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ITALIAN-STUDIES  December 1998

ITALIAN-STUDIES December 1998

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Subject:

Re: Consolatio's commentaries

From:

Otfried Lieberknecht <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Tue, 15 Dec 1998 03:13:38 +0100

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>Does anyone on this list know of new or old literature,  (besides 
>P.Chistoni and Courcelle) dealing with Dante's knowledge/use of 
>commentaries on the _Consolatio Philosophiae_ ? 
>Any informations on what commentaries were present or did someone else 
>use in Italy from let's say mid 13th cent.? 
>Every bit of input is welcome. 

Dear Umberto,

If somewhat lengthy bits can do: Courcelle's chapter "Les commentaires des
XIVe et XVe sie\cles" (from 1939, again in _La Consolation de Philosophie
dans la tradition litte/raire_, Paris 1967, p.317ss.) already points out
the general importance (in terms of early and wide diffusion) of Nicholas
Trevet's commentary, quoted in Italy as early as 1307 by Tholomaeus de
Asinariis, professor of law in Asti (Courcelle p.320s. and p.318 n.4), see
also Roberto Weiss, "Notes on the Popularity of the Writings of Nicholas
Trevet, OP, in Italy during the first half of the Fourteenth Century",
_Dominican Studies_ 1 (1948), p.261-265, and Ruth J. Dean, "Cultural
Relatios in the Middle Ages: Nicholas Trevet and Nicholas of Prato",
_Studies in Philology_ 45 (1948), p.541-564. Courcelle's critical
assessement of the quality of this commentary is another matter that can be
taken lightly because Courcelle was drawing on Jourdain but had not really
studied the commentary himself (and was anyway not really the scholar whom
we should expect to give us always reliable orientation about the
intellectual history of the 13th/14th centuries). 

Courcelle, Weiss, and Dean were not yet aware of the discovery made and
published only later by Ruth J. Dean, "The Dedication of Nicholas Trevet's
Commentary on Boethius", _Studies in Philology_ 63,5 (1966), p.593-603, who
found in one of the copies of Trevet's commentary in the Biblioteca
Ambrosiana (A 58 inf.) a dedicatory letter according to which Trevet had
written his commentary in eight weeks during a stay in Florence, on request
of a former teacher and now 'senior friend' in Pisa with name Paulus and
who was probably a Dominican like Trevet himself and had only spurred
Trevet to fulfill an older promise. The interpretation of this letter,
namely the way how it describes the circumstances of the composition of the
commentary, presents some problems, on which see Brian S. Donaghey,
"Nicholas Trevet's Use of King Alfred's Translation of Boethius, and the
Dating of his Commentary", in Alastair J. Minnis (ed.), _The Medieval
Boethius: Studies in the Vernacular Tradition of 'De Consolatione
Philosophiae', Cambridge: Brewer, 1987, p.1-31. If we accept Donaghey's
interpretation (and I myself have not studied the problem sufficiently well
to dare to disagree with him), Trevet must have prepared his commentary in
England and only finished or revised and copied his draft during his stay
in Florence (an assumption which both for internal and exteranl reasons in
fact seems far more likely than the alternative possibility that he wrote a
first redaction in Florence and revised it afterwards in England), which
does not exclude the possibility of further revisions after his return to
England. His stay in Florence cannot be dated with certainty, but may have
occured in 1298 (Donaghey p.10, giving a highly hypothetical date), and it
seems that "the bulk of his commentary can be dated well before 1300" (ibd.).

