Literature Study GuidesThe Name Of The RoseSeventh Day Night 1 Last Page Summary

The Name of the Rose | Study Guide

Umberto Eco

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The Name of the Rose | Seventh Day, Night (1)–Last Page | Summary

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Summary

Seventh Day, Night (1)

William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk see Jorge of Burgos sitting at a table in the hidden room with a book in front of him. When William asks Jorge about the abbot, Jorge wonders aloud: "Is he still alive?" It seems Jorge lured Abo to the library through a hidden, mechanically sealed staircase. Jorge trapped the abbot in the staircase to suffocate and kill him because the abbot had intimated that he wants to reveal the secret book. Jorge says he had to kill Abo because he "could no longer trust him." William understands that for 40 years Jorge has been "master of this abbey," appointing librarians—and thus abbots.

William summarizes for Jorge what he's learned about the murders, including his false interpretation of signs as apocalyptic, as well as what he's just found out about Jorge's role in them. Jorge admires William as a worthy adversary, a man of great insight and intellect. But he derides William because Jorge equates knowledge with sinful pride. William demands to see the secret book containing the second part of Aristotle's Poetics, which was believed to have been lost. Jorge slides the precious volume across the table to William, who is smart enough to put on gloves before touching it. William discovers a slimy residue on the manuscript pages that contains the poison Jorge took from Severinus years ago. William reads an excerpt from Aristotle's lost book on comedy, or laughter. He then tells Jorge what he's figured out about the blind man's role in all the murders and how he figured out exactly what had happened and why. Jorge says, "I became convinced that a divine plan was directing these deaths, for which I was not responsible." Jorge insists that he was just an instrument of God and that God will forgive him.

William and Jorge engage in a heated discussion of the role of laughter in Christianity. William points out that Aristotle saw laughter and comedy as a force for good. What has stirred Jorge to murder is that Aristotle defended laughter among the learned. For Jorge, this is blasphemy that will eventually lead men to "follow the proud paths of natural reason," abandoning and undermining the Christian faith. Laughter destroys the order of the Christian worldview, which is based on "fear, whose true name is fear of God." Jorge rages that if the learned "raise the weapon of laughter ... knowledge would be swept away!" He continues: "If one day someone could say ... 'I laugh at the Incarnation' ... it would summon the dark powers," a form of blasphemy over which the Church has "no weapons."

William, listening to Jorge's rant, calls him the Devil because, like Satan, his is the "arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt." Jorge retorts that William "has made a tongue out of his entire body" (de toto ... linguam), while Jorge is "the hand of God." For Jorge, Aristotle's book is blasphemous because it's labeled with the words, "Here are the lions" (hic sunt leones), or monsters, indicating it delineates a boundary beyond which a Christian should not venture.

Seventh Day, Night (2)

Jorge realizes he must destroy the book, so he begins tearing it to shreds and eating its pages, although he knows the poison will kill him. Then, remarkably, he begins to laugh. William and Adso lunge for Jorge to save what they can of the precious book. But Jorge can hear them moving and he rises, upsetting the stool and table. Jorge feels the heat of Adso's lamp and grabs it, putting out the flame. William and Adso grope for Jorge in the darkness until Adso finds and lights the second lamp. They see Jorge leaving the hidden room and trying to shut the mirror-door to lock them inside and kill them. But they manage to get to the door before it closes, and they rush after Jorge. They hear the old monk racing through the library and finally find him clutching the book on the floor of the room YSPANIA (Spain). William and Adso fall on him and try to wrest the book out of his hands. When Jorge senses the heat from Adso's lamp he flings out his arm and sends the lamp flying. Very quickly the books in the room catch fire. The wind entering through the slits in the walls scatter burning bits of parchment, and soon the entire room is on fire. All of William and Adso's efforts to put out the fire are useless. Jorge then hurls the secret book into the flames.

William sends Adso down to the kitchen to raise the alarm and to get water to douse the flames. Adso rings the church bell and awakens the monks and servants, who see the catastrophe taking place in the library. There is a panicked, uncoordinated effort to find receptacles, fill them with water, and somehow get them up to the burning library. Benno runs into the library with a vessel of water, but he dies in the fire. Nicholas attempts to organize the effort, but before long the water runs out. The library continues to burn, and the floor of the labyrinth collapses. The wind sends pieces of burning parchment flying onto other abbey buildings. A singed and despairing William emerges and tells Adso: "The library is lost." Within a short time, the church burns to the ground, then the dormitory, and eventually all the abbey buildings are consumed in the inferno. Some monks die under the collapsing roofs of abbey buildings.

As they watch the flames, William tells Adso, "It was the greatest library in Christendom ... the Antichrist is ... at hand, because no learning will hinder him." When Adso asks who the Antichrist is, William answers, "Jorge ... The Antichrist can be born from piety itself, from excessive love of God or of the truth." William tells Adso there was no plot behind the murders. They all occurred by chance. He was mistaken in trying to discern a pattern or plan in the series of deaths. William says it seems to be that "there cannot be an order in the universe because it would offend the free will of God." Adso remarks that such ideas smack of atheism, of God's nonexistence.

