Dante’s Paradiso is the third and final part of Dante’s epic Divine Comedy poem. The word Comedy in the title doesn’t mean the epic poem is meant to be funny. It means it’s not a tragedy. In other words, in classical literature, the word comedy means the story has a happy ending.
This third part of the Divine Comedy certainly is the happy ending of the trilogy. After working his way through the horrors of Hell and the trials of Purgatory, Heaven is a place of blessed souls and chosen children of God. Here, Dante meets angels and saints, as well as God himself.
Before we look deeply into the characters and individual “cantos” of this poem, let’s take a brief look at Paradiso, just to catch up with the story, and then we’ll see a general summary of the plot of Paradiso.
So let’s review what’s happened up to the beginning of Paradiso.
In inferno, Dante is guided by Virgil the Latin Poet through the various circles of Hell. Each new circle was deeper than the last and dedicated to a certain kind of sinner. The first circle was Limbo, dedicated to good men and women that lived before Christ. Virgil was from Limbo.
The second circle held the lustful, tormented by great storms. The third was for the gluttonous, who suffered under freezing rain. The fourth circle was where both the greedy and the wasteful had to eternally push giant weights around. The wrathful and the sullen suffered in the muddy river Styx in the fifth circle.
The travelers reached the city Dis and needed an angel’s help to get in through the hostile residents. When the crossed the gates, they also entered the sixth circle, where heretics were trapped in fiery tombs. The seventh circle was where the violent were punished, and the eighth and ninth circle were dedicated to different kinds of fraud.
When they finally got to the bottom of the ninth circle, they saw sinners trapped under a glassy sea of ice. Half buried in that sea was Lucifer, a three-headed beast, a different sinner in each of his three mouths.
In order to get out of Hell, Virgil and Dante climb Lucifer, ending up coming out of the subterranean horror world and onto the southern hemisphere of the earth, where they come to the mountain of Purgatory.
Purgatoria picked up right where Inferno left off—Dante and Virgil on the southern hemisphere, standing at the base Mount Purgatory, which was also on an island. The first area the visited was called ante-Purgatory. Dante and Virgil saw the Valley of the Rulers, where a bunch of dead kings resided. A shadowy serpent appeared at dusk, but it was driven away by two angels.
No one could travel in Purgatory at night. So each time the sun went down, Dante and Virgil had to stop and rest until sunrise. Dante slept this first night, only to wake up at the gates of Purgatory. St. Lucia had carried him there through the night.
They climbed the three steps to the gate, and the angel and the entrance marked seven P’s on Dante’s forehead.
The first terrace was for the Prideful. Large sculptures showed examples of humility. The prideful penitents had climb with giant, heavy weights on top of them. Because these souls were always bent over, Dante bent himself over to talk to them. He felt such compassion for them that he walked hunched down all the way to the gate of the second terrace.
This terrace was dedicated to the Envious, where voices called out examples of love. The envious penitents were punished by having their eyes sewn shut with wire. As the travelers moved on to the next terrace, an angel removed one of the P’s from Dante’s forehead.
The third terrace was the home of the Wrathful. Dante had a vision of examples of gentleness. The wrathful were being punished by being constantly covered in black smoke. Dante and Virgil found the angel, who then removed another P from Dante’s forehead, allowing him to climb to the next terrace.
The Slothful were punished in the fourth terrace. There, Virgil lectured Dante on the structure of Purgatory, Love, and Free Will. The slothful shouted examples of zeal while they ran around in circles without any rest.
Dante and Virgil ascended to the fifth terrace after passing an angel that removed another P from Dante’s forehead. Here, the Avaricious (Greedy) and the Prodigal (Wasteful) were being punished. They shouted examples of poverty and generosity while being chained to the ground, facing down. Mount Purgatory trembled, and Dante discoverd that each quake meant another soul had finished his/her punishment and was now cleared to go up to Heaven. Dante and Virgil met this soul, an epic poet named Statius. He joined the travelers on their journey up the mountain to Heaven. They crossed to the next terrace, Dante losing another P.
The Gluttonous were starved on the sixth terrace, where there were beautiful trees heavy with sweet-smelling fruit, but no soul could climb up and get a taste. Dante lost yet another P, his sixth, upon crossing to the next terrace.
The seventh terrace was the home of the Lustful. Dante, thinking back to the thin and starved souls on the previous terrace, asked how a shade can need food. Statius explained how a shade forms and how they live. Basically, a shade is just like a physical body, also needing food and drink. Here, the Lustful, had to walk in flames, constantly hugging their fellow penitents. When the trio of travelers wanted to climb the stairs out of this terrace, the angel at the gate said they had to cross through the fire as well. They walked through the flames, and they got caught by the sunset halfway up the stairs, so they had to stop and sleep the night before continuing.
Finally, in the Earthly Paradise. Dante met a woman at a stream, named Matilda. She explained some things about purgatory and guided Dante to where he’d meet Beatrice. When the stream they were following curved, they stopped to see a glorious procession of dancers, elders, angels, and a chariot pulled by a griffin.
Out of the chariot, Beatrice appeared. She scolded Dante for his sins. Dante was then dunked into the river Lethe and forced to drink. After that. He joined the procession, which stopped at the Tree of Knowledge, where Dante fell asleep.
When he woke up, Beatrice had a job for him—to observe and write down everything he would see here. Then, Dante saw the chariot attacked by an eagle, a fox, and a dragon. The chariot transformed into a three-headed beast, a whore, and a giant. Beatrice promised that God would exact vengeance on those that attacked the chariot.
Finally, Dante drank of the water from the river Eunoe. Now he was ready to move on to Heaven, with Statius and Beatrice continuing as his guides.
Paradiso starts with Dante in the Earthly Paradise. He and Beatrice ascend from there together, and along the way, Beatrice explains some of the structure of the universe.
They arrive in the First Heaven, the sphere of the Moon. Beatrice asks Dante some questions as a test, and then corrects some of his mistaken views about the moon spots. They meet Piccarda Donati, and she explains that the moon is home to people that have broken their vows.
They ascend to the Second Heaven, the sphere of Mercury, and there they meet Justinian. He explains the history and destiny of Rome.
They continue on to the Third Heaven, the sphere of Venus. There, Dante meets Charles Martel, a French emperor of history. Martel explains why sons may end up different from their fathers.
On to the Fourth Heaven, the sphere of the Sun. Here, Dante meets St Thomas and several other souls. We talk to and about St Francis and St Dominic, and their orders. Solomon shows up and talks about the source of the blessed souls’ light.
Dante and Beatrice move on to the Fifth Heaven, the Sphere of Mars. The souls here form an image of the Cross. Dante talks to Cacciaguida, who talks about the virtue of ancient Florence, the royal families of that old town, and also of Dante’s destiny of exile.
Next, they move on to the Sixth Heaven, the sphere of Jupiter, where the souls form letters of light with their bodies, forming a message about justice. Then they form an eagle, which then starts to talk to Dante. The eagle explains Divine Justice and how amazing God’s Mind is. They also talk about the six spirits that for the eagle’s eye and why two pagan kings are there.
Dante and Beatrice move on to the Seventh Heaven, the sphere of Saturn. Dante sees a golden ladder, leading up to the uppermost parts of Heaven. He meets St Peter Damian. When all the souls cry out together, Dante blacks out from the intensity of it all. After he comes to, he meets St Benedict.
They continue on to the Eighth Heaven, the sphere of the Fixed Stars. Dante looks down on Earth and sees everything below him. They see Christ and Mary also ascending into the Empyrean—the highest heaven. St Peter tests Dante on faith. St James examines Dante’s hope, which ends with Dante going temporarily blind. St John quizzes Dante’s charity. Adam answers some questions for Dante before Peter rants against the corrupt Popes.
Beatrice and Dante continue up to the Ninth Heaven, Primum Mobile. Beatrice gives a prophecy about the salvation of the world. Dante sees an amazing model of light representing the nine Angelic Intelligences orbiting a single brilliant Point. Beatrice explains why the whole physical universe can’t follow the same model. Dante hears Beatrice tell the Creation story and talk about the number of angels.
Finally, they ascend to the Tenth Heaven, the Empyrean. Dante first sees a representation of the Celestial Rose, an image of a river of gold. Then, when his sight is ready, he sees the real Rose. Beatrice goes back to her throne within the Rose, but St Bernard shows up to give Dante the tour. Dante sees all that sit in their ranks within the Rose, including countless innocent children.
Finally, Bernard helps Dante get up to God by praying to Mary. When Mary give her approving smile, Dante ascends to the top of the dome of light and see a representation of God Himself.
The Divine Comedy, including Paradiso, was written in fourteenth century Italy. Medieval Florence, Dante’s home town, has long been in political turmoil. There was fighting between the Blacks (those that supported the Pope) and the Whites (those that didn’t support him). Dante was not a supporter of the Pope, so when Pope Boniface VIII schemed to help the Blacks take over Florence in a military coup, Dante and his family was exiled.
So, the entire Divine Comedy was very much a story that reflected the time it was written in. It was about political vengeance. But it was also about a man who found himself far from home (in exile and having a middle-age crisis, perhaps?), trying to find purpose in his life again.
It’s a good idea to note, also, that these epic poems were originally written in Italian. At a time that Italy was is such turmoil, Dante’s writing actually helped unify the Italian language. Dante used many interesting words, here, and several Italian words were actually introduced to Italian through the Divine Comedy, some of which words are still used in the modern language in Italy. This is just like how “catch a cold” and “it’s all Greek to me” are common English expressions that came from Shakespeare. In fact, we can say that Dante is Italian’s Shakespeare, both men considered among the greatest poets/writers for their language.
As we said, Dante was the Shakespeare of Italian literature, a major Italian poet of the middle ages. The Divine comedy is often considered the greatest literary work in the Italian language; it’s even considered a masterpiece of world literature.
Dante was born in Florence, Italy, around the mid-to-late 1600s. His family was part of the Whites, a political faction. During a time of political turmoil, Dante actually fought in the Battle of Campaldino.
