Bertran de Born and Sordello: The Poetry of Politics in Dante's Comedy

Barolini, Teodolinda

The stature Dante grants Sordello in the Comedy has long puzzled critics, since it seems greater than warranted by the achievements of this Provençal poet. Not only does the meeting with Sordello, in the sixth canto of the Purgatorio, serve as the catalyst for the stirring invective against Italy that concludes the canto, but Sordello is assigned the important task of guiding Vergil and Dante to the valley of the princes and identifying for the two travelers its various royal inhabitants. This seems a large role for a poet who was-and is-best known as the author of a satirical lament with political overtones, the lament for Blacatz. Indeed, although there is a definite consonance between the tone of that lament and the hortatory tone of the character in the Comedy, Sordello's poetic oeuvre does not by itself convincingly account for his function in Dante's poem. In the absence of other explanations, however, critics have traditionally agreed that we must turn to Sordello's planh for an understanding of his position in the Comedy.


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April 1, 2013