So, it turns out Beatrice is a bit of a bitch.
Dante, bless him, has been through a lot. His life was in the crapper so Beatrice sorted it for him to go on an educational field trip through hell and purgatory, where he was terrified, confronted, met monsters and demons and had letters drawn on his head. When last we saw him, Dante was chatting to Matelda, and a big pageant of people in fancy clothes and a chariot pulled by a griffin have come along. And now, though some semi-blinding light, Beatrice, his old love has appeared. And what does she do after not seeing him for 10 years? She tells him off, big time, nags him into the ground. Not only has he wasted his talents, but it seems to her the bigger crime is he has gone after other women since her death. How dare he?? As far as she is concerned, her beauty should have been enough to keep him from sin, even after she was dead (ego much, Beatrice?)
So Dante gets roasted, Virgil has disappeared, and Matelda then washes Dante in one of the streams in Eden, the Lethe. It’s the water of this stream that when immersed in, removes the guilt of sin, and when drunk, remove the memory of it, which is apparently where the superstition about toasting with water comes from. I don’t know, maybe if I had toasted with water at my wedding I wouldn’t be able to remember it now, and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. My new sister-in-law made a right scene and her husband stole a load of cutlery.
Then as this is the last canto, it all goes a bit like the last major scene of an action film, such as ‘Avengers Assemble’ or something with Stallone in it, everything kicks off.
It turns out the griffin can talk, and he’s not even wearing one of those collars like the dog in ‘Up’, and he tries his chariot to the dead Tree of Knowledge, bringing it back to life, and it bursts into purple flowers. Then it all gets really mad. Beatrice shows Dante what she wants him to write about, and a weird sequence of tableaus kick off. An eagle comes out of the sky and wrecks the chariot, a fox then jumps up in the seat, the eagle comes back and wrecks it to a twisted pile, disembodied voice starts shouting about the chariot carrying the freight of wickedness, then the ground opens up and a dragon comes out and takes part of the chariot back into the ground with him. The remaining part of the chariot begins to sprout heads, then turns into a naked whore (yep, honest) who has a pimp with her, and he’s a giant. They embrace (although I wonder if that is Dante or the translator being polite), she starts giving Dante the eye, and the giant freaks out and starts to beat her up, before going into the forest with her.
Beatrice’s handmaidens are really upset, but it’s 12 noon so they start to make a move (lunchtime?) and Beatrice talks some more to Dante about what he needs to write. He is then taken by Matelda back to the streams, and fortified with some water from the Eunoe as it helps remind him of his good deeds.
And that is the end of Purgatorio, and where Paradiso picks things up. I have a feeling there won’t be so many fun characters hanging about heaven.