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Abstract

Missing from standard reference works on Dante’s Commedia are separate entries devoted exclusively to dance or dancing. Primary sources for the history of dance in the Italian Trecento derive from tablatures (musical notations), scattered iconographic images, and literary works, such as Boccaccio’s Decameron and Dante’s Commedia. Representations of dancing in these works invariably double as a symbolic language or meta-commentary on the surrounding narrative. The interpretation of dance’s role in late medieval art and literature depends not only on the context but also on the type of dance depicted. This article focuses on the allegorical roles that dance plays in Dante the Pilgrim’s salvific otherworldly experience in Purgatory and Paradise, including not only circular dance movements but also the position of the Pilgrim as the center point within a circle in three distinct episodes: Purgatorio 31.104 (with the four nymphs or cardinal virtues) and 31.132 (with the three nymphs or theological virtues) and in Paradiso 13.20-21 (with the twenty-four sapienti or wise men).

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