Dante himself states that he began to read the _Consolatio_ "alquanto
tempo" after the death of Beatrice (thus after 8 June 1290), "quello non
conosciuto da molti libro di Boezio, nel quale, cattivo e discacciato ,
consolato s'avea" (Cv II.xii.2), finding there not only consolation, but
also -- as well as in Cicero's _De amicitia_ -- the philosophical
inspiration which then prompted him to visit the "scuole delli religiosi"
and "disputazioni delli filosofanti" for a period of ca. 30 months (Cv
II.ii.5-7). His description excludes that he used a vernacular translation
(on the much understudied Italian volgarizzamenti of Boethius see Carlo
Milanesi, _Il Boezio e l'Arrighetto. Volgarizzamenti del buon secolo,
riveduti su' codici fiorentini_, Firenze 1864, p.LXXIXXss., still
indispensable; Salvatore Battaglia, _Il Boezio e l'Arrighetto nelle
versioni del Trecento_, Torino: U.T.E.T, 1929; R. A. Dwyer, "Bonaventura da
Demena, Sicilian Translator of Boethius", _French Studies_ 28,2 (1974),
p.129-133; Helmuth-Wilhelm Heinz, _Grazia di Meo, Il libro di Boec,io de
chonsolazione (1343)_, Frankfurt am Main et al.: Lang, 1984 (= EHS IX.12);
Gianfelice Peron, "Cultura e pubblico del Boe\ce franco-italiano (Paris,
B.N. ms. fr. 821)", in Gu"nter Holtus et al. [eds.], _Testi, cotesti e
contesti del franco-italiano: In memoriam Alberto Limentani_, Tu"bingen:
Niemeyer, 1989, p.143-160; Anna Maria Babbi,_'Consolatio Philosophiae_: una
versione veneta_, Milano: FrancoAngeli, 1995) and also does not suggest
that he used a commentary right from the start, because he stresses that
his understanding in the beginning was based only on his knowledge of Latin
and on his own ingegno ("v'entrai tanto entro, quanto l'arte di gramatica
ch'io avea e un poco di mio ingegno potea fare"). But it seems likely that,
moving on to a more indepth study in the Mendicant schools at Florence (or
maybe afterwards in Bologna and more certainly during the time of his
exile), he came to know also commentaries. Trevet's commentary was probably
not yet available in the Florentine Mendicant schools when Dante attended
them, but is nevertheless a very good candidate to have served him as a
source (or to have influenced him indirectly) in the Convivio and the
Commedia. As regards vernacular tradition, you might want to consider also
French influence in Italy in Dante's time (see Noel Harold Kaylor, _The
Medieval 'Consolation of Philosophy': An Annotated Bibliography_, New York:
Garland, 1992 (= Garland Medieval Bibliographies, 7)).

Dante may well have known more than one commentary or a compilation drawing
on various traditions, not to mention the possibility that his
understanding of passages in the _Consolatio_ may have been informed by
commentary traditions of other works not directly related to the
_Consolatio_ but adducing and explaining parallels from this work (this is
one of the points of an unpublished paper given by Bodo Guthmu"ller at the
2nd International Dante Seminar in Ascona, in June 1997, who discusses D's
understanding of the myth of Circe in the context of Ovid, Cicero,
Boethius, and lines Dante up with the interpretation of Boethius given by
Arnulf of Orleans in his gloss to Ovid; publication in preparation by
Michelangelo Picone). Margherita De Bonfils Templer, for instance, in her
article "La donna gentile del 'Convivio' e il boeziano mito d'Orfeo",
_Dante Studies_ 101 (1983, i.e. 1987), p.123-144, believes to have found
irrefutable evidence that Dante in his Convivio depends on the commentary
of William of Conches, which seems not a priori impossible (also because
most commentaries of this time, including Trevet's, were largely indebted
either directly or indirectly to William's gloss), although on other
occasions I have found it difficult to share her convictions regarding
Dante's platonizing sources. I myself do not know of a conclusive study,
and find it generally difficult to accept conclusions which are not based
on a thorough study of Dante's adoptions in the context of the manuscript
and mostly unpublished commentaries and glosses of his time.