William and Adso gather what's left of their belongings and leave the abbey grounds.

Last Page

The elderly Adso writes that the abbey burned for three days and nights, until it was nothing but a charred ruin. Those who survived the fire abandoned the abbey and scattered. William and Adso found two horses and headed for Rome, but when they heard of the political and religious upheavals there, they turned toward Munich, Germany, where they parted ways. Adso, now writing as an old monk in the monastery at Melk, never saw William again. He heard that William died of the plague.

Adso recounts a time his abbot sent him on an errand near the burnt abbey, and he could not resist visiting it. The abbey was still a ruin, with most buildings completely destroyed. Adso noticed bits of parchment scattered here and there in what's left of the library and on the abbey grounds. He began collecting every scrap of burned parchment he could find and stuffed them into two sacks. Now an old man, he still has the snippets of parchment. He's spent countless hours poring over them "trying to decipher those remains." He feels he has "a library made up of fragments, quotations, unfinished sentences, amputated stumps of books." He tries to put the fragments in some kind of order, but he can find no order or design.

Old Adso will now be silent. He is ready for death. He ends by writing that he will leave this manuscript, whose meaning eludes him, to whoever finds it: "Yesterday's rose endures in its name, we hold empty names" (stat rosa ... nuda tenemus).

Analysis

Jorge is the only monk left in the abbey who has knowledge of the secret book. For Jorge, his knowledge is power, while others' pursuit of the same knowledge is sacrilege and a sin of intellectual pride. In his pride, Jorge has equated his beliefs and his actions with that of God, stating emphatically that he's doing God's work in killing those who seek knowledge. Thus, he's sure God will absolve him of all sinful acts. Jorge's power is the power of control, having nothing to do with wealth and everything to do with knowledge. To retain his control of the secret book, Jorge ensured that all information about the library and its secret book had to go through him.

Jorge sees himself as the protector of Church dogma. He believes the secret book cannot be made available to others because it would lead learned people to "follow the proud paths of natural reason," or science. Science undermines the dogma of the Church, which demands that all Christians accept its notions of world order. Further, Church dogma is "imposed by fear, whose true name is fear of God." A book that celebrates laughter "could ... destroy death through redemption from fear." Without fear, the Church would be powerless to impose its dogma on Christians.

The secret book is the second book of Aristotle's Poetics. It speaks about laughter and comedy. Jorge sees laughter as a sin and a symbol of the Antichrist. By eliminating fear, laughter would cause a "diabolical reversal" of Church dogma. Jorge cites heresy as an unimportant crime against the Church because heresy and heretics are easy to destroy. But if the learned one day "laugh at the Incarnation," all is lost and "the dark powers of corporal matter" (science) would overthrow the Church and perhaps God himself.

Jorge denies the validity or value of doubt. Doubt is contrary to dogma, which is belief that is insensitive to reason. By preventing the spread of reason, Jorge can prevent threats to Church dogma. In this way he is like Bernard Gui, who, like Jorge, believes his actions preserve the positions of Church dogma.

However, when Jorge eats the shreds of the forbidden book, it's as if he's taking communion with the Devil. Jorge laughs out loud as he kills himself with shreds of poisoned parchment. If laughter is the Devil, then this awful act of destruction is Jorge's embrace of the forces of darkness. Jorge, in his zeal to protect Church dogma, has become the ultimate enemy of the Church. As William said to Adso, "The Antichrist can be born from piety itself."

It's possible that Jorge's sin and arrogance have plunged the library and the abbey into a state of sin so deep and irredeemable that only the all-consuming fires of hell can purify it. The inferno in the labyrinth, which was "nothing but an immense sacrificial pyre," may represent God's wrath because the truth (the secret book) that should have been open to all had been wrongfully secreted there.

William admits to having misinterpreted signs in his investigations. He wrongly correlated the murders to the pattern of resounding trumpets in Revelation. William's misinterpretations relate to the perspective from which he analyzed the clues, or signs. When he changed his perspective, he was able to see the signs in a new way, and signs then led to other signs, which eventually led to a solution—Jorge in the finis Africae. But as false as Jorge's interpretation of the secret book was, so was William's interpretation of "the relation among signs." William thought the signs pointed to an apocalyptic pattern underlying the mystery. But in the end, he realizes there was no pattern and that the signs themselves were without "a semblance of order." Order, like signs, is useful up to a point but must then be jettisoned because it is meaningless. All signs are ambiguous, and the only truths that are useful are instruments to be thrown away.

In his old age, Adso reflects on trying to find meaning among the fragments of manuscripts he collected at the abbey. However, he doubts there is any coherent meaning in these truncated signs. After decades, Adso still doesn't know if the parchment shreds, or the events he lived through, have any meaning. He waits for death, admitting he "no longer knows what [his manuscript] is about" or if it conveys any meaning.

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