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Dante & The Medieval View of Nature

The medieval view of nature appears in different ways in Dante's Inferno and in the letters of Heloise and Abelard. Dante in particular creates an urban setting for his version of hell, in part because he is placing in the different circles of hell his own enemies and people he has known or known about from his own urban life, yet nature is not ignored and indeed is especially important in the beginning of the work. Heloise and Abelard are star-crossed lovers separated by rank, politics, and especially religious politics of the time, and in part their separation is depicted in terms of the separation between city and country.

Nature first appears in the Inferno in terms of the dark and dismal wood through which the poet is traveling, and here nature is equated with the course of life. This is so because the wood reflects the state of this man's life at this particular time. A leafy, green, and growing wood would be the sort of natural setting in which he might find himself when he was young and filled with hope. Now, he is older and losing some of his faith, and thus the wood is as dark and dismal as his own inner mood. It is in this wood that Dante meets Virgil, and Virgil serves several purposes in Dante's Divine Comedy. He acts as guide to Dante on his trip through the Inferno. He is a poetic touchstone, an idol to Dante, and his poetry serves as an inspiration for Dante's own work. In the developing relationship between these two figures as they pass through the Inferno, Dante finds a different sort of guidance, a means to understand his spiritual journey towards salvation. Key to an understanding of the nature of this journey and of the generosity of Virgil in serving this purpose is the fact that salvation is denied to Virgil because he was a pagan, though he holds a special place in the afterworld because of his poetic power and the beauty of his soul. Virgil stands as an icon to Dante not only because of the pow...

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Dante & The Medieval View of Nature. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:22, June 26, 2019, from