The Cardinal Virtues of Purgatory

Illustration by Gustave Doré, Purgatory 1:19-21 

Starting now on our 5th reading of Purgatory on this website – we’re seeing the opening of the second book with even more clarity than last time. The bigger and more hidden background of the Paradiso is clearly felt, but the Journey starts more carefully with some smaller and practical steps. Here are the four Cardinal Virtues of Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance and Justice being introduced:

The rays of light from those four sacred stars
struck with such radiance upon his face,
it was as if the sun were shining there.

when Cato, the Guardian of the Mountain appears to the Pilgrim and Virgil.

A main theme of the first canto and the whole of Mount Purgatory – is how Humility is the key to learning the deeper and higher things. This theme is then partly contrasted with the Pilgrim’s attitude of over-confidence in the first book. But now, he will learn from the soft reeds at the shore, which bend to the weather and to the rough seas.

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