Within the Shadow of the Earth



This chapter gives a reading of cantos 1–9 of Paradiso, looking at the prologue, in canto 1, and at the arrival in the Moon, in Mercury, and in Venus. These three heavens are those that are still within the shadow of the earth, and so reflect, more than the later ones, the frailties and residual earthiness of those seen within. The weakness of will of the nuns, the pursuit of fame in Mercury, and the sexual indulgence within Venus are all discussed, along with many other matters: the place the poem gives to women; the importance of Empire; the contemporary political situation that so ensnared Dante; and the failure of politics, discussion of which is complemented, in canto 9, by the failure of the Papacy.


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