All in all, Dante was an extraordinarily philosophical and religious man, a man that stood behind his political and moral convictions, no matter who didn’t agree with him.
As with all the parts of the Divine Comedy, Dante is the hero of the journey. While other characters come and go, Dante is always there.
In Paradiso, we get a lot less of Dante than before.
In Inferno, Dante was a shaking, scared little man that too often sympathized with the sinners instead of understanding God’s justice. In Purgatorio, Dante show compassion and learns humility.
Now, in Paradiso, Dante is constantly amazed and full of questions. However, we don’t hear the poet ask most of those questions because everyone he talks to can simply read his thoughts. All too often, whoever he’s with simply state’s Dante’s doubts and then answers them.
That said, Dante is a man full of questions in this part. He asks more things that he did in the two previous parts put together, and his curiosity is never left unsatisfied.
Another interesting aspect of Dante’s character in Paradiso is that he is continually overwhelmed by everything he sees and hears. Several times he’s either blinded or nearly blinded by the lights of the Heavenly Spheres. He even faints once because of some singing!
As Dante progresses through the spheres of Heaven, his mortal mind and body must adjust to the awesome sights and sounds of the blessed souls that live there. In the final Canto, when Dante finally sees a representation of God, he is so overwhelmed that his mind and memory literally fall apart.
We know Beatrice from the previous part of the Divine Comedy. As far as anyone can tell, Beatrice was a real person in Dante’s life, even though he says they met only twice. After just those two meetings, though, Dante was completely in love with her.
So, in Heaven, Beatrice was he guide. She also acted like his teacher, explaining things to him, telling him where to go and when to stop. She even had to give the poet permission to speak, whether to ask a question or to give and answer to someone else’s question.
The most noteworthy quality of Beatrice, though, is her beauty. With every new level of heaven, she becomes even more beautiful and radiant.
In fact, for the first few sphere’s Beatrice refuses to smile toward Dante, saying that he won’t be able to bear her smile yet. It’s not until he’s been further purified is she able to smile in his presence.
Here are a few major themes you can expect as you read through Dante’s Paradiso.
As we saw above, beauty is a major part of the higher spheres of Heaven. Beatrice is described as very beautiful from the start, but Dante sees her becoming even more radiant as they ascend to higher and higher Spheres. In fact, there are times when Dante only realizes that they’re ascending when he sees her beauty increase.
In fact the lights and beauty of Heaven is all too much for Dante at the beginning. His mortal eyes must go through a special process in order to be able to see the brighter sights of the highest spheres, and his mortal ears have to adjust to the beautiful songs the blessed souls sing.
On each sphere Dante and Beatrice visit, a lot of attention is given to the love that God has for them. The souls of each sphere reflect God’s love, and that is truer the higher they get.
In the universe according to Dante, Love from God is what gives the universe its order. Also, Love was what caused God to create the universe in the first place.
Everything in Heaven is held to a very specific order. Certain souls are put on certain spheres, and no one complains, wanting to be some place higher. Everyone accepts the order God has put on Heaven, and they accept their place in God’s Will.
Dante even gets to see a representation of the order of the angels, see as a bright point of light surrounded by nine spinning rings. Beatrice explains why the angels have this order, but the rest of the physical universe has a different structure.
We saw a lot of corruption in Inferno, as we saw corrupt clergy and rulers being punished down there. Then we saw some corruption in Purgatory, as some souls that were minor sinners were being put through different kinds of discipline in order to make it to Heaven.
Now, in Heaven, we still see the effects of corruption. Several times the corruption of different cities, rulers, or clergy comes up in conversation in Paradiso. The climax of the discussion on corruption is probably when St Peter turns red, and then the whole sky turns red, too, representing the bloodguilt of the corrupt Popes of Dante’s time.
Again and again, emphasis is put in trust in God. Several times Dante wonders about something, perhaps why certain souls are in certain spheres of Heaven, why certain souls are even allowed in heaven (like the two “pagan” kings in the eye of the great eagle), or how certain souls can be ranked in a certain way (like the children in the Rose). Each time the answer is the same: we can’t understand the thoughts of God. We must trust him and work in harmony with His will.
Dante is flying towards Heaven, which Dante also calls Paradise, Beatrice by his side. He sees such amazing things along the way that he supposes any mortal who sees such amazing things would instantly forget them upon returning to earth. Dante, on the other hand, is going to record all he sees in his poetry. In doing so, he’s going to put down in writing something no other human can see, something truly epic, even for a poet. Dante even prays for help in completing such a task.
It’s about noon, according to the position of the sun. Beatrice looks directly into the sun, and Dante follows suit. Beatrice can look directly on the sun because she’s not mortal; Dante can do it because, though a mortal, he’s close enough to Heaven to do things normal humans can’t, even if he can do them for only a short amount of time. Dante is overwhelmed by the intense light of the sun, describing it like a second sun inside the first, or, ‘day added to day.’
When Dante can’t handle the brightness anymore, he looks over at Beatrice, and just seeing her makes him feel spiritually transformed, like he himself is becoming a god. Needless to say, he feels pretty good. As they continue to fly upward, Dante hears the music of the spheres of heaven around him.
Dante starts to wonder where all the light and music around him come from. Beatrice tells him that his mind isn’t quite opened yet. They really are flying up to Heaven, and not on earth, zipping like lightning through the air and fire of the heavens.
Dante isn’t satisfied with that answer. He can’t see how his body, heavier than air and fire, can be flying up to heaven. Beatrice sighs, explaining that everything in the universe is arranged according to what God wants. God puts some things closer to Him and others farther away. All things move because they desire to be closer to God. That same desire, like an unstoppable force, is forcing Dante up to Heaven.
Many people on Earth, Beatrice explains, ignore their calling to be with God and stray from the right path.
But, Beatrice adds, Dante shouldn’t be surprised that he’s flying. It would be stranger to still be on Earth after being purified in Purgatory, which is exactly what happened to Dante in the last book.
Dante now takes a moment to warn his readers that what he records throughout the rest of Paradiso is so amazing and unbelievable that the unwary reader should proceed with caution. He compares the reader to a sailor steering so far out to sea that he won’t be able to see land again.
Beatrice looks up and suddenly the pair has reached this beautiful place, which Beatrice calls the “fist star.” We call is the moon. Dante compares it to a diamond shining in the sun’s light, or to the reflection of light on water.
Dante is amazed that he and Beatrice can enter the moon without displacing any mass. He also asks Beatrice why there are dark marks along the moon’s surface. Beatrice tells him that human senses can’t understand the moon’s spot, not like they really are. She asks Dante why he thinks the spots are there.
Dante comes up with his theory—that some areas of the moon contain denser matter than others, making them darker. Beatrice says that is wrong. She explains that different matter can’t come from the same force. She also observes that denser matter would mean that, in other areas of the moon, matter would be less dense. But, when there is an eclipse, the sun never shines through the moon.
In other words, Beatrice says that Dante doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Beatrice than gives the real explanation. She says that each “star” (remember, even the moon is called a star by Beatrice) receives power from the uppermost Heaven. Also, each star has an angel, or “intelligence” inside that causes it to spin at its proper speed. Stars that are farther from Earth (and closer to God) spin faster and shine brighter.
So Dante was wrong because he assumed things out in Heaven were random. But, Beatrice explains, nothing from God is random. Everything has its proper place in relation to God.
Dante accepts that he was completely wrong about the moon, but just as soon as he accepts what Beatrice has said, he’s hit with some new vision, or many faces in front of him. They’re faint and ghostly, like a reflection. Dante turns around, thinking they really are reflections, the faces actually behind him, but there’s nothing there. He looks over at Beatrice, confused, and she explains.
She tells him that the faces aren’t reflections at all, but “true substances” of souls. These ghostly images really hover in front of him. These souls are in the lowest sphere of heaven because they’ve broken vows. Beatrice then gives the floor to the souls, encouraging Dante to listen and learn a lesson in being truthful.
Dante turns to one of the souls and asks her story. She says that she was once a virgin and a nun. She is Piccarda, a character from a story Dante heard in Purgatory. She’s Forese Donati’s sister. She says that she’s on this lowest, slowest sphere because she broke her vows in life.
Piccarda claims to be happy in this sphere, glad to have a place in God’s order, but Dante asks if she’s really happy, not wanting to go higher. Piccarda smiles and says no, all the souls here are perfectly happy to be in the proper place according to God’s will. If she wanted more, her will would be battling God’s will, causing chaos. Happiness, Piccarda says, comes from conforming ones will to God’s will.
Dante understands, realizing that every sphere (even this lowest one) is Paradise, and even though God’s grace is not equal everywhere, everyone in Heaven is happy. He also wants to know more about Piccarda’s story. She explains that she became a nun and took vows to remain a virgin all her life. Later, some violent men kidnapped her and forced her to marry a nobleman. Another woman on the moon suffered a similar fate, Empress Constance of Sicily.
Piccarda is so happy she sings a hymn and vanishes. Dante turns to Beatrice, temporarily blinded by the light.
As Dante hesitates, blinded by the light, the poet describes what goes on in his mind—a moment of indecision. He’s paralyzed between two doubts, and, although his mouth stays shut, Beatrice is able to discern his questions. She addresses his doubts without him even having to say anything.
Beatrice voices Dante’s doubts. First, if one wants to do what’s right, how can he/she be punished by the actions of others? Second, Plato argued that, at death, the soul returns to the star that most affected them in life. If so, don’t the stars, in a way, control man, negating free will?
Beatrice answers the second doubt first. She explains that none of the souls Dante has seen or is going to see in Heaven are really here. They are actually in the highest heaven with God, a place called the Empyrean. They are only manifest here because Dante’s puny mind can’t understand anything else. As for Plato’s theory, Beatrice basically says it’s wrong.
Now for Dante’s first doubt. Beatrice explains that Piccarda allowed the abduction to happen, meaning she shares the guilt. What if, Beatrice asks, it’s impossible to fight back? The thing is, even if someone breaks a vow, or sins in some other way, in order to save his life, this is still a sin.
