novissime,” since at least the sixth century.70 More important, it was also one of the few scriptural texts which, according to the exegetes, could be attributed directly to the otherwise silent Virgin. Mary, visiting her cousin Elizabeth six months after the Annunciation, utters her song of praise of God and, in embracing her role in his providential plan, demonstrates her understanding of scripture and her faith in the Old Testament prophecies that, through her, were about to come true. The Magnificat was read as a prophecy of the Incarnation and salvation through Christ. The first to read the text in this way was Augustine, who described Mary as a prophet in De civitate Dei: Toto autem illo tempore, ex quo redierunt de Babylonia, post Malachiam, Aggaeum et Zachariam, qui tunc prophetauerunt, et Esdram non habuerunt prophetas usque ad Saluatoris aduentum nisi . . . ipsum Iohannem nouissimum; qui iuuenis iam iuuenem Christum non quidem futurum praedixit, sed tamen incognitum prophetica cognitione monstrauit; propter quod ipse Dominus ait: Lex et prophetae usque ad Iohannem. Sed istorum quinque prophetatio ex euangelio nobis nota est, ubi et ipsa uirgo mater Domini ante Iohannem prophetasse inuenitur.71

In the Gospels there is no other passage besides the Magnificat which was identified as a canticum and a prophecy uttered by the Virgin. Any doubts regarding Augustine’s prophetical interpretation of Mary’s words are dispelled in Liber 4 of the De Trinitate, where the saint includes Mary in a long list of prophets of the Incarnation: Zechariah, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Simeon, and Anna: “Si enim antea spiritus sanctus non dabatu quo impleti prophetae locuti sunt cum aperte scriptura dicat et multis locis ostendat spiritu sancto eos locutos fuisse, cum et de Iohanne baptista dictum sit: Spiritu sancto replebitur iam inde ab utero matris suae, et spiritu sancto repletus Zacharias inuenitur pater eius ut de illo talia diceret, et spiritu sancto Maria ut talia de domino quem gestabat utero praedicaret.”72 Augustine’s reading of the Magnificat became authoritative in the Christian tradition, and inspired extensive prophetical interpretations of and commentaries on the canticum Mariae from the eleventh century on, when Marian exegesis flourished.



Prime examples of such exegetical attention to the Song of Mary are to be found in the numerous Marian commentaries on the Song of Songs, as well as in the line-by-line explanationes of the Magnificat, such as Hugo of St. Victor’s Explanatio in Canticum Beatae Mariae. Interestingly for our discussion, in his personal take on the vita Mariae, in his Tractatus Super Regulam, Baconthorpe offered a Carmelite and apocryphal reading of the life of Mary and her Magnificat, concluding: “Postquam enim Dei Filium conceperat, magnum sermonem fecit, primo Deum laudando et dicendo: ‘Magnificat anima mea Dominum’, etc.; . . . tertio ad propositum modo sermonis in fine prophetias allegando, dicens: ‘Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros’, etc.” (After the conception of the Son of God, she made a lofty speech, first praising God and saying: “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” etc.; . . . thirdly adding a prophecy to her sermon, she said: “As it was spoken by our fathers”).73 An indication of the fact that Guido, like Augustine, Hugo of St. Victor, and Baconthorpe, considered the Magnificat a prophetic text is illustrated in the gloss to Inf. 17, where the Marian quotation appears alongside Isaiah’s words on the fall of Lucifer. Lucifer’s words are here opposed to the canticum Mariae, which, by exalting obedience and prophesying the humiliation of the proud, fulfilled the Old Testament narrative of the fall of the rebellious angel and the victorious Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus.74 Incidentally, though suggestively, Isaiah’s and Mary’s words were both considered fundamental liturgical cantica for the account and celebration of salvation through Christ. The two biblical texts were consistently quoted by exegetes writing the story of Mary, while the episodes of the humiliation of Lucifer and his followers found in both cantica are juxtaposed in the popular commentary of Hugo of St. Victor to signify two crucial moments of the prophetic annunciation of God’s victory over pride: “Stulti facti sunt principes Thaneos. . . . Et ibi: Dispersit superbos. . . . Unde convenienter adjungitur: Deposuit potentes de sede et exultavit humiles” (The princes of Thaneos have become fools. . . . Where it says: He dispersed the proud . . . and it is fittingly added: He took down the powerful and exalted the humble).75 The reconstruction of Guido’s Marian ideological context reveals that his sole significant reference to Mary in the Expositiones would seem to closely follow the late medieval Marian exegesis and reflects his order’s

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heightened interest in Mary, prophecy, and prophecies attributed to Mary, which Baconthorpe’s contemporary works posited as the cornerstones of the specifically and distinctively Carmelite charisma. Guido’s Carmeliteinspired use of Marian material is all the more telling in light of the fact that it is in harmony with the prophetic perspective he takes on both scripture and the Commedia. Given the importance of prophecy in Carmelite thinking and in the Expositiones, the following discussion presents the development of the prophetical qualities of the order’s charisma.

E  , E   ,      P  ’ I    As noted above, in the absence of a hagiographic tradition on their supposed founder, medieval Carmelites frequently retold the story of Elijah’s life, which culminated, according to 3 Kings 17–19 and 4 Kings 2, in his final ascent to heaven. Carmelite documentary evidence shows the degree to which, from the late 1330s on, the rich and ancient Elijah tradition became essential to the order’s identity quest and to its desire to establish a clear continuity between its Eastern founders and the friars in the West. The Elijah stories also were meant to give the order a certain degree of dignitas with regard to the established mendicant orders, by establishing the primordial role of the Carmelites as Old Testament prophets and New Testament witnesses of Christ.76 As an orthodox Carmelite, Guido loyally subscribed to these positions. In his commentary to Inf. 26.34– 39 he expands the story of Elijah more than any other early Dante commentator, describing in detail the last moments of the prophet’s life on earth and his conversation with Elisha, his follower, whom the Carmelites took as their first brother. While Guido responds hurriedly and rather traditionally to Dante’s clear reference to the problematic episode of Elisha’s revenge against the mockery of three children, he devotes considerable attention to Elijah’s bestowing of his prophetic powers on Elisha, and to the entrustment of his pallium as a correlative of his spiritum to the younger prophet: Secunda comparatio ista est: Legitur enim in libro Regum quod dum Deus vellet Elyam in celum per turbinem elevare, quod ipse Elyas, una



cum Elyseo discipulo suo ad Iordanem fluvium devenerunt; ibique Elyas pallium suum involvens, cum ipso Iordanis fluenta percussit, et statim facta est via sicca per medium aque Iordanis; sicque transeuntes per siccum in loca deserta venerunt. Et tunc ait Elyas ad Heliseum: “Ecce dominus vocat me. Postula a me quod vis ut faciam tibi, ante quam tollar a te”. Cui Elyseus: “Obsecro ut remaneat spiritus tuus duplex in me”. Ad quem Elyas: “Rem”, inquit, “difficilem postulasti. Tamen si videris me quando tollar a te, erit tibi quod petisti; alioquin non erit”. Cumque per desertum sic pergerent colloquendo, ecce currus igneus quem ducebant equi ignei tanquam fulgur de celo descendens, utrunque divisit. Et tunc Elyas ascendit super currum, et sic angelorum ministerio ferebatur in celum. Elyseus autem respiciebat in altum; et cum Elyas elongaretur ab ipso, et Elyseus nil aliud quam flammam videre valeret, clamabat ad ipsum: “Pater mi, pater mi, currus Israel et auriga eius”, idest substentator populi atque rector. Tunc Elyas deiecit ei pallium suum; quod Elyseus adsummens, scidit vestimenta sua. Et hoc fecit, secundum magistrum ystoriarum. (518–19)77

While claims of Elijah’s lineage had been articulated since the early decades of the Carmelite presence in the West, the donation of Elijah’s pallium to the order entered the historiography of the White Friars only in the 1330s. The first suggestion that the Carmelite’s original striped habit was part of the order’s Elijah heritage had been introduced by Baconthorpe in his Compendium historiarum et iurium.78 A more significant elaboration of this theme was provided by Jean de Cheminot in his Speculum Fratrum Ordinis b. M. De Monte Carmeli, written around 1337, a few years after Baconthorpe. The University of Paris lector gave substance to Carmelite mythology, further supporting, like Baconthorpe, his arguments with evidence found in the Historia Scholastica of Peter Comestor: De ipso sancto Elia legitur in Historiis Sholasticis . . . discipulos habuit: primo Eliseum, filium Saphat. Quem cum Elias in ministrum et discipulum nutu Dei vellet assumere, misit Elias pallium suum super eum. . . . A tempore quo raptus est Elias in coelum, fratres in signum sanctitatis et devotionis super habitum suae professionis pallium duplicis coloris gestare consueverant.79

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The habit described here is the striped dress worn by the Carmelites at the time of their Western migration. A source of mockery and embarrassment, the habit was soon exchanged for a white cloak, which, according to Carmelite legends, had been the original garb of the prophet before the flames of the chariot that lifted him up to heaven charred it. The consistent association with the pallium of the prophet-founder “provide[d] the Order with an immaculate pedigree for the origin of its dress, rivaling legends such as that of the Virgin’s approval of the Dominican habit.”80 Although at the time of the composition of the Expositiones Carmelites had discarded Elijah’s pallium, the relevance of the first habit to the identity of the order was clearly still widely discussed. The panel commissioned from Lorenzetti by the Carmelites of Siena in 1329 for the church of their convent, celebrates, among other important moments of the order’s mythography, the dignified origin of the striped pallium by focusing on the episode of Elijah’s raptus and his bestowing of the pallium upon Elisha. Given the iconographic and, one imagines, oral dissemination of this key legend, direct knowledge of the relevant Carmelite texts does not seem necessary to explain Guido’s digression on the donation of the pallium; and yet Guido’s reference to Peter Comestor’s Historia is in line with the use that both Cheminot and Baconthorpe had made of Comestor’s learned work on the biblical past.81 Equally important in helping to situate Guido within the Carmelite charisma is his treatment of John the Baptist in his gloss to Inf. 30. Here, Guido goes so far as to claim that the Baptist followed, ex officio, in his function as prophet, Elijah: “Si vultis scire, Iohannes est Elyas—subaudi officio, non persona” (628) (If you want to know, John is Elijah—this relates to the office, not to the person). Similarly, Baconthorpe had no reservations about assimilating the life of Elijah to those of Mary and Christ. His claims were supported by highly respected Christian authorities, Cassian, Jerome, and Isidore of Seville, all of whom had identified in Elijah a type and model of the religious life based on asceticism and contemplation, and had considered him the ideal and first monk.82 For Cheminot, the Old Testament prophet, founder of the order, was also to be considered a forerunner of John the Baptist, as well as a figure of Christ.83



It is thus reasonable to suggest that as part of his Carmelite education Guido had at least heard of the recent canonical works of his order, even if, currently, it is still not possible to establish his direct knowledge of these. At the same time, it is clear that Guido’s concerns are in line with those of his fellow learned friars. Interestingly, the recent edition of Guido’s first version of his Dante commentary by Paola Locatin has demonstrated that the digression on Elijah was only added by Guido in the mid-1330s in his larger commentary, the Expositiones, dedicated to Spinola and beautifully illustrated in MS Chantilly 597.84 The addition therefore followed the elaboration of the Elijah story in Carmelite literature. Equally suggestive is the evidence that Locatin provides on Guido’s use of Peter Comestor’s Historia Scholastica in his Expositiones. The text is not cited in the first version of Guido’s commentary, thus suggesting the possibility that he did not know the text too well at the time of his first exegetical exercise on the Commedia. What could have led the Carmelite friar to the late study and employment of Comestor’s Historia? Could Guido’s bibliographical addition be explained by the new Carmelite interest in the historical compendium attested, as well as nurtured, by its use in the writings of Carmelite doctors such as Baconthorpe and later Cheminot? Such a hypothesis does not appear implausible. While the details of Guido’s dependence on and knowledge of contemporary Carmelite writing might seem of limited importance, the wider implications of his commentary’s connections to the Carmelite discourse on monastic origins and archetypes are rather more significant. On the basis of their claims regarding their succession from Elijah, a prophet and a contemplative, the Carmelites identified “monasticism . . . with prophecy and the prophetic profession, through the practice of contemplation.”85 Keeping this in mind, and remembering what has so far been said about Carmelite prophetism, it seems vital to consider the extent to which Guido da Pisa’s membership in the order and his adherence to its prophetic charisma had an effect on his exegetical approach to the Commedia. Guido’s attempt to read the Commedia as a prophecy and Dante as a prophet has been the main focus of most studies of his commentary. As is well known, the Expositiones begin with a series of striking parallels; Dante is compared to Daniel interpreting the words written by God on a wall against proud Balthazar, and he is also likened to Ezekiel, who was granted prophetic visions and spoke in prophecy:

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Scribitur Danielis, quinto capitulo, quod cum Baltassar rex Babillonie sederet ad mensam, apparuit contra eum manus scribens in pariete: Mane, Thechel, Phares. Ista manus est noster novus poeta Dantes, qui scripsit, idest composuit, istam altissimam et subtilissimam Comediam, que dividitur in tres partes: prima dicitur Infernus, secunda Purgatorium, tertia Paradisus. His tribus partibus correspondent illa tria que scripta sunt in pariete. . . . Ad istum certe poetam et ad suam Comediam potest referri illa visio, quam vidit Exechiel propheta; de qua visione sic scribit idem propheta: “Ecce manus missa ad me in qua erat liber scriptus intus et foris: et scripta erant in eo Lamentationes, Carmen et Ve.” Ista manus est iste poeta. Liber istius manus est sua altissima Comedia, que ideo scripta dicitur intus et foris, quia continet non solum licteram, sed etiam allegoriam. Scripta sunt autem in isto libro tria, scilicet Lamentationes, Carmen, et Ve. (1– 2)86

The voice of Dante is further associated with that of Isaiah, scriba Dei and calamus Spritus Sancti, since they both rebuke sinful prelates and kings in the name of God: Fines vero alii qui possunt assignari in hoc opere sunt tres: Primus, ut discant homines polite et ordinate loqui; nullus enim mortalis potest sibi in lingue gloria comparari. Re vera, potest ipse dicere verbum prophete dicentis: “Deus dedit michi linguam eruditam”; et illud: “Lingua mea calamus scribe velociter scribentis”. Ipse enim fuit calamus Spiritus Sancti, cum quo calamo ipse Spiritus Sanctus velociter scripsit nobis et penas damnatorum et gloriam beatorum. Ipse etiam Spiritus Sanctus per istum aperte redarguit scelera prelatorum et regum et principum orbis terre. (4)87

The Commedia is finally presented as a figura of the divine ark of the prophet Noah, whose warnings to humanity had gone unheard and whose actions saved the just and the innocent.88 The prophetic preoccupation of the friar also informed the illustrative design of the magnificent MS Chantilly 597, where the frontispiece of folio 31r presents a reconstruction of Balthazar’s banquet (Dan. 5) evoked by Guido’s commentary. While the comparison established between Dante and the Old Testament prophets appears to modern scholars as the real novelty and



peculiarity of Guido’s hermeneutical proposal, the exploration of the Carmelite veterotestamentarian prophetical charisma allows us to locate Guido’s operation within the cultural horizon of his order. More daringly, one could consider his portrayal of Dante as an Old Testament prophet an attempt to adapt or even adopt Dante as one of the modern voices of the alleged Carmelite ancient spirituality or mentality. However, to support such an interpretation we must investigate Guido’s treatment of prophecy and its relationship with poetria and, by extension, Dante’s ties to both.

V , F ,    D   I     Nowhere in his commentary does Guido assign the term propheta directly to Dante. Nonetheless the friar attributes to Dante the ability to express vaticinia, that is to say, prophecies.89 As his gloss on Inf. 24.151 elucidates, vaticinium is a complex category, one which includes those written post eventum and which Guido considered false prophecies: E dettol’ t’ò perchè doler ti debbia. —— [And this I have told that it may make you grieve.] (Inf. 24.151)90 Istud vero factum non predixit autor ante quam esset, sed more poetarum, qui ea que facta sunt ponunt in suis operibus quasi antequam fiant: simili modo fingit. Et isto modo poeta dicitur vates, idest propheta, nam vates a “vi mentis” dicitur, ut ait Varro. Non enim futura predicunt, sed ea que iam evenerunt quasi ventura confingunt. (485)91

According to this note, the nature of Dante’s vaticinia is ultimately fictive (confingunt); yet, when the Carmelite discusses the veltro prophecy in Inf. 1, the fictional quality of the images created by the poet does not seem to affect Guido’s judgment of Dante’s claims. Guido considers the moral significance of the veltro but does not comment negatively on the possibility that Dante might be issuing a real prophecy. On the contrary, Dante’s words are interpreted figuraliter; the verb used is not fingere but figurare, almost as if Dante’s words referring to an event that had not

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happened yet were read by the friar with the tools of allegoresis. Guido’s different treatment of this vaticinium is also highlighted by the fact that Dante’s passage is supported by momentous prophecies and texts issued “longo ante tempore” by Virgil and Augustine: Vaticinium. Postquam Virgilius contra avaritiam locutus est Danti, ponit quoddam vaticinium, dicens quod venturus est quidam dominus qui avaritiam exterminabit e mundo, ipsamque in Infernum reducet. . . . Habent etiam canes alia duo mirabilia, propter que merito iste venturus dominus sub figura canis figuraliter figuratur: primum est quod parcunt prostratis; secundum est quod insiliunt in rebelles. . . . Et ista duo pertinent ad sacrum imperium, sicut prophetatum fuit longo ante tempore, prout scribit Virgilius libro VI Eneydorum. Et beatus Augustinus etiam ponit in primo libro De Civitate Dei: Parcere subiectis et debellare superbos. (32– 33)92

In a rather confusing way, however, reverting to Varro’s definition of vates, Guido’s gloss states that by using the figura of the greyhound Dante prophesied, more poetarum, in the same manner as biblical prophets or pagan vates: “Circa secundum est notandum quod iste poeta, more poetarum, futura vaticinatur; unde poeta idem est quod propheta. Nam quos Sacra Scriptura prophetas appellat, hos pagani denominabant poetas, et aliquando vates. Vates autem a vi mentis dicuntur, ut ait Varro [De lingua latina VII. 36]. Vaticinando igitur dicit autor istum venturum dominum nasciturum inter feltrum et feltrum” (33).93 Interestingly, in this passage the verbs fingere and confingere have disappeared from Guido’s definition, as the identity between poets and prophets established by him now seems to depend on the ability, explained by Uguccione da Pisa in his Derivationes, of both vates and prophets to see the future per furorem divini: “quandoque sic dicitur poeta, quandocque propheta divinus . . . per furorem divini eodem erant nomine . . . vel vates a vi mentis dicti sunt vel a video quia future videbant.”94 On this basis Guido seems ready to accept that, although written more peotico, Dante’s vaticinia are not fictitious when these chastise the potentes and superbi. The presence in the Bible of this typology of vaticinia referring to the prediction and reproach of evil on the earthly Jerusalem had been acknowledged by Augustine in the De civitate Dei:



Tripertita itaque reperiuntur eloquia prophetarum, si quidem aliqua sunt ad terrenam Hierusalem spectantia, aliqua ad caelestem, nonnulla ad utramque. Exemplis uideo probandum esse quod dico. Missus est Nathan propheta, qui regem Dauid argueret de peccato graui et ei, quae consecuta sunt mala, futura praediceret. Haec atque huius modi siue publice, id est pro salute uel utilitate populi, siue priuatim, cum pro suis quisque rebus diuina promereretur eloquia, quibus pro usu temporalis uitae futuri aliquid nosceretur, ad terrenam ciuitatem pertinuisse quis ambigat?95

The Old Testament prophetic episodes of Daniel and Ezekiel chosen by Guido as models of the Commedia fall within this category, as did the Elijah stories. The Elijah texts, in fact, dealt with “substantive social and economic issues at the basis of Israel’s religion” and asserted “that in Israel only widows and the prophets can survive. . . . On the other hand, the rich, like monarchs and the prophets of Ba’al and Asherah (1 Kings 18:19) will starve.”96 Echoes of such prophetic rebukes resound in Guido’s analysis of Dante’s vaticinium, which promises an actual regeneration of the earthly city through an act of divine intervention which will bring “ista exterminatio quam faciet de avaritia” (this extermination of greed) (33). It should thus not come as a surprise that, as we have seen, Guido boldly matched Dante’s divinely inspired text to those of Daniel and Isaiah (50.4) and that he should address him as a scriba Dei chosen by the Holy Spirit to reprimand “scelera prelatorum et regum et principum orbis terre” (4) (the crimes of the priests and kings of the earth). Yet, if what has been said so far can explain Guido’s complex understanding of vaticinia, his treatment of the prophetic quality of some pagan poetry remains ambiguous. While in Inf. 1 he seems to accept the possibility of its inspired nature on the basis of Varro’s etymology (vi mentis), the friar also presents further etymologies of the term vates which exclude true prophetic vision and focus on the poets’ technical expertise— attributed to Orpheus in this case—to ligare metris et pedibus: Et vidi Orpheo. Orpheus . . . vates appellatus est. Vates autem aliquando a vi mentis dicitur, ut ait Varro {De lingua latina VII. 36}, et tunc vates tantum valet quantum sacerdos. Aliquando vates dicitur a video, -es, et tunc tantum valet quantum propheta. Aliquando dicitur a vieo, -es,

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quod est ligare, et tunc vates tantum valet quantum poeta. Dicitur itaque Orpheus vates a viendo, idest ligando, quia carmina sua metris et pedibus ligabat. De quo fabulose dicitur quod cantu vocis et sono cithare non solum homines, sed etiam animalia ad se trahebat, silvas evocabat, et flumina stare faciebat. . . . Allegorice vero, sicut exponit Fulgentius in mitologia, Orpheus vir sapiens et eloquens suavitate citare, idest eloquentie, homines brutales et silvestres reduxit ad normam et regulam rationis. Cetera require in Fulgentio. (89– 90)97

Here Guido’s gloss strips the pagan poet of his prophetic gifts while at the same time underlining the fictitious character of the lictera of the Orpheus myth by labeling the vates’ alleged ability to move flora et fauna as fabulosa. The myth—not the existence of Orpheus per se—is therefore considered a fictio that can only be interpreted according to the allegoria poetarum. The ambivalence of Guido’s discourse on the prophetism of both Dante and the classics therefore reflects his complex (one could say confused) understanding and interpretation of the fictive nature of poetry and mythology. As many scholars have noted, there seems to be a deep incongruity between the friar’s prophetic presentation of Dante and his awareness of the fictive nature of the Commedia’s narrative. However, the tension might become less worrying when Guido’s perception of the nature of fictions is considered. The terms fictio and fictive are used sparingly by Guido, but the verb fingere is repeated at least fifty-six times. These words are usually accompanied by the adverb poetice, recurring forty-four times in the Expositiones. Such is the complementarity of the terminology that poetice and fictive appear to be semantically equivalent. Throughout the commentary, fictio and its derivatives and poetice are the technical terms employed by the Pisan friar to designate the modus loquendi of those classical myths and narratives which cannot be interpreted licteraliter. There is little doubt in Guido’s mind about the role and nature of poets and poetry. Glossing Inf. 2.7 “O musa, o alto ‘ngegno, or m’aiutate” (O Muses, O lofty genius, aid me now!),98 the commentator declares: “[Poetae] [i]nveniunt, idest fabulas ex veris gestis et fictis componunt. Unde beatus Ysidorus, VIII libro Ethymologiarum ait: Officium poete in eo est ut ea, que vere gesta sunt, in alias speties obliquis figurationibus cum decore aliquo



conversa transducant. Iste itaque autor et invocat Musas et narrat res gestas, et multa fabulosa pulcra et venusta compositione componit et fingit” (43).99 Terms pertaining to the semantic field of fabula, which are used to describe what poets inveniunt, occur forty-six times in Guido’s glosses and always refer to ancient historiae and characters. As in the case of the Harpies in Inf. 13.10: Rationabiliter igitur ab autore Arpie in isto girone ponuntur. Si autem queras utrum istas aves natura producat, dico quod potius est credendum ipsas a poetis poetice esse fictas, quam a natura productas. Unde Ovidius, VI Fastorum: Sive igitur nascantur aves seu carmine fiant. (247)100

However, as hinted in his gloss to Inf. 2.7, most fabulae according to Guido are described as containing some verum as well as fictive elements. This occurs in his treatment of the story of Medusa: Vegna Medusa, sì ‘l farem di smalto. . . . Ubi notandum est quod quidam rex nomine Phorcus habuit quandam filiam que dicta est Medusa, sive Gorgon. . . . Unde fabulose ponit Ovidius ipsam Medusam homines in lapides convertisse. Sed re vera quedam lasciva mulier fuit, que tanta pulcritudine pollebat quod quicunque eam aspiciebat extra mentem statim fiebat. Hanc autem Medusam, ut ponit magister in ystoriis scolasticis, Perseus filius regis Athenarum interfecit. Ait enim sic super librum Iudicum: Perseus Gorgonam occidit meretricem, que ob nimiam pulcritudinem speculatores suos mentis impotentes reddebat. . . . Allegorice per Medusam, sive Gorgonem, accipimus terrorem et oblivionem. (183)101

Here Guido’s intent is to discard the fable and accept only the allegorical meaning, the sententia or the doctrina of the Medusa fable: “Doctrina ista que absconditur sub velamine licterali non est aliud nisi allegoricus intellectus qui in Gorgonis fabula continetur, que quidem fabula et eius allegoria est superius exarata” (185) (The lesson that is hidden underneath the veil of literalness is no other than the allegoric understanding that is contained in the myth of Gorgo, whose myth and its allegory have been set out above). In order to do so, he glosses the classical fabulae employ-

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ing the standard integumental exegesis employed by Bernardus Silvester or John of Garland, William of Conches, or even Nicholas Trevet and applied in the commentaries to Virgil, Martianus Capella, or Boethius: he accepts poetic fictions as long as they can be explained moraliter.102 Yet Guido painstakingly tries to demonstrate that not every aspect of myths is fictitious.103 Throughout the Expositiones, he carefully records the difference between fictional fabulae and what he believes to be historically true events or characters of ancient mythology. The reliability of a fact is often based on the trustworthiness of authorities, such as in the case of Cerberus: “Comestor vero, in Ystoria scolastica, super libro Iudicum, dicit quod Orcus, rex Molosorum, habuit ingentem canem nomine Cerberum, qui Pyrothoum volentem rapere Proserpinam uxorem dicti Orci, devoravit, et Theseum devorasset nisi Hercules ipsum superveniens liberasset” (649); once the real facts have been ascertained, it is then possible to appreciate the true value of fictional elaborations: “Et sic patet ystoria quam poete nube poetica tegunt. Officium enim poetarum est ut ea que vere gesta sunt in alias species obliquis figurationibus cum decore aliquo conversa transducant” (649).104 Statements of this kind indicate that, for Guido, the fictitional nature of some narrative segments does not exclude the overall credibility of the res gestae relayed by the author. For what he considers fable based on true facts, Guido is not afraid to adopt the method of allegoresis. Writing on Inf. 31.132, for example, he digresses at length on the labors of Hercules.105 His discussion considers what is true and what is false in Lucan’s story and then expands on it both licteraliter and moraliter: Nonus labor fuit quando Antheum gigantem, qui regnabat in Libia, superavit. . . . Hanc fabulam ponit Lucanus:106 Fuit, inquit, in Libia quidam gigas qui vocabatur Antheus . . . advenit cum eo Hercules pugnaturus. . . . In ista fabula quedam sunt ficta et quedam sunt vera. Verum fuit quod iste Antheus fuit rex in Libia, et quod fuit gygas, et quod ipsum Hercules interfecit. Fictum vero est illud quod dicitur fuisse filius terre, et quod quotiens terram tangebat vires resummebat. Fuit enim valde dives; ideo fingitur fuisse filius terre. Et quia carnalis erat et lubricus, ideo fingitur quod ex contactu terre vires resumebat; nam vires corporis ex abundantia terrenorum et crescunt et oriuntur. (651)107



Once the historicity of Hercules’ labor is thus acknowledged, Guido is ready to transform the pagan hero into a true spiritual allegory of Christ, and his res gesta into the battle fought by Christ for the salvation of humanity: “Allegorice vero, per Herculem accipe Christum, per Antheum vero dyabolum, cum quo Christus pugnavit in monte et in cruce, et finaliter expugnavit” (652). The same unlikely honor is given to Theseus in Inf. 12: “Per Theseum autem ducem scilicet Athenarum, accipe Christum, et per nominis interpretationem et officii dignitatem. Interpretatur enim Theseus ‘bona positio’, ab eu quod est ‘bonum’, et thesis quod est ‘positio’; inde theseus, ‘bona positio’. Et Christus et bona fecit, iuxta illud ‘bene omnia fecit, et in bonum signum positus est’, iuxta illud quod dixit Symeon ad Mariam matrem eius: Ecce hic positus est in ruinam et in resurrectionem multorum in Israel” (222– 23).108 I shall soon return to the commentator’s use of exegetical terms such as figurative, moraliter, and allegorice. Here, the apparent unorthodoxy of the Carmelite’s gloss calls for an immediate explanation, which ought to help us understand Guido’s problematic methodological approach to fictiones, fabulae, truth, and prophecy. Guido’s reading of Hercules and Theseus is surprising. To read a myth moraliter was more than acceptable, but in terms of medieval exegetical practices and norms to say that a fictional character “is Christ, or the Church, or any good prelate, or the Devil, is to affirm an identity which can only be spiritual.”109 The prophetic and allegorical exposition of a character or an event was the exclusive hallmark of biblical interpretation.110 Guido’s references to other passages of the Bible or the fathers to expand on the prophetic and spiritual sense of classical parables and stories was an approach that normally was the exclusive preserve of sacred exegesis. In truth, however surprising it may seem, the Carmelite’s reading of myths was not exceptional and can be considered in line with the late-thirteenth-century approach of classicizing friars who interpreted pagan texts.111 The cultivated and learned mendicant friars, who populated the religious studia and universities of Europe, “read literature in precisely the same way that was traditional for scripture. That is, they applied to the fictions of the classical poets . . . the same allegorical method of interpretation that they used for scripture.”112 Such an approach led to a new definition of literature and literary theory and a criti-

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cal language “not perfectly univocal, . . . which developed an unmistakably spiritual understanding of fiction.”113 According to doctrine, the “spiritual sense is the meaning of a fact,”114 but this fact must be true; as such the spiritual sense can only be applied to scripture. Fables had been described at best as integumenta, veils that clothe the truth. Yet as Smalley and Allen have shown, there is consistent and substantial evidence that fictions had been interpreted spiritually and not only allegorically as far back as the twelfth century among friars and preachers. Clearly, the possibility of offering spiritual readings of fiction was largely based on a providential view of history in which the miraculous was acknowledged as historically possible. All stories which displayed a certain miraculous manifestation of God’s truth could be taken as real and could be used to expand on matters of doctrine. As a result, by the early fourteenth century the moral meaning of a fable became its explicit spiritual sense to such an extent that it often became impossible to distinguish between the allegory of the literal sense—allegoria poetarum— and the spiritual sense of stories written by ancient poets.115 The practice, applied with varying degrees of orthodoxy, became common. It occurred within the church itself and was not, as Allen argued, a reckless or unreflective mistake of literary critics. The attitude was shared by Franciscans and Dominicans, friars and monks, scholastic commentators on scripture and Christian interpreters of Macrobius.116 A few examples should suffice to illustrate the “general tendency to ignore distinction between fact and fiction, between history and metaphor,” which is also a key feature of Guido da Pisa’s hermeneutics.117 The exegetical work of the Franciscan theologian John Lathbury offers “extreme example[s]” of how, in an exegetical context, poetic fictions are considered as existing in re because they exist as representations. Commenting on Lamentations 1.1, in fact, the friar can read Jerusalem, “the widow of the Gentiles, . . . as the synagogue, the Church, the soul, Esther, the Boethian Lady Philosophy, Alanus’ Dame Nature, the wife of Pasiphae and finally the Virgin Mary.”118 Likewise, Robert Holcot, the Dominican opponent of the Carmelite order in Cambridge, gave some of the most exuberant illustrations of this critical approach in his commentary on the Twelve Prophets and in his Moralitates. Allen has demonstrated how Lathbury’s and Holcot’s mix of biblical, classical, and allegorical figures is a clear assertion of



“a literary sensibility” which by the early fourteenth century allowed the use of the spiritual sense when interpreting ancient fables. Holcot’s and Lathbury’s interpretations of the myth of Hercules, one of the most conventional fables used by classicizing friars, offer valuable insights into Guido’s critical discourse and can help anchor the Carmelite’s attitude to fictions to the mendicant literary context. In his treatment of Hercules, Holcot reveals a “mild” spiritual approach to fables: “in silva Nemea erat leo sevissimus quem Hercules interfecit, et pellem loco spolii secum tutlit. Nota quomodo Sampson occidit leonem, et David etc. Et isti signant Christum et sic Hercules sapiens. Quis enim sapientior Christo? Abstulit Christus spolium sevo leoni, idest diabolo, quia dictum est de diabolo quod ille leo et draco est.”119 Holcot considers Hercules a figura of David; David in his turn is a figure of Christ. The equation between Hercules and Christ is thus established. John Lathbury’s exegesis is significantly more radical—“for him Hercules is a figure of Christ, rex sub titulo victorie”— and to support his claim, he draws on biblical authorities: he compares the dragon trampled by Hercules to the one overpowered by Michael in Revelation (12.7) and later to the serpent conquered by Christ.120 Guido, as we have seen, follows the same procedure. The Dominican Nicholas Trevet, on the other hand, had considered some of Hercules’ deeds fictional. For instance, Trevet had rejected the possibility of accepting a spiritual interpretation of Antheus, because Antheus “filius terre, fictio poetica est” (the offspring of Earth, is a poetic fiction). On such a basis, Trevet denies the possibility of reading “Cristum similem Antheo” (Christ is similar to Antheus).121 Both Lathbury and Holcot knew Trevet’s opinion, and yet both considered all Hercules’ stories valuable material for their spiritual interpretations. Guido, in turn, accepts that not all the details of these stories are necessarily trustworthy. On the other hand, he attempts to establish that one of Hercules’ labors might be considered true even when not all the details of the story are necessarily true. Thus, as we saw above, in his gloss to Inf. 31.32 Guido notes: “In ista fabula quedam sunt ficta et quedam sunt vera. Verum fuit quod iste Antheus fuit rex in Libia, et quod fuit gygas, et quod ipsum Hercules interfecit. Fictum vero est illud quod dicitur fuisse filius terre, et quod quotiens terram tangebat vires resummebat. Fuit enim valde dives; ideo fingitur fuisse filius terre” (651). Guido’s conclusions are far

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from Trevet’s: for the Carmelite the giant Antheus is the devil fighting Hercules-Christ. To support his interpretation, Guido uses the full tool kit of the biblical exegete: etymologies, classical authorities (Lucan), and biblical parallel passages. By accumulating auctoritates, he questions the usefulness of categories such as falsity and truthfulness and explores the possibility of attributing a spiritual sense to most classical texts: Primo enima labor fuit domare centauros. . . . Utrum autem ista monstra sint solum fictione poetica introducta, aut natura talia etiam monstra gignat, videtur beatus Ieronimus hesitare, ut patet in vita beati Pauli Primi heremite. . . . Potest etiam esse quod natura, que diversa animalia gignit, aliquos centauros produxit. Nam beatus Antonius unum vidit et in historia Daretis habetur, quod Menno rex duxit secum ad Troyam unum hominem equo mixtum; . . . In libris etiam animalium legitur quod sunt quedam animalia que composita sunt ex asino et homine. (646– 47)122

Indeed, if Guido reads historical and spiritual senses into some of his favorite myths, following the text of the Letter to Cangrande, he certainly believes that Dante’s Christian res gestae are not all fables: “Et sic patet que est forma tractatus. Forma vero sive modus tractandi est poeticus, fictivus, descriptivus, disgressivus et transumptivus; et cum hoc diffinitivus, divisivus, probativus, improbativus et exemplorum positivus” (4).123 The variety of the Commedia’s modus tractandi envisaged by the commentator allows him to approach his material in different ways, that is to say, poetice and/or theologice: “Unde si in aliquo loco vel passu videatur contra catholicam fidem loqui, non miretur aliquis, quia secundum rationem humanam poetice pertractando dirigit vias suas. Et ego, simili modo exponens et glosans, non nisi itinera sua sequar. Quia ubi loquitur poetice, exponam poetice; ubi vero theologice, exponam theologice, et sic de singulis” (9).124 More particularly, while the narrative of Inferno is generally considered fictional, Purgatorio and Paradiso allow and in fact require a spiritual interpretation: “Et tanto maior poeta omnibus aliis est censendus, quanto magis sublime opus ipse composuit, non solum de Inferis, ut simplex poeta loquendo, sed ut theologus de Purgatorio ac etiam [de] Paradiso, quantum homo aliquis subtilius ymaginari potest, ad utilitatem omnium



viventium venustissime pertractando” (31).125 This claim has generally gone unnoticed by most scholars, but if read alongside the paragraph quoted below, its implications are crucial. Iuxta Guido, the fictionality of the infernal story does not invalidate the veracity of Dante’s Commedia as a whole, in the same way as Solomon resorting to poetic and fictional textual strategies in some sections of Ecclesiastes does not undermine the fact that the prophet’s discourse has spiritual and mystical senses: Et quamvis hoc sit contra fidem catholicam, quia Christus in Evangelio ait: ‘Qui non est mecum, contra me est’, sustinendus est iste poeta et non damnandus, quia poetice et non theologice loquitur in hac parte. Quemadmodum Salomon in libro Ecclesiastes loquitur dicens: Unus est interitus hominum et iumentorum. Ibi enim loquitur Salomon in persona hominis veram fidem non habentis, licet ipse veram et certam fidem haberet, quia anime iumentorum, mortuis corporibus, moriantur; anime vero hominum sint perpetuo immortales. (58)126

Throughout his Expositiones Guido consistently reminds his lector that poetry is the art of creating integumenta, fables which hide a doctrinal truth; however, as he is keen to explain, such conceits are not to be considered deceitful lies, since they can signify the most spiritual sacred mysteries and are regularly employed also by the scribae Dei. The Commedia, to conclude, does not fall short of the authority of biblical truth, and can be compared, among others, to the prophetic narrative of the Song of Songs: Rogo te autem, o lector, ut autorem non iudices sive culpes, si tibi videatur quod ipse autor in aliquo loco vel passu contra catholicam fidem agat, quia poetice loquitur et fictive. Et ideo iste liber dicitur Comedia, que est quoddam genus poesie ad quam spectat vera integumentis poeticis et propheticis ambagibus nubilare. Unde iste autor, quamvis theologus et fidelis, tamen ad cognoscendum Deum et adscendendum ad ipsum poeticas scalas facit. Et in hoc imitatus est non solum Platonem et Martialem, sed etiam Salomonem, qui more poetico condidit Cantica Canticorum. (31)127

Before discussing the reference to the Bible in this crucial passage, some final considerations regarding Guido’s attitude to the spiritual and

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prophetic approach to (fictional) literary texts need to be made. The methodological developments apparent in the critical discourse of Guido, Holcot, Lathbury, and their fellow friars posed serious problems to their idea of inspiration. Admitting a prophetic reading of pagan texts suggested that divine inspiration was not limited to the writers of the Bible. From the time of Albertus Magnus’s commentary on the Celestial Hierarchies to Nicholas Trevet’s gloss on the De Consolatione, divine inspiration had moved from the Bible to the books of the pagans.128 Examples can be found across the board from the late twelfth century on; however, focusing on writers close to Guido, Giovanni del Virgilio had admitted Ovid’s inspiration by intelligentia superiore, while John Lathbury had reported on a gold plate found in Plato’s tomb announcing the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Christ.129 The ancients had experienced some degree of divine illumination. Because Guido had discovered a spiritual sense in Dante’s poem, the Florentine poet could be considered a prophet inspired by the Holy Spirit, just like Daniel, Isaiah, and Elijah. As such, Dante is not alone among poets and vates. In a gloss to Inf. 5, the Carmelite friar goes as far as accepting a shift from the allegoria poetarum to the allegoria theologorum in the interpretation of those narratives about Paris of Troy which, he claims, were inspired not by the Muses but by the Holy Spirit: Vidi Pari . . . de quo Paride unam mirabilem fabulam composuerunt antiqui poete. Sed re vera, si ipsa fabula allegorice exponatur, non fabula a poetis ficta sive composita, sed vera prophetia sive parabula a sanctis prophetis conscripta et a Sancto Spiritu inspirata reputabitur a lectore. . . . Allegoria vero istius fabule talis est: Paris enim tenet figuram cuiuslibet hominis; quilibet enim homo, quia ad ymaginem et similitudinem Dei factus est, Paris dicitur, idest “par Deo.” (110–11)130

To offer further evidence as regards the biblical dimension of Guido’s literary sensibility and critical methodology, we must focus on his use of critical terminology. At first sight, the way in which he employed technical terms would seem to cast doubt on my conclusions. Indeed, Guido’s application of technical terms is ambivalent, unclear, at times casual. Terminological confusion seems endemic in the Expositiones. Guido uses the words allegoria and allegorice to signify the moral meaning of narratives



but also to refer to biblical allegory proper, that is to say, to the veil that hides a mystery, that conceals revelation, and is set in a narrative where anagogical and tropological senses are also identifiable. Other terms, which at times are used as synonyms of allegoria, seem to be handled with greater precision: moraliter, for example, is always used to signify the moral sense of both types of allegory, whether biblical or poetical. To illustrate the modality of Guido’s critical discourse and to arrive at more precise observations for my analysis, I shall examine the technical terms he deployed to reveal the hidden meanings of Dante’s fiction, leaving aside his use of terminology in the interpretation of biblical and classical narratives. In Inf. 1, Guido defines the allegory of the journey as a simple allegoria poetarum, whereby the fictio, mixing utile et dulce, has moral and didactic meanings. Allegorice, in this case, is a synonym of moraliter. Dante’s physical movement through the dark infernal landscape conceals simple moral teachings about the difficulty of the Christian exile on earth: “sì che il piè fermo sempr’era ‘l più basso. Facit hic autor sicut faciunt ascendentes, qui quando aliquam viam arduam saliunt vel ascendunt, semper habent pedem inferiorem firmiorem. Qui quidem pes, moraliter exponendo, accipitur pro timore” (23) (my firm foot always lower than the other. This author behaves as those who when they climb a steep road, always have the lower foot firmer on the ground. Morally, this foot can be interpreted as fear).131 However, on rare occasions, Guido attaches to his interpretation of such moral allegories a less obvious terminology. The three fiere that obstruct Dante’s journey are in fact identified figurative as three vices affecting humanity, while the selva is treated as “statum peccati”: “Hic tangit autor, figurative loquendo, tria vitia que impediunt omnem hominem volentem scandere ad virtutes; que quidem tria vitia radices sunt omnium vitiorum et omnibus bonis operibus adversantur. . . . Ad evidentiam autem predictorum clarius et perspicacius enodandam, est allegorice attendendum quod ista silva adeo tenebrosa statum peccati, mons vero luminosus virtutis statum, figurative tipiceque designant” (22– 23).132 Likewise, Dante’s own role as peregrinus is understood mistice and typologice: “Et, ut ista tria clariori luce mistice videamus, est notandum quod Dantes tenet in hoc loco typum et figuram hominis” (24) (And, so that we understand this from a mystical point of view, it must be noted that Dante here is a type and figure of man).

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Although it is difficult to see how the four categories—moraliter, mistice, figurative, and typologice—applied by Guido to the allegorical sense of Dante’s narrative actually differ, it is vital to recognize that mystic, figural, and typological interpretation belong to the world of scriptural exegesis and refer to the notion that Old Testament narratives prefigure and prophesy Christian revelation. It is possible that Guido clumsily and mistakenly muddled his terms and critical tools. Terminological and methodological confusion seems to be a feature of all the classicizing friars’ interpretations of fictions: “This area—as Allen admits—is a difficult and ultimately ambiguous one because much of the terminology of exegesis was also a normal part of literal arts commentary. Such words as ‘allegoria’, ‘moraliter’, ‘figurare’ may refer to the spiritual sense, or to one traditionally defined as literal.”133 Yet when such terms are used in a context that betrays the intention to apply biblical techniques to the interpretation of a text it is clear that such terminology is ultimately used to reveal the spiritual sense of Dante’s fictions. There is little doubt that this was Guido’s intention, not only because he compares Dante to biblical prophets and endows him with the power of Holy Writ, but also and primarily because he openly declared that the Commedia can be interpreted according to the four senses of biblical exegesis: Postquam manifestata sunt illa sex que in quolibet doctrinali opere sunt querenda, est sciendum quod ista Comedia continet quatuor sensus, quemadmodum et scientia sacre theologie. Currit enim in hoc poesia cum theologia, quia utraque scientia quadrupliciter potest exponi; imo ab antiquis doctoribus ponitur poesia in numero theologie. Scribit enim beatus Augustinus VII libro De Civitate Dei quod Marcus Varro tria genera theologie esse posuit: unum scilicet fabulosum, quo utuntur poete; alterum naturale, quo utuntur philosophi; tertium vero civile, quo utuntur populi.134 Primus namque intellectus sive sensus quem continet Comedia dicitur hystoricus, secundus allegoricus, tertius tropologicus, quartus vero et ultimus dicitur anagogicus. (6)135

It must be noted that this fundamental passage opens with an effort on Guido’s part to reconcile what Augustine had instead thoroughly refused, namely, that there is conformity between the hermeneutical modalities adopted by the pagans and those of the Christians. He therefore attempts



to match Varro’s levels of theologia tripartita to the fourfold exegesis of the Bible. The match does not work, neither numerically nor conceptually, but Guido does not seem to worry. His intent here is to legitimize the spiritual reading of all myths and fables, be they biblical, simply Christian, or altogether pagan. Given the extent of Guido’s manipulation of hermeneutical rules and theories, it is not unexpected to find out that in spite of his optimistic declaration, his expositio mostly focuses on the first three hermeneutical senses. However, on a few occasions in Inferno, he does illustrate the anagogical meaning of Dante’s fictions. Beatrice, unsurprisingly, is one of the beneficiaries of such an interpretation: Que quidem Beatrix tenet typum et figuram vite spiritualis; ubi nota quod Beatrix in ista Comedia accipitur quatuor modis: interdum enim accipitur licteraliter pro quadam videlicet nobili domina florentina, que sua pulcritudine et morum honestate mirabiliter emicuit in hac vita; aliquando accipitur allegorice pro sacra scilicet scientia theologie; aliquando accipitur moraliter, sive typice, pro vita scilicet spirituali; aliquando vero accipitur anagogice pro gratia scilicet divina, homini infusa, et vita beata homini attributa. Que quatuor in lictera perspicaciter intuenti clarius apparebunt. (31– 32)136

But a similar conclusion regarding the anagogical sense of the litera is reached when the prophecy of the veltro is discussed. Guido analyzes the four senses of Dante’s image: the literal, the allegorical, and the typological, before finishing with its anagogical sense: “Vel aliter anagogice exponendo: Per istum leporarium accipere possumus Christum, qui venturus est ad iudicium, cuius natio, idest apparitio, erit inter feltrum et feltrum, hoc est inter bonos et reprobos” (33).137 If it can be read according to the four senses of allegoresis, Dante’s vaticinium must therefore be considered a real biblical prophecy. Dante’s vision carries all the signs of the prophetic charisma — a charisma that was at the core of the Carmelite experience of the Bible and revelation. For Guido, the poet’s vision has been elaborated as a fictio, but his experience must be considered true: Dante received a true revelation, which he then conceived per ea quae facta sunt, that is to say, through sensibilia,

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or images: “Sic allegorice est summendum. Licet enim autor ad aspectum lonze que, ut dictum est, luxuriam prefigurat, plurimum titubaret, tamen, ut prudens somniorum interpres, concepit in sue tempore visionis per illam variatam pellem . . . ad meliora, hoc est ad summam pulcritudinem delectationemque posse transire Iuxta quod ad Romanos scribit Apostolus: Invisibilia Dei per ea que facta sunt intellecta conspiciuntur” (24).138 Last but not least, Guido’s application of biblical allegoresis to the Commedia is confirmed by the very form of his accessus. The prologue of the Expositiones is an Aristotelian type C accessus.139 In discussing, therefore, the genus philosophie to which the Commedia belongs, Guido unsurprisingly describes it as ethics, yet when it comes to explaining the title the Carmelite writes a very significant note: IIII sunt genera poetarum, quorum quodlibet genus propriam habet scientiam. Quidam enim dicuntur poete lirici, qui in operibus suis omnes carminum varietates includunt; et dicuntur lirici apotulirin greco, idest a varietate carminum; unde et lira dicta que habet varias cordas. Hoc genere carminum usus est David in componendo Psalterium. Unde Arator, Sancte Romane Ecclesie Cardinalis, super Actus Apostolorum ait: “Psalterium lirici composuere pedes.” (4)140

If David’s teodia is a lyric poem, there is no distinction in Guido’s mind between the poetry of the Bible and that of the divine prophet of the Commedia.141 The exegesis of Dante’s verses can follow the principles of the lectio divina when necessary and appropriate because, like the Bible, the fictio of the sacrato poema speaks a revealed truth. At this point of the discussion, it should come as no surprise that Guido chose the Song of Songs as one of Dante’s poetic models.142 I shall therefore turn to this book and to the implications of Guido’s use of it. As I have discussed elsewhere, Saint Augustine had considered the Canticum canticorum an exception in the scripture because its sensus literalis was in fact an allegory, namely, a fiction.143 In spite of Augustine’s authoritativeness, most commentators on the text had felt uncomfortable with the notion; how could a whole biblical text be considered an integumentum? Even Origen had been very careful to warn his readers against



the temptation of establishing comparisons between the Canticum and the fables of the ancients: “haec si non spiritaliter intellegantur, none fabulae sunt? Nisi aliquid habeant secreti, none indigna sunt Deo?” (if we do not understand this spiritually, aren’t these fables? If they do not have a secret meaning, are they not unworthy of God?).144 As we have seen, from the twelfth century on there had been a slow but “important change in fable theory”;145 given the unstable and complex definition of the locutio figurata in sacred texts such as the Song of Songs, Guido and his contemporaries would have caused less of a scandal comparing biblical and nonbiblical fables. Yet for the thirteenth-century Marian readers the literal meaning of the Song of Songs was not only possible, but crucial: the fabula of the Song of Songs had to have a clear historical referent, and this was the narration of Solomon’s prophetic vision about the life of Mary. Philip of Harveng, a premonstratensian abbot who authored a Commentaria in Cantica canticorum, stated this rather bluntly: the littera of the song is a “spiritual[is] et modest[a] fabula” which for its beauty “surpassed even the naenias of the Muses and the empty fabulas of the poets.”146 By the late 1330s the Song of Songs had become fundamental reading for a Carmelite. As Baconthorpe would make explicit, for the White Friars this text was a prophecy about their patron and founder Mary, not a fable. More than that. The Song was the prophecy of the advent on Mount Carmel of the friars who would sing the laus of the Sponsa Christi. Nothing could be more historical, more sacred, more truthful than the narratio of the song of all songs.147 The growing importance and significance of this text within his order is attested by the fact that Guido’s comparatio between the Commedia and the Canticum canticorum was only added to the commentary in its last version (preserved in the Chantilly Condè manuscript). The note is in fact missing from the shorter and earlier commentary composed by Guido and now edited by Paola Locatin. Clearly by 1336/7 the Carmelite had acquired a new text, the Song of Songs, which helped him define his hermeneutical paradigms. The study and understanding of the Song of Solomon gave the final seal to his belief that Dante’s eloquent fictio poetica could be rightfully read as an eloquent, lyric elaboration of a true prophetic vision, not a false dream, which the sommo poeta wrote down, not unlike David or Solomon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

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D       F  This chapter has tried to elucidate how and why Carmelite education and charisma had profound repercussions on Guido’s approach to the Commedia. First his eagerness to describe and interpret the poem as a prophecy must be considered strictly related to the role that prophetism and prophetic texts had on the construction of his order’s Carmelite identity. More particularly, Guido’s attempt to assimilate Dante to the Old Testament prophets seems to reflect the importance that Carmelites placed on the continuity between the Old and the New Covenant. The White Friars were keen to affirm their role in the thirteenth- and fourteenthcentury church on account of their supposed lineage stretching back to the first followers of Christ: Elijah and Mary. The choice of the Song of Songs as one of the paradigms of Dante’s poetry is dependent upon the Carmelite’s familiarity with the text that became essential to their foundation myths. Guido’s use of biblical texts strictly follows that of the first important theologian of his order. More specifically, Guido’s Marian (and Carmelite) interpretation of the Canticum confirms the evidence which I have examined throughout this chapter: that for the friar a fabula can be considered to relate divine truths when it is inspired by God who illuminates a prophet. This is fully in line with the mendicant appropriations of the ancient mythological and philosophical texts and their application of biblical hermeneutical strategy to nonreligious texts. In this context, Guido takes on radical positions which allow him to see classical texts as bearers of spiritual meanings (in the biblical sense). His Carmelite education can also explain his great knowledge and love for the classical authors who were studied with care in the advanced schools of Latin established in Carmelite friaries across Europe. His library is entirely in line with those of the best theologians of his order, from Baconthorpe to Gerard of Bologna (though he probably had a more superficial knowledge of such texts). His Carmelite formation calls into question Guido’s supposed sympathy for humanist (or protohumanist) conceptions of the poeta theologus. While such proposals are valuable to help us understand the cultural proximity of intellectuals such as Mussato to religious and scholastic environments, they unfortunately ignore some fundamental issues of late



medieval approaches to and studies of texts. Medieval literary criticism developed in the context of the wider and authoritative exegetical study of the Bible and other sacred or pseudo-Christian texts. The first late medieval scholars of classical mythography and poetry (from Plato to Martianus Capella, and from Boethius to Virgil) were in fact monks, doctors of theology, and, later on, friars, who read, quoted, and glossed the poetic or philosophical works of Plato, Martianus Capella, Macrobius, and Virgil. In this environment the classicizing friars thrived, reviving the study of fables and poetic allegories, the Augustinian Alexander of Neckham composed the Vatican mythographer, and the Dominican Trevet “modernized” Boethius. All this casts serious doubt on the importance of supposed direct influences of lay protohumanists on mendicant friars, above all when we consider that the mendicant orders themselves, and the Carmelites in particular, took a leading role within the humanist movements of the fifteenth century. Finally, in concluding this long survey, an important question needs to be addressed: why would Guido choose to comment on the Commedia? Essentially, transforming Dante into a prophet entailed an appropriation of the Commedia in harmony with the Carmelite charisma and order. This cultural operation must have been of utmost importance for the order. In creating one of the most magnificent Chantilly manuscripts and one of the most complex commentaries on the Commedia, Guido was probably attempting to highlight both his erudition and that of his order. The Carmelites had just started to send their friars to Paris, and during Guido’s time the order had produced just a handful of notable theologians. Guido demonstrated that he was an able exegete, one who could write a commentary on Dante just as other monks and friars had written on Capella, Boethius, and Virgil. At the same time his Expositiones would have been an expression of the modernity of the Carmelites, their closeness to popular sensibilities, in contrast to the Dominicans’ attempt to distance themselves from Dante’s dangerous fables. This would have been vital for the Carmelites in their fight for survival. Guido’s dedication of the commentary to Lucano Spinola, console pisano a Genova, is part of this same strategy. Following the defeat of the Battle of Maloria (1284) Pisa had fallen under the control of Genoa and had descended into a fast and irreversible decline. The protection of a favorable nobleman was es-

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sential to Guido, his brothers, and his order as a whole. After all, he would not be the last Carmelite to seek out the patronage of the powerful. The fifteenth-century history of the order clearly shows how it survived and flourished thanks to the support of the rich and the Curia.

N 

I wish to thank Zyg Barański for his comments on a previous version of this chapter and Peter Kruschwitz for his vital linguistic clarifications. All translations from Latin are mine unless otherwise stated. Unlike other essays in this collection, translations are given in the notes when the citation is considered longer than average. Some of the issues considered in the present chapter are also discussed by Battaglia Ricci and Bellomo elsewhere in this volume. In some cases the authors present different interpretations of Guido’s Expositiones—a mark of the complexity of the debate on the fourteenth-century Dante commentators. 1. Although a new edition has been announced by the Edizione Nazionale dei Commenti Danteschi, the only available edition is still Guido da Pisa, Expositiones et glose super Comediam Dantis or Commentary on Dante’s Inferno, ed. V. Cioffari (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1974). Citations are from this edition, given by page numbers. For studies on different aspects of Guido’s commentary, see in particular: C. Balbarini, “‘Per verba’ e ‘per images’: Un commento illustrato all’Inferno nel Musée Condé di Chantilly,” in Intorno al testo: Tipologie del corredo esegetico e soluzioni editoriali. Atti del Convegno di Urbino 1– 3 ottobre 2001 (Rome: Salerno, 2003), 497– 512; C. Balbarini, “Progetto d’autore e committenza illustre nel codice di dedica delle Expositiones di Guido da Pisa sull’Inferno,” Rivista di studi danteschi 4, no. 2 (2004): 374– 84; C. Balbarini, L’“Inferno” di Chantilly: Cultura artistica e letteraria a Pisa nella prima metà del Trecento (Rome: Salerno, 2011); L. Battaglia Ricci, “‘Dice Isaia . . . ’: Dante e il profetismo biblico,” in La Bibbia di Dante: Esperienza mistica, profezia e teologia biblica in Dante. Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi, Ravenna, 7 novembre 2009, ed. G. Ledda (Ravenna: Centro Dantesco dei Frati Minori Conventuali, 2011), 49– 75; L. Battaglia Ricci, “Immaginario visivo e tradizione letteraria nell’invenzione dantesca della scena dell’eterno,” Letture classensi 39 (2000): 67–103; L. Battaglia Ricci, “Il commento illustrato alla Commedia: schede di iconografia trecentesca,” in “Per correr miglior acque . . . ”: Bilanci e prospettive degli studi danteschi alle soglie del nuovo millennio. Atti del Convegno internazionale di VeronaRavenna 25– 29 ottobre 1999, ed. L. Battaglia Ricci, 2 vols. (Rome: Salerno, 2001), 1:601– 39; L. Battaglia Ricci, “Viaggio e visione: Tra immaginario visivo e



invenzione letteraria,” in Dante: Da Firenze all’aldilà. Atti del terzo Seminario dantesco internazionale (Florence, 9–11 giugno 2000), ed. M. Picone (Florence: Franco Cesati, 2001), 15– 73; S. Bellomo, “La Commedia attraverso gli occhi dei primi lettori,” in Leggere Dante, ed. L. Battaglia Ricci (Ravenna: Longo, 2004), 73– 84; S. Bellomo, “Tradizione manoscritta e tradizione culturale delle Expositiones di Guido da Pisa (prime note e appunti),” Lettere italiane 31, no. 2 (1979): 153– 75; A. M. Caglio, “Materiali enciclopedici nelle Expositiones di Guido da Pisa,” Italia medievale e umanistica 24 (1981): 213– 56; A. A. Canal, “Guido da Pisa commentatore dell’intera Commedia,” Studi e problemi di critica testuale 18 (1979): 57– 75; A. A. Canal, Il mondo morale di Guido da Pisa interprete di Dante (Bologna: Pàtron, 1981); A. A. Canal, “Venti anni di studi e dibattiti su Guido da Pisa,” Studi medievali 38, no. 2 (1997): 931– 44; V. Cioffari, “The Prologue to the Commentary of Guido da Pisa,” Dante Studies 90 (1972): 125– 37; V. Cioffari, “Guido da Pisa’s Basic Interpretation (A Translation of the First Two Cantos),” Dante Studies 93 (1975): 1– 25; V. Cioffari, “Did Guido da Pisa write a Commentary on the Purgatorio and the Paradiso?,” Studi danteschi 57 (1985): 145– 60; F. Franceschini, “Per la datazione fra il 1335 e il 1340 delle Expositiones et Glose di Guido da Pisa (con documenti su Lucano Spinola),” Rivista di studi danteschi 2, no. 1 (2002): 64–103; F. Franceschini, “Letture e lettori di Dante nella Pisa del Trecento (con una postilla su Marte),” in Pisa crocevia di uomini, lingue e culture: L’età medievale. Atti del Convegno, Pisa, 25– 27 ottobre 2007, ed. L. Battaglia Ricci and R. Cella (Rome: Aracne, 2009), 235– 78; N. Iliescu, “Il commento di Guido da Pisa,” Dante Studies 94 (1976): 145– 54; P. Locatin, “Una prima redazione del commento all’Inferno di Guido da Pisa e la sua fortuna (il ms. Laur. 40.2),” Rivista di studi danteschi 1, no. 1 (2001): 30– 74; N. Iliescu, “Sulla cronologia relativa agli antichi commenti alla Commedia,” Rassegna europea di letteratura italiana 29– 30 (2007): 187– 204; N. Iliescu, “Una prima redazione del commento all’Inferno di Guido da Pisa: tra le chiose alla Commedia contenute nel ms. Laur. 40.2. Edizione critica, con saggio introduttivo, delle chiose laurenziane e del volgarizzamento della redazione guidiana” (PhD diss., University of Trento, 2009), available at; F. Mazzoni, “Guido da Pisa interprete di Dante e la sua fortuna presso il Boccaccio,” Studi danteschi 35 (1958): 29–128; A. J. Minnis and A. B. Scott, “Assessing the New Author: Commentary on Dante,” in Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism, c. 1100–c. 1375: The Commentary Tradition, ed. A. J. Minnis, A. B. Scott, and D. Wallace (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 439– 519; P. Nasti, “Autorità, topos e modello, Salomone nei commenti trecenteschi alla Commedia,” The Italianist 19 (1999): 5– 49; P. Nasti, Favole d’amore e “saver profondo” (Ravenna: Longo, 2007), 231– 34; E. Orvieto, “La datazione del Commento all’Inferno dantesco di Guido da Pisa,” Kentucky Romance Quarterly 23, no. 1 (1976): 121– 27; P. Rigo, “Il Dante di Guido da Pisa,” Lettere italiane 29, no. 2 (1977): 196– 207; M. Rinaldi, Per l’edizione critica delle

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“Expositiones et glose super Comediam Dantis” di Guido da Pisa: Recensio dei manoscritti (Naples: Loffredo, 2010); A. Sabatini, “Fra Guido da Pisa: Una pergamena del 1324,” Il Carmelo 19 (1972): 101– 6; A. Vallone, “Guido da Pisa nella critica dantesca del Trecento,” Critica letteraria 3, no. 3 (1975): 435– 69. 2. Now dated by Franceschini, “Per la datazione,” between 1335 and 1340. 3. S. Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi: L’esegesi della Commedia da Iacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olschki, 2004): 268– 76. 4. P. Locatin underlines the influence of Salutati on Andrea Giusti da Volterra, author of the glosses included in MS Laur. 40.2 which are based on what is believed to be the first version of Guido’s Expositiones: “Certo L fu un libro destinato a rimanere nella biblioteca del notaio volterrano . . . oggetto di una personale lettura . . . protratta nel tempo, interrotta e ripresa a distanza di anni, condotta, con ogni probabilità, in ambito privato e amatoriale, ma non priva di legami con l’ambiente del Salutati, al quale va con tutta probabilità ricondotta la conoscenza dell’opera di Benvenuto da Imola, e fors’anche del commento di Guido da Pisa” (Undoubtedly, L was a book destined to remain in the library of the notary of Volterra . . . the subject of a personal reading. . . protracted, interrupted and resumed after many years, conducted, in all probability, in private and amateurishly, but not unrelated with the environment of Salutati, to whom the knowledge of the work of Benvenuto da Imola is most likely to be ascribed, and perhaps even Guido da Pisa’s commentary) (Locatin, “Una prima redazione,” 17). Bellomo has noted the importance of Salutati’s friendship for Villani, whose use of Guido’s glosses emerges clearly in his commentary to the Commedia; see F. Villani, Expositio seu Comentum super Comedia Dantis Allegherii, ed. S. Bellomo (Florence: Le Lettere, 1989), 9 and n. 22; 25 and n. 82. One must be careful, however, in using the popularity of the Expositiones among the protohumanists to clarify, a posteriori, Guido’s hermeneutical approach to poetry. As for the alleged similarity between Mussato’s and Guido’s views on the poeta theologus, I discuss this in the second section of this study. A very interesting study on the relationships between protohumanists and mendicant religious figures and education is T. Kircker, The Poet’s Wisdom: The Humanists, the Church and the Formation of Philosophy in the Early Renaissance (Leiden: Brill, 2006). 5. The study of the impact of convent and mendicant life on individuals involves a variety of complex factors, ranging from the purely spiritual sphere to the practical, the educational, and the social. Different facets of monastic and convent life have been investigated over the past century, yet there are very few monographic studies which offer an overarching analysis of the monks’ and friars’ monastic lives. The most influential text is still J. Leclerq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God (New York: Fordham University Press, 1982). See also C. H. Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism: Forms of Religious Life in Western Europe in the Middle Ages (London: Longman, 1984); J. E. Sayers, Life in the Medieval



Monastery (Harlow: Longmans, 1969); The Monk’s Community: The Monastery, ed. D. C. Trueman and J. H. Trueman (Toronto and New York: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1974); D. Prudlo, ed., The Origin, Development, and Refinement of Medieval Religious Mendicancies (Boston: Brill, 2011); M. Robson and J. Röhrkasten, eds., Franciscan Organisation in the Mendicant Context: Formal and Informal Structures of the Friars’ Lives and Ministry in the Middle Ages (Münster: Verlag, 2010). The general tendency in contemporary historiography is to focus on the study of specific monasteries and convents, or on the life of friars and monks in certain geographic areas. A good example of this trend is J. Röhrkasten, The Mendicant Houses of Medieval London, 1221–1539 (Münster: Verlag, 2004). As far as the Carmelite order is concerned, see P. Fitzgerald-Lombard, Carmel in Britain: Essays on the Medieval English Carmelite Province, 2 vols. (Rome: Institutum Carmelitanum, 1992); J. R. Webster, Carmel in Medieval Catalonia (Leiden: Brill, 1999). There are no major contemporary studies of medieval Carmelite houses in Italy. On aspects of monastic and mendicant education, as well as B. Smalley, English Friars and Antiquity in Early Fourteenth Century (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1961), see C. Muessig, ed., Medieval Monastic Education (London: Continuum, 2001); B. Roest, A History of Franciscan Education (c. 1210–1517) (Leiden: Brill, 2000); R. B. Begley and J.W. Koterski, eds., Medieval Education (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005); N. enocak, The Poor and the Perfect: The Rise of Learning in the Franciscan Order, 1209–1310 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012); Le scuole degli ordini mendicanti (secoli XIII–XIV), 11–14 ottobre 1976, Convegni del Centro di studi sulla spiritualità medievale, 17 (Todi: Centro di Studi sulla Spiritualità Medievale, 1978). 6. The most notable of these prescriptions against the reading and study of the Commedia is the one issued by the Dominican order; see T. Kaeppeli and A. Dondaine, eds., Acta capitulorum provincialium provinciae romanae (1243–1344) (Rome: Istituto Storico dei Frati Predicatori in S. Sabina, 1941), 286– 88. Whether the Dominican friars actually followed such prescriptions is doubtful. As a matter of fact, part of the commentary of the so-called Latin Anonymous is ascribed to a Dominican friar: see B. Sandkühler, Die frühen Dantekommentare und ihr Verhältnis zur mittelalterlichen Kommentartradition (Munich: Max Hueber, 1967), 116– 31, 145– 55; M. Spadotto, “Anonimo Latino (Anonimo Lombardo e Anonimo Teologo),” in Censimento dei commenti danteschi, 1: I commenti di tradizione manoscritta (fino al 1480), ed. E. Malato and A. Mazzucchi (Rome: Salerno, 2011), 43– 60. For the relationship between this corpus and the Dominican environment, see A. Pegoretti, “Or ti riman lettor sovra ‘l tuo banco’ Il ms. Egerton 943 della British Library, Tesi di Dottorato in Studi Italianistici, Università di Pisa, XXI ciclo,” esp. chap. 2. I am grateful to Dr. Pegoretti for her invited presentation of this paper at the Society for Italian Studies Interim Conference, held at Reading on July 13–14, 2012. Pegoretti’s views on the Anonimo Teologo seem to be in agreement

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with what I argue in this chapter: the interpretation of the Commedia in monastic and mendicant settings had characteristics which are strictly related to the religious context in which the exegetes operated, as well as to the political and cultural agenda of their orders. Interestingly, the Anonymous Theologian’s glosses written in 1336 are more or less contemporary with the second version of Guido’s Expositiones. It seems reasonable to believe that in the 1330s the study of the Commedia was spreading in the mendicant studia and convents. As a matter of fact, it is rather significant to note that the text of the Dominican Acta capitolorum puts emphasis on the need to forbid the studium (and not the reading) of Dante’s text. 7. On the friars as critics of literature and scripture, see the fundamental studies by Smalley, English Friars; J. Boyce Allen, The Friar as Critic: Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1971); and J. Boyce Allen, The Ethical Poetic of the Later Middle Ages: A Decorum of Convenient Distinction (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982). 8. The history of the Carmelites has been mainly written within Carmelite learned circles. Broader academic interest in the origins and development of the order is rather recent and therefore patchy. For an introduction to the medieval White Friars by Carmelite scholars, see C. Cicconetti, O. Carm., La Regola del Carmelo: Origine, natura, significato (Rome: Edizioni Carmelitane, 1973); R. Copsey, O. Carm., “Establishment, Identity and Papal Approval: The Carmelite Order’s Creation of Its Legendary History,” Carmelus 47 (2000): 41– 53; A. Staring, O. Carm., ed., Medieval Carmelite Heritage: Early Reflections on the Nature of the Order (Rome: Istitutum Carmelitanum, 1989); P. Chandler, O. Carm., and K. J. Egan, eds., The Land of Carmel: Essays in Honor of Joachim Smet, O. Carm. (Rome: Istitutum Carmelitanum 1991); J. Smet, O. Carm., I Carmelitani: Storia dell’Ordine del Carmelo: Dal 1200 ca. fino al Concilio di Trento, 3 vols. (Rome: Edizioni Carmelitane, 1989– 96). Other important contributions are F. Andrews, The Other Friars: The Carmelite, Augustinian, Sack and Pied Friars in the Middle Ages (Woodbridge and Rochester, NY: Boydell, 2006); J. J. Boyce, Carmelite Liturgy and Spiritual Identity: The Choir Books of Krakow (Turnhout: Brepols, 2008); A. Jotischky, The Carmelites and Antiquity: Mendicants and Their Pasts in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); A. Jotischky, The Perfection of Solitude: Hermits and Monks in the Crusader States (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995). 9. Smet, I Carmelitani, 1:3– 9. 10. On the Carmelite rule, in addition to the above-mentioned studies, see E. X. Gomes, ed., The Carmelite Rule, 1207– 2007: Proceedings of the Lisieux Conference, 4– 7 July 2005 (Rome: Edizioni Carmelitane, 2008). 11. Jotischky, The Carmelites, 34. 12. The only study of the Carmel of Pisa is still P. Caioli, “Il ‘Carmino’ di Pisa,” Carmelus 3 (1956): 117– 42.



13. The heavy presence of the Italian commune in Acre is widely documented. The Pisan army occupied Acre in the thirteenth century, but after the loss of the town to the Muslims, Pisa continued to maintain strong economic relationships with the East; see G. Rossi Sabatini, L’espansione di Pisa nel Mediterraneo fino alla Meloria (Florence: Sansoni 1935); M. Tangheroni, ed., Pisa e il Mediterraneo: Uomini, merci, idee dagli Etruschi ai Medici (Milan: Skira, 2003). 14. See Caioli, “Il ‘Carmino’ di Pisa.” 15. Papal bull dated May 17, 1262, I, 24; quoted by Caioli, “Il ‘Carmino’ di Pisa,” 118. 16. Caioli, “Il ‘Carmino’ di Pisa,” 127. 17. I have been unable to see P. Giovannini and S. Vitolo, eds., Il Convento del Carmine di Firenze, caratteri e documenti: Firenze, Salone Vanni, Convento del Carmine, 23 settembre–10 ottobre 1981 (Florence: Tip. Nazionale, 1981). Information on the origin of the convent in Florence is gathered from works on the churches of Florence such as A. Busignani and R. Bencini, Le chiese di Firenze, 1: Quartiere di Santo Spirito (Florence: Sansoni, 1974), 89– 91. 18. F. B. Lickteig, The German Carmelites at the Medieval Universities (Rome: Institutum Carmelitanum, 1981), 81– 86. 19. K.W. Humphreys, The Library of the Carmelites of Florence at the End of the Fourteenth Century (Amsterdam: Erasmus, 1964). 20. Doubts about Guido’s affiliation to any of the Tuscan Carmelite convents are mainly due to the difficulties of clearly identifying Guido. In addition to the most recent studies by Bellomo and Franceschini cited in n. 1, see A. Sabatini, “Fra’ G. da P. una probabile identificazione,” Carmelus 14 (1967): 242– 54; Sabatini, “Fra Guido da Pisa: Una pergamena del 1324.” In truth, given the mystery that still surrounds the biographical identity of the friar, we do not have any reason to believe that he lived outside Tuscany, at least until the late 1330s. If, as Franceschini suggests, he did live in Genova, it would be more reasonable to believe that he did so toward the end of his life. Nothing suggests that Guido’s education happened outside Tuscany. For Guido’s relationships with Genoa, see Franceschini, “Per la datazione,” 99; and F. Franceschini, “Commenti danteschi e geografia linguistica,” in Italica Matritensia: Atti del IV Convegno SILFI, Madrid, 27– 29 giugno 1996, ed. M. T. Navarro Salazar (Florence: Cesati, 1998), 213– 31 (225– 26). 21. Jotischky, The Carmelites, 21. 22. Papal bull from July 26, 1248, quoted in E. Wise, “Between Mount Carmel and Piazza Mercato: The Brown Madonna of Naples,” Journal of International Internship Research 1 (2008): 76– 92 (78). 23. In addition to Jotischky, The Carmelites, 79–105, see R. Copsey, O. Carm., “The Formation of the English Friar: From Dominican Friar to Carmelite Practice,” in Omnia Disce: Medieval Studies in Memory of Leonard Boyle, O.P.,

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ed. A. Duggan, J. Greatrex, B. Bolton, and L. E. Boyle (London: Ashgate, 2005); and “The Ignea Sagitta and Its Readership: A Re-Evaluation,” Carmelus 46 (1999): 166– 73. The text of the Ignea Sagitta was edited by A. Staring, O. Carm., “Nicolai Prioris Generalis Ordinis Carmelitarum Ignea Sagitta,” Carmelus 9 (1962): 237– 307. Baconthorpe’s texts on the Carmelite order have since then been edited and collected in Staring, Medieval Carmelite Heritage. 24. “A general council by a considered prohibition averted the excessive diversity of religious orders, lest it might lead to confusion. . . . We therefore renew the constitution, and severely prohibit that anyone found henceforth a new order or form of religious life, or assume its habit. We perpetually forbid absolutely all the forms of religious life and the mendicant orders founded after the said council which have not merited confirmation of the apostolic see, and we suppress them in so far as they have spread. As to those orders, however, confirmed by the apostolic see and instituted after the council, whose profession, rule or constitutions forbid them to have revenues or possessions for their fitting support but whose insecure mendicancy usually provides a living through public begging, we decree that they may survive on the following terms. . . . Of course we do not allow the present constitution to apply to the orders of Preachers and Minors; their approval bears witness to their evident advantage to the universal church. Furthermore, we grant that the order of Carmelites and that of the Hermits of Saint Augustine, the institution of which preceded the said general council {29}, may remain as they are, until other regulations are made for them. We intend in fact to provide both for them and for the other orders, even the nonmendicants, as we shall see to be for the good of souls and for the good state of the orders” (Papal Encyclical, On religious houses, that they are to be subject to the bishop, Council of Lyon, 25. This was the content of the bull Tenorem cuiusdam; see Cicconetti, “La Regola,” 353– 56. 26. Lickteig, The German Carmelites, 24. On Carmelite education, as well as Lickteig, see P. Benoit-Marie de la Croix, “Les Carmes aux Universités du moyen age,” Etudes carmélitaines mystiques et missionnaires 17, no. 1 (1932): 82–112; K. J. Egan, “The Carmelites Turn to Cambridge,” in Chandler and Egan, The Land of Carmel, 155– 70; B. P. Flood, “The Carmelite Friars in Medieval English Universities and Society, 1299–1430,” Recherches de theologie ancienne et médiévale 55 (1988): 154– 83. 27. Lickteig, The German Carmelites, 25. 28. Ibid., 39– 89. 29. See the detailed analysis of Lickteig in The German Carmelites. 30. But only “the general chapter of 1420 permitted . . . Florence . . . to offer the lectorate course” (Lickteig, The German Carmelites, 86). 31. Ibid., 43.



