A Nobel diatribe

Little about this post is noble so I am getting rid of the difficult piece in the title . Though the spell checking fascists are already getting out their witeout to fix the mistake in my title . I can heard them already, NOBLE not NOBEL!!!

This is something that has been irritating me since I heard about it  . I heard that Bob Dylan has won …… Not the Grammy , not an Oscar , not the Presidential medal …. but the Nobel prize …. Do they have Nobel prize for songs?? I had no idea they had been introducing new categories . I thought old man Nobel was pretty strict about that , one of the reasons we don’t have a Nobel prize for mathematics though almost all the Nobel prizes for physics and chemistry (and Voodoo economics that seems to crash the world markets) could not have been won without mathematics that will twist most brains into the most intricate pretzels that would have Dr Hannibal Lecter drooling. So what gives!!! Apparently they decided that it was for literature!!! Bob Dylan has won the Nobel prize for literature . I have to admit that I am not a die hard Dylan fan though my favorite Jimi Hendrix song (this is sacrilege, I know!!!) is not Voodoo child or Purple Haze or even Foxy lady but ‘All along the watchtower’ which was written by Bob Dylan . Even the Guns N Roses ‘Knocking on heavens door’ is written by Dylan.  He is definitely the most covered artist in history (if it is an exaggeration , it is a well deserved one) and I would also be the last one to admit that his songs are anything but brilliant , for me his music might leave something to be desired but as a song writer , he stands alone. He draws inspiration from the most esoteric sources as the greatest writers do . But I am hard pressed to believe that songs can considered literature or even poetry. Literature and poetry have to stand by themselves without any help whereas a song has multiple dimensions . Having been a cook , I know that if I screw up adding a particular spice or ingredient , I can salvage by adding something else and I have done that on countless occasions and I see the same for a lot of songs , some of the best Rolling Stones songs would fall flat without the amazing music that accompanies it. So I eschew the concept that song writing is literature , I mean whatever next , are we going to give the Nobel peace prize to a terrorist ….. Guess they already did so let me revise that … .Are we going to give the Nobel peace prize to a racist …… Ooops , guess they did that too ….. … Are we going to give the Nobel peace prize to somebody who ordered the carpet bombing of a neutral country ignoring due Democratic process and withholding that information from Congress and the populace ??? …….. Oops , guess I should give up now.

I don’t deny that Bob Dylan is the most prolific song writer of our times (maybe even of all times)  and it is impossible to estimate his effect on music and artists . My argument simply is that  songs are a genre by themselves , clubbing it under literature is doing song writing and literature a great disservice .

Given that this is a completely subjective rant , I would love to hear what you folks think .

Macbeth

This play is far more interesting and complex than King Lear and Othello. The plot is far more richer and the number of fascinating characters involved are far more than either of the other two tragedies.

Macbeth and Banquo , the victorious generals are returning after quelling a rebellion for the King of Scotland .The play starts off with the three witches spouting off prophesies to Macbeth and Banquo, about Macbeth becoming the Thane of Cawdor and eventually  the king of Scotland and Banquo’s descendants will become kings. This single event is the catalyst for what is to come .

Banquo says the following verse to Macbeth as a warning

And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s
In deepest consequence.

Macbeth does indeed become the Thane of Cawdor and following the confirmation of the first prophecy, he is seduced into committing the most dastardly acts to make the second prophecy come true , i.e  murdering the king of Scotland who is also his cousin and become the king in his stead .

Lady Macbeth is a fascinating woman . She is the perfect wife in some sense , she encourages her husband in his ambitions and even steadies his conscience at difficult times

Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would,’

In some ways she is the wife that most husbands aspire for and yet having said that, she is also completely callous and prays that she be more ruthless . She even accuses Macbeth of having a breast full of the ‘milk of human kindness’ when he has seconds thoughts about murder his cousin and guest, the king. She would have nothing stand in the way of their ambition .

In the beginning ,Macbeth seems to have a moral compass but the prophecy of the future seduces him completely and utterly. He begins by not only murdering the king but murders his bodyguards after planting evidence of the murder on them. The sons of the king  flees to safety and become suspect. At this point as the kinsman, he assumes the throne . After this Macbeth decides to clean house i.e kill Banquo who has witnessed the prophecies and has started suspecting him ,kill Banquo’s son who is prophesied to become the king  . In Casino Royale ,when  James Bond says that the second time is easier , he could have been echoing Macbeth’s sentiments. However Banquo’s son does escape though poor Banquo is murdered on his way to the banquet that Macbeth has thrown for the celebrations.