Dante has a big aha moment and thanks Beatrice for explaining all this to him. He ends the Canto with yet another question, though. Can someone who has broken a vow atone for that sin with good works?
Beatrice answers Dante’s new question this way: God’s greatest gift to man is Free Will. When you make a vow to God, you are essentially giving up your Free Will.
The church, on the other hand, reserves the right to release people from their vows. She explains that a vow has two parts—the content (what the vow says) and the binding part. The church can change the less important part, just not the binding part.
In the end, the lesson is that vows should be taken seriously. Beatrice singles out Christians and warns them not to make a rash promise, since this will not erase sins. Read the bible and obey the Pope. She admonishes men not to stray like “sheep gone mad” the leadings of the church.
Beatrice then looks up to the light, turning to the highest heaven, Empyrean, and she and Dante suddenly start to fly upwards to the Second Heaven, the Sphere of Mercury.
As they fly, Dante is fascinated by Beatrice’s beauty. He can also see the thousand inhabitants of Second Heaven gathering around the two travelers, like fish in a pool that are attracted to whatever new thing that comes into sight.
One soul in particular step forward and praises the poet, encouraging him to ask whatever question he has. Dante says that he can see this soul’s light, but he wants to know his/her “real heavenly rank.”
The soul glows brighter than before. Starting in the next Canto, the soul begins an Explanation.
The soul starts talking about the history of Rome, how Emperor Constantine went against God’s will when he moved the capital of the Roman Empire out of Rome to Byzantium. Hundreds of years later, the soul recounts, he, Justinian, started to rule Rome, and he started reforming Roman laws.
Justinian was converted to Christianity by Pope Agapetus. God helped Justinian to make the Codex Justinanus—a listing of laws that were clear, simple, and free of Pagan ideals. This lead to a time of peace.
But there was still hypocrisy, Justinian explains to Dante. Many people claimed to support the Roman Church, secretly opposing it.
Justinian goes back a recounts some of the highlights of Roman history. From the days of the Rpublic to Julius Caesar, and then to Augustus, who brought some peace to the Empire. Finally, he gets to Tiberius, under whose rule, Christ was crucified, leading to the salvation of all humanity. So, Justinian contends, whoever opposes Rome is opposing God’s will.
He goes on to talk about the inhabitants of this Second Sphere of Heaven, Mercury. All the souls here are righteous, he says. They just had too much love for fame. All the souls here rejoice in what God has given them because it is so just.
Justinian also talks about a soul named Romeo, who worked hard to get his daughters married to royal men. In time, all his daughters became queens, and Romeo became a famous man at court. He was later falsely accused of stealing, however. He was so offended that he left. His boss begged him to come back, but it was too late. Romeo’s companions should have appreciated him more, Justinian says.
When Justinian finishes his story, he breaks into a Latin Hymn. He and all the other souls sing and dance and spin away, leaving Dante with more questions left unanswered.
Beatrice can read the question right out of his mind, through, and she states it for all of us. If God willed Christ to come and die on earth, why were the Jews punished for taking part in the crucifixion?
Beatrice explains this way: Adam sinned and plunged all of mankind into sin. No man could go to heaven until Christ came to earth and died. On earth, he was both God and man. So his death way both just (the human part dying) and unjust (the godly part dying). So Christ’s death pleased God because now man was redeemed and could come into Heaven again. But he was angry with the Jews for killing his son.
Beatrice now anticipates Dante’s next question: Why did Christ have to die in the first place? She explains that man was once very much like God, immortal and free. But when Adam sinned, he showed that he was unworthy of such a position. Adam’s true sin was believing the serpent and wanting to be like God. It was a sin of pride. No man could just make up from that sin alone. When Christ came, he paid for man’s sins.
Beatrice reiterates that all things that come from God are immortal. Dante wonders about other creations, like water, air, and fire. Why are they immortal? Beatrice answers that this things weren’t created directly by God. They were made by Angels, so they aren’t immortal, like man. God made both the human soul and the human body, so both are immortal. That means that a man’s death must be followed by a resurrection.
Before Christ, Dante tells us, people thought the third planet (Venus) sent rays of love to earth. As Dante and Beatrice fly upward yet again, he suspects he is going to Venus because of how Beatrice’s beauty grows even more. On Venus, Dante sees many wheeling lights, dancing in complete harmony, a lovely hymn rising from them.
One soul breaks away and approaches Dante. Dante asks who the soul is.
The soul reveals that he was a king of France (who we know as Charles Martel, although the soul never gives his name). The souls give a prophecy about is still-living brother, Robert. Robert is greedy, and the soul warns him about his coming fate.
This leads to yet another question from Dante: How can a bad son come from a good father? Martel answers that God looks out for the well-being of all of mankind. This interest is called Providence.
Martel then asks Dante a question: Is it good that men as citizens on earth? Dante says yes. Martel answers with another question: If people were not different, with different skills and duties, could the earth have citizens. Dante says no.
So, Martel contends, the earth needs variety, men of different kinds and with different skills. If Nature were to simply be allowed it’s course, all sons would be just like their fathers. It is Providence that makes some men different. The world messes up when it tries to make man who were born priests in to warriors.
Dante tells Martel’s wife, Clemence, that their bloodline is destined to have bad luck. Even thought Martel has instructed Dante to keep silent about this, he hints to the problems that are to come. Then Martel turns toward the sun, and Dante praises him for doing it.
Now another soul comes up to Dante. She gets brighter—a signal that she wants to talk to Dante. Dante asks her to speak. She starts in about her birthplace, Romano. She calls herself Cunizza and declares that she is a lover, and that is why she is here on Venus. But Cunizza doesn’t mind being in such a low place in Heaven, since now all her love is toward God.
Cunizza turns to another soul standing close by, saying that this man is and will be famous for centuries to come. She then jumps into prophecy mode and proclaims judgment on the people of March of Treviso. She says she has the right to give such judgment, since the Angels of Venus shine down with judgment from God.
Cunizza then leaves, joining the other souls in a dance. The friend, the once Cunizza said was famous, is left standing with Dante. Dante tells the soul the he can read the poet’s mind because he is one of God’s blessed.
This new souls also starts talking about his birthplace, describing Marseilles, France. He identifies himself as Folco, and he was also a great lover in life. But, like Cunizza, he says he’s glad God put him here on Venus.
Then Folco turns to another soul standing beside him, who is brighter than all the others. Folco says this is Rahab, the souls with the “highest rank” in Venus. She lived before Christ, so when she died, she spent time in Hell. When Christ came down to take souls up to Heaven, though, Rahab was the first soul he grabbed.
Yes, this is obviously the Rahab from the bible. Since she was a prostitute in life (according to the book of Joshua), it makes sense she would be here in Venus.
Folco now talks about Dante’s city, Florence. He says that Lucifer himself founded the city. Priests there get greedy. That’s why the church studies its own decrees and not just the Gospels. But, Folco promises, Florence will soon be rid of its corrupt priests.
Dante tells us to lift our eyes to see the stars—which he calls God’s art. The orbit of each planet must be perfectly precise, or the universe wouldn’t be in such harmony. Without even realizing it, Dante begins to rise to the Fourth Heaven, the sphere of the sun. He looks over to see that Beatrice flies so fast that the make to the sun in only a moment.
Ah, the sun. Dante says the souls here are so beautiful, he can’t even describe them. Beatrice tells him to thank God for letting him be here. While Dante is praying, he is overwhelmed by God. Here in the sun, Dante sees many souls around him and Beatrice, like a big circle—or “crown”—surrounding them. He compares them to the halo of light sometimes visible around the moon at night. These souls start to sing and dance in a great circle, Dante and Beatrice in the middle. After they dance around three times, the whole group stops, silent, and one souls steps forward.
The soul tells Dante that he shines with the light of God. He then sense’s Dante’s question: Who are all these dancing souls?
The souls says that he’s Thomas of Aquinas, of the Dominican order. Some of the other dancers are Albert of Cologne, Gratian, Peter Lombard, King Solomon, Dionysius the Areopagite, Paulus Orosius, Boethius, St Isidore of Seville, Venerable Richard of St Victor, and Siger de Brabant.
Now that everybody’s been introduced, the souls start singing and dancing again.
Dante looks down and sees mortals studying various subjects, like law philosophy, medicine, theology, and politics. St Thomas speaks up again. Again, he reads Dante’s mind. He says that Providence decreed that the Church needed two figures, like “princes”, to guide them along the right path. They would be St Francis and St Dominic, who are seraphic and cherubic in quality.
Thomas decides to highlight St Francis.
St Francis was born in Assisi. He ran away from home when he was young to be with his lovers—a woman most people feared as if she were Death. But Francis saw her differently and he married her.
This woman had been married before, but later she was scorned. She then followed Christ and stuck with him on the cross, even when Mary abadndoned him.
This woman’s name? Lady Poverty. St Francis took a vow of poverty. Because of their love, even other (Bernard) was inspired to give up all his possession. Francis took his wife to Pope Innocent. Innocent was so impressed that he gave Francis a special Papal Seal to start a new religious order, now called the Franciscans.
Later, while many poor were becoming Franciscans, the second Pope, Honorius III, gave the order a papal bull.
After Francis had gone to Egypt and back—to try and convert a Muslim sultan to Christianity—he returned to Italy to preach about Christ. He got another honor from Christ himself—the Stigmata, meaning he bore puncture wounds on his palms for two years.
When Francis was about to die, he ensured that he would have a simple funeral, to stay true to his vow of poverty in life. When he died, he was promptly taken to heaven.
St Thomas now turns his attention to his own order, the Dominicans. He praises St Dominic for imitating St Francis. But today, Dominic’s order has grown greedy. This upsets Thomas.
St Thomas finishes with his stories, and the souls start to dance around again. Outside that circle of dancing souls, another circle forms, dancing around in the opposite direction. Dante sees these circles like a double rainbow. From this new circle, another soul steps forward, and he wants to talk about the other “prince” mentioned before—St Dominic.