32. F. J. Worstbrock and S. C. Harris, “Johannes von Hildesheim,” in Die deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters: Verfasserlexikon, ed. W. Stammler, K. Langosch, K. Ruh, and C. Stöllinger-Löser, 2nd ed., 7 vols. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1978); R. Hendricks, “A Register of the Letters and Papers of John of Hildesheim, O. Carm.,” Carmelus 4 (1957): 116– 235. 33. Lickteig, The German Carmelites, 46– 55. 34. Ibid., 75. 35. See Humphreys, The Library. 36. Ibid., 7–18. 37. J. Bergström-Allen, “‘For Edificacyon of Many Saules’: The Production of Carmelite Vernacular Writings in Late Medieval England,” www.carmelite .org/documents/Heritage/jbafribourglecture.pdf; J. Bergström-Allen, “A Study of the Vernacular Theological Literature Produced by Medieval English White Friars, Particularly Richard Misyn, O. Carm.” (M. Phil. thesis, University of Oxford, 2002), jbamphilthesis.pdf. 38. Jotischky, The Carmelites, 45– 46. 39. In addition to the historical studies already mentioned, see V. Edden, “The Mantle of Elijah: Carmelite Spirituality in England in the Fourteenth Century,” in The Medieval Mystical Tradition, England, Ireland and Wales, ed. M. Glasscoe (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1999), here cited in the online version, 40. The most notable dispute took place at Cambridge around 1374 between the Dominican Stokes and the Carmelite Hornby. On this, see J. P. H. Clark, “A Defence of the Carmelite Order by John Hornby, O. Carm., .. 1374,” Carmelus 32 (1985): 73–106; Jotischky, The Carmelites, 58; and Andrews, The Other Friars, 59. 41. Some of these titles are Universis christifidelibus by Sibert of Beka (before 1324); John of Cheminet’s Speculum Fratorum ordinis beatae mariae de monte carmeli (1337); John Baconthorpe’s four treatises, Speculum de Institutione Ordinis, Tractatus super Regulam, Compendium Historiarum et Iurium, Laus Religionis Carmelitarum (all written after 1317 and probably after 1324 but before 1333– 34); William of Coventry’s (fl. 1360) Chronica Brevis, De Duplici Fuga, and De Adventu Carmelitarum in Angliam; the French Chronicle by Jean de Venette (1307/8– ca. 1369); John of Hildesheim’s Dialogus (1374) as well as the above-mentioned Universis christifidelibus. All these texts are now in Staring, Medieval Carmelite Heritage. In 1370 The Book of the Institution of the First Monks by Fr. Philip Ripoti became the “manual” of the order. P. Ribot, O. Carm., The Book of the First Monks (Chapters 1 to 9), trans. M. Edwards (Boars Hill, Oxford: Teresian Press, 1969). 42. Baconthorpe’s work was known by the mid-1330s, but a mention of Elijah can already be found in the rubric of 1324. And probably in the Constitu-

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tions of the Carmelite order of 1281. According to Staring, it is possible that the origin of the myth was probably older (ca. 1247); see Medieval Carmelite Heritage, 13. 43. J. Cannon, “Pietro Lorenzetti and the History of the Carmelite Order,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 50 (1987): 18– 28 (28). 44. Ibid., 24. 45. E. Boaga, O. Carm., The Lady of the Place: Mary in the History and in the Life of Carmel (Rome: Edizioni Carmelitane, 2001); V. Edden, “Marian Devotion in a Carmelite Sermon Collection of the Late Middle Ages,” Mediaeval Studies 57 (1995): 101– 29; see also Edden: “Unlike the other fraternal orders, this name defined the Carmelites with reference not to their founder but to their patron (the Virgin) and to the place of their origin” (Edden,“The Mantle,” 1). 46. Originally the friars wore a black and white striped garment which they considered an imitation of Elijah’s charred mantle; but in 1287, with Honorius IV’s permission, they changed the habit to a white robe. “The habit links devotion to Elijah with devotion to Mary. It is, as it were, a livery, a daily reminder of Mary’s purity and of the fact that Mary’s chastity provides the model for the celibate life. The striped cloak was seen to symbolize the Order’s devotion to Mary, though it seems likely that this symbolism was attached retrospectively, after the change of habit. Baconthorpe moves from discussing the Elian origins of the mantle to an exposition of the three-fold symbolism of the garment. Firstly he says that it is the household of Mary (we are to understand the Carmelite brothers) which is spoken of in Proverbs 31:21– 2, where ‘domestici eius vestiti sunt duplicibus; stragulatam vestem fecit sibi’ (‘her household is clothed in a two-fold garment; she made for them a coverlet as a garment’). Secondly, the black and white stripes signify law and grace. Those who serve Mary must obey the commandments in order to come to grace, since the fruit of her womb ‘came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it’. Thirdly, the two-fold cape signifies the two-fold nature of Mary’s son, who was both human and divine” (Edden, “The Mantle,” 5– 6). 47. J. Boyce, O. Carm., “The Liturgy of the Carmelites,” Carmelus 43 (1996): 5– 41; Edden, “The Mantle”; Edden, “Marian Devotion”; P. Kallenberg, O. Carm., Fontes Liturgiae carmelitanae: Investigatio in decreta, codices et proprium Sanctorum (Rome: Institutum Carmelitanum, 1962). 48. “The brown scapular was also associated with devotion to the Virgin. It is linked—by legend at least—to Simon the Englishman, Simon Stock, prior general, elected at Aylesford c. 1256, who became a model of the Carmelite life, combining the contemplative life with devotion to the Virgin. From at least the late fourteenth century, there was a widespread belief that the Virgin appeared to him in a vision, commanding the wearing of the brown scapular and promising eternal salvation to all who died wearing it” (Edden, “The Mantle,” 5). On the



brown scapular: R. Copsey, O. Carm., “Simon Stock and the Scapular Vision,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 50, no. 4 (1999): 652– 83; B. Xiberta, De visionis S. Simonis Stock (Rome: Institutum Carmelitanum, 1950). 49. E. Boaga, O. Carm., “Lo Scapolare del Carmine: Storia e spiritualità,” Marianum 65 (2003): 349– 59 (356). 50. R. Fulton, From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800–1200 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002); S. McNamer, Affective Meditation and the Invention of Medieval Compassion (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010); M. Rubin, Emotion and Devotion: The Meaning of Mary in Medieval Religious Cultures (Budapest and New York: CEU Press, 2009). 51. “We can gain a real insight into Carmelite devotion to Mary from the record of liturgical practice in the English breviary in MS Oxford University College 9, which gives full details of the Offices, including those of a number of feasts which had been introduced since Sibert’s Ordinale was compiled. In the daily round Mary is celebrated as queen of heaven, unique amongst women and her aid is sought for sinners both in the daily fight against the powers of darkness but also at the final judgment, when she will intercede on behalf of her followers at the Last Day. Through Marian songs, antiphons and proses, many of which were in daily use, we catch a glimpse of the nature of the devotion felt by the Carmelite friar for Mary, the patron of his Order, source of his strength and model of his life as a religious. Some of the texts are distinctively Carmelite; others, like the Salve regina and the hymn Quem terra, pontus are found elsewhere” (Edden, “The Mantle,” 7– 8). See also N. Geagea, Maria Madre e decoro del Carmelo: La pietà mariana dei Carmelitani durante i primi tre secoli della loro storia (Rome: Teresianum, 1988). 52. In the Carmelite order the feast of the Conception of the Virgin was celebrated by 1306, thus antedating the ordinal of Sibert. The feast was promulgated by Pope Sixtus IV in 1477 for the Church of Rome and was accepted by the entire church in 1708. “The earliest Carmelite rite (based on the Rite of the Holy Sepulchre) does not survive. What we do have is Sibert de Beka’s Ordinale, from c. 1312, which shows a liturgical usage similar to that of the Dominicans, but which contains traces of the earlier eastern rite. The Constitutions of the Order, which date from 1281 only, chart the introduction of a large number of Marian feasts during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and we learn details about how these new feasts were celebrated in England from English missals, breviaries, and calendars. The 1294 Constitutions refer to the celebration of a number of Marian feasts. . . . The feast of the Conception (i.e. of Mary: 8 December) was introduced in 1306; the three Maries (the Virgin, Mary the mother of James, and Mary Salome: 25 May) in 1342; the octaves of the Annunciation and the Purification in 1362; the Solemn Commemoration (16/17 July) in c.

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1376; and by 1393 the Visitation (2 July), the Presentation of Mary (21 November) and Mary of the Snows, the dedication feast of St Maria Maggiore, celebrating the miracle in which the Virgin indicated the location of her church by a fall of snow in August (5 August). With several of the feasts, the Carmelites followed hard on the heels of the Franciscans or Dominicans; generally it was a century or so before these feasts were adopted by the whole church” (Edden, “The Mantle,” 7). 53. Edden, “Marian Devotion,” 116. Carmelite devotion to Mary differs from that of the Cistercians and the Franciscans. “The main emphasis is on Mary as patron of the order, a powerful mediatrix, the feudal domina loci, beseeching her Lord on behalf of her followers” (116). “Even when her motherhood is invoked, what is stressed is not maternal tenderness or the suffering endured by the mother of Christ, but the power of mothers to mediate and intercede” (119). Too little is known of Carmelite preaching; however, the Carmelite sermon cycles (preserved in Bodleian Library MS Auct. F. inf. 1.3) studied by Edden portray “Mary not as the mater dolorosa that populates twelfth- and thirteenthcentury piety but as a feudal lady, a powerful patron and mediatrix; a loving mother, effective in intercession on behalf of her children . . . [whose] power is more important than her humility” (126). 54. See the references to the Virgin in Expositiones, 194 and 579. 55. “The first woman does not have a name, which is apparent from the text: ‘Donna è gentil nel ciel che si compiange’ (There is a gracious lady in Heaven so moved by pity), etc. The second one is called Lucia, which is apparent in this passage: ‘Questa chiese Lucia in suo domando’ (She summoned Lucy and made this request), etc.; and this passage: ‘Lucia, nimica di ciascun crudele, / si mosse, et venne al loco dov’io era (Lucy, the enemy of every cruelty, / arose and came to where I sat), etc. The third one is called Beatrix, which is apparent in this passage: ‘I’ son Beatrice che ti faccio andare’ (I who bid you go am Beatrice).” Translations from Italian: Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Anchor Books, 2002), 31, 29. 56. References are to the following Constitutions: 1281: 6; 1294: 4; 1324: 3–14 and 5– 7, see Acta capitulorum generalium, ed. G. Wessels, O. Carm. (Rome: General Curia O. Carm., 1912). 57. H. du Manoir, ed., Maria: Etudes sur la sainte Vierge, 8 vols. (Paris: Beauchesne, 1949– 71), 2:713– 20. 58. In circa 1350, the works of the Carmelite friar J. Cheminot confirmed and strengthened the Marian identity of the order. But these were composed after the Expositiones. We then need to wait for Thomas Netter’s Doctrinale (1420s) and Arnold Bostius’s De Patronatu et Patrocinio Beatissimae Virginis Mariae in Dicatum Sibi Carmeli Ordinum (fifteenth century) to find a more consistent reflection on the doctrine of Mary, her virginity, and her immaculate



conception. E. R. Carroll, “The Marian Theology of Arnold Bostius, O. Carm. (1445–1499),” Carmelus 9 (1962): 197– 236; E. R. Carroll, “Arnold Bostius, Fifteenth Century Flemish Exponent of Carmelite Devotion to Mary,” The Sword 37 (1977): 7– 20. 59. John Baconthorpe (b. 1290; d. 1345/8), English Carmelite friar, commented on Peter Lombard’s Sentences at the University of Paris before 1318, and was regent master in the theology faculty by 1323. He edited his Sentences commentary in about 1325; while his Quodlibetal Questions date from 1323– 24 (Quodlibet I), 1324– 25 (Quodlibet II), and 1330 (Quodlibet III). He was the Carmelite provincial of England in 1327– 33, and later taught in Cambridge and probably in Oxford, dying before 1348. See Jotischky, The Carmelites, 119 ff. The English Carmelite transformed the Virgin Mary into the Lady of Mount Carmel on the basis of Isaiah (35.1– 2): “to her is given the splendour of Carmel.” 60. “Cuiuslibet religionis titulus ortum habet a loco vel a sancto. A loco quidem, ut a Cistercio Cistercienses. Quo modo ordo noster a loco Carmeli est intitulatus. A sancto, ut cum successores vitam et regulam sibi eligunt observandam, quam aliquis sanctorum sibi elegit; . . . Et isto modo ‘Fratres ordinis beatae Mariae’ in bullis apostolicis sumus nominati. Elegimus enim regulam cuius multa similia puncta beata virgo Maria in vita sua servare curavit” (Baconthorpe, “Tractatus Super Regulam Ordinis Carmelitanum,” in Staring, Medieval Carmelite Heritage, 193– 99; 1:1– 9, 193) (Any religious title has its rise from a place or a holy place. From Citaeaux (Cistercio) the Cistercians. In the same way our order is entitled from a place called Carmel. From a saint, whom they choose and whose life and rule his successors chose to observe. . . . In this way, we are named ‘Brethren of the order of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ in the apostolic bulls. We have chosen a rule which has many similar characteristics with the life that the Blessed Virgin Mary took pains to follow). 61. Jotischky, The Carmelites, 157. 62. “Di certo sappiamo che la 1^ red. del commento di Guido da Pisa è anteriore al 1333, poiché compare, come si è detto, all’interno delle Chiose palatine. L’anteriorità al 1328 rimane ipotetica: legata ad una possibile retrodatazione delle stesse Chiose palatine, basata sul fatto che il compilatore palatino non utilizza il commento di Jacopo della Lana forse perché non ancora pubblicato” (We know for a fact that the first redaction of Guido da Pisa’s commentary is prior to 1333, since it appears, as mentioned earlier, within the Chiose palatine. The anteriority to 1328 remains hypothetical and linked to a possible backdating of the same Chiose palatine, based on the fact that the Palatine compiler does not use Jacopo della Lana’s commentary, perhaps because it had not been published yet) (Locatin, “Una prima redazione,” 68). However, the first Latin version of the Expositiones edited by Locatin does not record the title of the Carmelite order; the volgarizzamento, on the other hand, attributes the original work to “frate guido pisano frate del carmino” (brother Guido, Carmelite friar) (27).

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63. Staring, Medieval Carmelite Heritage, 176– 77. 64. Baconthorpe, Tractatus, 1:87– 94, 197– 98. 65. See Baconthorpe’s Laus Religionis Carmelitane, in Staring, Medieval Carmelite Heritage, 218– 53, especially liber 1. Interestingly, the Laus can be read as one of those biblical commentaries and pseudotreatises which, according to Felton, tried to counter the silence of the gospel authors regarding the human mother of God, thereby satisfying the thirst for information of the growing community of Mary’s devouts. On the medieval exegesis of the Song of Songs, see A.W. Astell, The Song of Songs in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990); M. Engammare, Qu’il me baise des baisers de sa bouche: Le Cantique des cantiques à la Renaissance (Geneve: Droz, 1993); A. Matter, The Voice of My Beloved (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990); F. Ohly, HoheliedStudien: Grundzuge einer Geschichte der Hoheliedauslegung des Abendlandes bis um 1200 (Wiesbaden: Verlag, 1958); M. H. Pope, Song of Songs: A New Translation and Commentary (New York: Anchor Bible, 1977); G. Ravasi, Il Cantico dei Cantici: Commento e attualizzazione (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1992); D. Turner, Eros and Allegory: Medieval Interpretations of the Song of Songs (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1995). 66. “The antiphonal readings are drawn from the Song of Songs and from the words of Wisdom in Eccles. 24:13. These words are all words of love, traditionally interpreted as speaking of the love of God for his bride (here the Virgin, though other interpretations have the bride as the soul). Woven together in this Office they could be said to create a love-song to Mary” (Edden, “The Mantle,” 8). 67. Interestingly, the number of commentaries to the Song of Songs listed in the catalogues of the fourteenth-century Carmelite library of Florence is greater than any other commentaries on Old Testament books recorded in that same catalogue; see Humphreys, The Library. One of these is a manuscript of Origen’s Commentary on the Song. 68. “For Phaeton we may understand the mighty and the arrogant, who always strive for the higher, just like the first angel who attempted to climb the chariot of divinity, according to this: ‘I shall ascend to Heavens, I shall exalt my throne above the stars of Heaven.’ But God breaks everything that is arrogant, according to that word of Isaiah: ‘How you have fallen, Lucifer, who you used to rise in the morning.’ And Saint Mary in the hymn: ‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat.’” 69. “And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the



hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever’” (Luke 1:46– 55). 70. “The Magnificat is assigned to Vespers, the Benedictus to Lauds, and the Nunc Dimittis to Compline. Six reasons are given by Durandus for the assignment of the Magnificat to Vespers, the first being that the world was saved in its eventide by the assent of Mary to the Divine plan of Redemption. Another reason is found by Colvenarius in the probability that it was toward evening when Our Lady arrived at the house of St. Elizabeth. However this may be, in the Rule (written before 502) of St. Cæsarius of Arles, the earliest extant account of its liturgical use, it is assigned to Lauds, as it is in the Greek Churches of today” (http://Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Magnificat). 71. Saint Augustine, De civitate Dei, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 47, ed. B. Dombart and A. Kalb, 2 vols. (Turnhout: Brepols, 1995); XVII, 24. “But during the whole of that time after their return from Babylon, and after Malachi, Agai, Zacarhia who prophesized them, and Ezra, the Jews had no prophets down to the time of the Savior’s coming; except . . . last of all came John himself, who, being a young man at the same time as Christ himself, did not foretell that Christ was to come: rather by prophetic knowledge he pointed Him out when He was still unknown. It is for this reason that the Lord says, ‘For the prophets and the Law prophesized until John’” (The City of God against the Pagans, trans. R.W. Dyson [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998], XVII, 24, 819– 20). 72. Saint Augustine, De Trinitate, ed. W. J. Mountain, in Aurelii Augustini Opera, CCSL 50, 2 vols. (Turnhout: Brepols, 1968), 4:29. “Whereas the Scripture plainly says, and shows in many places, that they spoke by the Holy Spirit. Whereas, also, it is said of John the Baptist, ‘And he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.’ And his father Zacharias is found to have been filled with the Holy Ghost, so as to say such things of him. And Mary, too, was filled with the Holy Ghost, so as to foretell such things of the Lord, whom she was bearing in her womb” (On the Trinity, trans. A. West Haddan, in From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st ser., vol. 3, ed. Philip Schaff [Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887]). 73. Baconthorpe, Tractatus, 2: 87– 92, 197. 74. See for example Rabanus Maurus, Commentaria In Cantica Quae Ad Matutinas Laudes Dicuntur, PL 112: 1089– 91: “Canticum Isaiah in quo adventus Salvatoris et baptismi sacramentum praedicatur . . . canticum Mariae dei genitricis, in quo per brachium Domini dispersion superborum et potentium deposition humiliumque exaltation praedicatur” (Song of Isaiah in which the coming of the Savior and of the sacrament of baptism is preached . . . the Canticle of Mary Mother of God, in which the dispersion of the proud and powerful and the exaltation of the humble through the arm of God is preached).

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75. Hugh of St. Victor, Explanatio in Canticum Beatae Mariae, PL 175: 429. 76. “[L]ux venit in mundum quae est promissio Dei Patris, quam praedicari per os prophetarum audierant, arbitrate sunt quia miserat Deus Filium suum, natum ex muliere. Et testimonium veritatis, scilicet Ioannem Baptistam, deinde praedicantem audierunt” (J. Cheminot, “Speculum Fratrum Ordinis b. M. De Monte Carmeli,” in Staring, Medieval Carmelite Heritage, 114– 46, 3:121– 25) (Light came to the world, which is the promise of God the Father, which they had heard preached by the mouth of the prophets, they thought that God had sent his Son, born of a woman. And the witness of truth, namely, John the Baptist, and then they heard him preaching). On this topic, see E. Boaga, “Elijah alle origini e nelle prime generazioni dell’Ordine Carmelitano,” in A Journey with Elijah: Carisma e spiritualità, ed. P. Chandler, 2 vols. (Rome: Ed. Institutum Carmelitanum, 1991), 2:85–103. 77. “The second comparison is this: We read in the book of Kings (4 2.9) that when God wanted to rise Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah, along with his disciple Elisha came to the river Jordan, where Elijah threw the mantle in which he was wrapped up on the river Jordan, and at once there came a dry road through the midst of the river Jordan, walking over the dry ground they came to a desert land. And then Elijah said to Elisha Behold, the Lord calls me. Ask me what you want me to do for thee, before I am taken away from thee. To whom Elisha: I beseech you, that your double spirit remains in me. To which Elijah replied: You have asked a difficult thing, if thou see me soon I am taken from thee, thou hast what you have asked for, otherwise it won’t happen. And as they were speaking whilst walking through the desert land, a flaming chariot driven by horses of fire appeared like lightning from heaven coming down, and divided them. And Elijah climbed over the chariot, and by the ministry of the Angels it was carried up into heaven. Elisha, however, looked up, and as soon as Elijah moved away from him, and he could see nothing other than flames, he cried to Elijah, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof, that is, the ruler of the people, and supporter. Elijah threw him to Mantle, which Elisha wore. And this he did, according to the Master of the Historia (Peter Comestor).” The comparison with Pietro Alighieri’s gloss on Inf. 26.34– 39 is instructive: “Item ad currum Eliae dicitur in IV.o Regum, quod cum Elias propheta senuisset, Deus revelavit ei quod volebat transferre ipsum ad paradisum delitiarum tali die, et iret trans Jordanem. Quo facto dictus Elias raptus fuit a curru igneo et elevatus ad coelum. Tunc Eliseus ejus discipulus respiciens, qui etiam veteranus erat, nil videbat nisi ignem; et recepto ibi spiritu prophetiae, remeabat ad terram Bethlehem” (Likewise, we hear about the chariot of Elijah in the Kings 4, when the prophet Elijah was old, God had revealed Himself unto him, that He wanted to transfer him to the garden of delights on a given day, and Elijah went to the other side of the Jordan. This being done, the said Elijah was taken up by a



fiery chariot, and he was lifted up to the heavens. Then, his disciple Elisha, who was also old, looking back at him saw nothing but fire and received the Spirit of prophecy there, and returned to the land of Bethlehem). 78. “Ordo Carmeli congrue habitum accepit secundum ea quae Elias portavit. . . . Et ad instar huius Carmelitae primo habuerunt pallium cum barris griseis” (J. Baconthorpe, “Compendium historiarum et iurium,” in Staring, Medieval Carmelite Heritage, 199– 217; 6:96–103, 208) (The order of Carmel rightly carried the dress that Elijah carried. . . . And in his manner the first Carmelite had a gray striped dress). 79. J. Cheminot, Speculum, 1:36– 45, 118; and 6:265– 74, 135– 36. “About Saint Elijah we read in the Historia Scholastica . . . that he had disciples: the first was Elisha, the Son of Saphat. When Elijah wanted to take him on as a disciple according to the will of God, he gave him his mantle. . . . Since the time of Elijah’s flight to heaven, the friars have used the striped mantle as a sign of holiness and devotion). 80. Cannon, “Pietro Lorenzetti,” 25. 81. Baconthorpe, Laus, chap. 8, 125– 29, 223. 82. In medieval scholarship Elijah had come to prefigure the church (Hugh of St. Victor) and the proto-Christian followers of Christ in Jerusalem (Jotischky, The Carmelites, 109). 83. “Similiter et beatus Ioannes Baptista ad imitationem istorum cum aliquibus filiis prophetarum elegit habitare super fluvium Iordanis propter loci sanctitatem” (Cheminot, Speculum, 1: 58– 67) (Similarly, the blessed John the Baptist, in imitation of them with other sons of the prophets chose to live on the river Jordan, because it is a place of holiness). Interestingly, according to Cheminot, this note also depends on Peter Comestor). 84. This is the gloss to Inf. 26.34– 39 in the first version of Guido’s commentary: “E qual colui che si vengiò ecc. Hic agitur de Elia propheta et Eliseo eius discipulo, de quibus dicitur tertio Libro Regum versus finem, et libro iiii circa principium. Fuit ergo Elias propheta mirabilis et singularis, quia solus fuit verus propheta diebus suis, et multa et magna miracula fecit; qui claruit tempore Achab regis Israel in Samaria. [2] Fuit vir magne sanctitatis et auctoritatis, pilosus corpore, indutus pellicea. Hic apud flumen Cison interfecit VIIICL sacerdotes, idolatras et quinquagenarios semel et iterum igne consumpsit; et igneo curru evectus in paradise delitiarum collocatur” (Locatin, “Una prima redazione,” 372) (This relates to the prophet Elijah and his disciple Elisha, of whom it is said towards the end of the third book of Kings, and the beginning of the fourth book. The prophet Elijah was an extraordinary and miraculous man, because he alone was a true prophet in his days, and he did many and great miracles, which became famous at the time of Ahab, king of Israel in Samaria. [2] He was a man of great sanctity and authority, hairy body, clad in leather. Here at the river Kishon he

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killed a hundred and fifty-eight priests, and fifty idolaters and taken by fire, in a chariot, he steered for the delights of Paradise). 85. Jotinschky, The Carmelites, 120. 86. “It is written in Daniel, fifth chapter, that when he sat at the table with Balthazar king of Babylon, a hand appeared, writing on the wall: Mane, Thechel, Phares. This hand is our new poet Dante, who wrote, that is, composed, this noble and refined Comedy, which is divided into three parts: the first is called Hell, Purgatory, the second, the third Paradise. These three parts that correspond to these words which are written on the wall. . . . That vision, which Ezekiel the prophet saw, can certainly be referred to this poet and his Comedy, about which vision the prophet writes: ‘Behold, the hand was sent to me, wherein there was a book written within and without: and there were written therein Lamentations, Song and Woe.’ This is the hands of this poet. This book is the noble Comedy, which therefore is said to have been written within and without, because it contains not only the letter, but also an allegory. The writings in this book are three things, namely, Lamentations, Song, and Woe.” 87. “Three more aims can be found in this work: first, that men may learn to speak in polished manner and in good order, for no mortal man can be compared to him [Dante] for the glory of language. The fact is, that we are able to say the words of the prophet who says: ‘God hath given me the tongue of the learned’, and this: ‘My tongue is the pen of a skilful writer.’ For he was indeed the pen of the Holy Spirit, with which pen the Holy Spirit wrote quickly for us the glory of the blessed, and penalties imposed to the damned. The Holy Spirit through this man openly reproved the wicked deeds of prelates and of the kings of the world and of the princes of the land.” 88. Expositiones, 2. 89. “In isto primo cantu continentur unum vaticinium sive prophetia, tres istorie, due comparationes et unum notabile” (32) (In this first canto there are a prediction or a prophecy, three histories, two comparisons and one notable fact). 90. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 447. 91. “This fact, however, the author did not predict before it happened, but, following the manner of poets, who put facts into their own works, as it were, before they come to pass: in a similar way he fakes it. And in this way a poet is said to be a seer, that is a prophet, for bard comes from a ‘vigorous intellect,’ as Varro says. They do not foretell the future, but they fake that those things that have already happened are still to come.” 92. “Prediction. After Virgil spoke to Dante against greed and dishonest gain, he put forward this prediction, saying that a lord who will exterminate the greed of the world will come, and will put her back into Hell. . . . Dogs have also two wonders, for which the lord who will come is symbolized under the figure of a dog, figuratively: the first is that they spare those who are prostrated; the



second is that they attack the rebels. . . . And those two things belong to the Holy Empire, as it was prophesied a long period of time, as Virgil writes in the Aeneid, book six. And also the blessed Augustine mentions in the first book of the City of God: ‘To spare the vanquished and subdue the proud.’” 93. “Concerning the second point, it must be noted that this poet, in the manner of the poets, foretells the future, so that the poet is the same as the prophet. Because those whom the Bible calls prophets, these pagans called poets, and sometimes bards. The word ‘Bards,’ however, is said to derive from the force of the mind, as Varro says (Of the Latin Language, VII. 36). So the author writes this prophecy that a lord will be born between feltro and feltro.” 94. “Sometimes it is called a poet, sometimes a divine prophet. . . . [T]hey had the same name because of their divine madness. . . . [V]ates take their name either from the force of their mind or from ‘video’ (to see) because they saw the future.” For the reference to Uguccione da Pisa, see Derivationes, ed. E. Cecchini, G. Arbizzoni, S. Lanciotti, G. Nonni, M. Grazia Sassi, and A. Tontini, Edizione Nazionale dei Testi Mediolatini, 2 vols. (Florence: SISMEL–Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2004), book II. 0.25–1:2, 4. 95. Augustine, De civitate Dei, 17:3. “The utterances of the prophets are therefore found to be of three kinds; for some have reference to the earthly Jerusalem, others to the heavenly, and some of them have reference to both. But I see that I must prove what I say by examples. Nathan the prophet was sent to reproach Kind David with a grave sin, and to foretell the future evils which were to ensue. And who can doubt that there utterances and others of the same kind had reference to the earthly city? This is so whether they were made publicly, that is, uttered for the salvation and advantage of the people, or privately, as when the divine eloquence imparted knowledge of future things to some individual person, for the advantage of his temporal life” (The City of God, 768). 96. Don C. Benjamin, “The Elijah Stories,” in Chandler and Egan, The Land of Carmel, 48– 49. 97. “Et vidi Orpheo. Orpheus is called a seer (vates). Vates, however, sometimes is claimed to have been derived from ‘power of the mind,’ as Varro suggests (De lingua latina 7.36), and then vates (‘seer’) means as much as ‘priest’. Other times vates is linked to video, -es (‘to see’), and then it means as much as ‘prophet’. Then again it has been related to vieo, -es meaning ‘to bind’, and then vates means as much as ‘poet’. Orpheus is thus called a vates as derived from vieo (‘to weave’), i.e., ligo (‘to bind’), as he used to bind his songs in meters and metrical feet. Allegedly, in mythical tales, he managed to align to himself, with the melody of his voice and the sound of his lyre, not only human beings, but even animals; to lead the trees; and to make rivers stand still. Allegorically, however, as Fulgentius explains in his Mythologies, Orpheus, a wise and eloquent man, with the sweetness of the lyre (i.e., of his eloquence), led brutal and boorish men to norm and rule of reason. For everything else, consult Fulgentius.”

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98. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 25. 99. “Poets find, that is, they compose fables from both genuine and fictitious facts. Wherefore blessed Isidore, book 8 of the Ethymologiae said: The office of the poet is, that those true facts or deeds are turned, with decorum, into some kind of indirect figures. And so this author, who calls upon the Muses, writes of history, and creates or fakes many beautiful myths, and invents a vibrant composition.” 100. “The Harpies are thus put into that girone by the author for a good reason. But should you ask whether nature spawns these birds, I say that one must rather believe that they are poetic fictions of the poets than that they are spawned by nature. Hence Ovid, in the fourth book of the Fasti: ‘whether thus spring to life these birds or they are begotten through song.’” 101. “Vegna Medusa, sì ‘l farem di smalto. . . . Where one must note that a king named Phorcus had a daughter called Medusa, or Gorgo. . . . Thus Ovid presents it in his myth as though Medusa turned men into stone. But in fact she was just some lascivious woman who was of such powerful beauty that everyone who should look at her immediately lost his mind. This Medusa, however, as the master claims in the Historia Scholastica, was killed by Perseus, the son of the king of the Athenians. For he says the following about the book of Judges: Perseus killed the Gorgo, the whore, who due to her excessive beauty rendered her beholders feeble-minded. . . . Allegorically, we learn through the example of Medusa, or Gorgo, of the dread and oblivion.” 102. Fabulae had been the subject of investigation from Persius’s and Quintilian’s time. For medieval theologians such as Aquinas, “the makers of fabled images are untrustworthy: they can deceive themselves and others by thinking fabled images are truth”: P. Dronke, Fabula: Explorations into the Uses of Myth in Medieval Platonism (Leiden: Brill, 1974), 4. This was in tune with the Aristotelian and Platonic tradition and was supported by Macrobius, who in his Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis considered them false (1, 2:7) and not appropriate for philosophical texts. Notoriously, Augustine had supported the value of fiction which hides a figure of truth: “Fictio igitur quae ad aliquam veritatem refertur figura est, quae non referentur mendacium est” (A fiction that refers to certain truths is a figura, those which are not related to truth are a lie): Saint Augustine, “Quaestiones evangeliorum cum quaestionum xvi in Matthaeum,” ed. Almut Mutzenbecher, in Aurelii Augustini opera, CCSL 44B (Turnhout: Brepols Editores Pontificii, 1980), book 2, q. 51. In his commentary on Macrobius, William of Conches follows Augustine and accepts that, although false, fables can indeed have a moral value. John of Garland had also maintained, in his Parisiana Poetria, that a fabula can clarify a narrative “per integumentum quod est veritas in specie fabulae palliate” (through an integumentum, which is a truth masked by a fable); quoted in E. Wheatley, Mastering Aesop: Medieval Education, Chaucer, and His Followers (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000), 46. The classical



definition of integumentum as a “kind of teaching” that wraps the true meaning of fabulae is provided by Bernard Silvester in his commentary to Virgil. A distinction between integumentum and allegoria is instead found in a commentary to Martianus Capella’s De Nuptiis. The latter pertains to Holy Scripture or more specifically to a kind of oratio which covers under the narration of a historical event or fact a true meaning which differs from his surface meaning; see H. J. Westra, The Commentary on Martianus Capella’s De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii attributed to Bernardus Silvestris (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), 24. On integumentum, see also E. Jeauneau, “L’usage de la notion d’integumentum à travers les gloses de Guillaume de Conches,” Archives d’Histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen age 24 (1957): 35–100; Dronke, Fabula, 1– 77; H. J. Westra, “Animals and Integumental Interpretation in the Commentary on Martianus Capella Attributed to Bernardus Silvestris,” Reinardus 6 (1993): 229– 41. On myths and integumenta, see M.-D. Chenu, “Involucrum: Le mythe selon les thèologiens mèdièvaux,” Archives d’Histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen age 22 (1955): 75– 79. It is difficult to prove which of these texts Guido had access to. The Carmelite Florentine library needs to be analyzed in more depth. However, it would seem that Guido knew Trevet’s commentary on the Consolation of Boethius, which was heavily dependent on William of Chonces’s. On this relation, see Nauta, “Magis sit Platonicus.” 103. See how Guido distinguishes between fiction and truth in the story of Narcissus: “Cetera vero ipsius Narcissi que poetice describuntur, excepto uno, vera sunt. Verum enim fuit quod amavit se ipsum quando se primum vidit in aquis, et quod amore sui ipsius, quia se ipso frui non poterat, periit iuxta fontem. Quod vero in florem dicitur transformatus, hoc ideo fingitur quia inter flores mortuus est inventus” (632) (But of Narcissus, who is described poetically, everything, except one thing, is true. For it is true that he loved himself, when he first saw himself in the waters, and that for the love of self, because he was not able to enjoy his very self, he died at that fountain. But that he was transformed into a flower, this is a fiction because he was found among the dead flowers). 104. “Comestor, however, in the Historia Scholastica, says about the book of Judges that Orcus, the king of the Molossans, had a giant dog named Cerberus, who devoured Pyrothous when he wanted to abduct Proserpina, who had been promised to Orcus as his wife, and he would have devoured Theseus as well, if Hercules had not joined and freed him”; “And thus is obvious the story that the poets hide behind their poetic cloud. For it is the poets’ duty to transfer what really happened into other shapes, converted in uncommon shapes and with a certain decoration.” 105. “Guido si è certo avvalso della vasta produzione di glosse e commenti medievali ai classici; in alcuni casi si riscontrano precise corrispondenze con i Mitografi vaticani; mentre fonte diretta delle interpretazioni dei miti relativi alle fatiche di Ercole, incluse nella chiosa a Inf. 31.132 (I centauri, le Arpie, le mele

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d’oro, Anteo) è il commento del domenicano inglese Nicolas Trevet alla Consolatio di Boezio (per cui si veda cap. 7.2), con alcune interessanti aggiunte” (Doubtless, Guido made use of the vast production of classic and medieval glosses and commentaries, and in some instances there are clear parallels with the Vatican mythographers; whereas the direct source of the interpretations of the myths related to the labors of Hercules, included in the gloss to Inf. 31.132 (centaurs, Harpies, the golden apples, Antaeus) is the commentary by the English Dominican Nicolas Trevet on Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy (see sect. 7.2.), with some interesting additions) (Locatin, “Una prima redazione,” 88). As I shall argue, Guido’s position on Hercules differs from that of Trevet. Extracts from Trevet’s Commentary regarding Hercules can be found in P. Saquero Suárezsomonte and T. González Rolán, “Las glosas de Nicolás de Trevet sobre los trabajos de Hércules vertidas al castellano: El códice 10.220 de la B. N. de Madrid y Enrique de Villena,” Epos: Revista de filología 6 (1990), 177– 98, 180– 84. See Locatin, “Una prima redazione,” 58– 59, for a brief discussion of the similarities between Guido’s discourse and that of Trevet on theologia fabulosa. Trevet, a Dominican friar, had close ties with the academic world of Padua as well as with the Tuscan Dominican milieu, and his commentary on Boethius’s Consolation became extremely influential in the fourteenth century. For Trevet’s presence in Italy, see G. Billanovich, “Il testo di Livio: Da Roma a Padova, a Avignone, a Oxford,” Italia medioevale e umanistica 32 (1989): 53– 99 (87– 98). For a discussion of Trevet’s commentary and Dante’s Convivio, see P. Nasti, “‘Vocabuli d’autori e di scienze e di libri’ (Conv II xii 5): Percorsi sapienziali di Dante,” in La Bibbia di Dante: Esperienza mistica, profezia e teologia biblica in Dante. Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi, Ravenna, 7 novembre 2009, ed. G. Ledda (Ravenna: Centro Dantesco dei Frati Minori Conventuali, 2011). 106. The historia or fabula of Antheus becomes credible in Guido’s eyes because Lucan, considered both a historian and a poet, gives it auctoritas. 107. “The ninth labor was when he overcame Antheus, the giant, who ruled in Libya. . . . This story is told by Lucan. There was, he says, in Libya a certain giant, who was called Antheus. . . . Hercules came, to raise a fight with him. . . . In this myth there is a certain amount of fiction as well as a certain amount of truth. It is true that this Antheus was a king in Libya, and that he was a giant, and that Hercules killed him. But it is a fiction that he was an offspring of Earth, and that, whenever he touched the earth, he regained his strength. For he was very rich, that is why he is envisioned to have been an offspring of Earth. And as he was carnal and dangerous, that is why he is imagined to have regained his strength through contact with the earth; for physical strength grows, and springs forth, from an abundance of earthly things.” 108. “Allegorically now replace Hercules with Christ, however, and Antheus with the Devil, with whom Christ fought in the mountain and at the cross, and whom he finally overcame.” “For Theseus, however, the leader of the Athenians,



substitute Christ, both through the interpretation of the name and the worthiness of the task. For Theseus is understood to mean ‘provider of good’, from eu, meaning ‘good’, and thesis, which means ‘provision’, hence theseus ‘provision of good’. Christ, too, provided good, according to that word ‘everything was done well, and placed under a good sign,’ according to what Symeon said to Maria, his mother: ‘Behold, he has been sent to the downfall and resurrection of the many in Israel.’” 109. Allen, The Friar Critic, 91. 110. The bibliography on biblical exegesis is now vast; see at least the classic H. De Lubac, Exegese medievale: Les quatres sens de l’ecriture (Paris: Aubier, 1959– 62). On medieval semiotics more generally: M. L. Colish, The Mirror of Language: A Study in the Medieval Theory of Knowledge (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983); and U. Eco and C. Marmo, eds., On the Medieval Theory of Signs (Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1989). 111. See Smalley, English Friars and Antiquity. 112. Allen, The Friar Critic, 4. 113. Ibid., 43. 114. On the different understanding of historia and fabula in the late Middle Ages, see, as well as Dronke, Minnis and Scott, Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism, 113– 26. In the field of Dante studies, see Z. Barański, “Notes on Dante and the Myth of Orpheus,” in Dante: Mito e poesia. Atti del secondo Seminario Dantesco Internazionale, ed. M. Picone and T. Crivelli (Florence: Cesati, 1999), 133– 62. 115. Allen, The Friar Critic, 44. 116. Boccaccio comes close to this attitude; see the conclusions of Battaglia Ricci in this volume. For the influence of religious cultural paradigms on Boccaccio, see Kircher, The Poet’s Wisdom. 117. Allen, The Friar Critic, 25. 118. Ibid., 80. 119. Quoted in Allen, The Friar Critic, 81 (“In the Nemean woods there was a most savage lion, whom Hercules killed, and whose skin he took with him as a trophy. Note how Samson killed a lion, and David, etc. They indicate Christ, and thus does Hercules the wise. For who is wiser than Christ? Christ took a trophy from a wild lion, i.e., the Devil, for he is called “diabolus” as he is a lion and a snake”). 120. “On Lamentations,” Oxford, Exeter College, MS 27, lectio 110. See Allen, The Friar Critic, 69– 76. 121. “Quod hic dicitur de virtute Anthei non videtur fictio poetica, veritas hystorica, tum quia Lucanus hoc narrat, de quo dicit Ysidorus in Eth lib viii capitulo de poetis quod in numero poetarum non ponitur [Lucanus] quia videtur composuisse non poema sed hystoriam scripsisse; cum quia beatus Augustinus

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in sermone quodam ferie secunde pasche qui sic incipit: Non minus etiam nunc letari — istud videtur tanquam hystoricam veritatem adducer, dicens Cristum simile Antheo qui secundum literas seculars quotiens terram tetigit fortiori resurgebat. Sed tamen quo ad hoc quod dicitur filius terre fictio poetica est, ut patet per Augustinus [sic] de civitate dei I, 18 c. 13. Lucanus autem quamvis non fingat tamen quandoque ficta ab aliis recitat” (Oxford, Bodlein Library, MS Auct F. VI 4., fol. 238r) (What is said here about the power of Antheus does not seem fanciful fiction, but historical truth, because Lucan narrates it, as Isidore says in Ethimologiae Book IX about poets that Lucan is not included in the number of poets, because he did not compose a poem, but a history; and so Saint Augustine, in a sermon on the Monday after Easter, which begins: Do not rejoice less even now—considers that Lucan seems to bring a historical truth, when he says that Christ is like Antheus because according to the letters when he touched the ground he rose again stronger. But what is said about him being called the son of Earth, however, is a poetic fiction, as is clear from Augustine [sic] The City of God, 1, 18 c. 13. Lucan, however, does not write fables, even though sometimes he quotes fictions created by others). 122. “For the first task was to tame the centaurs. . . . But whether these monstrous things are just poetic fiction, or whether nature yields such things too, blessed Jerome seems to hesitate, as it is evident in the life of, Paul the first hermit. . . . It can also be that nature which creates various animals, had brought forth some centaurs. For blessed Anthony saw one, and in the history of Dares it is said that King Menno took with him to Troy a man who was half horse; . . . Also in the books of animal life we read that there are certain animals which are half mules half man.” 123. “And so it is clear which is the form of the treatise. But the form or the modus tractandi is poetic, fictive, descriptive, digressive by transposition, and it is conclusive, divisive (it has divisiones), probative, inconclusive and setting examples.” 124. “Hence, if in some place or passage (the author) may be seen to speak against the Catholic Faith, it should not surprise anyone, because he follows his path according to human reason and writing poetically. And I, interpreting and glossing in like manner, I will follow only his journeys. Because where he is speaking poetically, I will explain poetically; but where he writes theologically, I will explain theologically, and so on for every case.” 125. “And the more superlative his work is, the greater this poet should be considered than others; not only does he speak of Hell, as a simple poet, but he also deals, as a theologian, of Purgatory and of Paradise, the most complex matters a man is able to imagine to the benefit of all living.” 126. “And even if this is contrary to the Catholic faith, because Christ said in the Gospel: ‘He that is not with me, is against me,’ this poet needs not to be



condemned, because he is speaking poetically and not theologically in this section. Just as in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon speaks, saying: There is only one destruction for men, and beasts. There, Solomon speaks as a man who does not have the true faith, even though he had true and certain faith, because the souls of beasts, once the bodies are dead, die; however, the souls of men are immortal for ever.” Here Guido echoes Bonaventure who considered parts of the book were written poetice. See A. J. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), 110–11. On Guido’s comparison between Dante and Solomon, see my “Autorità, topos e modello: Salomone nei commenti trecentschi della Commedia,” The Italianist 19 (1999): 5– 49. 127. “But I ask you, my reader, that you do not blame or judge the author, if it appears to you that the author in any one place or passage appears against the Catholic Faith, because he is speaking poetically and fictionally. So this book is called the Comedy, which is a kind of poetry to which the veil of poetic integumentum and prophetic ambiguity pertains. Hence this author, although a theologian and a member of the faithful, in order to know God, and ascend to him, he created a poetic ladder. And this is not only in imitation of Plato and Martial, but also of Solomon, who created the Song of Songs, in a poetic manner.” 128. See Allen, The Friar Critic, 57. 129. Giovanni del Virgilio, Allegorie librorum Ovidii Metamorphoseos, and J. Lathbury, Commentary on Lamentations (Oxford, Exeter College, MS 27, lectio 106E), both quoted in Allen, The Friar Critic, 60. For an important discussion on the ways in which the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century religious commentators dealt with Plato’s knowledge and inspiration, see the very interesting study of L. Nauta, “‘Magis sit Platonicus quam Aristotelicus’: Interpretations of Boethius’s Platonism in the Consolatio Philosophiae from the Twelfth to the Seventeenth Century,” in The Platonic Tradition in the Middle Ages: A Doxographic Approach, ed. S. Gersh and M. Hoenen (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2002), 165– 204, where he analyzes how, for example, for “William of Conches, by the words ‘the Spirit of the Lord was borne over the waters’ Plato had understood the Holy Spirit. For, as Augustine had written, by the ‘Spirit’ Plato understood air” (173). In his commentary on the Song of Songs, Origen had already noted that the Greek philosophers’ source of inspiration was the same Holy Spirit which inspired the scribae Dei: “Haec ergo, ut mihi videtur sapientes quique graecorum sumpta a Salomone, ut pote qui aetate et tempore longe ante ipsos prior ea per Dei Spiritum didicisset (Origen, Commentarium in Canticum Canticorum, ed. W. A. Baehrens, in Origenes Werke: Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller, 8 vols. [Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1925], 3:III.4)” (This thus would seem to me to have been taken by some Greek wise men from Salomon as he had learned it a long time before those types through the spirit of God). See the discussion on Thomas

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Bradwardine’s attitude to the classics in H. A. Oberman, “‘Facientibus quod in se est Deus non denegat gratiam’: Robert Holcot O.P. and the Beginnings of Luther’s Theology,” Harvard Theological Review 55, no. 4 (1962): 317– 42 (321). For a broader bibliography on the issue of divine inspiration and the classics, see also my “‘Vocabuli.’” For Plato in the Middle Ages, see S. Gersh, Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism: The Latin Tradition, 2 vols. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), 597– 646; S. Gersh, Reading Plato, Tracing Plato: From Ancient Commentary to Medieval Reception (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005); M. Lemoine, Théologie et Platonisme au XIIe siècle (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1998); J. Marenbon, Aristotelian Logic, Platonism and the Context of Early Medieval Philosophy in the West (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000); E. Garin, Studi sul platonismo medievale (Florence: Le Monnier, 1958); É. Jeauneau and H. J. Westra, From Athens to Chartres: Neoplatonism and Medieval Thought. Studies in Honour of Edouard Jeauneau (Leiden: Brill, 1992); T. Gregory, Anima Mundi: La filosofia di Guglielmo di Conches e la scuola di Chartres (Florence: Le Lettere, 1955); T. Gregory, “The Platonic Inheritance,” in A History of Twelfth-Century Western Philosophy, ed. P. Dronke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); R. Klibansky, The Continuity of the Platonic Tradition during the Middle Ages (London: Warburg Institute, 1939). 130. “Vidi Pari . . . on Paris, the ancient poets forged a wonderful story (fable). But in truth, if the actual story is explained allegorically, it is not a tale invented or composed by the poets, but it is considered by the reader a true prophecy or a parable committed to writing by a holy prophet and inspired by the Holy Spirit. . . . The allegory of this story, however, is as follows: Paris is the figura of every man, because any man who is was made in the image and likeness of God, is called Paris, that is, ‘a match of God.’” 131. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 5. 132. “Here, figuratively speaking, the author touches upon the three vices which hinder every man willing to climb to virtue, these vices are the roots of all vices, and, indeed, fight against all good works. . . . As evidence of the above and to solve the problem more clearly and distinctly, it is noted that allegorically this dark forest is the state of sin, but, figuratively and typologically, the mountain designates a luminous state of virtue.” 133. Allen, The Friar Critic, 94. 134. Guido refers here to Augustine’s discussion of Varro’s definition of theology in De civitate Dei VI, 5–10,12. 135. “After those six things have been revealed which are to be sought in any doctrinal work, we must realize that this Comedy contains four senses, as well as the science of sacred theology. For poetry runs alongside with theology, because the two kinds of knowledge can be explained in four ways; indeed poetry is included by the ancient doctors in the remit of theology. The blessed Augustine



writes in book 7 of the City of God that Marcus Varro set three types of theology: one that is full of fables, which the poets use; one that is natural, which the philosophers make use of; the third is civil and is used by the people. For the first meaning or sense of the Comedy is called historical, the second allegorical, tropological the third, the fourth and last is called anagogical.” 136. “And the figure of Beatrice is the type of the life of the spirit, here it must be noted that Beatrice in this Comedy is taken in four ways: that is to say from time to time she is taken literally for a certain noble lady of Florence, whose honorable character and beauty shone forth wonderfully in this life; sometimes she is taken allegorically, that is, for the sacred science of theology and sometimes she is taken in a moral sense, or typologically, that is, for the life of the spirit; other times she must be taken anagogically in place of divine grace, infused into man, and given to man for his happiness. The four will appear in the text plainly.” 137. “Or in another way interpreting anagogically: this greyhound can be understood as Christ, who will come to judge, whose birth, that is, appearance, shall be between felt and felt, that is, between the good and the reprobate.” 138. “This is the allegorical overall meaning. Although the author amply falters with regard to the appearance of the lonza, which as we said is a figure of lust; however, to prudently interpret his dream, he conceived in his vision to be able to move from that varied skin . . . to better things, that is, to the greatest beauty and delight. According to what the Apostle writes to the Romans: the invisible things of God through the things he has made are clearly seen, being understood.” 139. Expositiones, 2. The bibliography on the accessus is now vast; see at least A. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship; as well as Intorno al testo: Tipologie del corredo esegetico e soluzioni editoriali. Atti del convegno di Urbino, 1– 3 ottobre 2001 (Rome: Salerno, 2003). 140. “Four are the kinds of poets, each of which has its own kind of knowledge. For some they are said to be lyric poets those who, namely, in their works include all varieties of songs and they are called apotulirin in Greek, that is, from the variety of sounds, whence we define the lyre with different strings. This type of song was used by David in composing the Psalter. Hence, the Arator, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, on the Acts of the Apostles said, ‘the Psalter is composed of lyric pedes.’” 141. Let us remember Guido’s affirmation: “Dantes autem potest dici . . . etiam poeta liricus” (Expositiones, 6) (Dante can also be said . . . a lyric poet). 142. I shall explore the significance of the other models Guido proposes, and in particular of Martianus Capella and the mythographers, in a separate study. For now suffice to say that an exploration of the Carmelite medieval library of Florence shows a numerically significant presence of such works. 143. For example, in discussing the literal meaning of Genesis, Augustine affirmed, “Narratio quippe in his libris non genere locutionis figuratarum rerum

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est, sicut in Canticum canticorum, sed omnino gestarum, sicut in Regnorum libris” (De genesi ad literam libri duodecim, PL 44, coll. 245– 886, 8 1:2) (The narrative in Genesis does not belong to the genre of figurative speech, which we find in the Song of Songs, but it fully relates facts, as in the book of Kings). On Saint Augustine’s interpretation of the Song of Songs, see M. Cameron, “Augustine’s Use of the Song of Songs against Donatists,” in Augustine: Biblical Exegete (New York: Peter Lang, 2004), 99–128; R. Kennedy, “A Text with Teeth: Augustine’s Exegesis of Song of Songs 4:2 as Paradigm of His Hermeneutics,” Studies in Religion 39 (2010): 421– 34. 144. Origen, Homiliae in Canticum canticorum, PL 23, 1175– 96, here 1177. 145. Weathley, Mastering Aesop, 50. 146. Fulton, From Judgement to Passion, 376. 147. The Song of Songs is also the major biblical source for the Carmelite antiphonals; see Edden, “Marian Devotion.”

  


Guido da Pisa’s “Chantilly” Dante: A Complex Exegetical System               

The title of this essay explains its subject matter and its hermeneutical perspective. The subject, well known among Dante scholars, is the illustrated manuscript preserved at Chantilly, Condé Museum 597, which presents Dante’s Inferno and two interpretive commentaries, written by the Carmelite monk Guido da Pisa in the first decades of the fourteenth century. The first of these commentaries, the Expositiones et glose super Comediam, is accompanied by a series of illuminations, now generally attributed to Francesco Traini. The scrupulous examination of this work by experts in various disciplines has, in recent years, led to significant insights. These now allow us to better evaluate the volume in its entirety and urge us to pay greater attention to the graphic and visual nature (some might even say the materiality) of this unique manuscript which hands down to us Guido’s works. Above all, these recent investigations emphasize that greater attention should be paid to the critical and semantic im180

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plications of the magnificent visual apparatus.1 Extensive and consistent evidence, discussed in detail by the extant critical bibliography, allows us to consider these images as an accurate application of a project drawn up by the very author of the Inferno’s commentary, and carried out by an artist of superlative talent. The author of the project is no other than Guido da Pisa, who is represented in these pages in the act of offering his book to a knight, who can be legitimately identified as Lucano Spinola, the dedicatee of the Expositiones and the Declaratio (see fig. 6.2 below). The most thorough readings conducted by scholars in recent years prove that, far from fulfilling a purely decorative function or simply bringing aesthetic grandeur to this valuable dedicatory volume, the illustrations are in a dynamic relationship with the words transcribed on the pages. Critics have shown that the pictures actually function as a visual substitute to Dante’s text and intensify the demonstrative impact of the gloss through the acritical assertiveness of the images, thus directing the act of reading and adding, as paratexts do, to the discourse entrusted to the verbal text. These are the themes I would like to reflect on at this point, embracing a critical perspective that considers the “complex interpretive system” of Dante Chantilly as a marriage of words and images which can be read (and interpreted) by taking into account the dynamic relationship that exists between them. I will analyze some of the iconographic tables in Dante Chantilly, focusing on the pages that open the work (figs. 6.1– 6.3).2

T  P    -S  The image that appears in the bas de page 34r (fig. 6.4) is extremely useful in helping us to understand how this complex system has been manufactured. This image offers a brief visual representation of what Dante narrates in the first canto of the Inferno, focusing on its central event: Virgil, acting as a barrier while having his back turned on the dark forest, halts Dante’s disastrous descent from the bright hillside invaded by the wild beasts, responding to the cry of help emitted by the shaken pilgrim. What is of particular interest in this image is the star suspended above the steep rocky mountain. This small detail, in fact, illuminates



and exemplifies the material relationship between the illustrations and the verbal commentary. As I have noted in the past, Guido da Pisa, amongst all the other commentators, is the only one who identifies the “pianeta / che mena diricto altrui per ogni calle” (planet that leads men straight, no matter what their road) (Inf. 1.17–18)3 with the star Venus.4 This graphic solution adopted by the painter proves that the hand that traced the rays and points of the star on the page with such attention has been guided by the exegete, Guido himself. This is not to say that the painter, or whoever produced the outline for this illustration, had drawn this idea from the gloss written on the page. It is, in fact, demonstrated that the illustrations have been drawn throughout the book, before the written text was added, so that, at times (see fig. 6.10), the copyist of Guido’s text has clearly erased parts of the drawings and has written on them to maintain more accurately the writing pattern.5 In addition, the illustration of the star does not actually appear in the commentary section, that is, the Expositio lictere, where one reads the note relating to the planet Venus, but rather in the section that immediately precedes it, which contains a literal translation of Dante’s text in Latin, the language of the learned. In this part of the text, that is, the section of the Deductio textus de vulgari in latinum regarding verses 7– 30 of Inf. 1, any explanation of the term planet is missing, the translator limiting himself to repeating the term used by Dante in v. 17 (“oculos elevavit ad montem quem illius planete, qui omnem hominem per omnem callem via recta deducit, vidit radiis coopertum” [he raised his eyes towards the mount that he could see covered by the rays of that planet that guides everyman on any path towards the right way]) and then adding in Inf. 1.19– 21 that “viso monte clarissimis radiis illustrato, fuit aliquantulum quietatus” (having seen the mountain illuminated by such bright rays he [the author] was rather reassured). Finally, the illustration, which clearly offers a visual summary of the entire canto, acting as a figurative substitute for Dante’s text, faithfully transcribed on the first pages of the manuscript, is positioned exactly at the beginning of the canto’s commentary and occupies the first available space that follows the richly illustrated pages of the Prologus. This illustration, as a close and efficient visual representation of the introductory scene of the Comedy, proves that in the editor’s plan for the book the figurative apparatus is essentially conceived as a

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synthetic visualization of the narrative sequences considered most significant.6 Sometimes, as in this case, the visualization even prefaces the commentator’s exegetic and critical discourse, yet in most instances it always hinges on the gloss.7 The illustrator follows the gloss to choose his scenes, to give emphasis to certain details, to adopt graphic solutions that “translate” with visual precision ambiguous passages (or passages open to multiple interpretations) of Dante’s text, leading, at times, to the inclusion of innovative elements or strongly skewed characterizations. This modus operandi emerges from the first image of Inf. 1, where the detail of the daytime and nighttime birds evokes colors and expectations which are appropriate to the landscape described by Dante and cements a symbolic practice which will be exploited throughout the text; a further example of the rationale behind the figurative apparatus is offered, only a few pages later, by the grotesque representation of Minos, conceived as an image to be burned into memory.8 Creating an effective yet not too virtuous interpretive circle, the illustrations born of the commentary and intended as a visual surrogate for the canto work to produce and establish a particular idea of Dante’s text in those browsing the pages of this manuscript: this idea is then either confirmed a posteriori or anticipated by the gloss.9 Thus, the suggestive force of the image is destined to be imprinted on the mind, always perfectly integrating itself with the didactic and discursive explanations provided by the glosses. This subtle critical operation makes the figurative element work in a paratextual manner, focusing the reader’s attention on certain passages in the text while making them the subject of a reading oriented in a particular direction. This hermeneutical procedure reveals throughout the book the looming presence behind the editorial project that has given life to the manuscript, the auctor intellectualis, who is inevitably to be identified with the author of the commentary.10 Let us consider the star again, to whose rays so much attention was given by the painter. As already mentioned, Francesco Traini and/or his potential collaborator illustrated pages that were still blank; he was therefore unable to use Guido’s glosses to visualize Dante’s planet as a star, and yet he so precisely translated the monk’s interpretation of the passage and in general the implied narrative situation. The star is clearly not the only example of the fact that they must have received specific instructions from



Guido through alternative means, though it has here been adopted as a symbol of the dependence of the illustration on the written gloss.11 The author of a comprehensive autoptic examination of the manuscript and a precise iconographic analysis of the illustrative cycle, Chiara Balbarini, has observed small letters which have escaped the trimming of the lower edges of the pages and that seem to guide and show the succession of illustrations in the book. The evidence leads her to believe that a sort of dummy copy (a menabò) guided the illustrator in his work: a notebook of sketches drawn by Traini himself and agreed on by the author of the Expositiones, according to a standard procedure between artists.12 Or perhaps, the creation of this volume might even have been made possible by a first, fairly rough, illustrated version of the commentary, sketched out by Guido himself, given the complexity of the mise en page, of a graphic system that closely combines on paper an uninterrupted stream of glosses, passages from the Comedy, and drawings, which, in turn, often overrun from one page to the next, uninterruptedly illustrating one narrative sequence and invading all spaces although always ensuring that the images relate to a relevant point in the text. If we remember that Francesco da Barberino elaborated a guide or exemplary volume in order to set the illustrative plan of the “neat copy” of as complex a work as the Documenti d’Amore,13 it should be no longer surprising that in a dedicatory book14 such as the Dante Chantilly (which increasingly appears as a cohesive and coherent system born of a specific cultural and conceptual project), the original and accurately controlled images had been to some extent “constructed” by the author-editor himself, making him, on this occasion, also the “designator.”15

T  A    - P    Among the most important findings of recent years is the one which allowed us to date, with a high degree of certainty, the writing of the Expositiones as attested in the Dante Chantilly, as well as the making of the volume handing down that version, to between 1335 and 1340. The same discovery also allowed the identification of both the circumstances and the purpose of such a complex and valuable editorial project, involving

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one of the most important scribal workshops of the time (always referred to by the abbreviation VAT), as well as one of the greatest Pisan painters of the fourteenth century, Francesco Traini. As shown by Fabrizio Franceschini in an essay dedicated to the dating of the Expositiones, the final draft of the glosses, still allowing for insertions and additions, had strong political significance and was closely linked to a series of historical events in Pisa (the city Guido calls home by defining himself oriundus) surrounding the figure of the Genovese Lucano Spinola, to whom the work and book were dedicated.16 At that time Spinola was the consul in Pisa and spiritually appointed by Guido da Pisa to improve the future prospects of that splendid city, which was almost in ruins.17 In this context, it is easy to explain the preparation of a manuscript, thought through and carried out as a valuable dedicatory book and addressed to a major figure of that time in Pisa, a man whom Guido talks to as a pupil but who is also involved at various levels in the critical discourse developed around Dante’s text. In the numerous addresses to Lucano scattered throughout the work (and deliberately highlighted in the manuscript to attract the attention of readers), the commentator invites the recipient to pay particular attention as much to the form of the literary discourse as to the particular details of Dante’s inventions (from the rhyme system and the Virgilian presence within the poem to the “dolce stile” of Valerio and the four rivers of Hell descending from the “Veglio” of Crete). On all these occasions, the exegete tries to involve Lucano in the process of interpreting the text, either by including in his discourse texts that can offer useful lessons in life (Lucano is encouraged to learn by heart memorable mottos attributed to Socrates and other ancient sages)18 or through the implementation of a dialogic tone typical of conversations between master and disciple. Whatever the solution chosen in each occasion, Guido’s aim is to invite his pupil to interpret some of Dante’s passages on the basis of his own personal experiences,19 and above all, to encourage him to accept Dante’s experience as a useful model: Ubi nota, tu devote Lucane, qui informari virtutibus concupiscis et gratiis protegi celestibus optas, quod Dantes in se ipso assummit personam hominis penitentis, hominis dico de peccato exire volentis, ad virtutes hanelantis, et ex hoc beatitudinem celestem habere sperantis. Sed ad



hoc ut peccator recte exeat de peccato et ad Deum totaliter se convertat, indiget tribus gratiis, scilicet gratia preveniente, gratia illuminante, gratia cooperante. (48) —— [Pay attention here, devout Lucano, wishing to be molded by virtues and protected by heavenly graces, as Dante is adopting for himself the part of a penitent man, of a man I mean that wants to abandon sin and aspires to virtues, and hopes for this to reach celestial bliss. But for this, as a sinner, to exit the condition of sin correctly and to convert totally to God he needs three types of grace: the preemptive, the illuminating, and the cooperating one.]

Furthermore, Guido frequently employs the imperative (see, e.g., “sic construe licteram,” 46 [construct the letter thus]); the use of this verbal mood, even when not accompanied by the vocative form of the recipient’s name, generates the dialogic-didactic tone of the entire commentary, confirming the dedicatory nature of the volume and granting an instructive and pedagogical function to the “cultural” glosses, as well as to the extensive notes dedicated to explaining the allegorical meaning of the text to which the glosses refer. In this case Guido moves easily from the exegesis of the text to lectures of didactic, doctrinal, and moralistic tone and content. Such is the case, for example, of the three women of Inf. 2, interpreted from a moral viewpoint and accurately depicted on fol. 45r, where Guido writes: “Adhuc nota, Lucane, quod prima gratia facit hominem exire de vitiis et ad virtutes accedere; seconda facit proficere de virtute in virtutem; tertia facit transigere de miseria ad gloriam” (note also, o Lucano, that the first grace allows man to exit vices and gain access to virtues, the second allows him to progress from virtue to virtue, the third makes him proceed from misery to glory). Likewise, as noted, the memory of Socrates in Inf. 4 leads Guido to list memorable mottoes deemed useful to a virtuous life. The tone and content of Guido’s interpretive discourse are, then, those of a teacher who strives to make the formal, stylistic, and cultural qualities of the text comprehensible to his disciple. To this end, he weaves together classical quotations and observations on metric patterns and syntax, with reflections on the literary character of the work. By the same

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token, Guido’s tone is also that of a spiritual guide, who uses the text to offer to his privileged reader lessons on life and morality, as well as the means to understand the masterpiece of a writer well known to Guido. The double “portrait” on fol. 31r, at the beginning of the transcription of the Expositiones (see fig. 6.2) responds to this ideal image of Guido as the patient exegete of the text and, at the same time, authoritative teacher of culture and doctrine to young readers destined to manage power and history. As repeatedly noted, the friar sitting behind a desk with the intention of sharpening his pen, portrayed in the initial letter of the commentary, immediately below the rubric that declares title, author, and destination of the work, can only be Guido himself. In the same way, he must be the distinguished, dignified friar drawn on the lower margin of the same sheet (31r), here represented in his studium (signified by a workman’s bench of solemn design and format) who offers the book— and we must imagine it as the same Dante Chantilly—to a young nobleman, Lucano Spinola, whose personal attributes and positioning on the page prove that he is the recipient of the work.20 Spinola is here depicted as having just dismounted from his horse, in the usual reverential attitude of a pupil before an authoritative teacher, as well as the recipient of a valuable gift such as the “altissimum opus” (the sublime work)21 that the divine poet offered to all humanity, of which the friar is the interpreter and mediator.

P        A     As well as a notable mediator of culture and a master of life for the student recipient, the erudite commentator is presented, at the very beginning of the work, as an intellectual ready for his work in full awareness— it seems—of the difference between the work of the commentator and that of the author.22 The exasperating attention bestowed on the manual nature of writing in the portrait of the friar in the drop cap of fol. 31r marks a significant contrast between the figure of the commentator and that of the author who is described in the drop cap of Inferno, fol. 1r (fig. 6.1). Dante, sitting at his desk behind a book of blank, gaping pages, in an empty space entirely devoid of books, enveloped in a cassock, in the



solemn pose of a prophet waiting for divine inspiration, clearly represents the idea of the inspired poet. This image is far from the hard work of formal elaboration or intellectual vexation that others might have considered the task of someone wholly involved in the painful exercise of writing that made him “macro” (Par. 25.3). In this case the author is usually represented in a closed studio crammed with books, sitting at a desk also piled up with open volumes, perhaps even surrounded by the personifications of the Liberal Arts, as shown in MS It. 74 at the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, fol. 3r. Of great interest, for its metacritical implications, is the choice of entities from whom the author is awaiting help in order to complete his work: not a deity of poetry, such as Apollo or one of the Muses, or even “Sommo Giove” (almighty Jove) (Inf. 31.93), whom Dante does not hesitate to address in the course of his work, but in fact Virgil, the Latin poet, whom Dante explicitly declares to be his reference model, as well as the master of the “bello stilo” (noble style) (Inf. 1.86) that made him famous. The commentator’s awareness of the significance that the classical model (that of Virgil first of all, but also that of many other authors whose names crowd the glosses of the erudite Carmelite) had on Dante’s creativity is made clear at the beginning of the commentary, as is his acknowledgment of the connection between Dante and classical poetry, which stretches across the dark centuries of the long Middle Ages. Moreover, Guido is the first to express a passionate awareness of the greatness of the Comedy, by attributing to Dante “il merito di una vera e propria renovatio della poesia volgare (‘Ipse enim mortuam poesiam de tenebris reduxit ad lucem’) e insieme il primato anzi la gloria della lingua (‘Nullus enim mortalis potest sibi in lingue gloria comparari’),” (the merit of a true renewal of vernacular poetry [‘he indeed restored the then dead poetry from darkness back to light’] and, at the same time, the primacy, or better, the glory of the language [‘no one among mortals can be compared to him as pertains the glory of language’]), as Mazzoni put it.23 Detecting Guido’s explicit, passionate judgment of the Comedy, corroborated by the many pages of the commentary enhancing the magnitude of the text itself, Mazzoni also agreed that in the Expositiones all this goes hand-in-hand with the idea that the Comedy should be considered a “visionary prophecy” on an interpretive level, observing that “questo du-

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plice piano di sviluppo . . . si svolge per linee parallele e talora divergenti” (this dual development plan . . . takes place by way of parallel, and at times divergent lines).24

V    F  In his interpretation of Guido’s commentary, Mazzoni states that in the Carmelite’s perspective, the author of the Comedy is by now “the prophet” and no longer the “philosophical poet,” which implies “l’abbandono della pur dantesca nozione di ‘fictio’, per inscrivere piuttosto l’esperienza di Dante entro la categoria della ‘visio per somnium’” (the abandonment of Dante’s own notion of “fiction,” in order to inscribe Dante’s experience within the category of the “dream vision” instead). Dante criticism usually finds a connection between Guido’s interpretation and the idea, occasionally emerging in the secolare commento, that the Comedy should be precisely interpreted as the work of a prophet. This is not the place to retrace the history of such an idea. We are now, instead, interested in trying to understand the real sense of Guido’s proposal. That means considering whether poetry and prophecy really differ in his apprehension, as reader and intellectual; it also means evaluating, as Saverio Bellomo suggested, whether or not the apparent discrepancy in his stance can be solved by bringing back Guido’s thought to the poetica theologia, extensively present in the tradition of the Latin Middle Ages and particularly popular in the new humanistic culture of intellectuals such as Mussato, Giovanni del Virgilio, and Boccaccio.25 In this sense, on account of the complex and unconventional critical proposal here put forward by the friar, who makes use of a library and of cultural and linguistic reference codes with which we are no longer familiar, the opening pages of the commentary are the most problematic. These are pages in which the words are densely interwoven with the images, suggesting very personal, rather puzzling, solutions in terms of iconography. Therefore, it is particularly useful when rereading the text to take into account the images of the book, above all those images used to report the structural articulation of the critical discourse. Displayed in the openings of various sections and conceived in a close semantic



relationship with the text, these images are loaded with relevant paratextual meanings. As such, they offer significant indications to evaluate the close relationship between these two hardly comparable (at least for us) interpretive approaches to Dante’s text in the Carmelite’s critical reflection. I start by focusing on the third decorated capital letter, which on fol. 33v (see fig. 6.3) marks the passage from the Prologus to the text of the Expositiones where, after a brief description of the poem and of the introductory canto, we read the Deductio de vulgari in latinum of the first canto of the Inferno.

T  S  D     The last of the three figures placed in the capital letter of one part of this macro-section is a man sleeping inside the letter A of “Anno Domini” (the year of our Lord). This is the very beginning of Guido’s commentary on the first canticle of the Comedy, offering a free translation of the first terzina, as well as historical notes and critical observations. Closely linked to the two figures already mentioned, which respectively mark the start of Dante’s Inferno and that of the Prologus, focusing on the author of the text and in some ways tracing his ideal portrait, the third figure shows a sleeping Dante. It is not worth asking if the image represents the character or the author using critical parameters unknown to the commentator. The text explicitly identifies both author and character, and the sleeping figure can only be the representation of the “poet” absorbed in his “visio in somnio” (dream vision), which the commentator considers at length. According to related iconography, the figure recalls the most usual ways of representing characters when they are absorbed in a vision (mainly the prophets), as exemplified in the rich and vast evidence found in illustrated bibles. However, many are the examples of this iconography also being used to represent poetic visionary experiences, such as the poetic allegories that make up the subtle fiction developing from the complex chain of visions in Petrarch’s Triumphi. In this case, given the late dating of the illustrations of Petrarch’s manuscripts, it is admissible to imagine a progressive loss of sense and a defunctionalization of the traditional image. The ambiguity of the iconographic tradi-

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tion does not allow us to decipher the image with any certainty; however, the comparison of the Dante Chantilly—which I have discussed in other works26—with the alternative graphic solutions appearing in other contemporary manuscripts seems to legitimize the idea that the illustrator exploited the proximity of this image to those found in the religious tradition, reinforcing a series of consistent clues which are spread throughout the text and the images scattered over these pages. It makes sense to rely on these clues in attempting a reading of the images, starting from the text which begins with the initial letter A occupied by the sleeping figure. Anno enim Domini MCCC°, quo scilicet anno fuit Rome generalis remissio omnium peccatorum, sedente in Sacrosanta Sede Romana Bonifatio papa viii°, sacro autem Romano vacante Imperio, de mense Martii, die veneris sanctis, hoc est illa die qua mortuus fuit Christus, in aurora iste poeta more poetico fingit se istam Comediam, hoc est universa que continetur in ea, in visione vidisse. Unde ait in textu: ‘Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita’. Medium namque vite humane, secundum Aristotelem, somnus est. Quod autem in aurora suas visiones ceperit videre, patet per textum ibi: ‘Temp’era dal principio del mattino’. (10) —— [This poet, according to the use of poets, imagines having seen in a vision this Comedy, namely everything that is contained in it, in the year of our Lord 1300, the year in which there was in Rome the general remission of sins, Boniface the VIII was holding the most Holy See, and whilst the throne of the sacred Roman Empire was empty, during the month of march, on Holy Friday, at dawn. Therefore he says in the text: “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita” (Midway in the journey of our life). In fact, the middle of human life, according to Aristotle, is sleep. That he started to see his visions at dawn, appears from the text here [where he says]: “Temp’era dal principio del mattino” (It was the hour of morning).]27

So begins the Deductio textus de vulgari in latinum. In the opening of the second section dedicated to the Expositiones lictere, the commentator widely discusses the variety of visions, following Macrobio’s commentary on the Somnium Scipionis, to conclude that



visio quam vidit in somnio iste autor potest dici: Primo oraculum, quia gravis persona, ut puta Virgilius, in prima cantica, sanctaque, ut puta Cato et Statius, in seconda, parensque, ut puta Cacciaguida, et sacerdos, ut puta sanctus Bernardus, angeli, et ipse Deus in tertia, clara sunt sibi visione mostrati. Secundo potest dici visio, quia ipsa loca, ad que anime post mortem corporum vadunt, ymaginaria visione conspexit. Tertio potest dici somnium: et primo proprium, quia multa in Inferno, Purgatorio ac etiam Paradiso de se audivit, vidit et sensit; secundo potest dici alienum, quia multa circa alienos et de alienis sibi rivelata fuerunt, vel quia quem statum aliorum sortite sunt anime deprehendit; tertio potest dici commune, quia multa que sibi mixtim et aliis contigere debebant aspexit, vel quia eadem loca tam sibi quam ceteris eiusdem meriti didicit preparari; quarto potest dici publicum, quia varietates et mutabilitates non solum sue civitatis, sed aliarum plurium, audivit et vidit; quinto potest dici etiam generale, quia Infernum, Purgatorium, celum, celique cives, ipsamve beatissimam Trinitatem, sibi adhuc in carne viventi sunt videre concessa. (18–19) —— [the vision that this author had in a dream can be defined in the first place an oracle because to him have been shown through a clear vision a noble person, such as Virgil in the first cantica, or saint, such as Cato and Statius in the second, and an ancestor, like Cacciaguida, or a priest, like Saint Bernard, and the angels and even God in the third. Secondly, it can be called a vision because he saw through clear images the places where the souls go after the death of the body. Thirdly, it can be called a dream: firstly a personal dream as in Hell, Purgatory and Paradise he heard, saw and felt so much about himself; secondly a dream of others, because many things were revealed to him for others and about others, allowing him to understand why a certain position has been assigned to specific souls, and thirdly it can be called a common dream as he saw many things that were to happen to him but also to others, and because he learned that those same places were prepared for him but also for others according to their merits; in fourth place, it can be said public, as he heard and saw the changing destinies and mutability not only of his own city but also of many others; in fifth place it can be called a general dream, because it was conceded to him to see Hell, Purgatory, the

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heavens, the celestial citizens and even the most blessed Trinity still in his living flesh.]

