William Mahrt


This article explores Dante’s narrative use of music in the Paradiso as it leads to his ultimate vision of God. Unlike the Inferno and Purgatorio, the Paradiso seems to be suffused with continuous music, one that is inherent in the unending motions of the heavens. In the Paradiso, however, there is also much mention of the absence of sound. There are at least fifteen instances that describe a person or a group suddenly falling into silence, either as a natural conclusion of a speech, or unexpectedly as a momentary interruption of music. This article contends that the purpose of these sudden and unexpected cessations of music is that they are types of the greatest antitype of the poem, the silence of God—the only entity transcending the two fundamental conditions of any music: time and motion