Dominic was born in Calaroga. As soon as he was conceived in his mother’s womb, his forceful mind gave his mother prophetic powers. She saw a black and white dog holding a torch in his mouth, which would be used to light the world on fire.
Because of the dream, his parents called him Dominic, which is Latin for “God’s own.” Dominic also believed that to follow Christ you have to be poor.
Dominic grew up to be a gifted teacher. He even attempted to oversee the Church when it was being neglected by the clergy. He asked the Pope for permission to preach against heresy, which he did.
Dominic was very successful with his mission to rid the Church of the greatest heretics. The souls that has been telling this story says that both Francis and Dominic were like wheels on the chariot of the Church. But the Franciscans have started to roll backwards, straying from their faith.
After all this, the speak finally identifies himself as St Bonaventure. He names off the souls of the second ring of dancers: Illuminato da Rieti and Augustine of Assisi, Hugh of St. Victor, Peter of Spain, Peter Book-Devourer, Nathan the prophet, Anselm, St. John Chrysostom, Aelius Donatus, Rabanus Maurus, and Abbott Joachim of Flora.
Bonaventure finishes his speech complimenting Thomas for speaking so well of St Francis.
Dante asks the readers to open their minds and imagine the fifteen brightest stars of the two rings, how they dance and form lovely constellations. These stars sing praises to the Holy Trinity.
Thomas stops dancing. He perceives Dante’s new unspoken question: Why can’t anyone have the wisdom like that of King Solomon?
Dante’s way of thinking is summarized by Thomas like this: God’s wisdom can only be possessed by those He creates directly. God created directly only Adam and Christ. So how did Solomon’s wisdom come to match or be greater than theirs?
Thomas explains that all immortals and mortal are only reflections of the idea that God created. From there, the angelic intelligences act like mirrors, reflecting God’s light. The rest of creation (like plants and animals) is like wax, make a very imperfect reflection of God’s Light.
Whenever God creates something directly, it perfectly reflects Him, which is what happens with Adam and Christ. So, with that background, Thomas is ready to explains about Solomon’s wisdom.
St Thomas reviews Solomon’s story. God came to the young king in a dread, promising him the answer to any question he might ask. Solomon asked, not for some intellectually answer, asked for the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Thomas calls this “kingly prudence” and explains that Solomon showed amazing wisdom and “matchless vision” to ask for something so practical.
St Thomas tells Dante, warning him, that this story should be carefully considered. He says that jumping to conclusions and forming hasty opinions is wrong. Just to drive home the point, Thomas gives several examples of scholars who have jumped to opinions and been proven wrong, like Parmenides, Melissus, Bryson, Sabellius, Arius, Dame Bertha, and Master Martin.
Lastly, St Thomas ends with a warning to men to not judge too quickly. Things often appear bad but turn out to be good, and vice versa.
St Thomas quiets down now, and Beatrice speaks up. She says that Dante need to understand “the root of still another truth” first. She asks the spirits to tell Dante is the light the souls emit will last forever.
The ring of spirits hear Beatrice speak and shout out joyfully, singing about the Trinity again.
As the souls start their dancing again, one spirit speaks up from the group—King Solomon’s. He says that as long as they stay in heaven, they will have this light. How bright they are depends on how much they love God. Their love depends on how much they can see, and their eyesight is measured by how much Grace they get from God. On Judgment Day, Solomon says, they will get their bodies back, and then they’ll be complete. They will have more light because God will love them more.
The other dancing souls agree so much that they all shout “Amen,” eager to one day have their bodies back.
Dante looks towards the horizon and sees a light growing even brighter out there. Beatrice follows Dante’s gaze and suddenly becomes even brighter and more beautiful than ever before. She’s so beautiful now that Dante has trouble describing her.
When Dante finally manages to look away from Beatrice, he notices that he is no longer in the sun. The earth below his feet is red. This new sphere they’ve appeared in is Mars, the Fifth Heaven. Dante immediately thanks God for allowing him to ascend to this new sphere. Two bright rays of light in the sky show that God has accepted his thanks. The rays meet and intersect to form the Cross of Christ.
He describes how souls are traveling around, like streaks of light, singing a hymn that Dante doesn’t recognize. In fact, he thinks it may be impossible to describe the hymn.
Now Beatrice’s eyes have grown even more lovely at this higher place.
All the singing stops at God’s will. A new souls comes out from the cross of light, like a shooting star. That souls greets Dante in Latin.
This soul is obviously very happy to see Dante, but his speech is so high and heavenly that the poet can’t really understand him. This souls says that he was expecting Dante’s coming because he read about the poet’s journey in the “great volume” of God’s Providence. He thanks Beatrice for her part in fulfilling the prophecy.
Just as we’ve seen again and again, this soul anticipates Dante’s questions. He even addresses why Dante is so quiet (which he is compared to the two previous legs of this journey), saying that, since Dante knows the souls can read his thoughts, he doesn’t see the need in voicing his questions. The soul confirms what we’ve already gathered: all the souls in heaven can look into the mirror of God’s Providence and see the thoughts of men before the speak them.
This soul wants to hear Dante speak his concerns, though.
Dante looks at Beatrice for permission to speak. She smiles at him even before he asks the question.
Dante thanks the soul for his fatherly greeting. Dante asks the soul’s name. This souls says he is Dante’s “root,” so he’s obviously family, but he doesn’t give an actually name.
The soul starts talking about Florence—the good old Florence that this soul knew in life, a city that was calm and tranquil, “sober and chaste.” Everything was balanced in Florence in those days. There were weddings and celebrations. All the families had children. Women didn’t paint their faces up just to walk outside, and men were men, wearing fine men’s clothing. Florence even rivaled Rome!
The soul says that it was in that Florence that he was born. He says he is both Christian and Cacciaguida (which is most likely his name). He says that he came here “from martyrdom,” which means he earned a place in Heaven by fighting in the crusades.
Dante turns back to the soul, who called himself Cacciaguida, and addresses him with great respect. He calls the soul “my father” and then starts in with more questions. Who were Cacciaguida’s ancestors? When did he live? Who followed St John at that time?
Cacciaguida gets brighter just hearing the questions. But he skips this question for now and moves on to Dante’s second questions first. He says that he was born 530 revolutions of Mars after Christ died. That’s about 1091 in earth years.
Next, the soul goes back to the first question, to talk about his, as well as Dante’s, ancestors. He only says that they were born when the competitors in the annual horse race enter the field. He doesn’t say any more about that, but only falls silent, instead.
Now Cacciaguida moves on to the third question. He says that Florence has changed over time. He says that the pure-blood Florentines were virtuous, but interracial mixing brought evil to Florence.
The soul then lists off some families that were good and virtuous in old Forence. He says that most were good at that time, but now there is corruption. He says that in those days, “there was nothing to have caused [Florence] sorrow.”
There’s something that’s been bugging Dante for a while now, and it’s time to bring it up. Beatrice reads his thoughts and tells him to bring up what’s bothering him. So Dante turns back to Cacciaguida. Dante points out that Cassiaguida is at a very high point in Heaven, and so he can see over all of time. Back in Hell and Purgatory, Virgil told the poet that his destiny would be difficult. Dante wants to know what he’ll be facing in the future, so he can be mentally ready for the challenge.
Instead of speaking in riddles, like usual, Cacciaguida answers in plain words. He says that, even when God foretells something is going to happen, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will. There is still choice.
Cacciaguida says that Dante will be forced into exhile, away from Florence. He will have to leave everything he loves and serve under others. What about good company? None for Dante. His fellow Exiles will be “insane” and “profane.” In fact, it would be best for Dante to endure alone. He will find some friends along the way, and he would outlive this punishment.
Dante now declares that he is ready to come up against whatever happens. He will stay strong and continue to write his poetry. Cacciaguida says that, one day, people will see his words as correct, and they will honor Dante for his writing.
Beatrice jumps in there to add that she has the ear of “Him who lightens ever unjust hurt.” So if God is on Beatrice’s side, and she’s on Dante’s side, what does the poet have to worry about? Dante looks into Beatrice’s eyes and sees nothing but love for him in them. He suddenly feels calm and at peace.
Beatrice breaks up the moment when she says that Cacciaguida has something else to say.
It seems the soul wants to introduce Dante to some of the other souls that form the image of the cross in the sky. Cacciaguida promises that their famous names would be great to include in the poem.
Cacciaguida introduces them one-by-one: Joshua, Maccabeus, Charlemagne, Roland, William of Orange, Renouard, Duke Geoffrey of, and Robert Guiscard.
Cacciaguida disappears into the lights, and his voice joins the others in song.
When Dante turns back to Beatrice, she is glowing even more brightly than before, meaning they’re about to ascend to the next sphere. Suddenly, Dante’s vision is filled with white Jupiter.
Dante quickly notices that this is a place of artists because the glowing souls here are forming letters and words with their bodies. Dante imagines them as flocks of birds forming letter in the sky. Each time the souls come together to form new words, they stay still for only a second before they separate and regroup to form new letters.
Dante prays for help in remembering the previous letters and understand the overall message. Suddenly he gets it: DILIGITE IUSTITIAM, QUI IUDICATIS TERRAM. The Latin means, “Love justice, you who judge the earth.”
After the Latin message is finished, the souls descend and arrange themselves. Dante notices that what was once the “M” of the Latin message above has now become an eagle’s head. Other lights rush to finish the form and the eagle suddenly has a body.
Because the eagle is both the symbol of Rome and justice, Dante thanks God that such justice is here in Heaven. However, Dante is reminded by this that Rome also has many false and greedy Pope. He says the Rome has “produced the smoke that dims [God’s] rays.” Dante starts to complain more about the corrupt church.
The eagle now has a body. Each souls is blindingly bright to Dante, so all of them together is surely too much.
The eagle starts to talk, saying that it is honored here in Heaven, in such a just and merciful place. The eagle’s voice comes from all the souls that make it up, but to Dante, the voices seem to blend in to make one large voice. Dante asks the eagle to answer a question, knowing it can read his mind and anticipate the question. The eagle flaps its wings and starts to speak.