To give you some more bibliographic pointers (publications post-Courcelle):

ALFONSI Luigi
   Dante e la Consolatio philosophiae di Boezio. Como: Mar-
   zorati, 1944 (= Studi di lingua e di letteratura italiana,
   4), 41 pp.
GROPPI Felicina
   Dante traduttore, 2a ed. notevolmente accresciuta, Roma:
   Tip. poliglotta Vaticana, Editrice "Orbis catholicus" Her-
   der, 1962, esp. p.130ss., p.179
DRONKE Peter
   Boethius, Alanus und Dante. In: Romanische Forschungen 78
   (1966), p.119-125
TATEO Francesco
   Una reminiscenza da Boezio nel Paradiso dantesco. In:
   L'Alighieri 9 (1968), p.59-65
TATEO Francesco
   Art. "Boezio, Severino", Enciclopedia dantesca,  I (1970), 
   p.654-658
GUALTIERI Angelo
   Lady Philosophy in Boethius and Dante. In: Comparative
   Literature 23 (1971), p.141-150
TATEO Francesco
   Questioni di poetica dantesca. Bari: Adriatica, 1972 (= Bib-
   lioteca di critica e letteratura, 9), p.201-216: Il "punto"
   della visione e una reminiscenza da Boezio.
DE BONFILS TEMPLER Margherita
   La fonte boeziana dell'"Ego tanquam..." e il significato di
   visione sul contesto della Vita Nuova. In: *Atti dell'Isti-
   tuto veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti, Classe di scienze
   morali, storiche e filologiche, Memorie, 131 (1972-73),
   p.437-461 (abbreviated reprint in ead., Itinerario di Amore,
   Chapel Hill 1973)
FENZI Enrico
   Boezio e Jean de Meun. Filosofia e Ragione nelle rime alle-
   goriche di Dante. In: Studi di filologia e letteratura 2-3
   (1975), p.9-69
SCUDERI Ermanno
   Boezio e Brunetto "maestri" di Dante. In: *Studi su Dante,
   a cura di E. Scuderi, Catania 1979, p.53-61
D'ANDREA Antonio
   La struttura della Vita Nuova: le divisioni delle rime.
   In: Yearbook of Italian Studies 4 (1980), p.13-40, again
   in id., Il nome della storia: studi e ricerche di storia
   letteratura, Napoli: Liguori, 1982
BOMMARITO Domenico
   Dalla Consolatio di Boezio alla Commedia di Dante:
   L''iter' strutturale verso la 'conoscenza vera' della
   tradizione protrettica. In: L'Alighieri 24,2 (1983),
   p.12-28
   [Bommarito has also published a dissertation on this 
   topic, but I seem to have misplaced the precise reference]
BOMMARITO Domenico
   Il mito di Ulisse e la sua allegorizzazione in Boezio e Dan-
   te. Ulisse e il tema dell''homo insipiens'. In: Forum Itali-
   cum 17,1 (1983), p.64-81
CHIARENZA Marguerite Mills
   Boethian Themes in Dante's Reading of Virgil. In:
   Stanford Italian Review 3,1 (1983), p.25-35
SCOTT John Alfred
   Dante, Boezio e l'enigma di Rifeo (Par. XX). In: Studi 
   danteschi (1989), p.187-192
IANNUCCI Amilcare A.
   Casella's Song and Tuning of the Soul. In: Thought: A Review
   of Culture and Idea, an. 65, no. 256 (March 1990), p.27-46,
   it. s.t. Musica e ordine nella Divina Commedia (Purgato-
   rio II), in: *Studi americani su Dante, ed. Gian Carlo
   Alessio / Robert Hollander, Milano: FrancoAngeli, 1989,
   p.87-111
MEZZADROLI Giuseppina
   Dante, Boezio e le sirene. In: Lingua e stile 25,1
   (1990), p.25-56
CHIAMENTI Massimiliano
   Dante Alighieri traduttore. Firenze: Le Lettere, 1995
   (= Quaderni degli studi danteschi, 10), index p.256 
   s.v. Boethius

If you could let us know which particular problem or passage(s) you are
interested in it might be easier for us to come up with specific references.

Best,

  Otfried

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