At the celebratory banquet and when he arrives , Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo at  the table after which he starts raving and upsets his guests who cannot see the ghost . This is our first insight of the fear and paranoia that plagues Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and will eventually consume them.

Macbeth approaches the witches , this is the famous scene where the witches repeat

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

And there is a dialogue that would have made the oracle of Delphi proud. Macbeth  is informed that he will only be killed of one not of a woman born and he will be vanquished only when Great Birnam wood moves to high Dunsinane hill. Here he also finds out that he needs to be aware of Macbeth

As the end approaches , we see that Macduff instructs his soldiers to cut down branches of Great Birnam wood so the spies would not have a good number and moves to high Dunsinane hill . Before he kills Macbeth, he informs him that he was ripped from his mother’s womb.

There is a dialogue between three witches and Hecate , the queen of witches who takes them to task for seducing Macbeth with visions of the future  , this is the second time that Shakespeare tells us that it is better for us not to know what is in store for us . It is clear that even the prophesies that were foretold for Macbeth , he was unable to heed the warnings because he was unable to understand them . This is an interesting theme that keeps repeating in books throughout , on the one hand there is the concept of predestination which states that whatever is foretold will come to pass and then there is the concept that we are unable to grasp the future until it comes to pass. Long ago , I had read that unless we actually experience something , the knowledge remains abstract , if the knowledge remains abstract then it is impossible for us to understand and act upon it.

As all Shakespeare plays go , this one is full of delicious nuggets of poetry

Bloody instructions which, being taught return to plague the inventor

There’s no art
To find the mind’s construction in the face:

who could refrain,
That had a heart to love, and in that heart
Courage to make ‘s love known?

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Macbeth starts off gloriously returning triumphant and victorious . It reminded me of Othello , Othello returning from his triumphs and getting married . It is a useful trick for a tragedy , start off on a high note so you can lead your audience off that emotional precipice come time for curtains. It is a wonderful story , the verse is magical , the characters mesmerizing , the plot brilliant . It certainly has not lose any of its charm 400 years later.

Kafkaesque Trials

It is probably a disgrace but for the longest time I imagined that Frank Zappa , Frank Capra and Franz Kafka to be the same person and I imagined that author of the various articles made a spelling mistake (I also got creative and imagined that Franz Kafka after immigrating to the US anglicized his name to Frank Capra) . Watching “It is a wonderful life” and “It happened one night” and reading the Metamorphosis cleared up that blunder in a jiffy. But long before I heard of any of them , I had heard the adjective Kafkaesque to describe a book of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories.

Josef K starts his day as any other but finds out that he has been arrested and nobody is able to give him the reason for his arrest. At the beginning we are as incredulous as Josef K but as time passes , one cannot help but start feeling a sense of empathetic desperation . He encounters a series of people who seem to be cogs in the machine , likeable and willing to help but powerless to help . It is interspersed with entanglements with various women whereby which his spirits rise but crash again . That enhances the despair in the protagonist and us as we follow him. And the icing on the cake is when he is berated by family for bringing disgrace .  It is probably the greatest book on the shortcomings of bureaucracy . The whole book is chilling

The Trial was written almost 2 decades before Nazism came to power and arrested people for reasons of religion , appearance and gender preferences. History is rife with entire communities treated in a similar manner for some bizarre reason or the other ; Jews, Poles ,Russians,Gypsies, Jehovah’s witnesses  and homosexuals under Nazism , liberal minded people under communism , the Japanese Americans interned during the Second World War, India during the Emergency and the list goes on. I imagine this is exactly how life is , under any despotic regime.

To get a better idea of the horror , I decided to watch Schindler’s List after almost 20 years and while horrifying , it did not have the same quality as the Trial. Perhaps 1984 would have been a better idea. But I realized that with Nazism or Socialism any of the other schisms, one is provided a reason (even a lousy reason is better than no reason). Man being a reasonable creature; loves having a reason (regardless of good or bad) so one knows what one is up against. A faceless tormentor is far more insidious . The shadow of the faceless tormentors follow us incessantly throughout the novel as Josef K leads us on a roller coaster of emotions. I wonder if that is also why (good) horror movies tend to have such a hold on us.