Although referring to the same textual reality, the two passages do not show thoroughly consistent views, strengthening the impression, clarified by Francesco Mazzoni, that from the friar’s critical viewpoint the relationship between the fictional nature of the work and its visionary dimension remains unresolved. If we simply focus our attention on one passage rather than the other, the passage seems to change, offering critical perspectives that are difficult (at least for us) to reconcile. See, for example, the assertion that Dante was allowed to see “ipsam . . . beatissimam Trinitatem . . . adhuc in carne viventi” (the most blessed Trinity still in his living flesh), as we read in the closing of the second passage. Particularly struck by the passage, Paola Rigo underlined its strong divergence with respect to Guido’s idea that the Comedy is a simple and highly skilled fictio.28 This is even more true of the “fingit” (invented) of “iste poeta more poetico fingit se in visione vidisse” (this poet invented, according to the use of poets, that he saw things in a vision) which convinced Saverio Bellomo to reconsider the commentary written by the Pisan on the lines of the traditional theory of the theologian-poets, resumed by humanists at about the time of Guido’s commentary. At least to us, Guido’s positions seem irreconcilable. But perhaps it did not appear quite so conflicting for the ancients when we think of Epistle XIII, well known to Guido. The writer of the Epistle does not have any doubts about the fictional nature of the text and categorizes it in that particular “genus poetice narrationis” (genre of poetic narration) which can be classified as comedy, while at the same time claiming that the author of the Comedy was allowed to rise up in the contemplation of the “arcana Dei” (mysteries of God), alongside eminent predecessors and models of theoretical reference.29 The reading of the fervent “Defence of Poetry,” recorded in the fourteenth book of Boccaccio’s Genealogie deorum gentilium, could, perhaps, historically contextualize such critical perspectives. Considering poets and prophets, fictio and “arcana Dei,” Boccaccio’s text shows how an intellectual close to Guido from a cultural point of view, richly imbued as he was with humanist culture and religious doctrine, does not hesitate to use the verb “fingere” (to invent) to signify the practice of writers



inspired by God, while being perfectly aware of the distinction between the visionary illuminations of the ancient and modern theologian-poets and the visionary experiences of the prophets. Boccaccio resumes the traditional theme of Aristotelian teachings, according to which “poetas primos fuisse theologos” (first poets were theologians). In his opinion, the theme is closely tied to the evolution of religious rites which—at a certain time in historical evolution—required that the men responsible for the cult of the gods, the priests, found an “exquisitum loquendi modum” (an exquisite way of speaking) to offer praise and prayers to god. In this regard, Boccaccio writes that some of these priests, “(quos inter fuisse creduntur Museus, Lynus et Orpheus), quidam divine mentis instigationes commoti, carmina peregrina mensuris et temporibus regulata fingere, et in dei laudem invenere” ([among which are believed to be Museeus, Linus and Orpheus], moved by certain impulses of the divine mind, produced original verses, governed by metre and time, and they found them to praise god), hiding “sub verborum cortice excelsa divinorum misteria” (under the bark of the words sublime divine mysteries) in order to prevent the “veneranda maiestas” (venerable majesty) of those divine mysteries from falling into contempt, if made public. To this “artificium . . . mirabile . . . et eo usque inauditum” (admirable artifice and until then unheard of ), the writer states, was given the name of “poesia,” while, on the other hand, “qui composuerunt poete vocati sunt” (those who composed it were called poets). A significant historical observation as regards my discourse allows Boccaccio to state his point of view, which differs from Aristotle as from his own masters, Leonzio, Barlaam, Paolo Perugino. This is found in Geneal., XIV viii.12: Ego autem quantumcunque Aristoteles dicat . . . poetas primos esse theologos, existimans eos Grecos intellexisse . . . non credam huius poesis sublimes effectus, sinamus in belua illa Nembroth, sed nec in Museo, seu Lyno, vel Orpheo quantumcunque vetustissimis poetis (nisi, ut arbitratuntur aliqui, Museus et Moyses unus et idem sint) primos infusos; quin imo in sacratissimis et Deo dicatis prophetis, cum legamus Moysem, hoc percitum, ut reor, desiderio, Pentatheuci parte maximam non soluto stilo, sed heroico scripsisse carmine, Spiritu Sancto dictante. Et sic alios non nullos equo modo magnalia Dei sub metrico velamine licterali, quod

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poeticum nuncupamus, finxisse. Quorum ego, nec forsan insipide, reor poetas gentiles in componendis poematibus secutos vestigia; verum ubi divini homines Sancto pleni Spiritu, eo impellente, scripsere, sic et alii vi mente, unde vates dicti, hoc urgente fervore, sua poemata condidere. —— [Although Aristotle writes that the first poets were theologians, I, considering that he intended them to be Greek, would not believe that the sublime effects of this poetry were first infused in the beastly Nembrot or even in Museeus, Linus, or Orpheus, although ancient poets (unless, as some believe, Museeus and Moses were one and the same person); rather, I think that they were infused in the holy prophets dedicated to God because we read that Moses, moved, as I believe, by this desire, wrote the majority of the Pentateuch, not in prose but in hexameters dictated by the Holy Ghost. And so we read that some others, under the literal metric veil that we call poetic, have described the great works of God. And I consider, perhaps not foolishly, that pagan poets, in composing their poems, have followed in their footsteps; but while prophets wrote full of the Holy Ghost and under its urge, the others composed their poems through the strength of their mind (that is why they are called vates) moved by this fervor.]

Here Boccaccio gives essential clues for the understanding of Guido’s thought about concepts such as “visio in somnio” and “fictio.” Particularly interesting, in this perspective, is the demonstration implied in the words of the Certaldese. He says that in the consciousness of a fourteenthcentury writer, well versed in the poetic-theological tradition, sacred prophetic inspiration and “fictio” are not incompatible concepts. The sacred writer is allowed to invent, that is, to model in metrical form, the literal wording of the “carmen,” that is, “the words of the Holy Spirit.” The final gloss of the passage quoted above is also significant, as it clearly indicates how sacred writing differs from poetry; the latter, born of the creative force of the human mind, the former directly inspired by the god “che ditta dentro” (who dictates within the soul), that is the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the renowned passage of Guido’s Prologus does not display a purely rhetorical homage to Dante’s greatness, imposed by the conventions of the accessus which require the eulogy of the author:



Ipse . . . fuit calamus Spiritus Sancti, cum quo calamo ipse Spiritus Sanctus velociter scripsit nobis et penas damnatorum et gloriam beatorum. Ipse etiam Spiritus Sanctus per istum aperte redarguit scelera prelatorum et regum et principum orbis terre. (4) —— [He was the pen of the Holy Spirit, the pen with which the same Holy Spirit quickly wrote for us both the punishments for the damned and the glory of the blessed. This same Holy Spirit through him openly reproaches the crimes of prelates, as well as those of the kings and princes of the earth.]

The gloss clearly sets out the relationship between the writer and the God speaking within him; between the person who tracks the words on the paper and the original author of those words. The ideological relevance of the same note becomes clear when we think about the hypothesis considered by Boccaccio or when we make a comparison with the much more conventional opinion expressed by Graziolo Bambaglioli. Graziolo celebrates the author of the Comedy using images from the holy book but with the exclusive purpose of pointing out the active function of the writer, the greatness of an intellect capable of climbing the holy mountain and therefore worthy of being filled with the spirit of God, “si [Dominus] voluerit” (if God will want it). For Graziolo, in fact, Dante himself is already wise and really “sapiens litteris imbutus” (a wise man imbued with letters),30 by virtue of a long life and much practice, as suggested in the holy text here included. Not to mention the analogy further established by Bambaglioli between Dante and the “aquila grandis magnarum alarum” (the big eagle with large wings) in Ezekiel 17:3. This is not an original comparison, since it fits the poet-intellectual into a formula already molded by Pier della Vigna to celebrate Emperor Federico II and quite unrelated to the holy-prophetic perspective of Guido’s interpretation.31 The fact that a professionally competent reader such as Guido uses explicit formulas such as the assertion that Dante is “calamus Spiritus Sancti” testifies to a specific judgment related to a clear aesthetic and critical perception, as much as to a remarkable cultural system, where the competence of the friar and that of the reader of classics are irrevo-

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cably bound together, allowing for original uses of the exegete’s library. The Comedy finds its place in this library. For Guido, Dante avails himself of the poets’ books, rewriting them so that “sine ipsis ad cognitionem . . . Comedie accedere non valemus” (without them we cannot get access to the knowledge of the Comedy).32 Yet he also finds a significant model of reference in a very particular section of this library: in the holy books composed by (or traditionally attributed to) Solomon, the Canticum Canticorum above all. Particularly significant in this context is a passage of the Prologus on which Paola Nasti sheds light. In an extensive study she shows, among other things, how, in his commentary, on the authority of the mystical exegesis of the Canticum, Guido considers Solomon as a prophet and poet of Christ rather than as the traditional sapiential author. Solomon appears to be the voice singing about the mystical experience of the soul joining its Maker and his Canticum emerges from the pages of the Expositiones as the mirror image of the Comedy :33 Et ideo iste liber dicitur Comedia, que est quoddam genus poesie ad quam spectat vera in tegumentis poeticis et propheticis ambagibus nubilare. Unde iste autor, quamvis theologus et fidelis, tamen ad cognoscendum Deum et ascendendum ad ipsum poeticas scalas facit. Et in hoc imitatus est non solum Platonem et Martialem, sed etiam Salomonem, qui more poetico condidit Cantica Canticorum, ex quibus gentiles sibi epytalamia vendicarunt. (31) —— [And for this reason this book is called Comedy, a genre of poetry to which it pertains to hide truths behind poetic veils and prophetic ambiguities. Thus this author, although a theologian and a faithful, nevertheless builds poetic stairs to know God and to ascend to him. And in this he imitated not only Plato and Martial but also Solomon, who poetically composed the Song of Songs, from which the pagans claimed the epithalamia for themselves.]

The analogy between Dante and Solomon, between Comedy and Canticum, fully explains the double dimension claimed by Guido in Dante’s work, the fictional dimension and the prophetic dimension. This



double dimension is explicitly relocated (as Canal already noted) “nella scia delle visioni bibliche” (in the wake of biblical visions)34 but, at the same time, is in a close intertextual relationship with the great tradition of pagan literature, where the author mixed, or alternated, different paths and levels within his discourse. In certain sections of Ecclesiastes, Solomon did not hesitate to mix his human voice with that of the divine, revising divine words in a personal style for reasons of narrative cohesion, to such an extent that, being a man of faith, he did not refrain from writing nontruths. Likewise Dante can sometimes speak “ut simplex poeta” (as a simple poet) and sometimes “ut theologus de Purgatorio ac etiam de Paradiso . . . ad utilitatem omnium viventium venustissime pertractando” (as a theologian, dealing with Purgatory and even Paradise with great elegance for the gain of all the living).35 As a voice free to move on these two different levels, Dante must be evaluated in a nonrigid and unambiguous way from an orthodox point of view—as stated by the friar who is as keen to respect the doctrine of the church as the expressive freedom of the poet. As Nasti points out,36 this is the way Guido tries to justify the assertion, unacceptable according to the gospel, that “misericordia et iustitia . . . sdegna” the “anime tristi di coloro / che visser sanza ‘nfamia e sanza lodo” (mercy and justice . . . disdains the wretched souls of those who lived without disgrace yet without praise) (Inf. 3.35– 36):37 Sustinendus est iste poeta et non damnandus, quia poetice et non theologice loquitur in hac parte. Quemadmodum Salomon in Libro Ecclesiastes loquitur dicens: Unus est interitus hominum et iumentorum. Ibi enim loquitur Salomon in persona hominis veram fidem non habentis, licet ipse veram et certam fidem haberet. (58) —— [We have to endorse this poet, not condemn him, because in this part he spoke as a poet and not as a theologian. Similarly Solomon in the Ecclesiastes speaks saying: the same death awaits men and beasts of burden. But here in fact Solomon speaks for a man who does not have true faith, although he did have a true and certain faith.]

The assumption of a model such as that offered by Solomon allows Guido to manage—although with some occasional difficulty and some

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inconsistency, especially when he needs to reiterate the correct notions supported by the church—the complexity of a reading combining two perspectives traditionally perceived as culturally and ideologically opposed, thus providing one of the most original readings of the poem in the commentary tradition. Unencumbered by the complexity of discourse that freely uses such diverse parameters, the images that Guido wanted on the pages of his “Dante” translate quite explicitly these diverging viewpoints. These images confirm the idea that according to the friar’s reading, the Comedy is the astonishing outcome of an extraordinary experience of Dante the poet who, in the strenuous exercise of writing a poem on a classical model, succeeded in “significar per verba” (describ[ing] in words) and communicating to people, through the impressive form of his poetry, what a mysterious voice “gli dittava dentro” (dictated deep within him).

B  ,   M     H   ,    D    The opening image of the Chantilly MS, which anticipates and summarizes the text that follows, testifies to the importance of that inner voice for the creation of the Comedy. The sketch in a closed frame in the top margin of the page, apparently totally unrelated to the context of Dante’s poem, depicts a room with a king and two guests sitting around a richly furnished table; on the left, two soldiers are standing behind the king; on the right, a man is standing with a halo around his head, indicating he is a saint. He points out to the guests a hand which is writing on the wall (see fig. 6.2). The text which follows, introduced by the section that declares the author, title, and destination of the work and opened by the image of the friar portrayed in the first capital letter of the Prologus, perfectly explains the sense of an illustration as enigmatic and categorical as this. This image, because of its unusual structure and position, is meant to be seen almost as an epigraph of the book that opens: Scribitur Danielis, quinto capitulo, quod cum Baltassar rex Babilonie sederet ad mensam, apparuit contra eum manus scribens in pariete: Mane, Thechel, Phares. Ista manus est noster novus poeta Dantes, qui scripsit,



idest composuit, istam altissimam et subtilissimam Comediam, que dividitur in tres partes. . . . His tribus partibus correspondent illa tria que scripta sunt in pariete. Nam Mane correspondet Inferno . . . Thechel correspondet Purgatorio . . . Phares autem correspondet Paradiso . . . Igitur manus, idest Dantes; nam per manum accipimus Dantem . . . ; quia sicut a manu manat donum, ita a Dante datur nobis istud altissimum opus. Scripsit dico in pariete, idest in aperto et publico, ad utilitatem omnium. . . . Iste manus est iste poeta. Liber istius manus est sua altissima Comedia, que ideo scripta dicitur intus et foris, quia continet non solum licteram, sed etiam allegoriam. (1– 2) —— [It is written in Daniel, in chapter five, that when Balthazar, king of Babylon, sat down to eat, a hand appeared in front of him, writing on the wall: Mane, Thechel, Phares. This hand is our unique poet Dante, who wrote, that is, composed, this sublime and most subtle Comedy that is divided in three parts. . . . His three parts correspond to those three written on the wall. In fact Mane corresponds to the Inferno, Thechel corresponds to the Purgatorio, and Phares corresponds to the Paradiso. Therefore the hand, namely Dante— as in fact with “hand” we mean Dante because as from a hand a gift is given so by Dante we were given this sublime work—wrote, as I was saying, on the wall, namely in a public space for the utility of all. This hand is this poet. The book of this hand is his sublime Comedy that is said to be written inside and out because it contains not only the letter but also allegory.]

The opening sketch recorded in the “fronte” section of the volume which contains the Expositiones et glosse uses the acritical assertiveness of an image to set the bold analogy that Guido establishes between the story told in the book of Daniel and the Comedy. This indicates a very singular figural relationship of foreshadowing and fulfillment between the two events—the vision offered to King Balthazar and glossed by Daniel and the one told by Dante and glossed by Guido himself—and between the holy text and the writings of the modern poet. The same connection will later be revived when we read that “ista Comedia figurari potest etiam in archa Noe” (this Comedy can also be seen as a figura of Noah’s ark) to involve, in Dante’s work, the application of interpretive conventions and

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exegetical practices more suited to biblical criticism, including the theory of the four senses.38 Perhaps recovered from some illustrated versions of the holy book, this iconographic theme is here being used to underline an epigraphic function. The choice to adopt the same iconographic theme as a “threshold” for his commentary produces an objective, and somewhat puzzling, similarity between the two aforementioned books (following a widespread practice, if we think that the image of “Dante in bed,” in the opening of the Egerton Dante, suggests a kind of contiguity with the genre of the Roman de la Rose)39 identifying in this interpretation the truest meaning and the very “essence” of the commentary of the Pisan friar. At the same time, those who are about to browse through these pages are moved in the same direction. The system of illustrations in the Chantilly Dante, structurally and paratextually, is entirely consistent with this critical interpretation. The figure of Dante (inscribed in the capital letter of fol. 1r), represented as an inspired prophet, asking the poet Virgil for help in creating his poem, and that of the sleeping Dante (in the capital letter of fol. 33v), absorbed in his vision as would-be prophet, together with the threshold image, create a coherent and cohesive entity, perfectly congruous with the text written on the same pages. This confirms, to some extent, how Guido, author of the book as well as of the written comments, thinks that the “visionary prophecy” and the poetic “fictio,” far from being experienced on different levels, are fully intertwined to form an “altissimum opus” (sublime work) and, in his opinion, make the Comedy truly “divine.”

N  1. The figurative portion of this codex is made up of fifty-four illustrations of the narrative type, present on the lower margin of the pages that contain the Expositiones, of three illuminated letters positioned respectively at the start of the Inferno (fig. 6.1), in the Prologus to the Expositiones (fig. 6.2), and in the Deductio textus de vulgari in latinum of the first canto of the Inferno (fig. 6.3), and of a figurative inset in the upper margin of the initial pages of the Prologus, with the function of a title page (fig. 6.2). 2. Here, I credit the most important contributors who have widely benefited this work: M. Meiss, “An Illuminated Inferno and Trecento Painting in



Pisa,” Art Bulletin 47 (1965): 21– 34; M. Meiss, “The Smiling Pages,” in Illuminated Manuscripts of “Divine Comedy,” ed. P. Brieger, M. Meiss, and C. S. Singleton, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 1:62– 68; G. Pomaro, “Codicologia dantesca 1. L’officina di Vat.,” Studi danteschi 58 (1986): 343– 74 (350– 53); L. Battaglia Ricci, Parole e immagini nella letteratura italiana medievale: Materiali e problemi (Pisa: GEI, 1994), 41– 51; L. Battaglia Ricci, “Testo e immagini in alcuni manoscritti illustrati della Commedia: Le pagine di apertura,” in Studi offerti a Luigi Blasucci, ed. L. Lugnani, M. Santagata, and A. Stussi (Lucca: Pacini Fazi, 1996), 23– 49; L. Battaglia Ricci, “Il commento illustrato alla Commedia: Schede di iconografia dantesca,” in “Per correr miglior acque . . . ”: Bilanci e prospettive degli studi danteschi alle soglie del nuovo millennio, Atti del Convegno di Verona–Ravenna, 25– 29 ottobre 1999 (Rome: Salerno, 2001), 601– 39 (606– 7); F. Franceschini, “Per la datazione fra il 1335 e il 1340 delle Expositiones et Glose di Guido da Pisa (con documenti su Lucano Spinola),” Rivista di studi danteschi 2 (2002): 64–103; C. Balbarini, “Per verba e per imagines: Un commento illustrato all’Inferno nel Musée Condé di Chantilly,” in Intorno al testo: Tipologie del corredo esegetico e soluzioni editoriali. Atti del Convegno di Urbino, 1– 3 ottobre 2001 (Rome: Salerno, 2003), 497– 512; C. Balbarini, “Progetto d’autore e committenza illustre nel codice di dedica delle Expositiones di Guido da Pisa sull’Inferno,” Rivista di studi danteschi 4 (2004): 374– 84; S. Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi: L’esegesi della ‘Commedia’ da Iacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olschki, 2004), above all 37– 44 and 268– 80; C. Balbarini, “Per un’esegesi figurativa della ‘Commedia’: Il commento di Guido da Pisa all’‘Inferno’ illustrato da Francesco Traini e la cultura artistica e letteraria pisana della prima metà del Trecento” (PhD diss., Università di Pisa, 2005), later edited in the volume C. Balbarini, L’“Inferno” di Chantilly: Cultura artistica e letteraria a Pisa nella prima metà del Trecento (Rome: Salerno, 2011); F. Franceschini, “Guido da Pisa,” in Censimento dei commenti danteschi, 1: I commenti di tradizione manoscritta (fino al 1480), ed. E. Malato and A. Mazzucchi (Rome: Salerno, 2011), 268– 82. 3. I quote passages from Dante following the text in the commentary: Guido da Pisa’s Expositiones et Glose super Comediam Dantis, or Commentary on Dante’s Inferno, ed. V. Cioffari (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1974). Translation from Italian: Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Anchor Books, 2002), 5. 4. “Iste planeta, qui suis radiis montem vestit, est prefulgida stella Venus, que tenet typum et similitudinem caritatis, que est omnium virtutum fulgidum ornamentum, sicut humilitas stabile fundamentum” (This planet, which clothes the mountain with its rays, is the most bright star Venus, which typologically represents charity, the resplendent ornament of all virtues, as humility is their stable foundation) (22, fols. 37r– 38v).

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5. Detailed analysis in Balbarini, “Un commento illustrato,” 503, with photographic evidence. 6. This is naturally not true for the initial letters, or for the image on the front piece, but it is for the cycle which runs along the bas de page, which enhances the narrative dimension of Dante’s work, placing the two protagonists in movement and adopting techniques to visualize Dante’s progress in time and space (figs. 6.5, 6.6). 7. Even if, as Chiara Balbarini demonstrates in the detailed analysis of the individual images shown in L’“Inferno” di Chantilly, quoted and partially anticipated, in “Per verba e per imagines,” 506–12, there is no lack of instances in which one might postulate an active intervention by the painter, such as in the case of the grotesque Pluto (fig. 6.9) and in the depiction of classical figures, for example. 8. On pages 60v– 61v, Minos is depicted as a judge in the chair, provided with a snake’s tail, with two devil-soldiers at his side, ready, one imagines, to carry out his orders (fig. 6.8). Minos, as one reads in the Deductio de vulgare in latinum, on p. 97, is presented to Dante “tamquam iudicem et assessorem Inferni” (as judge and guardian of Hell); he is similarly presented in the Prologus, where the mythical king is taken on as a model to demonstrate the potential semantics of the Comedy when read using the canon of the four senses (6– 7). 9. See n. 11 below. 10. Already Meiss, in “An Illuminated Inferno and Trecento Painting in Pisa,” 63, has underlined that the Dante Chantilly should be seen as “the very copy produced under Guido’s guidance for his patron.” This thesis is widely backed up by recent criticism. 11. The image present on fol. 50r (fig. 6.7) can also be used as an example. Here, Dante and Virgil, sitting at the prow of Charon’s boat, the other damned souls in the stern, and at the center the infernal boatman, propose a visual solution not anchored in Dante’s text. Nothing of what you read on this page justifies what is depicted. But a few sheets before, Guido has translated the joke between Virgil and Charon, explaining in his way the silence in the text: “O caron, noli turbari istum, licet vivum, in navi portare, quia istud est placitum ibi ubi est possible omne velle” (Oh Charon, do not get angry about transporting him, albeit alive, in your boat, because this is wanted where it is possible to desire anything) (56, fol. 48I). 12. Monograph and essay cited in n. 2. 13. Most recently on which D. Goldin Folena wrote “Il commento nella pagina auografa di Francesco da Barberino,” in Intorno al testo, 263– 82, with a previous bibliography. 14. Recognized as that of F. P. Luiso, “Di un’opera inedita di frate Guido da Pisa,” in Miscellanea di studi critici pubblicati in onore di Guido Mazzoni dai suoi discepoli, 2 vols. (Florence: Tip. Galileiana, 1907), 1:79–135 (90– 93).



15. The term, which distinguishes with precision the creator of the images from the material executor of the images, the pictor, is taken from Francesco di Barberino. Please see G. Z. Zanichelli, “L’immagine come glossa: Considerazioni su alcuni frontespizi miniati della Commedia,” in M. M. Donato, L. Battaglia Ricci, M. Picone, and G. Z. Zanichelli, Dante e le arti visive (Milan: Unicopli, 2006), 109– 48 (128– 30). But the technical ability that the graphic activity suggests is not his alone. As is constantly mentioned, even Dante was able to draw angels, and he is not ashamed to mention it in a famous passage of the Vita nova. 16. Explicit in this sense, the title of the work and the image of the book’s presentation by a monk to a knight which appears in the bas de page of fol. 31r (please read ahead for more details) (fig. 6.2). The full title is in fact Expositiones et glose super Comediam Dantis facte per fratem Guidonem pisanum ordinis beate Marie de Monte Carmeli, ad nobilem virum dominum Lucanum de Spinolis de Ianua and in the Prologus, on p. 4, one can still read, “Adhuc nota, Lucane de Spinolis, cui istam expositionem ascribe” (Note also, Lucano Spinola, to whom I dedicate this exposition). 17. The passage implied, used by Franceschini in the essay cited in n. 2, can be read on p. 698 (fols. 227r – v). In recent criticism, it has been suggested that Guido rewrites and reelaborates existing interpretive materials to produce a consistent and coherent commentary for the dedicatee of the Dante Chantilly. For P. Locatin, “Una prima redazione del commento all’Inferno di Guido da Pisa e la sua fortuna,” Rivista di studi danteschi 1 (2001): 30– 74, and Saverio Bellomo, Dizionario, 268– 80, these materials constitute a first draft of Guido’s commentary. R. Abardo, “I commenti danteschi: i commenti letterari,” in Intorno al testo, 321– 76 (331– 41), considers them instead a proto-commentary written by others which Guido enriches and embellishes himself. 18. On Inf. 4.134, Guido writes: “Et quia iste philosophus inter omnes antiquos philosophos sapientior habebatur, ideo quosdam flores dictorum suorum tibi, Lucane, disposui describendos, quos quidem utiles in vivendo reperies, si eos in memoria retinebis, et opere adimplebis” (84) (And because this philosopher was considered the wisest among ancient philosophers, I have decided, Lucano, to transcribe for you some extracts of his sayings that you will find useful in your life, if you will keep them in your memory and apply them in your deeds). 19. So, for example, on p. 115, where Guido explicitly exhorts his pupil, an expert navigator, to explain to him the simile in Inf. 5.29– 30. 20. The text above and the image below create a perfectly explicit reference system, to which one should add the attributes of nobility partly exhibited by the youth and partly written on the sheet (badges, sword, clothing, a horse with a servant, etc.). 21. As says Guido in the Prologus, 1. 22. S. Bonaventura, Commentaria in IV libros Sententiarum, Proemium, quaest. IV, conclusion, in Doctoris Seraphici S. Bonaventurae s.r.e. episcopi cardi-

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nalis Opera omnia, 11 vols. (Quaracchi: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 1882–1902), 1:14: “Aliquis scribit aliena addendo, sed non de suo: et iste compilator dicitur. Aliquis scribit et aliena et sua, sed aliena tamquam principalia, et sua tamquam annexa ad evidentiam; et iste dicitur commentator non auctor” (Someone who writes things of others but not his own: this is called a compiler. Someone who writes both things of others and his own, although those of others remain essential, and his own are added as proof: this is called a commentator, not an author). Quoted by Z. G. Barański, “Le fonti e l’esegesi medievale della Commedia,” in “Per correr miglior acque,” 569– 600 (576). 23. See “Guido da Pisa,” in Enciclopedia dantesca, 2nd rev. ed., 6 vols. (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1984; repr. 1996), 3:325– 28. 24. “Guido da Pisa,” in Enciclopedia dantesca, 328. 25. Most recently, in Bellomo, Dizionario, 37– 42, which reproposes a reading put forward by C. Mésoniat, “Poetica Theologia”: La “Lucula Noctis” di Giovanni Dominici e le dispute letterarie tra ’300 e ’400 (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1984), esp. 77– 81. Paola Rigo has already analyzed, in “Il Dante di Guido da Pisa,” Lettere italiane 29 (1977): 196– 207, the complex, at times contradictory, reflections of Guido on poetry and prophecy, highlighting the proximity of Guido’s thoughts on classical myths to those of Albertino Mussato. It goes without saying that in this sense Guido seems to be closer to the Dante author of the cantos of Statius and of the mythological characters in the Inferno. 26. Battaglia Ricci, “Il commento illustrato alla Commedia,” with accompanying images. 27. Translations from Italian: Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 3, 4. 28. See “Commenti danteschi,” ed. Paola Rigo, for the Dizionario critico della Letteratura italiana, dir. V. Branca, 2nd ed., 4 vols. (Turin: UTET, 1986), 2:6– 22 (11). 29. See Ep. XIII 9, 10, and 28. 30. Eccles. 39:8. Bambaglioli’s passage is recorded, in a different way, by Bellomo, Dizionario, 39. 31. C. Villa, “‘Per le nove radici d’esto legno,’” Strumenti critici 15 (1991): 131– 44 (137– 38). 32. As in the Prologus, 4. 33. P. Nasti, “Autorità, topos e modello: Salomone nei commenti trecenteschi della Commedia,” The Italianist 19 (1999): 5– 49 (25– 39). 34. A. Canal, Il mondo morale di Guido da Pisa interprete di Dante (Bologna: Patron, 1981), 131. 35. The passage is on p. 31. On this important point see Nasti, “Autorità, topos e modello,” 35. It could also be noted—and this, I think, might help in better understanding the relationship between the sacred perspective of the visio and the poetic and fictive nature of Dante’s poetry—that in the Expositio lictere of the



second canto, with reference to a process so characteristic of poetic writing as an invocation to the Muse, Guido thus glosses, enclosing the authority of Isidore to endorse his own observations on the tasks of poets: “Beatus Ysidorus, VIII libro Ethymologiarum, ait: ‘Officium poete in eo est ut ea, que vere gesta sunt, in alias speties obliquis figurationis cum decore aliquo conversa transducant’. Iste itaque autor et invocat Musas et narrat res gestas, et multa fabulosa pulcra et venusta composizione componit et fingit,” 43 (The blessed Isidore says, in book VIII of the Ethymologiae: “the duty of the poet consists in transforming the things that have actually occurred into another kind (of things) through indirect representations with a certain decorum.” This author therefore is invoking the Muses but is also narrating things that have happened, and he composes and invents many fabulous things in his beautiful and elegant writing). If one rereads from this perspective, taking into account the brief repetition of his interpretation of the first tercet of the sacred poem recorded on pp. 19– 20 (“In dimidio igitur nostre vite, idest in somno, secundum quem nichil differt stultus a sapiente, prout Philosophus vult in fine primi libri Ethicorum, fingit autor suas visiones vidisse” [therefore the author imagines of having had his visions in the middle of our life, namely during sleep, when the foolish does not differ from the wise, as the Philosopher establishes at the end of the first book of his Ethics]), one might also suspect that in the note which opens the commentary (“In anno Domini”) the “fingit” might be referring to the fabrication that pins the vision to a specific year, month, and day, and to the specific context highlighted by the image in the bas de page, showing the pope in the act of joyful forgiveness and the empty throne of the empire (fig. 6.3) rather than the visio itself. 36. Nasti, “Autorità, topos e modello,” 35. 37. “mercy and justice . . . ”: Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 49. 38. It is significant that Guido uses here the hermeneutic approach characteristic of the so-called allegory of theologians instead of the “allegoria dei poeti,” in Dante’s words. This approach is applied throughout the commentary, with clear awareness that from this point of view Dante’s work is analogous to the scripture. See for example the multiple readings of Minos (6– 7) or Beatrice (31– 32). 39. Battaglia Ricci, “Il commento figurato alla Commedia,” 606–10 and figs. 7, 8.

    


Presenze del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum nell’Ottimo Commento alla Commedia   L’Ottimo dunque, come disse di sé un grand’ingegno, pigliava il suo bene dove lo trovava. — G. Carducci

Nel panorama degli antichi commenti danteschi, l’Ottimo riveste—com’è noto—una posizione di assoluta rilevanza non solo per la purezza del suo volgare fiorentino, apprezzato fin dal Cinquecento da letterati del calibro di Giambullari, Gelli, Vasari, Borghini, Salviati e Piero del Nero,1 ma anche per il peculiare metodo espositivo che lo caratterizza, programmaticamente vòlto a far confluire nelle chiose, con tecnica summatica, tutta la pregressa esegesi sul poema; in questa prospettiva, il testo dell’Ottimo rivela l’esistenza a Firenze, a un’insospettabile altezza cronologica (1334 207



ca.),2 di una già diffusa koiné interpretativa intorno alla Commedia, la cui natura fortemente referenziale imponeva in re la ricerca di voci plurime, talvolta discordanti tra loro, per la comprensione dei complessi significati da essa veicolati.3 Il carattere compilatorio del commento viene esplicitato, con una valenza quasi epigrafica, all’inizio del proemio generale connesso alla prima delle due versioni nelle quali si articola la complessa Textüberlieferung dell’Ottimo:4 Intendendo di sponere le oscuritadi che sono in questo libro intitulato Comedìa, composta per Dante Alleghieri fiorentino, e narrare le storie e lle favole della presente opera, e dare più piena notizia delle persone nominate in essa, delle c‹hi›ose di più valenti huomini che a isponerle puosono loro utile fatica accolte le [ms. acciò chelle] infrascritte, e aggiuntevene alquante, cominceròe questo comento nel nome d’Iddio, Padre Figliuolo e Spirito Santo.5

Il punto di partenza del commentatore è, dunque, espositivo e insieme decisamente impegnato a effettuare un bilancio dei risultati esegetici anteriori: le chiose all’Inferno in volgare di Jacopo Alighieri (1322 ca.), che egli sembrerebbe conoscere nella medesima lezione tràdita dalle cosiddette Chiose Palatine (ante 1333), a loro volta utilizzate, e di cui un singolo codice dell’Ottimo riporta il testo della glossa sulla Fortuna con esplicito rimando al figlio di Dante (vd. ms. Laur. Ashb. 832, c. 16rb: “Giacopo di Danti sopra questa matera chiosa cusìe”);6 il commento latino, sempre circoscritto alla prima cantica, del cancelliere di Bologna Graziolo Bambaglioli (1324), del quale si registrano due citazioni esplicite nelle chiose a Inf. 7.89 e 13.91 (ed. Torri, 1:121 e 248), fruito attraverso il testo del volgarizzamento toscano A; e in modo precipuo l’ampio commento in volgare, esteso per la prima volta all’intera Commedia, del bolognese Iacomo della Lana (1324– 28), anch’esso citato, rispetto alla patina linguistica originaria, sulla base della versione toscanizzata precocemente diffusa. Risultano invece ancora da accertare in via definitiva (anche per l’incerta cronologia) i rapporti dell’Ottimo con il succinto apparato di chiose latine adespote, relativo alle prime due cantiche e databile in base ad alcuni riferimenti storici ante 1326, attribuito dal Sandkühler al cosid-

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detto “Anonymus Lombardus”;7 alquanto incerti appaiono pure i legami con le Expositiones all’Inferno di Guido da Pisa, delle quali è stata però individuata una redazione anteriore (ricostruibile attraverso la testimonianza del codice Laur. Pl. 40 2, con il supporto del volgarizzamento contenuto nel ms. già Poggiali-Vernon, poi Ginori Conti, ora Ravenna, Bibl. del Centro Dantesco dei Frati Minori Conventuali, 1), che risulta anch’essa nota al commentatore nella stessa versione testuale tramandata dalle Chiose Palatine.8 Andrà infine ricordato che un codice infernale dell’Ottimo, il già citato Conv. Soppr. J V 8 (olim S. Marco 219) della Bibl. Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, riporta a c. 130v una lunga chiosa sul destino ultraterreno dei corpi dei suicidi espressamente attribuita al frate francescano Accursio Bonfantini, maestro di teologia e lettore del convento di Santa Croce nel 1318, nonché inquisitor hereticae pravitatis di Toscana dal 1326 al 1329, il quale sarebbe stato, sulla base di una notizia tramandata soltanto dal Mehus e priva di ulteriori riscontri documentari, il primo lettore pubblico di Dante nel duomo di Firenze.9 Sulla scorta degli intenti programmatici esposti nel proemio generale, il redattore dell’Ottimo attinge così in maniera cospicua dai precedenti interpreti (allusi tramite generiche formule del tipo: “alcuno spone,” “dice alcuno chiosatore,” “chiosa uno qui,” ecc.), le cui opinioni sono molto spesso riprese ad verbum; in taluni casi l’assunzione del materiale allotrio viene esplicitamente sottolineata, come al termine della glossa a Purg. 7.103, dove si dichiara: “Questa chiosa è tratta di diverse chiose; però pare varia” (ed. Torri, 2:102). Per questo Giosuè Carducci, nel saggio Della varia fortuna di Dante (1866– 67), riconobbe a “quell’anonimo commentator fiorentino a cui gli Accademici della Crusca dettero celebrità colla denominazione di Ottimo” le sole qualifiche di “paziente trascrittore” e di “rabberciatore elegante”;10 egli, nondimeno, temperò subito questo giudizio svalutativo ricordando che l’esegeta primo-trecentesco, nell’appropriarsi dei risultati di tutte le pregresse esperienze ermeneutiche, in fondo “usava un diritto di consuetudine: così faceva Busone da Gubbio con Brunetto Latini, e altri con altri. Alla originalità e alla proprietà non si dà grande importanza, quando scarsi i modi di comunicazione, e rari e cari sono i libri, e non estesissima la coltura.”11 E concludeva: “L’Ottimo dunque, come disse di sé un grand’ingegno, pigliava il suo bene dove lo trovava: non però che gli manchi un fondo proprio ed originale.”12



È d’altronde noto come i commenti danteschi siano paragonabili, giusta l’efficace similitudine di Claudia Villa, ad “ammassi sconnessi,” contenenti “qualsiasi tipo di materiale, costituiti con depositi alluvionali entro i quali affiorano i resti degli strati precedenti”; la caratteristica distintiva di questi apparati esegetici è, infatti, una spiccata “tendenza all’appropriazione,” che genera veri e propri “testi viventi,” dove ogni nuovo interprete non si perita di riutilizzare “materiali precedenti che possono tornare a vivere” in agglomerati diversi.13 Di qui la natura estremamente instabile delle rispettive tradizioni e le conseguenti difficoltà nel riconoscimento di corpora dapprima omogenei frammentatisi in glosse irrelate.14 La particolare tecnica “a mosaico” con la quale l’estensore dell’Ottimo tende a compilare le proprie chiose, giustapponendo in esse fonti ricavate undique collatis membris,15 presuppone dunque la ricerca dei testi direttamente compulsati per la stesura del commento, la cui identificazione, oltre a costituire un sussidio non trascurabile ai fini della restitutio textus, consente anche di gettare nuova luce sulle dinamiche culturali nella Firenze del secondo quarto del Trecento, offrendo così informazioni preziose sulle modalità di diffusione, circolazione e riuso di materiali classici e romanzi in àmbito fiorentino.16 In questa prospettiva, già le pionieristiche ricerche di Luigi Rocca evidenziarono il costante impiego nell’Ottimo di due opere specifiche: le Metamorfosi di Ovidio, secondo la versione compiuta da ser Arrigo Simintendi da Prato, e le Historiae adversus Paganos di Paolo Orosio, nella traduzione di Bono Giamboni; ad esse lo studioso aggiunse inoltre la cosiddetta Cronaca napoletano-gaddiana, ossia un antico volgarizzamento del Chronicon di Martino Polono accresciuto di numerose notizie attinenti a fatti fiorentini e toscani, espressamente citato nel commento a Inf. 10.73 come “la Cronichetta novella” (ed. Torri, 1:181), nonché la Legenda aurea di Jacopo da Varazze.17 Dopo i benemeriti sondaggi di Rocca per ricostruire le linee esegetiche del commento, una dettagliata rassegna è stata allestita da Giuliana De Medici, che ha sensibilmente ampliato il corredo di fonti soggiacenti all’elaborazione dell’opera:18 la Summa virtutum ac vitiorum del domenicano Guglielmo Peraldo (utilizzata dal commentatore per le frequenti digressioni morali sull’origine e la classificazione dei vizi), i Libri IV Sententiarum di Pietro Lombardo (indicato con il consueto appella-

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tivo di “Maestro delle Sentenze”), i Libri XX Ethymologiarum di Isidoro di Siviglia, le Derivationes di Uguccione da Pisa, i De proprietatibus rerum libri XIX di Bartolomeo Anglico, il Tractatus de sphaera mundi di Giovanni da Sacrobosco (citato come il “trattato della Spera Materiale”) e il Compendiloquium de vitis illustrium philosophorum di Giovanni del Galles, modello di riferimento per buona parte delle glosse sui filosofi rievocati nei versi finali di Inf. 4;19 la tradizione dell’Ottimo, tuttavia, tramanda una serie di altre chiose su filosofi e poeti antichi prive di riscontro nel testo di Giovanni del Galles, le quali hanno indotto la studiosa alla seguente considerazione: “È difficile dire se l’Ottimo conoscesse una seconda opera che trattasse di filosofia e filosofi, oppure avesse fra le mani una edizione ritoccata e arricchita del Compendiloquium, o prendesse le chiose mancanti da commentatori precedenti.”20 N                                          fonte delle glosse in questione con il Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum, un trattato dossografico attribuito in numerosi codici al filosofo inglese Walter Burley ma, con ogni probabilità, redatto intorno al 1320 da un anonimo compilatore attivo nell’Italia settentrionale, che si avvalse in larga parte del materiale raccolto nello Speculum historiale di Vincenzo di Beauvais e nel Compendiloquium di Giovanni del Galles.21 Il punto di partenza per la nostra indagine è offerto dalla glossa a Purg. 7.16–18, relativa alle vicende biografiche di Virgilio, in quanto essa offre uno specimen emblematico della tecnica centonistica attuata nel commento:22 O gloria de’ latini ec. Qui Sordello, a conlaudatione di Virgilio, narra della sua pulita parladura; come li greci dicono d’Omero solo poeta, i latini dicono di Virgilio. Compuose Virgilio ‹uno volume›, nel quale è la Bucolica: tracta di morale philosophia e vaticina secondo alcuna arte e disegna alcune pontificali essentie; poi tracta di musica, poi naturale philosophia secondo li stoici, poi d’arte magica. La seconda parte è appellata Georgica: tracta d’astronomia e di finosomia e di medicina e d’agricultura. La terza parte è appellata Eneyda: contiene il cadimento di Troya e lla venuta d’Enea in Ytalia. Elli studiòe a Cermona e, ricevuto il convento, n’andò a Melano e poco poi a Roma. Ed ebbe nome Virgilio, però che lla madre, essendo in lui gravida, sognò ch’ella partoriva una verga che toccava il cielo;



la qual cosa volle stificare ch’ella parctorirebbe huomo che, parlando delle alte cose, toccherebbe il cielo, sì come dice Hugo di Santo Victore. Per naturale philosophia e arte magica fece nella porta di Napoli una mosca di rame, perché tucte le mosche cacciò della ciptade. Vivette anni liij. Quanto Sordello agradisca la sua veduta, appare nel testo. (L, c. 67v; ed. Torri, 2:93)

La struttura della nota appare perfettamente bipartita in due sezioni. La parte iniziale riproduce ad litteram la corrispettiva chiosa del bolognese Iacomo della Lana, il cui ampio commento in volgare costituisce, per l’alto numero dei rimandi, la vera e propria pietra angolare sulla quale il compilatore dell’Ottimo costruì la sua opera.23 Dopo un breve parallelo tra Omero e Virgilio (“come li greci dicono d’Omero solo poeta, i latini dicono di Virgilio”), privo di riscontro nell’esegesi pregressa,24 il commentatore torna ad attingere al testo lanèo, questa volta ricalcandone un passo del proemio a Purg. 7: Alla terza cosa è da sapere che Virgilio compuose uno volume il quale tratta di diverse materie, e tutto in forma poetica e con molta pulita parladura. Lo primo libro è apellato Bucolica, nella quale elli tratta filosofia morale, poi vaticina secondo alcuna arte, poi disegna alcune pontificali essenze; poi tratta di musica, poi tratta di filosofia naturale secondo li stoici; poi tratta de arte magica. Lo secondo libro è apellato Georgica, nella quale elli tratta di strologia, de fisonomia, de medicina e de agricoltura. Lo terzo libro è apellato Eneida, nel quale elli tratta xij libri con molte istorie, descrivendo la vita di Enea e delli suoi discendenti come vennero in Italia.25

Conclusa la prima sezione, dedicata alla rassegna tematica dei testi virgiliani, la chiosa dell’Ottimo offre quindi un breve profilo biografico del poeta mantovano, nel quale vengono rammentati soprattutto uno dei mirabilia avvenuti in prossimità della nascita, nonché un’opera magica compiuta durante il suo soggiorno partenopeo: Elli studiòe a Cermona e, ricevuto il convento, n’andò a Melano e poco poi a Roma. Ed ebbe nome Virgilio, però che lla madre, essendo in lui

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gravida, sognò ch’ella partoriva una verga che toccava il cielo; la qual cosa volle stificare ch’ella parctorirebbe huomo che, parlando delle alte cose, toccherebbe il cielo, sì come dice Hugo di Santo Victore. Per naturale philosophia e arte magica fece nella porta di Napoli una mosca di rame, perché tucte le mosche cacciò della ciptade. Vivette anni liij.

In questo caso, la fonte del brano non appare identificabile con Ugo di San Vittore, esplicitamente chiamato in causa, poiché nella pur vasta produzione del teologo vittorino è assente qualunque accenno ai miti virgiliani indicati;26 l’attribuzione fornita dai codici latori della glossa, in realtà, si rivela frutto di una probabile banalizzazione, poiché l’interpretatio nominis di Virgilio ivi presupposta riflette un brano delle Derivationes di Uguccione da Pisa: “Item a virgula dictus est Virgilius, quia mater eius somniavit quod pariebat quandam virgulam, que usque ad celum pertingeret, quod nil aliud fuit nisi quod Virgilium pareret, qui sua sapientia, loquendo de astris, celum tangeret.”27 Per quanto il commentatore dantesco abbia altrove fatto un diretto utilizzo del lessicografo pisano,28 nella chiosa in questione la conoscenza di Uguccione da Pisa risulta tuttavia mediata da una fonte intermedia; tutta la sezione biografica su Virgilio è infatti desunta recta via dal cap. 104 del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum: Virgilius inter omnes poetas optimus, nacione Mantuanus, Cremone studiis eruditus est. Deinde, sumpta toga magisterii, Mediolanum ivit. Post breve autem tempus Romam profectus est. Hic ideo Virgilius vocatus est quasi a virga, eo quod mater eius sompniavit se parituram quandam virgam que usque ad celum pertingeret; quod nichil aliud fuit nisi quia erat paritura Virgilium qui loquendo de altis celum tangeret, ut ait Hugo. Hic philosophia naturali preditus eciam nigromanticus fuit et mira quidem arte illa fecisse narratur. In porta Neapoli Campanie dicitur fecisse muscam eneam que omnes muscas ab urbe expellebat. . . . Vixit autem annis quinquagenta tribus.29

La derivazione dell’Ottimo da questo passo, riprodotto, giusta le consuetudini del commentatore, in una versione volgarizzata,30 è indubbia. Innanzitutto, si rilevi come un dato topico delle Vitae virgiliane quale



l’assunzione della toga virile, già testimoniata da Elio Donato,31 diventi invece nel trattato dello pseudo-Burley il conseguimento della “toga magisterii”; anche l’esegeta fiorentino riflette questa specificità biografica, come rivela il peculiare uso del lemma “convento” (“titolo di dottore,” “laurea poetica”);32 in secondo luogo, il Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum riporta, sulla scorta del Compendiloquium di Giovanni del Galles,33 l’etimologia di Virgilio tràdita nelle Derivationes di Uguccione da Pisa, che viene citato per nome (“ut ait Hugo”), analogamente al testo dell’Ottimo, dove però tutti i codici tramandano un’errata attribuzione (“sì come dice Hugo di Santo Victore”), a rigore addebitabile anche a un possibile lapsus del commentatore.34 Il brano dello pseudo-Burley, infine, oltre a precisare in dettaglio gli anni di vita del poeta latino (“Vixit autem annis quinquagenta tribus”), parimenti attestati nell’Ottimo (“Vivette anni liij”), contiene un rimando alla fama di Virgilio mago (“Hic philosophia naturali preditus eciam nigromanticus fuit et mira quidem arte illa fecisse narratur”) e il ricordo di una sua opera negromantica (“In porta Neapoli Campanie dicitur fecisse muscam eneam que omnes muscas ab urbe expellebat”),35 anch’essi puntualmente ripresi dal chiosatore dantesco: “Per naturale philosophia e arte magica fece nella porta di Napoli una mosca di rame, perché tucte le mosche cacciò della ciptade.”36 La medesima tecnica compilatoria, vòlta a far confluire in una singola chiosa informazioni desunte da due fonti differenti (tra cui lo pseudo-Burley), traspare anche dalla nota su Terenzio a Purg. 22.97: Terrentio. Fue cartaginese e scrisse commedia, il quale, dopo la vinta Cartagine per Scipione Affricano, infra lli pregioni che venero col triumpho di Scipione, con un cappello in capo venne col carro di Scipione; il quale cappello volle Scipione ch’elli portasse in segno di libertade, ché non volle ch’elli fosse servo come gli altri cartaginesi, anni dxlvj poi che Roma fue facta. Imparòe lectera greca; morìe in Arcadia, i versi della cui sepultura dicono: “Io fui nato nelle excelse case della alta Cartagine; fui preda alli dogi Romani; discrissi li costumi delli huomini, de’ giovani e de’ vecchi, e come li servi ingannano li signori, quello che lla meritrice, quello che il roffiano con inganni, che l’avaro s’infinga. Chiunque leggerà questo, penso ch’egli sarà scaltrito.” (L, c. 94v; ed. Torri, 2:415)

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La notizia secondo cui il commediografo giunse a Roma al séguito di Scipione l’Africano, infatti, risulta esemplata sul racconto delle Historiae adversus Paganos di Paolo Orosio (IV 19 6),37 testo che l’estensore dell’Ottimo adoperò, come detto, sulla base del volgarizzamento duecentesco di Bono Giamboni: Scipione già detto Africano per soprannome, fattogli triunfo, intrò nella cittade, il quale Terenzio poscia chiamato Comico, de’ gentili di Cartagine, abbiendo il cappello, cogli altri pregioni che fuoro presi, ch’èe segno che sia loro redduta libertade, seguitò dietro al carro Scipione, che gli era fatto il triunfo.38

La sezione della glossa concernente l’apprendimento del greco da parte di Terenzio, la morte in Arcadia e i versi apposti sulla sua sepoltura, nonché l’inciso iniziale (“Fue cartaginese e scrisse commedia”) appaiono invece tratti dal cap. 107 del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum, dove si registrano le identiche informazioni: Terencius Publius, poeta, carthaginiensis, Rome claruit tempore Octaviani imperatoris Augusti qui grecas litteras summo studio didicit,39 et in Archadia mortuus est. Scripsit autem comediarum librum elegantem in quo mores multorum ad precavenda pericula annotavit. Huius tale legitur epitaphium: Natus in excelsis tectis Carthaginis alte Romanis ducibus bellica preda fui. Descripsi mores hominum iuvenumque senumque Qualiter et servi decipiant dominos, Quid meretrix, quid lexo, doli quid fingat avarus. Hec quicunque legis, sic, puto, cautus eris.40

Nella disamina delle due glosse sinora citate (Purg. 7.16–18 e 22.97), è emerso come il commentatore abbia utilizzato il trattato dello pseudoBurley per integrare una serie di informazioni su Virgilio e Terenzio ricavate da altre fonti (nella fattispecie Iacomo della Lana e Paolo Orosio); alcune glosse del canto 22 del Purgatorio ne dimostrano invece l’adozione quale ipotesto di riferimento per la biografia dei poeti ricordati ai vv.



97– 98. Una prima conferma in tal senso è offerta dalla nota relativa a Plauto, ugualmente modellata sulla versione del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum, rispetto alla quale l’estensore dell’Ottimo aggiunge soltanto un breve riferimento all’anno di morte del commediografo: Ottimo Commento Plauto. Fue poeta comico; fiorìe a Roma in quello medesimo tempo che Terrentio, ed ivi morìe anni iiijmdccxlj dal principio del mondo. Costui per povertà di vivanda si puose con uno fornaio a menargli uno mulino a mano, ed ivi vacòe per alcuno tempo dallo scrivere favole, le quali era usato di scrivere e di ve‹n›dere. (L, c. 94v; ed. Torri, 2:415–16) Pseudo-Burley, cap. 103 (ed. Knust, 334) Plautus, comicus, philosophus, Tullii discipulus, Rome claruit. Hic propter annone defectum, quia pauper erat, ad molas manuarias pistori se locaverat tempore famis, ibique, quociens vacasset ab opere, scribere fabulas ac vendere solitus erat.41

Alla glossa su Plauto tutti i codici dell’Ottimo fanno quindi seguire un’ulteriore annotazione su Terenzio, che il Torri giudicò interpolata “senza dubbio da altra penna meno perita”:42 Publio Terrentio, del quale qui si fa mentione, fue della provincia di Cartagine. Seppe greco e latino; fue poeta; chiarìe a Roma. Vivecte lxxxx anni; huomo amaestratissimo d’aguto ingegno e in ogni secolare amaestramento savio. Costui, sì come dice Ysidero, appo li Latini scrisse innumerabili | libri. Scrisse libri d’antichitadi xli, li quali divisi in cose humane e in cose divine; atribuinne xxv alle humane e xvj alle divine. Scripse ancora al suo scolare atheniese uno libro morale molto utile. (L, cc. 94v– 95r)

Benché la parte iniziale della chiosa (“fue della provincia di Cartagine. Seppe greco e latino; fue poeta; chiarìe a Roma”) possa sembrare un’incongrua duplicazione dei dati già forniti sul commediografo Terenzio,43 nel prosieguo essa non presenta, a ben vedere, alcuna natura allotria, in quanto fornisce le principali indicazioni biografiche sul celebre erudito romano Terenzio Varrone Reatino, uno dei possibili candidati

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per il “Varro” citato da Dante a Purg. 22.98.44 Anche in questo caso, infatti, il redattore dell’Ottimo si avvale con ogni evidenza del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum (cap. 108), ripreso quasi litteraliter: Varro Marcus orator Rome claruit tempore Octaviani imperatoris, qui vixit XC annis, vir doctissimus, acuti ingenii et in omni seculari erudicione peritus. Hic, ut ait Isidorus libro ethimologiarum, apud latinos innumerabiles libros scripsit.45 Scripsit autem libros antiquitatum XLI, quos in res humanas divinasque divisit, humanis rebus XXV, divinas vero XVI tribuit. Scripsit autem ad auditorem atheniensem librum moralem in quo multa utilia et notabilia continentur. (ed. Knust, 346)

Nella seconda cantica, infine, il concreto impiego dello pseudo-Burley traspare dalla chiosa su Euripide (Purg. 22.106), dove il commentatore fa confluire, con metodo summatico, i due distinti profili biografici tràditi dalla sua fonte, armonizzati tra loro mediante brevi formule di raccordo: Ottimo Commento Euripide. Due furono li Euripidi: l’uno fue philosopho al tempo di Socrate, il quale non solamente dalla carne, ‹ma› da ogni copto cibo sé astenne. Ma non intende l’autore di costui, ma d’Euripide poeta, del quale parla Boetio, il quale dicea che chi non àe figliuoli è fuori di mala ventura.46 Costui, essendo in tre dí [ms. tirdi] con Alcestide poeta, faccendo versi ne fece tre, e Alcestide c in altrectanto tempo; e Alcestide se ne gloriava, che con poca fatica aveva facti allora c versi, che Euripide con molto travaglio n’avea facti tre. Disse Euripide: “Tu di’ vero; ma ssai tu che differentia àe tra lli tuoi c e li miei tre? Che li tuoi dureranno tre dí, e li miei per tucto il tempo.” Fue ucciso una sera da’ cani d’Archelao suo intimo, re di Persia. (L, c. 95r; ed. Torri, 2:417–18) Pseudo-Burley, capp. 36 e 46 (ed. Knust, 158– 60 e 186– 88) Euripides philosophus in Creta claurit tempore Socratis. Hic in tanta vixit abstinencia quod non solum ab esu carnium, sed eciam ab omnibus coctis cibariis abstinuisse fertur. Euripides poeta, ut ait Boecius, carentem libidinis infortunio dicebat esse felicem. Hic cum in quodam triduo una cum Alcestide poeta versus componeret Euripides in ipso triduo tres versus, Alcestides vero centum



composuit. Cumque Alcestides adversus eum gloriaretur quod ipse in triduo centum versus perfacile conscripsisset, ille vero, impenso maximo labore, tres solummodo eduxisset respondit Euripides: “Verum utique loqueris, sed inter centum tuos et tres meos hoc interest quod tui in triduum tantummodo, mei vero in omne tempus sufficient.” Hic adeo Archelao regi persarum carus extitit et dilectus ut sentenciam ei consiliorum suorum committeret. Cum autem a cena ipsius regis ad domum rediret a canibus dilaceratus est.

Le chiose finora addotte certificano l’utilizzo del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum quale fonte privilegiata dell’Ottimo per le biografie di vari poeti classici citati nel Purgatorio; un’altra serie di glosse, relative a filosofi e sapienti greci, consente a sua volta di verificarne la presenza anche in altre sezioni del commento. Nel canto 4 dell’Inferno, in particolare, il testo dello pseudo-Burley risulta presupposto dal commentatore per la stesura delle annotazioni su Talete, Empedocle, Eraclito, Zenone, Tolomeo e Galeno (vv. 137– 38 e 142– 43), qui riprodotte nella lezione del cosiddetto secondo gruppo:47 Ottimo Commento Tale. Questi fue Tale millesio, ‹uno› delli sette greci che soli furono appellati savi . . . Morìe nel lxxviii anno della sua etade. Fue d’Asia e cittadino di Mileto. Questi, doppo la pollitica, fue speculatore della naturale filosofia e trovatore di naturale astronomia e dell’Orsa Maggiore. Scripse della conversione ed equinoctio, e dicesi ch’elli primo tra lli filosafi tractòe d’astronomia; antidisse le scurationi del sole; è il primo che inpuose tra’ filosafi che l’anime erano immortali; trovòe la grandeça del sole; disputòe della natura e atribuì anime alle cose inanimate; dalli Egipti apparòe geometria; non ebbe moglie per non avere figliuoli; puose che il principio di tutte le cose àe l’aqua, e disse che ’l mondo avea anima ed era pieno di demonii. Costui ricusò la tavola dell’oro presa da’ pescatori e devolsela a Biante, Biante a Pitaco. In astronomia fu molto savio et cetera. Di costui favella Augustino nel libro De civitate Dei, decimo viii°. Pseudo-Burley, cap. 1 (ed. Knust: 2–12) Thales, philosophus, asianus . . . Hic [primus] sapiens appellatus est secundum quem et septem sapientes vocati sunt. Fuit autem conscriptus

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civis Mileti, ideo Thales milesius appellatus est. Hic post politicam naturalis philosophie factus est speculator, et inventor fuisse urse maioris et navalis astrologie dicitur. Scripsit autem de conversione et equinoccio, et primus inter philosophos dicitur de astrologia tractasse, necnon et solares ecclipses et eversiones predixit. Similiter et inter philosophos primus dicitur a quibusdam posuisse animas immortales et solis et lune magnitudinem invenisse. Primus de natura disputavit et inanimatis animas tradidit. Ab egipciis geometriam didicit. . . . Aiunt autem eum coniuge caruisse, et interrogatus cur non duceret, ait: “Ob filiorum amorem.” Hic principium omnium aquam posuit mundumque animatum dixit et demonibus plenum. Scripsit autem de astronomia multa que in duobus carminibus comprehendit. Cum quidam a piscatoribus iactum emisset, estracta magni ponderis aurea tabula, orta est controversia, illis se capturam piscium vendidisse affirmantibus, hoc fortune ductum [se] emisse dicente. Qua contradiccione propter novitatem rei et magnitudinem pecunie ad universum civitatis populum delata, placuit Apollinem delphicum consuli, cui aurea mensa adiudicari deberet. Apollo respondit: illi esse dandam qui sapiencia ceteros preemineret. Hiis auditis, huic Thaleti, philosopho, uni de septem sapientibus, data est. Ille cessit eam Bianti philosopho, Bias Pitacho, is protinus alii. . . . De hoc Thalete ait Augustinus VIII de civit. Dei.48 . . . Obiit autem Thales anno etatis sue LXXVIII. Ottimo Commento Empidocles. Questi fue filosafo regnante Artaxerse, in quello tempo che lli servi levarono arme contra li loro signori in Roma; fu ad Athene. Costui, come dice Boetio nel prologo della Musica, sì sapea per musica cantare che, assalendo un furioso giovane l’oste suo, perché avea per accusa facto condennare il colui padre, dicesi che Empidocles sì dolentemente cantòe ‹che quelli si partìo›.”49 Pseudo-Burley, cap. 48 (ed. Knust, 190) Empedocles philosophus Athenis claruit tempore Ciri regis persarum. Hic, ut ait Boecius in prologo de arte musica,50 adeo noverat ex musica artem canendi quod, cum eius hospitem iuvenis quidam furibundus invaderet eo quod patrem eius accusacione dampnasset, ipse Empedocles adeo dulciter canendi modum dicitur inflexisse quod adolescentis iracundiam temperavit.



Ottimo Commento Eraclito. E questi fue filosafo al tempo di Democrito; fue sopranominato Scotinon asiano; compuose libri sì obscuri che appena li filosafi l’intendono. La sentençia di costui è questa: “Uno dìe è pace51 di tutti; in uno medesimo fiume due volte discendiamo e non discendiamo.” Costui disse che tutti li dii erano di fuoco e che l’anima era favilla d’essençia di stelle; costui per le molte obscurità delle sue sentençe fue chiamato dalli filosafi Eraclito tenebroso. Pseudo-Burley, cap. 47 (ed. Knust, 188) Eraclitus, philosophus, cognomento scotinon, asianus, libros composuit adeo obscuros quod studentes philosophi vix eos intelligunt. Huius hec sentencia est: Unus dies par omni est. In eundem fluvium bis descendimus et non descendimus. Hic dixit deos omnes ex igne constare. Dixit eciam animam esse scintillam stellaris essencie. Hic propter ipsius nimias obscuras sentencias dictus est a philosophis Eraclitus tenebrosus. Ottimo Commento Çenone. Questi fue filosofo nel xiii anno d’Artaxerse re; fiorìe nel tempo che Roma si governòe sotto il reggimento degli dieci uomini. Fue Çenone della setta delli stoyci, la cui sentença è questa: “Propio è del savio di non potersi turbare, acciò che la sua ragione vada con puri afecti.”52 Questa ragione medesima usòe elli, sì come dice Seneca: “Nullo male è glorioso; la morte è gloriosa, adunque la morte non è male”; onde esso Çenone se uccise, acciò che doppo la morte vivesse felicemente. Fue similliantemente un altro filosafo ‹nome Çenone›, del quale scrive Valerio, il quale, essendo tormentato da uno tiranno la cui morte elli avea tractata, disse a colui sé volere insegnare i compagni, ma che bisognava ch’elli l’udisse in segreto; e, diposto dal tormento, col morso prese l’orechia del tiranno, né prima il lasciòe che fusse privato della vita e il tiranno dell’orecchia. Pseudo-Burley, capp. 78 e 79 (ed. Knust, 304 e 306) Zenon stoicus philosophus floruit tempore Ptolomei. Huius est hec sentencia: sapientis est non posse turbari ut racio eius cedat pravis affectibus. Hac eciam racione usus est, ut ait Seneca: Nullum malum gloriosum est, mors autem gloriosa est, mors ergo malum non est.53 Verum et ipse Zenon mortem sibi intulit ut post mortem felicius viveret.

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Fuit autem similiter et alius philosophus nomine Zenon, de quo scribit Valerius54 quod, cum a tiranno de cuius nece tractaverat torqueretur, dixit: se socios indicare velle, sed expediret ut tyrannus eum secrete audiret, laxatoque eculeo, aurem tyranni morsu corripuit nec ante dimisit quam et ipse vita, et ille parte corporis privaretur. Ottimo Commento Tholomeo. Questi fue scientiatissimo in astrologia; compuose l’Almagesto, el Quadripartito e ’l Centiloquio. Pseudo-Burley, cap. 121 (ed. Knust, 370) Ptolomeus philosophus (pheludiensis) tempore Adriani imperatoris in geometria et astrologia clarissimus fuit . . . et composuit multos libros, scil. librum qui vocatur almagestus de sciencia stellarum et motu celestium corporum, item de iudiciis quadripartitum, item librum qui dicitur centiloquium. Ottimo Commento Galieno. Fue altresì grande in medicina; fiorìe al tempo d’Antonio Pietoso imperadore, anno Domini cxl; fu nato di Pergamo. Pseudo-Burley, cap. 126 (ed. Knust, 388) Galienus, insignis medicus, in toto orbe celebris, natus est apud Perganum Asie. Hic Ipocratis interpres fuit, claruit Athenis, Alexandrie et Rome temporibus Antoni(n)i Pii imperatoris. Nel commento al Paradiso, invece, risultano sicuramente tratte dal Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum le chiose su Solone (Par. 8.124) e su Parmenide (Par. 13.125), come si può rilevare dal seguente confronto sinottico: Ottimo Commento Perché uno nasce Solone, l’altro ec. Ecco li varij efecti da diversi radici, ché uno nasce Solone, il quale fu il più savio delli vij savi di Grecia. Fue d’Acthene, e quivi rilucè di sapientia; compuose alli Actheniesi optime leggi, le quali poi li Romani presero dalli Actheniesi, e molti benifitii diede loro, e molto tempo li liberòe da servitudine e tirannia per lo suo senno e finalmente, muta‹ta› la fortuna, fuggendosi dalla sua ciptade se n’andòe in Egipto. Poi s’acostòe a Creso re de’ Llidyi; e indi promosso se n’andò in



Sicilia, dove socto il nome suo fece una ciptade. Ultimamente in Cipro compiè la sua vecchieçça. Fu al tempo di Fisistrato. (L, c. 132r; ed. Torri, 3:214) Pseudo-Burley, cap. 2 (ed. Knust, 12–14) Solon, philosophus, unum de septem sapientibus Grecie, nacione atheniensis, Atheniis claruit. Hic atheniensibus leges optimas condidit quas postmodum romani ab atheniensibus acceperunt multaque beneficia eis contulit et multo tempore eos sua prudencia a servitute et tyrannide liberavit et tandem, fortuna mutata, profugus in Egyptum se transtulit. Deinde Creso lidorum regi adhesit. Indeque promotus ivit in Siciliam ubi sub nomine suo condidit civitatem. Demum in Cipro senectutem egit. Hic dum senex esset, ut refert Tullius in libro de senectute [XX 72], Phisistrato, tyranno, Athenas occupare volenti, toto conatu restitit, multis ex civibus consencientibus Phisistrato. Ottimo Commento Fue Parmenide ad Athene philosopho, e fugìe le abitationi e le compagnie delli huomini, e stecte nella ripa di monte Caucaso, dove si dice ch’elli trovòe loyca; la quale ripa è poi decta la ripa Parmenida. Elli udìe Xenofano philosopho e fue maestro di Z‹en›one. E fiorìe al tempo di Cirro re di Persia (L, c. 141r; ed. Torri, 3:323).55 Pseudo-Burley, cap. 49 (ed. Knust,192) Parmenides philosophus Athenis claruit. Hic hominum abitaciones et consorcia fugiens in rupem Caucasi montis conscendit ubi et logicam invenisse dicitur. Que postmodum rupem Parmenidis appellata est. Auditor enim fuit Xenophanis et preceptor Zenonis. Et claruit tempore Ciri regis persarum.

In un fondamentale studio sulla tradizione dell’Ottimo, Giuseppe Vandelli, riflettendo sulla programmatica natura compilatoria delle chiose e sul relativo tasso di autorialità, osservava: “Sarebbe opportuno determinare con tutta precisione quanto nel commento di questo ‘valente uomo’ ci sia di suo e quanto d’altrui, e quali siano state le ragioni intime del prendere di qua o di là e del tralasciare e dell’innovare; . . . ma siamo lontani dall’essere arrivati al fondo in tale analisi. Troppo poco rispetto alle nostre curiosità

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di studiosi ci dice l’autore stesso, e di molte fonti storiche e dottrinali s’è intraveduta l’esistenza, ma ancora non si sono potute identificare.”56 Sulla scorta del rilievo di Vandelli, in questa sede si è dunque voluto offrire un tassello per la ricomposizione dell’articolato mosaico di fonti usufruite nell’opera, riconoscendo nel Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum l’ipotesto da cui il commentatore fiorentino attinse, mutuandone anche le auctoritates espressamente citate (Uguccione da Pisa, Isidoro di Siviglia, Boezio, Agostino, Seneca, Valerio Massimo), molteplici informazioni di carattere biografico su vari filosofi e poeti antichi. L’inclusione dello pseudo-Burley nel sostrato esegetico dell’Ottimo, peraltro, si rivela di grande utilità ai fini della restitutio textus, poiché non solo permette di individuare nelle glosse alcune lezioni deteriori, sanabili tramite emendatio ex fonte,57 ma offre anche un importante elemento direttivo per la questione redazionale. A questo riguardo, occorre infatti ricordare che l’intera tradizione del commento risulta suddivisibile in due fondamentali raggruppamenti, dove si registrano modifiche di varia natura e consistenza: dalla presenza in un gruppo di brani, anche piuttosto lunghi, assenti nell’altro, alla modifica di numerosi segmenti testuali, con soluzioni interpretative diverse e talora contrastanti. Focalizzando in particolare l’attenzione sulle glosse agli ultimi versi di Inf. 4, dove tale fenomenologia è molto evidente, si riscontra nei due distinti raggruppamenti l’autonoma adozione di uno specifico modello di riferimento: il Compendiloquium di Giovanni del Galles, per il primo gruppo, e il Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum per il secondo. Dal momento che il trattato dello pseudo-Burley, come si è dimostrato nel presente contributo, è senz’altro ascrivibile fra le sicure fonti del commentatore, mentre il testo di Giovanni del Galles risulta presupposto in unicum soltanto nelle chiose a Inf. 4.130– 44, se ne può quindi desumere una conferma significativa circa la natura allotria di tali glosse nella lezione tràdita dal primo gruppo, di cui già Rocca aveva messo in dubbio l’autenticità.58 L’utilizzo del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum da parte del compilatore dell’Ottimo non esclude, peraltro, l’adozione di ulteriori fonti di riferimento, poiché il commento presenta alcune chiose relative ad autori assenti nello pseudo-Burley, quali Avicenna, Averroè, Cecilio, Anacreonte, Melisso, Brisso, ecc.; questa circostanza impone quindi di ipotizzare che l’antico esegeta si sia avvalso almeno di un altro testo analogo, il cui



utilizzo va forse postulato anche per quelle glosse su filosofi e letterati che non esibiscono peculiari elementi di tangenza con la corrispettiva versione del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum.59 Piace concludere questo intervento con le significative parole di Michele Barbi, meritevoli di essere poste a suggello della felice congiuntura critico-editoriale che sta contrassegnando negli ultimi anni le indagini sui primi esegeti della Commedia: Da poi che il Rocca interruppe i suoi utili studi sugli antichi interpreti di Dante, poco si è accertato di nuovo e di più preciso intorno ad essi. . . . E fu grave danno, ché raro si giunge ad acquistare in siffatta materia quella larga e minuta preparazione che è indispensabile a studiare con frutto, e oggi ai lavori di pazienza pochi piegano l’animo, per il timore che è nei più di passare per eruditi. Può essere che tale studio, benché sempre utilissimo per la storia della cultura, non sia per dare tutti quei vantaggi che si sperarono un tempo per l’interpretazione di Dante; né conviene certo mettersi a pubblicar tutto quello che conservano gli antichi manoscritti. Ma . . . poiché si tratta di sempre meglio intendere nei più minuti particolari e nelle più oscure allusioni un miracolo di poesia come la Divina Commedia, non deve essere giudicato tempo male speso quello che serva a metterci in grado di conoscere e valutare, e quindi saper adoperare, le più antiche fonti dell’esegesi dantesca, e di stabilire con quali criteri e su quali fondamenti siano stati composti i commenti più celebri di tutti i secoli. . . . E certa è pure un’altra cosa: che i chiosatori ed espositori antichi riserbano a chi li voglia studiare insperate ricompense; e sarebbe il loro studio adatto anche per giovani che siano alle prime prove, pur che abbiano una buona guida.60

N  1. Vd. M. Corrado, “Lettori cinquecenteschi dell’Ottimo Commento alla Commedia (Giambullari, Gelli, Vasari, Borghini, Salviati, Piero del Nero),” Rivista di Studi Danteschi (avanti cit. RSD), 8 (2008): 394– 409. 2. Sulla data di composizione dell’opera, da porsi verosimilmente fra il 1331 e il 1338, vd. i dati offerti da M. Corrado, “Nuovi sondaggi sulla datazione dell’Ottimo Commento alla Commedia,” RSD 7 (2007): 146– 61.

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3. La Commedia risulta infatti un testo strutturalmente predisposto al commento, che sembra imporsi fin dalle origini quasi di necessità; non a caso Osip Mandel’štam, con grande efficacia metaforica, ha potuto rappresentare la più antica tradizione esegetica dantesca come conchiglie attaccate alla carena del poema-nave: “il commento (esplicativo) è parte integrante, strutturale, della Commedia. La nave-portento è uscita dal cantiere con piccole conchiglie già appiccicate alla carena. Il commento sguscia fuori dal chiacchiericcio della strada, dalle dicerie della gente, dalle tante bocche della calunnia fiorentina. È un commento inevitabile”: O. Mandel’štam, Conversazione su Dante (1933), trad. it., a cura di R. Faccani (Genova: Il Melangolo, 1994), 149– 50; le riflessioni di Mandel’štam sull’“inevitabilità” di un apparato interpretativo, destinato a rendere più comprensibile un’opera fortemente referenziale quale la Commedia, sono state recentemente valorizzate da V. Magrelli, “Leggete le note da Dante a Joyce,” in La Repubblica, 12 settembre 2012, 48. È noto invece il giudizio dissacrante di F. T. Marinetti, che nel celebre manifesto Guerra sola igiene del mondo (1915) definì il poema dantesco corredato da “un immondo verminaio di glossatori”: F. T. Marinetti, “La Divina Commedia è un verminaio di glossatori,” in F. T. Marinetti, Teoria e invenzione futurista, a cura di L. De Maria (Milano: Mondadori, 1983), 266– 68 (267); cfr. al riguardo le osservazioni di M. D’Ambrosio, Le “Commemorazioni in avanti” di F.T. Marinetti. Futurismo e critica letteraria (Napoli: Liguori, 1999), 8– 9. 4. Per la vexata quaestio redazionale vd. da ultimo M. Corrado, “Ottimo Commento,” in Censimento dei commenti danteschi, 1: I commenti di tradizione manoscritta (fino al 1480), a cura di E. Malato e A. Mazzucchi, 2 voll. (Roma: Salerno Editrice, 2011), 1:371– 406 (388– 98). 5. Si trascrive dal ms. Firenze, Bibl. Nazionale Centrale, Conv. Soppr. J V 8, c. 1r; l’intero proemio, tràdito dal medesimo testimone, è leggibile in R. Abardo, “I commenti danteschi: i commenti letterari,” in Intorno al testo. Tipologie del corredo esegetico e soluzioni editoriali. Atti del Convegno di Urbino, 1– 3 ottobre 2001 (Roma: Salerno Editrice, 2003), 321– 76 (352– 57). La parte di proemio qui riprodotta risulta assente nell’unica edizione a stampa del commento, allestita ad inizio Ottocento con empirismo ecdotico dal letterato veronese Alessandro Torri (1780–1861): L’Ottimo Commento della ‘Divina Commedia’. Testo inedito d’un contemporaneo di Dante citato dagli Accademici della Crusca, a cura di A. Torri, 3 voll. (Pisa: Capurro, 1827– 29); rist. anast., con prefazione di F. Mazzoni (Bologna: Forni, 1995). Il codice assunto dal Torri come testo-base (Firenze, Bibl. Medicea Laurenziana, Pl. 40 19) è infatti privo della carta iniziale. 6. Vd. M. Corrado, “Un frammento delle Chiose all’Inferno di Jacopo Alighieri (VII 67– 69) nella tradizione dell’Ottimo Commento,” RSD 10 (2010): 160– 72. 7. Vd. B. Sandkühler, Die frühen Dantekommentare und ihr Verhältnis zur mittelalterlichen Kommentartradition (München: Hueber, 1967), 116– 31.



