Dante and Francesca da Rimini: Realpolitik, Romance, Gender

Barolini, Teodolinda

While we are accustomed to Dante's appropriations ad revisions of history, the case of Francesca da Rimini (Inf. 5.73-142) is rather different from the norm, since in her case no trace remains of the historical record that the poet could have appropriated. There is no completely independent documentation of Francesca's story; we are indebted for what we know to Dante and to his commentators. A fourteenth-century chronicler of Rimini, Marco Battagli, alludes in passing to the event, but his history was written in 1352, thus postdating by three decades Dante's death in 1321.Therefore, Battagli's passing and indirect reference (to which we shall return in due course) serves at best as plausibly independent confirmation of an occurrence about which the contemporary historical record is silent. That silence is broken by Dante.By reintegrating history-including the silence of history-into our reading of canto, we restore a context in which to remember that in the case of Francesca da Rimini Dante is the historian of record: in effect he saved Francesca from oblivion, giving her a voice and a name.


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April 1, 2013