I had read the Metamorphosis before but the Trial is far more gripping and darker. It is not something that I would want to visit again but it is a mesmerizing story.

Othello

In 2002 , I used to work for a small electronics company in Ohio . The president of the company was a loudmouth transplant from Philly and liked to hear himself speak. He was giving us one of his rah rah speeches and he wanted to tell us little people that he had problems similar to everybody else and could empathize with us . He listed out a litany of problems in his family including one that took me completely by surprise , having a bi-racial couple in the family .Until that day , I was not aware that this was a problem!!

But interestingly ‘Un Capitano Moro’ written by Cinthio over 5 centuries earlier seems to ignore it . And it must have fascinated Shakespeare because he used that plot for Othello ,  changing minor details . Personally I think Othello the moor could have been replaced by a white man and we could still have a story rife with intrigue and drama and tragedy .  The racial tones provides for extra drama such as Desdemona being scared of Othello to begin with and eventually in stark contrast ends up falling in love and marrying him.

The plot is simple and plays upon men’s fear of being cuckolded and though the play is called Othello , the most fascinating character is Othello’s lieutenant , Iago . Iago controls the downward spiral in the play , he is responsible for Othello’s friend Cassio falling out of favor with Othello , he encourages Cassio to ask Desdemona to request that he be put back into the Moor’s good graces , he conspires with Roderigo who is in love with Desdemona , he has his wife Emilia steal the prized handkerchief that Othello has given Desdemona and plants it in Cassio’s apartment , he attempts to have Roderigo kill Cassio and eventually kills his own wife Emilia when she tells the truth to the Moor and of course poisoning the ears of the Moor and inciting jealousy in his unsuspecting heart. But Iago as knavish as he is, he is being tormented by the same emotions that he is exploiting in Othello. Iago is convinced that he has been cuckolded.Another reason seems to be his resentment at being passed over for promotion. But to me, losing a promotion hardly seems to be cause enough to warrant the kind of havoc that he brings about. 

The backdrop in the play is the Ottomans attacking Venice and Othello being in charge of repelling the attack . That earns him favors from the nobility of Venice and also their support for his marriage.

There is a long entertaining monologue from Iago where he chides Roderigo for wanting to kill himself out of disappointment and he keeps repeating the phrase “Put money in thy purse” . Iago is convinced (or convincing Roderigo) that given enough money , Roderigo would be able to snatch Desdemona from Othello. Shakespeare (or Cinthio) gives us fascinating character sketches for these very different human perspectives . Othello is a remarkable man but when clouded by emotions of  jealousy, he is unable to think normally. Sometime back , I read that the human brain is actually 3 different brains , the lizard brain or the amygdala is responsible for  controlling emotions , the mammalian brain and finally the cerebral cortex which is in charge of rational thought . In terms of speed ,the amygdala functions in milliseconds , whereas the cortex takes up to 30 seconds to process the same information so if you see a tiger , your amygdala tells you to flee but rational thought takes longer to process the same information and in 30 seconds one could end up as the main course for the tiger. On the other hand when Othello is plagued by jealousy , his normal cognitive powers are no longer evident , having been hijacked by emotions and he is doomed to make disastrous decisions . Shakespeare displayed shrewd insight into human psychology 400 years prior to us finding the actual reasons. Also the term ‘Green eyed monster’ seems to have its origins here in this play.

Another one of my favorite passages was from Desdemona .

Men’s natures wrangle with inferior things,
Though great ones are their object. ‘Tis even so;

As expected in a tragedy , the main characters Othello and Desdemona lie dead . Today we would blandly call it a murder suicide . Iago is in chains and taken off to be tried .

If there is a lesson to be learned from Othello , it is that Hasty Othello should have been more patient before strangling Desdemona . He certainly needed to understand whom he could and could not trust

Haste hath no redemption in Shakespeare’s world … or ours.

