"The city where was born, lived, and died the most gentle lady." (Vita nuova 40:1)
Dante's Vita nuova is an autobiography about the protagonist's love for "the most gentle lady," Beatrice. Throughout the text, the author glorifies Beatrice and reveals her absolute sacredness, "Heaven, which has no other defect but to have her" (VN 19:7). As the title of this essay suggests, the concept of sacredness also applies to time ("born, lived, and died" are events in time) and space ("city"), which are continuous themes throughout the Vita nuova. The sacredness of Beatrice is made apparent very early in the text. The Dante persona first meets Beatrice at the age of nine, and describes the encounter with Biblical language, "first appeared the glorious lady" (VN 2:1). In the same paragraph, he refers to her as a "youthful angel" (VN 2:8) and quotes Homer, "she seemed no child of mortal men, but of God"' (VN 2:8). Some believe that this first encounter has reference to the first encounter between man and woman i.e. Adam and Eve, which was a sacred event (time) in a sacred space (Garden of Eden). In the third paragraph, Dante continues to portray Beatrice as an angel, especially by the language he uses. For example, he says that Beatrice greeted him "in her ineffable courtesy" (VN 3:1) - the word "ineffable" is often used in reference to God. Additional encounters between the Dante persona and Beatrice continue to take place in sacred contexts. The third encounter occurs in a sacred place, obvious by the mention of the Virgin Mary, "where one heard words about the queen of glory" (VN 5:1). In paragraph ten, Beatrice denies the Dante persona a greeting at a wedding, "denied me her so dear greeting" (VN 10:2). Not only is a wedding a sacred time and space, but a greeting or word(s) from Beatrice is considered sacred because Beatrice is a totality of sacredness. "At the beginning there was the Word
and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Beatrice and thus her words...
Cited: Alighieri, Dante. Vita nuova. Italian Text with Facing English Translation. Trans. and ed. Dino
S. Cervigni and Edward Vasta. Notre Dame: The U of Notre Dame P, 1995.
The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1993.
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