It says that “God could no imprint His power into all the universe without His Word remaining in infinite excess of such a vessel.” Translation: God’s goodness and power is so great that the whole universe isn’t big enough to hold it all. We cannot see all of God’s Justice.
Now eagle anticipates Dante’s question: If a man is born in a place far away from Christianity, and he never learns about Christ, how is it just for God to send him to Hell upon death? The eagle says that it is just, even if we can’t understand why.
The eagle drives the point home by saying that no one will ever ascend to heaven without believing in Christ. But he also condemns the so-called Christian rulers that shout “Christ! Christ!” but are really false. He says that the pagans will be forgiven before they will.
Now the eagle names off some of such rulers: Albert of Austria, who will ruin Bohemian lands; Philip the Fair, who counterfeits coin and will die by a wild boar; several English and Scottish kings, who cannot keep within their countries’ borders but constantly fight each other; Ferdinando IV of Castile, who will be famous because of his being lazy; Wenceslaus IV, who will be famous being lustful; Charles of Anjou, who will do a 1000x more bad deeds than good ones; Fredrick II of Aragon, who will commit so many sins that they must be written in shorthand in God’s book; Dionysius of Portugal; Hakaam V of Norway; and Stephen Urosh II of Serbia. Wow. Quite the list.
The eagle stops talking now, but the individual souls that make up the eagle start to sing. When the singing dies down, the souls start to murmur about something. The murmuring gets louder and travels up the eagle’s throat. Suddenly, a big voice, like thunder, erupts from the eagle’s mouth.
The eagle tells Dante to look him in the eye. The eagle’s eye is made up of six of the highest souls in this sphere of Heaven. The eagle introduced each of these six souls.
First, there’s King David. Through his psalms, David discovered that he had to accept the inspiration from God’s spirit. Because of that decision, he was saved.
Next, there is Roman emperor Trajan, who at first refused to follow Christ and learned the consequences of that refusal. Later, he lived a virtuous life and gained great reward.
Third, we have Hezekiah, who learned that he was going to die from Isaiah the prophet. The king wept and prayed to God from mercy, and God rewarded him with fifteen more years of life.
Fourth, there is Constantine. He made a generous donation to the church, with all the best intentions, but that money made the clerics greedy for cash and started many of the corruptions Dante now sees in the church. But that wasn’t Constantine’s fault, so he’s in heaven now.
Soul number five is William II of Hauteville. He was known as a good and just ruler. But the men that took the thrown after him were corrupt. Again, this wasn’t William’s fault, so he’s in heaven.
The sixth soul is Rpheus, the Trojan warrior in Virgil’s Auneid. Even though he died a pagan, he was saved. Why? God works in mysterious ways.
Dante must doubt what he’s heard, because he blurts our, “Can such things be?”
The lights that make up the great eagle start to flash, and the bird comments on what Dante is really thinking. Dante believes what the eagle is say. He just doesn’t see how they could be.
The eagle says that God’s will is won because it would be won. Basically, God does as he pleases. So certain men died as Pagans, but God restored them to their bodies so they could repent and then die again, allowing them to get to Heaven. This is what happened in the case of Trajan. Ripheus, died before Christ’s coming, but he was so virtuous that God gave him a vision of the future, in which Christianity already existed. Based on that look into the future, Ripheus converted and went to Heaven after he died.
Dante now sees how God does the unexpected at time. His ways are impossible to understand. On the other hand, Dante sees that not knowing what God will do has its advantages. We all have to be virtuous, not knowing if we’ll make it to Heaven.
Dante turns to look at Beatrice, who is not smiling. In fact, she says that, if she were to smile, Dante would be turned to ask. Dante’s mortal body can’t take the brilliance of God’s love here, this high in Heaven. She tells Dante that they are now in the Seventh Heaven.
Dante looks into Beatrice’s eyes and see a reflection of Saturn. There is a golden ladder reach up into the sky, the top fading into the distance. Thousands and thousands of souls are climbing this ladder.
Dante turns to see one soul that is glowing so bright that the poet assumes he wants to speak. He looks over at Beatrice to see if it’s okay to speak. Beatrice give the signal, and the poet starts in with his questions.
First, Dante asks why this souls has stepped up so close. Also, why is this sphere so silent, with no music like the others?
The souls answers the second question first. He says that its quiet on this sphere because Dante is here. If there were to sing, they’d destroy Dante’s ears.
Now, as for the first question, the souls says that he descended the golden ladder just to meet Dante. But, to make things clear, this doesn’t mean that this one soul is greater than any other. He’s only following God’s will like everyone else.
Dante says he understand the it was God’s will, but why this soul in particular? The spirit cuts Dante off and starts spinning at super speed. The spinning makes the soul brighter. The soul answers by says that God blessed him with this honor, but the poet should stop trying to see into the mind of God.
Dante, now humbled, asks the soul who he is.
The souls says the he is from Catria, the monastery of Sante Croce di Forte Avellana. There, he served God and lived on a diet of only vegetables and olive juice. This monastery used to produce many virtuous souls, but now it is “barren.” The soul finally identifies himself as St Peter Damian.
Damian continues: He was once called “Peter the Sinner.” He later had to leave the monastery to become the Pope. Peter criticizes the Popes of today, saying that once upon a time the Popes were lean and simple. Now they’re fat and rich.
Peter Damian’s words have called the other souls’ attentions. They gather around to listen, and when Peter stops talking, they all cry out in agreement. Dante is so overwhelmed by this one, unified cry, that he drops to the ground, fainting.
When Dante wakes up again, Beatrice is taking care of him like a loving mother. She explains that the souls up this high are very zealous. Dante simply can’t take them as well as those he’s seen before.
Turn towards the spirits again, Beatrice instructs Dante. There are people Dante should meet.
Dante turns to look at the crowd, which for him are like an army of little suns. Then the brightest of the souls steps forward and starts to speak. He says that if Dante could see how much love they all have for him, he wouldn’t hesitate to ask whatever question he has in mind. Then the soul starts to tell his story.
He came from a town named Cassino, and he was the first one to carry God’s message up to Montecassino. That means this soul is St Benedict.
St Benedict turns back toward all the other souls and says that, here, everyone is a deep thinker who meditated on God when alive. He then introduces some of the others, like Macarius and Romualadus
Dante now perks up with a question: Can he see St Benedict’s “human face”?
Benedict simply says no, but he does add that his desire will be fulfilled on the highest sphere of Heaven. Just mentioning Empyrean causes Benedict to fall into lecture mode, talking about how everything is put in it’s proper place. He says that the highest sphere is at the top of the golden ladder. He also says that Jacob (from the book of Genesis of the bible) could see this ladder, and he saw up to the top of the ladder. But now, no person on Earth is able to climb it.
Benedict takes a moment to criticize the Benedictine order and the Church in general, saying that the clerics are “mad with greed.”
Finished and quiet, Benedict now steps back into the crowd of souls. They all disappear at once.
Dante and Beatrice now alone again, Beatrice makes a sign and they begin to ascend to the Eighth Heaven.
On the way up, Beatrice tells Dante that, this high up in Heaven, he must have “vision clear and keen.” She tells him to look down and see all that he’s already overcome. Then he will be able to enter the highest spheres.
When Dante does look down, he is overwhelmed by the even spheres he’s already passed. With a new perspective, he looks back up at Beatrice, ready to continue.
Welcome to the Eighth Heaven, the sphere of the fixed stars!
There, Beatrice stands, facing the east, waiting for the sun. A brightness creeps over the horizon, warning that the sun is coming. Beatrice proclaims, her face burning with happiness, “there you see the troops of the triumphant Christ!”
Dante follows Beatrice’s gaze and looks toward dawn. He then sees Christ himself as the sun. The poet is nearly blinded by the light.
Beatrice points out that Dante’s seeing a power that no person can resist, the powerful being that opened a path between Heaven and Earth, which was impossible after Adam’s fall. Dante is absolutely amazed by this, and he can feel his mind opening like “lightning breaking from a cloud.”
Beatrice tells Dante that, now that he’s seen the glory of Christ, he can now bear to see her smile. She smiles at him and he is blown away, unable to even describe how he feels at seeing her.
At the same time, Dante understands that he is standing on dangerous ground. Even though he is adapting to be able to take the glories of the higher Heavens, he is easily overwhelmed by everything around him.
Beatrice points Dante toward a blooming garden near them. This garden soaks up the light of Christ-as-the-sun. Beatrice says that the rose in the garden represents God’s Word. Also, the lilies have such a sweet smell that they actually guide men to Heaven.
So Dante looks upon this garden, noticing the flowered meadow. He can see the “troops of Christ,” in flames, throughout the garden, but now he can’t see Christ himself because his eyes are too weak.
Dante does see Mary, the rose, coming down as a living star. A ring of light surrounds her. All the souls in the garden are singing. At the final climax of the song, the souls all sing out the name “Mary”.
At this, the Virgin Mary ascends again, going to towards Christ, to the ninth Heaven. She disappears into the distance. All the souls in the garden raise their hands, as if trying to grab hold of Christ, and they start to sing again.
Dante takes a moment to praise the souls that have been saved. He ponders on the wonderful position these souls will forever have. Dante even sings a hymn for St Peter, who holds the keys to Heaven.
Now that both Christ and Mary have re-ascended into the Highest Heaven, Beatrice asks the souls to allow Dante to taste the supper of Christ. The souls form circles around fixed poles and start to dance. One of the souls comes forward and actually dances around Beatrice, singing. After three circles, he stops, and Beatrice identifies him at the “great man to whom our Lord bequeathed the keys.” That means he must be St Peter!
Beatrice asks Peter to test Dante so he can continue to these heist parts of Heaven. Dante gets ready for his test, preparing his mind for puzzling questions.
So Peter looks at Dante and asks: what is faith? Dante looks to Beatrice for permission to speak, and when he has it, he quotes St Paul in saying, “Faith is the substance of the things we hope for and is the evidence of things not seen.”
Peter accepts the answer but comes back with a follow-up. Why is faith substance and evidence.
Dante says that faith tells about the “deep things… hidden from sight below.” In other words, faith tells of things that cannot be seen with mortal eyes, like Heaven.
