Monday, October 07, 2013

'Amor condusse noi ad una morte'

We're winding down virtue ethics in one of my ethics courses, so after all the heavy Aristotle and Aquinas we're looking at Dante, using the story of Francesca and Paolo in Inferno, Canto V, as a jumping-off point.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Paolo and Francesca da Rimini - Google Art Project

Francesca and Paolo

I asked them for their tale.
Sulking Paolo only wept,
but Francesca said with sorrow,
"It was the book's fault,
in which we read of Lance and Gwen,
for what the book said, we did,
and when they touched and kissed,
then Paolo, and this was his fault,
leaned in with touch and kiss,
and I could not but give return,
for Love overpowers all.
Because of what was Love's fault
we read no more that day."
So said Francesca sadly;
sulking Paolo only wept.


  1. Enbrethiliel6:59 AM


    You have a more lyrical, evocative translation than I did in high school!

    Francesca's blaming the book reminds me of Eve's blaming the serpent. And then she goes on to blame Paolo, too! It's kind of pathetic to be so unable to take responsibility for something you've done.

  2. branemrys9:53 AM

    It's more a paraphrase than a translation, so I could allow myself quite a few more liberties than you probably could have had.

    I've always thought it's Dante at his best: Francesca's short speech about how awesome Love is turns out to be plagiarized from various love poems of the day, which mirrors the fact that she and Paolo's 'love' is actually just a plagiaristic imitation of a love story, and Francesca never once takes real responsibility for her actions (and never explains what she was doing alone with her husband's brother reading a story about an adulterous affair, anyway). I actually wonder if the conclusion we're meant to draw is that, contrary to the impression Francesca gives, she was the one who was actually the driving force -- after all, Paolo doesn't seem all that strong a character, and it's Francesca who throws about all these poetic ideas about love.


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