8. Vd. P. Locatin, “Una prima redazione del commento all’Inferno di Guido da Pisa e la sua fortuna (il ms. Laur. 40 2),” RSD 1 (2001): 30– 74, nonché P. Locatin, “Sulla cronologia relativa degli antichi commenti alla Commedia. (In margine alla recente edizione delle Chiose Palatine),” Rassegna Europea di Letteratura Italiana 29– 30 (2007): 187– 204. 9. Sul testo della glossa (Expositione sopra questo caso di frate Accorso Bonfantini) vd. M. Corrado, “L’Expositione dantesca di frate Accursio Bonfantini,” in Leggere Dante oggi. I testi, l’esegesi. Atti del Convegno-seminario di Roma, 25– 27 ottobre 2010, a cura di E. Malato e A. Mazzucchi (Roma: Salerno Editrice, 2012), 237– 64. 10. G. Carducci, “Della varia fortuna di Dante,” in G. Carducci, Edizione Nazionale delle Opere, vol. 10, Dante (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1936), 253– 420 (333). Una riflessione teorica sulla nozione di “autore” nella tradizione esegetica dantesca è offerta da S. Bellomo, “L’Edizione Nazionale dei Commenti danteschi,” RSD 1 (2001): 9– 26 (16–18); cfr. anche M. Corrado, “‘Gradiente di autorialità’ negli antichi commenti danteschi: il caso dell’Ottimo. Proposte attributive e soluzioni editoriali,” in La filologia dei testi d’autore. Atti del Seminario di Studi, Roma, 3– 4 ottobre 2007, a cura di S. Brambilla e M. Fiorilla (Firenze: Cesati, 2009), 27– 46 (27– 28). 11. Carducci, Della varia fortuna di Dante, 333. E si veda quanto affermava L. Banchi, “Prefazione,” in I Fatti di Cesare. Testo di lingua inedito del secolo XIV (Bologna: Romagnoli, 1863), vii– lxxvii (xlii– xliii): “Chi ha sperienza di antichi testi e di compilazioni alla nostra consimili, sa meglio di noi come questo spigolare nel campo altrui per proprio vantaggio fosse di quel tempo usanza non infrequente”; cfr. inoltre I. Del Lungo, Dino Compagni e la sua ‘Cronica’ (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1880), 706– 7. 12. Carducci, Della varia fortuna di Dante, 333– 34. Assai meno benevolo fu il giudizio, permeato di sciovinismo municipale, di G. Varrini, Sopra il commento alla ‘Divina Commedia’ di Iacopo della Lana bolognese. Considerazioni (Bologna: Ramazzotti, 1865), secondo cui l’Ottimo era solo “un’oglia podrìda” (18), nonché “una raccolta maldigesta di varii commenti, fatta da un prosuntuoso, che dottoreggiando allargò, restrinse, ed infiorò di spropositi tutto ciò che aveva qua e colà raggranellato” (26). 13. C. Villa, “Il ‘secolare commento’ alla Commedia: problemi storici e di tradizione,” in “Per correr miglior acque . . .”. Bilanci e prospettive degli studi danteschi alle soglie del nuovo millennio. Atti del Convegno internazionale di Verona-Ravenna, 25– 29 ottobre 1999, 2 voll. (Roma: Salerno Editrice, 2001), 1:549– 68 (549 e 561); rist. con aggiornamenti in C. Villa, La protervia di Beatrice. Studi per la biblioteca di Dante (Firenze: SISMEL-Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2009), 251–67. 14. Vd. L. C. Rossi, “Problemi filologici dei commenti antichi a Dante,” ACME 54 (2001): 113– 40, partic. 113–14, che, dopo aver evidenziato il peculiare

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statuto del commento medievale, configurabile come una sorta di “res nullius, soggetta al libero intervento del trascrittore,” osserva: “La glossa è dunque il luogo deputato del dialogo fra autore e lettore, fra autore e autore, un organismo vivo che tende a modificarsi in modo direttamente proporzionale al numero di coloro che lo utilizzano e, insieme al suo testo di riferimento, costituisce un sistema compatto nella mente di chi lo utilizza. Con formula acuta ed efficace Zumthor ha parlato appunto di una glose créatrice”; cfr. anche i rilievi di A. Mazzucchi, recensione a Rossi, “Problemi filologici,” RSD 1 (2001): 368– 72 (368). 15. Sulla nozione di compilator vd. partic. Isidoro di Siviglia, Etymologiae, X 44: “Compilator, qui aliena dicta suis praemiscet” [Compilator, chi mescola parole altrui con le proprie; cfr. al riguardo le osservazioni di M. Irvine, “Postcript: the writer as ‘compilator’,” in M. Irvine, The Making of Textual Culture: ‘Grammatica’ and Literary Theory 350–1100 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 241– 43], con la successiva puntualizzazione terminologica di Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, che, nel definire il “quadruplex modus faciendi librum” [quadruplice modo di scrivere un libro], distingueva lo scriptor, che “scribit aliena, nihil addendo vel mutando” [scrive parole altrui, senza aggiungere o mutare nulla]; il compilator, che “scribit aliena, addendo, sed non de suo” [scrive parole altrui, aggiungendo, ma non di suo]; il commentator, che “scribit et aliena et sua” [scrive parole altrui e proprie]; e infine l’auctor, che “scribit et sua et aliena, sed sua tanquam principalia” [scrive parole proprie e altrui, ma le proprie in misura prevalente]: S. Bonaventura, Commentaria in I librum Sententiarum, Proemium, quaest. IV, conclusio, in S. Bonaventura, Opera Omnia (Quaracchi: Ex Typographia Collegii S. Bonaventurae, 1882), 1:14–15, già richiamato da Z. G. Barański, “L’esegesi medievale della Commedia e il problema delle fonti,” in Z. G. Barański, “Chiosar con altro testo”. Leggere Dante nel Trecento (Firenze: Cadmo, 2001), 13– 39 (18–19). Vd. anche R. Barthes, La retorica antica (Milano: Bompiani, 1972), 31: “il compilator aggiunge a quel che copia, ma mai niente che provenga da lui.” 16. Sulla cultura fiorentina di inizio Trecento vd. partic. C. T. Davis, “L’istruzione a Firenze nel tempo di Dante,” in C. T. Davis, L’Italia di Dante (Bologna: il Mulino, 1988), 135– 66. 17. Vd. Rocca, Di alcuni commenti della ‘Divina Commedia’, 256– 87. 18. Vd. G. De Medici, “Le fonti dell’Ottimo Commento alla Divina Commedia,” Italia Medioevale e Umanistica 26 (1983): 71–123; cfr. inoltre J. Allenspach, “Due fonti ignote dell’Ottimo Commento dantesco,” Italia Medioevale e Umanistica 31 (1988): 403– 8 (le Storie de Troja et de Roma, compilazione volgare d’area romana tratta dalle Multe ystorie et troiane et romane, e la traduzione del Trésor attribuita a Bono Giamboni), e Corrado, “Ottimo Commento,” 382– 86. 19. Sulle caratteristiche del trattato vd. J. Swanson, “Philosophers and saints: the Compendiloquium and Breviloquium de Sapientia Sanctorum of John of Wales,” in J. Swanson, John of Wales. A Study of the Works and Ideas of a



Thirteenth-Century Friar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 167– 200 (167– 93); cfr. anche T. Ricklin, “Jean de Galles, les ‘Vitae’ de saint François et l’exhortation des philosophes dans le Compendiloquium de vita et dictis illustrium philosophorum,” in ‘Exempla docent’. Les exemples des philosophes de l’Antiquité à la Renaissance. Actes du Colloque international 23– 25 octobre 2003, Université de Neuchâtel, édités par T. Ricklin (Paris: Vrin, 2006), 203– 23. Sarà opportuno segnalare che Giovanni del Galles è stato ritenuto una delle possibili fonti di Dante per il celebre exemplum di Traiano e della “vedovella” (Purg. 10.73– 78); cfr. M. Barbi, La leggenda di Traiano nei volgarizzamenti del ‘Breviloquium de virtutibus’ di fra Giovanni Gallese (Firenze: Tip. Carnesecchi, 1895 [Nozze Flamini-Fanelli]). 20. De Medici, “Le fonti dell’Ottimo Commento,” 100 n. 66. 21. Il Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum ottenne fin dalla sua prima apparizione un vasto e duraturo successo, testimoniato dai circa 270 mss. che ne riportano il testo e dai numerosi incunaboli (cfr. J. O. Stigall, “The Manuscript Tradition of the De vita et moribus philosophorum of Walter Burley,” Medievalia et Humanistica 11 (1957): 44– 57, e J. Prelog, “Die Handschriften und Drucke von Walter Burleys Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum,” Codices manuscripti 9 (1983): 1–18). Sulle problematiche inerenti alla paternità e alla datazione [sic] del-l’ opera vd. partic. M. Grignaschi, “Lo pseudo Walter Burley e il Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum,” Medioevo. Rivista di storia della filosofia medievale 16 (1990): 131– 90 (da integrare con M. Grignaschi, “Corrigenda et addenda sulla questione dello ps. Burleo,” Medioevo. Rivista di storia della filosofia medievale 16 (1990): 325– 54), secondo cui “non vi possono sussistere dubbi sul fatto che lo ps. Burleo fosse in stretti contatti con gli ambienti culturali di Bologna o di . . . Padova” (148). Alcune riserve al riguardo sono però espresse da M. Petoletti, Il ‘Chronicon’ di Benzo d’Alessandria e i classici latini all’inizio del XIV secolo. Edizione critica del libro XXIV. ‘De moribus et vita philosophorum’ (Milano: Vita e Pensiero, 2000), 35 n. 38, incline a ritenere che “il problema [attributivo] vada riaffrontato,” nonché da T. Ricklin, “La mémoire des philosophes. Les débuts de l’historiographie de la philosophie au Moyen Âge,” in La mémoire du temps au Moyen Âge, études réunies par A. Paravicini Bagliani (Firenze: SISMEL-Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2005), 249– 310 (260– 62). Il sicuro terminus ante quem del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum è desumibile dal ms. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-AugustBibliothek, Gudianus 200, contenente vari excerpta del trattato copiati a Bologna nel 1326 (cfr. la dettagliata descrizione del codice offerta da Grignaschi, Lo pseudo Walter Burley, 170– 76). 22. A causa della sostanziale inaffidabilità dell’ed. Torri, severamente giudicata da Giuseppe Lando Passerini una “scellerata stampa . . ., che fa vergogna alla dantofilìa e alla editoria italiana”: G. L. P., La Vita di Dante (Firenze: Vallecchi, 1929), 382, si avverte che tutte le citazioni dell’Ottimo presenti in questo

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contributo saranno desunte, con minimi ammodernamenti grafici, dal ms. Firenze, Bibl. Medicea Laurenziana, Pl. 40 19 (L); il testo di questo esemplare, in caso di lacune e/o di lezioni deteriores, verrà sanato con l’ausilio del codice Firenze, Bibl. Riccardiana, 1004. 23. Vd. Iacomo della Lana, Commento alla ‘Commedia’, a cura di M. Volpi, con la collaborazione di A. Terzi, 4 voll. (Roma: Salerno Editrice, 2009), 2:1069: “O gloria delli tuoi [sic]. Qui Sordello a collaudazion di Virgilio narra della pollida parladura di Virgilio.” Tale, infatti, è l’ampiezza dei rapporti intercorrenti fra i due apparati esegetici, che fino alla metà dell’Ottocento l’Ottimo fu ritenuto identico con il Lana da molti letterati, a partire da Gian Vincenzo Pinelli e Leonardo Salviati, sulla cui scia si mossero poi Giovan Mario Crescimbeni, Apostolo Zeno, Luigi Portirelli, Ugo Foscolo e Luciano Scarabelli (cfr. Rocca, Di alcuni commenti della ‘Divina Commedia’, 231, e Corrado, “Lettori cinquecenteschi,” 396– 97 n. 8). Innegabilmente i due commentatori presentano numerosi elementi di tangenza, sia per precise coincidenze testuali sia per affinità dell’impostazione adottata; ma questi aspetti non dovrebbero indurre a una deminutio dell’Ottimo, riducendone l’autore a un mero plagiario del Lana, dal momento che l’assiduo ricorso a materiale allotrio convive con tratti di indubbia originalità, quali ad es. la sua personale conoscenza e consultazione di Dante, attestata in due chiose del commento alla prima cantica (Inf. 10.85– 87, 13.144). Vd. al riguardo le belle pagine di M. Corti, “Il sortilegio di un commento,” in L’Accademia della Crusca per Giovanni Nencioni, presentaz. di F. Sabatini (Firenze: Le Lettere, 2002), 37– 41. 24. Il confronto topico tra Omero e Virgilio potrebbe forse derivare dal seguente passo dell’Institutio oratoria (X 1 85) di Quintiliano, testo sicuramente noto all’estensore dell’Ottimo (cfr. infra): “Itaque ut apud illos Homerus, sic apud nos Vergilius auspicatissimum dederit exordium, omnium eius generis poetarum Graecorum nostrorumque haud dubie proximus” [E quindi, come per loro Omero, così per noi potrebbe essere Virgilio a dare un esordio felicissimo: di tutti i poeti greci e romani che si sono dedicati all’epica, gli fu senza dubbio il più vicino]. Vd. inoltre Giustiniano, Institutiones, I 2 2. Institutiones, II praef. 4. 25. Iacomo della Lana, Commento alla ‘Commedia’, 2:1067. 26. Vd. G. Ferrante, “L’Inferno e Napoli. Spazi, personaggi e miti della catabasi negli antichi commenti danteschi,” in Boccaccio angioino. Materiali per la storia culturale di Napoli nel Trecento, a cura di G. Alfano, T. D’Urso e A. Perriccioli Saggese (Bruxelles: Lang, 2012), 219– 50 (240): “La menzione di Ugo da San Vittore, ad un rapido controllo delle sue opere nella Patrologia Latina, pare essere inappropriata.” Sarà opportuno aggiungere, peraltro, che il filosofo francese risulta assente dal canone degli autori medievali inclusi nella monumentale antologia The Virgilian Tradition. The First Fifteen Hundred Years, ed. J. M. Ziolkowski and M. J. C. Putnam (New Haven–London: Yale University Press, 2008), 825–1024 (Virgilian legends).



27. [Parimenti Virgilio fu denominato da un virgulto, poiché sua madre sognò di partorire un ramoscello che arrivava fino al cielo, e ciò non voleva significare altro se non che avrebbe dato alla luce Virgilio, il quale con la sua sapienza, parlando di cose celesti, avrebbe toccato il cielo]: Uguccione da Pisa, Derivationes, ed. critica princeps a cura di E. Cecchini e di G. Arbizzoni et al., 2 voll. (Firenze: SISMEL-Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2004), 2:1285 (s.v. vireo, U 32 44); l’apparato ad locum attesta la variante “virgam,” lezione presupposta anche nell’Ottimo (“sognò ch’ella partoriva una verga”). L’etimologia proposta da Uguccione risulta evidentemente esemplata sull’aneddoto riportato nella Vita Vergilii di Elio Donato (che deriva, in realtà, dalla perduta biografia di Svetonio): “Praegnans eum mater somniavit enixam se laureum ramum, quem contactu terrae coaluisse et excrevisse ilico in speciem maturae arboris refertaeque variis pomis et floribus. Ac sequenti luce cum marito rus propinquum petens ex itinere devertit atque in subiecta fossa partu levata est” [La madre, prossima a generarlo, sognò di aver partorito una fronda di lauro che, a contatto della terra, prese vigore e subito crebbe in forma di albero maturo, carico di vari frutti e di fiori; e sul fare dell’alba, direttasi col marito alla campagna vicina, si appartò dalla strada e in un fossato partorì]: Vita Suetonii vulgo Donatiana, in The Virgilian Tradition, 182– 89 (182, par. 3). Sul topos del sogno profetico materno nell’imminenza del parto, che costituiva il canonico suggello alla biografia di un personaggio illustre, vd. i copiosi documenti addotti da F. Lanzoni, “Il sogno presago della madre incinta nella letteratura medievale e antica,” Analecta Bollandiana 45 (1927): 225– 61, dove si rievoca anche il sogno premonitore di Bella Alighieri, vòlto a simboleggiare la futura gloria poetica del nascituro, riferito da Giovanni Boccaccio nel Trattatello in laude di Dante (I redaz., parr. 16–18); cfr. al riguardo Z. G. Barański, “Boccaccio, Benvenuto e il sogno della madre incinta,” in Z. G. Barański, “Chiosar con altro testo,” 99–116 (106–13). 28. Cfr. De Medici, “Le fonti dell’Ottimo Commento,” 105– 7, che però non include il brano qui evidenziato nell’àmbito dei “passi che l’Ottimo desume verosimilmente dalle Derivationes” (106). La conoscenza di prima mano [sic] del-l’ opera di Uguccione è certificata dalla chiosa a Par. 28.94, tràdita dai codici dell’Ottimo afferenti al cosiddetto secondo gruppo (per questa suddivisione della tradizione manoscritta vd. Rocca, Di alcuni commenti della ‘Divina Commedia’, 232– 41), nella quale il lessicografo pisano viene espressamente citato per nome: “Osanna è nome hebreo e non si puote tucto proferire nella interpretatione dell’altrui lingua. Osi viene a dire salva o fa salvi; anna è interiezione che dimostra uno desiderio di colui che priega, quasi dica: io desidero e priego che tu salvi; ed intendisi il popolo tuo o tucto il mondo, come dice Uguiccione, capitolo de O” (si trascrive dal codice Firenze, Bibl. Nazionale Centrale, Conv. Soppr. J I 30, c. 121r; ed. Torri, 3:622). Il riferimento è infatti alla “voce” Osanna contenuta nel lessico: “Osanna ebreum est et in alterius lingue interpretationem in toto transire non potest. Osi enim salva vel salvifica interpretatur; anna interiectio est

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deprecantis; et inde deberet dici integre osianna, sed corrupte dicitur osanna, elisa vocali, quod ebraice salva vel salvifica obsecro interpretatur, subaudiendo vel populum tuum vel totum mundum” (Uguccione da Pisa, Derivationes, 2:883, s.v. Osanna, O 53 1– 3). 29. “(Pseudo-)Walter Burley,” in The Virgilian Tradition, 919– 21 (919– 20), dove si riproduce il testo approntato da J. O. Stigall, The ‘De vita et moribus philosophorum’ of Walter Burley. An Edition with Introduction, PhD Dissertation, Boulder, Univ. of Colorado, 1956, 212–15; vd. anche Gualteri Burlaei, Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum, mit einer altspanischen Übersetzung der Eskurialbibliothek, hrsg. von H. Knust (Tübingen: Gedrucht für den Litterarischen verein in Stuttgart, 1886), rist. anast. Frankfurt a. M.: Minerva, 1964, 336– 39 (336 e 338). Cfr. inoltre G. Funaioli, “Chiose e leggende virgiliane del medio evo,” Studi Medievali 5 (1932): 154– 63 (161), che pubblica alcuni brani della biografia in questione sulla scorta del ms. Firenze, Bibl. Medicea Laurenziana, Conv. Soppr. 546 (già S. Maria Novella 180). 30. La lezione dell’Ottimo, che sembrerebbe presupporre direttamente il testo originario latino, presenta significative differenze rispetto alla traduzione italiana dello pseudo-Burley nota con il titolo di Vite dei filosofi, trasmessa da vari codici del XV secolo e attualmente leggibile in numerosi incunaboli e cinquecentine; cfr., ad es., Incomincia el libro de la vita de’ philosophi et delle loro elegantissime sententie extracto da Diogene Laertio e da altri antiquissimi autori (Venetiis: Bernardinum Celerium De Luere, 1480); Vite de’ philosophi moralissime (Vinegia: per Francesco di Alessandro Bindoni & Mapheo Pasyni compagni, 1526). Su questo volgarizzamento cfr. Fiori e vita di filosafi e d’altri savi e d’imperadori, ed. critica a cura di A. D’Agostino (Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1979), 51– 53; P. Cherchi, “Su una fonte del Piovano Arlotto e il Liber de vita philosophorum di W. Burleigh,” Forum Italicum 26 (1992): 5–13, e Ricklin, “La mémoire des philosophes,” 256– 60. 31. Vd. Vita Suetonii vulgo Donatiana, 182, parr. 6– 7: “Initia aetatis Cremonae egit usque ad virilem togam, quam XVII anno natali suo accepit isdem illis consulibus iterum duobus, quibus erat natus, evenitque ut eodem ipso die Lucretius poeta decederet. Sed Vergilius a Cremona Mediolanum et inde paulo post transiit in urbem” [Trascorse l’adolescenza a Cremona fino alla vestizione della toga virile, che indossò al compimento del diciassettesimo anno, quando erano consoli per la seconda volta quelli stessi sotto i quali era nato; nello stesso giorno avvenne la morte del poeta Lucrezio. E Virgilio passò allora da Cremona a Milano e di qui, poco dopo, a Roma]. Sui vari problemi di datazione presupposti da questo passo cfr. A. Rostagni, Virgilio minore. Saggio sullo svolgimento della poesia virgiliana (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1961), 42 n. 22. 32. Vd. al riguardo M. Piermaria, “convento,” in Tesoro della lingua italiana delle Origini [TLIO], a cura dell’Opera del Vocabolario Italiano-Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (consultabile presso il sito web,



che, oltre alla chiosa in questione, allega per questa particolare accezione anche la glossa a Par. 1.12: “Onde è da sapere che lli poeti puosero che in sul monte di Parnasso fossero le scientie, e poneano ad esse uno Deo universale, nome Appollo, dal quale riceveano convento e coronatione di quelle scientie nelle quali elli aveano studiato” (L, c. 114v; ed. Torri, 3:11); andrà però precisato che tale nota è desunta ad litteram dal proemio lanèo al canto (cfr. Iacomo della Lana, Commento alla ‘Commedia’, 3:1685). Per ulteriori attestazioni del lemma “convento” nel testo del Lana cfr. le glosse a Purg. 21.89, 22.104, 27 (proemio) e 29.40 (2:1373, 1397, 1505, 1561). 33. Vd. “John of Wales,” in The Virgilian Tradition, 912–16 (913): “Virgilius autem nomen habuit a virga eo quod mater eius sompniavit se peperisse quamdam virgam que et usque ad celum pertingeret. Quod nihil aliud fuit nisi quia Virgilium paritura erat quod loquendo de altis, celum tangeret prout ait Hugo” [Virgilio prese nome da un virgulto, poiché sua madre sognò di aver partorito un ramoscello che giungeva fino al cielo. E questo fatto non voleva significare altro se non che stava per dare alla luce Virgilio, il quale, parlando di cose sublimi, avrebbe toccato il cielo, come dice Ugo]. Si rilevi che sia Giovanni del Galles sia lo pseudo-Burley attestano la variante “de altis,” testimoniata anche nell’Ottimo (“delle alte cose”), a conferma del loro stretto rapporto di dipendenza reciproca; il testo originario delle Derivationes (vd. sopra, n. 27) riporta invece la lezione “de astris.” 34. Vd. Ferrante, “L’Inferno e Napoli,” 240 n. 56: “Sarebbe opportuno capire se si tratta di un errore ascrivibile all’autore stesso dell’Ottimo commento, o non piuttosto alla sua tradizione.” Il fraintendimento sarebbe potuto derivare dal generico appellativo di “Hugo,” non ascrivibile con immediatezza al lessicografo pisano; va però segnalato che l’ed. ottocentesca dello pseudo-Burley, fondata sulla tradizione a stampa, adotta a testo la lezione inequivoca “ut ait Huguicio” (Gualteri Burlaei, Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum, 336). Allo stato attuale delle ricerche, risulta difficile stabilire con certezza se l’attribuzione a Ugo di San Vittore sia un errore del commentatore o, piuttosto, una banalizzazione dei copisti a fronte di una lezione originaria del tipo: “sì come dice Ugu(i)ccione” (formula attestata, ad es., nella chiosa a Par. 28.94: vd. sopra, n. 28); né, d’altro canto, può essere tassativamente esclusa l’ipotesi che il nome del teologo vittorino, per quanto erroneo, potesse già trovarsi nell’esemplare del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum utilizzato dal compilatore dell’Ottimo. Si osservi peraltro che l’interpunzione adottata nell’ed. Torri pone l’inciso su Ugo di San Vittore in riferimento alla successiva leggenda virgiliana della mosca di rame: “Siccome dice Ugo di Santo Vittore, e’ per naturale filosofia e arte magica fece nella porta di Napoli una mosca di rame, perchè tutte le mosche cacciò della cittade” (2:93). 35. Per la raffigurazione di Virgilio come filosofo e negromante, la fonte diretta dello pseudo-Burley risulta ancora una volta il Compendiloquium di

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Giovanni del Galles: “Hic fuit et philosophia naturali preditus et nigromantia in multis usus est” [Costui fu dotato anche in filosofia naturale e in molte occasioni praticò la negromanzia] (“John of Wales,” 913); il racconto leggendario della mosca bronzea appare invece esemplato sullo Speculum historiale (VI 61) di Vincenzo di Beauvais: “Ab hoc Virgilio multa dicuntur mirabiliter actitata. In porta Neapolis Campanie dicitur fecisse muscam eneam que omnes muscas ab urbe expellebat” [Si dice che da Virgilio furono fatte molte cose in modo straordinario. Si tramanda che avesse creato su una porta di Napoli, in Campania, una mosca di bronzo che allontanava tutte le mosche dalla città]: “Vincent of Beauvais,” in The Virgilian Tradition, 907–12 (908). 36. Per l’origine e la diffusione di questa famosa leggenda medievale, in base alla quale Virgilio avrebbe collocato su una porta fortificata di Napoli una mosca metallica (d’oro, di rame o di bronzo, a seconda delle fonti), talismano dotato del potere apotropaico di scacciare dalla città tutti gli insetti che ne infestavano le paludi circostanti, vd. Ferrante, “L’Inferno e Napoli,” 240 – 46, e M. Corrado, “‘Vera satira mia, va’ per lo mondo, e de Napoli conta che riten quel che ’l mar non vòle a fondo’. L’invettiva antinapoletana di Cino da Pistoia,” in Il viaggio a Napoli tra letteratura e arti, a cura di P. Sabbatino (Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 2012), 81–124 (101– 6). 37. “Scipio, iam tum cognomento Africanus, triumphans urbem ingressus est; quem Terentius, qui postea comicus, ex nobilibus Carthaginiensium captivis pilleatus—quod insigne indultae sibi libertatis fuit—triumphantem post currum secutus est” [Scipione, che già da allora ebbe il soprannome di Africano, fece il suo ingresso da trionfatore a Roma e, mentre celebrava il trionfo, Terenzio, il futuro poeta comico, che era tra i nobili cartaginesi fatti prigionieri, seguì il suo cocchio col pileo in testa, segno della libertà a lui concessa]. In Orosio è riscontrabile una confusione tra il poeta Publio Terenzio Afro (che, nato a Cartagine, arrivò a Roma come schiavo, poi affrancato, di Terenzio Lucano) e il senatore Quinto Terenzio Culleone, il quale, fatto prigioniero nella seconda guerra punica e liberato nel 201 a. C., seguì effettivamente il carro trionfale di Scipione con un pileo in testa; cfr. al riguardo R. Sabbadini, “Il commento di Donato a Terenzio,” Studi italiani di Filologia Classica 2 (1894): 1–134 (27– 28), e U. Bucchioni, Terenzio nel Rinascimento (Rocca San Casciano: Cappelli, 1911), 10–11. 38. Delle storie contra i pagani di Paolo Orosio libri VII. Volgarizzamento di Bono Giamboni, a cura di F. Tassi (Firenze: Baracchi, 1849), 255 (cap. XX); dal testo di Orosio deriva anche il riferimento cronologico (“anni dxlvj, poi che Roma fue fatta”), che costituisce però l’esordio del capitolo successivo: “Da che la cittade di Roma fue fatta anni DXLVI” (256, cap. XXI). Un ulteriore riferimento del commentatore alla venuta di Terenzio a Roma al séguito di Scipione è riportato nella chiosa a Purg. 29.117: “Lo primo materiale [scil. carro] è quello di Scipione Affricano, il quale Terrentio scrive, però ch’elli fue de’ pregioni di



Cartagine, che solo col cappello in capo, in segno di libertade, seguitòe il carro di Scipione, il quale fue ricchissimo, sì per la victoria avuta della nimicissima Cartagine, e potentissimo imperio, e superbissimo e crudelissimo | duca Aniballe, sì per la smisurata preda, sì per la libertade delli presi cittadini e compagni, li quali Scipione trasse delle miserissime carcere e catene d’Africa” (L, cc. 105v–106r; ed. Torri, 2:519); cfr. anche la chiosa autografa di Andrea Lancia a Par. 6.52– 54: “Scipione, detto Africano per sopranome, con triunfo entròe in Roma, il cui carro seguitò Terenzo, gentile huomo di Cartagine”: Andrea Lancia, Chiose alla ‘Commedia’, a cura di L. Azzetta, 2 voll. (Roma: Salerno Editrice, 2012), 2:932. 39. Andrà rilevato che il testo dello pseudo-Burley attribuisce al Terenzio commediografo quanto il Chronicon di Eusebio-Girolamo afferma del poeta Publio Terenzio Varrone Atacino: “P. Terentius Varro vico Atace in provincia Narbonensi nascitur. Qui postea XXXV annum agens Graecas litteras cum summo studio didicit” [P. Terenzio Varrone nasce nel villaggio di Atax nella provincia Narbonense. Egli poi a trentaquattro anni apprese il greco con grandissimo impegno] (Die Chronik des Hieronymus, hrsg. von R. Helm [Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1956], 151); su questo passo cfr. le osservazioni di G. Brugnoli, “XXXV annum agens Graecas litteras cum summo studio didicit,” in Studi di poesia latina in onore di Antonio Traglia, 2 voll. (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1979), 1:193– 216. 40. Gualteri Burlaei, Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum, 342. Per il cosiddetto Epitaphium Terentii, che si ritrova di frequente nei codici terenziani, vd. H. Walther, Initia carminum ac versuum Medii Aevi posterioris latinorum (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1959), nr. 11627; i vv. 1– 3 dell’epitaffio sono citati nella chiosa autografa di Andrea Lancia a Purg. 22.95: “Terentio fue poeta di Cartagine e fue preda di Scipione, onde comincia: ‘Natus in excelsis tectis Cartaginis alte, romanis ducibus bellica preda fui. Descripsi mores hominum iuvenumque senumque’ etc.” (Andrea Lancia, Chiose alla ‘Commedia’, 2:731). 41. Come notò R. Sabbadini, “Per la biografia di Plauto,” Rivista di Filologia e d’Istruzione Classica 28 (1900): 293, la fonte del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum è costituita dal Chronicon di Eusebio-Girolamo, che relativamente all’anno 200 a. C. annota: “Plautus ex Umbria Sarsinas Romae moritur. Qui propter annonae difficultatem ad molas manuarias pistori se locaverat ibi, quotiens ab opere vacaret, scribere fabulas solitus ac vendere” [Plauto, nativo di Sarsina in Umbria, muore a Roma. Questi, a causa di una carestia, aveva trovato impiego presso un mugnaio spingendo a mano la macina del mulino e lì, nelle ore libere dalla fatica, era solito scrivere e vendere commedie] (Die Chronik des Hieronymus, 135– 36). 42. Ed. Torri, 2:416; l’editore ritenne quindi opportuno pubblicare in nota il testo della glossa, giudicata “fuor di luogo” all’interno del commento.

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43. In realtà, gli altri due mss. latori della glossa in questione (Firenze, Bibl. Riccardiana, 1004 [R], c. 153r, e Firenze, Bibl. Nazionale Centrale, II I 31, c. 204v) attestano la variante “Nerbona” (“Nerbonci” in R) in luogo di “Cartagine,” presupponendo quindi un riferimento al poeta Publio Terenzio Varrone Atacino, nato appunto “in provincia Narbonensi” (vd. sopra, n. 39); non a caso entrambi i testimoni riportano, con funzione disambiguante, un’ulteriore chiosa relativa al Terenzio commediografo: “Fue un altro Terrenço, scriptore di comedie, il qual morìe in Arcadia e fue cartaginese e venne col triunfante Scipione” (R, c. 153r). 44. Sulla lezione “Varro” vd. partic. U. Bosco, “Particolari danteschi,” in U. Bosco, Dante vicino. Contributi e letture (Caltanissetta-Roma: Sciascia, 1966), 391– 98, che sottolinea come gli amanuensi medievali adottassero indifferentemente le scrizioni Varius, Varus e Varrus, “e pertanto la forma Varro non è di per sé stessa determinante a favore di Marco Terenzio Varrone ovvero di Publio Terenzio Varrone Atacino”: Dante Alighieri, La ‘Commedia’ secondo l’antica vulgata, a cura di G. Petrocchi, 4 voll. (Firenze: Le Lettere, 1994), 3:380. La tradizione dell’Ottimo, dopo una chiosa su Cecilio (“E questi fue poeta contemporaneo de’ predecti; del quale dice Quintiliano, nel lib‹r›o x Arte oratoria: Cecilium veteres laudibus ferant togatis excellet”), riporta anche una nota ulteriore su “Varro,” dove si rimanda al testo quintilianèo: “Di costui dice il decto Quintiliano, libro predecto, ch’elli fue sì sommo poeta, ch’elli il puote asomigliare a ciascuno poeta greco; e ch’elli fue prencipe di quelli ch’elli avea veduti” (L, c. 95r; ed. Torri, 2:416); il passo dell’Institutio oratoria presupposto dal commentatore, tuttavia, riporta solo un breve accenno al poeta: “In comoedia maxime claudicamus. Licet Varro Musas, Aeli Stilonis sententia, Plautino dicat sermone locuturas fuisse, si Latine loqui vellent, licet Caecilium veteres laudibus ferant, licet Terentii scripta ad Scipionem Africanum referantur (quae tamen sunt in hoc genere elegantissima et plus adhuc habitura gratiae si intra versus trimetros stetissent), vix levem consequimur umbram, adeo ut mihi sermo ipse Romanus non recipere videatur illam solis concessam Atticis venerem, cum eam ne Graeci quidem in alio genere linguae suae obtinuerint. Togatis excellit Afranius” [La commedia è il genere dove zoppichiamo maggiormente. Nonostante il parere di Varrone che, citando la frase di Elio Stilone, riteneva che le Muse avrebbero parlato con la lingua di Plauto se avessero voluto esprimersi in latino, nonostante le lodi rivolte dagli antichi a Cecilio, nonostante l’attribuzione a Scipione l’Africano delle opere di Terenzio (che sono tuttavia le più eleganti in questo genere e che sarebbero state ancora più belle se fossero state scritte soltanto in trimetri giambici), la nostra produzione comica non è altro che un’ombra sottile rispetto alla commedia greca, al punto che la stessa lingua latina non mi sembra capace di raggiungere quella divina bellezza concessa soltanto ai poeti attici, dal momento che nemmeno i Greci sono riusciti a raggiungerla in un altro dialetto. Nelle togate il migliore fu Afranio] (Inst. Orat., X 1 99–100).



45. Vd. Isidoro di Siviglia, Etym., VI 7 1: “Marcus Terentius Varro apud Latinos innumerabiles libros scripsit” [Tra i Latini, Marco Terenzio Varrone fu autore di innumerevoli testi]. 46. Il riferimento a Boezio è tratto da De cons. phil., III 7 13: “In quo Euripidis mei sententiam probo, qui carentem liberis infortunio dixit esse felicem” [A proposito di questo, approvo l’affermazione del mio Euripide, il quale disse che chi è privo di figli è felice grazie a una sventura]; la lezione “fuori,” attestata nel testimoniale dell’Ottimo, andrà probabilmente modificata in “felice” (cfr. Boezio: “felicem”). Va segnalato che tutta la sezione restante della glossa è tràdita solo dal ms. L; la corrispondenza con il testo dello pseudo-Burley ne certifica l’appartenenza al commento. 47. Il testo di queste chiose infernali è trascritto sulla base del codice Ricc. 1004 (c. 12v), corretto, in caso di lacune e/o di lezioni deteriori, alla luce del ms. Firenze, Bibl. Nazionale Centrale, II I 48 (cc. 31r– 32r); entrambi i testimoni afferiscono infatti al cosiddetto secondo gruppo, che nel commento a Inf. 1– 4 si rivela latore di una versione più conforme ai caratteri originari del commento rispetto a quella trasmessa dal codice L (le cui glosse sono leggibili nell’ed. Torri, 1:60 – 62 e 67), rappresentante del primo gruppo. Vd. Rocca, Di alcuni commenti della ‘Divina Commedia’, 288– 98, con le ulteriori conferme di G. B. Boccardo, L’‘Ottimo Commento’ alla ‘Commedia’. ‘Inferno’. Saggio di edizione critica, Tesi di Dottorato di ricerca in Filologia Moderna, XXI ciclo, tutor A. Stella, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, 2008, XXXVIII–LVI. 48. Cfr. Agostino, De civ. Dei, XVIII 41 2. 49. Il confronto con il testo dello pseudo-Burley (“dulciter”), incentrato sul potere psicagogico del canto, indurrebbe a ritenere maggiormente probabile la lezione “dolcemente,” che però non risulta presente nei codici più autorevoli dell’Ottimo; anche la variante “oste” andrebbe forse corretta in “ospite,” alla luce dell’“hospitem” tràdito nel Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum. 50. Cfr. Boezio, De inst. musica, I 1: “Sed et Empedocles, cum eius hospitem quidam gladio furibundus invaderet, quod eius ille patrem accusatione damnasset, inflexisse modum dicitur canendi itaque adulescentis iracundiam temperasse” [Ma si dice che anche Empedocle, mentre un tale infuriato si gettava con la spada in pugno contro un suo ospite, poiché questi ne aveva condannato il padre in forza di un’accusa, modulò il ritmo del canto così da calmare l’ira del giovane]. 51. Anche in questo caso la lezione dello pseudo-Burley (“par”) suggerirebbe di modificare il testo tràdito in “pari”; cfr. Seneca, Ep., I 12 7: “Ideo Heraclitus, cui cognomen fecit orationis obscuritas, ‘unus’ inquit ‘dies par omni est’” [Perciò Eraclito, che per il suo stile ebbe il soprannome di ‘oscuro’, disse: “un giorno è uguale a ogni altro”].

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52. Ancora una volta la collazione con il Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum (“pravis”) porterebbe a ritenere “puri” una variante deteriore, in luogo di un’originaria lezione “pravi.” 53. Cfr. Seneca, Ep., X 82 9: “Zenon noster hac conlectione utitur: ‘nullum malum gloriosum est; mors autem gloriosa est; mors ergo non est malum’”[Il nostro Zenone adopera questo sillogismo: “nessun male è apportatore di gloria; ora la morte porta con sé la gloria; dunque la morte non è un male”]. 54. Cfr. Valerio Massimo, Fact. e dict. mem., III 3 ext. 2; il filosofo in questione è Zenone di Elea. 55. La derivazione di questa chiosa dal testo dello pseudo-Burley è di recente segnalata in Andrea Lancia, Chiose alla ‘Commedia’, 2:1023, dove si rimanda anche, per il racconto leggendario della vita di Parmenide, a R. Klibansky, “The Rock of Parmenides. Mediaeval Views on the origin of Dialectic,” Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies 1 (1941– 43): 178– 86. 56. G. Vandelli, “Una nuova redazione dell’Ottimo,” Studi Danteschi 14 (1930): 93–174 (105– 6). 57. Cfr. qui le note 46, 49, 51 e 52. Sull’importanza di questa tecnica ecdotica vd. C. Del Popolo, “Un paragrafo di critica testuale: ‘emendatio ex fonte’,” Studi e problemi di critica testuale 63 (2001): 5– 28, dove opportunamente si ricorda che tra la fonte e il testo che ne deriva esiste “un vincolo strettissimo di interdipendenza, poiché la prima, oltre ad essere nello stesso tempo spia eclatante di errore e suggeritrice di correzione, può anche essere indizio di corruttela, là dove il secondo avesse apparenza di correttezza” (8). 58. Vd. Rocca, Di alcuni commenti della ‘Divina Commedia’, 261 n. 1, con specifico riferimento alle lunghe note su Socrate, Platone e Aristotele; e cfr. qui n. 47. Sull’utilizzo del Compendiloquium di Giovanni del Galles nelle chiose a Inf. 4 130– 44 tràdite nell’Ottimo Commento (lezione del primo gruppo) vd. da ultimo T. Ricklin, “Il ‘nobile castello’ dantesco e le riappropriazioni delle tradizioni filosofiche antiche,” in L’antichità classica nel pensiero medievale. Atti del Convegno della Società italiana per lo studio del pensiero medievale, Trento, 27– 29 settembre 2010, a cura di A. Palazzo (Porto: Fédération internationale des instituts d’études médiévales, 2011), 279– 306 (284– 90), che analizza in particolare il testo della glossa al “Seneca morale” di Inf. 4.141 (ed. Torri, 1:64– 66). 59. Si indicano qui di séguito i principali auctores citati nell’Ottimo che non trovano corrispondenza con i relativi capitoli del Liber de vita et moribus philosophorum (indicati tra parentesi): Anassagora (XVIII), Aristotele (LIII), Catone (XCVI), Cicerone (XCV), Democrito (XLIV), Diogene (L), Epicuro (LXIV), Ippocrate (XLV), Livio (LXXXVIII), Omero (XIV), Orazio (CX), Ovidio (CXIII), Platone (LII), Prisciano (CXXXII), Quintiliano (CXVIII), Sallustio (XCIX), Scipione (XCIV), Seneca (CXVII), Socrate (XXX), Stazio (LXXXIV). La fonte per le glosse in questione non è sicuramente identificabile con i cosiddetti



Fiori di filosafi, un volgarizzamento compendioso dei Flores historiarum di Adamo di Clermont, databile tra il 1270 e il 1275 e di area fiorentina. Sui principali testi medievali latori della tradizione dossografica classica cfr. G. Piaia, ‘Vestigia philosophorum’. Il medioevo e la storiografia filosofica (Rimini: Maggioli, 1983), e Ricklin, “La mémoire des philosophes,” 249– 79. 60. M. Barbi, “Per gli antichi commenti alla Divina Commedia,” Studi Danteschi 10 (1925): 150– 51. Per un quadro aggiornato degli studi vd. partic. S. Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi. L’esegesi della ‘Commedia’ da Iacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Firenze: Olschki, 2004), e il vol. I del Censimento dei commenti danteschi, che offre anche un dettagliato regesto (702 mss.) dell’intera tradizione esegetica dantesca fino al 1480. Cfr. inoltre E. Malato, “Il ‘Secolare Commento’ alla Commedia. Il Censimento e l’Edizione Nazionale dei Commenti danteschi,” RSD 5 (2005): 272– 314, poi in E. Malato, Studi su Dante. ‘Lecturae Dantis’, chiose e altre note dantesche (Cittadella: Bertoncello Artigrafiche, 2006), 693– 742; in appendice, il Piano editoriale della Edizione Nazionale dei Commenti danteschi (743– 46).

    


Pietro Alighieri and the Lexicon of the Comedy  

The third draft of Pietro Alighieri’s Comentum demonstrates greater attention to the lexicon of the Comedy than the previous drafts.1 Indeed, on a close reading, the text of the Comentum contained in MS Vaticano Ottoboniano 2867 (base text of the third and final draft of the Comentum) reveals observations and clarifications of a semantic nature absent in the remaining manuscript tradition. This distinctive trait, together with the increased presence of quotations from classical and silver age texts compared to the previous drafts, relates to the protohumanistic direction in which we can see the editorial dynamic moving, drifting slightly from the theological plane to a more scientific and empirical one.2 Often it is the cultural and conceptual analysis laid out by Pietro in the course of the editorial development of his work which itself adds a valuable degree of semantic intelligibility, not that the decisive piece of information necessarily derives 239



from a grammatical footnote ad verbum; consequently this lexical discussion is formulated on the basis of the littera but also supplemented with the broader significance of the significata per litteram, illustrated at the same time in the Comentum. The most striking case of how materials from the third draft help to make Dantesque terms understandable comes in relation to the old question of Jacopo Rusticucci’s fiera moglie (Inf. 16.45), a syntagm discussed in various different ways by early commentators.3 The verse “la fiera moglie più ch’altro mi nuoce” (bestial wife, more than all else, who brought me to this pass) has generally been interpreted from Jacopo della Lana onward as an accusation of frigidity toward the wife, which resulted in Jacopo (Rusticucci) turning to homosexual behavior (thus fiera = “reluctant,” “cold,” “frigid”). It can instead be reread and reconsidered in its more linguistically natural sense on the basis of a more careful semantic examination of its place within the Comedy, and with closer attention to the scriptural, patristic, and juridical documentation which Pietro provides for this purpose in the draft of the Comentum witnessed in the Vatican manuscript.4 Let us start by saying that the adjective fiero in the Comedy always has connotations of bestiality and unnatural monstrosity: the Furies’ temples, fringed with eels for hair, are fiere (Inf. 9.42); Geryon, the otherworldly hybrid creature and effigy of fraud, is said to be fiero (Inf. 17.18); the company of the devils is fiera (Inf. 22.14); the mouth of Nimrod the giant is fiera (Inf. 31.68); Ugolino’s cannibalistic meal, with skull as food and hair for a napkin, is fiero (Inf. 33.1); the Arno surrounded by a moralized bestiary is fiero (Purg. 14.60); and the wolves which attack the lamb in Par. 4.5 are fieri. To sum up, based on the evidence of all these occurrences, it is hard to see why the fiera moglie should be a shrewish, reluctant, and impenetrable wife, and not instead, to put it simply, a “bestial” wife, in keeping with the semantic line of all other occurrences of the adjective within the Comedy. Bestial, which is to say sodomitic. In point of fact, sodomy in medieval culture is interpreted as synonymous with “anal sex” and does not necessarily imply homosexuality, but it can also refer to anal intercourse (more ferarum) between a man and a woman. Indeed, the term homosexuality (from which the denominal “homosexual” derives) was not born

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until the nineteenth century, in relation to the formation of the first lexical nucleus of German psychoanalytic vocabulary, and should thus be completely removed from our cognitive framework if we want to understand the text of the Comedy within its own culture and categories. In the case of Jacopo Rusticucci and his wife, we are in fact dealing with heterosexual and conjugal sodomy, that is, practiced by man and wife in the conjugal bed. Hence Jacopo denounces and attacks his wife in his own defense, pinning the responsibility solely on her for that specific method of lovemaking which led him to the hell of male sodomites, and more precisely, that of violent sodomizers. It would therefore be an anachronism and an objective error to think of “sodomy”— Puossi far forza nella deitade col cor negando e bestemmiando quella e spregiando natura e sua bontade e però lo minor giron suggella del segno suo e Soddoma e Caorsa e chi, spregiando Dio col cor, favella (Inf. 11.46– 51; emphasis mine) —— [‘Violence may be committed against God when we deny and curse Him in our hearts, or when we scorn nature and her bounty. ‘And so the smallest ring stamps with its seal both Sodom and Cahors and those who scorn Him with their tongues and hearts]5

— as a perfect synonym for “homosexuality,” because it should not be assumed that a homosexual is necessarily a sodomite in the technical sense, or that an act of sodomy cannot be heterosexual and even bestial, for example, penetration of a sheep’s anus by a human male member, or of a woman’s anus or vagina by a bovine member, practices already listed and condemned ferociously in Leviticus. This and only this is the medieval concept of spregiare natura, when the idea of a gay identity didn’t remotely exist either in a psychological or a social sense. At that



time the customary course of events was one in which a boy, after a possible period of passive homoerotic relations with an adult man, entered into his maturity and took a wife, possibly later entertaining occasional and clandestine relations with other men a latere.6 Why Jacopo would have to make up for the fact that his wife was cold and dismissive by “turning to males,” as Lana puts it, rather than to a beautiful woman who (whether for love or financial gain) could fulfill his amorous needs, is a slightly perplexing implausibility. In addressing the issue of the fiera moglie in the third draft of the Comentum, Pietro quotes, with regard to the sinners in the third ring of the seventh circle (Inf. 16.3–10), above all Leviticus 20:13:7 “Qui dormierit cum masculo coito femineo, uterque operatus est nefas morte moriatur” (man – man sodomy) (If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable), which he follows with references to Lev. 20:16: “Mulier que succubuerit alicui iumento simul interficiatur cum illo” (woman– animal sodomy) (If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal), and Lev. 18:23: “Cum omni pecore no coibis, vel etiam coeunte homine cum muliere non in naturali et debito vase” (man– animal and animal– woman sodomy) (Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion).8 In these quotations from Old Testament law he is, perhaps inevitably, following in the wake of Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Romans 1:26 – 27: “Propterea tradidit Deus eos in passiones ignominie, nam femine eorum mutaverunt naturalem usum quod est contra naturam, similiter autem et masculi” (man– woman and man– man sodomy) (Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another). Juridical-patristic references follow on the heels of the biblical ones, beginning with Decretum Gratiani II C. XI q.xxxii 7 (De Adulteriis), “Cur vir nubit in feminam vires porrecturam, ubi sexus prodidit locum, et ubi Venus mutatur in aliam formam?” (man– man sodomy) (Why a man marries and is about to offer himself to men in womanly fashion, when sex has lost all its significance; and when Venus is changed to another form?), and

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the Glossa to the Corpus Iuris Civilis IX ix 31 (Glossa 551 col. 2): “Hoc fieri cum homo in officium femine se supponit” (man– man sodomy) (This happens when a man subjects himself to the duty of a woman). The most convincing quotation of all to describe the “case” of Jacopo Rusticucci concludes the review, and it comes from Saint Augustine, De Bono Coniugali XI 12 (Pietro would have arrived at it by way of the Decretum Gratiani II C. XXXII q.vii c.ii): “Adulterii malum fornicacionem vincit, vincitur ab incestu: peius enim est cum matre quam cum aliena uxore dormire, sed omnium horum pessimum est quod contra naturam fit, ut si vir membro mulieris non ad hoc concesso utitur, quod quidem exacrabiliter fit in meretrice, sed exacrabilius in uxore” (these are instances of man– woman and, according to the aggravating circumstances of the case, husband– wife sodomy; emphasis mine).9 This quotation is the most pertinent in terms of defining the nature of the offending sex act in which, exacrabilius, Jacopo Rusticucci and his fiera moglie are implicated.10 To further support this “bestial” interpretation (in which I align myself with Pietro Alighieri) it might be useful to refer to a passage from Par. 15.106– 8: Non avea case di famiglia vote; Non v’era giunto ancor Sardanapalo A mostrar ciò che ‘n camera si puote. —— [No houses then stood uninhabited, nor had Sardanapalus as yet arrived to show what might be done behind closed doors.]11

Here, in the reactionary and nostalgic speech which Dante has his ancestor Cacciaguida give, Sardanapalus (alias Assurbanipal) is seen as the one responsible for, and emblematic of, the kind of deleterious teaching (worthy of an indulgent Oriental monarch) which would have demonstrated contraceptive techniques including anal sex (or sodomy, if you like) to married couples in order to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Such improlific and playful sexual habits were, to Dante’s way of thinking, unknown in the good times past but would apparently be flourishing in his era — a degenerate world where Florentine ladies, devoted solely to lascivious pleasures, would parade around heavily made up, with their



breasts hanging out of scanty and elaborate dresses (Purg. 23.91–111; Par. 15.97–129). Houses in Cacciaguida’s time were not yet devoid of offspring (“case di famiglia vòte”) because married couples had not yet learned the practice of anal sex from Sardanapalus, which allowed both partners to derive pleasure from intercourse without incurring the risk that the woman would end up pregnant. The Rusticucci couple should therefore be added to the list of Sardanapalus’s pupils, who are responsible, according to Dante, for a weakening of sociofamilial relationships and a supposed population decline.12 Another very significant—you might say extraordinary—case in which the second and third drafts of the Comentum furnish us with a valuable semantic interpretation which is completely absent from the first draft (and from the entire landscape of fourteenth-century commentary) arises in his treatment of the adjective concolore in Par. 12.11: “due archi paralelli e concolori” (As twin rainbows, parallel in shape and color, arc in their pathway).13 In the first draft of the Comentum, Pietro dithers confusedly between the banal reading con colori, that is, arcs having “many colors” (interpreting the con as a preposition in itself and colori as a noun), and the distortion con coluri, with abstruse reference to the technical astronomical term coluri (circles passing through the equinoxes and solstices and intersecting at right angles at the poles). Other early commentators also go back and forth between these two completely off-center interpretations.14 Only Pietro, and only in the course of developing the Comentum, understands that this beautiful adjective of Virgilian origin, concolore, means eiusdem coloris, “of the same color,” as previously in Aen. 8.81– 83: Ecce autem subitum atque oculis mirabile monstrum, candida per siluam cum fetu concolor albo procubuit uiridique in litore conspicitur sus. —— [But behold a sudden wonder, marvellous to his eyes: white gleaming through the grove, a sow with all her brood white like herself, seen lying on the green bank.]

This interpretation, from eiusdem coloris, recognizing the origin of the adjective as being imported by Dante into the Italian language as a clear calque of the Latin original, is the semantically irreproachable one. Pietro

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reaches it only on his second attempt, marking another qualitative stage in his editorial process as a progressive acquisition of meaning and greater scientific accuracy.15 An additional piece of information on this subject can be obtained by utilizing the powerful tool that is the Tesoro della Lingua Italiana delle Origini ( this passage of the Comedy is the first time the adjective concolore is seen in the Italian language, and it is subsequently (the vocabulary exhaustively covers every occurrence pre-1375) found only in commentaries of the Comedy which quote the line. It therefore constitutes an absolute hapax legomenon, so we can easily understand why early commentators (and Pietro, in his first editorial phase) had difficulty understanding this term’s true and proper meaning. This increased attention to lexical fact, a particular trait of the final editorial phase of Pietro Alighieri’s text, at times leads, in its effort to be completely thorough, to curious cases of odd hyper-interpretation. These cases speak not so much in favor of the modest lexicological gifts of the interpreter as of his honorable attempt to give constantly deepening clarification of obscure places and terms, and (a trait which emerges only in the third draft) of his putting the very reliability of the text of the Comedy which was available to him up for discussion by comparing the various manuscripts. The famous case of this is Purg. 24.57: “di qua dal dolce stil novo ch’i’ odo!” (on this side of the sweet new style I hear).16 The last three words of this line are usually written in fourteenth-century manuscripts of the Comedy in a scriptio continua without spaces or apostrophes between them, thus reading chiodo (nail). This generates an intrinsic semantic ambiguity of the kind witnessed in codices, which can be resolved either by a possible reading, “che io odo” (relative pronoun, personal pronoun, verb [I hear]) or with a completely unjustifiable one, “chiodo” (masculine singular noun). Without going into the complex textual question inherent to the tortured line within the manuscript tradition of the Comedy,17 I shall limit myself to observing that Pietro, interpreting chiodo as a noun, explains the line in an aberrant way thus (I quote according to the reading of the MS Vat. Ottob. 2867, c. 165r): Ideo detrahit eis hic auctor ut dicit textus dicendo nouum stilum dictus bonazonta hic dulcem et nouum clauum Jn hoc alludens uendentibus



cartas Et quaternos cum lineis habentibus certos clauos in se secundum maiorem et minorem conseruationem et formam librorum seu uoluminum ueterum et nouorum. —— [Therefore this author criticizes them where the text says new style, here the above mentioned Bonagiunta [says] sweet and new nail, alluding to some paper notebooks with lines that are on sale and have certain nails according to greater and lesser preservation and book form or whether they are old or new volumes.]

The chiodo is therefore interpreted by Pietro, forcing himself onto thin ice, as a trade term used by booksellers to indicate the state of preservation, the condition and the “freshness” of the books for sale. How to link this bizarre explanation to Dante’s poetic declaration of the dolce stil novo is fairly difficult to grasp, but one can conjecture that Pietro is referring to a chiodo which would mark the Dantesque “poetic product” as more recent and of superior form and worth to its noted illustrious predecessors.18 But there’s more. As has already been noted, the Cassinese 512 manuscript contains a shortened version of the third draft of the Comentum,19 and, unlike the Vatican witness which contains only the text of the Comentum, the beautiful Montecassino codex also contains the text of the Comedy, which records the line in question as “di qua dal dolce stile / el nuouo chiodo” with a punctuation mark and a definite article el to separate the syntagm dolce stile (sweet style) from nuovo chiodo (new nail). In this way, in the Cassinese manuscript’s reading, the syntagm dolce stil novo is sharply divided into two parts of which the second, el nuouo chiodo, would come in opposition to the first. Very probably Pietro was led into the error of the substantivized interpretation of the verbal group “ch’i’ odo” by a text of the Comedy containing this reading. In addition to which, and as often happens prior to the third draft of the Comentum, the Cassinese manuscript turns out even to be useful for the purposes of establishing a critical text, and presents ad locum a more richly informative reading, with several textual variants, when compared with that of the Vatican (I quote here according to the reading of the MS Cass. 512, fol. 114v; emphasis mine):

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Ideo auctor detrahit eis hic ut dicit textus dicendo nouum stilum auctoris aliorum modernorum taliter scribentium dulce et nouum clauum. In hoc alludens uendentibus cartam bononie et quaternos cum lineis habentibus certos clauos in se secundum maiorem et minorem commensurationem et formam librorum seu uoluminum ueterum uel nouorum. —— [Therefore, the author criticizes them here by saying, as the text says, the new style of the author and certain modern authors and calls them sweet and new nails. Here he is alluding to paper notebooks with lines sold in Bologna which have certain nails according to a greater and lesser measurement and form, and according to whether the volumes are old or new.]

Note the commensurationem/conseruationem variants, and the reference to university city par excellence, Bologna, where Pietro had been a law student and where certainly there were many sellers of books, notebooks, and lecture notes for students. And it is quite possible that the reference to Bologna, stemming, the way I see it, from Pietro’s original, and omitted by the copyist of the Vaticano manuscript for whatever reason, comes indeed from a direct observation of everyday life. Overall a scatty interpretation but a personal and courageous one. With regard to the text of the Comedy that Pietro read, it must not be assumed that, being Dante’s son, the author of the Comentum drew directly on his father’s original manuscript, or some excellent manuscript closely related to it. This is clearly evident from the fact that in several places in the third draft Pietro himself candidly declares that he has to choose between the variants that he has in front of him, and from these he has to arrive at decisions and preferences ope ingenii (usually on the basis of amateurish proto-philological argumentations). Pietro uses expressions like alia lictera, vera lictera, corrupta lictera, multi textus dicunt falso sed, alibi, aliter, alii textus . . . alii textus, and so on, to describe this phenomenology of the text.20 Here again, in openly presenting textual variants in the Comedy to the reader with the consequent need for an empirical and dialectic discussion about the text under examination, the third draft puts forth the immanent, philological-linguistic argument more strongly than either of the preceding drafts. Hence what Pietro is trying to clarify in the course of his twenty-year revision of the text of the



Comentum—though hampered by obstacles and difficulties along the way, and armed more with tenacious endurance than talent—is, along with many other things, the semantics of Dante’s words.

N  1. On the issue of the editorial scheme of the Comentum, and the manuscript witnesses that display it, see Pietro Alighieri, Comentum super poema Comedie Dantis: A Critical Edition of the Third and Final Draft of Pietro Alighieri’s Commentary on Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” ed. M. Chiamenti (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2002), 1– 62 (reviewed by R. Abardo in Rivista di studi danteschi 3 [2003]: 166– 80, where a completely groundless suggestion is made to reconsider the relationship between the second and third drafts, and between the witnesses of the third draft; and by L. Azzetta in L’Alighieri 24 [2004]: 97–118, where a later dating of 1357– 58 is suggested for the second draft); and S. Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi: L’esegesi della “Commedia” da Jacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olschki, 2004), 78– 91. The current state of research provides us with a hefty twenty-nine manuscript witnesses of the first draft (dated 1340– 41), divisible into two branches containing the first draft (dated 1340– 41), two parallel witnesses (Laur. Ashb. 841 and Barb. Lat. 4029) for the second draft (datable 1344 – 49), and finally three for the third draft (datable 1353– 64), of which one contains the complete text (Vat. Ottob. 2867) and two witnessing shortened versions (the Cass. 512, parallel to and older than Vat. Ottob. 2867, and the Bibl. Acc. Linc, and Cors. 36 G 27, a copy of the Cassinese). 2. See Alighieri, Comentum, 69– 76. 3. See at least the CD-ROM I commenti danteschi dei secoli XIV, XV e XVI, ed. P. Procaccioli (Rome: Lexis, 1999). 4. See M. Chiamenti, “Due schedulae ferine: Dante, Rime CIII 71 and Inf. XVI 45,” Lingua Nostra 59 (1998): 7–10. 5. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Anchor Books, 2002), 207. 6. See M. J. Rocke, Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). 7. This and the quotations that follow are taken from Alighieri, Comentum, 194– 95. 8. See also the variant of “cum omni pecore no coibis” proposed by the Dartmouth Dante Project: “cum omni pecore non coibis.” 9. “The evil of adultery outperforms premarital sex, outperformed by incest. For it is worse to sleep with one’s mother than with a woman not one’s

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own, but the worst of all is what happens against nature, such as when a man uses that part of a female that is not given for this purpose—a matter that is execrable when done to a whore, but more execrable still when done to a wife.” All translations from Latin into English have been inserted by the editors. 10. The interpretation which implicates the wife as being responsible for her husband Jacopo’s fate is already present, along with other alternatives (vel . . . vel . . . vel . . .), in the first draft of the Comentum (see the only nineteenthcentury edition in print: P. Alighieri, Petri Allegherii super Dantis ipsius genitoris Comoedia Commentarium, ed. V. Nannucci [Florence: Piatti, 1845], 178– 79), and is further developed in the second draft (unpublished: see MSS Laur. Ashb. 841, fol. 65v, and Barb. 4029, fol. 39r), and then carved in stone, extended and above all reinforced with all the quotations that I have illustrated above in the third draft (see MS Vat. Ottob. 2867, fols. 54v– 55r). 11. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 363. 12. Robert Hollander liked my interpretation of the fiera moglie enough to write in Inferno, 278: “In the eyes of most readers, Iacopo blames his unwilling wife for his turning to homosexuality. But now see Chiamenti [Chia. 1998.1] who argues that the adjective fiera (bestial) used of her rather suggests her bestial pleasure in having anal intercourse with her husband, a form of sexual practice indeed considered sodomitic.” In accordance with what is said in this note, and to my great satisfaction, the Hollanders translate “la fiera moglie” as “my bestial wife.” 13. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 279. 14. See Alighieri, Comentum, 32– 34. 15. In actual fact, the Laur. Ash. 841, Barb. Lat. 4029, and Vat. Ottob. 2867 manuscripts give the “eiusdem col(l)oris” annotation, while the Cass. 512 explains “similis coloris.” See also the discussion of this question—without, however, knowledge of the text of the second and third drafts of the Comentum — by G. Nencioni, “Note dantesche: ‘Due archi paralelli e concolori’ (Par. XII 11),” Studi danteschi 40 (1963): 42– 50. 16. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. Hollander and Hollander, 495. 17. On this, see E. Fenzi, “Dopo l’edizione Sanguineti: dubbi e proposte per Purg. XXIV 57,” Studi danteschi 68 (2003): 67– 82, where, among other things, he links many copyists’ misinterpretation of chiodo as a noun with an echo from Ecclesiastes 12.11: “Verba sapientis sicut stimuli et quasi clavi in altum defixi.” 18. See Alighieri, Comentum, 34– 38. 19. Ibid., 14– 62. 20. Ibid., 63– 68.

