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Guinizzelli, Cavalcanti, and Alighieri

Guido Guinizzelli greatly influenced the development of medieval and Renaissance lyric and inspired writers such as Guido Cavalcanti and Dante Alighiere. These three poets used philosophical logic in order to convey complex realizations through the use of metaphors, juxtapositions, and allusions. Guinizzelli, in the poem Love Always Repairs the Noble Heart, uses this method, when he writes “until the Sun has blenched the stone all pure.” (355 volume B), in order to convey the power of love. Cavalcanti, also uses specific comparisons, such as “the beautiful forms- not the lesser ones- are like arrows, for the desire is lessened by the fear; but the soul who is pierced gets just what he longs for.” (358 volume B), in order to convey the power of love. This direct comparison between something physical and definable, like the Sun or an arrow, and something emotional and undefinable, like love, helps readers better understand love through something they already know. Alighiere, takes a slightly different approach when making his comparisons by using analogies. An analogy used by Alighiere, conveys his understanding of love, “love and the gentle heart are one thing… and so one can be without the other as much as rational soul without reason.” (359 volume B). All three of these poets used this comparative writing style in order to better convey their complex thoughts and help the reader better understand something as difficult as love.

Love Is …

Medieval poetry was largely about courtly love. Courtly love is a tradition represented in Western European literature that idealizes love within a knight and a lady. This love was more spiritual rather then about physical desire. Ibn Zaydun reminisces about a past love in his poem From Al-Zahra and uses a flashback method where he goes back and forth between the past and the present, when he was with his lady and “now.” “It was an unfenced field and we ran there, free like horses. But alone I now can lay claim to have kept faith. You left, left this place. In sorrow to be here again, I am loving you (Volume B, 324).” Zaydun sounds as if he’s clinging on to what is no longer there and is hurting with the flood of memories. Similarly, Arnaut Daniel, is hopelessly pining for a lady to love as he says ” I burn lights of wax and oil, so may God give me good luck with her (Volume B, 327).” He strives to be the best fit man to care for a woman and if he doesn’t receive love, he is worthless. On the other hand,Guido Guinizelli and Guido Cavalcanti, portray the total opposite views towards love. Guinizelli believes that love ruins our lives for something so complex that cannot be fully understood. He describes women as having an angelic exterior and a cold interior whereas they would take control over men like puppets. Cavalcanti sees love as something that makes you a better person. “It shifts about, changing color, drawing laughter out of tears, and the form you see out of fear, flies away from sight (Volume B, 357).”  This line represents how another person can release the better person in you. Some crave love so deeply and others may avoid it perhaps its dangerous. Love is defined differently within every individual.

The Dichotomy of Dante

Though early readers assumed the Divine Comedy was quite literally a textual record of a religious experience, there is something that suggests that the poem is far from quasi-autobiographical, that there is a schism between Dante Alighieri, poet and author, and Dante the Pilgrim, the protagonist and narrator of the epic. Metafictive elements within the text remind readers that there is a separation between the author Dante and the character Dante; for instance, in Canto IX, Alighieri writes, “Oh, all of you whose intellects are sound, look now and see the meaning that is hidden beneath the veil that covers my strange verses.” These lines pull the audience out of the narrative momentarily as Dante the Poet reflects on his own work, reminding readers that the poetry he has written is far from cut-and-dry. While Dante the Pilgrim interacts directly with the shades in the underworld, the horrors of hell, and the pleasures of paradise, offering emotional responses to all he encounters, Dante the Poet weaves morality into the text, offering sidenotes, allusions, and commentary for all that transpires. Dante the Author remains constant and self-assured, whereas Dante the Pilgrim undergoes several changes, traveling an expansive character arc. It is nearly a measure of head and heart, the matter-of-fact author Dante contrasting with the empathetic pilgrim Dante. On the same hand, one can interpret the act of writing itself as some sort of pilgrimage, a journey into the depths of one’s soul and psyche.

Dante’s Hierarchy of Sins

Consider the scale of the severity of sins and virtues that Dante presents for his reader.

Dante’s Inferno presents a hierarchy of punishment levels based on sins that humans have committed in their life. In the nine circles of the Inferno, Dante the pilgrim encounters the many sinners who are sentenced to these punishments for eternity, and he discovers the severity of sins they committed by conversing with them. Many of the sins that Dante mentions in the Inferno are universally relevant, while others have particular relevance to the time period in which the work was written. For example, in the eighth circle of the fraudulent, those who committed simony were sentenced to have their feet licked by flames for eternity. Simonists were those who sold indulgences or offices of the church, which was popular in the 14th century. Dante also places sorcerers and false prophets in the eighth circle. Sorcery was feared during that time, and many of those who were accused of witchcraft were burned alive. In contrast, today we do not execute those who claim to have supernatural powers. These two sins and their corresponding punishments show that during Dante’s time, there was much emphasis placed on church doctrine, and those who dared to defy it were often exiled or executed. Unlike today, there was no separation of church and state, so the church dictated their societal expectations.

Dante and Greek Mythology

How and why does Dante choose to combine allusions to Classical mythology and Ancient Greece and Rome with Christian theology?

Dante’s Commedia is laced with references to classical mythology and Christian theology. As a devout Catholic, one might think that Dante would base his vision of hell on strictly Christian beliefs, but this is not so. As an example, in Canto VI, Dante and Virgil come across Cerberus, a three-headed dog with beastly attributes. In Greek and Roman mythology, Cerberus is Pluto’s pet that sits at the gates of Tartarus, the mythological underworld, and guards against souls trying to escape death. Cerberus is just one example, but there are many other references to Greek and Roman mythology throughout the work. Some other references include Minos, the Styx, and Plutus. Dante most likely writes of Cerberus and characters like it because he wants to imitate and incorporate the works of the great classical poets. It is clear that Dante has great admiration for these men and it is possible that he wanted to be considered among their ranks.

