Purgatory | Study Guide

Dante Alighieri

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Purgatory | Canto 11 | Summary



The weighed-down sinners who arrived in Canto 10 now join in a poetically embellished version of the Lord's Prayer. They pray not only for themselves, but for those still living on earth with all its temptations. Dante is moved by their piety and asks readers to pray, in turn, for the dead. Virgil asks for directions and receives guidance from Omberto Aldobrandeschi (d. 1259), who freely admits to his former haughtiness. Dante, meanwhile, spies the artist Oderisi da Gubbio (c. 1240–99) among the penitents. Oderisi gives a long, mournful speech about the vanity of poets and painters who seek "the roar of earthly fame." A third penitent, the Sienese politician Provenzan Salvani (c. 1220–69), is also mentioned as occupying this level of Purgatory because of his hubris, or extreme pride, in life.


In rewriting the Lord's Prayer (known also as the "Our Father") to fit his meter, Dante seizes the opportunity to tweak the text in favor of his own theological beliefs. Especially notable is the end of the prayer, which in its traditional English form includes the petition "lead us not into temptation." The penitents in Purgatory are assured of salvation and thus beyond being tempted into sin, yet they still utter this part of the prayer, adding some important new words since they themselves cannot commit any more. They do so, not for themselves, but on behalf of the living, underscoring Dante's sense of the connection between the living and the dead. (The notion of the living praying for the dead and vice versa is not original to Dante, but is attested to among early Christian writers, including the 3rd-century author Tertullian.) The more fundamental point is that, for Dante, souls in Purgatory are still part of the Church, the communion of believers—not isolated from God and each other, as the damned in the Inferno clearly are.

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