Purgatory | Study Guide

Dante Alighieri

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Purgatory | Canto 30 | Summary



The participants in the procession from Canto 29 now circle the chariot, singing songs of praise and strewing flowers before it. Through the falling petals Dante spies a woman robed in green. This is Beatrice, and Dante is awestruck at finally seeing her after a decade apart. Trembling, he looks about for Virgil, only to find his guide has disappeared. Beatrice addresses Dante and forces him to a final reckoning of his sins. After her death, she says, Dante "turned his steps to paths that were not true," lapsing into moral and intellectual error. Thus, Beatrice was moved to intercede for him before God and ordain his journey through Hell and Purgatory. This accomplished, Dante can move on to the true Paradise—but only after he has paid the "tax of penitence" by hating his sins.


Beatrice's treatment of Dante might sound a bit harsh. After all, hasn't he already gone through Hell and Purgatory just to be here? Well, not quite. Dante has indeed visited those places and witnessed what they contain. He has even borne a tangible mark of his own sinfulness in the form of the seven Ps on his brow. However, he hasn't actually undergone the penitential torments of Purgatory, and his sojourn on the mountain has lasted only a few days—not the centuries experienced by Statius. What he saw while climbing Mount Purgatory were others' purgations and punishments, held up as cautionary examples. He didn't carry the heavy weights of pride or suffer the starvation of gluttony, except vicariously. Thus, Dante must still turn inward and rid himself of his own sins in sorrow and remorse before he is fit to enter Heaven, even as a visitor. Given his overwhelming love for Beatrice, it makes sense for this soul-searching to take place in her presence. Dante may be able to hide his sins from himself, but Beatrice's awareness of his failings leaves no room for self-deception.

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