Francesca And Paolo Essay, Research Paper
Within Dante’s Inferno Francesca and Paolo appear in Canto V. This canto stands out amongst other verses as both and example of Dante’s writing, characterization and also for demonstrating the deep allegory surrounding the work and the nature of sin. Francesca Da Rimini was the daughter of Guido Vecchio da Polenta, lord of Ravenna, and Paolo Malatesta, the third son of Malatesta da Verrucchio, lord of Rimini . Around 1275 the aristocratic Francesca was married for political reasons to Gianciotto, the physically deformed second son Malatesta da Verrucchio. In time a love affair developed between Francesca and Gianciotto’s younger brother, Paolo. One day the betrayed husband discovered them in an amorous embrace and slew them both.
The actual canto itself is not presented here but this link will provide a translation. Below is a description of what happens in this part of the poem. Amongst the text are several artist impressions of Francesca and Paolo. I would truly recommend investigating this canto as it displays the very essence of the Inferno.
The fifth canto can be divided into two equal parts with a transitional tercet. The first part concerns Minos and his activities, the band of souls being punished in the wind for their lust, and certain shades of royal figures seen in a formation that resembles that of flying cranes. The Pilgrim has learned (evidently from Virgil) the function of Minos, and he will learn from him the type of sin being punished, the form of the punishment, and the names of many of those who are here.
Chiefly, Virgil is trying to teach the Pilgrim three lessons in the first part of this canto, and each is concerned with the nature of lust – a heinous sin even if it is the least of those punished in Hell. The first lesson should come from the sight of Minos exercising his function :
There stands Minos grotesquely, and he snarls,
(Inferno, V, 4)
The horror of this sight should shock the Pilgrim into an awareness of the true nature of all sin. The second lesson should come from the royal figures guilty of lust. Semiramis, who legalized lust because of her own incestuous activity (and to whom Virgil devotes three tercets, more lines than any one else in this group), should be a particularly significant lesson to the Pilgrim as to the nature of carnal sins. Finally the Pilgrim should come to despise the lustful because they blaspheme Divine Justice, which has placed them here, and thereby show themselves to be totally unrepentant.
The contrapasso of this canto is implied when considering the nature of the punishment. The sinners in the circle of the lustful are eternally swept in an infernal raging storm. This punishment like the sin is pursued without reason, thus this contrapasso is aligned along with the sin. When Paolo and Francesca are compared to doves [82-84] called by desire. The use of the words of ‘desire’ and ‘will’ are particularly interesting since Dante is reaffirming that the sins of lust consists of the subjugation of the will to desire.
Having seen the shades of many ‘knights and ladies of ancient times’, the Pilgrim now centres his attention upon a single pair of lovers. the spotlight technique here employed emphasizes the essentially dramatic quality of the Inferno. Francesca recognizes the Pilgrim’s sympathetic attitude and tells her story in a way that will not fail to win the Pilgrim’s interest, even though she, like Semiramis , was the initiator in an act of incest. her choice of words and phrases frequently reveals her gentility and her familiarity with the works of the stilnovisti poets (the school of poets that was contemporary with and perhaps included Dante). But the careful reader can see beneath the superficial charm and grace and what Francesca really is – vain and accustomed to admiration. Francesca is also capable of lying, though whether her lies are intentional or the result of self-deception we do not know. for example her reference to the love of Lancelot in line 128 shows her technique of changing facts that would condemn her. In the medieval French romance Lancelot du Lac, the hero being quite bashful in love, is finally brought together in conversation with Queen Guinevere through the machinations of Galehot. Urged on by Galehot’s words Guinevere takes the initiative and placing her hands on Lancelot’s chin kisses him. In order to fully understand Francesca’s character it is necessary to note that in our passage she has reversed the role of the lovers : here she has Lancelot kissing Guinevere just has she Paolo her lover as kissing her. The distortion of this passage offered as a parallel to her own experience reveals the (at best) confusion of Francesca : if the passage in the romance inspired their kiss, it must have been she , as it was Guinevere, who was responsible. Like Eve, who tempted Adam to commit the first sin in the Garden of Eden , Francesca tempted Paolo, and thus she is perhaps an example of the common medieval view of women as ‘daughters of Eve’. Francesca attempts to exculpate herself by blaming the romantic book that she and Paolo were reading (137); the pilgrim is evidently convinced of her innocence for he is overcome ‘ in such a way that pity blurred [his] senses,’ and he faints (141). Thus ending this canto.
Many critics, taken in like the Pilgrim by Francesca’s smooth speech, have asserted that she and Paolo in their love have ‘conquered’ Hell because they are still together. But their togetherness is certainly part of their punishment. The ever silent weeping Paolo is surely not happy with their state, and Francesca coolly alludes to Paolo with the impersonal ‘ that one’ (costui) or ‘this one’ (questi). She never mentions his name. Line 202 indicates her distaste for Paolo : the manner of her death (they were caught and killed together in the midst of their lustful passion) still offends her because she is forever condemned to be together with her naked lover; he serves as a constant reminder of her shame and of the reason they are in Hell (’he never leaves my side,’ (105)). their temporary pleasure together in lust has become their own particular torment in Hell.
In the final line of Canto V the Pilgrim feints. In order to be able to fully understand this reaction to Francesca it is necessary to remember that Dante the Pilgrim is a fictional character who should not be aquatinted with Dante the Poet, author of the Divine Comedy. Dante the Pilgrim is journeying through Hell as a man who must learn the true nature of sin, and since this is his first contact with those who are damned and punished in Hell proper , he is easily seduced into compassion for these souls. As the Pilgrim progresses he will learn the nature of sin and of evil souls, and his reaction to them will change (cf. XIX) but the extent of his failure in canto V to recognize sin and treat it with proper disdain is symbolized here by his abject failure, unconscious on the floor of Hell.
Perhaps we should blame the Pilgrim for being taken in by Francesca; dozens of critics, unaware of the wiles of sin have also been seduced by her charm and the grace of her speech.