Sinful wives and queens
The medieval concept of sodomy in Dante’s Comedy
The author of the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), dealt with “sodomites” twice in his masterpiece, once in Inferno and again in Purgatorio. In their examinations of the passage in Inferno, literary critics have typically conflated the modern-day definition of “homosexual” with the medieval “sodomite.” In order to see how Dante viewed non-normative sexuality accurately, however, it is necessary first to uncouple the medieval term “sodomite” from today’s term, “homosexual,” and to apply instead the medieval definition of the former. Numerous sources of Dante’s time indicate that “sodomy” did not mean, strictly speaking, same sex practices between men, but rather it encompassed a wide array of sexual activities. The same is probably true of the sodomites in Dante’s Inferno, some of whom might not have bedded other men. Examination of the passage in Purgatorio, moreover, indicates a greater degree of subtlety in Dante’s thought regarding non-normative sexual attraction.
- 2.Sodomy in Dante’s Hell and in the Middle Ages
- 3.Blaming the wife in Inferno
- 4.Same-sex lust in Dante’s Purgatorio
Published online: 11 February 2022
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