DANTE'S MATELDA: FACT OR FICTION?
Author: Barnes, John C.
Source: Italian Studies, Volume 28, 1973 , pp. 1-9(9)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:In 1954 Jacques Goudet published an article in which he argued that, rather than the soul of a deceased human being, Dante's Matelda is a figment of the poet's imagination, and that her name is an anagrammatical description of one of her functions (ad letant = ‘towards the blissful one’, Beatrice). More recently, however, four other scholars, two Italian and two British, have chosen to follow up the traditional line of enquiry, based on the assumption that Matelda's presence in the afterlife, in common with that of Virgil, Beatrice, Cato and other images, presupposes a previous mortal existence. Giulio Natali and Gianfranco Contini agree in identifying Matelda as the donna gentile of the Vita nuova and the Convivio; both choose her for her historical rather than her abstract aspect, and they support their conclusion principally by pointing to striking physical and verbal details which Matelda and the donna gentile have in common. Miss Barbara Reynolds has sought to buttress the authority of the fourteenth-century commentators, by showing that Countess Matilda of Tuscany could have been known to Dante less as a seventy-year-old Amazon than as a beautiful, virtuous, constantly happy woman with a fine singing voice, and by arguing that the confrontation between Dante and Beatrice, with Matelda as mediator, parallels the famous confrontation between Henry IV and Gregory VII, with the Countess as mediator. And Professor M. F. M. Meiklejohnhas returned to another of the oldest members of the list of candidates for identification as the officer of the Terrestrial Paradise: St. Matilda, the mother of Emperor Otto I.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1973-01-01