Peter seems to approve of these answers. But now for a new question: Where do faith come from?
Dante jumps in with the answer: The inspiration of the Holy Ghost. That’s exactly what caused the bible to be written.
Peter fires back: Why do you think of the bible of God’s Word?
Dante says that miracles like the ones recorded in the Bible had to have been created. They certainly aren’t natural, so they had to be from God.
Peter now tries to pull a fast one. If the miracles of the bible, he says, are only recorded in the bible, how can they also be proof that the bible is inspired?
Dante catches on. Faith, he says, is the only answer.
That answer must have been the right one, because everyone suddenly breaks into song again. Peter compliments Dante on his answers. The final question now: Peter asks what Dante believes. Dante says that he believes in one God in Heaven, full of love. He believes in the Holy Trinity.
At this Peter actually give Dante a hug. He then starts to sing and dance around the poet in circles.
Dante thinks about the poem he’s supposed to write about all his experiences. If he finishes the poem, and if he lives through the hard times ahead for him, he’d love to come back to Florence and be recognized as a poet to the people of the city. They’d give him a laurel leaf, the symbol of a poet.
But for now, Dante is happy with the crown Peter gives him for his faith.
Another souls comes up to Dante. Beatrice takes notice of this new souls and tells Dante that he really needs to meet him. He’s famous for going to Galicia, which mean he’s none other than St James!
Peter and James greet each other in a very loving way, with a big hug. Then they both turn towards Dante, brilliant as ever.
Beatrice steps in and asks James to examine Dante, just as Peter did. James will test Dante about hope, since he is the one character of the bible often associated with hope. And so the questions start: What is hope? Does Dante have it? Where does it come from?
Suddenly, Beatrice answers for Dante. She says that, without a doubt, Dante has hope. The fact that he’s allowed to see Heaven while still alive is proof of that.
Dante finishes answering by saying that hope is “the certain expectation of future glory.” It comes from God’s grace, as seen in the psalms and the book of the bible that James himself wrote.
James lights up with approval at the answers. He then asks what Dante hopes for.
Dante says he hopes to get into Heaven. He also wants Isaiah’s words to come true: “the elect shall wear a double garment in their land.”
All the souls burst into song, and a new soul steps up, shining so brightly that Dante compares the light to a “happy maiden entering the dance to honor the new bride.”
Beatrice introduces this new soul as the man who “was asked from on the Cross to serve in the great task.” This is St John, whom Jesus asked to take care of his mother after he died.
Dante struggles to look at John’s brightness, but can’t. John rebukes him, asking why the poet tries to see something that he cannot. John clarifies something: some people think John has his body up in Heaven, but he doesn’t. Only Christ and Mary can have their bodies up in heaven. He asks Dante to make that clear to others when he returns to Earth.
When John stops speaking, everyone falls silent. In horror, Dante realizes something when he looks over at Beatrice. He can’t see! He’s been blinded completely.
Everything to Dante is darkness. He hears John telling him to keep talking and wait for his vision to come back. John promises that this will happen. The poet just has to be patient.
Dante realizes that this is another test. He say he desires God’s love, just like everyone else. Even though he’s blind, Dante can feel that John is annoyed with his answer. John barks that Dante must be more specific than that. He has to say who exactly directed his love towards God.
Dante says that he lead himself to God’s love. Whenever Dante tries to be virtuous, he turns toward God. He says that anyone good can’t help but love God. Dante even back up his argument with quotes from the Old Testament and even John’s Gospel.
John confirms what Dante said, but he’s still not satisfied. He asks for whatever other reason why he loves God.
Now Dante is catching on. He says he loves God because God created the world, because Christ came to Earth and died for man, and because He gives Dante hope of reaching Heaven.
Now this must be the answer John was wanting, because everyone starts singing again. During the song, Dante sees a flash of light. Then more light. Finally, he sees so much light that he’s almost blinded again by all the brightness. Then he realizes that he can see better in the light than before.
Now the poet sees that a fourth soul has joined the group. Beatrice is able to discern Dante’s confusion, and she introduces this new visitor as Adam, the first man.
Amazed, Dante begs Adam to speak. He even demand why the soul won’t just answer his unspoken questions.
Adam says that he can indeed read Dante’s thoughts. Seeing what the poet is thinking because he reads the man’s thoughts from the reflection of God’s mind. Adam then verbalizes Dante’s questions: How long ago was Adam in Eden? How long did he stay there? What caused God’s anger? What language did Adam speak?
Adam starts with the third question first. He says that God wasn’t angry because he ate a certain fruit, but because he went passed the boundary that God had set for him. He says that he hasn’t seen Eden for 6498 years. The language he spoke has been dead for a very long time. Adam says that nothing man makes lasts a long time, not even language.
Adam finally answers that he lived in Eden for seven hours.
After Adam finishes talking, all the souls start to sing. The five visiting souls all shine brightly, until Peter changes from white to red. The singing stops, as if everyone is as surprised as Dante.
Peter explains that everyone will be changing color soon, as well. Peter explains why. Apparently the pope, Boniface III is doing such a bad job as Pope that Peter and all his realm is becoming red like blood. Suddenly the sky also turns red and even Beatrice blushes like a schoolgirl.
Peter talks about the previous Popes, the ones that did what was right. But things have changed, and Peter rants about the Popes that are like wolves in disguise, full of greed.
Soon, Peter promises, Providence will bring vengeance upon the corrupt Popes. He says that Dante will defend the truth with his poetry, bringing honest words to man that will shed light on the corruption of the Church.
Souls start to fly up to the Empyrean, disappearing from Dante’s sight. Beatrice tells him to look down instead of up, down at the earth. Now, he can see below with even greater detail. When he looks back up at Beatrice, he notices that she is now even more beautiful than before. That means they are ascending again, now to the highest sphere of all of Heaven.
When they land, Beatrice says that this place is the root of the entire universe. It’s called the Pimum Mobile. This part of Heaven is literally in God’s Mind, so light and love are everywhere around. This is also the fastest-spinning sphere. Time began here.
Beatrice starts to speak against the sins of mankind. She talks about their greed, especially, which causes them to sin and lose any chance of going to Heaven. The gift of Free Will, she says, has been misused, leading to loss of innocence.
She says that the root of the problem has to do with too much freedom. “On earth no king holds sway,” she says, and when no one is ruling, sin abounds. She says that things will be straightened out within the next thousand years.
Dante sees something reflected in Beatrice’s eyes, like a candles reflected in each eye. He looks deeper to make sure the reflections are really there. Finally, he figures out what he’s seeing and he turns around to see the source of light.
There is a point of light, brighter than anything before, so bright that Dante is nearly blinded again. This light is bigger than any star, with circles of flame around it. The rings that are closer spin the fastest. Also, the ring closest to the light is the purest and brightest.
This image is awesome, to be sure. Dante just isn’t sure what it is. Beatrice steps in and explains that all Nature depends on this thing. Dante is amazed be the figure, and he asks why the whole universe doesn’t have this same form.
Beatrice smiles at that and says that Dante doesn’t really understand, but that’s okay. Really, the physical universe is very different from this image. The spheres of Heaven, for example are bigger the more power they have. Therefore, the highest sphere is the largest because it is closer to God and more powerful. In the image with the rings, however, each ring represents a different angelic intelligence. The smallest ring is closest to the middle, so it is the smallest, but it still a has the most power.
Dante finally gets it.
Beatrice finishes talking and the nine rings around the light get brighter. The rings are full of sparks of light, and they all start singing toward the middle.
Beatrice names the rings, starting from the middle: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
Beatrice continues by saying that Dionysius the scholar was famous for telling about the hierarchy of the angels. Gregory argued against what Dionysius said, but when Gregory died and went to Heaven, he saw that Dionysius was right. Apparently, St Peter himself gave Dionysius the information.
Dante studies the model while Beatrice silently waits. When Beatrice speaks, it’s to answer his questions before he can even ask them.
She starts by telling the creation story, a story she knows well because she has seen the Mind of God.
She says that God didn’t create the universe in order to get more goodness, but to see his own love reflected in others. This act of love also marked the beginning of time.
God first made three materials: pure form, pure matter, and a combination of form and matter. These three things came into existence at the same time. Everything else, including the angels, came from these materials.
St Jerome said that the angels were created long before the universe, but Beatrice says that he was wrong. Angel came into existence right at the beginning of the creation of the universe.
Beatrice continues the narrative. After the creation, one of the angels, Lucifer, started a rebellion against God. As a result, they were cast down to the earth. The rest of the angels were happy because of this, and they continued to work to keep the universe in motion.
Lucifer was thrown from Heaven because of his pride, while all the other angels were happy to wait, knowing that God had given them a purpose. God rewarded the good angels with greater knowledge. They work to keep the universe running.
The good angels, Beatrice says, never look away from God because the love Him so perfectly.
Now Beatrice uses this opportunity to rail against teachers on Earth that are too proud to look for truth and divinity. Philosophers these days, she says, care more about appearances than they truth they should be seeking and teaching. Other twist the Holy Scriptures to fit what they want to say, teaching nothing but nonsense.
One popular idea is that the eclipse that brought darkness to the world was a special lunar eclipse. Beatrice says that’s not right at all. It wasn’t only dark in Jerusalem, after all, but all around the world.
People, according to Beatrice, often accept false stories as truth, but their ignorance is no excuse. In fact, she says that believing a false story, even out of ignorance, is still sin. Christ didn’t tell his followers to preach with false stories. They were supposed to use the truth as their true weapon.
But how many angels are there? Beatrice answers that there are an infinite number of angels because they represent the infinite number of ways God can express hi love.
Dante looks back to Earth and imagine being there. He describes all the constellations of the stars before and during sunrise.
But Dante isn’t seeing any stars disappear at dawn. He’s actually seeing the figure of light disappear as he and Beatrice travel up to the Tenth Heaven—the Empyrean. When the point of light and the rings disappear completely, Dante looks back up at Beatrice, who is brighter and more beautiful than ever. In fact, she is so stunning, Dante admits that he can’t capture such beauty with language.