 

Lost in Paradise

As a child , one of my fantasies of paradise was rivers of milk and honey(more honey and less milk) and candy trees (anybody remember the song ‘Big Rock Candy mountain’) , in adolescence these imaginary rivers ran full of honey or coke and …  whisky or dark rum (preferably more alcohol and less of the sweet stuff)  ;in short paradise is a place where I could drink and drink and drink and have no hangover. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks , the media was buzz with the concept of 64 virgins and the hijackers believing that was their ordained rewards , 64 virgins in the afterlife !!! 64 !!! All I could conclude was that these attackers probably had never been around women. Can one imagine the cacophony that would ensue with 64 women competing for your attention and the jealous cat fights and the “You looked at her longer than you looked at me ” and so on and so forth .. So thank you , but no thank you , I will sin enough on earth to ensure that I don’t get that kind of a paradise. Hard to imagine that anybody would call that paradise least of all somebody who had to live with 64 virgins.

Coming back to rivers of whisky , there is the river Styx in Inferno which transports the souls, the river Lethe in Purgatory which washes away your sins but to my great disappointment there is no river in Paradiso . No river which gives me license to sin in Dante’s paradise , apparently all of your thirst is automatically sated so no more drinkies!!  On the plus side there are no 64 virgins waiting for you either . Dante’s paradise is one where you are on your way to merging with god . It is a beautiful concept that once you let go of your earthly desires , you are free from the noise and can listen to your own inner calling , what Dante calls the voice of god , or the divine seal ; if one chooses to ignore the religious aspects , one could still interpret that as the voice of our one true calling  and I found myself mesmerized with that thought. Interestingly there is one passage where Dante cannot view god and he is granted divine sight by the Virgin Mary because one cannot view god with mortal eyes . I could not help but draw parallels to the Bhagwad Gita where Arjuna has to be endowed with divine vision by Krishna because it is not possible to view god with mortal eyes . I had to conclude that Joseph Campbell’s theory of these myths springing up simultaneously in different unrelated cultures had to be true . The other hypothesis is that Dante was influenced by Indian culture but there is no evidence that is indeed the case . If anything there seems to be an underlying contempt for Indians , Ethiopians and other heathens in his writing .

As we ascend levels , Dante uses the same Ptolemaic model but now he focuses on virtues rather than sins , it is a brilliant re-use of the same structure used in Inferno and Purgatario, had Dante not become a politician and a poet , he would have made an excellent engineer .It was evident that he had also used some of the ideas from Astrology as well  . He associates  Mercury with ambitious spirits , Venus with lovers , Sun with Intelligence(Theologians and Philosophers) , Mars with heroism ( martyrs) etc . I did have a brief shock when I read that he was ascending towards the Primum Mobile .My first instinct was that this was a typo , surely they did not have Premium Mobile(cellphones)  in heaven .

On a touching note , with all the theological melodrama that Dante is unfolding for us to, he hangs tight to his beloved Beatrice . It is surely a subtle (or not so subtle ) indication of (earthly) love lasting forever , even as he makes it change guise into a more ethereal kind of love in paradise .

Canto IV was one of my favorites , he talks about how a man when given free choice between two equally favorite foods would starve to death (Anybody who has read Sheena Iyengar will say he is right on the money 7 centuries ago) . Beatrice informs him that his wish and doubt was tearing him two ways . Another verse in Canto VIII goes as follows

That ever revolving nature whose seal is pressed into our mortal wax  does its work well but takes no heed of where it comes to rest

In short talent knows no home , it can show up in the richest or most plebeian of places for no reason whatsoever .

What nature gives a man , fortune must nourish concordantly or Nature like any seed out of its proper climate cannot flourish 

If the world below would learn to heed the plan of Nature’s firm foundation and build on that, it then would have the best from every man

But into holy orders you deflect the man who was meant to strap the sword and shield and make a king of one whose intellect is given to writing sermons and in this way, your footprints leave the road and go astray

Dante packs tons of wisdom in short bursts and even partly digested can be quite a revelation.

Dante does play fast and loose with his rules  , for e.g. the emperor Justinian , a champion of Christianity is accorded paradise but Justinian was a ruthless man who in one notable incident slaughters 30000 protesters at the Hippodrome in Constantinople during the Nika riots. Even from a theological perspective , Justinian had raised doubts about Jesus being the son of god but royal decrees have a way of according pardon and rewriting history.

I had to wonder what is so comedic about this classic. I learned that a comedy is defined as a happy ending (not the $20 happy ending that one is accustomed to get in Thailand)  , if one was expecting Jerry Seinfeld or his 13th century equivalent doing a standup routine as the grand finale, I am afraid we are going to have to ask for our money back though this is a no refund deal. Rather this is one of a kind , a happy ending where Dante is united with God in Paradise.