   


Modes of Reading in Boccaccio’s Esposizioni sopra la Comedia  

This essay explores Giovanni Boccaccio’s conception of reading and outlines some of the forms it takes in his incomplete and unfinished Esposizioni sopra la Comedia. In spite of an extensive critical literature,1 the Esposizioni have not been examined in detail from this point of view. This omission is surprising for two main reasons: first, because much recent research on classical, medieval, and Renaissance commentary has emphasized the very close relationship between exegesis and reading habits;2 and, second, because commentary and reading have such a remarkably interwoven centrality in Boccaccio’s oeuvre.3 If handled with due care, commentaries can provide privileged insight into episodes in the history of reading, and offer an important site for understanding how texts were interpreted for, and understood by, later readers of varying cultural levels. After all, we know that Dante read Aristotle, Virgil, his other Latin auctores, and the Bible through commentaries, and that 250

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such mediated readings profoundly marked his perception and understanding of such authorities.4 At the same time, the reliance of Dante’s own early readers on commentaries is richly and amply demonstrated by the exegetical material found throughout the manuscript tradition and print history of the poem,5 and by the fact that even the most sophisticated readers and reusers of Dante in Italy and outside—Petrarch, Chaucer, Poliziano, Ariosto, Milton—came at the poem through the filter of commentary.6 Before we consider what the Esposizioni reveal about the act of reading, some methodological reflections are required. For the commentary is neither a complete nor a straightforward guide to the reading habits deployed in a particular period or for a particular author. Some modes of reading, which were widely practiced between the early Trecento and the late Cinquecento, are not found in the exegesis upon Dante.7 What is more, the extensive use of compilatio—the way later scribes, compilers, and commentators copy from their predecessors, often verbatim and without attribution—complicates the relationship between reading and commentary.8 For this reason, one needs to be careful before one can incontrovertibly attribute any particular interpretation or style of reading to one commentator.9 Further complications arise from the way in which some commentators— and, as we will see, this is particularly true of Boccaccio— not only lift material from others, but may also recycle it from their own earlier works. And, finally, we also need to be cautious when attempting to establish—or take as given—points of contact between any commentary text, its “author(s),” and its cultural context, since such connections are rendered problematic not only by its high level of dependence on earlier authorities but also by the fluid textual status of the commentary itself and by its often limited authorial status.10 The commentary may indeed be a “termometro delle difficoltà della comunicazione” (gauge of the difficulties of communication), as Cesare Segre has aptly put it,11 but Dante commentaries often resist speaking directly about their historical juncture and cultural milieu.12 For instance, the fact that a Dante commentator refers to a little-known classical auctor should not in itself be taken as evidence of either a humanistic sensibility or the recovery of a lost text read in its integrity. The commentator may simply be copying from an earlier Dante commentator or drawing



upon encyclopedias, florilegia, and compilations of collected auctoritates. Indeed, even when a commentator is deeply familiar with a given auctor, rather than return to the original text, he will often reproduce citations found in the earlier Dante commentary tradition, in other commentaries on the classics or legal texts, and in repertoires of citations.13 From these considerations, it follows that, in order to gauge adequately what one commentator borrows from others (and even from himself ), what he may owe to his context, and where he makes his own reelaborations and emphases, the only satisfactory method is to explore each commentary as closely as possible against all the relevant exegetical tradition (and not exclusively that on Dante) which precedes it, against the commentator’s own library, and, where relevant, against his own earlier production. This kind of approach is essential not only for pinpointing elements of continuity within the commentary tradition but also for identifying the updating, revision, and rewriting which its fluid textual status tends to encourage in each new commentator. With the more “authorial” Dante commentators—and Boccaccio is undoubtedly one of these—such a method also allows us to assess the extent to which successive exegetes practice a form of glossatorial aemulatio. In such cases, the most significant features of a commentator’s hermeneutical strategy may only be revealed at the points where, though drawing closely upon a predecessor, he makes modifications and excisions.14 As Zygmunt Barański in particular has shown, critical inquiry into the Dante commentary tradition has often been directed by two unquestioned assumptions: on the one hand, a tendency to regard it as being servile in relation to the Comedy, and hence quite failing to match up to Dante’s masterpiece; and, on the other, a preoccupation with seeing Dante commentaries as providing our best indication of the poet’s forma mentis because they are nearer to him in time.15 Yet such hierarchies of value, which privilege the text commentated over the commentary, tend to inhibit closer inquiry into how and why commentators reuse and reelaborate not only the earlier exegetical tradition but also a wide range of other material and genres (the novella, the cronaca, the sermon, the summa, the encyclopedia, the university lecture, the quaestio, the rhetorical manual, etc.). What is more, Dante commentaries are often concerned with a complex range of questions—epistemological, literary, didactic, ideological—

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that often have relatively little to do with Dante’s text. For these reasons, and as some critics have begun to argue and show, it is important to treat Dante commentaries (or, at the very least, the more “authorial” ones like Boccaccio’s) as autonomous texts that allow a considerable degree of personal innovation, may harbor emulative designs, and are, of course, deeply affected by factors related to geography, audience, and institutional setting. With these cautions and suggestions in mind, let us now turn to Boccaccio’s Esposizioni and explore in more detail their general conception of reading, their principal modes, and some of the issues raised by the commentary’s intricate relationship with other commentaries (including Boccaccio’s own) and with its Florentine context. The circumstances surrounding Boccaccio’s public readings of the Comedy are relatively well known. In June 1373, a number of Florentine citizens petitioned the city’s authorities to elect a skilled and wise man “to read the book which in the vernacular is known as ‘the Dante’ in the city of Florence to all those who want to hear it.” The petition recognizes the Comedy as a source of ethical teachings, by asking for the poem to be made available for all citizens, including those not literate in Latin (the “non gramatici”), who aspire to virtue, shun vice, and cultivate eloquence.16 On August 25, Boccaccio was nominated and appointed for a period of one year, with his first reading beginning on Sunday, October 23, 1373, in the dilapidated Benedictine church of Santo Stefano in Badia. After about sixty lectures, in January 1374, the readings were suspended at the opening lines of Inf. 17, ostensibly because of Boccaccio’s poor health. He did not resume the task, and wrote four sonnets that recant the lecturae Dantis and present his illness as a punishment for having prostituted poetry to the popular throng.17 When he died, on December 21, 1375, his lecture notes— fragmentary and provisional but in parts at least notably reworked—must have been found among his papers. For, in the subsequent controversy over their ownership, one document refers to “24 quaderni e 14 quadernucci tutti in carta di bambagia, non legati insieme, ma l’uno dall’altro diviso, d’uno iscritto, o vero isposizione sopra 16 capitoli, e parte del 17 del Dante, il quale scritto il detto mess. Giovanni non compié” (24 notebooks and 14 memo books all cotton paper, not tied together, but divided from one another, which make up a commentary, or an exposition on Dante in



sixteen chapters, and part of a seventeenth that the above-mentioned Messer Giovanni did not complete).18 Traces of the original oral readings can still be made out in some of the four extant manuscripts, all nonautograph, which transmit the Esposizioni and which formed the basis for Giorgio Padoan’s critical edition. In the accessus, or introductory prologue, for example, Boccaccio refers to the “utilità degli uditori” (usefulness of the listeners) (1), the “presente lettura” (present reading), and the “ordine della lettura” (order of the reading) (10, 17); and in the allegorical gloss to Inf. 1, he again addresses his listeners (53, 57).19 But it is also evident—from internal references to “lettori” (readers), such as the glosses on Inf. 5.138 and Inf. 8.1, comments on the written form of the commentary (118), some lengthy Latin quotations, and the high degree of literary and doctrinal elaboration, especially in the first five cantos— that Boccaccio was intent on fashioning a commentary for readers. Of course, the commentary as it has come down to us still owes much to a particular institutionalized context: public readings promoted by the city’s authorities for moralizing purposes and held in a church before an audience that was very mixed, perhaps even including women, the ones who, in Boccaccio’s view, needed special guidance in reading.20 Boccaccio’s readings (and in part his commentary) were therefore aimed at a less restricted set of interlocutors— a more truly Dantean set of interlocutors, one might say — than the implied readership of many earlier and later commentators.21 Given that late medieval exegesis was flexible and strongly context-specific, further reflection upon this setting, with its mixed audience offers, I believe, a still unexplored line of inquiry for the surviving commentary.22 In what ways, then, does Boccaccio read Dante in the Esposizioni? The first point to note is that almost all his structuring principles, methods of exegesis, and related devices owe much to three interwoven fields: university teaching practice (especially the procedures current in the scholastic lectio with its divisio textus, expositio textus, and quaestiones circa litteram), scholastic literary theory, and the earlier Dante commentary tradition. Boccaccio shows no real originality in the ways in which he approaches Dante’s text and employs related critical idiom. Like several earlier commentators, he uses the academic prologue, or accessus ad auctores, to introduce his author and text in ways that relate the latter to

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certain preestablished literary and philosophical categories.23 Boccaccio’s own accessus brings together disparate elements found in earlier prologues. He follows the traditional four-part structure of the so-called Aristotelian prologue, discussing the Comedy in relation to its material, formal, efficient, and final causes (§§ 7–12). He treats, at some length and with undisguised perplexity, the title of the work (§§ 17– 26), and he includes biographical details and an account of Dante’s personality (§§ 29– 41), in accordance with the Servian tradition of the vitae auctoris so commonly found in accessus to school auctores. He discusses the field of knowledge to which Dante’s poem belongs, a question found in the standard Aristotelian prologue, and relates it to ethics (§ 42). Moral utilitas was probably the single most important hermeneutical category for earlier commentators on the Latin classics, as well as one of the primary motivations put forward in the petition calling for public readings of the Comedy where the poem was to be read “tam in fuga vitiorum, quam in acquisitione virtutum” (both to avoid vice and to acquire virtue).24 What is more, in both the accessus and his allegorical commentary on Inf. 1, Boccaccio incorporates several elements of the interpretive scheme deployed in the Epistle to Cangrande (§§ 7– 9, 15–16), though without ever naming that work. The correspondences have been studied in some detail by Jenaro-MacLennan and Hollander,25 though questions still remain open as to the version Boccaccio may have used.26 In comparison to prologues in the earlier Trecento tradition of Dante commentary, the sections of the accessus that are most original to Boccaccio are his life of Dante and the lengthy account of the location and nature of Hell (§§ 44– 72). There is here a strong tendency to refashion material from his earlier writings. With some updating, the Trattatello in laude di Dante (ca. 1351– 55; later redactions ca. 1365– 70) provides much of his biographical sketch; and his Latin encyclopedia, the Genealogie deorum gentilium (1350– 72), is utilized in order to define poetry, give an account of the classical names of Hell, and provide general information about Hades.27 For our purposes, though, the most notable passage in the accessus is the opening address to the “signori fiorentini,” where Boccaccio professes his inadequacy to deal fully with what he marks out to be three major features of the poem (and by implication his principal tasks as



commentator and public reader): literal exposition of the refined artistry of the text, a concern with the many (hi)stories contained therein,28 and the importance of hidden meanings concealed beneath a poetic covering: io che debbo di me presumere conoscendo il mio intelletto tardo, lo ’ngegno piccolo e la memoria labile, e spezialmente sottentrando a peso molto maggiore che a’ miei omeri si convegna, cioè a spiegare l’artificioso testo,29 la moltitudine delle storie e la sublimità de’ sensi nascosi sotto il poetico velo della Comedìa del nostro Dante. (1) —— [what should I presume of myself, especially insofar as I know that I am slow-witted, of little intelligence, and subject to faulty memory? Indeed, this is especially the case given that I am taking on a weight much greater than that to which my shoulders are suited: the exposition of an artistic text, of multitudes of stories, and of the sublime meanings hidden beneath the poetic veil of our Dante’s Comedy.]30

This statement of intent amounts to a program of reading which is strongly focused upon explication de texte, upon the elucidation of doctrine, myth, legend, and anecdote, and upon allegorism. As we will see, these concerns, alongside his keen attention to ethical reading, inform much of the subsequent commentary. One further comment in the accessus is also of interest. In his discussion of Dante’s choice of the title Comedia, Boccaccio notes how the poem differs from classical comedies because “in questo libro [sc. the Comedy] si pongono comparazioni infinite e assai storie si racontano che dirittamente non fanno al principale intento” (In this book . . . there are innumerable similes and many stories that are not directly pertinent to the author’s principal topics) (5).31 The remark is also deeply revealing of the strategies employed by Boccaccio himself, who, as we shall also see, pays particular attention to topics that lend themselves to digression and narrative embellishment. In the commentary itself, Boccaccio begins each canto with a divisio textus, a detailed division of the text into parts, following techniques which were widely practiced in scholastic commentary and were current in the teaching of legal and other texts at Italian universities, as well as in the sermons of preachers.32 Of course, Dante employs divisioni in his

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own works of self-commentary, and they were codified by his early Latin and vernacular commentators, especially Jacomo della Lana, the proemi to the Ottimo commento, Guido da Pisa, and Pietro Alighieri. Boccaccio’s major structural innovation in the Esposizioni is his decision to separate the literal from the allegorical exposition, although this also owes something to the precedent set by Guido da Pisa’s commentary on the Inferno, in which one finds a full Latin paraphrase of the Italian text before he begins the expositio textus. Other expository techniques in Boccaccio’s commentary are traditional and can almost always be found in the previous Dante commentaries known to him. He uses technical terms such as aprire, sporre, dichiarare, and particella (explain, expose, state, and section).33 He shows a marked tendency toward the scholastic modes of the quaestio and places particular emphasis on digressiones, quaestiones, and dubitationes. Similarly, the expository prose style he adopts (“è da sapere che,” “ma si potrebbe chiedere,” “dubbio è,” “ma potrebbe qui muoversi un dubbio,” “dicono alcuni”) is indebted to scholastic formulas (“Ad hoc autem sciendum est quod/ Circa quod sciendum est,” “quaeriter utrum,” “dubium est utrum,” “dubitabit autem fortasse aliquis,” “quidam dicunt”) that had become standardized in the Trecento commentators. Like some earlier commentators, too, Boccaccio engages in the practice of reading Dante with Dante.34 Even an apparently striking gloss such as that on Inf. 8.1, where he appeals to his readers to decide for themselves which interpretation they prefer, is not without precedent in the exegetical tradition on the Comedy, as well as in medieval Latin commentaries on Aristotle and on curriculum auctores.35 If we leave aside structuring devices and exegetical procedures and now turn to more qualitative questions of how Boccaccio reads Dante, it may be helpful to pinpoint five principal modes: linguistic, doctrinal, novelistic, moralizing, and allegorizing. Of course, these modes of reading are not discrete categories: each one contains a great variety of material, and there is a strong tendency for them to fold into one another. In varying degrees, moreover, all these categories can be found in the earlier Trecento commentary tradition, and further research is needed to establish the nature and extent of the deployment of these and related modes in that body of exegesis. What now follows, then, will necessarily be a provisional attempt to clarify what is meant by each category, to pay



attention to the ways in which they bear a markedly Boccaccian imprimatur, and—most important of all—to understand the modes in relation to his general conception of reading and his broader hermeneutic and cultural strategies. Let us begin with linguistic reading, that is, the close attention Boccaccio pays to Dante’s “artificioso testo” (artistic text). As I have noted, Boccaccio’s most notable structural innovation is the emphasis he places upon literal exposition, and this affords him space to engage in extensive paraphrase of Dante’s poem. A sense of the nature and extent of this preoccupation can be gained from the following examples, extracted from glosses on the opening five lines of Inf. 1, lines 22– 24 of canto 2, and the lemma piagnere in 8.37: Nel mezzo del cammin, cioè dello spazio, di nostra vita, cioè di noi mortali, Mi ritrovai, errando, per una selva oscura, a differenzia d’alcune selve, che sono dilettevoli e luminose, come è la pineta di Chiassi, Ché la diritta via era smarrita. Vuole mostrare qui che di suo proponimento non era entrato in questa selva, ma per ismarrimento. E quanto a dir, cioè a discrivere, qual era, questa selva, è cosa dura, quasi voglia dire: impossibile, Esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte. Pon qui tre condizioni di questa selva. (20) —— [In the middle of the road, of that space, of our life, of us mortals, I found myself, wandering, in a dark wood, as opposed to some other woods that are pleasant and luminous like the pine forest of Chiassi, the right way having been lost. He means to show here that he had not entered there purposefully but because he had got lost. And saying, that is, describing, what it was like, this wood, is such a difficult thing, as if to say it is impossible to describe this wild, harsh and daunting wood. Here, he sets forth three characteristics of this wood.]36 La quale, cioè Roma, e ’l quale, imperio, a voler dir lo vero, Fur stabiliti, ordinati per evidenzia da Dio, per lo loco santo, cioè per la sede apostolica, U’ siede il successor, cioè il papa, del maggior Piero, cioè di san Piero apostolo, il quale chiama ‘maggiore’ per la dignità papale e a differenza di più altri santi uomini nominati Piero. (107) ——

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[‘The one,’ Rome, ‘and the other,’ empire, ‘truth be told, were established,’ were obviously destined by God, ‘to be the holy place,’ the apostolic see, ‘where sits the successor,’ the pope, ‘of Great Peter.’ This is a reference to St Peter the apostle, who is called ‘Great’ on account of holding the office of pope and in order to distinguish him from other saints called Peter.]37 Pongono i gramatici essere diversi significati a diversi vocaboli li quali significan pianto: dicon primieramente che ‘flere’, il quale per volgare noi diciam ‘piagnere’, fa l’uomo quando piagne versando abondantissimamente lagrime; ‘plorare’, il qual similmente per volgare viene a dire ‘piagnere’, è piagnere con mandar fuori alcuna boce; ‘lugere’, il qual similmente per volgare viene a dir ‘piagnere’, è quello che con miserabili parole e detti si fa: e dicono, etimologizando: ‘lugere, quasi luce egere’, cioè avere bisogno di luce . . . e da questo ‘lugeo’ viene ‘lutto’, il vocabolo che qui usa l’autore; ‘eiulare’, che per volgare viene a dir ‘piagnere’, e, secondo piace ai gramatici, ‘piagnere con alte boci’: e dicesi ab ‘ei’ quod est interiectio dolentis; ‘gemere’, ancora in volgare viene a dir ‘piagnere’, e quel pianto che si fa singhiozando; ‘ululare’, in volgare vuol dir ‘piagnere’: e vogliono alcuni questa spezie di piagnere esser quella che fanno le femine quando gridando piangono. E però, dicendo l’autore a questa anima, che ‘con piagnere e con lutto’ si rimagna, non fa alcuna inculcazione di parole, come alcuni stimano, aparendo che le spezie del pianto e di lutto sieno intra sé diverse. (455– 56; all italics in critical ed.) —— [According to grammarians, there are different terms and different meanings related to crying. They say, first, that flere, for which we commonly say ‘to cry,’ is the verb that describes a man who sheds a remarkable abundance of tears when crying. Plorare, which we also commonly take to mean ‘to cry,’ is weeping while uttering some words. Lugere, which likewise commonly means ‘to cry,’ is what one does together with woeful laments and wailing. They say, based on etymology, ‘lugere, quasi luce egere,’ that is, ‘having need of light.’ . . . From the verb lugeo comes luctus, ‘mourning,’ the term the author uses here. Eiulare (which in common speech means ‘to cry,’ and, according to grammarians, ‘to cry with loud utterances’) is said to come ab ‘ei’ quod est interiectio dolentis; . . . gemere in common speech also means ‘to cry,’ and that weeping is done with gasps;



ululare in common speech means ‘to cry,’ and some say that this is the type of weeping that women do when they cry and howl at the same time. Thus, when the author says to this soul, ‘in tears and mourning’ may you remain, he is not guilty of an inculcation of terms, as some claim, insofar as these types of weeping and mourning are different in kind.]38

No other Trecento commentator shows such a heightened concern for Dante’s litterae. What is particularly notable in such passages is Boccaccio’s urge to offer his reader (and his listeners) precise meanings, to give a word-by-word commentary to clarify tercets (sometimes he reorders them), and to offer multiple distinctions and everyday examples to clarify usage. Such practices reveal how acutely aware he is, as commentator, of the potential problems in the dialogic relationship between commentator and reader/listener. Of course, one notes the strong continuities with Boccaccio’s exegetical techniques and conception of reading in several earlier works. For example, the self-glosses in the Teseida display a keen interest in elementary lexical glosses; and, as Jonathan Usher has observed, the desire to provide the maximum amount of assistance to readers is a constant throughout Boccaccio’s career.39 However, it also seems likely that this style of reading is motivated and made all the more pressing by the needs of his low-level addressees at the original public readings. Such interests allow us to glimpse one conception of what, for Boccaccio, constitutes the readability of Dante’s text and the contextspecific demands raised by one category of his listeners and readers.40 Boccaccio’s preoccupation with Dante’s text is not, however, matched by his attempts to judge between different variant readings. On the few occasions when he outlines his reasons for favoring a certain reading, he makes judgments on the basis of personal preference, or else he draws distinctions between different lectiones that rest on notions of perceived logical consistency.41 At the same time, we find more developed forms of linguistic commentary in the various forms of lexical and etymological explanation that he inserts in both the literal and the allegorical exposition. Even in its unfinished and incomplete state, the Esposizioni contain a very rich lexical commentary upon loanwords, fiorentinismi, and Latin and Greek etymologies (many of which are borrowed from the Genealogie). These passages illustrate his deep familiarity with lexicographers

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and etymologists such as Isidore of Seville, Papias, and Hugutio of Pisa, although on occasion he is indebted to earlier Dante commentators.42 By contrast, Boccaccio pays fairly limited attention to figures of speech and other ornamenting devices such as hyperbole, acyrologia, irony, and antiphrasis (I, i, §§ 20, 44, 135; XIII, i, § 4) and offers a few remarks upon the rhetorical framework underpinning certain tales and speeches (I, i, § 7; II, i, § 133).43 A second mode, found throughout the Esposizioni, is doctrinal reading, that is, the use of words, lines, or longer passages as the point of departure for developing lessons and indulging in learned compilation. Boccaccio often develops this mode in a classicizing vein with reference to ancient Roman history, literature, and mythology, although he also includes a considerable body of Greek lore. The best example is his treatment of Dante’s parade of virtuous pagans in Inf. 4. Given Boccaccio’s erudite interest in the tradition of triumphi, this canto is, of course, particularly germane to his sensibilities and interests. Thus, the literal exposition spawns a succession of micro-commentaries which draw upon a vast repertoire of lay exempla from classical literature, and, amounting to nearly 200 paragraphs in Padoan’s edition, make the commentary to this canto the longest in the Esposizioni.44 Classicizing reading is also prominent elsewhere in the commentary, especially in mythological glosses and in the analogies suggested between Latin auctores and Dante the vernacular poet. In the allegorical exposition to the first canto, for example, Boccaccio tells us that Virgil treated the same material as Dante though with another meaning (I, ii, § 148); and in canto 2, after a long description of classical invocations and their varying forms, Dante is said to have followed the Virgilian model: “il nostro autore s’acostò più allo stilo di Virgilio, come in ciascuna cosa fa” (Our author, however, adheres more closely to Vergil’s style, as in everything he writes) (II, i, § 15: 97).45 Boccaccio comments on numerous passages where Dante has taken words, characters, and comparisons from Virgil’s Aeneid, and he also often transfers his earlier exegesis of Virgilian figures in the Genealogie to those that reappear in the Comedy. The belief that Dante closely imitated Virgil’s literary example is even used to justify passages in the Comedy that are either historically inaccurate or potentially heretical (see below). These passages take us to the heart of Boccaccio’s attempts



to emphasize Dante’s links with incipient humanist values, and, in so doing, his deep-felt concern to enter into dialogue with Petrarch regarding Dante’s cultural value. The Esposizioni offer evidence of the tensions in this project, especially with regard to Dante’s use of the vernacular, which Boccaccio resolutely downgrades in relation to Latin (see accessus §§ 19 and 75– 77; XV, i, § 97). And yet the many passages that measure the Comedy’s content, style, and similes against classical auctores provide important evidence of his attempt to present Dante as an auctor whose poetry operates on a level analogous to Latin and Greek poets. This is the very status that Petrarch had implicitly contested both in the Triumphi and in the “defense” of Dante that makes up the celebrated Latin letter (Familiares, 21.15) addressed to Boccaccio in 1359.46 In his antiquarian glosses, Boccaccio frequently reuses and vernacularizes material found in his Latin encyclopedias, especially the Genealogie but also the De claris mulieribus and De casibus virorum illustrium. Padoan’s edition is helpful in identifying borrowings from these works, but once again before we can adequately judge Boccaccio’s “classicization” of Dante, further research is needed to compare his use of auctores with that of earlier Dante commentators, especially Guido da Pisa and Pietro Alighieri, as well as to determine the precise nature of his active reuse of the Genealogie.47 Boccaccio articulates other branches of the late medieval encyclopedia upon the framework of doctrinal reading such as medieval law, theology, geography, municipal history, and natural science (especially medicine, meteorology, astrology, and astronomy), where he is often responsive to Dante’s own scientific interests.48 A few examples must suffice to illustrate something of the range and nature of such passages. Boccaccio is the first Dante commentator to use the classical cosmographer, Pomponius Mela, whose Cosmographia had recently been recovered by Petrarch.49 He makes relevant and original use of Aristotle’s Metaura (i.e., the Meteorologica) in explaining wind and other atmospheric effects.50 And he relies extensively on Giovanni Villani’s Cronica (a source not present in the Trattatello) for his account of recent events in municipal history in Inf. 6 and 10 and the origins of Florence in canto 16.51 Prima facie, such tendencies, which frequently issue into digressive compilation, might appear to be no more than a display of erudition, and thereby establish a point of continuity with the summa-like qualities of

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earlier vernacular Dante commentators such as Lana and the Ottimo commento. It is nonetheless important to remember that such doctrinal interests allow the commentator to synthesize his own worldview and that they may also reveal specific concerns regarding broader contemporary debates (in which Boccaccio and Petrarch were both passionately involved) on the epistemological value of poetry and its relationship to theology and other disciplines. As the proemium and the defense of poetry in the Genealogie make clear, beneath Boccaccio’s sprawling encyclopedism lies a conscious design to allow all fields of knowledge to form part of poetry. The Esposizioni “translate” this program to a vernacular author in an attempt to provide him with the auctoritas normally reserved for the Latin tradition. A third reading habit that is especially prominent in the Esposizioni is the way Boccaccio inserts his own narrative sequences within the fluid textual boundaries of the commentary form. This interest, which has been studied in some detail, takes many forms. He uses direct speech throughout the commentary, shows a strong interest in “storie,” be they biblical, classical, or contemporary, especially when they involve women, and makes his own anecdotes conform to narrative patterns found in the novelistic tradition. In so doing, Boccaccio often replicates the material found in his erudite Latin works and the narrative techniques of the Decameron —the use of disguise, mistaken identity, and final agnitio, as well as static modes of description, and characterization through actions and dialogue.52 The most celebrated storia-novella of all is, of course, his commentary on Paolo and Francesca. In elaborating his version of the story, Boccaccio develops some hints provided by Lana and the Ottimo commento, but he goes far beyond the treatment of the Paolo-Francesca affair provided by earlier commentators in his presentation of the lovetriangle (V, i, §§ 147– 55). Francesca is “giovane e bella figliuola . . . d’altiero animo” (young and beautiful daughter . . . strong willed she is) (315); Gian Ciotto, the villain of the piece, is described as “sozo della persona e sciancato” (physically unattractive and with a limp) (315); Paolo is, following the Ottimo, “bello e piacevole uomo e costumato molto” ([a] handsome, courteous man with a pleasant demeanour) (315).53 Much of the narrative template is provided by the tragic love affair of Ghismonda and Guiscardo in Decameron IV 1. Boccaccio moves swiftly through the subterfuges concerning the marriage to the affair of Paolo and Francesca



and on to their being reported by a vassal (in the Ottimo commento a famigliare informs on them), their discovery in flagrante, the failed escape of Paolo, the accidental killing of Paolo and Francesca (developing suggestions contained in Lana), and their burial (strongly echoing Decameron IV 1, § 62), in “una medesima sepoltura” (317) (the same grave).54 Boccaccio’s own narration is highly self-reflexive, as is suggested by the way he stops his account and pertinently comments upon the strong element of literary confection in Dante’s own invention of the tale: “io credo quello essere più tosto finzione formata sopra quello che era possibile ad essere avvenuto, ché io non credo che l’autore sapesse che così fosse” (316) (I suspect that the story was invented more from what was possible than from what was actually true, given that it is hard to believe that the author could have known what took place).55 Our fourth mode—ethical reading—is, as noted, singled out in the accessus and given added force by the civically charged context of Boccaccio’s lectures. The ethical nature of reading is, of course, one of the central tenets of medieval literary theory, and it forms a major hermeneutical category not only in the late erudite Boccaccio but also in his earlier fictional works.56 Not surprisingly, then, Boccaccio shows a strong interest in moral maxims, stories, and exemplary histories. In his allegorical glosses, he often adopts a markedly moralizing tone—in line with works such as the De casibus and Corbaccio—when condemning sins punished in Hell and matters related to contemporary decadence such as sumptuary misdemeanors and the licentious behavior of the Florentine youth (e.g., X, i, § 33; XV, i, § 51). While some passages are indebted in part to the De casibus and to earlier Dante commentators, especially Guido da Pisa, Boccaccio’s moral outbursts may also respond to the context-specific demands of his audience. As such, these moralizing passages resemble the sermo modernus with whose techniques Boccaccio was so familiar, and they often take on the qualities of the preacher’s sermon in moving and entertaining his audience. Take, for example, the veritable verbal delight Boccaccio shows in his lexical assault upon the gluttonous in the allegorical exposition to canto 6: Questi adunque tutti, ingluviatori, ingurgitatori, ingoiatori, agognatori, arrappatori, biasciatori, abbaiatori, cinguettatori, gridatori, ruttatori, scostumati, unti, brutti, lordi, porcinosi, rantolosi, bavosi, stomacosi,

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fastidiosi e noiosi a vedere e ad udire, uomini, anzi bestie, pieni di vane speranze, sono vòti di pensieri laudevoli e strabocchevoli ne’ pericoli, gran vantatori, maldicenti e bugiardi, consumatori delle sustanzie temporali, inchinevoli ad ogni dissoluta libidine e trastullo de’ sobri. (375) —— [All these men, indeed, beasts, devourers, gulpers, gorgers, cravers, grabbers, slobberers, howlers, natterers, screamers, belchers—sloppy, greasy, ugly, dirty, filthy, wheezy, droolly, revolting, disgusting, and annoying to see and to hear—are full of vain desire, devoid of laudable thoughts, and overflowing with troubles. They are great boasters, cursers, and liars; consumers of worldly goods, they are disposed to every dissolute longing and are the laughingstock of sober men.]57

A further strand in Boccaccio’s concern with ethical reading, especially in relation to his preoccupation with stressing the role of poetry as a moral teacher, is the way he attempts to neutralize Dante’s less orthodox passages. He is, for example, perplexed by some of the figures found in Limbo (Inf. 4), in particular Ovid and the Arab philosophers, Avicenna and Averroës (IV, ii, § 49). He shows some unease with the term fato in Inf. 5 (V, i, § 36), and is most concerned to avoid the necromantic associations implicit in the account of Virgil-character’s earlier journey through Hell at the bidding of Erichtho, a Thessalian sorceress modeled upon Lucan’s De bello civile (Esposizioni IX 1:18 – 20). Inf. 13 is the most problematic canto of all, however. Boccaccio notes that it is “dirittamente contrario alla verità catolica” (directly contrary to Catholic truth) (§ 69: 619)58 to assert (as Dante’s Pier delle Vigne does) that the suicides will not arise from the dead and recover their bodies at the Universal Judgment. Yet, rather than charge Dante with such an error, he uses the device of personae, and argues instead that the poet, in imitation of Virgil (§§ 71– 74), has expressed an erroneous view through one of his characters.59 In the same canto, Boccaccio also resolutely states that to believe that a statue of Mars has power over the bellicose temperaments of the Florentines (as an unnamed character suggests in lines 146 – 50) is to indulge not only in stupidity but also in heresy (§ 104). Such passages reveal a strong and complex interplay between contemporary context, earlier exegetical tradition, and audience. Following



Millard Meiss’s work on Florentine painting after the 1348 plague, Padoan related such apologetic concerns to Boccaccio’s own religious sensibilities and the moral atmosphere of Florence in the late 1360s and early 1370s. And yet, not only has Meiss’s work been subject to some revision in recent years, but it also—and more significantly—can be shown that Boccaccio follows earlier commentators in expressing unease with these passages. For example, in Inf. 13, he owes much to the precedent set by the Ottimo commento, which first uses a somewhat garbled form of the personae theory in order to counter the notion that Dante shares the heterodox view that the suicides will not recover their bodies at the Final Judgment.60 The solicitude with which Boccaccio handles these passages may also be related to the lay audience in Santo Stefano and the learned Augustinians linked with this environment. Finally, it is worth noting that these passages reveal a concern with a classicizing (and theologizing) reading of the Comedy, for Boccaccio’s need to read Dante in an apologetic key determines his engagement in the kinds of evasive strategies that were usually effected upon Latin authors or unpalatable passages in the Bible.61 Critics have noted that, in the Esposizioni, Boccaccio’s use of allegory — our final mode of reading— is often unsuccessful, discontinuous, and strained and that the tendency to separate the literal from the allegorical fundamentally fails to reflect Dante’s own procedure of founding his allegorical figuralism on the historical value of the literal sense.62 This is true, but it rather misses the point. For Boccaccio, allegoresis is crucially important, above all at a programmatic level, in endowing Dante’s text with higher purposes and seriousness. Two passages in particular, one celebrated, the other neglected, will help to illustrate this point. The first is the well-known comparison Boccaccio makes between the Comedy and a great river that is deep enough for an elephant to swim in and yet shallow enough for a lamb to paddle through. He takes this simple but profound analogy from an expression that Saint Gregory had earlier applied to the book of Psalms,63 and employs it to develop the idea that Dante’s poem has more than one mode of reception, differentiated according to the literal and allegorical senses and undertaken by the learned as well as the illiterate. The simple wits can enjoy the delight provided by the literary crust; the erudite Latin-educated elite

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can feast their intellects on the wisdom concealed beneath the poem’s outer shell: Intorno al senso allegorico si possono i savi essercitare e intorno alla dolceza testuale nudrire i semplici, cioè quegli li quali ancora tanto non sentono che essi possano al senso allegorico trapassare . . . dir si può . . . questo libro [sc. the Comedy] essere un fiume piano e profondo, nel quale l’agnello puote andare e il leofante notare, cioè in esso si possono i rozi dilettare e i gran valenti uomini essercitare . . . è da dimostrare la seconda [sc. allegorical part], intorno alla quale si possano gl’ingegni più sublimi essercitare: la qual cosa si farà aprendo quello che sotto la crosta della lettera sta nascoso. (58– 59)64 —— [In this way, wise men may investigate its allegories while simple men (those who still do not perceive enough to be able to get to the allegorical meanings) nourish themselves on the sweetness of the text. . . . we may nonetheless roundly say . . . [that] this book is a stream, both shallow and deep, in which the lamb can walk and the elephant can swim. In other words, in it the uncouth may take delight and men of great value may study. . . . [W]e must now explain the second (the allegorical), in which those of greater intelligence may find stimulation. This we shall do by revealing what is hidden beneath the crust of literal meaning.]65

The second example, if less memorable, is perhaps more interesting still. It is taken from Boccaccio’s gloss on Dante’s second address to his readers (Inf. 9.61– 63), and it is notable for its forceful refutation of the view of those who consider the Comedy to operate solely at the level of the lictera, as well as for its unorthodox reading of “strani,” one which reflects the pressures of a classicizing reading of Dante in a context where, under the influence of Petrarch’s example, Latin was increasingly felt to be the preeminent language of culture: Mirate alla dottrina che s’asconde . . . E fanno queste parole dirittamente contro ad alcuni, li quali, non intendendo le cose nascose sotto il velame di questi versi, non vogliono che l’autore abbia alcuna altra cosa intesa se



non quello che semplicemente suona il senso litterale; li quali per queste parole possono manifestamente comprendere l’autore avere inteso altro che quello che per la corteccia si comprende. E chiama l’autore questi suoi versi “strani”, in quanto mai per alcuno davanti a lui non era stata composta alcuna fizione sotto versi volgari, ma sempre sotto litterali, e però paiono strani, in quanto disusati a così fatto stile. (480)66 —— [Consider the doctrine that is concealed . . . These words of the author directly contradict those who, unable to grasp what is hidden under the veil of these verses, deny that the author intended anything other than simply what is contained in their literal meaning. This passage allows such people to understand clearly that the author did in fact represent more than what may be seen on the surface. The author calls these verses of his ‘strange,’ inasmuch as no one before him had ever composed such a fiction in vernacular verses, but always Latin ones. Thus, these verses seem ‘strange,’ insofar as they are unaccustomed to such a style.]67

In both these passages, Boccaccio retains some interest in Dante’s popular appeal, yet shows how, through its hidden, allegorical senses, his vernacular verse accords with a humanist conception of poetry as a learned product intended for a narrow, educated elite. While the idea of cortex has a long history in ancient, patristic, and medieval literary criticism, Boccaccio’s principal model is found in Macrobius’s theory of narratio fabulosa. Macrobius had justified the philosophical use of poetic myth in narrative as a means of concealing truths from the vulgar throng.68 In both passages, however, the Macrobian distinction is fitted to one of Boccaccio’s most pressing concerns: his attempt to mediate between Dante and Petrarch in their respective guises as theologus poeta and auctor in the vernacular, on the one hand, and supreme Latin poet and cultivator of the classics, on the other. It is difficult not to view these passages as revisiting Familiares 21.15, where Petrarch avoids all mention of allegory and the theologus poeta in relation to Dante, and restricts the Comedy’s mode of reception to the illiterate masses. In that letter, Petrarch was concerned to divorce Dante’s poetry from the aristocratic world of Latin verse, that is, to break the very connections that Boccaccio

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had so carefully attempted to forge in his earlier vernacular fiction and biography of Dante.69 Three main points emerge by way of conclusion. First, the emphasis Boccaccio places on the Comedy as containing a fictive surface that veils higher levels of meaning. Such a conception, borrowed from the allegorical interpretation of Latin poetry and the Bible, allows both literal paraphrase and allegorical reading to exist, albeit as separate phenomena, in an attempt to satisfy the varying levels of literacy of his public and to address some of the fundamental issues in the poem’s Trecento reception and Boccaccio’s own dialogue with Petrarch. Second, the deep concern he shows to provide the maximum amount of help for reading. From this point of view, many of the modes of reading in the Esposizioni — elementary linguistic clarification, doctrinal reading, gap-filling narratives, moralizing sermons, theological questiones—can be viewed as responses to this task and to the public that he had before him at Santo Stefano (though one should not disregard the dulce that Boccaccio offered his listeners and provides for his later readers with his own prose and evident delight in narrativizing). As a commentator, he strives to make known the utile of reading and to ensure that Dante’s readers understand fully the literal sense, yet do not remain rapt in delight solely at this level. The third point arises from the first one, and it concerns Boccaccio’s view of reading as a layered, differentiated activity that takes place at more than one level. As Usher has pointed out, the notion of layered discourse is found in contemporary manuals on preaching, and this offers a further suggestive point of contact between the Esposizioni and the ars praedicandi. Boccaccio’s lectures were, after all, an oral discourse designed to instruct its audience on a subject concerned with morals and based on a “sacred” text; and, in fourteenth-century Italy, as Carlo Delcorno’s studies have shown, preachers employ narrative and illustrative anecdotes, mix doctrinal elements with topics of local color, and draw on the daily experience of their audience.70 As with classicizing reading and allegorism, the notion of differentiated reception also brings us back again to Petrarch. In the Esposizioni, Boccaccio repeatedly presents Dante as a poet who conceals truth under a vernacular shell, a poet who, though “vulgo gratissimus auctor” (a most beloved author of the people), is also “gloria musarum” (the glory of the Muses), and one whose poetry,



notwithstanding its vernacular cover, can be a learned confection comparable to erudite Latin poetry and able to be decoded as such by the commentator.

N  1. Much discussion in the early twentieth century focused on the authenticity of the work and the existence of a Latin original; see D. Guerri, Il commento del Boccaccio a Dante: Limiti della sua autenticità e questioni critiche che ne emergono (Bari: Laterza, 1926). But for a convincing demonstration of its full Boccaccian paternity, see G. Vandelli, “Su l’autenticità del commento di Giovanni Boccaccio (A proposito di una recente pubblicazione),” Studi danteschi 11 (1927): 1–120; G. Padoan, L’ultima opera di Giovanni Boccaccio (Padua: Antenore, 1958), 99–107. The question of a Latin original was raised again by A. Rossi, “L’originale latino delle ‘Expositiones’ boccaccesche sul Dante,” Poliorama 7 (1990): 58– 81. The most valuable earlier contributions include F. Mazzoni, “Guido da Pisa interprete di Dante e la sua fortuna presso il Boccaccio,” Studi danteschi 35 (1958): 29–128; Padoan, L’ultima opera; P. Toynbee, “Index of Authors Quoted by Boccaccio in His Comento: A Contribution to the Study of Sources,” Miscellanea Storica della Valdelsa 21 (1913): 142– 74; P. Toynbee, “Boccaccio’s Commentary on the Divina Commedia,” Modern Language Notes 2, no. 2 (1907): 97–120, reprinted in his Dante Studies (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921), 53– 81. For more recent studies, see (on narrativity) C. Cazalé Bérard, “Dante e Boccaccio: Due strategie del narrare d’amore,” Rivista europea della letteratura italiana 4 (1994): 11– 34; S. H. K. Gertz, “The Readerly Imagination: Boccaccio’s Commentary on Dante’s Inferno V,” Romanische Forschungen 105 (1993): 1– 29; V. Russo, “Nuclei e schemi narrativi nelle Esposizioni,” in his Con le Muse in Parnaso: Tre studi su Boccaccio (Naples: Bibliopolis, 1983), 109– 65; J. Usher, “Paolo and Francesca in the Filocolo and the Esposizioni,” Lectura dantis 10 (1992): 22– 33; (on humanistic elements) C. Cazalé Bérard, “Boccaccio e la difesa dei poeti: Una lettura umanistica,” Le forme e la storia, n.s., 10, nos. 1– 2 (1997): 69– 96; M. Dozon, “Poésie et mythologie: Les Esposizioni de Boccace à la Divine Comédie,” in Pour Dante: Dante et l’Apocalypse. Lectures humanistes de Dante (Paris: Champion, 2001), 305–16; S. Gilson, Dante and Renaissance Florence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 47– 49; (on orthodoxy) T. Boli, “Treatment of Orthodoxy and Insistence on the Comedy’s Allegory in Boccaccio’s Esposizioni,” Italian Culture 9 (1991): 63– 74. For other recent studies, see Z. G. Barański, “‘Alquanto tenea della oppinione degli epicuri’: The Auctoritas of Boccaccio’s Cavalcanti (and Dante),” Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie 13 (2006):

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280– 325; D. Conoscenti, “Fra mala ventura e fuoco del cielo: La sodogomia in Decameron V, 10 e nelle Esposizioni sopra la Comedia,” Heliotriopia 5.2 (2008), available online at; P. Falzone, “La chiosa di Boccaccio a Inf. II 61: ‘L’amico mio, e non de la ventura,’” in Leggere Dante, ed. L. Battaglia Ricci (Ravenna: Longo, 2003), 259– 71; F. Feola, “Il Dante di Giovanni Boccaccio: Le varianti marginali alla Commedia e il testo delle Esposizioni,” L’Alighieri 30 (2007): 121– 34; J. Houston, Building a Monument to Dante: Boccaccio as “Dantista” (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), 124– 56; K. M. Olson, “Resurrecting Dante’s Florence: Figural Realism in the Decameron and the Esposizioni,” Modern Language Notes 124.1 (2009): 45– 65; C. Perrus, “Riscritture dantesche fra Decameron e Esposizioni,” in Autori e lettori di Boccaccio: Atti del Convegno internazionale di Certaldo (20– 22 settembre 2001), ed. M. Picone (Florence: Cesati, 2002), 277– 88. For an overview and further bibliography, see S. Bellomo, Dizionario dei commenti danteschi: L’esegesi della Commedia da Jacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olschki, 2004), 171– 83. For the view that Boccaccio had earlier collated material (already with a strong interest in novelistic insertion) for a possible commentary on the Comedy, ca. 1352– 56, see C. Pulsoni, “Chiose dantesche di mano di Boccaccio,” Italia medioevale e umanistica 37 (1994): 13– 26. On the preparation of an e-text, see G. Armstrong and V. Zafrin, “Towards the Electronic Esposizioni: The Challenges of the Online Commentary,” Digital Medievalist 1, no. 1 (2005), available online at All subsequent references and quotations are to the critical edition prepared by G. Padoan, Esposizioni sopra la Comedia (Milan: Mondadori, 1965). Also helpful are the introduction and concise but rich notes by Michael Papio in his English translation, Boccaccio’s “Expositions” on Dante’s “Comedy” (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), introd. at 3– 35. 2. See esp. C. C. Baswell, “Medieval Readers and Ancient Texts: The Interference of the Past,” Envoi 1 (1988): 1– 22; A. J. Minnis and A. B. Scott with D. Wallace, Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism c. 1100–c. 1375: The CommentaryTradition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991); S. Reynolds, Medieval Reading: Grammar, Rhetoric and the Classical Text (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); K. Stierle, “Studium: Perspectives on Institutionalized Modes of Reading,” New Literary History 22 (1991): 115– 28. See also the edited volumes The Classical Commentary: Histories, Practices, Theory, ed. R. K. Gibson and C. Shuttleworth-Kraus (Leiden: Brill, 2002); Les Commentaires et la naissance de la critique littéraire: France/Italie (XIVe–XVe siècles), ed. G. Mathieu-Castellani and M. Plaisance (Paris: Aux Amateurs de Livres, 1990); Il commento ai testi: Atti del seminario di Ascona, 2– 9 ottobre 1989, ed. O. Besomi and C. Caruso (Basel: Verlag, 1992). 3. On the centrality of reading, see the important essay (to which I am indebted) by J. Usher, “Boccaccio on Readers and Reading,” Heliotropia 1.1



(2003), available online at On the centrality of commentary to Boccaccio, see J. T. Schnapp, “A Commentary on Commentary in Boccaccio,” South Atlantic Quarterly 91, no. 4 (1992): 813– 34; Italian version: J. T. Schnapp, “Un commento all’autocommento nel Teseida,” Studi sul Boccaccio 20 (1992): 185– 203. On Boccaccio as “chiosatore,” see also K. P. Clarke, Chaucer and Italian Textuality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 47– 93; Padoan, L’ultima opera, 47– 70. 4. There is, for example, no detailed study of Servian mediation, but for pertinent suggestions, see G. Brugnoli, “Dante e l’‘interpretatio Vergiliana,’ ” Critica del testo 5, no. 2 (2002): 471– 76; C. Villa, “Tra affetto e pietà: per Inferno V,” Lettere italiane 51 (1999): 513– 41; see also E. von Richthofen, “Traces of Servius in Dante,” Dante Studies 92 (1974): 439– 59. There has also been little critical interest in Dante’s likely reading of Ovid and Statius through commentaries. On biblical commentary, see esp. Z. G. Barański, Dante e i segni: Saggi sulla vita intellettuale di Dante Alighieri (Naples: Liguori, 2000); L. Pertile, La puttana e il gigante: Dal “Cantico dei Cantici” al Paradiso Terrestre di Dante (Ravenna: Longo, 1998); P. Nasti, Favole d’amore e ‘saver profondo’: La tradizione salomonica in Dante (Ravenna: Longo, 2007). For Aristotelian commentary, see S. A. Gilson, “Rimaneggiamenti danteschi di Aristotele nella Commedia: Gravitas e levitas,” in Le Culture di Dante: Studi in onore di Robert Hollander. Atti del quarto Seminario dantesco internazionale, University of Notre Dame (Ind.), USA, 25– 27 settembre 2003, ed. M. Picone, T. J. Cachey Jr., and M. Mesirca (Florence: Cesati, 2004), 151– 77. 5. In spite of Christian Bec’s well-known studies of book ownership, little qualitative work has been done on the commentaries owned, borrowed, copied, and annotated by the merchant classes. Of particular importance here are copies of both the Ottimo commento (see A. P. McCormick “Goro Dati’s Transcription of the Ottimo Commento on Dante,” Rinascimento 2, ser. 22 [1982]: 251– 55); and Jacomo della Lana’s Comento. For some preliminary orientation, see L. Miglio, “Lettori della Commedia: i manoscritti,” in “Per correr miglior acque . . .”: Bilanci e prospettive degli studi danteschi alle soglie del nuovo millenio. Atti del convegno di Verona-Ravenna, 25– 29 ottobre 1999, 2 vols. (Rome: Salerno, 2001), 1:295– 323. A database of manuscripts with commentaries is available online at www.centro; and see now Censimento dei commenti danteschi, 1: I commenti di tradizione manoscritta (fino al 1480), ed. E. Malato and A. Mazzucchi, 2 vols. (Rome: Salerno, 2011). This area would undoubtedly repay the kind of analysis that has been carried out for Venetian readers of Virgil by C. Kallendorf, Virgil and the Myth of Venice: Books and Readers in the Italian Renaissance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999). We also lack detailed study of the rich array of annotations in Renaissance printed editions, but see now N. Bianchi, Le stampe dantesche postillate delle biblioteche fiorentine: “Commedia” e “Convivio” (1472–1596) (Rome: Salerno, 2004); C. Rossignoli, “Una possibile fonte di Castelvetro: Le pos-

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tille dell’incunabolo a. K.1.13 della biblioteca estense di Modena,” Rivista di studi danteschi 3, no. 2 (2003): 351– 80. 6. For the suggestion that Chaucer read Dante with the assistance of Trecento commentary, see D. Pinti, “The Comedy of the Monk’s Tale: Chaucer’s Hugelyn and Early Commentary on Dante’s Ugolino,” Comparative Literature Studies 37, no. 3 (2000): 277– 97. For Petrarch, see the interesting conjectures in Z. G. Barański, “Petrarch, Dante, Cavalcanti,” in Petrarch and Dante: AntiDantism, Metaphysics, Tradition, ed. Z. G. Barański and T. J. Cachey Jr. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009), 50–113 (68). For Poliziano’s use of Benvenuto da Imola, see Gilson, Dante and Renaissance Florence, 155. For Ariosto’s reactions to Cristoforo Landino, see E. G. Haywood, “Ariosto on Dante: Too Divine and Florentine,” in Dante Metamorphoses: Episodes in a Literary Afterlife, ed. E. G. Haywood (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003), 71–104. For Milton’s use of Bernardino Daniello, see I. Samuel, Dante and Milton: The “Commedia” and “Paradise Lost” (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966), 25– 28, 107, 127. 7. For example, lectio spiritualis, the spiritualist-devotional mode that involves meditating on the text as a window onto the divine; see esp. B. Stock, After Augustine: The Meditative Reader and the Text (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001). 8. On compilation, see esp. A. J. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages, 2nd ed. (Aldershot: Scolar, 1988), 192– 97. The practice is widespread in almost all the Trecento Dante commentators (including Boccaccio), see, e.g., L’Ottimo commento della Divina Commedia: Testo inedito d’un contemporaneo di Dante, ed. A. Torri, 3 vols. (Pisa: Capurro, 1829; anast. repr. Bologna: Arnaldo Forni, 1995), 1:46: “Un’altra chiosa dice . . .” (Another gloss says . . .); 2:102: “Questa chiosa è tratta da diverse chiose: però pare varia” (this gloss is taken from several glosses, which explains its heterogeneity). 9. See Minnis, Scott, and Wallace, Medieval Literature Theory, 318–19: “the notion of plagiarism, which has its roots in post-Romantic notions of literary individuality, is inappropriate to medieval traditions of commentary, in which each new generation of students sought to augment the doctrine channelled by their masters”; see also C. Villa, “Il ‘secolare commento’ alla Commedia: Problemi storici e di tradizione,” in “Per correr miglior acque,” 1:549– 68 (561– 62). 10. On the fluid textual status of commentaries, see L. C. Rossi, “Problemi filologici dei commenti antichi a Dante,” Annali della facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia dell’università di Milano 54.3 (2001): 113– 40. On authorial status, see the oftencited distinctions between scriptor, compilator, commentator, and auctor in Bonaventure, Commentaria in IV libros Sententiarum, Proemium, quaest. IV, conclusio, in Doctoris Seraphici S. Bonaventurae s.r.e. episcopi cardinalis Opera omnia, 11 vols. (Quaracchi: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 1882– 1902), 1:14–15.



11. C. Segre, “Per una definizione del commento ai testi,” in Il commento ai testi, 4. 12. For related examples concerning the limitations of applying fideism to Guido da Pisa and humanism to Benvenuto, see respectively Bellomo, Dizionario, 40– 41; C. Dionisotti, “Lettura del Comentum di Benvenuto da Imola,” in Atti del Convegno di Studi Danteschi (Ravenna: Longo, 1979), 203–15. 13. Guido da Pisa and the Ottimo commento both make extensive use of florilegia and encyclopedic works; see A. M. Caglio, “Materiali enciclopedici nelle Expositiones di Guido da Pisa,” Italia medioevale e umanistica 24 (1981): 213– 56; G. De Medici, “Le fonti dell’Ottimo Commento alla Divina Commedia,” Italia medioevale e umanistica 26 (1983): 71–123. Pietro Alighieri’s citations of the Bible and classical auctores are often secondhand, being mediated through legal texts; on this, see Bellomo, Dizionario, 81. The majority of Landino’s biblical quotations are in turn mediated through Pietro Alighieri; see, e.g., Landino, Comento sopra la Comedia, ed. P. Procaccioli, 4 vols. (Rome: Salerno, 2001), 2:515, 518 (three), 524 (three), 579 (two), 613 (three), 642– 43 (three), 229– 30, 749– 50 (two), 765 (two), 770 (two), 823 (three), 887, 921, 972– 73 (two), 980 (two). These thirty quotations correspond to the same citations ad locum in Il “Commentarium” di Pietro Alighieri nelle redazioni ashburnhamiana e ottobaniana, ed. R. della Vedova and M. T. Silvotti (Florence: Olschki, 1978), 155– 56, 161, 190– 91, 208, 294– 95, 301– 2, 306– 7, 330– 31, 360, 380, 410, 416, 418 (1st redaction). 14. For an exemplary illustration of emulative practices in Benvenuto’s rewriting of Boccaccio’s Trattatello, see Z. G. Barański, “Boccaccio, Benvenuto e il sogno della madre di Dante incinta,” in his “Chiosar con altro testo”: Leggere Dante nel Trecento (Florence: Cadmo, 2001), 99–116. For a later example, see S. A. Gilson, “Notes on the Presence of Boccaccio in Cristoforo Landino’s Comento sopra la Comedia,” Italian Culture 23 (2005): 1– 30. For emulative qualities in naturalistic glosses, see also S. A. Gilson, “Notes on the Presence of Albert the Great in Benvenuto da Imola’s Comentum super Dantis Aldigherij Comoediam,” in Science and Literature in Italian Culture from Dante to Calvino, ed. P. Antonello and S. Gilson (Oxford: Legenda, 2004), 72– 92; S. A. Gilson, “Science in and between Dante and His Commentators: The Case of Cristoforo Landino,” Annali d’Italianistica 25 (2005): 31– 54. The discriminations provided by the study of emulation in Dante commentary may well be fruitful when applied more fully to little-studied areas of the Dante commentary tradition such as Giovanni da Serravalle’s relationship to Benvenuto da Imola. The topic merits further exploration in relation to Boccaccio himself; it is well known that he consciously resists Guido da Pisa, see Mazzoni, “Guido da Pisa.” 15. See esp. Barański, “L’esegesi medievale della Commedia e il problema delle fonti,” in “Chiosar con altro testo,” 13– 39. This is not to dismiss, as Barań­ski argues, the value of the Trecento commentaries as interpretive guides and

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sources of historical information (the Esposizioni are useful in both respects). See also Bellomo, Dizionario, 29, 45– 46; D. Parker, “Interpreting the Commentary Tradition to the Comedy,” in Dante: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. A. A. Iannucci (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 240– 58 (247– 50). See also the essay by Bellomo in this volume. 16. Latin provisions quoted in Guerri, Il commento, 206: “Pro parte quamplurium civium civitatis Florentiae desiderantium, tam pro se ipsis quam pro aliis civibus aspirare desiderantibus ad virtutes, quam etiam pro eorum posteris et descendentibus, instrui in libro Dantis, ex quo tam in fuga vitiorum, quam in acquisitione virtutum, quam in ornatae eloquentiae possunt etiam non gramatici informari . . . unum valentem et sapientem virum, in huiusmodi poesiae scentia [sic] bene doctum, pro eo tempore quo velitis, non maiore unius anni, ad legendum librum qui vulgariter appellatur el Dante, in civitate Florentiae, omnibus audire volentibus, continuatis diebus non feriatis et per continuatas lectiones.” 17. Rime, 122– 26, ed. V. Branca (Milan: Mondadori, 1992), 95– 96. On these sonnets, see also P. Baldan, “Pentimento e espiazione di un pubblico lettore (Boccaccio e la Commedia dantesca),” in his Nuovi ritorni su Dante (Alessandria: Edizioni dell’Orso, 1998), 89–101. 18. Guerri, Il commento, 215 (dated April 18, 1377). 19. Hereafter, I will indicate page numbers from the Padoan’s edition when I give a direct citation from the Esposizioni, whereas I will provide the canto, the paragraph (§), and where necessary the line number to refer to the content of Boccaccio’s text more generally. 20. See n. 56. 21. Boccaccio’s letture set two important precedents for the later tradition: subsequent Dante commentators will produce public readings that find their way, at least in part, into commentary form (Francesco da Buti, Cristoforo Landino, Giovan Battista Gelli); and they will often do so in institutionalized forms, especially in Florence and Pisa. 22. This kind of study may prove more fruitful than the psychologizing approach favored by Padoan (e.g., Esposizioni, Introd., xxviii), who sees the Esposizioni as, inter alia, characterized by the elderly Boccaccio’s doubts and agitations at the end of his literary and scholarly iter. On the “non gramatici,” see n. 16. 23. There is now an extensive bibliography on the accessus (used for introducing Latin texts in theology, scriptural exegesis, literary criticism, law and philosophy); see esp. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship, 9– 72; B. Nardi, “Osservazioni sul medievale ‘accessus ad auctores’ in rapporto all’Epistola a Cangrade,” in Studi e problemi di critica testuale (Bologna: Commissione per i testi di lingua, 1961), 273– 305; E. A. Quain, “The Medieval Accessus ad auctores,” Traditio 3 (1945): 215– 64. For a succinct analysis of its presence in the Trecento commentators, see S. Botterill, “The Trecento Commentaries on Dante’s Commedia,” in



The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 2: The Middle Ages, ed. A. Minnis and I. Johnson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 590– 611. 24. See note 16. On ethical reading, see at least the seminal work by J. Boyce Allen, The Ethical Poetic of the Later Middle Ages: A Decorum of Convenient Distinction (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982); V. Gillespie, “From the Twelfth Century to c. 1450,” in The Cambridge History, 145– 238 (161– 78). See also n. 56. 25. See L. Jenaro-MacLennan, The Trecento Commentators on the Divina Commedia and the Epistle to Cangrande (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 105– 23; R. Hollander, Dante’s Epistle to Congrande (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), 26– 32, 80, 99–100. It is especially notable that Boccaccio is the only Trecento commentator to use the term “poliseno” (a very rare term in early Italian) in Esposizioni, I, ii, §§ 18 and 21, 57– 58; see “polisenum, hoc est moltiplicium sensum” (polysemous, that is, bearing multiple senses), in Genealogie deorum gentilium, I, c. 3, ed. V. Romano, 2 vols. (Bari: Laterza, 1951), 1:19. See Epistola XIII, § 7, in Dante Alighieri, Opere minori, ed. D. De Robertis et al., 2 vols. (Milan: Ricciardi, 1979– 88), 1:610: “non est simplex sensus, ymo dici potest polisemos, hoc est plurium sensuum” (there is no single sense, indeed it can be said to be polysemous, that is, having multiple senses). “Polysemus sermo” is also found in Servius on Aeneid I, 1; see Servii Grammatici qui feruntur in Vergilii Carmina Commentarii, ed. G. Thilo and H. Hagen, 3 vols. (Leipzig: Teubner, 1884), 1:6. By contrast, Boccaccio’s classification under ethics, though found in the Epistle, is eminently topical and is quoted by all Dante commentators (Botterill, “The Trecento Commentaries,” 597). 26. For important recent evidence that the Cangrande epistle may well have circulated in Florence as Dantean before 1340, see L. Azzetta, “Le chiose alla Commedia di Andrea Lancia, l’Epistola a Cangrande e altre questioni dantesche,” L’Alighieri 44 (2003): 5– 76. 27. For these borrowings, see Padoan, L’ultima opera, 93– 95 (Genealogie) and 96– 97 (Trattatello); see also the notes in Papio’s English translation. The most important biographical innovation in the Esposizioni is the name of Beatrice’s husband; see C. Calenda, “Beatrice nei commenti antichi,” in Beatrice nell’opera di Dante e nella memoria europea: Atti del Convegno Internazionale, 10–14 dicembre, 1990, ed. M. Picchio Simonelli (Florence: Cadmo, 1994), 219– 29 (225– 29). 28. On the meanings of “storia/istoria,” see S. Sarteschi, “Valenze lessicali di ‘novella’, ‘favola’, ‘istoria’ nella cultura volgare fino a Boccaccio,” in Favole, Parabole, Istorie: Le forme della scrittura novellistica dal Medioevo al Rinascimento. Atti del Convegno di Pisa, 26– 28 ottobre 1998, ed. G. Albanese, L. Battaglia Ricci, and R. Bessi (Rome: Salerno, 2000), 85–118. A strong interest in the “historias,” both biblical and classical, that Dante inserts in his narrative is notable

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in Guido da Pisa, Expositiones et Glose super Comediam Dantis, ed. V. Cioffari (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1974), 9; Guido divides Inf. 26 into five “notabiles ystorie” (534). The term istoria is also widely used in Lana (e.g., ad loc. for Inf. 2.100– 02; Inf. 5.97– 99; Inf. 30.97) and the Ottimo commento, 1:512. Pietro Alighieri also makes some use of ystoria in his Commentarium, 4, 101, 222 (1st redaction). Note, however, that Boccaccio, despite his keen interest in inserting novelistic elements in the Esposizioni, hardly ever uses the term novella and then pejoratively, e.g., IX, i, § 91, 491 (in the Decameron, of course, he had strongly favored “novella” over “storia”). By contrast, Lana and the Ottimo commento make repeated use of the term novella to indicate internal stories of characters and the macro-story of Dante (see Sarteschi, “Valenze,” 100 –102). On the importance of the hystorialis sensum in the Genealogie, see I 3; and the discussion of four categories of poetic fiction in XIV 9, ed. Romano, 1:19; 2:706 – 7; see also XV 5, 2:758 – 59, which separates “hystorias” from “fabulas.” 29. See Genealogie, XIV 22, 2:748: “noster Dantes, dato materno sermone, sed artificioso scriberet, in libro, quem ipse Comediam nuncupavit, defunctorum triplicem statum iuxta sacre theologie doctrinam designavit egregie” (our Dante, though he wrote in his maternal language he did so with great artifice in the book which he called the Comedy, where he describes with great mastery the three-fold condition of the dead in accordance with the teachings of holy theology). 30. Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 39. 31. Translation from Italian: Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 42. 32. On the divisio textus, see esp. Minnis, Scott, and Wallace, Medieval Literary Theory, 376– 77. 33. On the rare vernacular term particella (Esposizioni, 30, 47, 51, 178), deriving from the scholastic Latin particula (e.g. Guido, Expositiones, 516), see esp. Dante, Vita nova 21.5. 34. See, e.g., Esposizioni, I, i, § 33; II, i, §§ 83– 84, 26, 114. This technique (found in earlier commentators, especially the Ottimo commento) is not pioneered by Filippo Villani, as is suggested in G. Mezzadroli, “Rassegna di alcuni commenti trecenteschi alla Commedia,” Lettere italiane 44 (1992): 130– 73 (164– 65). 35. Esposizioni, 450: “lascerò nel giudicio de’ lettori: ciascun ne creda quello che più vero o più verisimile gli pare” (I shall leave to the judgment of the readers, each of whom can believe whatever seems to him truest or most likely) (Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 386); see also I, ii, § 177, 91. But for the reluctance to impose meaning on the reader in Pietro Alighieri, see Botterill, “The Trecento Commentaries,” 603. For this concern in philosophical commentary and philosophizing literary commentary, see, e.g., Albert the Great, Meteora, III 1.11, ed.



P. Hossfeld (Münster: Aschendorff, 2004), 114: “Et ideo lectoris iudicio relinquens, quid teneat . . . ” (And thus leaving it to the reader’s judgment as to which view to accept . . .); Bernard Silvestris, Commentarium in Aeneid libros sextus, ed. Julian Ward Jones and Elizabeth Frances Jones (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977), 9. The emphasis on the active participation of the reader is repeatedly developed in curriculum commentaries from the twelfth century, see Gillespie in The Cambridge History, 147– 48. See also Genealogie, XIV 12, 2:716–17. 36. Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 54. 37. Ibid., 121. 38. Ibid., 390– 91. 39. See, e.g., Teseida, ed. A. Limentani (Milan: Mondadori, 1964), 621, 641, 646, 653– 54, 661. Usher’s essay is cited in note 3. 40. One notes, by contrast, how the absence of literal exposition in Filippo Villani’s Latin commentary on Inf. 1 can be related to the fact that it is addressed to a high-level avant-garde audience. On this point, see Expositio seu Comentum super “Comedia” Dantis Allegherii, ed. S. Bellomo (Florence: Le Lettere, 1989), 97. 41. For some discussion of these loci in Boccaccio, see A. Mazzucchi, “La discussione della varia lectio nel commento di Benvenuto da Imola e nell’antica esegesi dantesca,” in “Per correr miglior acque,” 2:955– 82 (959– 60). 42. For Boccaccio’s references to these authorities, see the index auctoris and relevant notes in Padoan’s edition. Isidore and Hugutio are especially common points of reference in the Dante commentaries by Guido da Pisa, the Ottimo commento, and Pietro Alighieri. Boccaccio’s reference to Papia in Esposizioni II, i, 37, 101, is indebted to Pietro, Commentarium, 60 (2nd redaction). 43. Guido da Pisa’s linguistic observations are often particularly acute. For the Trecento commentators on metaphor and other linguistic matters, see D. Gibbons, Metaphor in Dante (Oxford: Legenda, 2002), 134– 54; F. Franceschini, “Commenti danteschi e geografia linguistica,” in Italica Matritensis: Atti del IV Convegno SILFI (Madrid 27– 29 giugno 1996), ed. M. T. Navarro Salazar (Florence: Cesati, 1998), 213– 31; F. Franceschini, “Tra secolare commento e storia della lingua,” in Leggere Dante, 83–112. Some of Boccaccio’s etymologies seem to derive from Guido (e.g., “idre” in IX, i, § 27, 473; see Expositiones, 182). Before adequate assessment can be made on Boccaccio’s originality and interests, however, a closer study of the various forms of linguistic glossing in the earlier Dante commentary tradition is still required. 44. See, e.g., classical lore, esp. IV, i, passim, and V, i, 53–134; also on Greek lore, see accessus § 61; IV, i, §§ 91–111; II, i, §§ 13, 35; I, ii, § 30; XV, § 93; III, i, § 26; X, § 23; XII, ii, § 29; XVI, § 9. 45. See also Esposizioni, IV, i, § 155; VIII, i, § 34; the first text cited, however, draws upon Pietro Alighieri ad locum, see Commentarium, 100 (3rd redaction).

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For other Virgilian citations taken from Pietro, see, e.g., Esposizioni, I, i, § 119; II, i, § 58; III, i, §§ 9 and 64, 45, 108, 141, 153 (see Pietro, Commentarium, 45, 61, 80, 85, 1st redaction). Translation from Italian: Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 114. 46. Most recently on this letter (with extensive bibliography), see Barań­ski, “Petrarch, Dante, Cavalcanti.” 47. Such a study would need to include Boccaccio’s references to, and unattributed use of, Cicero (see in part Falzone, “La chiosa”), Virgil, Ovid, Lucan, Statius, Juvenal, Horace, Seneca, Pliny, Suetonius, Tacitus, Valerius Maximus, and Donatus, as well as his use of ancient and medieval commentaries (Servius, Fulgentius, and Bernard Silvestris on Virgil; Lactantius Placidus on Statius and Macrobius; Nicholas Trevet on Seneca). In addition to Padoan, see now the notes in Papio’s English translation. One must be careful not to assume that Boccaccio, for all his erudition and antiquarian interests, is a more sophisticated and empathetic reader of Dante in relation to the classics than earlier commentators. Ovid, for example, is quoted more extensively and at times with greater empathy by Guido da Pisa (e.g., his comment on the Metamorphoses as “quidem liber paganorum biblia posset merito appellari” [Esposizioni, 72]) and Pietro Alighieri (e.g., on the Ovidian analogues in Inf. 13 [Commentarium, 235]). For Virgilian borrowings from Pietro in the Esposizioni, see n. 45. See also Paola Nasti’s contribution to this volume. 48. For select examples, see geography (accessus, § 65; IX, i, § 83; X, §§ 21– 24; XIV, i, §§ 14–19; XVI, §§ 66– 74); medicine (I, i, §§ 16 and 37; IX, i, § 4; X, i, § 88; XIII, § 43; XV, §§ 14, 79– 80); law (IV, ii, § 25); theology (I, i, §§ 152– 53; III, i, §§ 27– 28); meteorology (III, i, §§ 19, 89; IV, i, § 7; V, i, 42; XII, ii, § 23); astrology/astronomy (I, i, §§ 13–14, 26– 29; I, ii, §§ 162– 63; II, i, § 5; V, i, 162– 63; XI, §§ 77– 81; XV, §§ 30– 32). On poetry as encompassing the liberal and moral arts, ancient and modern history, geography and the natural world, see Genealogie, XIV 7, 2:700. 49. For Mela, see the index auctorum in Padoan’s edition. 50. For Aristotle’s Metaura (also known to Lana and the Ottimo commento, though not cited for the loci examined by Boccaccio), see Esposizioni, III, i, §§ 18–19, 89; IV, i, § 7; V, i, § 42. For further discussion, see A. Cornish, “The Vulgarization of Science: Dante’s Meteorology in Context,” in Science and Literature, 53– 71. Note also, for the terms enephias and tiphon (Boccaccio, Esposizioni, IX, i, § 42, p. 481), the influence of Pliny, an important antiquarian source for Boccaccio after 1351; see Historia naturalis, II 49.131, ed. H. Rackham (London: Heinemann, 1967), 1:270. 51. On the use of Villani (often with direct formal correspondences), see F. Bruni, “La proiezione dell’attualità politica sul passato: Note su cronisti, narratori, commentatori della Commedia nel xiv secolo,” Modern Philology 101 (2003): 204– 34 (222– 26); see also Russo, “Nuclei,” 127– 29.



52. For Boccaccio’s novelistic qualities, see the studies listed in n. 1. Novelistic concerns are prominent in the earlier Trecento tradition. In some manuscripts, the opening proemio to the Ottimo commento declares its intention to “narrare le storie e le favole” (narrate the stories and tales) (see also n. 60), and Lana, in his introductory proemio, speaks of Dante’s intention to “narrare molte novelle” (narrate many stories). On novelle in Lana, see B. Sandkühler, Die frühen Dantekommentare und ihr Verhältnis zur mittelalterlichen Kommentartradition (Munich: Verlag, 1967), 192– 206. I have not been able to consult F. Geymonat, “Quel che dicono le novelle dei commentatori trecenteschi alla Commedia,” in La narrativa italiana: Actas del VIII Congreso Nacional de Italianistas, ed. M. D. Valencia (Granada: Universidad de Granada, 2000), 239– 46. 53. Translations from Italian: Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 279, 279– 80. 54. References in order: Ottimo commento, 1:83; Lana, Inf. 5.106– 08 ad loc.: “infine [Gianciotto] trovolli in sul peccato, prese una spada, e conficolli insieme in tal modo che abbracciati ad uno morirono” (eventually he [Gianciotto] caught them in the act, took a sword and killed them together in such a way that they died in each other’s arms); Decameron, IV 1.62, ed. V. Branca (Milan: Mondadori, 1976), 365: “ammenduni in un medesimo sepolcro gli fé sepellire” (he had both of them buried in the same tomb); for the role of a famigliare, see also § 49, p. 363. For further commentary, see Russo, “Nuclei,” 154– 64; and see now esp. L. Azzetta, “Vicende d’amanti e chiose di poema: alle radici di Boccaccio interprete di Francesca,” Studi sul Boccaccio 37 (2009): 155– 70; T. Barolini, Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006), 316– 23. 55. On the need for fiction to be based on truth/verisimilitude in narrative works, see Cicero, De inventione, I 21.29, ed. H. M. Hubbell (London: Heinemann, 1968), 60; Servius on Aen. 1.235, 1:4; Macrobius, Commentarium in Somnium Scipionis, I 2.10, ed. J. Willis (Leipzig: Teubner, 1963), 6: “modus per figmentum vera referendi” (a way of telling truth through fictions). Translation from Italian: Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 280. 56. See esp. Decameron, proemio § 14, 5: “le già dette donne, che queste [sc. Boccaccio’s “novella”] leggeranno, parimente diletto delle sollazzevoli cose in quelle mostrate e utile consiglio potranno pigliare, in quanto potranno cognoscere quello che sia da fuggire e che sia similmente da seguitare” (Those ladies I have mentioned previously will, when they read them [Boccaccio’s “novella”], derive useful advice as well as delight from the entertaining things revealed. For they will realize what courses are to be shunned and what pursued) (Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron, trans. J. G. Nichols [New York: Knopf, 2009], 5). 57. Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 326. 58. Ibid., 519.

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59. On the use of personae and its model in Servius, see A. J. Minnis, “Theorizing the Rose: Commentary Tradition in the ‘Querelle de la Rose,’” in Poetics: Theory and Practice in Medieval English Literature, ed. P. Boitani and A. Torti (Cambridge: Boydell & Brewer, 1991), 13– 36. 60. Ottimo commento, 1:255 (Inf. 13.144 ad loc.): “Come detto è nel cominciamento di questo libro, l’Autore poetando, siccome li altri poeti, alcuna volta pone storia, alcuna volta favola, alcuna volta una novella, alcuna volta una truffa, alcuna volta una oppinione, non perch’elli creda quella oppinione, ma poetandola, e ornandone sua materia” (As mentioned at the beginning of this book, the Author, like other poets, at times poeticizes a story, and at others a tale, or a novella, sometimes a swindle, or a certain view, not because he believed in it, but by poeticizing and embellishing his material). 61. As well as Servius (e.g., esp. on Aen. I 23, 1:21), the late medieval commentary tradition on Horace and Ovid (a tradition which Boccaccio knew well) had taught exegetes to separate the poet and his voices; see Gillespie, in The Cambridge History, 165. Also notable is Augustine’s well-known advice to use allegory when the divine word does not pertain to virtuous behavior or the truth of faith in De doctrina Christiana, Patrologia Latina 34, ed. P. J. Migne (Paris: Garnier, 1895) coll. 15–122, III, X, 14, col. 71. 62. On the limitations of Boccaccio’s allegory, see esp. F. Bruni, Boccaccio e l’invenzione della letteratura mezzana (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1990), 471– 74. On the discontinuous (and diminishing) use of allegory in the Esposizioni, see the examples and commentary given in Usher, “Boccaccio on Readers.” The treatment of allegory as discontinuous is a common feature found in earlier Dante commentators, e.g., Pietro, Commentarium, 3– 4. Boccaccio also advocates the multiple application of allegory (Esposizioni VII, ii, § 31, pp. 415–16); for which, see, e.g., Bernard Silvestris, Commentarium in Aeneid libros sextos, 9. 63. Moralium libri, sive expositio in librum beatum Job, epistola missoria (PL 75:515). 64. On the shell, see esp. Trattatello in laude di Dante §§ 138– 40, ed. P. G. Ricci (Milan: Mondadori, 1973), 471– 72; Genealogie, I 3, 1:19: “sensus primus habetur per corticem, et hic licteralis vocatus est; alii per significata per corticem, et hi allegorici nuncupantur” (the first sense or level of meaning is obtained through the husk or outer layer and this is the literal sense; the other senses contained under the husk are called allegorical); see also XIV 1, 7–10, 12, 22, 2:681– 82, 699– 711, 714–17, 748. On the cortex, see also the passage quoted from the Ottimo commento in note 66. See also Guido da Pisa, Expositiones, 6: “lictera sive hystoria unum significat in cortice et aliud in medulla” (the words and the story mean one thing at the level of the husk or outer layer and another in the core or marrow); Pietro Alighieri, Commentarium, 437: “obmissa cortice dictorum verborum et superficie veniamus ad medullam” (having removed the



husk and surface of the words we come to the marrow) (3rd redaction). For other passages in the Esposizioni that draw attention to veiling, “fabuloso parlare” (fabulous description) and “artificiosa finzione” (poetic fashion) (Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 79, 163), see, e.g., I, ii, § 3; III, i, § 14; VII, ii, § 4; IX, ii, §§ 3, 39, 54, 163, 410, 496, 505. 65. Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 83. 66. See Ottimo commento, 1:164: “non sarebbe contento l’Autore, che uno uomo di vivace intelletto stesse pur alla corteccia della favola; ma vuole che cerchi la sua significazione, e applichila alla materia, siccome è la propria intenzione dell’Autore” (the Author would not be happy if a man of lively intellect remained at the husk of the story; rather, he would want him to grasp its meaning, and apply it to the issue at hand, since this is the intention of the Author). Compare also the well-known maxim “legere enim et non intelligere neglegere est” (to read and to not understand is like not reading) in the introductory epistle to the Disticha Catonis. 67. Papio, Boccaccio’s “Expositions,” 410. Translation slightly amended. 68. See In Somnium Scipionis, I, ii, §§ 9–19: 5– 7, esp. § 17 (7): “quia sciunt inimicam esse naturae apertam nudamque expositionem sui, quae sicut vulgaribus hominum sensibus intellectum sui vario rerum tegmine operimentoque subtraxit, ita a prudentibus arcana sua voluit per fabulosa tractari” (Nature has viewed it as distasteful for there to be a frank and open exposition of herself, and just as she has held back understanding of herself from the vulgar senses of men by clothing herself in varied garments, so too has she wished that more prudent men have access to her secrets through fabulous narratives) (7). For further discussion, see Usher, “Boccaccio on Readers.” 69. On the Petrarch –Boccaccio dialogue sub specie Dantis, see Gilson, Dante and Renaissance Florence, 21– 53 (with further bibliography). 70. On Boccaccio’s deep familiarity with, and creative reworking of, the artes praedicandi, see C. Delcorno, “La predica di Tedaldo,” Studi sul Boccaccio 27 (1999): 55– 86 (with further bibliography); J. Usher, “Frate Cipolla’s Ars praedicandi or a ‘recit du discours’ in Boccaccio,” Modern Language Review 88, no. 2 (1993): 301–18.

  


Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento alla “Commedia” di Francesco da Buti (con una nota sulla cultura grammaticale e lessicografica dell’autore)             

Queste note nascono dall’esigenza di studiare i commenti antichi alla Commedia come opere autonome, al fine di poter comprendere in maniera obiettiva e imparziale sia i commentatori che gli ambienti educativi nei quali si sono formati.1 Una volta inquadrata nel contesto storico e culturale in cui è stata prodotta, l’antica esegesi potrà essere di nuovo accostata al poema di Dante, in modo da “far reagire testo e glossa in maniera fruttuosa.”2 283



In rapporto al lavoro esegetico di Francesco da Buti, in questi ultimi anni sono stati realizzati studi significativi, che hanno finalmente iniziato a guardare al commento dalla giusta angolazione, ossia come a un’opera a sé stante rispetto alla Commedia, che gode di una propria autonomia all’interno di uno specifico genere letterario.3 Questo contributo, che analizza un particolare passo del commento butiano all’Inferno, rientra in un progetto di più ampio respiro dedicato allo studio delle sue fonti e dei rapporti intercorsi con la tradizione esegetica anteriore e coeva nonché medievale in genere. Da una ricerca così impostata, si crede che potranno apparire più chiari i meccanismi di composizione dell’opera nonché le ragioni che l’hanno prodotta. L’analisi che qui si presenta, delimitata a un particolare passo del commento e quindi lontana dall’essere esaustiva, mira a fornire alcuni spunti sulle modalità di lavoro di un commentatore dantesco del XIV secolo, fortemente imbevuto di cultura classica e mediolatina nonché gramatico di professione. Si vogliono inoltre evidenziare alcuni hapax legomena finora passati inosservati e dunque non ancora catalogati nei repertori lessicografici di riferimento.4 C                          I   .   —       degli indovini, dei maghi e delle streghe— il Buti crede opportuno, in linea con le abituali modalità compositive, definire anzitutto il peccato che li grava, che egli definisce di “affacturatione”: Inf. 20.1– 6: Io era già disposto tucto quanto, cioè io Dante, ad riguardar ne lo scoperto fondo, cioè de la quarta bolgia, che, cioè la quale, si ’mbagnava d’angoscioso pianto, dei peccatori che vi si puniano. Et è qui da notare che in questa bolgia l’autor finge che si punisca il peccato de l’affacturatione, che comunemente si suole chiamare “admaliatione”, ma secondo lo gramatico si chiama “sacrilegio”. Et è sacrilegio furamento del culto che si dé dare ad Dio ad darlo ai dimonii et all’iduli.

A proposito di affacturatione, una ricerca effettuata nel corpus OVI5 rivela che le uniche due attestazioni registrate sono butiane e rintracciabili entrambe proprio nel commento a Inf. 20.6 Nel TLIO la voce è così definita: “Arte di praticare fatture magiche.”7

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


In rapporto alla voce ammaliatione, sinonimo con cui il commentatore definirebbe il peccato di affacturatione, l’indagine condotta nel corpus TLIO rivela che si tratta di un hapax butiano, e il significato del termine è così spiegato nel dizionario: “Pratica di magia volta a fare effetto su qno.” Tuttavia, nella cosiddetta “ultima forma” dell’Ottimo Commento, nel passo di Dante corrispondente, compaiono sia amaliatori che amaliatrici, le quali ingannerebbero il prossimo con erbe magiche e immagini di cera, di terra o di metalli: Tractato di sopra in due proximi canti di tre qualitadi di frodololenti, qui tracta della quarta qualitade, puniti nella .iiii. bolgia: ciò sono auguratori, sortilegii, veneficatori, amaliatori et indovini, i quali con diverse arti ingannarono il proximo. . . . Et ancora tormenta amaliatrici che con loro herbe et con loro ymagini di cera o terra o metalli si sforzano d’offendere il proximo.8

Sempre a proposito di affacturatione e ammaliatione, si segnala inoltre un passo che sembrerebbe comprovare la sinonimia ammaliatione/affacturatione proposta dal commentatore, e reperibile in una cronaca latina coeva ad opera di Matteo del Griffone, nel quale, tra gli avvenimenti avvenuti in Bologna nell’anno 1279, viene ricordata la messa al rogo di certa Tixia Tricola per aver praticato malie e fatture magiche: “Dominus Matthiolus de Griffonibus Civis Bononiae fuit electus Potestas Civitatis Senarum, & obiit illo anno. Combusta fuit Tixia Tricola, eo quia fecerat malias, & affacturaverat uxorem Petri de Tencharariis, ex qua affacturatione ipsa decessit” [Il signor Matteo del Griffone, cittadino di Bologna, fu eletto podestà della città di Siena e morì in quell’anno. Fu arsa sul rogo Tixia Tricola, per aver praticato malie e indirizzato contro la moglie di Pietro del Tencarario una fattura in séguito alla quale ella morì].9 Q                                    sforzo del Buti di munire il lessico volgare coevo, probabilmente ancora sprovvisto di una certa precisa terminologia, di termini mutuati anche dal latino dell’epoca.



Quanto a sacrilegio, per avvalorare la sinonimia del termine rispetto al peccato in questione, l’autore chiama in causa il gramatico. In rapporto all’esegesi dantesca del Buti, Stefania Costamagna, nello studio sulle osservazioni retoriche presenti nel commento, afferma che “con l’espressione antifrastica [sic; lapsus per antonomastica] ‘il Grammatico’” il Buti allude sempre a Donato.10 Nel Medioevo, l’Ars minor in otto capitoli e l’Ars maior in tre libri di Elio Donato rappresentavano senz’altro, insieme alle Institutiones grammaticae di Prisciano, i testi canonici dell’insegnamento del latino.11 Tuttavia l’affermazione di Costamagna, per quanto ovvia — considerata la fama indiscussa di cui godette Donato nel Medioevo12 — abbisogna forse di una qualche precisazione. In altre parole, si vuole cercare di capire se il Buti abbia davvero impiegato il testo (i testi?) di Donato durante la stesura del commento alla Commedia e anche valutare se l’equazione grammatico = Donato abbia fatto realmente parte del patrimonio culturale del commentatore. A tal fine può essere utile interrogarsi sui passaggi del commento in cui ricorre il richiamo al gram(m)atico. L’indagine rivela venti occorrenze così distribuite: dieci nella chiosa all’Inferno, una in quella al Purgatorio e nove in quella al Paradiso. Di queste venti occorrenze, soltanto due sono ricordate dalla Costamagna per sostenere l’ipotesi di un impiego del testo di Donato da parte del commentatore: L’aderenza del Buti alle scelte lessicali del testo di riferimento [scil. Donato, Barbarismus] è ravvisabile nel modo in cui il commentatore, nella lettura di XXVII 8 (“col pianto di colui, e ciò fu dritto”), espone il concetto di parentesi, che il grammatico identifica nell’“interposita ratiocinatio divisae sententiae” (Ars Gramm. III VI 10): “et interposita questa orazione nella predetta per quella figura, che chiama il Grammatico parenthesis” (I 693). La definizione del Barbarismus è riproposta altrettanto fedelmente nei due passi che segnalano il sarcasmo. Il sintagma che Donato impiega per esplicitare il tecnicismo, “hostilis inrisio” (Ars Gramm. III VI 14), nel commento a XX 33– 34 è reso con una traduzione letterale e a XXI 48– 49 è rielaborato, parafrasando l’aggettivo latino e adattando il sostantivo: “e questa è nimichevole derisione, e chiamasi appo il Grammatico sarcasmos questo modo del parlare” (I 523); “altrimenti si può dire che qui sia una fiura chiamata sarcasmos, che è irrisione che fa il nimico l’uno dell’altro” (I 549).13

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


Queste simmetrie consentono alla Costamagna di individuare “l’attenzione specifica che Buti riserva al testo di Donato e che si intuisce anche dal rinvio al carattere grammaticale della figura o alla sua presenza presso il ‘Grammatico’, rinvio introdotto costantemente nei passi che segnalano gli artifici retorici tratti dal Barbarismus.”14 In rapporto ai due casi appena esaminati, si possono però trovare definizioni molto simili (talora identiche) a quelle enunciate da Donato anche in altri due testi ampiamente utilizzati dal Buti nonché richiamati in maniera esplicita nel commento, a differenza del Barbarismus che non viene mai citato direttamente. Mi riferisco, in particolare, all’Elementarium di Papia15 e alle Derivationes di Uguccione da Pisa,16 repertori lessicali celeberrimi nel Medioevo. Gioverà notare fin da ora che entrambi i testi sono impiegati dal Buti anche per la stesura di almeno due sue altre opere: le Regule grammaticales17 (1355– 66)18 e il commento all’Ars Poetica di Orazio.19 Sull’autore dell’Elementarium si hanno pochissime notizie; tuttavia l’opera, il cui materiale lessicografico è organizzato per famiglie etimologiche, fu probabilmente composta tra il 1041 e il 1063 e godette di una cospicua fortuna, come testimonia il gran numero di manoscritti e stampe conservate. Le Derivationes di Uguccione, compilate nel XII secolo, sono forse il testo di lessicografia medievale più celebre dopo le Etymologiae di Isidoro. Si tratta, a differenza dell’opera di Papia, di un dizionario etimologico sistematico e in ordine alfabetico, che contiene anche numerose sezioni grammaticali sul modello di Prisciano. In rapporto al loro utilizzo da parte del Buti nel commento a Dante, si può notare come Uguccione sia apertamente richiamato in due luoghi: Inf. 15.43– 54: Et è qui da notare che ll’etadi de l’homo secondo che pone Uguccione et Papia sono VI. Inf. 20.19– 30: Et prima pietà, secondo che Uguiccione dice, è virtù per la quale a la Patria, ai benvollienti et ai coniuncti con sangue si dà officio et diligente culto, o vero per la quale noi diventiamo benivoli ai coniuncti con sangue.