Beatrice speaks up and tells Dante that they’ve reached the highest heaven, the one of pure light and love. Here, there are both angels and souls from Earth. Also, Dante will be able to see Mary in both body and soul, in her complete form.
Dante is enveloped in pure light, light that seems tangible and alive. Empyrean is completely blinding to Dante’s sight. Beatrice tells the poet that this is how the Empyrean welcomes all souls, with a blinding, purifying light. Dante realizes that he’s floating, and when he regains his sight, he sees something amazing.
Dante feels like he’s in the middle of a painting. He sees a river of red-gold light flowing, flower-riddled banks on each side. Sparks rise and fall from the golden water.
The poet hears Beatrice speaking again. She says that she approves of his desire to see all this. She tells him to drink from the river. Apparently, everything Dante is seeing now is but a shadow of the reality, and he must learn to see better to witness Heaven in all its true glory.
Dante goes to the river, hoping that a drink will make him able to see better. As he gets closer, the river changes before him. The straight river becomes round, and the flowers on the banks become angels and human souls, all sitting in Heaven’s court.
Dante is blown away by all that he’s seeing. Above all this is a dome of light, illuminating everything.
As Dante gazes up at the light, he sees that it is actually all coming from one point, that is, the light comes from God himself. This single ray of light from God powers the entire universe. At the top of the dome, Dante sees a reflection of the entire Celestial Rose and all its hosts. When he looks back down at the Rose itself, his vision improves so must that he can see everything, whether far or near.
Beatrice leads Dante into the Rose. She talks about how many people are here and how full the city is. Dante sees an empty seat with a crown above it. Beatrice explains that the seat is reserved for Henry VIII of Luxembourg. She even rants against Italy for driving Henry away and against Pope Clement V for betraying the king.
Dante is inside the Rose now, and he sees all kinds of blessed spirits. Others are angels, flying around and singing dressed in white with wings of gold. The hosts here are from the Old Testament or the New, and they all look up at the single star above, showering them with the threefold light of God.
Dante is absolutely amazed at all of this. He’s pretty much speechless. He just looks around, mouth hanging open, taking it all in. He’s focused on trying to memorize every detail so he can record it all later.
Finally, Dante looks back at Beatrice and starts in with the doubts. But when he looks at where Beatrice should be, there is an Elder there, instead. The poet asks where his beloved Beatrice is. The elder says that she has returned to her seat among the thrones of the Rose. But she summoned the elder to answer Dante’s questions.
Instead of asking something, Dante immediately looks up to try and find her. Finally, he sees Beatrice up there in every detail. He prays to her, thanking her for everything, and she smiles down at him for but a moment before she turns her face again to God above.
The elder suggests that Dante keep looking around the garden because it will help him improve his sight even more, so that he’ll be ready to see all of God’s glory above. The elder introduces himself as Bernard.
Dante is amazed to finally meet St Bernard.
Bernard tells Dante to look back at the rose and see every detail, at the rows and rows, until he get to Queen of Heaven, Mary.
Dante does as he’s told, and his eyes travel up the Rose, seeing all the souls there like bright points. Finally, he sees one soul brighter than the rest, with angels flying around, singing hymns. This is Mary, and she is so lovely that when she smiles at the angels that pass, the poet is speechless again.
Even as Bernard gazes up at Mary, he starts talking to Dante, listing a few of the names of the people sitting in the Rose. He names off Mary, Eve, Rachel, and Beatrice in one rank, and then Sarah, Rebecca, Judith, and Ruth.
Below these women are more Hebrew women. But mostly the Rose is divided in half. On one side are those that believed in Christ before he came, and on the other side are those that believed in him after Christ came.
For example, opposite Eve sits St John the Baptist, and then St Francis, St Benedict, and Augustine. Below all of them, another major portion of the Rose is dedicated to children or have been saved for their innocence.
A doubt comes up into Dante’s mind, and Bernard, being the Saint that he is, reads the doubt right away. He tells Dante to be silent and listen. Dante wonders about the ranks of the children. How can they have any kind of rank if they are all kids, with all innocence and no control over their own free will.
Bernard reassures Dante that no one just happens upon a place and rank in Heaven. God has reasons from everything that happens here, including the ranking of the children. The problems is that human minds can’t handle such thoughts.
He explains that a child’s innocence is a guarantee for his salvation, but now, after Christ, boys must be circumcised and baptized to by saved, otherwise he’ll be sent to Limbo.
Bernard tells Dante to look upon May’s face. Around her all these angels fly. They start to sing a hymn, “Ave Maria.” One angel stands out to Dante and he asks who he is. Bernard says that he is Gabriel, the angel that first told Mary of her miraculous pregnancy.
Bernard continues, talking about the souls sitting in the seats above. These he calls the “roots of this Rose.” We see Adam, St Peter, St John the Evangelist, Moses, Anna (Mary’s mother), and Lucia.
Now, Bernard says, it’s time to look upon God, but first he must pray to Mary in Dante’s behalf. So Bernard does just that: he starts to pray.
Bernard’s prayer praises Mary and Christ. He then appeals to her compassion, saying that no one can really get any higher than this without her grace. He talks about Dante, who has travel through all the Divine Realms, and who wants to go even higher.
Suddenly everyone in Heaven joins in the same prayer—even Beatrice—to beg for mercy upon Dante.
Mary looks down at Dante and smiles. They start to rise to the Light above.
Bernard tells Dante to look up, but the poet is already gazing upwards. But everything is just overwhelming to him. The light he sees is so bright that his mind nearly goes blank.
In the light, he thinks he sees an image of a book, holding all the information of the universe. But his memory of the event is shaky at best. This light is so beautiful that he never wants to leave it.
He gazes at God, and the image he imagine before now becomes three circles, all three different colors. As he continues to look, the second circle does something strange. Dante says that the circle “within itself and colored like itself, to me seemed painted with our effigy.” But what does that mean, and is it even possible?
As he puzzles on the things he is seeing, there is a new flash of light and he gets all understanding. So what is it? We don’t know, because with that burst of understanding, Dante’s memory is blown, and he has nothing but his own free will, in complete harmony with God.
Vin sits in her room, studying the stacks of papers she has there. OreSeur is there with her, and they talk about the religious beliefs of the kandra. They practically worship the Contract above all else, the agreement they have with their human masters. Meanwhile, Elend discovers that some of the wells in Luthadel are being poisoned by someone, probably one of the armies outside. Vin talks to Dockson, and in the conversation, she determines that he can’t be the spy. She and OreSeur turn their attentions toward a new option: Demoux, a captain of the guard.
Elend works to find a way to convince the assembly to name him king again, while Vin wants to tell him her theory about Demoux. Tindwyle gets upset with Sazed when she finds out that he helped write part of the laws Elend put into place a year ago. Vin leaves the group and finds Zane, who immediately attacks her. She thinks he wants to spar, like before, but the fight becomes aggressive and Vin must fight him to survive. Zane tells her that he was ordered to kill her and that this attack was a warning. There are also many refugees coming from the koloss army, on their way to seek refuge in Luthadel. After giving his two warnings, Zane leaves.
Vin tries on another custom-made dress. Tindwyl tells her that Elend has nearly learned as much as he can from her; he’ll now have to learn to be a good leader through experience. Elend prepares his armored escort and carriage to go and see Cett. Breeze decides not to go, since he and Cett have history, which would only make the situation worse. When Elend and Vin actually enter the keep Cett is staying in and talk to the man, they discover just how sincere he is. He doesn’t want his daughter back, trusting that Elend will take good care of her. Cett wants Elend to step down from the election for king, and in return he won’t have Elend killed when he is made king. They also talk about the fact that no atium was found in all of Luthadel. Finally, Cett dismisses the two.
Sazed wanders through warehouse full of refugees from the koloss attacks, trying to help and health where he can. Tindwyl comes in and talks to him. She wants to see what he’s found–the rubbings he’s been transcribing. Meanwhile, Breeze has been listening in on the conversation, soothing both people in a way that would make them more friendly to each other. He walks among the refugees, trying to sooth away bad emotions and make them feel better. Elend and Ham come in, and Elend wants to make sure all the people have the clothes they need. Later, Breeze goes into the keep and has a secret meeting with Clubs. Though they always seem to hate each other, they drink together and talk; they’ve struck up a strange companionship. Allrianne walks in and tries to steal Breeze away. Vin, watching from outside, discovers that Allrianne is a rioter, since she was rioting Breeze’s emotions. She and OreSeur then go to find Demoux, still certain that he is the kandra spy. They find him in a little meeting of the church of the Survivor. He can’t be a spy, Vin decides. Then who is?
Sazed and Tindwyl sit together in the study, pouring over the rubbings, searching their metalminds for any references to the deepness or Hero of Ages. It’s morning, meaning they’ve been at it all night long. Tindwyl knows the course of actions Sazed takes is different from what the keepers want, but she is willing to stay with him and study these things further. Meanwhile, Elend and Ham walk along the wall. Ham comments that Elend looks more kingly than ever. As they walk, Elend announces that he has an idea to help Luthadel’s situation.
Vin, Elend, and the rest of the crew arrive early for the day of the election for king. Before the voting begins, Vin, trying to figure out what Elend has up his sleeve, discovers that he has joined the church of the Savior, in an effort to curry votes from the skaa members of the assembly. Suddenly, a groups of allomancers attack Elend and Cett. Vin manages to fight off the men, getting badly hurt in the process. After the fighting, the vote is moved to a more secure location, and the assembly members each announce their vote. Surprisingly, Penrod, a nobleman from the assembly is chosen the new king. Elend hands over his crown and leaves.
Straff Venture is angry that Zane sent a group of his allomancers to their deaths while Vin still lives. Zane promises that he has a plan to take care of her. Meanwhile, Straff meets with Penrod, the new king of Luthadel. Penrod is planning to give Luthadel to Straff, opening the gates to him and handing over the kingship. Straff, on the other hand, doesn’t want to enter the city while Vin still lives. Later, Zane tells Straff that he has been poisoned again. Zane leaves, and Straff is forced to ride hard back into the camp so his mistress can make him another antidote tea.