Reading the last 33 cantos of Dante’s masterpiece is not much of a walk in Paradise .While it is definitely a hard work to read (the folks at my book club are thankful that they are moving to something easier , Othello!!), Dante leads us through a magnificent journey that is extremely worthwhile.  I imagine that the pleasure of reading a work like Dante multiplies when one reads the pre-requisites but it is certainly navigable by itself without any aids but one’s own imagination .

The Most Interesting Man in the world has a rival

When I was younger and prowled the bars  , a frequent experience would be that beautiful young girls would approach me and ask me if I had a green card . Lame as the excuse sounds , it never occurred to me to say “yes , I do!!!!” After my regretful negative answer, they would lose all interest in me and no amount of antics from me later would entice them to even cast a sideways glance. I have never been able to distinguish Eastern European accents very well , so I always assumed that they are from Russia .

These days , I am convinced that they have dedicated a poster board or something on those lines because I seem to be getting a lot of queries  from around there . The vast majority seem to follow the same pattern , they are all orphans. They are looking for the man of their dreams that they can trust , they can garden , cook , do a few martial arts , ballet and love to snuggle. In short!!!  I think I am a worthy candidate to replace the Most Interesting man in the world who does the Dos Equis commercials, what do you think ?

Not that I am shy about highlighting my various achievements , I have eaten a dozen ribs in a single sitting , downed a liter of rum/vodka/scotch in one sitting (at different times ) , probably an worldwide Olympic champion for watching True Detective season 1 , Two and half men (Charlie Sheen episodes)  and Yes Minister/Prime Minister reruns  and last but not least my two cats think I am the shit!!  Before somebody raises questions about my Doolittle abilities , I have irrefutable proof . Every evening when I get home , they greet me eagerly at the door and shower me with constant attention till I get a fresh can of food and dump into their gleaming food bowls. My infallible sense of logic leads me to  attribute all that to my animal magnetism .

Coming back to these girls ,I have been quite the good Samaritan for these poor worthy and talented girls . I am convinced that a lot of their issues stem from low self esteem so I try to prop their self esteem by praising their natural beauty (they are extremely beautiful so I am not lying) , I praise their various activities which seem rather extravagant considering that they always seem to be so poor , I imagine that their low self esteem in largely in part due to the fact that Russian men are crude and completely unable to appreciate their women . In my mind this would be the only reason for them to solicit men online with marriage proposals .

Invariably these women seem to have their spirits perk up (in no small part to my efforts) and they seem to be well on on their way to making me a fine wife . They are enthusiastic about cooking , cleaning , listening to my rants about the political candidates, they like to tell me about Raj Kapoor movies which seems to be a staple in Russia  , some even claimed to read my blogs !!! I stopped quizzing them after one informed me that Achilles and Hector were playboys . After much confusion and interrogation , I learnt that playboys meant boys who play together.  But on my part , I spare no effort myself and when they seem unable to pay their ballet fees or feed their family of 23 brothers and 46 sisters , I happily send them money and they are always grateful .But I have come to recognize a pattern here , after about 6 months of online pre-marital bliss , they either seem to become nurses in Africa or nuns in the Eastern Orthodox church with one exception who decided to move to Antarctica because she liked penguins . Telling her that the San Francisco and Oakland Zoos have penguins too did nothing to dissuade her  . I must have some kind of Midas touch to inspire piety in these poor women and while deeply disappointing , it is a bitter sweet victory . Oops , gotta go , got an email from another pretty 22 year old Russian girl interested in marrying only mature men.

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Disclaimer : I am poking fun at scammers  but fraud is no laughing matter , a few years ago a 83 year old woman in Millersburg, OH was taken to the tune of $43,000 through a mail scam known in popular parlance as the Nigerian 419 Scam. I don’t know her financial status but odds are that she could not afford to lose $43,000 at her age. I used to attend security seminars in Washington DC several years ago and statistics prove that cyber crime is second only to drugs in terms of profitability