Papia è invece esplicitamente citato in sette passaggi del testo: Inf. 2.1– 9: O alto ingegno, ingegno secondo Papia è una virtù interiore d’animo.20 Inf. 2.10– 36: Seculo dice Papia che è corso di vita; Inf.



15.43– 54: Et è qui da notare che ll’etadi de l’homo secondo che pone Uguccione et Papia sono VI; Inf. 15.79– 96: Altramente et mellio si può dire secondo che dice Papia: Coscientia è conoscimento di sé medesmo; Inf. 21.118– 26: et dice da ‘far’ che in lingua hebrea significa ‘toro’ come dice Papia; Purg. 11.91–102: e di questa gloria dice Papia: Gloria est de aliquo frequens fama; Purg. 19.76– 87: come dice Papia, speransa è espettazione dei beni che denno venire, la quale manifesta affetto d’umilità et ossequio di continua servitù.21

D’altra parte, Donato grammatico è citato dal Buti soltanto una volta nel commento al Paradiso (12.127– 41), là dove il commentatore chiosa il verso dantesco “e quel Donato / ch’a la prim’arte degnò porre mano” (vv. 132– 38): e quel Donato, questo fu Donato grammatico, che fece lo grande Donato in Grammatica et anco lo piccolo, che si legge prima da’ fanciulli che entrano ad imparare Grammatica e scrisse sopra Virgilio, e lo maggiore suo volume al presente non si trova. E però seguita: Ch’a la prima arte degnò poner mano; cioè che si degnò di scrivere sopra la prima arte; cioè sopra la Grammatica, che è la prima che s’impari de le sette arti e scienzie liberali, cioè Grammatica, Dialetica, Retorica, Arismetrica, Geometria, Musica et Astrologia.

La lezione trasmessa dal ms. Napoletano XIII C 1, latore, assieme al Conventi Soppressi 204 e al Banco Rari 39, di una versione del commento al Paradiso riveduta dall’autore,22 tramanda, in fine paragrafo, una porzione testuale assente nell’edizione Giannini, che riporto in grassetto: Et quel Donato, questi fu Donato gramatico, che fece lo grande Donato in gramatica et anco il picculo che si legge prima da’ fanciulli che entrano ad imparare gramatica. Scripse sopra Virgilio et lo maggiore suo volume al presente non si trova. Et però dice di lui c’a la prima arte, cioè a la Gramatica che è la prima che s’impara de le vii arti et scientie liberali, cioè Gramatica, Dialettica, Rethorica, Arismetica, Geometria, Musica et Astrologia, degnò di poner mano, cioè degnò di scrivere et d’aVaticarsi sopra la prima arte, cioè sopra la Gramatica, scrivendovi due volumi, lo grande et

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


lo picculo, come dicto è. (ms. Nap., fol. 249r. Così leggono anche il Conv. Sopp. 204, fol. 223v e il B. R. 39, fol. 358v)

Il testo del napoletano trasmette dunque, rispetto alla versione riportata da Giannini, un ulteriore accenno ai due volumi scritti da Donato sulla grammatica, lo grande et lo picculo. Francesco Sassetto, in virtù del passo sopra riportato, ritiene che il Buti avesse “notizia dell’Ars minor e dell’Ars maior, pur dichiarando di non possedere quest’ultima, fatto però che non esclude una sua eventuale conoscenza, comunque taciuta, del Barbarismus che circolava anche separatamente. Troppo generico il riferimento ad altre opere del grammatico (‘scrisse sopra Virgilio’) per poterle individuare con sicurezza ed affermare una reale conoscenza da parte del pisano.”23 Nella sua recensione al volume, Rossi fa notare, a ragione, che con “al presente non si trova” possa denunciarsi, più che un mancato possesso del volume da parte del Buti, una generica irreperibilità di esso, e suggerisce inoltre che con il “maggior suo volume” che “al presente non si trova” l’autore possa alludere piuttosto al commento a Virgilio—come Sassetto stesso suggerisce nella nota a p. 138—che all’Ars maior.24 Mi pare tuttavia evidente che con “i due volumi, lo grande et lo picculo” il commentatore dia notizia dei due libri di Donato sopra la grammatica denominati, infatti, maior e minor. In relazione a questo isolato — e sottolineo obbligato, giacché il commentatore sta chiosando il verso di Dante inerente Donato — accenno al grammatico latino e alle sue opere, gioverà notare infine che si registrano parallelismi nei passi corrispondenti dei commenti sia di Benvenuto che del Lana: E quel Donato. Hic fuit romanus grammaticus, qui fecit in grammatica maiorem et minorem editionem; quos libros Remigius doctor commentavit; fuit magister beati Hieronymi: et quia fuit generaliter utilis pueris primo introducendis ad scientias, ideo reponit ipsum inter istos. Unde dicit: che degnò, idest, qui dignatus est, poner mano alla prima arte, scilicet, grammaticae.25 Et quel Donato: Questo scrisse lo Donato, che è in gramatica, ‹ch’è› tra le vij liberal arti la prima connumeranda.26



Ciò che mi preme evidenziare qui è che Donato, tranne che in questo luogo “obbligato” e consonante a Lana e a Benvenuto, non viene mai esplicitamente nominato nel commento, e il suo presunto utilizzo da parte del Buti è stato dimostrato soltanto in base all’ipotesi che con il termine gramatico il commentatore alluda sempre e per antonomasia a Donato. Inoltre, come si può desumere dalla tabella riportata di séguito, in relazione ai due luoghi significativi richiamati da Costamagna, le stesse definizioni che si leggono nel Barbarismus compaiono anche, come già accennato, pressoché identiche sia in Papia che, limitatamente alla prima, in Uguccione. Buti Inf. 20.31– 39

Donato Ars 27 III IV 14

Papia, Element. Voce Sarcasmos

Uguccione, Derivat. S 51 1

E questa è inimichevile derisione et chiamasi appo lo gramatico “sarcasmos” questo modo di parlare.

hostilis inrisio.28

Sarcasmos est irrisio cum amaritudine ut referes ergo hoc & nuncius ibis pelide genitori huic contrarius est astysmos.29

Sarcasmos est hostilis irrisio, scilicet iocus cum amaritudine.30

Buti Inf. 27.7–15

Donato Ars III IV 10

Papia, Element. Voce Parenthesis

Uguccione, Derivat.

et ‹è› interposita questa oratione ne la predicta per quella figura che chiama il gramatico “parentesis.”

interposita ratiocinatio divisae sententiae.31

Parenthesis est — interposita ratiocinatio diuersae sententiae: parenthesis graece interiectio latine.32

Quanto alle restanti occorrenze di gramatico sopra ricordate, un quadro sinottico dei rispettivi riscontri con Papia e con Uguccione può essere osservato nella tabella seguente:

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


Buti, Inf. 5.4–15

Papia, Element. Voce Grunnitus

Uguccione, Derivat.

Puosi ancora appartenere al porco come dice il gramatico et intendesi: et lo dicto Minos orribilmente, cioè faccendo orribile et spaventevile suono, ringhia, cioè fa come il porco e come al cavallo.

Grunnitus porcorum est de sono uocis factus unde grunere uulgo dicitur.33

Buti, Inf. 9.1– 9

Papia, Element. Voce Oratio

Uguccione, Derivat Oratio H 61 23:

Se non . . . Tal ne sofferse, questa è una oratione imperfecta secondo lo gramatico perché non à verbo principale, ma ella si dé supplere in questo modo, cioè: se non la vinceremo per noi, Tal ne sofferse.

Oratio est ordinatio dictionum congruam sententiam perfectamque demonstrans. Definitio integrae orationis.34

Item oratio bipartitur: orationum alia est perfecta, alia imperfecta.35

Buti, Inf. 16.10–18

Papia, Element. Voce Ah

Uguccione, Derivat.

Ai 36 è interiectione secondo lo gramatico, la quale significa dolore.

Ah ah uox dolentis quae est interiectio uel a est praepositio.37

Buti, Inf. 16.19– 27

Papia, Element. Voce Ei

Uguccione, Derivat.

Hei, questo hei è interiectione ‹che› secondo lo gramatico significa dolore, come «hai!».

Ei interiectio dolentis unius syllabae.38



Buti, Inf. 17.43– 51

Papia, Element.

Uguccione, Derivat. F 26 1

Adpresso le spetie dell’usura sono due, cioè simplice usura, che ’l gramatico la chiama ‘fenus’.

Hoc FENUS – oris idest usura.39

Buti, Inf. 24.79– 96

Papia, Element. Voce Latro

Uguccione, Derivat. Fur F 66 2

Et perché, secondo lo comune parlare, non si diversifica furo et ladro, però di sopra lo chiamò ladroneccio benché ’l gramatico et molti altri ne fanno differentia, dicendo che ’l ladro è quelli che tollie con violentia.

Latro est qui furatur & occidit unde a latitando in insidiis dicitur. fur vero est qui alienum aliquid occulte & timendo subtrahit a furuo idest nigrus dictus.40

Item a furvus hic et fur – ris, quia noctis utitur tempore; proprie quidem est fur qui de nocte vadit et perfodit domos, latro qui latet in silvis et expoliat transeuntes. Unde illud ‘fur latet in furvo, latro se fert obvius ultro’.41

Buti, Purg. 23.28– 36

Papia, Element. Voce Homo

Uguccione, Derivat H 62 10

Chi nel viso delli omini legge omo . . .; homo dice lo Grammatico, quasi fatto de humo, cioè di vilissima terra.

Homo dictus quia ex humo est factus sicut legitur in genesi . . . Homo ab humo dicit inde deriuat.42

Item ab humus hic et hec homo, quasi humo, quia de humo sit creatus.43

Buti, Par. 1.1–12

Papia, Element. Voce Synecdoche

Uguccione, Derivat.

. . . imperò che secondo la figura del Grammatico; cioè sinedoche e lo colore del Rettorico intellezione, lo tutto si può ponere per la parte e quel che è della parte dare al tutto.

Synecdoche est conceptio cum a parte totum uel a toto pats [sic] intelligitur. Vt ingens a uertice pontus in pupim ferit. Non enim totum pelagus sed partem idest fluctum: dixit a parte totum.44

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


Buti, Par 4.118– 32

Papia, Element. Voce Deus

Uguccione, Derivat. D 43 3

O diva; ancora questo nome si conviene alla sapienzia ch’ella è diva, cioè iddia, e dice lo Grammatico che Iddio è eterno; ma divo è di mortale fatto eterno, e però diva si dice: imperò che per lei diventano li uomini, che sono mortali, eterni.

Deus & diuus ita distinguitur: deus semper est diuus uero fit.45

Deus semper est, sed divus fit, quasi qui ex mortali fit immortalis.46

Buti, Par. 12.61– 72

Papia, Element.

Uguccione, Derivat.

. . . cioè santo Domenico fu nominato per ispirazione divina Domenico, che è nome possessivo che si deriva da questo nome dominus, secondo che dice lo Grammatico; e viene a dire dominicus, cosa del Signore, e così Domenico omo del Signore, cioè Iddio: imperò che d’Iddio fu tutto.47

Buti, Par. 18.1–12

Papia, Element. Voce Verbum

Uguccione, Derivat. U 21 5

Verbo si pillia alcuna volta per lo sermone e per lo parlare, secondo che dice lo Grammatico, sicchè vuole dire ch’elli godeva della bella dichiaragione, ch’avea fatto a Dante sopra li suoi dubbi sopra la sua esortazione che li avea data: gode la mente de la verità, quando l’à manifestata.

Verbum est unius pars orationis. Sermo uero plurimorum uerborum rationis est.48

Et hoc verbo – bi, sermo, quia in eius prolatione aer verberatur, unde et quedam pars orationis per excellentiam dicitur verbum, quia frequentius in eius prolatione aer verberatur quam in prolatione alterius partis.49



Buti, Par. 30.1–15

Papia, Element. Voce Altum

Uguccione, Derivat. A 122 1

Quando ’l mezzo del Cielo; cioè quando quello spazio del cielo, che a noi viene mezzo che viene sopra li capi nostri, profondo; cioè alto, secondo che lo Grammatico dice che alto viene a dire profondo, e così profondo per lo contrario viene a dire alto.

Altum superius & inferius [†] ad utrumque enim pertineat: altum namque dicimus caelum & altum mare.

Altus – a – um, quod tres habet significationes: altus, idest subtilis, ut ‘alta scientia est in isto’, idest subtilis, et altus idest sublimis et altus idest profundus; conversim enim et reciproce altus ponitur pro profundus, et profundus pro altus.51

Buti, Par. 31.25– 42

Papia, Element. Voce Expletiua

Uguccione, Derivat.

A le cose mortali andò di sopra; cioè avanzò tutte l’altre cose del mondo: imperò che signoreggiorno li Romani tutto lo mondo; e questo, che si pone qui, non è di necessità; ma ponsi qui per una esornazione (N legge adornatione), e dice lo Grammatico che allora è coniunzione espletiva.

Expletiua coniunctio idest ornatiua qua ornat oratio quamque ablata non minuitur ut Saltem si qua mihi de te suscepta fuisset Soboles.52

Buti, Par. 31.79– 93

Papia, Element. Voce Gratia

Uguccione, Derivat.

E però la Teologia e la grazia si pone per una medesima cosa; chiamasi dirittamente Beatrice: imperò che beatifica l’omo; e però ben figura l’autore che sia donna: imperò che, secondo lo Grammatico, l’uno e l’altro vocabulo è f. generis (N legge genere feminino)

Gratia dicitur gratis data: quae sine praecedenti merito nobis a christo donatur.53

Profundum: uorago: altum: uniuersum: magnum profunditas idem est.50

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


Buti, Par. 32.1–15

Papia, Element. Voce Affectus

Uguccione, Derivat.

Dunqua debbe dire Affetto, che è participio de l’afficior, eris, secondo lo Grammatico, e ponsi adiective a quel contemplante, come detto è.

Affectus ab afficio, cis maceratus caesus ex ad & facio.

Buti, Par. 32.115– 26

Papia, Element. Voce Iuxta

li s’adiusta; ciò li s’approssima, sicchè nessuno altro n’è in mezzo: iuxta è preposizione apo lo Grammatico, che viene a dire a lato; e però adiustare è stare allato, e verbo preposizionale lo chiama lo Grammatico.

Affectus participium maceratus nomen uero quartae declinationis.54

Iuxta significat παρά graecum aduerbium. Aduerbium quando per se uerbo iungitur ut malorum uitam mortem quandam iuxta aestimo. loco prope uel propter quod est est παρά fungitur quod & praepositio ut iuxta parietem. . . . Ad propositio . . . significat . . . additionis etiam: ut ad haec mala: Ponitur ad saepe pro iuxta propter & usque addit & apponit comparat & recolit.55

Uguccione, Derivat. —

Se talvolta i raffronti con l’opera di Donato, o di altri grammatici come Prisciano, sono possibili non deve stupire, giacché i lessici di Papia e di Uguccione risentono fortemente del patrimonio grammaticale pregresso. Un elemento a favore dell’ipotesi sopra enunciata è tuttavia la sistematicità dei riscontri tra il commento e i passi corrispondenti nelle opere di Papia e Uguccione. Inoltre, va infine considerato che una certa dimestichezza con le definizioni di Isidoro e di Uguccione potrebbe esser scaturita anche per



tramite della lettura del commento di Guido da Pisa. I rapporti tra il commento del Buti e l’esegesi guidiana sono ben noti.56 In uno studio sui materiali enciclopedici identificabili nell’opera di Guido, Maria Luisa Caglio dimostra come il frate carmelitano conoscesse sia le Etymologiae di Isidoro che le Derivationes di Uguccione, seppur, in quest’ultimo caso, per tramite del Catholicon di Giovanni da Genova.57 In relazione alle citazioni da Isidoro, talvolta le definizioni di Guido trovano un riscontro quasi letterale nelle glosse del Buti, come, ad esempio, nel caso del “chelidris” e del “centris,” da cui viene ripresa, da entrambi, anche la citazione da Lucano: Guido, Inf. 24.79– 90

Buti, Inf. 24.79– 96

Chelidris {Br. chelidrus} est quidam serpens aquaticus et terrestris, unde dicitur a ceros, quod est «terra», et ydor, quod est «aqua»; inde chelydris, serpens aquaticus et terrestris, cuius natura est quod ambulat . . . erectus. Si autem aliquo modo se torserit, statim crepat.58

chelidri, questa è una spetie di serpenti che sta in terra et in acqua et fa fummare la via unde passa et sempre va diricto che s’elli torcesse creperebbe.59

Centris est quedam serpens inflexuosa, que ambulat semper recta, non tamen erecta, sed per terram toto corpore serpit recta, contra naturam aliorum serpentum.60

chencri, questa è una spetie di serpenti che sempre va torcendosi et non va mai diricto.

Credo altresì che con l’epiteto gram(m)atico il Buti intenda riferirsi piuttosto a un conoscitore, o esperto, di grammatica, ossia di latino, e non, per antonomasia e in maniera univoca, a Donato, ipotesi peraltro confermata dall’indagine sul significato del termine nell’italiano coevo.61 L                           B              sacrilegio, che ha dato spunto a questa digressione, sembra tradurre alla lettera quella latina di Papia:

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


Papia, Element. Voce Sacrilegium

Buti, Inf. 20.1– 6

Sacrilegium proprie est sacrarum rerum furtum postea & idolorum cultui haesit hoc nomem.

ma secondo lo gramatico si chiama sacrilegio; et è sacrilegio furamento del culto che si dé dare ad Dio ad darlo ai dimonii et all’iduli.63

Sacrilegus qui sacra legit idest furat qui cultum ueri dei furat: uel idolis tribuendo.62

Converrà a questo punto ritornare al passo oggetto d’indagine, in cui il commentatore affronta la natura e le spetie del peccato dell’affacturatione: Inf. 20.1– 6: Et questo peccato ae principalmente sotto sé IIII spetie, cioè: divinatione, maleficio, superstitione et stregoneccio; et benché molte siano le spetie de le divinatione, vasti ad contarne XIIII, cioè: piromantia, aermantia, idromantia, geomantia, phitonitia, nigromantia, augurio, sortilegio, haruspitio, ariolatio, magicatio, sonnilegio, ‹sternulegio›, psalterilegio. Et di questo peccato et de le suoe spetie si tracta in questo canto ue si pone che indivini, maliosi, superstitiosi et stregoni siano puniti con nuova pena, come dirà incontenente.

Questa lista di pratiche divinatorie redatta dal Buti aveva già attirato l’attenzione di Robert Hollander, che in un suo lavoro del 1980 afferma che: “his division [scil. del Buti] seems stranger than most. However, his fourtheen subdivision of divinazione seem to contain eleven of the species named by Thomas.”64 In effetti la lista del Buti risulta a ragione “strana,” tant’è che, come già notava Hollander, soltanto per alcune delle categorie sopra elencate è agevole tracciare un’eziologia e/o individuare una fonte comune. Le quattro spetie del peccato dell’affacturatione elencate dal commentatore, e cioè, nell’ordine, divinatione, maleficio, superstitione e stregoneccio, corrispondono ai quattro tipi di peccatori che dimorano nella quarta bolgia: indivini, maliosi, supersitiosi e stregoni.



La parola “divinazione,” prima sottocategoria del peccato dell’affacturatione, trae origine dal verbo latino divinare e significa “indovinare,” “predire”;65 è a sua volta collegata con l’aggettivo divinus poiché nell’antichità si credeva che la capacità di prevedere il futuro fosse garantita da un dono della divinità.66 Quanto all’arte di predire il futuro il Buti fornisce ulteriori sottocategorie che registrano alcuni dei modi conosciuti per attuare tale esercizio. Le prime quattro pratiche, piromantia, aermantia, idromantia e geomantia, legate ai quattro elementi e tradizionalmente associate all’enciclopedista latino Varrone (116– 27? a. C.) in virtù di un noto passo del libro sulla Magia contenuto nell’enciclopedia di Isidoro,67 si trovano annoverate anche nella lista di pratiche divinatorie stilata da Guido da Pisa al passo dantesco corrispondente: Et hec [scil. Mantica sive Mathesis] habet octo speties: quatuor secundum quatuor elementa; quintam secundum infernum; reliquas vero secundum diversa animalia in quibus vel cum quibus ipsa scientia exercetur. Prima dicitur Piromantia, a pir quod est «ignis» et mantia quod est «divinatio»; vel, ut alii volunt, a Manto filia Tyresie. Ista ars exercetur in igne, luna, et stellis. Secunda dicitur Arismantia, ab aere et mantia, sive Manto; ista exercetur in aere et in gladiis et speculis. Tertia dicitur Ydromantia, ab ydor quod est «aqua» et mantia, sive Manto; ista exercetur in aquis. Quarta dicitur Geomantia, a geos quod est «terra», et mantia, sive Manto; ista exercetur in cavernis terre.68

Dall’antichità classica gli autori cristiani avevano infatti ereditato un breve catalogo di pratiche divinatorie, che rimase pressoché inalterato da Isidoro di Siviglia a Tommaso d’Aquino e oltre. La lista di esercizi divinatori di Isidoro godette nel Medioevo di enorme fortuna e la si ritrova in molti testi di autori successivi, spesso accompagnata da aggiunte originali, come, ad esempio, nel Policraticus di Giovanni di Salisbury.69 Come nota Jan Veenstra,70 anche Tommaso d’Aquino finì per incorporare l’intera lista di Isidoro, con le eccezioni di arioli e salisatores, copiando addirittura alcune delle etimologie proposte (ad es. augurium da garritus avium).71 In relazione al catalogo redatto dal Buti, una corrispondenza con le pratiche stilate da Isidoro è ravvisabile anche a proposito di nigroman-

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


tia (“necromantii sunt, quorum praecantationibus videntur resuscitati mortui divinare, et ad interrogata rispondere”),72 phitonitia (“Pythonissae a Pythio Apolline dictae, quod is auctor fuerit divinandi”),73 augurio (“augures sunt, qui volatus avium et voces intendunt, aliaque signa rerum vel observationes inprovisas hominibus occurrentes. Idem et auspices. Nam auspicia sunt quae iter facientes observant”),74 sortilegio (“sortilegi sunt qui sub nomine fictae religionis per quasdam, quas sanctorum sortes vocant, divinationis scientiam profitentur, aut quarumcumque scripturarum inspectione futura promittunt”),75 haruspitio (“haruspices nuncupati, quasi horarum inspectores: dies enim et horas in agendis negotiis operibusque custodiunt, et quid per singula tempora observare debeat homo, intendunt. Hi etiam exta pecudum inspiciunt, et ex eis futura praedicunt”)76 e ariolatio (“arioli vocati, propter quod circa aras idolorum nefarias preces emittunt, et funesta sacrificia offerunt, iisque celebritatibus daemonum responsa accipiunt”).77 È                                      passo di Dante corrispondente, Pietro Alighieri (I red.) fornisce un elenco che, limitatamente alle prime otto pratiche, non soltanto trova corrispondenza nella tassonomia del Buti, ma ne condivide anche l’ordine di catalogazione: Cujus divinandi actus multi sunt modi; nam quidam volunt praescire igne, et tunc dicitur talis divinatio pyromantia, a pyr, quod est ignis, et mantia, divinatio, de qua dicitur in Capitulo XVI.o per Lucanum etc. Ibi vide. Quidam aere, et illa divinatio dicitur aeromantia; contra quos Salomon ait: qui observat ventos non seminat, et qui considerat nubes, nunquam metet. Quae autem fit aqua, dicitur ydromantia. Quae terra fit, dicitur geomantia. Quae per ventriloquos, qui dicuntur Pythones, dicitur Pythonica, sic dicta a Pythio Apolline. Quae a mortuis fit, dicitur necromantia. Quae volatu et garritu avium, dicitur augurium. Quae fit sorte, dicitur sortilegium.78 (Inf. 20.10–15)

Restano pertanto escluse le pratiche denominate magicatio, sonnilegio, sternulegio, psalterilegio, per le quali si tenterà, per quanto possibile, di ricostruire l’eziologia.



Un controllo effettuato nella banca dati dell’OVI rivela che la parola magicatio è un hapax butiano.79 La voce è etimologicamente connessa a magus, magi e descriverebbe dunque una pratica generale comune. In Uguccione, alla voce Magi si legge: Et dividitur ars magica in prestigium et maleficium; prestigium est sensuum humanorum illusio: secundum hoc incredibiles rerum mutationes videntur fieri, ut terre cumulus videatur castrum, lapillus talentum, seges coors militum galeata; [6] maleficium cum generaliter posset dici quodlibet malefactum, hic specialiter illud dicitur quo nobis ita demones devincimus ut nobis pareant missatica nostra deferentes.80

In Papia, alla voce Magi: Magi sunt qui uulgo malefici ob facinorum magnitudinem nuncupantur. Qui quamuis uideantur nec corpore nec anima mutant aliquid.81

Se questa è l’etimologia del termine, si deve supporre un certo grado di confusione da parte del commentatore giacché il maleficio era già stato definito, e catalogato, come una delle quattro specie principali del peccato della divinazione. I                   ,        S       P    fornisce la seguente definizione, spiegando anche la pratica divinatoria: Somnium uero quod dormientes uidemus. Quorum somniorum imagines sex modis tangunt animum quaedam enim somnia uentris plenitudine uel inanitate occurrunt. Quedam ex propria cogitatione quam in die habuimus quaedam spirituum immundorum illusione sicut augurientibus fiunt quaedam supernae reuelationis mysterio sicut in somnis ioseph angelicus apparuit. Nonnunquam per mixte idest cogitatione & illusione uel cogitatione & reuelatione simul daniele dicente Tu rex cogitare coepisti & cetera.82

Di sternulegio,83 altro hapax butiano, non ci sono attestazioni, né lo si trova nei repertori lessicografici medievali di riferimento dei volgari ita-

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


liani. La ragione andrà individuata nel fatto che il testo del Commento tuttora in uso è quello stabilito dall’edizione ottocentesca a cura di Giannini. Nel luogo che interessa, l’editore riporta stenuilegio, forma che infatti è attestata nella banca dati dell’OVI ma di cui la tradizione manoscritta non reca traccia. Giannini fonda la sua edizione sul ms. Riccardiano 1006, nel quale però si legge steniulegio, in accordo con il dettato del Palatino Latino 1728, del quale il Riccardiano è un descriptus.84 Steniulegio tramanda senz’altro anche il ms. Laur. Pluteo 42.14 mentre il Pluteo 42.13 trasmette stemulegio. In ognuno dei casi segni diversi di foggia simile hanno prodotto le varie letture erronee, secondo la fenomenologia della cosiddetta diffrazione in presenza, che si produce al cospetto di neoconiazioni, latinismi o parole rare. D’altra parte i mss. più autorevoli del Commento all’Inferno, ossia il Conventi Soppressi 204, il Banco Rari 39, il Palatino 328 e il Corsiniano 1368 trasmettono tutti sternulegio.85 La strana parola, che è omessa nel ms. base da cui traggo il testo della nuova edizione,86 necessita di essere integrata ope codicum per non guastare l’accordo con il numero XIIII relativo alle tante pratiche divinatorie che l’autore sta per elencare, e che risulterebbero altrimenti soltanto tredici. Si può supporre che il vocabolo in questione tragga origine dal verbo latino  + , ossia “starnutire,” “scoppiettare” detto della fiamma di un lume, ma anche “dare starnutendo un buon augurio,” sul modello di spı¯cı˘le˘gı˘um ›  + , dove “lego” vale “raccolgo”. Può darsi che il Buti abbia coniato il vocabolo per analogia con gli altri purtuttavia in maniera poco “ortodossa”, partendo da un verbo invece che, come ci aspetteremmo, da un sostantivo. La parola descriverebbe dunque la pratica di raccogliere starnuti per darne significati augurali. D’altra parte, il topos dello starnuto come manifestazione della divinità e segnale di favorevole auspicio, specialmente in amore, è ampiamente attestato nella letteratura greca e latina. Lo si trova, ad esempio, in Omero, Od., 17 511, in Senofonte, Anab., 3 2.9, in Teocrito, 7.96, in Catullo, carme 45: “Amor sinistra ut ante / dextra sternuit approbationem. / Nunc ab auspicio bono profecti / mutuis animis amant amantur,” in Properzio 2 3.24: “candidus argutum sternuit omen Amor”, in Ovidio Her. 18.152: “sternuit et nobis prospera signa dedit” e in Cicerone, De div., 2 39.87



L’                           ,             attestata, descriva una pratica divinatoria conosciuta e praticata, mi pare corroborata da una certa corrispondenza tra il luogo butiano in esame e il passo corrispondente nella cosiddetta terza redazione dell’Ottimo Commento: Di nova pena mi convien far versi, et cetera. Tractato di sopra in due proximi canti di tre qualitadi di frodololenti, qui tracta della quarta qualitade, puniti nella .iiii. bolgia: ciò sono auguratori, sortilegii, veneficatori, amaliatori et indovini, i quali con diverse arti ingannarono il proximo. Et dividesi questo canto principalmente in tre parti. . . . Tracta in questo canto della pena di coloro che si fanno indovini. Et con questo ingannano molte genti. E a questo inganno si procede per diverse vie, però che alcuni procedono per via d’astrologia, alcuni pe via nigromantica; alcuni per via geomantica; alcuni per via ydromantica; alcuni per via pyromantica; alcuni per aguri d’uccelli; alcuni per riguardare spalle nude dalla carne degl’animali; alcuni per sternuti; alcuni per forte et queste forti per diverse guise. Et ancora tormenta amaliatrici che con loro herbe et con loro ymagini di cera o terra o metalli si sforzano d’offendere il proximo.88

Un’ulteriore conferma in tale direzione è reperibile in un passo di un testo fiorentino della metà del XIV secolo, lo Specchio della vera penitenza del frate domenicano Iacopo Passavanti (ca. 1300– 57).89 Si legga il passo in questione tratto dallo Specchio: Questa arte magica, e superstiziosa e diabolica scienzia, s’adopera in molti modi e a molti effetti, secondo i quali trae diversi nomi. Chè alcuna volta s’adopera a sapere certe cose occulte, o che debbono venire; e allora si chiama arte divinatoria. Onde coloro che in tale maniera l’usano, s’appellano indovini, quasi di Dio pieni, come dice santo Isidoro; chè mostrano alle genti d’essere pieni di quella scienza ch’è solo di Dio; cioè di sapere le cose che sono a venire: le qua’ cose volere sapere . . . è gravissimo peccato; imperò che chi pressume di volere sapere o prenunziare quelle cose che solo Iddio sa (se non l’avesse già per revelazione da Dio), usurpa e toglie quello ch’è propio di Dio. . . . Onde dice san Tommaso nella Somma, che ogni indovinamento, o tacito o spresso, usa il consiglio e l’aiuto del dia-

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


volo, il quale manifesta agli uomini certe cose che non sanno, e egli le sa per lo modo ch’è detto di sopra; onde le predice, espressamente invocato, in molti modi. Alcuna volta apparendo visibilmente in varie figure quanto al vedere, o in voci sensibili quanto all’udire, e’ mostra e dice di quelle cose che gli uomini vogliono sapere: e questa spezie d’indovinamento si chiama prestigio. Alcuna volta in sogno manifesta quello che l’uomo vuole sapere: e questo si chiama indovinamento per sogni. Altre volte per apparimento e per parlare di morti: e questa spezie si chiama negromanzia. Alcuna volta le manifesta per uomini vivi, siccome per gli arrettizii; ch’entra il diavolo addosso ad alcuni, e per la lingua loro predice le cose che sa egli: e tale spezie si chiama indovinamento per fitone. Alcuna volta manifesta il diavolo certe cose occulte per certe figure e segni che appaiono in alcuni corpi insensibili: le quali se appariscono in alcun corpo terrestre, come s’è ferro, vetro, pietra pulita, specchio o unghia, si è geomanzia; se in acqua, si chiama idromanzia; se in aria, si chiama aerimanzia; se appariscono in fuoco, si chiama piromanzia; se nelle interiora degli animali che sono offerti a’ demonii, si chiama aruspicio. È un’altra maniera d’indovinare che si fa sanza spressa invocazione del diavolo: e questa è in due modi. L’uno si è quand’altri vuole sapere le cose che sono a venire, per la disposizione di certe altre cose: come per la considerazione del sito e del movimento delle stelle, che si chiama indovinamento per astronomia: o vero per movimento o voce d’uccelli o d’altri animali, o per lo starnutire degli uomini; e questo propiamente è augurium: o per considerazione del movimento degli occhi o degli orecchi degli animali, o d’osservare certi dì dell’anno e certe ore e punti del dì; e questo si chiama aurispicium.90

L’esposizione del Passavanti chiama esplicitamente in causa sia le Etimologie di Isidoro che la Summa di Tommaso. Il richiamo ad Isidoro è preciso e riscontrabile in un passo del libro VIII, cap. De Magis: VIII. IX. [14] Divini dicti, quasi deo pleni: divinitate enim se plenos adsimulant et astutia quadam fraudulenta hominibus futura coniectant. Duo sunt [autem] genera divinationis: ars et furor.91

Dalla lettura del brano sopra riportato si evince dunque che dieci delle quattordici pratiche divinatorie elencate dal Buti trovano menzione



anche nel passo tratto dallo Specchio, nel quale è possibile trovare anche una definizione del nostro sternulegio: Buti, Inferno

Passavanti, Specchio della vera penitenza


Alcuna volta manifesta il diavolo certe cose occulte per certe figure e segni che appaiono in alcuni corpi insensibili: le quali se appariscono in alcun corpo terrestre, come s’è ferro, vetro, pietra pulita, specchio o unghia, si è geomanzia.


se appariscono in fuoco, si chiama piromanzia.


se in aria, si chiama aerimanzia.


se in acqua, si chiama idromanzia.


se nelle interiora degli animali che sono offerti a’ demonii, si chiama aruspicio.


Altre volte per apparimento e per parlare di morti: e questa spezie si chiama negromanzia.


Alcuna volta in sogno manifesta quello che l’uomo vuole sapere: e questo si chiama indovinamento per sogni.


o vero per movimento o voce d’uccelli o d’altri animali, o per lo starnutire degli uomini; e questo propiamente è augurium


o per lo starnutire degli uomini; e questo propiamente è augurium.

Un’altra conferma che lo indovinamento per starnuti era una pratica conosciuta ed esercitata nel Medioevo viene infine dalla consultazione della voce Sternutus nel glossario di du Cange: STERNUTUS, Eadem notione qua Sternutatio . . .: Præcantatores et sortilegos, karagios, aruspices, divinos, ariolos, magos, maleficos, Sternutus et auguria per aviculas, vel alia ingenia mala et diabolica nolite facere nec credere.92

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


Oltretutto, lo sternulegio non soltanto era una pratica divinatoria nota ma anche praticata al punto da dover essere inclusa, e dunque messa all’Indice, nel Canone contro le superstizioni pagane stilato durante il primo Concilio di Leptines del 743, come si evince dalla lettura della voce Sternutatio nel glossario du Cange: STERNUTATIO, Sternutamentum, Gallice Eternuëment, inter auguria recensetur in Indiculo superstitionum et paganiarum in Conc. Liptinensi ann. 743.93

La pratica dello psalterilegio, infine, altro hapax butiano, pare riferirsi ad un tipo di divinazione piuttosto diffusa sin dall’antichità, ed effettuata tramite la lettura della Bibbia o del libro dei Salmi, come spiega Keith Thomas: “In the style of the sortes Virgilianae of the classical world they prayed for guidance and then opened a Bible or Psalter, on the assumption that the verse on which their eyes alighted would give the answer to their problem. . . . By the later Middle Ages the leaders of the Church did not publicly resort to such devices in the way that some of them had done at early periods. But at a popular level the divinatory recourse to holy books was a well established practice.”94 Sempre secondo Thomas, l’altra versione di tale pratica era la divinazione mediante l’uso di una chiave e di un libro (di solito una Bibbia o un Salterio). La chiave veniva posta in un determinato punto tra le pagine del libro, i nomi dei possibili sospetti erano invece scritti su pezzetti di carta a loro volta inseriti nell’estremità cava della chiave. Quando si fosse inserito il pezzetto di carta con su scritto il nome del ladro, il libro si sarebbe “agitato” sfuggendo di mano a coloro che lo tenevano, rivelando così il nome del colpevole.95 È interessante notare come questa pratica divinatoria, seppur diffusa e attestata, manchi, nei testi volgari delle origini ad esclusione dell’occorrenza registrata nel commento butiano, di una terminologia specifica volta a descriverla o, addirittura, nominarla. I ,       di mostrare come il Buti, nello stilare la sua tassonomia di pratiche divinatorie, sia probabilmente ricorso a fonti e a materiali diversi, inclusi i commenti danteschi precedenti. Si è inoltre sottolineato come il



commentatore, rivelando una certa originalità ed inventiva lessicale, sia ricorso a definire terminologicamente alcune delle pratiche divinatorie in questione, come nel caso di ammaliatione, affacturatione, magicatio, sonnilegio, sternulegio e psalterilegio, apparentemente ancora prive di una nomenclatura in volgare precisa ed univoca, probabilmente impiegando anche fonti latine coeve. In secondo luogo, si è suggerita un’interpretazione diversa dell’epiteto gram(m)atico, tesa a ipotizzare che con esso Francesco intendesse genericamente un conoscitore di latino piuttosto che, per antonomasia, Donato grammatico, in accordo con l’uso del termine riscontrato nell’italiano dell’epoca. L’equivoco sull’identificazione è probabilmente da ascriversi anche alla scelta editoriale di Giannini di stampare “il Gram(m)atico” con l’iniziale maiuscola, diversamente da quanto attestato nella tradizione manoscritta. Si è altresì proposto che il Buti, per i richiami espliciti, per il numero e per la sistematicità dei riscontri, abbia senz’altro avuto una certa familiarità con i repertori lessicografici di Papia e di Uguccione, e sia forse ricorso anche al Catholicon di Giovanni da Genova. L’analisi ha dunque descritto come il commentatore, nel catalogare le varie pratiche divinatorie, abbia attinto a materiali diversi, forse addirittura opere composite che risultano difficili, da individuare compiutamente. Questo fatto è perfettamente in linea con le modalità di composizione di testi medievali ed è anzi un caso esemplare di come la ricerca di fonti univoche per un genere come quello del commento possa spesso essere improduttiva. Le note presentate in questa sede, per quanto basate sull’esame di un caso specifico, costituiscono un tentativo di approccio al commento butiano volto a valorizzare la stratificazione dei materiali ermeneutici impiegati dall’autore. Da uno studio così impostato, potranno apparire più chiari i meccanismi di composizione dell’opera nonché i testi di riferimento a disposizione di un commentatore dantesco del XIV secolo. Sarà così possibile aprire nuove prospettive di indagine sulle tensioni sottese ad una pratica esegetica che, al fine di rispondere in maniera adeguata all’originalità e alla complessità del testo dantesco, si trova ad impiegare strumenti di lavoro eterogenei che catalizzano la stratificazione delle risorse interpretative.

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


N  Il testo del commento all’Inferno si cita da: C. Tardelli, “Il Commento di Francesco da Buti alla ‘Commedia’. ‘Inferno’. Nuova edizione,” 2 voll. (Tesi di Perfezionamento in Filologia Italiana, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Classe di Lettere, a.a. 2010–11, rel. Claudio Ciociola); il testo del commento alle altre due cantiche è invece tratto da: C. Giannini, Commento di Francesco da Buti sopra la Divina Commedia di Dante Allighieri, 3 voll. (Pisa: Nistri, 1858– 62), rist. anastatica, con premessa di Francesco Mazzoni (Pisa: Nistri, 1989). Le citazioni di Isidoro sono tratte da: Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi, Etymologiarum sive Originum libri XX, recognovit brevique adnotatione critica instruxit W. M. Lindsay. Tomus 1, Libros I-X continens (Oxonii: e typographeo Clarendoniano, 1911). Ringrazio di cuore Zygmunt G. Barański, Luca D’Onghia, Simon Gilson, Sandro La Barbera, Paola Nasti, Ivanoe Privitera ed Eugenio Refini per aver letto diverse stesure di questo lavoro e fornito utili e preziosi suggerimenti.

1. Si vedano i lavori di Z. G. Barański, “Chiosar con altro testo”. Leggere Dante nel Trecento (Firenze: Cadmo, 2001), in part. il cap. I, L’esegesi medievale della ‘Commedia’ e il problema delle fonti, 13– 39; si veda anche, del cap. IV, Boccaccio, Benvenuto e il sogno della madre di Dante incinta (99–116), il par. 1, Leggere Dante nel Trecento, 99–101. Si veda inoltre Z. G. Barański, Dante e i segni. Saggi per una storia intellettuale di Dante Alighieri (Napoli: Liguori, 2000), in part. del cap. I, L’“Iter” ideologico di Dante (9– 39) il par. 3, Dante, la scuola, il commento, 18– 22; Z. G. Barański, Lo studio delle fonti e l’esegesi medievale del testo della “Commedia”, in “Per correr miglior acque . . .”. Bilanci e prospettive degli studi danteschi alle soglie del nuovo millennio. Atti del Convegno di VeronaRavenna, 25–29 ottobre 1999, a cura di E. Malato, 2 voll. (Roma: Salerno, 2001), 1:569– 600; C. Villa, Il ‘secolare commento’ alla “Commedia”: problemi storici e di tradizione, in “Per correr miglior acque . . .”, 1:549– 68. Per i commenti danteschi, sullo sfondo più generale del panorama medievale, si veda il capitolo X Assessing the New Author: Commentary on Dante in Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism. c. 1110– c. 1375. The Commentary Tradition, eds. A. J. Minnis and A. B. Scott with the assistance of D. Wallace, rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998) (ristampa 2003, da cui si cita), 449– 519 (449– 58). 2. Barański, “Chiosar con altro testo”, 34. 3. Si veda l’importante Recensione di L. C. Rossi a F. Sassetto, La biblioteca di Francesco da Buti interprete di Dante. Modelli critici di un lettore della “Commedia” dell’ultimo Trecento (Venezia: Il Cardo, 1993), Medioevo Romanzo 18 (1993): 447– 57; si vedano inoltre i contributi di F. Franceschini, “Il commento dantesco del Buti nel tardo Trecento e nel Quattrocento: tradizione del testo, lingua, società,” Bollettino Storico Pisano 64 (1995): 45–114; F. Franceschini, “Le



dieci morti di Pier della Vigna: commenti danteschi e itinerari medievali,” WAIB. Quaderni di cultura ghibellina in Italia 1, fasc. 1 (2000): 47– 63 (ora in F. Franceschini, Tra secolare commento e storia della lingua. Studi sulla “Commedia” e le antiche glosse (Firenze: Cesati, 2008), 115– 35); F. Franceschini, “‘Si petis de patria sum pisanus’: la presa di Caprona e altri momenti di storia pisana nell’opera di Francesco da Buti,” Bollettino Storico Pisano 25 (2006): 103– 27 (ora in F. Franceschini, Tra secolare commento e storia della lingua, con il titolo di La presa di Caprona e altri momenti di storia pisana nel Commento di Francesco da Buti, 137– 55, con l’aggiunta del paragrafo 6, inedito); A. Mazzucchi, La discussione della ‘varia lectio’ nel commento di Benvenuto da Imola e nell’antica esegesi dantesca, in “Per correr miglior acque . . .”, 2:955– 76, ora in A. Mazzucchi, Tra Convivio e Commedia: sondaggi di filologia e critica dantesca (Roma: Salerno, 2004), 176– 202; S. Costamagna, “Le osservazioni retoriche nel Commento di Francesco da Buti alla ‘Commedia’: terminologia tecnica e fonti,” Studi di Lessicografia Italiana 20 (2003): 35 – 61; B. Basile, “Lo zaffiro d’oriente: da Dante a Buti,” Rivista di Studi Danteschi 5 (2005): 155 – 60. Sulla figura di Francesco da Buti si può vedere ora la voce di F. Franceschini, “Francesco da Buti,” in Censimento dei commenti danteschi, 1: I commenti di tradizione manoscritta (fino al 1480), a cura di E. Malato e A. Mazzucchi, 2 voll. (Roma: Salerno, 2011), 1:192 – 218, utile anche per la bibliografia pregressa. 4. L’indagine lessicografica è stata condotta consultando principalmente il GDLI, il DEI, il DELI, la banca dati dell’OVI ed il TLIO in particolare. 5. L’OVI, l’Opera del Vocabolario Italiano, è l’Istituto del CNR che ha il compito di elaborare il Vocabolario Storico Italiano. Attualmente elabora e pubblica in rete il Tesoro della Lingua Italiana delle Origini (TLIO), che è la parte antica del Vocabolario Storico Italiano, e la Banca Dati dell’Italiano Antico. 6. La parola compare una prima volta nell’introduzione al canto: “In questo XX canto lo nostro autore tracta de la quarta bolgia ne la quale si punisce ’l peccato dell’affacturatione o vero maleficio.” Si noti come, a distanza di poche righe, il vocabolo in questione venga dapprima chiosato con maleficio e poi con admaliatione e sacrilegio. Sempre poche righe più sotto si nota che maleficio è diventato altresì una delle quattro spetie de l’affacturatione. Si veda anche la definizione di maleficio nella lista stilata da Guido da Pisa nel luogo corrispondente: “Circa secundum est sciendum quod quinque sunt partes sive speties huius artis: prima dicitur Mantica, sive Mathesis; secunda Mathematica; tertia Sortilegium; quarta Maleficium; quinta vero Prestigium . . . Quarta pars dicitur Maleficium, quando demones coacti per coniurationes dant responsa, vel futura predicunt. Et isti tales in quibus spiritus maligni loquuntur dicuntur Phytones, qui alio nomine, ut ait Haymo Super Ysaiam, ventriloqui appellantur, eo quod habent malignum spiritum, cuius inspiratione plerunque vera plerunque falsa Deo per-

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


mittente loquuntur. Artem vero phytonicam Phyton, qui et Apollo dicitur invenisse. Et sic patet de quarta parte que dicitur Maleficium” [Quanto al secondo si deve sapere che le parti o specie di quest’arte sono cinque: la prima è definita Mantica o Mathesis; la seconda Matematica; la terza Sortilegio; la quarta Maleficio; la quinta, invece, Prestigio. . . . La quarta parte è definita Maleficio in quanto i demoni, uniti in cospirazione, danno responsi o predicono il futuro. E questi tali in cui parlano spiriti maligni sono detti Pitoni, che con altro nome, come afferma Haimo nel “Su Isaia,” sono chiamati ventriloqui perché hanno uno spirito maligno per ispirazione del quale dicono ora il vero ora il falso col permesso di Dio. Si dice poi che Pitone, ovvero Apollo, abbia scoperto l’arte pitonica. E così è chiaro quanto concerne la quarta parte definita Maleficio] (Guido da Pisa, Expositiones et Glose super Comediam Dantis, or Commentary on Dante’s Inferno, ed. V. Cioffari (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1974, d’ora in avanti Guido da Pisa)). Si veda anche infra la p. 299 e n. 73. 7. D’altra parte, nel glossario medievale latino di du Cange, la voce factura è così spiegata: “FACTURA (Sortilegium, maleficium, Italis Fattura, Incantatio, Gall. Charme) Aut incantationes, sacrilegia, auguria, vel maleficia, quae Facturae, sive præstigiae vulgariter appellantur, vel invocationes dæmonum pro futuris, vel jam commissis aliquibus præsciendis.” [O incantesimi, sacrilegi, augùri, o maleficii, chiamati comunemente fatture o giochi di prestigio, o evocazioni di demonii per conoscere in anticipo il futuro o l’esito di cose già intraprese), du Cange et al., Glossarium Ad Scriptores Mediae et Infimae Latinitatis, éd. augm., 10 voll. (Niort: L. Favre, 1883– 87), t. 3, col. 393b (d’ora in avanti: du Cange). Il Glossarium dello storico, linguista e filologo francese Charles du Fresne Signore di Cange (1610– 88), pubblicato per la prima volta nel 1678 in 3 volumi in folio, è ancora oggi uno strumento indispensabile ai linguisti che si occupano di media e bassa latinità. 8. Il testo è tratto da L’ultima forma dell’“Ottimo commento”. Chiose sopra la Comedia di Dante Allegieri fiorentino tracte da diversi ghiosatori, a cura di C. Di Fonzo, Inferno (Ravenna: Longo, 2008) (d’ora in avanti: Ottimo tre), con la Recensione di C. Perna, Rivista di Studi Danteschi 9 (2009): 171– 76. Si veda inoltre infra la p. 301 e n. 87. Sull’ipotesi di una proliferazione di revisioni d’autore, avanzata per primo da G. Vandelli, “Una nuova redazione dell’‘Ottimo’,” Studi Danteschi 14 (1930): 92–174, (96, 172), e smentita da numerosi studi più recenti, si veda ora la voce di M. Corrado, “Ottimo Commento,” in Censimento dei commenti danteschi, 1:371– 406. 9. Matthæi de Griffonibus, Memoriale Historicum de rebus Bononiensium, in Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, Ab anno aerae christianae quingentesimo ad millesimumquingentesimum, Ludovicus Antonius Muratoris, Tomus Decimusoctavus, Mediolani: ex typographia societatis palatinae in regia curia, MDCCXXXI, 101– 236 (127).



10. Costamagna, Le osservazioni retoriche, 44. Di parere diverso Sassetto, che in La biblioteca afferma invece che “Le due auctoritates [scil. Prisciano e Donato] non vengono più richiamate nel commento né si è accertata alcuna utilizzazione delle loro opere da parte del nostro interprete, cosicché la loro presenza si esaurisce in queste brevi informazioni praticamente obbligate e, in fondo, scontate se si considera la professione del nostro, portando a concludere che Donato e Prisciano non costituivano una fonte dell’esegesi retorico– letteraria della Commedia” (138). 11. L’Ars minor e l’Ars maior di Elio Donato fiorirono intorno al 350 d. C. e rivestirono un’importanza enorme nell’insegnamento medievale del latino. La prima opera consiste di un breve manuale utile a chi volesse iniziare lo studio del latino. Essa, che tratta delle otto parti del discorso, divenne talmente popolare da essere spesso denominata semplicemente Donatus o Donatello dal nome del suo autore. La seconda, in tre libri, tratta invece di fonetica, metrica e stilistica. Per approfondire si può vedere J. J. Murphy, La retorica nel medioevo. Una storia delle teorie retoriche da S. Agostino al Rinascimento (Napoli: Liguori, 1983). L’opera grammaticale più famosa di Prisciano, l’Insitutio de arte grammatica, fiorì invece intorno al 510 d. C. Si veda ancora Murphy, La retorica nel medioevo, 83, 159 e n. 15. 12. La fama di Donato fu vastissima e consolidata dagli apprezzamenti espressi da Prisciano e Cassiodoro. È testimoniata inoltre da parecchi e autorevoli commenti che seguirono la divulgazione dell’opera, come quelli di Servio, dello pseudo Sergio, di Cledonio e di Paolo Diacono, soltanto per citarne alcuni. Le attestazioni della gloria di Donato sono molteplici: Servio afferma che ha strutturato la sua opera come “proprie et doctius” mentre Cledonio lo chiama “doctissimus.” Per un più ampio approfondimento sul testo di Donato e sulla diffusione dell’opera si può vedere L. Holtz, Donat et la tradition de l’enseignement grammatical: étude sur l’‘Ars Donati’ et sa diffusion (IVe- IXe siècle) et édition critique (Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1981). Sulla diffusione di testi grammaticali nel Medioevo e, in particolare, sul confronto tra la tradizione del testo di Prisciano con quella dell’Elementarium di Papia, si veda R. Cervani, “Considerazioni sulla diffusione dei testi grammaticali: la tradizione di Donato, Prisciano, Papias,” Bullettino dell’Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo e Archivio Muratoriano 91 (1984): 397– 421. 13. Costamagna, Le osservazioni retoriche, 54– 55. 14. Con Barbarismus si allude al III libro dell’Ars maior di Donato dal suo incipit. Questo libro godette di una considerevole fortuna per la trattazione delle figure e spesso circolò in maniera indipendente rispetto all’opera di cui faceva parte. Si veda Murphy, La retorica nel medioevo, 37. 15. Sull’opera lessicografica di Papia, di cui non si dispone ancora di un’edizione moderna completa, si vedano in particolare i numerosi lavori di V.

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


De Angelis, “La redazione preparatoria dell’‘Elementarium’,” Filologia Mediolatina 4 (1997): 251– 90; V. De Angelis, Papia, ‘Elementarium’ Tradizione manoscritta ed edizione del testo, in Bandhu. Scritti in onore di Carlo della Casa, a cura di R. Arena et alia, 2 voll. (Alessandria: Edizioni dell’Orso, 1997), 2:695– 715; V. De Angelis, “L’elementarium di Papia: metodo e prassi di un lessicografo,” Voces 8– 9 (1997– 98): 121– 39; V. De Angelis, Ansie ortografiche d’autore e censure umanistiche: Papia e Bonino Mombricio, in Per una storia della grammatica in Europa. Atti del convegno 11–12 settembre 2003, Milano, Università Cattolica (Milano: Vita e Pensiero, 2003), 121– 42. In mancanza di una edizione moderna completa (ma cfr. Papiae Elementarium littera A rec. V. De Angelis, I–III (Milano: Cisalpino-Goliardica, 1977– 80)), il testo si cita da Papias Vocabulista, Impressum Venetiis per Philippum de Pincis Mantuanum, Anno Domini Mccccxcvj. Die. xix. Aprilis (rist. anastatica Torino: Bottega d’Erasmo, 1966) (d’ora in avanti: Papia, Element.). 16. Uguccione da Pisa, Derivationes, edizione critica princeps a cura di E. Cecchini et alia, 2 voll. (Tavarnuzze, Firenze: Sismel–Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2004). 17. L’opera grammaticale del Buti è stata edita per la prima volta da C. Martinelli, “Francesco da Buti, ‘Regule’: edizione e commento” (Tesi di Dottorato, Dottorato in Studi Italianistici dell’Università di Pisa, a.a. 2007– 8, rel. F. Franceschini). Sui richiami espliciti a Uguccione, si vedano, nelle Regule: “[18] (2) . . . sed secundum Uguccionem declinatur in omnibus casibus singularibus et pluralibus in isto modo: ‘nominativo hec vis, genitivo huius vis, dativo huic vi, accusativo hanc vim, vocativo o vis, ablativo ab hac vi, et pluraliter accusativo has vires et non habet amplius’ in plurali et vires dicunt tantum pluraliter declinari, scilicet pluraliter nominativo hee vires et versus infra confirmant hoc in parte, scilicet Regula certa datur genitivis in -is breviatur, si vis tollatur numquam tibi falsificatur. (Uguccione da Pisa, Derivationes, U 32 [3]: ‘a vireo hec vis, genitivo huius vis, dativo vi, accusativo vim, vocativo o vis, ablativo ab hac vi, et pluraliter accusativo has vis, non habet amplius’)”; “[54] (2) Et nota quod inter predicta verba secundum Summa gramatice debet esse areo-es quod facit assum, unde aliqui libri habent a pla ta no pa la me sunt o li va ca do, sed Uguccio non ponit suppinum huic verbo areo et ideo non posui. (Uguccione da Pisa, Derivationes, A 310 §[1], 84: areo –res –rui verbum neutrum et caret supino).” 18. Martinelli, Regule, 10. 19. L’opera è finalmente leggibile nell’edizione a cura di C. Nardello, “Il commento di Francesco da Buti all’‘Ars poetica’ di Orazio” (Tesi di Dottorato, Università degli Studi di Padova, Dipartimento di Italianistica, Dottorato di Ricerca in Scienze Linguistiche, Filologiche e Letterarie, XX ciclo, a.a.2007– 8, rel. P. Rigo). Secondo Gian Carlo Alessio le letture iniziarono già a partire dal 1370, anno in cui il Buti fu chiamato ad insegnare presso lo Studio Pisano, e la



pubblicazione sarebbe avvenuta nel 1396 (G. C. Alessio, “Hec Franciscus de Buiti,” Italia Medioevale e Umanistica 24 (1981): 64–122 (85– 86). Di parere diverso il Kristeller, che ritiene invece la divulgazione dell’opera ascrivibile al 1386 (Catalogus translationum et commentariorum: Mediaeval and Renaissance Latin Translations and Commentaries, ed. P. O. Kristeller (Washington: Catholic University of America Press), 3 (1976), 247– 49). In rapporto all’utilizzo delle opere di Papia e di Uguccione, si veda il lavoro di Nardello (si indica il numero della pagina seguito dalle righe): 153 ll. 8–12 e 271 n. 140: “Il lessico di Papias (Voc., p. 307) riporta una definizione di scaena molto vicina a quella del Buti: ‘Scaena domus in theatro erat: structa cum pulpito quae orchestra vocabatur: ubi cantabant comici tragici atque saltabant: histriones et mimi: dicta grecie quod in specie domus erat illustrata: hi ludi liberales vocabantur’. Il confronto con Papias non è casuale né indebito, in quanto la sua conoscenza da parte del Buti (come quella di Uguccione) è attestata a più riprese anche nel commento alla Commedia”; 163 ll. 11–14 e 273 n. 151: “Il vocabolo [scil. aulaea] è riportato con lo stesso significato da Papias (Voc., p. 36: ‘Aulaea curtina vel velapinta: ideo dicta quia in aula idest in domo attali regis asiae sunt inventa’)”; 137 ll. 12–16 e 264 n. 98: “Chiara e lineare, la definizione qui proposta dal Buti, molto simile all’incipit di quella presentata da Uguccione da Pisa nelle Deriv. (C 259: ‘COTURNUS, genus calciamenti quo utebantur tragedi recitaturi in theatris et est huiusmodi calciamentum ut uterque utrique pedi conveniat factus in modum crepidarum; et ipse tragedus dicitur quandoque coturnus, unde, quia tragedi magnis et inflatis utuntur verbis, dicitur quandoque superbus et tumidus et altus coturnus, quandoque superbia’)”; 143 ll. 11–12 e 267 n. 116: “L’interpretazione etimologica di sesquipedalis poteva essere trovata dal Buti in Uguccione (Der. P 116, 60– 61): ‘Item pes componitur cum sesqui, quod est totum, et dicitur hic sesquipes, -dis, idest totus pes, quasi mensura unius pedis . . . unde sesquipedalis, -e, implens vel continens totum pedem, scilicet mensuram unius pedia . . .’”; 183 ll. 6– 7 e 279 n. 191: “Il Buti, per la presentazione dell’etimologia dei tre generi letterari, segue la tradizione e i lessici medioevali . . . In questo caso l’affinità è con Uguccione (Der., O 11, 11–13) . . . e con Papias (Voc., p. 356, voce tragoedi)”; 65 e n. 56, 205 ll. 1– 4 e 284 n. 221: “Tra gli autori medioevali Uguccione (Der. L 35, 11) fornisce la stessa etimologia [scil. voce Latium].” 20. In rapporto a O alto ingegno, si vedano, rispettivamente, anche le analoghe letture di Boccaccio e di Pietro Alighieri terza red.: “Nam dicitur ingenium vis animi insita naturaliter per se valens ac extensio intellectus ad incognitorum cognitionem” [Si definisce infatti ingegno una forza insita naturalmente nell’animo, potente di per sé, e una tensione dell’intelletto verso la conoscenza dell’ignoto]. (Comentum super poema ‘Comedie’ Dantis: A Critical Edition of the Third and Final Draft of Pietro’s Alighieri’s ‘Commentary’ on Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy’, ed. M. Chiamenti (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2002); d’ora in avanti: Pietro Alighieri, terza red.); Chiamenti,

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


nell’Introduzione alla sua edizione, dà anche notizia della conoscenza da parte di Pietro sia dell’opera di Isidoro che dei repertori lessicali di Uguccione, di Papia e di Giovanni da Genova (75). Boccaccio, Exposizioni II 7: “O alto ingegno: È lo ’ngegno dell’uomo una forza intrinsica dell’animo, per la quale noi spesse volte troviamo di nuovo quello che mai da alcuno non abbiamo apparato. . . . O mente. Non bastando solo lo ’ngegno, per la cui forza le pellegrine inventive si truovano, invoca ancora la mente sua, acciò che, per l’opera di lei, quello possa servare e poi racontare, che avrà trovato. Ed è questa mente, secondo che Papia scrive, la più nobile parte della nostra anima, dalla quale procede l’intelligenzia, e per la quale l’uomo è detto fatto alla imagine di Dio; o è l’anima stessa, la quale per li molti suoi effetti ha diversi nomi meritati” (Giovanni Boccaccio, Esposizioni sopra la ‘Comedia’ di Dante, a cura di G. Padoan, vol. 6 di Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio, a cura di V. Branca (Milano: Mondadori, 1965). 21. Già in Sassetto, La biblioteca, 106– 8. 22. Si vedano F. Franceschini, “La prima stesura del commento del Buti al ‘Paradiso’ in un codice appartenuto agli Appiani (Well 1036-Piac 544),” Nuova Rivista di Letteratura Italiana 1, fasc. 1 (1998): 209– 44; F. Franceschini, Dante, il Buti e gli Appiani. Un codice tra Piombino, Piacenza e il Massachussets (Pisa: ETS, 1998), in part. 219– 21 e n. 31. Ulteriori elementi in C. Tardelli, “Per una nuova edizione del commento di Francesco da Buti all’‘Inferno’: note sulla lezione del MS Napoletano XIII C 1 e su alcune interpretazioni di passi danteschi nella tradizione manoscritta,” The Italianist 30, no. 1 (2010): 18– 37, passim, e C. Tardelli, “Prolegomena all’edizione del commento alla ‘Commedia’ di Francesco da Buti. ‘Inferno’,” Le Tre Corone. Rivista Internazionale di Studi su Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio 1 (2013): c.d.s. 23. Sassetto, La biblioteca, 137– 38. 24. Rossi, Recensione, 455– 56. Sul commento di Donato a Virgilio si vedano le voci Donato Elio e Vitae Vergilianae di G. Brugnoli rispettivamente in Enciclopedia Virgiliana (Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1985), 2 (1985):125– 27 e 5 (1990):570– 80. 25. [Costui fu un grammatico romano che produsse un’edizione maggiore e una minore della grammatica, commentate dal dottore Remigio; fu maestro del beato Gerolamo: e siccome in generale contribuì a introdurre in primo luogo i fanciulli alle scienze, lo pone tra costoro. Perciò dice: che degnò, cioè ritenne cosa degna, poner mano alla prima arte, ossia la grammatica]. Benvenuti de Rambaldis de Imola Comentum super Dantis Aldighierij Comoediam, nunc primum integre in lucem editum, sumptibus Guilielmi Warren Vernon, curante Jacopo Philippo Laicata, 5 voll. (Firenze: Barbèra, 1887), d’ora in avanti: Benvenuto. 26. Iacomo della Lana, Il commento alla ‘Commedia’ di Iacomo della Lana, a cura di M. Volpi con la coll. di A. Terzi, 4 voll. (Roma: Salerno, 2009), con ed. facsimil. del ms. Riccardiano-Braidense.



27. A. Donato, Ars Grammatica, in H. Keil, Grammatici latini (Leipzig: 1853– 80; repr. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1961, 8 voll.), 4:367– 402 (d’ora in avanti: Donato, Ars). 28. [Derisione ostile]. In rapporto alla definizione di sarcasmos si veda anche Isid., Etym., I xxxvii.29: “Sarcasmos ets hostilis inrisio cum amaritudine,” già in R. Hollander, The Tragedy of Divination in ‘Inferno’ XX, in Studies in Dante (Ravenna: Longo, 1980), 172 e n. 98. 29. [Il sarcasmo è derisione ostile mista ad asprezza, come ad esempio: “Lo riferirai dunque e sarai messaggero al padre Pelide.” Il suo contrario è il linguaggio educato]. 30. [Il sarcasmo è derisione ostile, ossia scherzo misto ad asprezza]. Si veda anche Giovanni da Genova, Quarta pars, De tropis: “[S]arcosmos est plena odio uel hostilis irrisio auxiliante modo dicendi signata.” Il Catholicon seu Summa prosodiae (o Summa quae vocatur Catholicon) è un testo di grammatica redatto dal frate domenicano Giovanni Balbi (citato anche come Johannes Balbus o Johannes Januensis). Si tratta di un dizionario latino molto apprezzato nel Medioevo, redatto negli anni ’70 del XIII secolo e composto di vari trattati di ortografia, etimologia, grammatica, prosodia, retorica, e da un dizionario etimologico della lingua latina. Nel confronto ho utilizzato l’edizione Joannes Balbus de Janua, Incipit summa que vocat catholicon edita a fratre Iohanne de Janua, ingenio ac impensa Hermanni Liechtenstein: Venetijs, septimo kalendas decembris, 1487 (d’ora in avanti: Giovanni da Genova). L’autore attinge da Donato, da Prisciano, da Isidoro di Siviglia, da Uguccione da Pisa, ma soprattutto, come si legge nella voce “Balbi, Giovanni” (Iohannes Balbus, de Balbis, de Ianua), di A. Pratesi nel Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana: Roma, 1963; con bibl.), V: “da Papia, senza dubbio la fonte principale. . . . numerose sono le citazioni bibliche (in parte desunte da Uguccione), meno ricche quelle di autori classici tra i quali emerge per copia di riferimenti Orazio; vi sono inoltre accenni al Doctrinale di Alessandro de Villa Dei e alla Aurora di Pietro de Riga.” Una parziale edizione della parte relativa alle figure di costruzione si legge in B. Colombat e I. Rosier, “L’allothète et les figures de construction dans le ‘Catholicon’ de Johannes Balbi: introduction; édition et traduction des chapitres sur les figures de construction,” Archives et Documents de la SHESL 4, seconde série (1990): 69–161. 31. [La riflessione, interposta, di una frase separata]. Si veda anche Giovanni da Genova, Quarta pars - De tropis: “[P]arenthesis est interposita ratiocinatio diverse sententie.” 32. [La parentesi è la riflessione interposta di una frase diversa. Parenthesis in greco; interiectio in latino]. 33. [Il grugnito dei porci è prodotto dal suono della voce, perciò si dice comunemente grugnire]. Si veda anche Giovanni da Genova, De littera: “Grunio . . . porcorum grunire . . .”.

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


34. [La frase è la disposizione delle parole che mostra un pensiero congruo e compiuto. Definizione di frase intera]. 35. [Parimenti la frase è bipartita: un tipo è compiuto, l’altro è incompiuto]. Si veda anche Giovanni da Genova, De littera: “Oratio . . . Oratio perfecta est illa que perfectum sensum generat in animo auditoris:ut homo currit. Imperfecta est illa que imperfectum sensum generat in animo auditoris:ut homo albus. Uel oratio perfecta est ordinatio dictionum aptissime ordinatarum. Uel oratio perfecta est ordinatio dictionum congruam perfectamque sententiam demonstrans” [La frase . . . La frase compiuta è quella che produce un senso compiuto nell’animo dell’ascoltatore: come ad esempio “l’uomo corre.” Incompiuta è quella che produce un senso incompiuto nell’animo dell’ascoltatore: come ad esempio “l’uomo bianco.” Oppure la frase compiuta è la disposizione delle parole ordinate nel modo più consono. O ancora la frase compiuta è la disposizione delle parole che mostra un pensiero congruo e compiuto]. 36. Sul valore di – i finale nelle interiezioni in italiano antico, si veda L. Bertolini, “«Oi»: la «voce» del pianto,” Lingua e Stile 34 (2004): 149– 56. 37. [Ah ah, espressione di chi prova dolore; interiezione, oppure “a” è preposizione]. 38. [Ei: interiezione, di una sola sillaba, di chi prova dolore]. 39. [Questo FENUS, -oris, cioè usura]. Si veda anche Giovanni da Genova, De littera, voce Fenus: “Fenus noris ge. neu. i. usura” [Conoscerai fenus di genere neutro, cioè usura]. 40. [Latro è chi ruba e uccide, così definito per l’essere nascosto in agguato. Fur, invece, è chi sottrae qualcosa d’altri di nascosto e con timore; derivato da furvus (scuro), cioè nero]. 41. [Parimenti da furvus deriva anche questo fur, -uris, poiché agisce nottetempo; propriamente, appunto, è fur chi di notte va a sottrarre i beni nascosti nelle case, latro chi sta nascosto nei boschi e deruba i passanti. Da ciò il famoso detto “Il fur sta nascosto nell’oscurità, il latro si fa incontro spontaneamente”]. Si veda anche Giovanni da Genova, De littera, voce Fur: “Fur . . . est fur ille que de nocte vadit et profodit domos: latro qui latet in silvis: et expoliat transeuntes unde illud: fur latet in furvo, latro se fert obvius ultro” [Fur . . . è fur chi di notte va a sottrarre i beni nascosti nelle case, latro chi sta nascosto nei boschi e deruba i passanti. Da ciò il famoso detto “Il fur sta nascosto nell’oscurità, il latro si fa incontro spontaneamente”]. 42. [Si dice uomo perché è fatto di terra, come si legge nella Genesi . . . Dice uomo da terra, da lì lo fa derivare]. 43. [Parimenti questa voce uomo deriva dalla terra, come fosse terra, in quanto creato dalla terra]. Si veda anche Giovanni da Genova, De littera, voce Homo: “Homo ab humo dicit hic et hec homo hominis quasi humor quare ex humo est effecto.”