Compare the Ramayana with The Odyssey


The most apparent characteristic that Odysseus and Rama share in common is that they both represent righteousness. Odysseus is the King of Ithaca who got imprisoned by Calypso. Athena, in the first scene, persuaded Zeus to reinforce Odysseus back to Ithaca on Mount Olympus. And Rama himself is divine who is responsible to massacre demon gods, which he was requested during his venture. Therefore, on the other hand, the antagonists in both stories are assigned with evil depiction. Unlike modern stories, the antagonists in Odysseys and Ramayana are defined as evil because main characters are defined as righteousness instead of because they did evil things. Those antagonists also encountered similar treatment in proceeding plots. In Odysseys, suitors attempted to marry Penelope in order to take over the Kingdom. In Ramayana, Ravana kidnaped Sita, which created conflict for the story. In the end, both main characters killed antagonists and returned their Kingdom for throne.

Purpose of retelling the story of Joseph

Qur’an retells the stories of Jesus, Moses and Joseph, etc. Both Bible and Qur’an depicted the stories of Joseph who is the son of Jacob. He was born with the blessing of God, which conspicuously manifested by his dream of the sun, moon and eleven stars. Islam is a religion that parallel to Christianity. Bible and Qur’an are the supports for these two religions. Bible was written earlier than Qur’an, therefore, Qur’an retells some stories from many characters from Bible to make itself more convincible. The main purpose of retelling the story of Joseph could be correct what Islam believed that Bible misleading. Qur’an did not deny the existence of Joseph, instead, it retells it by adding its new elements in its atmosphere.

The Qur’an

Consider the depiction of justice and mercy throughout the sections of the Qur’an found in the anthology.

It is indubitable that the qur’an preaches hate towards non-muslims. The qur’an clearly and consistently condemns non-believers in a rather violent, primitive, and intolerant manner for their disbelief. It does not afford them justice nor mercy. The qur’an affords just a select few justice and mercy — others are subject to violence and torture. The lack of justice and mercy for Jews in the qur’an is evident when the it preaches “the Jews who listen eagerly to lies and to those who have not even met you, who distort the meanings of [revealed] words and say [to each other], ‘If you are given this ruling, accept it, but if you are not, then beware!’—if God intends some people to be so misguided, you will be powerless against God on their behalf. These are the ones whose hearts God does not intend to cleanse—a disgrace for them in this world, and then a heavy punishment in the Hereafter—they listen eagerly to lies and consume what is unlawful. If they come to you [Prophet] for judgement, you can either judge between them, or decline—if you decline, they will not harm you in any way, but if you do judge between them, judge justly: God loves the just—but why do they come to you for judgement when they have the Torah with God’s judgement, and even then still turn away? These are not believers.” The qur’an crucifies Jews and Christians of their justice when it says “You who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as allies, they are allies only to each other. Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them—God does not guide such wrongdoers.” “Those who reject faith and deny our revelations will inhabit the blazing fire” clearly expresses that non-muslims or muslims who “mistake” jews and christians as allies will be sentenced to hell, thus stripping them of the justice and mercy afforded only to those who believe in the qur’ans preachings. The qur’an further denies Jews mercy when it refers to them as “Those God distanced from Himself, was angry with, and condemned as apes and pigs, and those who worship idols: they are worse in rank and have strayed further from the right path.” There are countless more examples of the lack of justice and mercy toward non-muslims in the qur’an but quite frankly I find it unnecessary to hand pick every single instance where this occurs. The duplicity that exists in the qur’an when it refers to justice and mercy explains so much about the violence and terror that exists in the world both historically and presently.

Portrayal of evildoers and their treatment-Odyssey V.S. Ramayana

Even though both stories have the happy endings and the evildoers died, the degree of evilness in regardless of the evildoers are slightly different. In Odyssey, the main evildoer is suitors, who not only overturned Odyssey’s land, but continuously court to his wife. There are different suitors with different characteristics. In similarities, they are brutal and arrogant, so they get killed by Odysseus. In this case, they are really evil. However, they are different in some ways. For example, Antinous is the most arrogant suitors without any sympathy. He even let Telemachus, the son of Odyssey, kill Odyssey. In contrast, Amphinomus is very decent suitor among others, who sometimes speaks up for Odyssey.  In Ramayana, there is only one evildoer, Ravana. In my opinion, Ravana is not as evil as suitors depicted in Odyssey. He is somewhat brave enough to fight with Rama in person, even though he was defeated by Rama. And from Vibhisana’s words:” This Ravana used to give a lot in charity to ascetics; he enjoyed life; he maintained his servants well; he shared his wealth with his friends, and he destroyed his enemies…” (VALMIKI 112,113), we can easily see that Ravana is a generous and respectful leader. No matter what he did to Sita (abducted her), he still deserved to get a funeral and to be a good man in people’s belief.


How is the sanctity of marriage portrayed throughout the narrative?

The Ramayana contrasts two very different forms of marriage throughout its narrative. For Rama and Sita, it is seen as a bond that is sacred and cherished. But for the other characters, the bond of marriage is followed loosely – as many of them have several wives and do not see polygamy as an issue. It is interesting how the contrast between Rama and Sita and the rest of the characters is the complete opposite of what we believe a marriage should be. Monogamy is almost taboo for them. The consequences of a monogamous relationship in the Ramayana seem to encourage polygamy – at least in Sita’s case.