Traveling through Purgatorio

When I was reading Inferno (part I of the Divine Comedy) , I could easily form translations in my mind for some of the examples (some that sounded nonsensical like philosophers and scientists being relegated to various circles) but it was woefully apparent to me that I needed to read the Bible and the Aeneid before I could truly grasp what he was talking about . But I decided to put it off for a later date and instead proceed to finish the series .  Reading the Purgatory was far harder than Inferno without having any idea of the Bible. There was some hint of the tortures listed in the Hindu texts that I had read in my childhood , namely in the Mahabharata , the longest epic poem in the world . Yudhishtra , the oldest Pandava (who commits a sin by not stating the truth explicitly to his former teacher Drona about his son being dead) is led through hell just to glimpse its tortures as penitence for that one solitary sin. Another was a story in the Upanishads , a young boy named Nachiketa is led  on a tour by the god of death himself . The imagery in both of these stories  reminded me of Inferno  .But Purgatory was a strange concept for me.  It is like a waiting room before you are admitted to the next stage. As I plowed through , I realized that the Bible is not the only book that is a pre-requisite but also the Aeneid by Virgil , Ptolemy’s Almagest , the Metamorphoses by Ovid , Plato and Aristotle. The Almagest describes the Solar system that was the standard fare of astronomers before Copernicus found out that Sun is the center or the Heliocentric theory.  Why is this useless information important to us for reading Dante ? The Almagest describes the earth as the center of the universe with all the other planets orbiting it  . Dante informs us that God lives outside of the solar system and therefore we living on earth are the furthest away from God  . It is a simple and convenient invention which derives its basis in 3rd century science  thereby giving it greater credence. The revered and convenient dogma that Earth / Humans was farthest away from God would have come under attack once observation and science proved that Earth was not the center of solar system let alone the universe and who knows what would be next to fall. I finally see now why Copernicus was so terrified of revealing his heliocentric theory during his lifetime and why poor Galileo was imprisoned for the rest of his life . Drawing parallels into the Copernican system  about God being at the edge of the solar system, Martians are closer to god and Venusians are further away from God (That is a John Gray joke!!! Please dont beat me up). Coming back to the Almagest, the entire structure of Inferno and Purgatory is mapped using principles similar to the Almagest so Dante can merely tell us what level he is referring to and we know instantly where they are located . I read some reports that 60% of the world’s population prefers a visual medium for learning , about 20% for aural and only 7% learn by reading . Long before people were aware of these predilections , Dante executes a stroke of genius using a visual map for his masterpiece.And it speaks volumes that 4 centuries after the demise of the geocentric model, the visual imagery of the Inferno/Purgatory is still alive and well.

Some of the visual imagery is gruesome  , in Canto 13 , he describes the second cornice where the envious are to repent .The cornice is the color of a bruise because the souls of the envious are always bruised by the good fortune of their neighbors . To prevent more envy ,their eyes are sewn shut . What made it worse for me was Dante explains it by means of a simile , he says that their eyes were sewn shut like baby Falcons . Apparently that is common practice, sew the eyes of baby Falcons shut in order to train them. In Canto 22 , he discusses Gluttony where the sinners starve in the presence of a fruit laden tree , it reminded me of the punishment for Tantalus who had a fruit tree with ripe fruits hanging just over his head but when he tried to reach, the fruits would extend just outside his reach , there is a water fountain just under his mouth but when he bends down , the water recedes .  That’s where we get our wonderful adjective , tantalizing.

Dante proceeds with an intriguing device as to how faith transcends the limit of reason . Though I am not one to believe in faith , I could not help but admire the effort and technique . Virgil is the voice of human reason that guides Dante through the Inferno and as they reach the end of Purgatory , Virgil disappears because according to Dante  ,the sole purpose of human reason is to save us from earthly sins (I can only presume doctors in the middle ages prayed hard for patients to be cured) .When we reach the end of Purgatory, we have been purged of our earthly desires and urges and therefore no longer susceptible to earthly foibles  . Goes to reason that human reason(Virgil is the epitome of reason) is vestigial and no longer required for Dante to proceed (It was ironical that Dante uses reason to deny the purpose of reason). A master stroke by a master craftsman!!!

There was a couple of times that I found an intriguing paradox  , Beatrice is the woman that Dante loves and she is his guiding angel , she sends Virgil to guide him and on the other hand , he delivers invective about the way women dress in Florence and another time , he launches a tirade against widows re marrying. I suppose that the two can be reconciled if you set women on so high a pedestal that it would be impossible for them to survive as normal human beings .

All in all , the Purgatory is an feast of amazing imagery . A feat of incredible imagination that Dante guides us through his religious fantasy all the while passing judgement on popes and kings while we sit in the jury seats watching . Don’t forget to bring the popcorn .