Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 3 | Words: 698
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Many poets use images that symbolize specific things either in our lives or in the environment. Moreover, these images can be used to criticize some behaviors, at the same time retaining the respect for some of them. Dante is one of such poets. His poems are renowned to utilize a great deal of imagery in bringing out a specific message. Specifically, Dante uses dreams that have great and unique meanings, making it even difficult to interpret. The main purpose of this essay is to discuss the symbolism of dreams in Dante’s Vita Nuova and Purgatorio, which will provide better understanding of the poems and Dante’s works in general.

The first dream in canto IX occurs when Dante is being ferried upwards by the divine Lucy. On his journey he dreams that an eagle is carrying him as it was in the case of Jupiter carrying Ganymede. The elderly eagle takes off around the flames in the medieval Bestiaries; then its feathers become soaked, making it drop into the fountain of water, where it experiences a major renewal. Therefore, this symbolizes the regeneration of baptism via the divine grace. Obviously, the act of dipping in water is utilized in baptism and signifies purity. Ganymede himself was Tros’ son and a Trojan prince. He provides a symbol of linkage between the law and justice system in the Roman Empire, as well as regeneration. Additionally, he also symbolizes the sexual relationship between males, especially between a boy and a gentleman, which was a common issue in the Renaissance period. In Dante’s dream, Jupiter, presenting as an eagle, snatches Ganymede, who is considered very handsome, to serve as his cupbearer. The eagle also symbolizes the Roman Empire, which causes problems to the church, especially when it flies downwards to attack the chariot, which in this case represents the church (IX).

In canto XIX, Dante encounters his second dream, where he dreams of the Siren. In lines eight to nine, Dante dreams of meeting an elderly woman, who is both impotent and hideously ugly, but Dante views her as an object of seduction, splendor and beauty. The false image of the Siren is destroyed by the intervention of heavenly lady, who rips up the Siren’s belly, exposing the repulsiveness and unpleasant smell, which were hidden behind the gorgeous look. The Siren and the visual pleasure obtained from looking at the elderly lady symbolize the covetousness, greediness and lust that exist amongst people living in this world. The heavenly lady, who gives timely warning, on the other hand, symbolizes the illumination of reason that prevents many of us from committing mistakes that we might regret in future (XIX).

Dante’s third and final dream, explained in canto XXVII, occurs on the Purgatory Mountain. It is considered to be the most open symbol, because it uses well known persons with explicit comparisons. Dante dreams about Leah and Rachel, who are exclusively represented by Matilda and Beatrice respectively. He toils through seven cornices only to be given Leah, who is found plucking fresh flowers, while Rachael is gazing into a wall mirror. Rachel and Leah through Matilda and Beatrice symbolize the virtuous life. Leah in her arrangement stands for the active life, whereas Rachel with her mirror gaze symbolizes contemplative life (XXVII).

In the poem La Vita Nuova, Dante dreams of his way to Beatrice Portinari’s death bed as she was his unfulfilled love. The ground around the death bed is covered with spring flowers, and there are red doves flying around. He himself is dressed in black while the attendants are dressed in green, and there is an angel giving Beatrice a kiss. The green clothes adorned by attendants and the angel symbolize hope for the future, while the red doves and the angel kiss are a symbol of love. Lastly, the spring flowers do represent purity. La Vita Nuova also depicts the disappointments that love brings to our lives, when we dwell so much on it (Chapter 3).

Reading and analyzing Dante’spoems, one comes across many items that are very symbolic. All of them correspond to the imagery elucidated by Dante’s dreams. Obviously, there is no event in the poem that echoes with so much sensory experience than these dreams.

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