44. [La sineddoche è la concezione secondo cui si comprende il tutto dalla parte o la parte dal tutto. Come ad esempio il mare smisurato dal gorgo colpisce la poppa. Non si tratta, infatti, dell’intero mare, ma di una parte, vale a dire il flutto]. Si veda anche Giovanni da Genova, Quarta pars - De tropis: “[S]ynodoche est significatio pleni intellectus capax . . . aut enim totum a parte ostendit” [La sineddoche è un’espressione atta ad essere pienamente compresa . . . o mostra il tutto dalla parte]. 45. [Deus e divus si differenziano per questo: il deus è sempre tale, mentre il divus è soggetto al divenire]. 46. Si veda anche Giovanni da Genova, De littera, voce Diuus: “Deus semper est: divus fit, quasi qui ex mortali fit: immortalis” [Il deus è sempre tale, mentre il divus è soggetto al divenire, come se da mortale divenisse immortale]. 47. Si veda anche Giovanni da Genova, De littera, voce Dominicus: “et dictus est dominicus quasi a domino custoditus” [Ed è detto dominico come se fosse custodito dal padrone]. 48. [La parola è la parte di una frase. Il discorso, invece, è della misura di più parole]. 49. [E questo verbum -bi, discorso, poiché nel pronunciarlo l’aria è percossa; da ciò anche una parte della frase è detta verbum per eccellenza, poiché nel pronunciarla l’aria è percossa più frequentemente che nel pronunciare un’altra parte]. La stessa identica definizione in Giovanni da Genova, De littera, voce Verbum. 50. [Altum è la parte superiore e inferiore [†]; deve riguardare infatti entrambe: diciamo alto il cielo e profondo il mare. Profondo, voragine, alto, universo, grande, profondità hanno lo stesso significato]. 51. [Altus, -a, -um, che ha tre significati: alto, cioè sottile, come “in costui vi è un’alta scienza,” cioè sottile; alto come sublime e alto come profondo; infatti, inversamente e reciprocamente, si usa alto per profondo e profondo per alto]. Una definizione molto simile si legge in Giovanni da Genova, De littera, voce Altus. 52. [Congiunzione espletiva, ossia esornativa in quanto adorna il discorso, che senza di essa non viene sminuito, come: almeno se un figlio mi fosse stato generato da te]. 53. [Si dice grazia in quanto data gratuitamente: ci è data da Cristo senza un precedente merito da parte nostra]. 54. [Affectus da afficio, -cis, estenuato, fatto a pezzi; da ad e facio. Affectus è participio, mentre maceratus sostantivo della quarta declinazione]. Si veda anche la voce Affectus in Giovanni da Genova. 55. [Iuxta significa παρά, avverbio greco. Avverbio quando di per sé si unisce al verbo, come “considero una vita di mali una morte, allo stesso modo.” Di luogo, vicino o accanto è παρά, che funge anche da preposizione, come “accanto alla parete.” . . . La preposizione ad . . . indica anche l’aggiunta . . .: come

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


“in aggiunta a questi mali”; ad si usa spesso al posto di iuxta, propter e usque: aggiunge, pone inoltre, mette a confronto e richiama]. Si veda anche la voce Iuxta in Giovanni da Genova. 56. Si veda la voce Francesco da Buti, di F. Mazzoni, Enciclopedia Dantesca, 6 voll. (Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1970– 78) 2:23– 27. Per più precise corrispondenze tra il Buti e Guido da Pisa, si veda Sassetto, La biblioteca, 82– 84, 88, 94, 145 e ss. 57. M. L. Caglio, “Materiali enciclopedici nelle ‘Expositiones’ di Guido da Pisa,” Italia Medioevale e Umanistica 29 (1981): 213– 56 (242– 43): “semmai resta da stabilire se Guido da Pisa abbia usato le Derivationes come fonte diretta, oppure si sia servito del Catholicon di Giovanni da Genova, autore che sfrutta abbondantemente l’opera di Uguccione, citando spesso la propria fonte.” Sui rapporti tra Guido ed Uguccione si veda in part. la p. 244, nella quale la studiosa presenta una lista di passi in cui ravviserebbe punti di contatto tra le Expositiones e le Derivationes. 58. [Il chelidro è un serpente acquatico e terrestre, così chiamato da ceros, “terra,” e ydor, “acqua”; per cui chelydris, serpente acquatico e terrestre, la cui natura è camminare . . . eretto]. Isid., Etymol., XII iv: “[24] Chelydros serpens, qui et chersydros, quasi ðcerimð, quia et in aquis et in terris moratur; nam CHERSON dicunt Graeci terram, UDOR aquam. Hic per quam labitur terram, fumare facit: quam sic Macer describit (8): Seu terga expirant spumantia virus / seu terra fumat, qua teter labitur anguis. Et Lucanus (9,711): Tractique via fumante chelydri. Semper autem directus ambulat; nam si torserit se, dum currit, statim crepat” [Il chelidro o chersidro, come fosse †cerim†, perché via in acqua e sulla terra; i Greci dicono infatti CHERSON la terra, UDOR acqua. Esso fa fumare la terra su cui striscia; Macro lo descrive così (8): Il dorso spumante trasuda veleno o fuma la terra su cui striscia l’orrendo serpente]. 59. Si veda anche la chiosa di Benvenuto, Inf. 24.85– 90: “Est autem serpens cuius dorsum fumans, terram fumare facit, per quam transit, propter virtutem veneni, sive fumus exeat ex eo, sive ex terra quam fumare facit; hic serpens pro magna parte sui ambulat directus, quia si se multum torserit dum currit, statim crepat” [Esiste poi un serpente dal dorso fumante, che fa fumare la terra su cui passa per la qualità del veleno, sia che il fumo esca da quello, sia che esca dalla terra che fa fumare; questo serpente, per gran parte del suo corpo, procede diritto, poiché, se si contorce molto mentre corre, muore all’istante]. 60. [Il cencro è un serpente che non si piega, cammina sempre diritto, ma non eretto, bensì striscia diritto per terra con tutto il corpo, contrariamente alla natura degli altri serpenti]. 61. Da una ricerca di gram(m)atico effettuata nel corpus OVI, emergono, tra gli altri, i seguenti risultati: “Come l’uomo è virtuoso. A domandare come l’uomo è giusto, facendo l’opere della giustizia, e com’egli è temperato, facendo



l’opere della temperanza, si potrebbe l’uomo dicere, ch’è simigliante a queste due virtudi sì come della gramatica. E quell’uomo è detto gramatico, che favella secondo gramatica” (Il Tesoro di Brunetto Latini volgarizzato da Bono Giamboni, raffrontato col testo autentico francese edito da P. Chabaille, emendato con mss. ed illustrato da Luigi Gaiter, 4 voll. (Bologna: Presso Gaetano Romagnoli, 1878– 83), L 6, cap. 11. (sec. XIII ex.)); “Il gramatico s’occupa intorno allo studio del parlare, e se più si vuole stendere, infino alle storie; e quando vuole lunghissimamente stendere i suoi termini, intorno a’ versi” (da Anonimo, Volgarizzamento delle Pistole di Seneca e del Trattato della Provvidenza di Dio, a cura di G. Bottari (Firenze: Tartini e Franchi, 1717) xxv– xxxxviii. (a. 1325?); “De occhi. Pilole isperte in Firençe a ffare chiaro e buono vedere, et in questo modo isperimentato fu uno amicho mio che avea nome dompno Durante, monacho di santo Bernaba, il quale aveva da LXXX anni in suso e era buono gramatico, istato maestro di squola e non poteva leggere né iscrivere più sança occhi di vetro” (Piero Ubertino da Brescia, Ricette per gli occhi. Conoscimento de’ sogni. Trattato sull’orina. Morsi di cani e loro conoscimento, a cura di M. S. Elsheikh (Firenze: Ed. Zeta, 1993), 28.1.12 (1361)); etc. Nel GDLI alla voce grammatico si legge: “chi studia o insegna grammatica, chi conosce a fondo una lingua, l’arte di parlarla e di scriverla; retore.” Il secondo significato, per estensione, è “persona dotta, colta.” 62. [Il sacrilegio è propriamente il furto di cose sacre; in seguito questo nome si applicò anche al culto degli idoli. Il sacrilego è colui che porta via, cioè ruba, colui che ruba il culto del vero Dio: in particolare attribuendolo a idoli]. Si veda anche la voce Sacrilegus in Giovanni da Genova, De lictera: “Sacrilegus qui sacra legit idest furat vel qui cultum dei veri furat idolis tribuendo . . . Sacrilegium est sacre rei violatio vel eiusdem usurpatio” [Il sacrilego è colui che porta via, cioè ruba, o ruba il culto del vero Dio attribuendolo a idoli . . . Il sacrilegio è la violazione di una cosa sacra o l’appropriazione illecita della stessa]. 63. Cfr. anche Prisc., De Rethorica, (in Keil, Grammatici latini 3:434– 5): “homicidae enim contra homines audent, sacrilegus autem in ipsos sceleratam exercet audaciam deos” [Gli omicidi osano infatti contro gli uomini, mentre il sacrilego esercita un’audacia scellerata contro gli dei stessi]. Un’interrogazione elettronica compiuta sul testo di Donato non rivela nessuna occorrenza del termine sacrilegus/sacrilegium. Si vedano inoltre Guido da Pisa, Inf. 24.133– 38: “Est et aliud genus furti quod dicitur furtum spirituale, quod sacrilegium appellatur. Est autem sacrilegium sacre rei violatio vel usurpatio. Et dicitur sacrilegium quasi ‘sacri ledium’, quia ledit res sacras; vel a ‘legendo’, idest ‘furando’. . . . Ratione vero rei committitur sacrilegium cum res sacras vel sacro usui deputatas quisquam attentaverit usurpare” [Esiste anche un altro tipo di furto, detto furto spirituale, che si chiama sacrilegio. Esso è inoltre la violazione o l’appropriazione illecita di una cosa sacra. E si chiama sacrilegio come fosse una “lesione del sacro,” in quanto lede cose sacre; o deriva da “legendo,” cioè “rubando.”. . . In ragione

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della cosa, invece, si commette sacrilegio quando si tenta di appropriarsi illecitamente di cose sacre o deputate a uso sacro]; Benvenuto, Inf. 26.13–15: “Nam de eo non narratur nisi istud furtum magnum vel malum sacrilegium, quod est furtum rerum sacrarum, et de loco sacro ablatarum; ideo bene punitur hic cum Caco, de quo statim dicetur, qui similiter fecit mirabile furtum Herculi, qui erat homo divinus, imo pro Deo habitus dum adhuc viveret” [Di esso infatti non si racconta che questo grave furto o sacrilegio maligno che è il furto delle cose sacre e sottratte da un luogo sacro; ragion per cui è giustamente punito con Caco, di cui si dirà subito, il quale analogamente perpetrò uno straordinario furto ai danni di Ercole, un uomo divino, anzi considerato Dio mentre era ancora in vita]. 64. Hollander, The Tragedy of Divination, 131– 218 (162, n. 77). 65. Vulg., Act. 16.16: “praestare divinando.” 66. Cic., De divinatione, I 1: “Vetus opinio est iam usque ab heroicis ducta temporibus, eaque et populi Romani et omnium gentium firmata consensu, versari quandam inter homines divinationem, quam Graeci mantiké appellant, id est praesensionem et scientiam rerum futurarum” [È un’opinione antica, risalente ai tempi leggendari e corroborata dal consenso del popolo romano e di tutte le genti, che vi siano uomini dotati di una sorta di divinazione—chiamata dai greci mantiké, cioè capaci di presentire il futuro e di acquisirne la conoscenza]. Alberto Magno, De somno et vigilia, lib. III, tr. 1, c. 8: “divinatio ex diis nomen accipit: eo quod divinatio non nisi per deos fiat.” La bibliografia sulle arti magiche nel Medioevo è piuttosto vasta. In questa sede andranno almeno ricordati gli studi di L. Thorndike, The History of Magic and Experimental Science, 8 voll. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1923– 58), in part. il vol. 3, Fourteenth Century; F. Cardini, Magia, stregoneria, superstizioni nell’occidente medievale (Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1979); R. Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); C. Burnett, Magic and Divination in the Middle Ages. Texts and Techniques in the Islamic and Christian Worlds (Aldershot: Variorum, 1996); J. R. Veenstra, Magic and Divination at the Courts of Burgundy and France. Text and Context of Laurens Pignon’s ‘Contre les Devineurs’ (1411) (Leiden, New York, Köln: Brill, 1997); J. R. Veenstra, Cataloguing Superstition: a Paradigmatic Shift in the Art of Knowing the Future, in Pre-Modern Encyclopaedic Texts. Proceedings of the Second COMERS Congress, Groningen: Netherlands, 1– 4 July 1996, ed. Peter Binkley (Leiden, New York, Köln: Brill, 1997) 169– 80; B. Láng, Unlocked Books. Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008), in part. il cap. 4 Divination with Diagrams, 123– 43. Sui rapporti tra la Commedia e la divinazione nel Medioevo si veda da ultimo lo studio di S. A. Gilson, “Medieval Magical Lore and Dante’s ‘Commedia’: Divination and Demonic Agency,” Dante Studies 119 (2001): 27– 66 (27– 45, con bibl.).



67. Isid., Etymol., VIII ix: “[13] Quod genus divinationis a Persis fertur adlatum. Varro dicit divinationis quattuor esse genera, terram, aquam, aerem et ignem. Hinc geomantiam, hydromantiam, aeromantiam, pyromantiam dictam.” 68. [E questa [ossia la Mantica o Mathesis] comprende otto specie: quattro secondo i quattro elementi; la quinta secondo l’inferno; le altre, invece, secondo i diversi animali in cui o con cui si esercita la scienza stessa. La prima si chiama Piromanzia, da pyr, fuoco, e mantia, divinazione; o, come ritengono altri, da Manto, figlia di Tiresia. Quest’arte si esercita nel fuoco, nella luna e nelle stelle. La seconda si chiama Aeromanzia, da aere e mantia o Manto; essa si esercita nell’aria, nelle spade e negli specchi. La terza si chiama Idromanzia, da ydor, acqua, e mantia o Manto; essa si esercita nell’acqua. La quarta si chiama Geomanzia, da geos, terra, e mantia o Manto; essa si esercita nelle cavità della terra]. Guido da Pisa. Robert Hollander in The Tragedy of Divination, 163, n. 77, già notava che: “possibly the most interesting of Dante’s thirteenth-century commentators, from the point of view of one interested in divination, is Guido da Pisa (Expositiones et Glose, pp. 378– 82). Guido, as is clear from his overt citations, draws heavily on Isidore’s eight book . . . But if Isidore serves Guido widely . . . he is surprisingly jettisoned when Guido divides divination into its constituent genres. Then he would seem to be relying on ‘The Third Vatican Mythographer’ . . . or on a tradition shared by that writer and another source of sources.” 69. Alle pratiche elencate da Isidoro, Giovanni di Salisbury aggiunge: “vultivuli (who manipulate a person’s feelings by means of wax or clay images); imaginarii (idolaters, who consult presiding spirits by means of images); conjectores (dream-interpreters); chiromantici (who inspect a person’s hands); specularios (who gaze into smooth and shining surfaces such as blades, cups and mirrors)” (Veenstra, Magic and Divination, 156). 70. Ibid., 159. 71. Summa Theologia in S. Thomae de Aquino Opera Omnia, tomus IV (Editio Leonina: Romae, 1886), 2a.2ae.95 e 2a.2ae.96. 72. [I Negromanti sono coloro che con i loro incantesimi sembrano riportare in vita i morti e far sì che profetizzino rispondendo alle richieste]. Isid., Etymol., VIII ix.11. Ma si veda anche Guido da Pisa: “Quinta, secundum Herebum, dicitur Nigromantia, a nigros quod est «mortuus» et mantia, sive Manto; ista ars exercetur homine mortuo suscitato: non quod mortui suscitentur, sed demones adiurati ingrediuntur in corpora defuntorum et ad interrogata respondent” [La quinta, secondo Erebo, è detta Negromanzia, da nigros che significa “morto” e mantia o Manto; quest’arte si esercita resuscitando un uomo morto, non perché i morti resuscitino, ma perché i demoni scacciati con l’esorcismo entrano nel corpo dei defunti e rispondono alle richieste]; Ottimo tre: “E a questo inganno si procede per diverse vie . . . alcuni pe via nigromantica.”

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73. [I Pitonissi devono il loro nome ad Apollo Pizio, l’inventore della divinazione]. Isid., Etymol., VIII ix.18. Si veda anche Guido da Pisa: “Quarta pars dicitur Maleficium, quando demones coacti per coniurationes dant responsa, vel futura predicunt. Et isti tales in quibus spiritus maligni loquuntur dicuntur Phytones, qui alio nomine, ut ait Haymo Super Ysaiam, ventriloqui appellantur, eo quod habent malignum spiritum, cuius inspiratione plerunque vera plerunque falsa Deo permittente loquuntur. Artem vero phytonicam Phyton, qui et Apollo dicitur invenisse. Et sic patet de quarta parte que dicitur Maleficium” [La quarta parte è definita Maleficio in quanto i demoni, uniti in cospirazione, danno responsi o predicono il futuro. E questi tali in cui parlano spiriti maligni sono detti Fitoni, che con altro nome, come afferma Haimo nel “Su Isaia,” sono chiamati ventriloqui perché hanno uno spirito maligno per ispirazione del quale dicono per lo più il vero per lo più il falso col permesso di Dio. Inoltre, si dice che Pitone, ovvero Apollo, abbia scoperto l’arte pitonica. E così è chiaro quanto concerne la quarta parte definita Maleficio]. 74. Isid., Etymol., VIII ix.18. Ma si vedano anche Guido da Pisa: “Auspitium dicitur ab avibus, quod alio nomine Augurium nominatur” [L’Auspicio deve il suo nome agli uccelli ed è anche definito diversamente Augurio]; Ottimo tre: “alcuni per aguri d’uccelli.” 75. [Gli Interpreti della sorte sono coloro che professano la conoscenza della divinazione sotto il nome di una religione falsa mediante quelle che chiamano sorti dei santi, o predicono il futuro esaminando un passo qualunque delle Scritture], Isid., Etymol., VIII ix.28. Ma si vedano anche, a Inf. 20.1– 6, Guido da Pisa: “Tertia pars dicitur Sortilegium, que est ‘ars divinandi per sortem’, quando scilicet per sortes cognoscuntur futura. Ista in Veteri Testamento fuit concessa, sicut habetur in libro Hester, tertio capitulo Esther 3.7: Missa est sors in urna, que hebraice dicitur furim. Sed in Novo prohibita; non quod de se sit mala, quia sors, secundum Augustinum, est res in humana dubietate divinam indicans voluntatem, sed quia per assiduitatem posset labi in ydolatriam, ideo prohibetur. Et sic patet de tertia parte que dicitur Sortilegium” [La terza parte si dice Sortilegio, “l’arte di divinare mediante la sorte,” dato che, cioè, si conoscono gli eventi futuri mediante le sorti. Essa era lecita nel Vecchio Testamento, come è nel libro di Ester, capitolo terzo {Esther 3.7}: fu inserita una sorte in un’urna, che in ebraico si dice furim. Ma nel Nuovo è proibita, non perché sia in sé malvagia, in quanto secondo Agostino la sorte, nell’incertezza umana, rappresenta la volontà divina, ma in quanto per l’assiduità potrebbe degenerare nell’idolatria, ragion per cui è proibita. E così è chiaro quanto concerne la terza parte detta Sortilegio]; Ottimo tre: “Tractato di sopra in due proximi canti di tre qualitadi di frodololenti, qui tracta della quarta qualitade, puniti nella .iiii. bolgia: ciò sono auguratori, sortilegii, veneficatori, amaliatori et indovini, i quali con diverse arti ingannarono il proximo”; Pietro Alighieri, terza red.: “Item interdum hoc faciunt sorte, unde



dicti sunt ‘sortilegi’, Qui, ut dicit Ysidorus, sub nomine ficte religionis, per quasdam quas sanctorum vocant sortes, divinationis scientiam profitentur, aut quaruncumque Scripturarum inspectione futura promictunt, et ex hoc dicit quedam Decretalis sic: In tabulis vel codicibus vel astrolabio sorte futura non sunt inquirenda” [Parimenti talora lo fanno con la sorte, perciò sono definiti “interpreti della sorte,” Coloro che, come dice Isidoro, professano la conoscenza della divinazione sotto il nome di una religione falsa mediante quelle che chiamano sorti dei santi, o predicono il futuro esaminando un passo qualunque delle Scritture, e per questo un Decretale dice così: Nelle tavole o nei codici o nell’astrolabio non si deve indagare il futuro con la sorte]. 76. [Gli Aruspici hanno questo nome come se fossero custodi delle ore: custodiscono infatti i giorni e le ore sbrigando faccende e altri lavori, e si occupano di ciò a cui le persone dovrebbero attendere in ogni particolare momento. Costoro esaminano anche le viscere degli animali e in base ad esse predicono il futuro], Isid., Etymol., VIII ix.17. Si veda anche Guido da Pisa: “Secunda speties sive pars dicitur Mathematica, que habet tres speties, scilicet Aruspitium, Auspitium et Oroscopium. Aruspitium dicitur ab aris, quia super aras sive altaria in extis animalium et fumo sacrificiorum futura videbant. Auspitium dicitur ab avibus, quod alio nomine Augurium nominatur; quod quidem fit in volatu, garritu, vel cantu avium” [La seconda specie o parte è detta Matematica, la quale è di tre generi, Aruspicina, Auspicio e Oroscopo. L’Aruspicina è così chiamata dalle are, poiché sulle are o altari vedevano il futuro nelle viscere degli animali e nel fumo dei sacrifici. L’Auspicio deve il suo nome agli uccelli ed è anche definito diversamente Augurio: riguarda il volo, il verso o il canto degli uccelli]. 77. [Gli Arioli sono così chiamati perché lanciano maledizioni intorno agli altari degli idoli e offrono sacrifici funesti, e in quei riti ricevono le risposte dei demoni], Isid., Etymol., VIII ix.16. 78. [Svariate sono le forme di questa attività divinatoria; alcuni, infatti, vogliono prevedere il futuro col fuoco, e allora tale divinazione è detta piromanzia, da pyr, che significa fuoco, e mantia, divinazione, di cui si parla nel capitolo XVI. tramite Lucano etc.: vedi il passo. Altri con l’aria, e quella divinazione è detta aeromanzia; contro di loro si scaglia Salomone: chi osserva i venti non semina e chi esamina le nubi non mieterà. La divinazione compiuta con l’acqua si chiama idromanzia; quella compiuta con la terra geomanzia. Quella realizzata mediante ventriloqui, detti Pitoni, si chiama Pitonica, così detta da Apollo Pizio. Quella che si fonda sui morti si dice negromanzia. Quella relativa al volo e al verso degli uccelli, augurio; quella relativa alla sorte, sortilegio], Petri Allegherii super Dantis ipsius genitoris Comoediam Commentarium nunc primum in lucem editum consilio et sumtibus G. I. Bar. Vernon, curante V. Nannucci (Florentiae: apud Guilielmum Piatti, 1845), d’ora in avanti: Pietro Alighieri, I red.

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79. Nell’OVI la voce è catalogata come magicazio. 80. [E l’arte magica si divide in prestigio e maleficio; il prestigio è l’inganno dei sensi umani, secondo cui sembrano verificarsi incredibili cambiamenti nelle cose, così che un cumulo di terra sembra una fortezza, una pietruzza un talento, un campo una coorte di soldati con l’elmo. Sebbene il maleficio possa indicare generalmente qualsivoglia misfatto, questo in particolare è quello con cui a tal punto sottomettiamo a noi i demoni che ci obbediscono eseguendo i nostri ordini], Uguccione, Derivationes, 724. Una definizione molto simile si legge in Giovanni da Genova, De lictera, voce Magus. 81. [I magi sono coloro che vengono comunemente definiti malefici per la gravità dei misfatti. Essi non mutano affatto né anima né corpo benché sembrino farlo]. Pressoché identica definizione in Isid., Etymol., VIII viii.9: “Magi sunt, qui vulgo malefici ob facinorum magnitudinem nuncupantur. Hi et elementa concutiunt, turbant mentes hominum, ac sine ullo veneni haustu violentia tantum carminis interimunt.” 82. [Il sogno, invece, è quello che vediamo mentre dormiamo. Le immagini di questi sogni colpiscono l’animo in sei modi, poiché alcuni si manifestano se il ventre è pieno o vuoto; alcuni derivano da un pensiero particolare avuto durante il giorno; altri si compiono per l’inganno di spiriti immondi, come accade a chi fa vaticini; altri per il mistero della rivelazione divina, come apparve in sogno l’angelo a Giuseppe. Talvolta in modo confuso, ossia per un pensiero e un inganno o per un pensiero e per rivelazione insieme, come Daniele diceva: “Tu, re, hai cominciato a pensare etc.”]. Ma cfr. anche Pietro Alighieri, I red., Inf. 20.10–15: “Et si quando tales dicunt verum, dicit Augustinus quod est de permissione Dei, ut probet qualem fidem habeamus in eo. Unde in Deuteronomio, Capitulo XIII. dicitur: si surrexerit in medio tui propheta, et somnium vidisse se dicat, et praedixerit aliquid et evenerit, et dixerit: eamus et colamus Deos alienos, non audias eum, quia tentat vos Deus, ut sciat an diligatit eum, vel non. Item, quando a casu vera etiam dicunt” [E se talora essi dicono il vero, afferma Agostino che è per concessione di Dio, affinché metta alla prova la nostra fede in lui. Perciò nel Deuteronomio, capitolo XIII, si dice: se si alza un profeta in mezzo a te, dice di aver avuto un sogno, predice qualcosa che si verifica, ed esorta: “andiamo a venerare altri Dei,” non ascoltarlo, perché Dio vi tenta per sapere se lo amate o no. Parimenti, talora dicono anche il vero per caso]. 83. Sull’origine e sul significato della parola, si veda ora C. Tardelli, “Sternulegio,” Lingua Nostra 74 (2013): c.d.s. 84. Si veda Tardelli, “Prolegomena all’edizione del commento,” c.d.s. 85. Sulla storia della tradizione del commento di Francesco da Buti all’Inferno si veda Tardelli, “Per una nuova edizione del commento di Francesco da Buti all’‘Inferno’,” 18– 37; Tardelli “Prolegomena all’edizione del commento,” c.d.s.



86. Napoli, Biblioteca Nazionale “Vittorio Emanuele III”, ms. XIII C 1. Sulla bontà del ms. si vedano Tardelli, “Per una nuova edizione del commento di Francesco da Buti all’‘Inferno’,” passim; Tardelli, “Prolegomena all’edizione del commento,” c.d.s. 87. Sulla questione si veda in part. Catullus: a commentary, by C. J. Fordyce (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), 205– 6; per un elenco completo delle attestazioni classiche si veda A. S. Pease, “The Omen of Sneezing,” Classical Philology 6 (1911): 429– 43. 88. Ottimo tre. Le Etimologiae di Isidoro erano già state individuate dal Rocca come opera ampiamente utilizzata dall’Ottimo: L. Rocca, Di alcuni commenti della ‘Divina Commedia’ composti nei primi vent’anni dopo la morte di Dante (Firenze: Sansoni, 1891), 259. Tuttavia, Giuliana de Medici fa notare come, per quanto riguarda l’etimologia dei vocaboli, l’Ottimo affianchi spesso all’opera di Isidoro le Derivationes di Uguccione. Per più precisi raffronti testuali, si veda G. de Medici, “Le fonti dell’‘Ottimo’ commento alla ‘Divina Commedia’,” Italia Medioevale e Umanistica 26 (1983): 71–123 (101– 7). Sulla pratica divinatoria degli starnuti menzionata nei commenti danteschi, si vedano inoltre Guido da Pisa, Inf. 20.1: “Horoscopium dicitur ab horis, nam in horis et gradibus dierum atque signorum celestium, necnon in numero oscitationum atque sternutationum futura predicit.” [Oroscopo deriva da ‘ora’, infatti le cose future si predicono tramite l’osservazione delle ore e dei gradi del giorno e dei corsi celesti, e non attraverso il numero degli sbadigli o degli starnuti]; Benvenuto, Inf. 20.16–18: “Nota etiam quod comparatio paralytici est propriissima: sicut enim paralyticus totus tremit, et numquam tenet membra firma, ita recte divinator semper nutat et vacillat, quia stat semper cum timore et suspicione considerans puncta, momenta, minuta; imo, quod est peius, pennas avium, imo puncta facta in terra; imo, quod est ridiculosius, aliquando sternuta, [. . .] ergo bene maledicta talis vita.” [E nota che la similitudine dei paralitici è proprissima: come il paralitico trema tutto, e non tiene alcun membro fermo, così, a ragione, l’indovino sempre ondeggia e vacilla poiché sta sempre a considerare, col timore e col sospetto, i punti, i movimenti e le cose minute; anzi, ciò che è peggio, le penne degli uccelli, o i punti fatti in terra, addirittura, e questo è più ridicolo, talvolta gli starnuti, [. . .] dunque davvero si può dir maledetta una tale esistenza.] 89. Sul testo e sulla fortuna dello Specchio di Passavanti si vedano almeno: G. Varanini e G. Baldassari, Racconti esemplari di predicatori del Due e Trecento, 2 voll. (Roma: Salerno, 1993), 2:531– 626; M. Aurigemma, La fortuna critica dello “Specchio di vera penitenza” di Jacopo Passavanti, in Studi in onore di Angelo Monteverdi (Modena: Società tipografica editrice modenese, 1959), 48– 75; G. Auzzas, “Per il testo dello ‘Specchio della vera penitenza’. Due nuove fonti manoscritte,” Lettere italiane 26 (1974): 261– 87; G. Auzzas, Dalla predica al trattato: lo “Specchio della vera pernitenza” di Iacopo Passavanti, in Scrittura religiosa. Forme

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letterarie dal Trecento al Cinquecento, a cura di C. Delcorno e M. L. Doglio (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2003), 37– 58, già in Lettere italiane 54 (2002): 325– 42; C. Delcorno e M. L. Doglio, “Tradizione caratterizzante e interpolazioni di ‘exempla’ nello ‘Specchio della vera penitenzia’,” Filologia Italiana 1 (2004): 61– 71. 90. Iacopo Passavanti, Lo specchio della vera penitenza, novamente collazionato sopra testi manoscritti ed a stampa da F. L. Polidori (Firenze: Felice Le Monnier, 1856), 309–11. Il passo non è riportato nella moderna edizione dello Specchio, per le cure di Varanini e Baldassarri, in Racconti esemplari. 91. [Sono detti divini come fossero pieni di dio: pretendono infatti di essere pieni d’ispirazione divina e con una certa astuzia ingannatrice prevedono il futuro delle persone. Vi sono due tipi di divinazione: l’arte e il furore], Isid., Etymol., VIII ix.11– 28: “Necromantii sunt, quorum praecantationibus videntur resuscitati mortui divinare, et ad interrogata respondere. νεκρός enim Graece mortuus, μαντεία divinatio nuncupatur: ad quos sciscitandos cadaveri sanguis adicitur. Nam amare daemones sanguinem dicitur. Ideoque quotiens necromantia fit, cruor aqua miscitur, ut cruore sanguinis facilius provocentur. Hydromantii ab aqua dicti. Est enim hydromantia in aquae inspectione umbras daemonum evocare, et imagines vel ludificationes eorum videre, ibique ab eis aliqua audire, ubi adhibito sanguine etiam inferos perhibentur sciscitari. Quod genus divinationis a Persis fertur adlatum. Varro dicit divinationis quattuor esse genera, terram, aquam, aerem et ignem. Hinc geomantiam, hydromantiam, aeromantiam, pyromantiam dictam. . . . Incantatores dicti sunt, qui artem verbis peragunt. Arioli vocati, propter quod circa aras idolorum nefarias preces emittunt, et funesta sacrificia offerunt, iisque celebritatibus daemonum responsa accipiunt. Haruspices nuncupati, quasi horarum inspectores: dies enim et horas in agendis negotiis operibusque custodiunt, et quid per singula tempora observare debeat homo, intendunt. Hi etiam exta pecudum inspiciunt, et ex eis futura praedicunt. Augures sunt, qui volatus avium et voces intendunt, aliaque signa rerum vel observationes inprovisas hominibus occurrentes. Idem et auspices. Nam auspicia sunt quae iter facientes observant. Dicta sunt autem auspicia, quasi avium aspicia, et auguria, quasi avium garria, hoc est avium voces et linguae. Item augurium, quasi avigerium, quod aves gerunt. Duo sunt autem genera auspiciorum: unum ad oculos, alterum ad aures pertinens. Ad oculos scilicet volatus; ad aures vox avium. Pythonissae a Pythio Apolline dictae, quod is auctor fuerit divinandi. Astrologi dicti, eo quod in astris auguriantur. . . . Sortilegi sunt qui sub nomine fictae religionis per quasdam, quas sanctorum sortes vocant, divinationis scientiam profitentur, aut quarumcumque scripturarum inspectione futura promittunt” [I Negromanti sono coloro che con i loro incantesimi sembrano riportare in vita i morti e far sì che profetizzino rispondendo alle richieste. Nekros, infatti, in greco significa “morto”; mentre la divinazione è definita manteia. Per consultarli si applica il sangue su un cadavere; infatti si dice che i demoni amino



il sangue. E per questo motivo, ogni volta che si pratica la negromanzia, si mischia acqua a sangue, affinché dal sangue quelli vengano chiamati più facilmente. Gli Idromanti sono così definiti dall’acqua, poiché l’idromanzia consiste nell’evocare le ombre dei demoni guardando nell’acqua e vedere le loro immagini o inganni, quindi sentire qualcosa da loro quando, si dice, consultano anche gli inferi, una volta predisposto il sangue. Si racconta che questo tipo di divinazione sia stato importato dalla Persia. Varrone afferma che esistono quattro tipi di divinazione: terra, acqua, aria e fuoco. Da qui i nomi di geomanzia, idromanzia, aeromanzia e piromanzia. . . . Coloro che portano a compimento l’arte con le parole sono detti incantatori. Gli Arioli sono così chiamati perché lanciano maledizioni intorno agli altari degli idoli e offrono sacrifici funesti, e in quei riti ricevono le risposte dei demoni. Gli Aruspici hanno questo nome come se fossero custodi delle ore: custodiscono infatti i giorni e le ore sbrigando faccende e altri lavori, e si occupano di ciò a cui le persone dovrebbero attendere in ogni particolare momento. Costoro esaminano anche le viscere degli animali e in base ad esse predicono il futuro. Gli Auguri sono coloro che prestano attenzione al volo e ai versi degli uccelli e ad altri segni o visioni impreviste che colpiscono gli uomini. Lo stesso gli aùspici: gli auspìci sono infatti i segni cui presta attenzione chi è in viaggio. Sono detti auspìci dal guardare gli uccelli, e auguri dai versi di uccelli, ossia i suoni e il linguaggio degli uccelli. Parimenti si dice augurium come fosse avigerium, cioè come gli uccelli si comportano. Vi sono poi due tipi di auspìci, uno concernente gli occhi, l’altro concernente le orecchie; riguardo agli occhi, cioè, il volo degli uccelli; riguardo alle orecchie, la loro voce. I Pitonissi devono il loro nome ad Apollo Pizio, l’inventore della divinazione. Gli Astrologi sono detti così perché vaticinano secondo le stelle. Gli Interpreti della sorte sono coloro che professano la conoscenza della divinazione sotto il nome di una religione falsa mediante quelle che chiamano sorti dei santi, o predicono il futuro esaminando un passo qualunque delle Scritture]. 92. [Incantatori, indovini mediante le sorti, stregoni, aruspici, divini, arioli, magi, malefici, starnuti e presagi mediante gli uccelli o altre trovate malvagie e diaboliche: non fateli e non credeteci], du Cange, t. 7, col. 596b. 93. Du Cange, t. 7, col. 596a. Sul Concilio di Leptines si veda Biblioteca sacra ovvero Dizionario delle scienze ecclesiastiche. Opera compilata dai Padri Richard e Giraud, ora per la prima volta in italiano tradotta ed ampliata da una società di ecclesiastici, Tomo XII (Milano: Editore Ranieri Fanfani, 1835), p. 78. 94. K.V. Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England (London: Penguin, 1991), 139 (first edition New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971). 95. Ibid., 254. Si veda anche la voce Sortes Sanctorum in Du Cange, t. 7, col. 532b. Gioverà infine ricordare il celebre episodio, narrato dall’Anonimo Perugino, della triplice apertura del Vangelo (sortes apostolorum) da parte di San

Tipologie compositive e hapax nel Commento del Buti


Francesco, al fine di conoscere la volontà di Dio per sé e per i suoi primi compagni, II 11.1– 5: “Et cum aperuisset sacerdos librum, quia ipsi adhuc bene legere nesciebant, invenerunt statim locum ubi scriptum erat: Si vis perfectus esse, vade et vende omnia quae habes et da pauperibus, et habebis thesaurum in caelo (Mat 19,21), 2 Et iterum revolventes invenerunt: Qui vult venire post me (Mat 16,24), et cetera. 3 Et iterum revolventes reppererunt: Nihil tuleritis in via (Luc 9,3), et cetera. 4 Audientes autem hoc gavisi sunt gaudio magno valde (cfr. Mat 2,10), et dixerunt: ‘Ecce quod desiderabamus, ecce quod quaerebamus’. 5 Dixitque beatus Franciscus: ‘Haec erit regula nostra’.” [Avendo il prete aperto il libro, dacché essi non erano ancora bene esperti nella lettura, trovarono subito questo passo: Se vuoi essere perfetto va e vendi tutto ciò che hai e dallo ai poveri così avrai un tesoro in cielo. Volgendo altre pagine, lessero: Chi vuol venire dietro di me rinneghi se stesso prenda la sua croce e mi segua. E sfogliando ancora: Non prendete niente per il viaggio né bastone né bisaccia né pane né denaro né abbiate due tuniche. Ascoltando tali parole, furono innondati di viva gioia e dissero: “Ecco quello che bramavamo, ecco quello che cercavamo!” E il beato Francesco disse: “Questa sarà la nostra Regola.” Testo e traduzione tratti da: L. Di Fonzo, L’Anonimo perugino tra le fonti francescane del sec. XIII. Rapporti letterari e testo critico (Roma: Miscellanea Francescana, 1972).

     


A “Commentary for the Court”: Guiniforte Barzizza  

Of the three greatest fourteenth-century commentaries on the Comedy (Giovanni da Serravalle, Guiniforte Barzizza, and Cristoforo Landino), Barzizza’s commentary (in the vernacular and only on the Inferno) is without doubt the least famous and also the least influential for the exegetic tradition that followed it. Written at a date which cannot “reasonably be after the end of 1438,” it is not, strictly speaking, a single testimony.1 Yet, for a series of reasons that will become clear in the course of this study and, above all, due to the fact that the author, while writing, was most likely involved in all aspects of its completion, the only key witness of the scanty tradition is the MS It. 2017 from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, which is the exemplar of the dedication to Duke Filippo Maria Visconti, official commissioner of the work. The codex is among the most beautiful and sumptuous manuscripts in the whole written tradition of the poem, even after the well-documented dishon328

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orable and destructive interventions of the first editor, Giuseppe Zacharoni, who dismembered the valuable handwritten copy, on loan since 1838 from its rightful owner, Gastone de Flotte, removing twenty-one pages among those most valuably illustrated and best preserved (the pages were then donated to the Library of Imola and preserved in the current MS Imolese 32).2 MS It. 2017 also underwent various vicissitudes that led to the loss of a further third of the original illustrations (in Paris and Imola there are now 71 of these [58 + 13], but according to Morel’s calculations, the manuscript should contain 115 illustrations).3 Even after such unpleasant cuts and mutilations, the magnificent codex retains a well-defined character, gleaming and opulent. As Massimo Zaggia writes: L’apparato decorativo . . . comprende anche molte iniziali ornate in oro e colori, due per canto, dunque originariamente 68, delle quali due terzi sopravvivono, e molte altre lettere ornate più piccole si ritrovano frequentemente ad inizio di paragrafo all’interno del commento, in oro per i primi 25 fogli, poi in rosso e in blu.4 —— [The decorative apparatus . . . also includes many ornate initials in gold and other colors, two for canto, thus originally 68, of which two-thirds survive, and many other smaller ornate letters are frequently found at the beginning of each paragraph of the commentary, in gold for the first 25 sheets, then in red and blue.]

But of special importance, obviously, is the remarkable series of miniatures (71 of the 115 originals on about 400 pages) that are inserted in the text (written in large Lombard Gothic handwriting), where the terzine of the poem, transcribed in blocks by theme, alternate with the continuous commentary in vernacular. The miniatures are identified almost certainly as the work of the famous Master of the Vitae Imperatorum,5 who was among the most active illustrators in Milan in the first half of the fifteenth century and has been the subject of in-depth research.6 Although an important issue, I shall not fully tackle the question of the critical edition of this commentary, to which I have dedicated long investigations, reaching the conclusion that the MS Parisian It. 2017 is



sufficient for the reconstruction of the text, with one exception: the MS Parisian It. 1469 (presented in 1519 to Francis I and clearly a descriptus of the previous version) is in fact needed to fill a lacuna of nearly twentyfive pages which mars It. 2017.7 Neither shall I examine, if not pertinent or useful to the arguments presented here, the exceptional importance of the Parisian It. 2017 in the area of the so-called figurative commentaries on the Comedy, that is to say, on those complex and, so to speak, multimedia exegetical works, in which the verbal component is accompanied by and often interacts with an equally significant figurative component.8 Guiniforte Barzizza’s commentary is analyzed here solely in relation to a category which can be labeled “commentary for the court,” recently studied by Antonia Tissoni Benvenuti, with particular reference to the history of exegetic analysis of vernacular literature in the fourteenth century.9 My focus on the presentation of the precious Parisian manuscript, which is practically the only witness of this commentary, hints at the conclusions toward which I will be heading at the end of this study—that the use of this category in relation to Barzizza’s commentary highlights the importance of the materiality of the book, with its concrete articulations, rather than the specifics of an innovative cultural intervention, potentially able to be copied or impressed on successive readers. The label “commentary for the court” which I am using for Barzizza’s commentary is historically justified within the sphere of the phenomenon known as “vernacular humanism,” of which the court of Filippo Maria Visconti is known as one of the most significant and conspicuous promoters in fourteenth-century Italy. And the label reads “for the court,” according to Tissoni Benvenuti, rather than “courtly,” so as to avoid any moralistic nuances and position it precisely within a neutral, explicative, and probably only vaguely sociological meaning. The case I am discussing in relation to Dante’s poem is part of this larger phenomenon or genre while also singling out an unusual modality of the fruition of the Comedy in a particular historical context. Unusual when one considers that, as we will see and as one would expect, the Petrarchan Rerum vulgarium fragmenta were the ideal text “for the court.” In truth, one should also note that the involvement of the court in the alleged commissioning or creation of a commentary does not necessarily lead to a “courtly” product, where “courtly” has a limited and restrictive connota-

A “Commentary for the Court” 331

tion. In the fourteenth-century exegetic tradition of the Comedy there is at least one case, that of Cristoforo Landino, to which I will return later, in which the personality of the commissioner, Lorenzo il Magnifico, and that of the writer; the cultural scope of the work which is proclaimed, promoted, and accomplished; the absolute essentiality and importance of the cultural-historical environment into which the work fits; and the eminent status of the exegesis all guarantee the longevity and influence that a commentary possesses well past its initial courtly context. And yet we cannot say even in this case that the relevance of the “courtly” destination is not reasonably tenable for the correct or complete definition of Landino’s work. Toward the end of the fourth decade of the fifteenth century, it was to Guiniforte Barzizza that the duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, gave the task of writing a commentary in the vernacular on the first part of Dante’s poem: to Barzizza (son of the celebrated humanist Gasparino, himself a master of the art of oratory, obviously in Latin), first a teacher of moral philosophy and then of oratory, then secretary to the duke and author of several orations and of a full-bodied and still largely unedited epistolary, exchanged with such humanists as Guarino Veronese and Francesco Filelfo.10 The genuine curiosity on the part of the duke about Florentine vernacular culture is easily explained by the grave tension which at that time characterized the political relationship between the ducal state of Milan and Florence but also testifies to his vast array of interests and to his particular cultural bravery. The commissioning came from the court and the destination of the work was for the court, forming a closed circuit that today we would define as essentially self-referential. Drawing on Antonia Tissoni Benvenuti’s comments, one can speak of it as a “commentary for the court” as and when it satisfies some basic conditions: (a) that the commentary is commissioned; (b) that the commentary is not “di scuola”; and (c) that the commentary is completed in a specific environment which imagines that the classics are in the vernacular and that the vernacular auctoritates are used mainly in relation to the interests of the new humanist cultures oriented toward mythological tales and stories of Greeks and Romans. To me, what seems to be lacking in such a classification, which is suitable to its broadest aim of identifying a subset in the category “commentary,” is an adequate consideration of one central element which



would allow for a significant variant in the category in question: the remarkable identity of the “commentary for the court” and the material object. The case of Barzizza’s commentary clearly demonstrates the total overlap between the “commentary for the court” and the dedicatory exemplar. Guiniforte’s work, rather than fitting within a formal category, within the definition of a supposed subgenre, results in a concrete object, the codex in which the cultural operation was historically completed. In our case, “commentary for the court” is understood less as the actual exegesis of the poem than, tout court, as the MS It. 2017, the dedicatory exemplar for Filippo Maria Visconti. In fact, let’s not forget the importance of the iconographic and paratextual apparata of the codex, the insistence on the practical inseparability of the textual commentary and the figurative commentary, the substantial identification between commentary and artifact; all these elements lead us directly to the specific figure of the dedication, to the question of the destination of this work (i.e., “for the court”). Tissoni Benvenuti also acknowledges at the beginning of her essay that among the most important new findings of recent surveys on the commentary as a literary genre is the relevance accorded “ai destinatari presupposti dal commentatore” (to the commentator’s assumed recipients).11 If this observation is, as I believe, correct, one can derive from it that when the destination is identified with the figure of the “signore,” there is a higher chance (if not the risk) that the commentator’s work focused on the production of a work which has no future, so to speak, because the reasons that lead to the production of a valuable volume which responds to the requests of the commissioner end up being the most important concern, one which takes over any other preoccupation. Let’s try to reflect for a moment on the consequences that such a consideration might have on the preparation of a future critical edition of the commentary. When we consider that the editorial praxis of a critical edition requires the execution of correct constitutio textus, a research on the sources, a linguistic analysis, and so on, the result of such work on Barzizza’s commentary would necessarily diminish the meaning produced by the complex articulation of the Parisian artifact. The category “commentary for the court” would be used and understood only in relation to this complex articulation. Essentially, although synthesizing and possibly exaggerating, we can affirm that in the case of Barzizza the facsimile reproduction of the

A “Commentary for the Court” 333

manuscript is as important, if not more, than the critical edition of the text, for those who are convinced of the significance and usefulness of the category “commentary for the court,” as we defined it. The form of the unique work, of that work there, strongly (if not completely) contributes to the specificity of that category, at least in the historical period that we are probing. As has already been discussed, I am not excluding or limiting the role of the future editor in any way: Guiniforte’s text, obviously, merits and even commands all the technical procedures required by the reconstitution of a text. The editor should, for example, take into account the gaps in the Parisian It. 2017 and the role taken, in a sense, by the descriptus of 1469, the reconstruction of the dedicatory exemplar through the parts now in the Imolese codex; the presence, not at all negligible, of fragments of Guiniforte’s text in two manuscripts respectively located in Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España (MS 3658) and Piacenza, Biblioteca Comunale (MS 289, fr. III).12 But the inclusion of this commentary within the framework of the “commentary for the court” and its specific function would lead the editor to give the utmost attention to the concrete manifestation of the historical object. Let us reflect, in fact, on one occurrence that all the critics of the Barzizza commentary have flagged to date, each on his own account, without, in my opinion, drawing all the appropriate conclusions. Dionisotti already underlined the extreme scarcity of the manuscript tradition of our text;13 even more important is Zaggia’s affirmation, according to whom, “complessivamente, sembra che il commento [di Guiniforte] non abbia circolato molto al di là della diretta destinazione ducale” (overall, it seems that [Guiniforte’s] commentary did not circulate widely beyond the direct ducal destination).14 Even Tissoni Benvenuti admits that, with regard to the generic typology of the “commentaries for the court,” those texts “[sono] rimasti talvolta manoscritti, e spesso solo in manoscritti di dedica” (occasionally remained manuscripts, and often only in dedication manuscripts), adding later that the printing of these manuscripts (when there is a print version; and of course there is none of Guiniforte’s commentary) rappresenta la fase successiva, la divulgazione fuori della corte, e non sempre conservano la stesura originale e soprattutto i primitivi testi di corredo; ci possono quindi meglio informare sul loro carattere specifico



i mss., e, quando ci sono, i manoscritti di dedica, con le loro stupende illustrazioni che spesso sono parte integrante—a volte la parte migliore— del commento.15 —— [represents the next phase, the circulation outside the court, which not always retained the original form and especially the earliest accompanying texts; therefore, the manuscripts, and when available the dedication manuscripts, can better inform us of their specific character, with their beautiful illustrations that are often an integral part—sometimes the best part—of the commentary.]

This is so much so that, I would add, in most instances Tissoni’s conclusions on the subgenre of the “commentary for the court” as a whole, and those relating to the dedication manuscripts, end up overlapping without distinction. I would not insist, frankly, on another of Zaggia’s observations, where, developing his point, he states that “il commento dantesco del Barzizza, destinato a uno specifico ambiente, circolò ben poco fuori della stretta cerchia ducale, e del resto, trattandosi di un lavoro scarsamente originale, è spiegabile che continuassero a essergli preferiti altri commenti più accreditati” (Barzizza’s commentary on Dante, destined to a specific audience, circulated very little outside the restricted ducal sphere; and besides, the fact that it is a work that can be scarcely considered original explains why other more accredited commentaries were favored).16 Anyone who knows the great story of the early commentaries on the Comedy knows that talking about “originality” in these texts is rather risky and, if anything, only possible for certain prominent works which could be considered “teste di serie” (top of the class), tirelessly replicated and reused by successive commentators. If this is true in general, worries over “originality” are even less pertinent in a case such as the one we are discussing. The preparation of a work that meets the requirements of the commissioner, with regard to the purely verbal exegesis at least (which is only one aspect of the work), seems to allow the reuse of one or more of the previous commentaries, adding only marginal interventions, that is to say, superficial changes which adapt the subject matter for the new destination.17 The unique object which is the result of the application of many skills, and can

A “Commentary for the Court” 335

be considered a true work of art, partly presupposes the impossibility of wide circulation or dissemination. In fact, Barzizza’s commentary leaves scarce traces on the following exegetic tradition. In 1477– 78 Guiniforte, called “orator gravis et iureconsultus disertissimus” (authoritative orator and eloquent jurisprudent), is simply cited among the “octo graves eruditi viri” (eight authoritative and erudite men) whom Nidobeato considered for his interpretation of the poem; and the honor of the citation, among authors of higher regard, was probably earned solely by the fact of being the only “nostra aetate” (one belonging to our time).18 The same citation appears some years later, in the almost identical list provided by Cristoforo Landino (who defined Guiniforte as the iuriconsulto bergamasco). On Landino’s comment, which was destined, as we know, for an extraordinary fortune which reached even Barzizza’s cradle, the Milanese territory, I wouldl like to record the relevant remarks of its recent editor, Paolo Procaccioli: Quando nascono in contemporanea, interessando tutte le personalità più in vista di una data cerchia culturale, signore compreso, una serie di iniziative legate al nome di un poeta [Dante]; quando poi quelle iniziative fuoriescono dagli studia personali, e anche dai luoghi canonici del dibattito culturale, per tradursi in azioni pubbliche, allora quelle azioni debbono essere ricondotte, per la loro esatta interpretazione, a motivazioni anche extra-letterarie. Come nel più classico dei rapporti di committenza.19 —— [When a series of initiatives related to the name of a poet [Dante] originate at the same time, affecting all the most prominent personalities of a given cultural circle, lord included; and when these initiatives come out of the personal studies, as well as other canonical places of cultural debate, in order to be translated into public actions, then, if we want to interpret them correctly, these actions must be traced back to their sources, even the extraliterary ones; as in the most classic relationship between artist and commissioner.]

Thus, even for Landino’s commentary, we can postulate the decisive role of the commissioner (a role clearly taken by Lorenzo). This would



persuade us to insert, in some way, his Comento sopra la Comedia in the subgenre “commentaries for the court.” Yet one cannot avoid noting that such similarity between Guinforte’s and Landino’s commentaries actually reveals a striking contrast. Landino’s work, as has been clarified by Procaccioli, emanates from a court which is highly committed to and conscious of its cultural policy and its very strong ideological motivations, a policy which involves “tutte le personalità più in vista di una data cerchia culturale” (all the most prominent personalities of a given cultural circle). The destination of Landino’s Comento, which must be understood as the signore, therefore becomes a public destination, guaranteed by the fact that its circulation would soon be entrusted to the printing press. We cannot consider this a work that is physically handed from the writer to the commissioner: the object is completely conceived as a “public action.” On the contrary, the quality and the limits that were imposed by the narrow circuit I am describing for Guiniforte’s commentary were present, to a high level of awareness, in the intentions of the author and had an impact on them. This becomes overtly apparent if we consider a famous proemial letter in Latin addressed to the powerful ducal Camerario of Filippo Mario Visconti, Jacob of Abbiate, the only text related to the commentary which has risen to any great fortuna, and which can be considered direct testimony to the project of the commentary.20 Here the role of the author is intentionally circumscribed, delimited, not only for an oratorical declaration of humility, but for objective reasons that try to inscribe the compilation of the commentary between the coordinates of the personal relationship with the commissioner: what matters is “duci nostri excelsa praestantia” (our Duke’s high reputation) and “integerrima in celsitudinem suam devotio mea” (my unflinching devotion to His Highness). So, Barzizza writes, “efficitur ut minime viribus meis diffidam” (I can’t distrust my strength). This is not only about a rhetorical and foreseen declaration of modesty, classifiable within the norms of conventional proemial paratextuality. And it is not so much because Guiniforte confirms that he does not have that “persipicax et eruditissimum ingenium” (shrewd and erudite mind) that would be needed to face “rei ipsius amplitudo, quam plane video nobilium omnium disciplinarum, poeticae presertim, historicae, moralis ac theologicae cumulum in se coacervasse”

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(the boundless work, where I know all most important poetic, moral, theological subjects are assembled)—and here, yes, the rhetoric is a deciding factor — but because there is a declared fear and discomfort at the prospect of working on an “insolitum mihi dicendi genus” (unusual language to me). He, a “latinis literis deditus” (Latin scholar), was now called to “secreta abditaque altissimarum doctrinarum verbis vulgaribus aperire” (disclose in vernacular the deepest secrets of highest subjects); he, a dedicated Latinist, “Pergamensi urbe oriundus,” that is, frankly and consciously a Bergamasco, was intimidated by the idea of “etrusco sermone . . . non incorrupte depromere” (using the Etruscan language correctly), which went against his very habits and skills. This is rather similar to a nonsimulated protest of inadequacy that Guiniforte had thrown at his lord, all set to satisfy the request of a commentary (equally inadequate to the abilities of a humanist of his quality) on the Petrarchan Rerum vulgarium fragmenta. Here in the moment when he could not refuse to “mettere in executione lo comandamento vostro” (carry out your order), Barzizza stood his ground and stated that “se cossa me fusse imposta più pertenente a la professione di studii mei o più conforme a la institucione di mia vita, credo ch’io puoterebbe satisfare vie meglio a vostra expectacione” (I think that I could better satisfy you according to your expectations if a task more relevant to my profession or studies, or more consistent with my way of life, was imposed upon me). Guiniforte insists that he is not, and effectively he is not, suitable for the scope of the project. And he is the first to be surprised by the task that the duke gives, or rather imposes on, him. It is not difficult to understand that the unique care paid to the appearance or materiality of the specific artifact was meant to compensate for the apparent incongruity of the commission. The “commentary” of Guiniforte Barzizza would have been the blazon of which the duke was intended to be the proud bearer, aside from its cultural merit. Therefore, the absolute dominance of the commissioner is confirmed as the only and irrevocable reason for the undertaking forced upon the perplexed and, at heart, recalcitrant humanist, who, because of his indisputable devotion to the commissioner, unwillingly betrayed his love of Latin for the uncharted territories of the vernacular.21 Guiniforte would resign himself, in preparing a dedicatory work most likely promoted by himself, to the use of an old Gothic script,



a singular choice even in the context of the writing habits of the ducal setting. Filippo Maria perhaps intentionally forces the acquiescence of Barzizza and dictates his conditions, all aimed at the creation of a unique product. The outcome, as far as the substance of the exegetic text is concerned, is obvious: Barzizza’s commentary, in the parts less dependent on the sources, is a repository of mythological fables and stories of Greeks and Romans; it propagandistically exalts the Duke’s anti-Florentine agenda whenever the opportunity presents itself; it lingers over celebratory remarks in praise of the Visconti house; it is punctuated with conventional, moralizing considerations. In no way does the long work of Guiniforte show any effort toward a renewed, skewed, or ideological reading. The cultured humanist, somewhat appalled and unwilling, restricts and exhausts his duty out of devotion to his duke, who promotes and calls for an interpretation of Dante’s poem with limited cultural breadth and without any intention of circulating it but rather to use it for his political agenda. Guiniforte’s commentary is the libro in which it is written. Only this consideration can account for the undeniably exemplary nature of this work as a specific variant, in relation to Dante’s poem, of the “commentary for the court.”

N  1. See G. Ferraù, “Il commento all’‘Inferno’ di Guiniforte Barzizza,” in Dante nel pensiero e nella esegesi dei secoli XIV e XV: Atti del III Convegno Nazionale di Studi realizzato dal Comune di Melfi in collaborazione con la Biblioteca provinciale di Potenza e il Seminario di Studi danteschi di Terra di Lavoro, 27 settembre– 2 ottobre 1970, ed. A. Borraro and P. Borraro (Florence: Olschki, 1975), 357– 73 (358). 2. Lo “Inferno” della “Commedia” di Dante Alighieri col comento di Guiniforto delli Bargigi, ed. G. Zacheroni (Marseille-Florence: Mossy-Molini, 1838). Zacheroni’s is the only printed edition of Barzizza’s commentary in existence. Unfortunately it is full of gaps and flaws. 3. C. Morel, Une illustration de l’Enfer de Dante: LXXI miniatures du XVe siècle (Paris: Librairie Univ. H. Welter, 1896). 4. M. Zaggia, “Guiniforte Barzizza e il suo commento dantesco,” in Maestri e traduttori bergamaschi fra Medioevo e Rinascimento, ed. C. Villa and F. Lo Monaco (Bergamo: Civica Biblioteca Angelo Mai, 1998), 119– 51 (140) (includes a full bibliography on Guinforte).

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5. So identified in the Svetonian vernacularization of the Parisian MS It. 131, dated 1431, also originating from the Visconti territory. 6. See M. Levi D’Ancona, The Wildenstein Collection of Illuminations: The Lombard School (Florence: Olschki, 1971); F. Avril, Dix siècles d’enluminure italienne (VI e–XVI e siècles) (Paris: Bibliotheque Nationale, 1984), 149– 51; E. Cappugi, “Contributo alla conoscenza dell’‘Inferno’ Parigi-Imola e del suo miniatore, detto il maestro delle Vitae Imperatorum,” in La miniatura italiana tra gotico e Rinascimento: Atti del Secondo Congresso di Storia della miniatura italiana, Cortona, 24– 26 settembre 1982, ed. E. Sesti (Florence: Olschki, 1985), 285– 96; G. Toscano, “In margine al Maestro delle ‘Vitae Imperatorum’ e al Maestro di Ippolita Sforza: Codici lombardi nelle collezioni aragonesi, ” Rivista di storia della miniatura 1– 2 (1996– 97): 169– 78. 7. See G. Ferraù, “Il commento all’‘Inferno’”; M. Zaggia, “Guiniforte Barzizza”; S. Bellomo, “Barzizza, Guiniforte,” in S. Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi: L’esegesi della Commedia da Iacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olschki, 2004), 134– 39; C. Calenda, “Guiniforte Barzizza,” in Censimento dei commenti danteschi, 1: I commenti di tradizione manoscritta (fino al 1480), ed. E. Malato and A. Mazzucchi (Rome: Salerno, 2011), 283– 89. 8. See C. Calenda, “L’edizione dei testi: I commenti figurati,” in Intorno al testo: Tipologie del corredo esegetico e soluzioni editoriali. Atti del Convegno di Urbino 1– 3 ottobre 2001 (Rome: Salerno, 2003), 419– 34. 9. A. Tissoni Benvenuti, “Il commento per la corte,” in Intorno al testo, 195– 222. 10. See M. F. Baroni, “I cancellieri di Giovanni Maria e di Filippo Maria Visconti,” Nuova rivista storica 50 (1966): 367– 428; A. Sottili, “Note biografiche sui petrarchisti Giacomo Publicio e Guiniforte Barzizza e sull’umanista valenzano Giovanni Serra,” in Petrarca 1304–1374: Beiträge zu Werk und Wirkung, ed. F. Schale (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1975), 270– 96; G. Martellotti, Dante e Boccaccio e altri scrittori dall’Umanesimo al Rinascimento (Florence: Olschki, 1983), 478– 82; M. Zaggia, “Appunti sulla cultura letteraria in volgare a Milano nell’età di Filippo Maria Visconti,” Giornale storico della letteratura italiana 170 (1993): 161– 219, 321– 82; C. Frova, “Una dinastia di professori nel Quattrocento: I Barzizza,” in Villa and Lo Monaco, Maestri e traduttori bergamaschi, 85–119; L. Gualdo Rosa, S. Ingegno, and A. Nunziata, eds., “Molto più preziosi dell’oro”: Codici di casa Barzizza alla Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli (Naples: Luciano, 1997). 11. Tissoni Benvenuti, “Il commento,” 195. 12. See M. Roddewig, “Eine unbekannte handschrift des Barzizza Kommentars zu Dantes Inferno in Madrid,” in Festschrift für Hans Ludwig Scheel, ed. W. Hirdt and R. Klesczewski (Tübingen: Italia viva, 1983), 353– 68. 13. See C. Dionisotti, “Dante nel Quattrocento,” in Atti del Congresso Internazionale di studi danteschi (Firenze-Verona-Ravenna, 20– 27 aprile 1965) (Florence: Sansoni, 1965– 66), 333– 78.



14. Zaggia, “Guiniforte Barzizza,” 140. 15. Tissoni Benvenuti, “Il commento,” 213, 219. 16. Zaggia, “Guiniforte Barzizza,” 141. Original emphasis. 17. In Guiniforte’s case, the main source is, not surprisingly, Francesco da Buti’s commentary, one of the least ideologically oriented; we note in passing that the manuscript of Francesco da Buti used by Guiniforte is in the current MS Banco Rari 39, preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze, dated 1400, copied in Pisa in the years of the Visconti’s rule and embellished in the amply illustrated apparatus of the Master of the Book of Hours of Modena. 18. See L. C. Rossi, “Per il commento di Martino Paolo Nibia alla ‘Commedia,’” in Filologia umanistica: Per Gianvito Resta, ed. V. Fera and G. Ferraù, 3 vols. (Padua: Antenore, 1997), 1677–1716. 19. Cristoforo Landino, Comento sopra la Comedia, ed. P. Procaccioli, 4 vols. (Rome: Salerno Editrice, 2001), 1:13. 20. See Zaggia, “Guiniforte Barzizza,” 136– 38. 21. In an undated letter he would write to his friend Zaccaria Rido, “non ignoras ab illustrissimo duce domino nostro in me coniectam plebeio stilo commentandi Dantis sarcinam” (you know that our most illustrious duke gave me the irksome task of commenting on Dante in the vernacular).

     


A Text in Movement: Trifon Gabriele’s Annotationi nel Dante, 1527–1565  

The recent publication of records from several famous sixteenth-century Inquisitorial trials,1 together with the proliferation of studies on Italian evangelism in the period prior to the Counter-Reformation,2 is shedding more and more light on the intellectual climate which characterized Italian life in the period between the Sack of Rome and the close of the Council of Trent, and on the role that many writers and intellectuals played during this period in the (ultimately suppressed) attempt to bring about Catholic reform. Leading this movement on the spiritual front were some of the most prominent figures in Italy. From Venice there was Cardinal Gasparo Contarini, who would be joined, particularly after the death of Morosina, by Pietro Bembo and the latter’s contemporary Trifon Gabriele, 341



along with disciples Vittore Soranzo, Alvise Priuli, Apollonio Merenda, and Bernardino Daniello. From Tuscany came the Florentine Pietro Carnesecchi (Clement VII’s protonotary) and Bernardino Ochino from Siena; from Naples, Juan de Valdés, around whom all the so-called spirituals (the unworldly, henceforth “spirituals”)— Soranzo, Merenda, Giulia Gonzaga, Vittoria Colonna, Bernardino Ochino, Pietro Carnesecchi, Pietro the martyr Vermigli, Marcantonio Flaminio, and Alvise Priuli— gathered during the years 1535– 41. And finally from Viterbo came the so-called ecclesia viterbiensis, who derived, upon Valdés’s death, from the spirituals via the English cardinal Reginald Pole.3 To their detriment, in my opinion, histories of literature tend mostly or completely to ignore this movement of people and ideas, of hopes and aspirations. In reality it was a pivotal movement whose negative outcomes led directly to the less than glorious fate of Italian culture and literature over the next four centuries. Even Carlo Dionisotti, in 1963, four centuries after the close of the Council of Trent, emphasized il nesso, che è difficile per noi oggi intendere, ma che pur è indubitabile e stretto in quegli anni, fra l’evangelismo e riformismo italiano da un lato, e la nuova lingua e letteratura volgare dall’altro. I devoti del Contarini e del Polo furono quasi tutti anche devoti del Bembo, e parecchi fra loro, a cominciare dal Beccadelli, maneggiarono con uguale assiduità i testi di san Paolo e del Petrarca.4 —— [the link, which for us today is difficult to understand, but still undeniable and strong in those years, between evangelism and Italian reformism on the one hand, and the new vernacular language and literature on the other. Almost all Contarini’s and Bembo’s devotees were also devoted to Bembo, and many among them, starting from Beccadelli, handled the texts of Saint Paul and Petrarch with equal assiduity.]

But if, in the literary atmosphere of the time, the cult of Petrarch consolidated and gave authority to the new language, it was that of Dante which stirred people’s minds in a particular way. In what follows I propose to examine several significant traces of Dante’s presence within the spirituals’ movement.

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I           G      G          V      ,    January 14, 1559, Pietro Carnesecchi — rejoicing that Dante and Petrarch had not been included in the recently published Index of books forbidden by Paul IV—wrote: Mi son ben allegrato del favore che è stato fatto fuor d’ogni mia opinione a due poeti miei compatrioti che è Dante et il Petrarcha, nonostante che nell’uno si trovino alcuni sonetti che son tante invective contra il clero et la corte di Roma et l’altro habbia in più luoghi dato di gran bastonate pur ai papi et a quella santa sede. Ma all’uno penso sia stato perdonato per amor di quella bella canzone fatta in laude della Vergine, all’altro per havere trattato bene et piamente del purgatorio. Dove lasciando Vostra Signoria li bacio reverentemente le mani.5 —— [I was greatly pleased when, beyond my wildest hopes, I heard about the favor done to my compatriot poets Dante and Petrarch, despite the fact that the former has the popes and the Holy See battered more than once, and some of the latter’s sonnets are more than anything else invectives against the clergy and the papal court. However, I think that one was forgiven for the sake of that beautiful song he wrote in praise of the Virgin, and the other for having spoken well and piously about purgatory. Where I now leave your Lordship, while reverently kissing your hands.]

A completely innocuous exchange, it would appear; not, however, to the Inquisition officials. When interrogated seven years later (November 12, 1566) on the meaning of this letter, and in particular the phrase “dove lasciando Vostra Signoria,” Carnesecchi responded that it was all perfectly clear. But the inquisitors were sharp readers and asked if with that phrase he didn’t mean to say that purgatory is in the present life rather than the life to come. Carnesecchi replied, “Questa è una interpretazione chimerica che non mi passò mai per la mente quando scrissi queste parole” (This is a chimerical interpretation that never crossed my mind when I wrote those words).6 It was not this alone which led, ten months later, to Pietro Carnesecchi being beheaded and then burned at the stake, but during those years speaking freely about purgatory or the degeneration of the Holy



See was definitely not permitted. The Comedy, whose captivating verse passionately engaged both topics, was a text which the church tolerated with a fair degree of ambivalence and suspicion. Thus, providing a commentary on it, particularly toward the middle of the century, was not a risk-free enterprise. The church was very attentive to what was written for either public or private consumption, and often intervened heavily when its interest was aroused. The publication of the Annotationi nel Dante fatte con Trifon Gabriele a Bassano seems to me to provide an important text in and by itself for our understanding of sixteenth-century Dante studies but also a significant one in what it tells us about Bernardino Daniello’s commentary, which derives from the Annotationi. After all, Daniello’s commentary, which appeared in 1568, is, after that of Alessandro Vellutello (1544), the second complete commentary produced in the sixteenth century, and the last to come out for over a century and a half.7 Trifone’s Annotationi therefore seems to provide an opportunity to shed further light on the fortunes of Dante in a century which saw his decline. Now to make some further clarifications: the text of the Annotationi and Daniello’s commentary cannot be treated separately as if completely distinct and independent of one another, inasmuch as both are derived from Trifone’s teachings. It is really one single text in movement; the two versions known to us under the names of Gabriele and Daniello amount to distinct and probably independent outcomes of it, created at different moments in time.8 Immediately significant in this regard is the fact that key moments in the history of the text coincide with decisive moments in the history of Italian culture: first, Trifone’s lessons in Bassano took place in the same year as the Sack of Rome;9 and second, Daniello’s death coincided more or less with the closing of the Council of Trent. The spirituals’ brief but significant movement found life within this same forty-year period: far from mere happenstance given that, as we shall see, several principal exponents of that movement were implicated in the creation of this text. But before proceeding further a few facts should be examined which, on close inspection, prove to be quite unusual. In the first place, this text was published neither by its author — assuming one can talk about a single author—nor by its editors. Daniello’s version was published post-

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humously in 1568 by an obscure printer in Venice named Pietro da Fino, and it was I who published the version traditionally attributed to Trifone (but assembled by the Venetian Vettor Soranzo) in 1993. In addition, the circumstances in which this text came to exist in the two forms we read today need to be brought into sharper focus. Now that all the textual material traditionally associated with Trifone’s commentary is available in print, it is becoming harder than ever to determine which parts of it trace back to the “Venetian Socrates,” as Trifon Gabriele was known at the time, and which to his pupils (Soranzo, Daniello, or others). As for the actual text of the Annotationi, I already noted when publishing it that it had been constructed—that is to say, not merely transcribed but revised and in some places possibly supplemented or written ex novo—by Vettor Soranzo, to whom I will return later. As for Trifone himself, some of my recent research has definitively verified that he wasn’t even the author of the commentaries on the classics that traditionally go under his name (the Somnium Scipionis; the first 310 lines of the first book of Virgil’s Georgics; a selection of Orazio’s Odes; Cicero’s De officiis).10 These commentaries were compiled after 1544 by Trifone’s disciples. Possibly all of them, and certainly those to the first Georgic and Orazio’s Odi, are the work of the Cypriot scholar Giason Denores,11 while long sections of the others appear in Daniello’s commentary to the Comedy. In short, the Venetian Socrates left us virtually nothing truly written by his own hand,12 and the bundle of minor texts attributed to him is actually a collective work which gradually became consolidated between 1527 and 1565. We must therefore be very cautious also when making statements regarding the origins of the text of the Annotationi. Turning to Daniello, we know that he published the Poetica in 1536 (including various passages derived from the Annotationi), the Georgics with translation and commentary in 1545, and his exegesis of Petrarch in 1541 (with a second edition following in 1549). All these works, some by admission of their own author, are derived from Trifone’s classes or conversations. The curious thing is that Daniello never published his own Dante: that volume saw the light of day only in 1568, three years after Daniello’s death, when it was printed in Venice by Pietro da Fino. But what role exactly did the obscure Venetian publisher play in its



publication?13 How did he come into possession of the manuscript? Did he leave it intact, or touch it up, revise it, expurgate it? Without Daniello’s original manuscript we simply cannot answer these questions, or make reasonable conjectures. One unsettling fact is certain: neither Trifone nor Vettor Soranzo nor Bernardino Daniello ever sent that commentary to press. Why? Let’s leave aside Trifone, who was completely averse to worldly fame or attention; but Soranzo and Daniello? To some these might be considered pedantic questions of little real importance, but not to the Inquisition. Indeed even for us today they are vital to helping to reconstruct the cultural and intellectual climate in which the Dantean commentary initiated by Trifon Gabriele was produced and circulated. I                       of Trifon Gabriele’s Bassano teachings, the names that emerge clearly (other than those of Trifone and Bernardino) are Vettor Soranzo (1500–1558), Carlo Gualteruzzi (1500–1557), and Gandolfo Porrino (1500?–1552). Around these are also, among others, Apollonio Merenda and Trifone’s great friend and contemporary, Pietro Bembo. Let us pause for a moment on the least well-known of these names. A man of great culture, Carlo Gualteruzzi was a familiar of Clement VII, Paul III, and all the Farnese. He was a great friend of Ludovico Beccadelli, and was Pietro Bembo’s procurator and subsequently his sponsor and collaborator. He was closely connected to Giovanni della Casa, but also to Marcantonio Flaminio, Vittoria Colonna, Alvise Priuli, Soranzo, and Cardinal Reginald Pole. He had good relations with Gandolfo Porrino and was interested in the work and goals of the spirituals, without apparently sharing their unease. And finally he is implicated in the creation of one of the manuscripts of the Annotationi, inasmuch as he seems to have transcribed the first part of it himself.14 The second of the Annotationi’s four manuscripts was drawn up for Messer Gandolfo Porrino of Modena. More than enough is known about him to safely place him within the same circle of powerful figures and intellectuals mentioned above. He was closely linked to Molza; a companion of Giovanni Della Casa, Carlo Gualteruzzi, and Giulio Camillo Delminio from the 1520s on;15 secretary to Giulia Gonzaga, with whom

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he professed himself wildly in love in his Rime (1551); friend of Vettor Soranzo and frequenter of Juan de Valdés’s circle in Naples;16 another familiar of the Farnese, from whose library the third manuscript of the Annotationi derives; and finally, well known even to Pietro Carnesecchi himself. In a letter to Giulia Gonzaga of January 7, 1559, the former protonotary, joking about some sonnets Giulia had sent him, wrote: Ma vedete come vo mezzo poetizando anch’io così in prosa: credo per virtù della poesia che m’hanno attaccato quei sonetti, anzi piuttosto del subbietto di cui raggiono, qual basterebbe a fare diventare poeta ognuno, poiché diventò insin quella negra anima di Gandolfo buona memoria.17 —— [But you see how I myself have started almost poeticizing in prose: I think by virtue of the poetry coming from these sonnets, rather than the subject of which I speak, which would be enough to make everyone become a poet, just as it happened to that dark soul of Gandolfo, may he rest in peace.]

Gandolfo had been dead for seven years by then, yet Carnesecchi still remembers him with a certain sympathetic smile. The “subject” being discussed was in fact Giulia herself, for whom Messer Gandolfo had written so much poetry twenty years earlier. The funny thing is that the name Gandolfo aroused the inquisitor’s suspicion, so Carnesecchi had to explain that he had died in the service of Cardinal Farnese, and added, with great quickness of wit (but probably lying): “Io dico quella negra anima di Gandolfo per burla, alludendo alla negrezza del corpo, essendo egli stato di colore tanto negro che pareva quasi un moro” (I say “that dark soul of Gandolfo” as a joke, referring to the blackness of his body, since he was so dark in color that he seemed almost a Moor).18 In reality, the “blackness” must have referred not so much to the color of Porrino’s skin as to that of his soul: it was very well known that, after having left Fondi, he had fallen madly in love with a beautiful Roman named Susanna and had written passionately sensuous verses for her. Furthermore, it was rumored that the excesses to which Susanna led him were to blame for his premature death. On this point Carnesecchi certainly held his tongue for the sake of discretion. But the very fact that he remembered Porrino in



1559 reinforces the hypothesis that, even though we don’t know anything about his beliefs, Porrino was also part of the spirituals’ circle. And so we come to Apollonio Merenda. A modest Calabrian priest, he entered into Bembo’s service in the early 1520s and left in 1529 but remained in contact with Bembo and his Venetian circle (Trifone, Soranzo, Priuli, Flaminio). He lived near Valdés, Carnesecchi, and Ochino in Naples, and close to Cardinal Pole in Viterbo, where he became chaplain of the ecclesia viterbiensis. His story mirrors that of the other more influential spirituals: imprisoned in Rome and put on trial for heresy in 1551, he managed to escape to the Veneto a couple of years later and ultimately, in 1557, found permanent refuge in Geneva.19 Finally we have Vettor Soranzo: loved and protected like a son by Bembo, and guided and educated in the same manner by Trifon Gabriele, he was an extremely close friend of Pietro Carnesecchi, protonotary at the court of Pope Clement VII. He was also a disciple of Juan de Valdés in Naples together with Giulia Gonzaga, Vittoria Colonna, Ochino, Vermigli, Merenda, Flaminio, and Carnesecchi, and he took part in the meetings of the spirituals at the home of Cardinal Pole in Viterbo. He was named bishop of Bergamo in 1544, probably thanks to Pietro Bembo, and took full powers upon Bembo’s death in ’47, remaining in Bergamo until ’51, when he came under suspicion of heresy and was taken to Rome and imprisoned in Castel Sant’Angelo under Pope Julius III. Despite confessing to being a heretic, Soranzo was liberated by intervention of Pope Julius and returned briefly to Bergamo in 1555. The following year, under the papacy of Paul IV, he came under renewed suspicion and was eventually convicted in absentia and burned in effigy as “luteranus maximus, amicus et complex Poli” (a top-ranking Lutheran, a friend and accomplice of Reginald Pole).20 News of his condemnation reached him as he lay on his deathbed in Venice on May 13, 1558. Around the same time, Cardinal Pole’s trial was reopened, Soranzo’s great Venetian friend Alvise Priuli was investigated by the Inquisition, and Cardinal Giovanni Morone, another of Soranzo’s friends, was imprisoned in Castel Sant’Angelo. Some months later the Index libri prohibitorum was published by Paul IV. The previous year Apollonio Merenda had escaped to Geneva. The following year the Inquisitorial trial of Pietro Carnesecchi was opened. Pope Carafa was not kidding around. Determined to weed

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out protestant reform from the Italian peninsula, he moved ahead quickly, with no regard for diplomatic niceties or humanitarian principles. Given this backdrop of spies, informers, Nicodemism, imprisonments, interrogations, and stake burnings, it is easy to understand Bernardino Daniello’s complete silence following the release of the second edition of his commentary on Petrarch in 1549. We know that he was in Naples in 1539 at the same time as the entire circle of the spirituals. It is logical to suppose that he would visit some of his friends there, such as Soranzo, Merenda, Flaminio, and Ochino, but there remains no trace of such visits. The name Daniello does not appear in the otherwise extremely thorough records of Cardinal Morone, Bishop Soranzo, or protonotary Carnesecchi’s trials. Yet to judge from the transcripts, simply knowing one of these dissenters was enough to bring one under investigation, and Daniello, beyond keeping such compromising acquaintances, was also harboring the equally compromising manuscript of the Trifonian Dante in his home.21 Which brings us to the text itself. In the records of Soranzo’s trial, neither Dante nor Petrarch nor the Annotationi is ever alluded to.22 Evidently Soranzo, who in anticipation of a visit from the Inquisition had buried two cases containing the prohibited books he had with him in Bergamo,23 got rid of the text in time. Daniello was also careful not to make it public. As a matter of fact, once you put them in their historical context it is easy to understand how some of the statements made in this Dante could be considered scandalous. For example, with regard to Purg. 32.142– 47, where Dante describes how the chariot is transformed into a monster with three heads on the shaft, each with two horns, and one single-horned head on each corner of the vehicle, Daniello, reproducing the text of the Annotationi almost verbatim, writes that the seven heads should be interpreted as non i sette sacramenti, ne i sette peccati mortali, ma i sette elettori del Pontefice, creati dopo la divisione fatta tra la Chiesa Greca, & la Romana, percioche determinarono i concilij il Vescovo di Roma essere il maggiore, & doversi chiamare Vicario vero di Cristo, & successore di Pietro: & questo essere stato fatto da Cristo in San Giovanni. & affine che tale elettione non fosse confusa, elessero sette elettori de cardinibus



mundi, & chiamaronli Cardinali, i quali vacando Papa, lo havessero ad eleggere. Et perche di questi elettori ve ne erano tre Cardinali Vescovi, i quali portano la mitria con due corna, uno dinanzi, & l’altro dietro, dice che le prime eran cornute come bue, & che l’altre quattro haveano un sol corno per una; & questi erano i quattro cardinali preti, che havevano una sola degnità, rispetto a’ Vescovi che ne havevan due.24 —— [not the seven sacraments, nor the seven deadly sins, but the seven electors of the Pope, who were created after the separation between the Greek and Roman Churches, as the councils established that the Bishop of Rome was the leading one, and that he should be called true Vicar of Christ and successor of Peter, and this was done by Christ in St. John; and to ensure that this election was never confused, they created seven electors from all parts of the world, and called them Cardinals, who in the absence of a Pope, elect a new one. And since among these voters there were three Cardinal Bishops, who wear the miter with two horns, one in front and one behind, he says that the first ones were horned like an ox, and the other four had only a single horn, and these were the four Cardinal priests, who had a single dignity, compared to the Bishops who had two.]

