This dissertation explores the subject of corporeal marriage as both an historical reality and a figurative ideal in the Divina Commedia of Dante Alighieri. It is my contention that despite the conspicuous failure of many of the Commedia’s husbands and wives to live up to the chaste mandates of their sacred vows, their wedded unions are nevertheless informed by the author’s positive regard for the matrimonial state. As the seed-bed for the polis and the wellspring of Christian caritas, marriage provides the civic/ethical paradigm against which the Commedia’s spousal figures are ultimately judged. I also argue that earthly matrimony functions as an evocative signifier in some of the Commedia’s nuptial allusions. By comparing Dante’s connubial rhetoric to a sampling of twelfth and thirteenth century discourses on matrimony, I find evidence of the conjugal love which was presupposed to exist in the sacramental, indissoluble and consensual union of one man to one woman.
Despite the central role accorded to earthly matrimony by Dante’s contemporaries and uncovered by recent social, religious and cultural historians of the Italian Trecento, it has received limited attention in Dante criticism. I seek to rectify this incongruity by contextualizing my close readings with sources which offset what is commonly presented as a rather grim picture of contractual marriage in the time of Dante. I also dislodge the subject of matrimony from the realm of women’s studies and resituate it within a more balanced debate over the construction of masculine and feminine identity. By looking at dynamic correlation between female chastity and masculine potency, uxorial fidelity and abandonment, I highlight the complex system interdependent relationships governing Dante’s matrimonial pairs.
My relational approach to the husbands and wives of the Commedia is manifest in all three chapters. From the incontinent and neglectful spouses of the Inferno, to the lapsed widows and redeemed paterfamilias of the Purgatorio, and finally to the exemplary wedded amanti of the Heaven of the Sun, my readings look to how the individual is defined in relation to his or her conjugal mate.
|Commitee:||Ardizzone, Maria Luisa, Cox, Virginia, Tylus, Jane, Wofford, Susanne|
|School:||New York University|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 72/11, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Medieval literature, Romance literature, Gender studies|
|Keywords:||Adultery, Commedia, Dante Alighieri, Forese, Francis of Assisi, Saint, Gender identity, Inferno V, Italy, Marriage|
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