Matilda and Beatrice represent servants of God whose role is to preach salvation and ensure that sinners gain entry into heaven. Servants of God offer guidance to those who have lost the ways of God and indulge in worldly atrocities. Beatrice was Dante’s lover who guided him to the ways of God. However, after her death, Dante lost interest in following the righteous ways and instead started engaging in sin (Alighieri, and Sinclair, 371). Beatrice’s commitment to cleanse Dante is likened to the servant of God trying to save sinners from God’s wrath. Beatrice laid the foundation for Dante’s spiritual journey but her death forced Dante to start living a sinful life.
Matilda plays a significant role in caring for Dante in the presence of Beatrice. She took him to the river and washed him as a sign of cleansing him of the world’s sins. This offers him the chance to regain the necessary purity to enter heaven. In the previous steps of purgatory, Dante was guided by Virgil. However, when Virgil meets Beatrice and Matilda, he disappears to signify that Beatrice’s authority is much higher than his, and he trusts her to guide Dante to finish the rest of the steps (Alighieri, and Sinclair, 351). When Dante faints in the presence of Beatrice after being overwhelmed by her heavenly beauty, it demonstrates her power and authority that supersedes human nature and earthly powers.
Beatrice is the final test for Dante’s purgatory because she laid the foundation for Dante’s spiritual life. Dante loved her a lot and easily followed her ways, but Beatrice’s death distracted him from staying righteous and following the teachings of God. She was disappointed when she realized that Dante’s faith was only influenced by his love for her but was not developed from within him (Alighieri, and Sinclair, 366). Dante’s faith was shallow and he could not overcome the temptations of the world when Beatrice died because he lacked spiritual guidance.
Dante’s sinful nature was Beatrice’s greatest disappointment, and putting her on the final test is the ultimate step toward the revival of Dante’s spiritual life. For instance, when she sees Dante, she tells him it was her last resort to see him experience the purgatory and see how souls are being punished. She asks him why he abandoned hope and indulged in ways that are not helpful (Alighieri, and Sinclair, 402). Dante replies that he was distracted by false delight, which represents the short-lived pleasures he indulges in to try to overcome the pain of losing Beatrice. This step is meant to allow Dante to confess his sins, detest his sinful ways, and regain righteousness (Alighieri, and Sinclair, 403). Beatrice is presented as the ultimate servant of God whom everyone must meet and get cleansed before entering heaven.
Beatrice accuses Dante of turning away from her and giving himself to worldly pleasures. This symbolizes the ungodly ways that Dante engaged after the death of Beatrice. While Beatrice thought that Dante would continue living according to the guidance she had given him, Dante found excuses to indulge in unpleasant ways, which irritates Beatrice. For instance, she looks into Dante’s memory and sees his affair with another slave girl symbolizing how low Dante had stooped when she died (Alighieri, and Sinclair, 407). Additionally, Beatrice’s accusations point at Dante’s pride, making him despise righteousness and believe he was living a righteous life. Dante’s pride made it difficult for him to accept correction and advice on how to live right. Instead, he relied on his insight about right and wrong. This is evident when Beatrice asks him to confess his sins and says false delights misled him. Beatrice’s accusations enable Dante to realize his sins and accept correction. When he faints and wakes up being dragged by Matilda, he accepts to be washed in the river to cleanse himself of his sins and accept the new ways.
Alighieri, Dante, and John D Sinclair. The Divine Comedy, Volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 1961. Drucken.