In Soranzo’s text this passage was preceded by the following lines: È molto assorda la oppinione del Landino, che vuole che queste sette teste siano gli sette sagramenti, perché anzi la chiesa, dopo transformata e fatta ricca, gli perdeo, se prima l’avea, perché si fece peggiore. —— [Completely absurd is Landino’s opinion according to which these seven heads are the seven sacraments, because the church, once it changed and became rich, actually lost them all, if it ever had them, as it became worse.]

Here the most decidedly heretical part is se prima l’avea (if it ever had them), which radically puts in doubt the sacramental function of the church not only at the time of its degeneration, but even before, that is, since its very foundation.

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Daniello had therefore toned down his master’s text — always assuming that the text was Trifone’s and not Soranzo’s! Nevertheless, his interpretation was so “satirical and farcical” as to cause scandal even centuries later.25 The interesting point for us is that the same singular interpretation is to be found in the Catalogus testium veritatis by the Lutheran Mattia Flacio Illirico, published in Strasbourg (Argentina in the colophon) and Basel in 1562, where it reads: In cantione 32 purgatorij non obscure ostendit Papam esse meretricem Babyloniam. Tribuit enim eius ministris, id est, episcopis bicornia capita, quatuor vero quibusdam unum cornu qui sunt & patriarchae.26 —— [In canto 32 of Purgatory, he [Dante] clearly shows that the Pope is the Whore of Babylon. He attributes heads with two horns to his [the Pope’s] ministers, that is the Bishops, but heads with one horn each to the four who are also Patriarchs.]

But where did Flacio take this explanation from, if neither Daniello’s commentary nor the Annotationi had yet been published in 1562? Mattia Flacio, born in 1520 in Albona (at that time Venetian territory), had studied possibly until 1539 with the Venetian humanist Battista Egnazio, friend and contemporary of Trifone,27 but sometime around that year he went to Germany, where he became one of the most intransigent Lutheran publicists. It is possible that he made off to Germany with a copy of the manuscript of Trifone’s teachings, or part of it, obtained from Daniello or Soranzo or Egnazio. In any case it seems clear that the manuscript was circulating and attracting the attention of the reformists. Another interesting case is that of Purg. 33.34– 36. Here Beatrice assures Dante that whoever is guilty of breaking the “vaso” (vessel) (i.e., of corrupting the church) will certainly be punished, as “vendetta di Dio non teme suppe” (God’s vengeance fears no hindrance).28 Almost all early commentators, including Landino, explain this last line with reference to a Florentine custom by which a murderer who had eaten soup on his victim’s grave for nine consecutive days would be exempt from the revenge of the victim’s family and friends. The interpretation found



in the text of the Annotationi, on the other hand, is radically different and without a doubt heretical: [Dante] avea oppinione che Bonifacio, non essendo legitimo papa e tenendo il vero in pregione e per consequens essendo iscomunicato, non potesse celebrare; e perciò chiama l’ostia e il calice, che egli offerisce, suppe: Esaias, capitolo primo: “Ne offeratis ultra sacrificium frustra; incensum abhominatio est mihi”. E dice Dio non teme suppe, idest, “per vostri sacrificii non ritrarete Dio a pietà, sí che egli non faccia vendetta sovra di te che del romper del vaso cagione sei stato”. È un pazzia quello che di suppe conta il Landino. —— [[Dante] thought that Boniface was not the legitimate Pope, since he kept the rightful one in prison, thus was excommunicated, and as such could not celebrate mass; and therefore [Dante] called the host and the chalice, which he offers, sops: Isaiah, chapter one: “Bring no more vain oblations, incense is an abomination to me.” Further, he says God does not fear sops, that is, “your sacrifices will not draw God to compassion, or stop him from taking revenge against you, you who have been the cause of the breaking of the vessel.” What Landino says of sops is sheer madness.]

This reading is not only heretical but also, in my opinion, contrary to what we know about Dante, who never casts doubt on the sacredness of the ecclesiastical ministry itself but instead rails willingly and often against the unworthiness of its ministers. It is therefore astonishing that Daniello does not restrain himself from adopting it in his own commentary, where we read: chi ne ha colpa, creda & per fermo tenga, Che vendetta di Dio, non teme SUPPE, cioè che i sacrificij che si fanno con l’hostia & col vino, non son bastanti a fare che la maestà di Dio, s’astenga per essi, dalla vendetta, che ha destinato far contra quelli, che cosí male hanno la sua Chiesa trattata & trattano. & è luogo tolto da Isaia Profeta, ove dice in persona di Dio parlando: Quo mihi multitudinem victimarum vestrarum, dicit dominus? plenus sum, holocausta arietum & adipem pinguium, & sanguinem vitulorum, & agnorum, & hircorum nolui. Cum veneritis ante conspectum meum, quis quaesivit haec de manibus vestris, ut ambularetis in

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atrijs meis? Ne offeratis ultra sacrificium frustra; incensum abominatio est mihi.29 —— [May the one to blame, believe and hold firm, that God’s vengeance, is not afraid of SOPS, that is, the sacrifices you offer with the host and wine, are not quite sufficient to stop God’s majesty from taking the revenge he has laid against those who so badly treated and treat his Church. And this is taken from the prophet Isaiah, where speaking in the person of God he says: What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats. When you come to appear before me, who requires this in your hands, to trample in my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.]

Clearly only a Nicodemite could keep hidden away such sentiments. When Daniello’s commentary came out in 1568 there were no remarkable reactions to it, as far as I am aware; perhaps it went by completely unnoticed. Yet in those same years some were proposing to put the Comedy on the Index along with the Monarchia,30 and Dante was treated with great suspicion by the Inquisition.31 We have to wait until the end of the nineteenth century to find a strong reaction to Daniello’s reading. Giuseppe Campi, commenting on Purg. 33.34– 36 in his edition of the Comedy (1888– 91), writes: “Il Daniello intese invece suppe per lo sacrificio della Messa, opinione eretica abbracciata da quel Calvinista [Bernardino Daniello] che fu contraddetto dal Bellarmino” (Daniello instead intended “sops” for the sacrifice of the Mass, a heretical opinion embraced by the Calvinist [Bernardino Daniello] who was refuted by Bellarmino). The truth is that Cardinal Bellarmino never directly attacked Daniello’s commentary, but in 1599 he did publish a Responsio ad librum quondam anonymum in which he defended Dante against the protestant attempt to read him as a precursor to the Reformation, an attempt which was said to be based precisely on heretical commentaries like Daniello’s.32 Having included the date of the Sack of Rome in my title, let us now finish by seeing how that event was interpreted among the literary figures of the time. At the end of Par. 21, the blessed respond to the invective



against the prelates’ taste for luxury with a deafening cry. At the start of the following canto Beatrice explains to Dante that that cry foretells the divine punishment which Dante will be able to witness before he dies: “la vendetta che tu vedrai innanzi che tu muoi” (the vengeance you shall see before you die) (Par. 22.14–15).33 It is impossible to say with certainty which historical event Dante is referring to. But the author of the Annotationi is in no doubt: “fu la presa di Bonifatio, ma a’ tempi nostri è stata da dovero” (it was the capture of Boniface, but in our time it was all the more true). The simple and direct way in which this explanation is presented, without justification or reference to the historical fact in question, makes one think that the commentator held it to be absolutely selfevident. Indeed the Sack of Rome was one of the most disturbing events in the whole history of Christianity, and of the papacy in particular, and its ultimate cause was universally attributed to the corruption of the prelates. For example, Benedetto Varchi writes that the imperial hordes would not have done what they did “se l’ineffabile avaritia e lussuria con tutte l’altre nefande scelleratezze, e spezialmente della corte di Roma, la tarda ma grave ira di Nostro Signore Dio a giustissima indignazione e vendetta eccitato e commosso non avessono” (had not the ineffable avarice and lust, with all the other nefarious wickedness, especially of the court of Rome, stirred and roused our Lord God’s most just indignation and vengeance). 34 The scandal of the high prelates’ lifestyle was a common topos in the press of the reformists.35 For example, even Bernardino Ochino published a volume of Apologi in Geneva in 1554, a hundred short stories revolving around the very theme of ecclesiastical corruption.36 But in Italy at least the church managed to play it down as reformist propaganda. In a letter to Cardinal Orsini of September 4, 1643, after having explained lines 34– 36 of the last canto of Purgatorio (the “suppe” lines), Tommaso Stigliani declares that Dante is making a big mistake when he says that the church has not been the church since it became rich. He continues: E certamente ch’egli è una gran maraviglia che quel volume, non ostante questa bestemmia e moltissime altre più esecrabili le quali contien per tutto, si sia sí lungamente preservato dalla proibizion de’ superiori e tuttavia si preservi. Ma la sua ventura è stata, ed è, la sola oscurità del suo

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inchiostro; perché, essendo egli da pochi inteso, pochi può scandalizare, i quali ancora, come savi, il compatiscono e nessuno il denunzia all’Inquisizione.37 —— [It is certainly amazing that the volume, in spite of this blasphemy, and many other more heinous ones in it and on everything, has managed for so long to survive the prohibition of superiors, and is being preserved up until now. However, its fortune relied, and relies, only on the obscurity of its words, because, as it is understood by few, only few can be scandalized by it, and those few, wise as they are, pity it and do not denounce it to the Inquisition.]

Here the circle completes itself in two senses. The Dante who, according to the spiritual scholar Carnesecchi, had saved himself from the Index thanks to the beautiful things he said about purgatory, is accused of heresy by a Counter-Reformationist scholar precisely for what he says in Purgatorio; and the poem which had been written in the vernacular specifically so that everyone could read it and find salvation is accused of corrupting the world and removed from the pyre only by virtue of its obscurity.

N  An earlier version of this essay was published in Italian as “Un testo in movimento: Le “Annotationi nel Dante” di Trifon Gabriele dal 1527 al 1565,” Rivista di studi danteschi 6 (2006): 142– 53. I warmly thank Salerno Editrice–Roma for granting me permission to reprint it in English. 1. See M. Firpo and D. Marcatto, I processi inquisitoriali di Pietro Carnesecchi (1557– 61), 3 vols. (Vatican City: Archivio Segreto Vaticano, 1998), 2 (2000); M. Firpo and S. Pagano, I processi inquisitoriali di Vittore Soranzo (1550 – 58), 2 vols. (Vatican City: Archivio Segreto Vaticano, 2004); M. Firpo and D. Marcatto, Il processo inquisitoriale del cardinal Giovanni Morone, 6 vols. (Rome: Istituto storico italiano per l’età moderna e contemporanea, 1989– 95). 2. See A. Prosperi, Tra Evangelismo e Controriforma: G. M. Giberti (1495–1543) (Rome: Ed. Storia e Letteratura, 1969); P. Simoncelli, “Pietro Bembo e l’evangelismo italiano,” Critica storica 15 (1978): 1– 63; P. Simoncelli, Evangelismo italiano del Cinquecento: Questione religiosa e nicodemismo politico (Rome:



Istituto storico italiano per l’età moderna e contemporanea, 1979); G. Fragnito, Gasparo Contarini: Un magistrato veneziano al servizio della cristianità (Florence: Olschki, 1988); G. Fragnito, In museo e in villa: Saggi sul Rinascimento perduto (Venice: Arsenale, 1988); G. Fragnito, La Bibbia al rogo: La censura ecclesiastica e i volgarizzamenti della Scrittura: 1471–1605 (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1997); M. Firpo, Tra alumbrados e “spirituali”: Studi su Juan de Valdez e il Valdesianesimo nella crisi religiosa del ‘500 italiano (Florence: Olschki, 1990); M. Firpo, Dal Sacco di Roma all’Inquisizione: Studi su Juan de Valdés e la Riforma italiana (Alessandria: Edizioni dell’Orso, 1998); M. Firpo, “Disputar di cose pertinente alla fede”: Studi sulla vita religiosa del Cinquecento italiano (Milan: Unicopli, 2003); F. Ambrosini, Storie di patrizi e di eresia nella Venezia del ‘500 (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1999); G. Caravale, Sulle tracce dell’eresia: Ambrogio Catarino Politi (1484–1553) (Florence: Olschki, 2007), 128– 202; M. A. Overell, Italian Reform and English Reformation, c. 1535–1585 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 17– 39; G. Caravale, Predicazione e Inquisizione nell’Italia del Cinquecento (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2012), 13– 30. 3. See Th. F. Mayer, Reginald Pole, Prince and Prophet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), with the critical review by M. Firpo, “Note su una biografia di Reginald Pole, ” Rivista storica italiana 113 (2001): 859– 74. 4. C. Dionisotti, La letteratura italiana nell’età del Concilio di Trento, in C. Dionisotti, Geografia e storia della letteratura italiana (Turin: Einaudi, 1967), 182– 84, to 187. Recently a “densely intertwined network of overlaps between cultural commitment to the spread of the vernacular, and that of religious reform,” has come to light: Firpo, “Disputar di cose,” 134. 5. Firpo and Marcatto, I processi inquisitoriali di Pietro Carnesecchi (hereinafter Processi Carnesecchi), 2:446– 47. 6. Processi Carnesecchi, 2:447. 7. The first subsequent commentary was actually published in 1732 under the name of Father Pompeo Venturi. Castelvetro’s commentary on the first 29 cantos of Inferno was written in 1570– 71 but only emerged in 1886. For the Annotationi I refer to the edition edited by L. Pertile (Bologna: Commissione per i testi di lingua, 1993). 8. On the subject of multiple drafts, see L. C. Rossi, “Problemi filologici dei commenti antichi a Dante,” Acme 65 (2001): 113– 40, but the case of the Annotationi seems to me to be unique. 9. See Annotationi, liv– lvii. 10. I refer to my “Plurilinguismo di Trifon Gabriele— o di Giason Denores?” in In amicizia: Essays in Honour of Giulio Lepschy, ed. Z. G. Barański and L. Pertile, The Italianist 17, special supplement (1997): 177– 96, supplemented now by L. Pertile, “Il volgare nei commenti latini attribuiti a Trifon Gabriele,” Filologia e critica 30, no. 2– 3, Per Carlo Dionisotti (2005): 349– 67. 11. Founder member of Venice’s Accademia Pellegrina (1549), which Daniello would also become part of: see M. Maylender, Storia delle Accademie

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d’Italia (Bologna: Forni), vol. 4 (1976): 244; also G. Aquilecchia, Pietro Aretino e altri poligrafi a Venezia, in Storia della cultura veneta, dir. G. Arnaldi and M. Pastore Stocchi (Vicenza: Neri Pozza, 1980) vol. 3, pt. 2, 61– 98 (95). 12. Some poems and few letters exist, for which see E. A. Cicogna, Delle inscrizioni veneziane (Venice: G. Picotti), vol. 3 (1830): 208– 23; and L. Pertile, “Apollonio Merenda, segretario del Bembo, e ventidue lettere di Trifone Gabriele,” Studi e problemi di critica testuale 34 (1987): 9– 48. 13. How Daniello’s manuscript ended up in Pietro da Fino’s hands remains a mystery. The da Fino (or da Fine) publishing house was only active for a dozen years, during which, other than Dante, it published a total of three authors: Marco Antonio Zimara (1556), Ugoni da Brescia (four titles, all released in 1562), and Paolo Morigi (1569)—modest company for Daniello’s Dante to say the least. It should be noted, however, that da Fino was investigated by the Inquisition in 1571 and fined, but for books which he was selling: see P. F. Grendler, L’inquisizione romana e l’editoria a Venezia, 1540–1605 (Rome: Il Veltro, 1983), 236. 14. See Annotationi, introd., xviii. 15. See Fragnito, In museo e in villa, 78 and n. 84 to p. 99. 16. See Processi Carnesecchi, 2:441 and note. 17. Processi Carnesecchi, 2:441, with reference to a letter from 1538 in which, on Carnesecchi’s information, he tells the story of Giulia and Porrino’s breakup; see also the letter to Carnesecchi of July 8, 1541, 2:8 n. 23. 18. Processi Carnesecchi, 2:443. 19. See Pertile, Apollonio Merenda, segretario del Bembo. 20. Firpo and Pagano, I processi inquisitoriali di Vittore Soranzo (hereinafter Processi Soranzo), lxix. On Soranzo, see L. Pertile, “Vettore Soranzo e le ‘Annotationi nel Dante’ di Trifon Gabriele,” Quaderni veneti 16 (1992): 37– 58 with previous bibliography; and now M. Firpo, Vittore Soranzo vescovo ed eretico: Riforma della Chiesa e inquisizione nell’Italia del Cinquecento (Rome: Laterza, 2006). 21. The most recent study — which I saw only after the Manchester conference—does not provide new information on Daniello: D. Dalmas, Dante nella crisi religiosa del Cinquecento italiano: Da Trifon Gabriele a Ludovico Castelvetro (Rome: Vecchiarelli, 2005), 223– 28; however, I gladly recommend this outstanding volume both for the scrupulous and intelligent historico-cultural contextualization it provides and for its analysis of specific texts encountered in the present essay. 22. The only potentially Dantean connection testified to in the trial notes is that with Ludovico Castelvetro, reported by the Bolognese informer and exheretic Giovan Battista Scotti and then confirmed in Soranzo’s letters to the same on November 30, 1544: see Processi Soranzo, 612, 629; see also Firpo and Marcatto, Il processo inquisitoriale del cardinal Giovanni Morone (hereinafter Processo Morone), 1:304 n. 110.



23. Processi Soranzo, xxxix and 342 ff. 24. I quote from the edition of Pietro da Fino (Venice, 1568). 25. A. De Biase, “Dante e i protestanti nel secolo XVI,” Civiltà cattolica 86, no. 1 (1935): 36– 46 (43); see also the commentaries and objections to the same passage in Father Lombardi, La Divina Commedia (Rome: Fulgoni, 1791); and G. Campi, La Divina Commedia (Turin: UTET, 1888– 91). 26. Mathiae Flacii Illyrici, Catalogus testium veritatis . . . (Argentinae: ex officina Ioannis Oporini, 1562), 507; see Annotationi, note to Purg. 32.145– 46, p. 250. 27. Giambattista Cipelli, a Venetian well known under the academic name Battista Egnazio, was linked to the intellectual and spiritual brotherhood of Tommaso Giustiniani, Gasparo Contarini, Vincenzo Querini, Trifon Gabriele, and so on, whose concerns he shared: see the first two chapters in Fragnito, Gasparo Contarini, as well as the remarkably rich “Cipelli” entry by E. Mioni in the Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, 25 (1981): 698– 702. 28. Translations from Italian: Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 2003), 687. 29. Isaiah 1.11–12. I have adapted the text of The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version. An Ecumenical Edition (New York: Collins, 1973). 30. See Fragnito, In museo e in villa, 48. 31. Ibid, 20. The deposition of Giovanni Antonio Maffei, schoolmaster, at his inquisitorial trial mentions in the first place Dante and Petrarch. Moreover, we know that Dante was used to transmit a heterodox message within the Florentine academy by Varchi, Gelli, Bartoli, and Giambullari: see Simoncelli, Evangelismo, 330– 74. 32. See Campi, La Divina Commedia, and then A. De Biase, “Bellarmino e Dante,” Gregorianum (Oct. 1921): 589– 613 (596); but I have not yet traced any texts from the late sixteenth century which accuse Daniello’s commentary of heresy. 33. Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 529. 34. Varchi, Storia fiorentina, II 17, quoted in M. Oliva, Giulia Gonzaga Colonna: Tra Rinascimento e Controriforma (Milan: Mursia, 1985), 112. 35. Alessandro Citolini—Venetian, disciple of Camillo, exiled in England from 1565 for religious reasons—even speaks of it in his Lettera in defense of the vernacular tongue (1540): see the entry on Citolini by M. Firpo, in Dizionario biografico degli Italiani 26 (1982): 39– 46 (40); and Firpo, “Disputar di cose,” 124– 25. 36. See F. Pierno, Un capitolo minore della narrativa cinquecentesca: Gli Apologi di Bernardino Ochino (Geneva, 1554), in Percorsi incrociati: Studi di letteratura e linguistica italiana. Acts of the “Dies Romanicus Turicensis,” Zurich, 23 May 2003 (Zurich: Insula, 2004), 33– 45. 37. In G. B. Marino, Epistolario (Bari: Laterza, 1912), 2:362. Thanks to Marco Arnaudo for bringing this passage to my attention.

       


Castelvetro on Dante: Tradition, Innovation, and Mockery in the Sposizione  

For those familiar with Lodovico Castelvetro’s interpretive practice and critical methodology, the title of this essay should come as no surprise. His Sposizione a XXIX canti dell’Inferno dantesco remains, like many of his critical works, a fiercely polemical and highly antagonistic piece of writing, which, despite its incompleteness, manages to convey a distinct critical stance on the Comedy: a provocative scrutiny, which would appear to test rather than comment on Dante’s poetic constructions. In the Sposizione, Castelvetro appears to apply with greater coherence, conviction, and sophistication his idiosyncratic critical methodology, often arriving at readings and interpretations that most commentators and scholars, to this day, find highly contentious, eccentric, and confrontational. Perhaps for this reason, while in recent years Castelvetro’s writings have 359



attracted substantial scholarly attention, this particular aspect of his critical activity continues to be less known and studied.1 The Sposizione was also the last work of the numerous left unfinished and unpublished by the Modenese before his death to come to print, as late as 1886.2 In this sense, the apologetic tone adopted by its first editor, Giovanni Franciosi, in the very exordium of his introduction, remains rather telling: Con l’animo dubitoso e dopo lungo repugnare a me stesso io mi faccio a discorrere del Castelvetro come interprete di Dante . . . perché, a dire il vero, quella ricca natura di critico e d’investigatore paziente, ch’è il Modenese, esce, molto bene scolpita, dal Commento castelvetrino, ma nella sua forma meno eletta e serena.3 —— [With a hesitant heart and after long self-inflicted torment I undertake to talk about Castelvetro as an interpreter of Dante . . . because, in all truth, his rich nature as critic and patient researcher emerges, very well carved, from his Commentary, but in its less elevated and serene form.]

The complexity and defectiveness of the textual tradition of Castelvetro’s writings on Dante,4 all incomplete, fragmented, and dispersed, to the point that we still struggle to define conclusively their reciprocal relationship, may have also had a significant impact on the critical attention this aspect of his activity has so far received. The only remaining piece that we can consider an independent work that Castelvetro appears to have intended to prepare for publication is the Sposizione, which, as the intuitive title chosen by its first editor suggests, stops before the end of canto 29, interrupted by Castelvetro’s sudden death in February 1571.5 This curiously compelling document is preserved in only one manuscript witness, the Dep. Collegio San Carlo n.2 of the Biblioteca Estense in Modena, compiled by Castelvetro in a clear, well-formed, and readable hand during the difficult years of his forced exile.6 Although the Estense manuscript of the Sposizione is not dated, it can confidently be assigned to this period of his life thanks to a number of internal references.7 The characteristics of the handwriting, its clarity, size, and disposition on the page, together with the rather low number of corrections, clearly suggest that the manuscript is a fair copy that Castelvetro was compiling either for manuscript

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circulation among friends or for print. It shares such features with other autographs prepared with similar objectives. However, as we have no knowledge of any other manuscript or print containing the work in this or in any other redaction, it has so far proven difficult to ascertain to what extent the work we possess in the form of the Sposizione represents a new piece of writing, devised by Castelvetro in his later years, or simply a systematization of previous material, of which only scarce and apparently unrelated traces remain.8 Therefore, although this essay necessarily focuses only on the Sposizione, it is useful to clarify some important aspects of Castelvetro’s work as a dantista in more general terms. As he is often cited, somewhat inaccurately, as a typical example of a sixteenth-century intellectual who championed an extreme and rigid Petrarchismo, it is worth emphasizing in the first place that Castelvetro’s study and appreciation of all Dante’s available works were certainly equal to, if not greater than, those he reserved to Petrarch. Although, as we will see shortly, Castelvetro did not consider either poet immune from error, his critical stance, often reaffirmed in his Poetica d’Aristotele vulgarizzta e sposta, is in this sense rather telling. As in the following instance, he would often establish an unequivocal hierarchy of the two poets’ literary and intellectual achievements. s’è detto che gli artefici facevano le figure grandi per dimostrare l’eccellenza del loro artificio e acquistarne gloria, mettendosi a rischio di potere più agevolmente essere ripresi nella grandezza che nella picciolezza; e io ancora dico che i poeti epopeici, li quali si conoscono di valere assai, usano la maggiore grandezza, sì come usò Omero; da che, sì come dicemmo di sopra, si guardò Virgilio a tutto suo potere, sì come colui che doveva essere consapevole della debilezza del suo ingegno. E sì come Omero spezialmente è per questa cosa da sopraporre a Virgilio, così Dante dee essere sopraposto al Petrarca, avendo impiegato quelli lo stile in poema grande e magnifico, . . . e questi in poema picciolo e modesto.9 —— [it has been said that authors created extensive works to demonstrate the excellence of their art and thus pursued glory, putting themselves at risk of being criticized for writing a greater rather than a smaller work. And I firmly believe that the epic poets who consider themselves very worthy



compose more extensive works, just as Homer did; something that, as mentioned above, Virgil avoided with all his strength, as one who had to be aware of the weakness of his genius. Thus, as Homer should be considered greater than Virgil particularly in this matter, so should Dante when compared with Petrarch, because the former used his art for a great and magnificent poem . . . while the latter only for a small and modest one.]

Despite the deceptive lateness of his surviving commentary, Castelvetro’s continued and direct engagement with Dante is apparent in all his critical writings, where he frequently quotes extracts from the Comedy and from the Florentine’s minor works to illustrate theoretical points.10 Although the reconstruction of Castelvetro’s working library still presents some insurmountable obstacles,11 the portions of it that we can retrace with reasonable confidence also confirm a strong interest in Dante, featuring a good number of manuscripts of both the Comedy and of important commentaries, in addition to all the most reputable and bestselling sixteenth-century editions.12 It is unquestionable that Castelvetro’s relationship with Dante’s major and minor works continued uninterrupted throughout his lifetime:13 from the early teaching of Panfilo Sassi, who “ogni dì continuatamente in casa per un’ora interpretava o il Petrarca, o il Dante o alcuno altro Autore ad istanza delle persone che il corteggiavano” (every day for an hour at home regularly commented upon Petrarch or Dante or some other author at the request of his listeners and admirers),14 to the private lectures he gave on Dante while in Chiavenna.15 And yet there are only very limited traces documenting this critical activity, and only sparse notes remain of attempted or projected expositions of Dante’s poem besides the Sposizione.16 The extant commentary appears, at first sight, to be mainly a linguistic and philological exercise, concentrating on a meticulously linear reading focused on the lexical, grammatical, and syntactical features of the text. Castelvetro’s broad linguistic competence is often played out to support his analytical exegesis, clarifying any obscurity and eliminating every source of ambiguity for the reader through detailed argumentation for the meanings proposed, presented as historically accurate and linguistically reliable.17 The comprehensive textual anatomy performed by Castelvetro’s commentary would appear to aspire principally to establish

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the genuine denotative value of terms and expressions in the primary text while at the same time illustrating the lexical and historical reality of words, the vis verborum and the indissoluble dialogism of res and verba. This practice would seem perfectly consistent with the principles of humanist commentary and firmly embedded in the common practice of humanist textual analysis, which would generally assign specific prominence to the elements just highlighted.18 However, in its enumerative, deconstructive, and often ramifying development, Castelvetro’s commentary also displays some strong similarities to the underlying structure of the earlier exegetical tradition on the Comedy, on which it certainly relies. These are distinctive qualities of prominent commentaries such as Jacopo della Lana’s, Andrea Lancia’s, Benvenuto da Imola’s, and Francesco da Buti’s, with which the Sposizione also shares a strong interest in the exposition and relevance of the littera.19 But while in earlier commentaries this is often the result of the influence of scholastic epistemology and scriptural exegesis, especially through the model of the Glossa ordinaria,20 in Castelvetro, as we shall see, it will acquire a rather different value and function. More significantly, Castelvetro shows a direct affinity with the Trecento commentaries which appear less interested in the constant and, in his opinion often misleading, construction of allegorical justifications for the poetic material, and which did not hesitate to question Dante’s poetic authority and ability.21 But despite these connections, what Castelvetro achieved in his commentary remains ultimately distinctive: a work so radical in its tenets, so stringent in its appraisal of Dante’s text, so fierce in its sarcasm, and so thought-provoking that it still puzzles Dante and Renaissance scholars alike. This is because, far from being just the fruitless and obsessive exercise of a Cinquecento gramaticus, this commentary approaches the Comedy and its commentary tradition with a clearly defined and unwavering critical strategy, one that intentionally and directly challenges not only Dante’s status and authority as a poet but also the scholarship and expertise of his commentators. Although it is not possible to explore here in great detail the complex evolution of the reception of Dante’s poem during the sixteenth century, it is certain that, thanks to the unique level of critical attention it had received and the exceptional circulation it had enjoyed already before



1500,22 the Comedy had assumed a uniquely contentious status, continuing to exercise a powerful poetic influence and becoming a fundamental intellectual training ground.23 Acutely aware of the broad cultural significance of the critical debate on the Comedy and eager to emphasize both the originality and the intellectual superiority of his contribution, Castelvetro consciously argues throughout the Sposizione, on the one hand, for the methodological reliability of his interpretation and, on the other, for the distinctiveness of his analysis and the principles underpinning it. This is already evident in the opening pages of the Sposizione, where the traditional apparatus accompanying established commentaries, often including biographical material and historical documents, a general discussion of the structure of the whole poem, and a variably detailed outline of the all-inclusive allegorical narrative assumed to frame the poem in its entirety, is completely eliminated and replaced by the discussion of a technical rhetorical question on “il nome della presente poesia” (the title of the present poem) (SF, 1).24 While marking a clear methodological departure from the critical tradition, this exordium also declares the openly antagonistic intentions of the commentary as a whole, directly calling into question the opinion of all previous commentators in an unmistakably polemical and confrontational gesture. Examining the difficulty of the poem’s title, Castelvetro staunchly asserts: Ma perché non è nè può essere veramente comedia, non essendo poesia rappresentativa, nè terminata nello spazio d’un giro del sole sopra la terra, anzi è narrativa o epopeica che vogliamo dire, si domanda per quale rispetto Dante l’abbia nominata comedia, e pare che tutti gli spositori s’accordino in ciò, che l’abbia così nominata avendo rispetto al fine lieto; conciosiacosa che, secondo che essi s’immaginano, la comedia voglia avere il principio tristo e ’l fine lieto, sì come ha questa poesia, che comincia dallo ’nferno e termina nel paradiso, sì come dall’altra parte la tragedia dee avere il principio lieto e’l fine tristo. . . . Ma che Dante non abbia avuto questo rispetto assai chiaramente appare domandando egli l’Eneida di Virgilio tragedia . . . la quale Eneida ha il principio tristo e’l fine lieto. (SF 1– 2; my emphasis) —— [But because it is not nor can it really be a comedy, not being performative poetry, nor completed in the space of one revolution of the sun around the

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earth, hence it’s fiction or epic poetry if you like, we must ask why Dante has called it comedy; and it seems that all commentators agree on the fact that he has called it so because of its happy ending; as, according to what they themselves imagine, a comedy requires a sad beginning and a happy ending, as this poem, which begins in hell and ends in heaven, just as tragedy, on the other hand, must have a happy beginning and a sad ending. . . . But that Dante did not have this in mind is evident when he defines Virgil’s Aeneid as tragedy . . . which has a sad beginning and a happy ending.]

In reality, this issue is not quite so clear-cut, nor is the position of “tutti gli spositori” (all the commentators) so easy to categorize. However, such a sweeping statement remains symptomatic of an attitude detectable throughout the Sposizione as only on two occasions Castelvetro is prepared to sanction an existing interpretation. Examining Inf. 16.94–102, Castelvetro uncharacteristically remarks that “bene spone questo luogo Cristofano Landino, che il Montone, che così si chiama questo fiume a Forlì, è il primo fiume, tra tutti que’ che scendono da monte Vesolo, il quale metta in mare col suo proprio corso; perciochè gli altri mettono in mare, non col loro proprio corso, ma per mezzo e col corso del Po” (Cristofano Landino interprets this verse correctly, when he states here that the Montone, which is the name of this river in Forlì, is the only river, among those originating from Mount Vesolo, which flows directly into the sea; the others instead flow into the sea, not by their own course, but as tributary rivers of the Po) (SF 213). Less specifically, he sides with the commentators who, like himself, disapprove of the way Dante refers to the valley of Josaphat in Inf. 10.10–12 “a provare che il giudicio universale si farà nella valle di Giosafat, il quale al giudicio degli ’ntendenti spositori non pruova ciò pienamente” (to prove that last judgment will be in the valley of Jehoshaphat, which according to the expert commentators is not fully ascertained) (SF 130; my emphasis). The only commentator who would appear to agree with such objection is Giovan Battista Gelli, although Pietro Alighieri (I) and Benvenuto would also dispute the actual location of the final judgment. However, rather indicatively, no previous commentator presents the issue in such negative and categorical terms as Castelvetro. In every other reference to the existing commentary tradition, he consistently expresses general dissatisfaction and disagreement, often



grouping earlier and contemporary commentators under broad labels such as “gli spositori” or even more generally “alcuni” (some), anonymizing their efforts and merging their individual critical contributions into a cumulative, indistinct, and as such less significant, corpus.25 The debasing effect of such strategy is particularly evident in the case of Alessandro Vellutello, whose interpretations are repeatedly and severely questioned in the Sposizione, although rarely openly attributed to him, as in the following case.26 Altri si potrebbe ridere d’uno spositore, che vuole che in quel luogo: Aguzza qui, lettor [Purg. 8.19], Dante ammonisca il lettore ad aguzzare gli occhi perché l’allegoria è oscurissima, e dice che il velo è tanto sottile, che altri potrebbe trapassare oltre senza avedersene se non fosse ammonito. (SF 121) —— [Others might laugh at a commentator who says that in this verse: Here, reader, set your gaze,27 Dante is warning the reader to sharpen his gaze because the allegory is very obscure; and argues that Dante is saying that the veil is so thin, that one could inadvertently pierce it, if not alerted.]

But such a dismissive attitude is not reserved to specific commentators, as evident in this chiosa to Inf. 19.54, “di parecchi anni mi mentì lo scritto” (by several years the writing lied to me):28 Gran difficultà è intendere che voglia significare ‘lo scritto’. Alcuni s’imaginano che papa Nicolò fosse negromante e che avesse avuto in iscritto dal diavolo, che in questi tempi dovesse essere Bonifacio ottavo papa e che dovesse scampare infino all’anno del signore MCCCIII. Le quali cose sono imaginazioni, nè hanno fondamento niuno nè d’istoria nè di fama. Altri s’imaginano che, quando papa Nicolò fu posto a questa pena, gli fosse letto un libro, nel quale si contenìa che egli starebbe così co’ piedi fuori del foro infino a tanto che venisse Bonifacio ottavo del cotale anno, il quale starebbe in suo luogo in fino che venisse Chimento quinto. Ma questa non è meno imaginazione senza niun fondamento, che si sia l’altra. (SF 243) —— [It is extremely difficult to understand what “the writing” means. Some imagine that Pope Nicholas was a necromancer and the devil had written to him that during those days Pope Boniface VIII would be pope

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and that Boniface would live until 1303. These are flights of fancy, without any foundation, history, or credit. Others imagine that, when Pope Nicholas was placed here for his punishment, a book was read to him, in which it was said that he would stay with his feet out of the hole until Boniface VIII would come in 1303, and that Boniface would be in his place until Clement V would arrive. But this is no less a fantasy without any foundation than the previous one.]

It is admittedly tempting to read in this relentlessly probing, and often sharply sarcastic, attitude a confirmation of Castelvetro’s famously difficult character.29 However, if we look more carefully into the nature of his objections, both to Dante’s poetic choices and to his commentators’ understanding of them, we immediately realize that his objections are firmly and consistently grounded in a fundamental methodological conviction: the absolute preeminence of the text, of its denotative import and its linguistic reality. With the sole exception of the initial consideration of Dante’s reasons for titling his work “comedia,” Castelvetro’s commentary concentrates on the meticulous linear analysis of short portions of the text, generally examining no more than four or five terzine at a time, and focusing primarily on issues of denotative signification. A sound philological and linguistic knowledge supports this analytical exegesis, founding the legitimacy of the critical result thus achieved mainly on the critic’s personal expertise, in philological, historical, and, most of all, grammatical matters.30 This is the case, for instance, with the commentary to Inf. 25.1– 2: Al fine de le sue parole il ladro Le mani alzò con ambedue le fiche . . . —— [Then, making the figs with both his thumbs, the thief raised up his fists . . . ]31

Here Castelvetro’s remarks relate exclusively to the lexical difficulty of the passage, and set out to provide the fullest possible clarification of the sense behind the expression “fiche” by means of the testimony of earlier usage in classical writers and in certain works of vernacular literature that are considered sufficiently authoritative:



Di questa usanza di sprezzare altrui, mostrandogli le fiche con le mani, vedi le novelle antiche là dove si parla di Brancadorio, e Giovanni Villani là dove parla della presa del re Carlo secondo d’Angiò. Ed alcuni vogliono che Giovenale n’intenda quando dice ‘Mediumque ostenderet unguem’. (SF 321) —— [On this custom to despise others, showing the figs with your thumbs, see the ancient stories where Brancadorio is mentioned, and Giovanni Villani where he speaks of the capture of King Charles II of Anjou. And some think that Juvenal is referring to the same thing when he says, “Show the middle finger.”]

The constant attention given to such lexical elements inevitably generates the highly segmented type of analysis that characterizes so much humanist hermeneutics. Discarding every form of digression and excluding all ancillary material, Castelvetro’s inquiry is primarily concerned with the signification conveyed by Dante’s verses and with a rigorous verification of the linguistic, narrative, and rhetorical means utilized to convey it. This means, first, that every expression, every verse, every episode is reduced to its basic components, and all the ramifications of the interaction of these elements are considered to test the efficacy of the entire construction. Second, these elements are all investigated, and more often questioned, in order to establish or deny their adequacy as suitable instruments to express the identified meaning. In particular, great significance is assigned to the examination of the semantic suitability of specific terms and expressions in a determinate referential context. Castelvetro’s commentary in this sense is particularly strict and uncompromising. Endorsing the authority and authenticity of a linguistic usage attested in the works of reliable authors, Castelvetro’s analysis scrupulously surveys the instances where the text plainly departs from the regularity of consuetudo in an attempt to achieve metaphorical originality.32 The comment on verse 85 of Inf. 27, “Lo principe de’ nuovi farisei” (The Prince of the latter-day Pharisees)33 to mention just one example, is emblematic of this critical outlook. Qui si dice come e perchè [il papa] fu rimesso nelle prime colpe. Ha nominato il papa per ‘lo gran prete’; e qui lo nomina per ‘lo principe de’

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nuovi farisei’, e non so quanto bene, non avendo avuto, se bene mi ricorda, i farisei antichi appresso i giudei principe niuno, in luogo del quale si possa riporre un novello principe degli ipocriti appresso i cristiani; ed intende per gli farisei tutti i chierici, e forse gli chiama farisei, non perchè i chierici a quel tempo fossero ipocriti, conciosiacosachè fossero scelerati apertamente di fuori senza vergogna niuna, non che copertamente dentro, ma gli chiama farisei in quanto apertamente sono nemici di Cristo e de’ cristiani, si come furono i farisei antichi.34 —— [It says here how and why [the pope] was guilty of the early faults. He already called the pope “the High Priest,” while here he calls him “the Prince of the latter-day Pharisees,” and I do not know how appropriately, not having had, if I remember, the ancient Pharisees among the Jews any prince, so that one could set a new Prince of hypocrites among Christians; and with Pharisees he means all the clerics, and perhaps he calls them Pharisees not because the clerics at the time were hypocrites, although they were as shamelessly wicked openly as they were secretly at heart, but he calls them Pharisees because they are open enemies of Christ and the Christians, as the ancient Pharisees were.]

Founding his critical judgment on an account of both the historical and the scriptural connotation of the word “fariseo,” Castelvetro refutes Dante’s translatio because it plainly exceeds, in his perspective, the bounds of diligent and appropriate usage. In his opinion, the proficient poet simply should not stray outside the limits imposed by the established semantic and historical scope of a term within a given linguistic tradition. The historical force and intellectual validity of this type of textual inquiry, which focused on the philological, semantic, and rhetorical consistency of the written text, had been validated in particular through Valla’s scholarship,35 and was fully established by the first decades of the sixteenth century. But Castelvetro does not simply exercise his extraordinary lexical and linguistic competence in this commentary: he also takes to extreme consequences the humanistic perception of the structures of signification. For him, as for Valla before him, every single element of the verbal fabric contributes equally to the resulting quality of each utterance and must therefore not only be accurately chosen, when attempting to articulate a



message, but also carefully analyzed by the interpreter with regard to its historical and semantic context. Hence, every element in any verbal expression is an integral component of the communicative substance of the message as a whole, and the relational coordinates that hold it together and are in turn shaped by it are what allows every word to perform its communicative function. Humanist linguistic theory, contrary to the scholastic referential approach to meaning, did not consider words as linguistic equivalents of objects that exist beyond language as absolute and atemporal substances. Instead, it insisted on a historical and relational construction and interpretation of meaning that regarded language as a dynamic practice of constant semantic transformations and transactions. This development drastically transformed the existing approach to language and knowledge, changing meaning into a living function of history and linguistic reality into an inherent aspect of historical objects.36 It is not possible here to explore in greater detail the epistemological implications of this shift from a “referential” to a “relational” semantic approach, but it remains important to emphasize that this approach springs from the groundbreaking and quite radical belief in the epistemological value of verba and their capacity to point the human mind toward a more genuine and relevant form of knowledge of reality (res), a linguistic one. For this reason, in this perspective semantic and lexical accuracy remain absolutely crucial: historical and philological imprecision, an erroneous translation or an inaccurate translatus, is proof of a confused and defective knowledge or understanding of the object of communication, while using the appropriate and correct designation of any object is the only valid means of gnoseological access to it. To ignore the historicity of a word, then, and overlook its connotations, means not only to undermine our understanding of the linguistic message of which that particular word is part but also to hinder our intellectual acquisition of the object that the specific word is naming. Within this framework, meaning is therefore directly dependent on the linguistic objects chosen to communicate it, on their historical reality and the specific context and semantic horizon within which, according to humanist thinking, they are necessarily inscribed. The linguistic objects constituting the text should accordingly be interpreted through the temporal and spatial

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(i.e., historical) dimensions of their utilization, because “usus dominus est” (usage is sovereign).37 All arbitrariness must therefore be avoided because once the vital correlation of res and verba is broken, no functional meaning is contained in the words that one is trying to use. The undisputed authority of Quintilian confirmed what Cicero had already asserted in his De Oratore and De Inventione about the indissoluble union of words and thoughts, a union realized in nature and language that only grammar can unravel without violating. Grammar alone in fact, the “recte loquendi scientiam” (the science of speaking correctly), can and should guide our linguistic understanding.38 Ostensibly assigning great significance to the examination of the semantic correctness and suitability of terms and expressions, Castelvetro clearly subscribes to this exegetical approach, and it is no coincidence that both in his own and in most recent times, he has often been defined as a “grammaticus” (grammarian).39 Endorsing the authority and authenticity of a linguistic usage not only attested in the works of reliable authors but also still functional within a given linguistic system, Castelvetro’s analysis scrupulously surveys the instances where the text plainly departs from the regularity of consuetudo to achieve metaphorical originality, as we have seen in the case above.40 But while it will be clear from the examples below that these are some of the fundamental intellectual notions underpinning Castelvetro’s meticulous approach, we must admit that textual interpretations based on these same linguistic and gnoseological premises do not always result in the stringencies and the kind of logocentrism we witness in the Sposizione.41 In his inflexible and relentless attention to this specific type of “convenevolezza” (appropriateness), Castelvetro appears convinced that ignoring the historicity of a word and overlooking its connotation hinders readers’ understanding of the textual message and, more important, their intellectual and aesthetic acquisition of the object that the specific word in question is naming. In other words, it is clear at every step of the Sposizione that what is at stake for him is not simply the elegance of Dante’s poetic expression or the loftiness of its hidden meanings, but the rational validity of each and every poetic utterance. And it is on that validity and on the level of truth equivalence the text is able to create that in his opinion the merit of any form of literary writing directly rests.42 For



this reason, he takes issue especially with those commentaries that construct allegorical speculations that are not directly grounded in the literal fabric of the text, or worse that recur to allegory to explain or justify expressions and constructs that remain problematic from the literal point of view. The interpreter and critic has no other valid access to meaning but to “procedere da le parole del poeta” (proceed from the words of the poet), he repeatedly asserts, as “il voler passare all’allegoria senza mezzo della lettera e di figura, che non sia, e non sia licito ad imaginarsi, è un voler volar senza ali o passare il mare senza nave” (wishing to talk about the allegorical without the medium of the letter and the figures of speech of the text, which we cannot in any way directly infer from it, is wishing to fly without wings or crossing the sea without a ship) (SF 217–18). This is because the distinctive value around which Castelvetro’s theoretical and critical system revolves is, in a highly humanistic fashion, fruition, in the sense of “pleasure taken” in the text; and this fruition relies directly upon understanding and belief. The great significance Castelvetro assigns to credibility and verisimilitude as determinant factors in the assessment of a poetic work has often been noted and interpreted rather negatively, especially in relation to his commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics and his supposed codification of the three dramatic unities.43 However, it must be stressed, Castelvetro does not promote an extreme form of literal realism but rather concentrates on defining the cognitive boundaries within which literary language remains functional and active in communicative terms. He seems to be aware of the difficulty (although not of the impossibility!) of achieving a full “effet de réel” in poetic expression, a perfect impression of reality.44 But it is precisely for this reason that for him “la qualità della rassomiglianza . . . è quella che fa e distingue i poeti” (the quality of mimesis . . . is what makes and distinguishes poets).45 This stance is well exemplified by his remarks on the opening of Inf. 20, Di nuova pena mi convien far versi E dar materia al ventesimo canto —— [Of strange new pain I now must make my verse, giving matter to the canto numbered twenty]46

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in which the reader is implicitly admitted behind the scenes of the text’s production to Dante’s poetic laboratory and gains a perception of the chronological distance and the cognitive interval between the verses he or she is reading and the author’s original poetic intention. Encouraging such an awareness, in Castelvetro’s opinion, is inappropriate, inasmuch as it interrupts the course of the narrative and fractures the continuity of the fictional backdrop to reveal, behind it, the materiality inherent to the process of poetic creation. The consequences of a disruption of this kind immediately extend to every textual level, ultimately annihilating the credibility of the vision that upholds the reality represented in the poem: Adunque non basta a Dante aver fatti versi delle pene dette infino a qui, ma gli conviene ancora far versi di nuova pena e non ridetta infino a qui. E pon mente che, dicendo ‘E dar materia al ventesimo canto’, se egli intende della materia trovata da lui, commette errore, perciochè dee fare ogni opera per dare ad intendere che questa visione fosse vera ed avvenutagli e non immaginatasi da lui. (SF 252– 53) —— [Thus, it is not enough for Dante to have versified the punishments mentioned so far, but he should now versify new ones so far never mentioned. And note that, saying, “giving matter to the canto numbered twenty,” if he intends the matter conceived by him, he makes a mistake, because he must make every effort to lead one to think that this vision was true and that it had actually occurred, and was not only imagined by him.]

So if on the one hand literary language, like any other form of language, must be a transparent, functional, and accessible means of communication, on the other the meanings it conveys must also remain logically credible and comprehensible, if poetry is to adequately fulfill its function. In this perspective, therefore, all forms of obscurity, all linguistic convolutions overtly conflicting with common usage, all elements that contradict the rules of common sense and verisimilitude, and all instances of inconsistency of any kind, are questioned and ultimately rejected as obstacles to the rightful fruition of poetry. Such a critical procedure would appear, as indeed it appeared, to many of Castelvetro’s



readers, to be condemned to an irremediable and futile literalism, more often judged a symptom of critical myopia if not of laughable incompetence. However, Castelvetro is less interested in the literal meaning of Dante’s verses than in the compatibility of his literary constructs with the rational expectations of the reading public, generated by the latter’s knowledge, common sense, and experience of reality. The capacity of the work to be understood, to convince, and therefore also to grant the pleasure the public expects to derive from any work of art depends on the impression of reality that it can produce; and this is in fact the primary end toward which every kind of poetry should strive, in both Aristotle’s and Castelvetro’s more controversial opinion: Perché la poesia è stata trovata, come dico, per dilettare e ricreare il popolo commune, dee avere per soggetto quelle cose che possono essere intese dal popolo commune e, intese, il possono rendere lieto; le quali sono quelle che tutto dì avengono e delle quali tra il popolo si favella.47 —— [Because poetry has been created, as I believe, to delight and revive the common people, it should have as its subject those things that can be shared and understood by the people, which, once understood, can cheer up as well; it deals with those things that take place every day and which the people talk about.]

The application of such critical perspective to a poem substantially construed on polisemy, radically experimental in literary, rhetorical, and linguistic terms, and founded on an ambitious eschatological design was bound to produce some extreme results. Emblematic in this sense is Castelvetro’s response to the well-known terzina in Inf. 1.64– 66: Quando io vidi costui nel gran diserto ‘Miserere di me’ gridai alui ‘Qual che tu sie od ombra o uomo certo!’ —— [When I saw him in that vast desert, ‘Have mercy of me, whatever you are,’ I cried, ‘whether shade or living man!’]48

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The Modenese, apparently indifferent to the dramatic cry contained in these verses and even more to the poetic function of Virgil’s persona in the Commedia, calls attention only to the implausibility of Dante’s psychological reaction to the sudden appearance of the soul of a dead man: Sicuro cuore doveva essere per certo quello di Dante, che, trovandosi in un diserto, solo, intorniato di fiere spaventevolissime, non si spaventa all’apparizione di un morto, nè gli si rabbuffano i peli, nè perde la voce, nè un freddo gli corre per l’ossa. Le quali cose sogliono in simile caso avvenire a’ più forti uomini del mondo. (SF 17) —— [A confident heart had to be for sure Dante’s, who, finding himself in a desert, alone, surrounded by the most ghastly beasts, is neither scared by the appearance of a dead man, nor does his hair stand up, or lose his voice, or is chilled down to the bone. All things these that are wont to happen in such cases to the bravest men in the world.]

His observations on the famous dialogue between Beatrice and Virgil that the latter recounts in Inferno 2 to answer Dante’s fears about his inability to accomplish “l’alto passo” (this arduous passage)49 are equally disheartening: Questa catena che la vergine si doglia del male di Dante, e che chiami Lucia, e che Lucia ricorra a Beatrice, e che Beatrice ricorra a Virgilio non è verisimile, nè ha ragione che la faccia verosimile, perciochè poteva così la vergine aiutar Dante senza chiamar Lucia, e Lucia il poteva così fare come Beatrice o Virgilio, e Beatrice senza Virgilio. E così poteva sapere di questo impedimento Lucia, o Beatrice come la vergine, ed impetrar grazia da dio a liberarnelo. E, se Dante era divoto di queste tre donne benedette, senza mandare la cosa dell’una nell’altra, potevano tutte e tre d’un consiglio aiutarlo. (SF 43– 44) —— [This chain that sees the Virgin feeling pity for Dante’s peril, and then calling on Lucy, and Lucy appealing to Beatrice, and Beatrice appealing to Virgil is not plausible, nor has it any reason to be, because the Virgin could have helped Dante without calling on Lucy, and Lucy could have



done the same, as well as Beatrice or Virgil, and Beatrice without Virgil. And as Lucy knew, either Beatrice or the Virgin could have also known of this impediment, and implore grace from God to free Dante. And, if Dante was devoted to these three blessed women, all three of them together could have helped him without having to entrust the task one to the other.]

Here the absurdity and the literary inelegance of this successive transfer of concern for Dante’s circumstances along the chain of all his spiritual mentors is uncharitably exposed in its clear disproportion to the common idea readers certainly had about the abilities and concerns of the Virgin Mary, if not about those of Saint Lucy and of Beatrice’s sanctified persona. Finally, the lines commenting on the opening verses of canto 6 raise a question that could hardly be considered weighty in the eyes of Dante’s interpreters pursuing textual analysis in a more conventional fashion: Si dubita per che cagione Dante faccia che egli, passando per lo ’nferno, non fugga tutte le pene ugualmente, contentandosi della vista sola e dello ’ntenderne, ma ne patisca alcuna senza dubbio come questa della pioggia grave, non avendo cappello da difendersene, e quella del vento, che tormentava gli amanti stemperati, non avendo papafico che lo difendesse da quella buffera infernale, ancora che per avere il corpo non fosse rapito per l’aere dal vento come loro, e come non fuggì la pena del freddo in Cocito con caldo di fuoco o con vestimento di pelle. (SF 85– 86) —— [It is not clear why Dante imagines going through hell without equally escaping all punishments, or limiting his experience to sight alone and understanding; instead, he clearly endures some like this heavy downpour, without a hat to cover his head, or that wind that tormented those immoderate lovers, without a hood to defend himself from that infernal storm, and even though he was not swept by the wind like them, despite having his body, and did not escape the punishment of the cold in Cocytus with hot flames or leather coverings.]

Although Castelvetro had clearly derived the essential instruments of his critical laboratory from established intellectual systems, he com-

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bined them into a unique critical paradigm that, strong in its intellectual foundations, asserts its independent validity and dependability in its complete freedom from any established and accepted authority, whether that of an individual writer or that of a whole critical tradition. Persuaded that “lo ’ntendere i poeti non consiste se non nel senso comune e popolare” (to understand poets means nothing but grasping the common and general sense),50 Castelvetro proceeds with uncompromising determination to scrutinize not just Dante’s text but also the poem’s commentary tradition. The desecrating force and corrosive sarcasm which characterize this critical endeavor therefore result more from his convinced application of a coherent and unwavering critical methodology determined to “aggredire i modelli” (assault the models)51 than from a narcissistic or simply pedantic attitude. In other words, if we are to understand and historically evaluate the intellectual system governing this commentary and the contribution it made to the Comedy commentary tradition, we have to recast Castelvetro’s irreverence for Dante’s text, his detachment from its established auctoritas, his indifference for the cultural values and ideological agendas the Comedy had come to embody, and the apodictic assertiveness of his critical opinions in the light of his aspiration to destroy any preestablished and unverified conception of literary excellence. Contrary to common understanding, Castelvetro’s totalizing belief in the absolute value and preeminence of fruition and communication did not tyrannize and strangle creativity. It promoted, in theory as well as in practice, a functional, effective, authentic communication in every form of literary creation.

N  1. In the Italian scholarly tradition, the brevity of the entry on Castelvetro by Dionisotti in the Enciclopedia dantesca, 6 vols. (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1970– 76), I ad vocem, 867– 68, is in this sense revealing. There has also been little engagement with Castelvetro’s contribution to the critical tradition on Dante’s Comedy, perhaps a consequence of the rather passing reference to the Sposizione in the chapter “Quarrel over Dante” in B. Weinberg, A History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renaissance, 2 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 2:819– 911. Weinberg’s chapter, in its attempt to trace how “the ideas



in each quarrel related to the history of critical theory in general” (2:819), remains in many ways methodologically problematic. However, as regards specifically the lack of interest for Castelvetro as a dantista, despite his established status as a literary theorist in other parts of the work, Weinberg simply continues the status quo. Scholarly interest in Castelvetro’s works and extant MSS was revived by a decisive article by G. Frasso, “Per Lodovico Castelvetro, ” Aevum 65 (1991): 453– 78. Since then, important new critical editions of Castelvetro’s writings have appeared, such as “De’ nomi significativi del numero incerto, ed. M. G. Bianchi,” Aevum 65 (1991): 491– 522; Correttione d’alcune cose del “Dialogo delle lingue” di Benedetto Varchi, ed. V. Grohovaz (Padua: Antenore, 1999); Giunta fatta al ragionamento degli articoli et de’ verbi di Messer Pietro Bembo, ed. M. Motolese (Padua: Antenore, 2004); Filologia ed Eresia. Scritti religiosi, ed. G. Mongini (Brescia: Morcelliana, 2011). There have also been conferences and volumes of proceedings bearing the Modenese’s name, like Omaggio a Lodovico Castelvetro (1505–1571), ed. E. Garavelli (Helsinki: Publications du Département des Langues Romanes, 2006); Lodovico Castelvetro: Filologia e ascesi, ed. R. Gigliucci (Rome: Bulzoni, 2007); Ludovico Castelvetro: Letterati e grammatici nella crisi religiosa del Cinquecento, ed. M. Firpo and G. Mongini (Florence: Olschki, 2008), to which I refer readers for a more extensive critical bibliography. It is nevertheless worth noting that once again Castelvetro’s writings on Dante have been the least explored. D. Dalmas, Dante nella crisi religiosa del Cinquecento italiano: Da Trifon Gabriele a Lodovico Castelvetro (Rome: Vecchiarelli, 2005); D. Dalmas, “Itinerario di un dantista,” and P. Procaccioli, “Castelvetro vs Dante: Uno scenario per il Castravilla,” both in Ludovico Castelvetro: Letterati e grammatici, 251– 60 and 207– 49, respectively; and A. Roncaccia, “Sulle tracce del perduto commento dantesco,” in Gigliucci, Lodovico Castelvetro, 73– 90, are some recent significant exceptions. 2. Franciosi’s interest is most likely the result of the flourish of studies in Dante and in the commentary tradition to the Comedy which characterized the nineteenth century. A remarkable number of commentaries and related critical materials were published in this period for the first time, such as L’Ottimo commento della divina Commedia: Testo inedito di un contemporaneo di Dante citato dagli Accademici della Crusca, ed. A. Torri (Pisa: Capurro, 1827– 29); Petri Allegherii super Dantis ipsius genitoris Comoediam Commentarium nunc primum in lucem editum, ed. V. Nannucci (Florence: Piatti, 1845); La Commedia di Dante degli Allagherii col commento di Jacopo della Lana Bolognese, ed. L. Scarabelli (Milan: Civelli, 1864– 65); Benvenuto de Rambaldis de Imola, Comentum super Dantis Aldigherij Comoediam nunc primum integer in lucem editum, ed. W.W. Vernon and I. F. Lacaita, 5 vols. (Florence: Barbèra, 1887); Fratris Johannis de Serravalle translatio et comentum totius libri Dantis Aldigherii, ed. M. Civezza and T. Domenicelli (Prato: Giachetti, 1891). It is also in these years that the study of the commentary tradition becomes part of the scholarly discourse with

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the studies developed by M. Barbi, acting on D’Ancona’s indications, with Della fortuna di Dante nel sec. XVI (Pisa: Nistri, 1890), and by L. Rocca, Di alcuni commenti della Divina commedia composti nei primi vent’anni dopo la morte di Dante (Florence: Sansoni, 1891). 3. Sposizione di Lodovico Castelvetro a XXIX canti dell’Inferno dantesco, ed. Giovanni Franciosi (Modena: Soliani, 1886), ix. This is, to date, the only edition of the work, although I am currently preparing a new critical edition for the series Edizione Nazionale dei Commenti Danteschi (Rome: Salerno). Among other influential negative testimonies, it is worth mentioning Barbi, who, describing Castelvetro’s approach, emphasized the “malignità dell’animo suo,” in Della fortuna di Dante, 284. 4. For instance, this is the case in D. Parker, Commentary and Ideology: Dante in the Renaissance (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), where Castelvetro’s commentary is explicitly excluded from the study on account of its incompleteness (182). 5. At the end of 1570, a sudden epidemic of plague brought him back to Chiavenna, from where he was planning to move to Basel at the invitation of the local Italian community. But he died on February 21, 1571, as a result of an unforeseen aggravation of his illness. The main sources for Castelvetro’s biography are [Lodovico Castelvetro Iuniore], “Vita di Lodovico Castelvetro scritta da . . . [sic],” in G. Tiraboschi, Biblioteca Modenese o notizia della vita e delle opere degli scrittori nati negli stati del Serenissimo Signor Duca di Modena, raccolte e ordinate dal Cavaliere Ab. Girolamo Tiraboschi, 6 vols. (Modena: Società Tipografica Modenese, 1781– 86), 6:61– 82; Vita di Lodovico Castelvetro composta dal Sig. Lodovico Antonio Muratori, in Opere varie critiche di Lodovico Castelvetro gentiluomo modenese non più stampate (Berna-Lyon [Milan]: Foppens, 1727), 1– 78; A. Ploncher, Della vita e delle opere di Lodovico Castelvetro (Conegliano: Cagnani, 1879); T. Sandonnini, Lodovico Castelvetro e la sua famiglia (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1882); G. Cavazzuti, Lodovico Castelvetro (Modena: Società Tipografica Modenese, 1903). For a brief outline, see V. Marchetti and G. Patrizi, “Castelvetro, Ludovico,” in Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, ed. A. M. Ghisalberti, 48 vols. (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, 1960–), 22 (1979): 8– 20. 6. Despite the opposition of the then Este duke Ercole II, charges against Castelvetro regarding his orthodoxy were published in 1556. Ercole II’s son, Alfonso II, duke from 1559, repeatedly tried and failed to obtain permission to stage Castelvetro’s trial in his own territory. Encouraged by the duke’s support and by the death of Paul IV in 1559, Castelvetro decided to attend the hearing of his case, when it was finally scheduled for the beginning of October 1560 in Rome. Thanks to the pressure exercised by the duke’s ambassador in Rome, Castelvetro was allowed to reside in Santa Maria in Via, with permission to receive visitors, and between October 11 and 17 he was examined there by Friar



Tommaso from Vigevano. Perhaps confronted with indefensible evidence, he fled from his residence on October 17, 1560. On November 20 he was sentenced in absentia as a fugitive and impenitent heretic, his image burned, and all his writings proscribed, although his name does not actually appear on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum until the 1596 edition. 7. For a full description of the manuscript, see M. Motolese, ed., Autografi dei letterati italiani: Il Cinquecento. I (Rome: Salerno, 2009), 122– 24. 8. In his brief introduction, Franciosi had very little to say about the manuscript and its relationship with Castelvetro’s activities as a “dantista. ” I am hoping to be able to add more information on this aspect in the critical edition of Castelvetro’s commentary I am preparing. But Roncaccia’s contribution, quoted above, offers some important considerations to clarify this aspect of Castelvetro’s production. On the other fragments and annotations which have so far been attributed to Castelvetro, see note 16 below. 9. See L. Castelvetro, Poetica d’Aristotele vulgarizzata e sposta, ed. W. Romani, 2 vols. (Bari: Laterza, 1978– 79), 2:221– 22. 10. Motolese’s decision to omit Dante, as well as Petrarch, from the index of authors in his recent critical edition of the Giunta because of their “alta frequenza nel volume” (high frequency in the volume) is indicative in this sense. See Castelvetro, Giunta, 319. 11. For significant contributions to such reconstruction, besides the quoted article by Frasso, see U. Rozzo, “Il rogo postumo di due biblioteche cinquecentesche,” in Bibliologia e critica dantesca: Saggi dedicati a Enzo Esposito, ed. V. De Gregorio (Ravenna: Longo, 1997), 159– 86; and especially the studies by M. Motolese: “L’esemplare delle Prose della volgar lingua appartenuto a Lodovico Castelvetro,” in “Prose della volgar lingua” di Pietro Bembo, ed. S. Morgana, M. Piotti, and M. Prada (Milan: Cisalpino, 2000); “Le carte di Lodovico Castelvetro,” L’Ellisse: Studi storici di letteratura italiana 1 (2006): 161– 91; “Per lo scaffale di Castelvetro: Un nuovo documento e una vecchia lista,” in Angelo Colocci e gli studi romanzi, ed. C. Bologna and M. Bernardi (Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2008), 107– 21; and the introduction to his edition of the Giunta. Although Castelvetro has a very distinctive annotating system, retracing his library is particularly problematic because it was dispersed at least twice, the first time in 1561, when he left Italy for Switzerland. It is presumably on this occasion that he hid about sixty of the most compromising items in his collection and a sack of loose papers behind a wall in the tower of the villa called Verdeda. As is well known, they were found in 1823, during renovation work, by the fattore Torricelli, who, oblivious to their value and significance, let them be dispersed. He then informed his brother Arciprete of Finale Giovanni Antonio Torricelli, who zealously proceeded to destroy the items most clearly “infetti d’eresia” (infected with heresy), among which, it was whispered, were also let-

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ters from Luther. The surviving items were eventually acquired by the Biblioteca Estense. See Sandonnini, Lodovico Castelvetro, 161– 63; Cavazzuti, Lodovico Castelvetro, appendix (37– 39), provides a copy of the titles effectively acquired by the Estense, with individual prices and, where possible, contemporary shelfmark. On the second occasion, in 1567, Castelvetro’s Lyon residence was attacked during the outbreak of violence between Catholics and Huguenots triggered by the surprise of Meaux. Castelvetro’s nephew provides some indications of the more than four hundred volumes that were lost. See “Vita di Lodovico Castelvetro,” 71– 72. 12. Some of these are listed in a document compiled in 1577 and published by Sandonnini, Lodovico Castelvetro, 314– 34. This, together with the so-called Pinelli list, edited and published by Frasso, Per Lodovico Castelvetro, 472– 78, remains of crucial importance for retracing Castelvetro’s readings. However, in addition to containing some mistakes, highlighted by S. Debendetti, Gli studi provenzali in Italia, ed. C. Segre (Padua: Antenore, 1995), 84, the 1577 list provides scarce details about the manuscripts and volumes itemized, making their identification often impossible. For example, on p. 332 we find “Commento di Dante a penna,” or often even just “commento di Dante,” 323. But see M. Motolese, “Per lo scaffale di Castelvetro,” 114, on Castelvetro’s possession and use of the 1515 Aldine edition of Dante’s Terze rime after 1567. 13. As stated, for instance, by C. Dionisotti “Castelvetro, Lodovico,” in Enciclopedia dantesca, 6 vols, 2nd rev. ed., 6 vols. (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1996), 1:867– 68. His interest ventured as far as proposing to the printers Giunti publishing a manuscript of Benvenuto’s commentary, now apparently lost. It is worth reporting here Muratori’s testimony in full: “Trattò egli inoltre coi Giunti, Stampatori rinomati di quel tempo, consigliandogli di voler dare alla luce il vasto Comento Latino di Benvenuto da Imola sopra la Commedia di Dante, che n’aveva trovato un buono ed antico testo presso i Canonici di Reggio di Lombardia, parendo a lui che quest’Opera, siccome ripiena di Filosofia e Teologia e di molte storie, non meritasse di perir fra le tenebre” (He also dealt with Giunti, renowned printers at the time, proposing to them the publication of the vast Latin commentary by Benvenuto da Imola on Dante’s Commedia, of which he had found a good and old manuscript at the Regular Canons monastery of Reggio di Lombardia, for it appeared to him that this work, filled with philosophy and theology and many stories, did not deserve to be forgotten) (Muratori, Vita di Lodovico Castelvetro, 74– 75). The codex is reported lost in Tiraboschi, Biblioteca Modenese, 6: 76. See also Lacaita’s preface in Benvenuto, Comentum, 1: vi– viii; and F. Quartieri, Benvenuto da Imola: Un moderno antico commentatore di Dante (Ravenna: Longo, 2001), 60. It is indeed an intriguing coincidence that Muratori used a manuscript found in the Biblioteca Estense (where a great number of the surviving volumes of Castelvetro’s library were found and are now preserved)



to publish, though only partially, Benvenuto’s commentary for the first time in 1738. Was this another one of Castelvetro’s manuscripts that passed through Muratori’s hands before disappearing? 14. As Castelvetro diligently recounts in Lodovico Castelvetro, Racconto delle vite d’alcuni letterati del suo tempo di M. L. C. Modonese scritte per suo piacere, now printed in the appendix to Giuseppe Cavazzuti, Lodovico Castelvetro (Modena: Società Tipografica Modenese, 1903), 3–15 (11), and reedited by Mongini in Filologia ed Eresia, 285–343. Although we know very little about the first years of Castelvetro’s education, this familiarity with Sassi’s practice seems to confirm that Castelvetro was indeed one of his pupils. 15. See [Castelvetro Iun.], “Vita di Lodovico Castelvetro,” 70, from which we learn that, while in Chiavenna, Castelvetro “lesse tutto Dante” (lectured on the whole of Dante), not just twenty-nine cantos. However, Muratori does not include Dante among the subjects read during these lectures, in Muratori, Vita di Lodovico Castelvetro, 48. It is interesting to note here that students’ notes from lectures of this kind were later used as a basis for the edition of critical works developed or revised at a later stage, like the Poetica, published for the first time in 1570, and the Esaminatione sopra la Ritorica a Caio Herennio, posthumously edited and published by Giovanni Maria Castelvetro the Younger in 1653. But there are no extant notes for the lectures on Dante. See L. Firpo, Scritti sulla riforma in Italia (Naples: Prismi, 1996), 237; V. Grohovaz, “Per la storia del testo della Poetica d’Aristotele vulgarizzata e sposta,” in Castelvetro: Filologia e ascesi, 13– 33. 16. These are notably printed as “Alcune cosette intorno alla Commedia di Dante,” in Opere varie critiche, 157– 64. However, there are also “Alcune brieve spositione sopra Dante raccolte da domestici ragionamenti di Lud. Castelvetri,” MS 2053 in the Royal Library in Copenhaghen, brought to the attention of scholars by G. Migliorato, “Vicende e influssi culturali di Giacomo Castelvetro (1546–1616) in Danimarca,” Critica storica 19.2 (1982): 243– 91, and recently reconsidered by A. Roncaccia, “Sulle trace del perduto commento dantesco,” in Lodovico Castelvetro, 73– 90. There is no space here to rehearse the issue of the attribution to Castelvetro of the annotations to a copy of the 1497 edition of Landino’s commentary in the Biblioteca Estense, cataloged as a. K.1.13. This was unreservedly supported by Muratori but cautiously questioned by Tiraboschi, who would in any case exclude any close relationship between the annotations therein and the Sposizione. In fact, although they certainly deserve further study, the postille offer hardly any relevant connection to what we can read in the Sposizione while providing little evidence about the date and circumstances of their compilation. For more details on this matter, see R. C. Melzi, Castelvetro’s Annotations to the “Inferno”: A New Perspective in Sixteenth Century Criticism (The Hague: Mouton, 1966); C. Rossignoli, “Una possibile fonte di Castelvetro: Le postille dell’incunabolo a. K.1.13 della Biblioteca Estense di Modena,” Rivista di studi danteschi 3 (2003): 351– 80. More recently, Motolese has chosen not to include the

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Estense incunabulum among Castelvetro’s confirmed postillati. See M. Motolese, “Lodovico Castelvetro,” in Autografi dei letterati italiani: Il cinquecento, ed. M. Motolese, P. Procaccioli, and E. Russo (Rome: Salerno, 2009), 121– 34 (124). 17. This is in brief the opinion of Vallone, who defines the Sposizione as “lavoro di filologia critica.” See A. Vallone, L’interpretazione di Dante nel Cinquecento (Florence: Olschki, 1969), 229. 18. On humanist commentary, see at least Jill Kraye, “Italy, France, and the Classical Tradition: The Origins of the Philological Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics,” in Italy and the Classical Tradition: Language, Thought, and Poetry, 1300–1600, ed. C. Caruso and A. Laird (London: Duckworth, 2009), 118– 40; C. Kallendorf, The Virgilian Tradition: Book History and the History of Reading in Early Modern Europe (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), 33– 59, 345– 58, 353– 60; R. Bessi, Umanesimo volgare: Studi di letteratura fra Tre e Quattrocento (Florence: Olschki, 2004), 23– 61; R. Black, Humanism and Education in Medieval and Renaissance Italy. Tradition and Innovation in Latin Schools from the Twelfth to the Fifteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 275– 330; G. Billanovich, Dal Medioevo all’umanesimo: La riscoperta dei classici, ed. P. Pellegrini (Milan: CUSL, 2001), 1– 24, 97–138; Lodi Nauta, “A Humanist Reading of Boethius’s Consolatio Philosophiae: The Commentary by Murmellius and Agricola (1514),” in Between Demonstration and Imagination: Essays in the History of Science and Philosophy, ed. Lodi Nauta and Arjo Vanderjagt (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 313– 38; A. Grafton, Defenders of the Text: The Tradition of Scholarship in the Age of Science (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 23– 46, 47– 75; R. Waswo, Language and Meaning in the Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), esp. parts 1 and 2; C. C. Greenfield, Humanist and Scholastic Poetics, 1250–1500 (Toronto: Associated Press, 1981); D. Marsch, “Grammar, Method, and Polemic in Lorenzo Valla’s Elegantiae,” Rinascimento, 2nd ser., 19 (1979): 91–116; S. Rizzo, Il lessico filologico degli umanisti (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1973). For the relevance of the humanist paradigm to Castelvetro’s critical approach, see C. Rossignoli, “‘Dar materia di ragionamento’: Strategie interpretative della Sposizione,” in Gigliucci, Lodovico Castelvetro, 91–113. 19. On these, see at least S. Bellomo, Dizionario dei commentatori danteschi: L’esegesi della Commedia da Iacopo Alighieri a Nidobeato (Florence: Olshki, 2004), and the bibliography therein at 281– 303, 304–13 and 354– 74, 142– 62, 246– 59, respectively. On Lana, see also the essay by Spencer Pearce in this volume and Volpi’s introduction and bibliography in the critical edition of Iacomo della Lana, Commento alla “Commedia,” ed. M. Volpi (Rome: Salerno, 2010). 20. See at least S. Boynton and D. J. Reilly, eds., The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages: Production, Reception, and Performance in Western Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); D. Robertson, Lectio Divina: The Medieval Experience of Reading (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011); R. E. Murphy, ed., Medieval Exegesis of Wisdom Literature: Essays by Beryl Smalley



(Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986). Still indispensable are B. Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983); H. de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, vols. 1– 3, The Four Senses of Scripture, trans. M. Sebanc (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998). 21. It is the case in particular of Benvenuto da Imola, whom Momigliano calls “il più chiaro dei commentatori letterali’ (the clearest among the literal commentators), in La Divina Commedia commentata da Attilio Momigliano, 2 vols. (Florence: Sansoni, 1954), 2:326. Benvenuto’s commentary displays an outspoken independence of thought that often is echoed, as we shall see, in Castelvetro’s desecrating approach. See, for instance, his gloss on Purg. 2.30– 33: “Velocitas enim est magis negotiatorum et mercatorum, quam philosophorum et poetarum; et vere videre Virgilium currere per illam planitatem, et Dantem post eum cum sua ampla toga debebat praestare materiam risus etiam illi rigido Catoni” (Haste pertains indeed much more to traders and merchants than to philosophers and poets; and certainly to see Virgil running through that land, and Dante after him with his big gown, must have offered a good reason to laugh, even to such a serious individual as Cato). In Comentum super Dantis Aldigherij Comoediam, 3:84. See also Quartieri, Benvenuto da Imola, 51– 54, 93– 98. 22. See in particular Dante nel pensiero e nell’esegesi dei secoli XIV e XV. Atti del III Convegno Nazionale di Studi danteschi, Melfi, 27settembre-2 ottobre 1970 (Florence: Olschki, 1975); P. Procaccioli, Filologia ed esegesi dantesca nel Quattrocento: l’“Inferno” nel “Comento sopra la comedia” di Cristoforo Landino (Florence: Olschki, 1989); R. Cardini, “Landino e Dante,” Rinascimento 30, 2nd ser. (1990): 175– 90; S. Gilson, Dante and Renaissance Florence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 163– 230; A. Field “Cristoforo Landino’s First Lectures on Dante,” Renaissance Quarterly 39 (1986): 16– 48; C. Paolazzi, Dante e la “Commedia” nel Trecento (Milan: Pubblicazioni