Vin awakes to see that Elend is with her. He tells her that he is not king, and he reports that OreSeur, who was badly hurt in the fight, is currently digesting a new set of bones. Vin feels that Elend is now scared of her somehow because of the way she fought those allomancers. Vin goes back to sleep, and awakes to find Zane there. He accuses her, saying that she could have killed those attackers easily had she not been so distracted with protecting Elend and other innocents. Later, OreSeur visits Vin, in another dog’s body. They talk more about the Contract that binds all kandra. Vin uses brass and duralumin to push strongly on OreSeur’s emotions. Even though he at first does not react at all, with enough force, Vin hurts him very badly, and she felt like she were controlling him for a moment. She apologizes for hurting OreSeur, and he leaves to get some rest. Vin promise to never tell anyone what she’s discovered about kandra.
Sazed and Tindwyl continue to talk about the things they are learning. Something doesn’t make sense about the rubbings, written by Kwaan. It seems that Kwaan did not trust Alendi, but he also knew Alendi was a good man. But if Kwaan knew Alendi was good, why did he have his nephew, Rashek, to mislead or even kill Alendi? Elend comes in and asks for advice. After a discussion, he decides that being king isn’t about a title, but about doing something to help others. He returns to his closet and retrieves the white suite, the one made for a king.
Elend is hard at work, helping the people. He’s sending men out to dismantle the wooden parts of keeps and houses to use as firewood. The many refugees are cold and hungry, and he wants to help them. Someone comes with news that one of the gates under the river has been broken. That is how someone has been getting into the city and poisoning the wells. Also, other reports say that an Inquisitor is lurking about the city. Elend decides to go out and talk to Jastes, with the koloss army, himself. He rides out and meets Jastes, unable to make any kind of deal. On the way out, Elend manages to fight and kill one smaller koloss, earning the sword and pouch as his own. He looks into the pouch and discovers how Jastes is controlling the koloss. He’s paying them.
Vin sees Elend, now returned from his meet with the koloss army, inured and resting. Zanes comes and says that Cett was the one that planed the attack at the voting ceremony. Vin gets angry and decides to attack Cett. Zane and Vin attack the keep that Cett has been staying at in Luthadel. Together, they kill guards and hazekillers. Fueled by rage, Vin kills quickly, working her way to Cett’s room. She realizes that Zane is using atium, while she has none, and yet she’s killing just as easily as he is. They finally get to Cett’s room, where he is with his son. Vin fights them at first, but when she discovers that neither of them is an allomancer and that Cett doesn’t have a single allomancer with him, she leaves them behind, injured and scared.
The crew sees that Cett’s army is now leaving, a result of Vin’s attack on his keep the night before. Elend does not know why Vin attacked Cett like that. Some in the crew think she’s crazy, but Elend just sees her as determined. They also discover that the “coins” Jastes has been using to control the koloss are fake, wooden coins painted gold. Elend goes to find Vin, who is hiding in the city. He finds her with OreSeur’s help. She says she must leave Luthadel and go north, to Terris. Elend says he trust her to do the right thing. They have one large bead of atium, and Vin gives it to OreSeur to hold for her.
Sazed and Tindwyl compare notes, studying the rubbing and other references they’ve managed to find. Tindwyl admits that she doesn’t believe in these prophecies, her interest in them being purely academic. Sazed, on the other hand, thinks Vin might actually be the next Hero of the Ages. While they talk, they discover that someone–or something–has torn a piece from one of the transcription pages. Vin comes in, while they try to figure out at what point were they both gone or occupied to not have seen an intruder going through their things. Vin asks Sazed how she can know if she’s in love. They talk about trust. After Vin leaves, Elend comes in and starts asking similar questions. Elend thinks he and Vin are too different to make a couple, but Sazed says that, to him, they are more alike than they think. After Elend leaves, Sazed realizes that Luthadel is going to fall soon; he needs to get both Elend and Vin out of the city before that happens.
Sazed calls a meeting with the members of the crew: Dockson, Breeze, Ham, and Clubs. He doesn’t invite Elend, Vin, or Spook. They talk about how the city is sure to fall. Straff apparently is in no hurry to take Luthadel. Instead, he’ll back off and let the koloss attack the city first. The koloss will win and enter the city, pillaging as they go. Then, with the koloss weakened and tired from the fight, Venture will ride in like a hero and save the city, defeating the koloss and taking Luthadel for himself. Sazed says that Elend and Vin need to get out of the city before these things happen. He wants Spook and Tindwyl to go with them. The rest of the group will have to stay and fight and die. Meanwhile, Vin feels she must follow the drumming she hears all the time. In Straff’s camp, Zane is attacked by his father’s men. He defeats them, but spares his father. He leaves, saying that tonight he will take Vin with him and leave Luthadel. He tells Straff that he should wait for the koloss to attack and then take the city.
Vin is in her room with OreSeur when Zane visits. He wants her to come with him, but she says she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave Elend. When Zane sees that she won’t go, he attacks her. They fight. When Zane starts to burn atium, Vin asks OreSeur for the large bead, a bead Zan had given her before. OreSeur doesn’t respond to her command. Vin discovers that OreSeur is not OreSeur. He is TenSoon, Zane’s kandra. Of course! There was no other spy. The bones they found were TenSoon’s and he had killed OreSeur! Zane corners Vin, but Vin uses a massive soothing to take control of OreSeur/TenSoon and attack Zane from behind. She then cuts the bead of atium fro TenSoon. But this is another trick. The bead is lead, with only a thin layer of atium. Soon, Vin is left helpless against a Mistborn killer with atium. Vin decides that Zane can see what she’s about to do, or, rather, what she plans on doing. If she attacks without thinking, though, she can, see in Zane’s reaction what she is going to do, only to change it at the last possible second. The trick works, and Vin defeats Zane. After Zane dies, she thanks OreSeur/TenSoon for helping her win. His contract is void, and he must return to his people. Vin goes to find Elend.
Elend is in his study when Vin comes in, bloody from her fight with Zane. She tells him that she killed him. He calls for Sazed, who comes to help with the wounds. While she is there, on the ground, she asks Sazed if he knows any wedding ceremonies. Of course, he knows hundreds. Vin asks which one is the shortest, and Sazed recalls one that only requires a declaration of love between the bride and groom before an ordained witness. Vin and Elend both say that they love each other, and Sazed declares them married. The wounds are clean, and Sazed sends Vin to get some rest. He also gives them a fake map to find the Well of Ascension. If the couple follows the map, they’ll be gone from Luthadel for a long time.
Elend and Vin prepare to ride out of the city. Tindwyl decides to stay in Luthadel. Spooks gets ready to go, and Allrianne will ride out, at Breeze’s insistence. So the four of them ride out, Vin quickly having to fight pursuers from Straff’s army. Once they are free, Allrianne breaks off to find her father’s army. Meanwhile, some of the crew watch as the escape, now sure of their own coming doom. Straff Venture hears of the escapes, but he has problems of his own now. He’s getting sick, which he knows is the result of poisoning from his son, Zane. He sends for his mistress, Amaranta, to fix him an antidote, but he discovers that she isn’t preparing what she normally does. She is actually killing, as she has for a long time. There never was any poison. Zane never tried to kill his father. But Amaranta, in her constant fixing of teas for Straff, has been causing him to become addicted to a rare drug. Without that drug, Straff will die. Straff, in a rage, kills Amaranta and then swallows as much powder from her medicine cabnet as he can, hoping to accidentally swallow some of the drug he needs before he loses consciousness.
Allrianne has made her way to her father’s camp, with the help of some bandits she’s tamed with her rioting. Her father, Cett, is not happy to see her. She convinces him to go back and join the winning party in the battle that is to come, although Cett promises that will likely be Straff. Meanwhile, Elend wakes up on the third morning out of Luthadel. He and Vin share a tent now, and he finds himself surprisingly comfortable on the hard ground, with Vin next to him. They get up and prepare the fire. It’s just the three of them: Elend, Vin, and Spook. Meanwhile Straff wakes up in bed. His men have taken care of him, and they’ve isolated the plant he needs to stay alive. When he hears that Vin and Elend have left the city, the men ask if they should attack now. Straff says no; they should pull back and wait for the koloss. Sazed meets with the others to plan a strategy for when the koloss attack. They plan to have a group of men at each gate. Saze and Tindwyl get a little time together, but then the warning drums begin to beat.
Vin is thinking about how the mist is staying later and later every day, instead of just disappearing with dawn, when she feels the pulsing of the mist spirit coming from Elend’s tent. She runs in, just in time to see the outline of that spirit lift some kind of knife to attack Elend, who is sleeping on the ground. She attacks the spirit and it disappears. Elend wakes up and never knows what was happening. She leaves Elend to sleep a little more and goes out to speak with Spook. He thinks someone is following them. Meanwhile, Sazed and the crew get ready, since it looks like the Koloss are about to attack. Men are at each gate, with one crewmember there to help. Straff sees that the koloss are attacking, but he tells his men to wait. Vin and Elend attack the camp of people that have been following them. It turns out to be Jastes. He’s lost control of the koloss, so he just left them. Elend kills Jastes because of his crimes against Luthadel. Vin discovers that the drumming sounds are getting softer, meaning the well is to the south, in Luthadel, and not in the Terris mountains.
Breeze works at his assigned gate, soothing soldiers by the dozen, helping them to be brave and fight well. The koloss pound at the door, while men atop the wall rain arrows down on the attackers. The koloss throw rocks up in return, smashing archers. Meanwhile, Vin runs towards Luthadel, burning pewter. She knows she will run out of pewter long before reaching Luthadel, and she wonders if the effect will kill her. But still she keeps running. Breeze and Clubs talk while the koloss continue to beat the gate. They blame themselves for being stupid enough to be in this mess, and they blame Kelsier for getting them into such responsibilities. Just then, the gates burst open. Meanwhile, Sazed gets word that Breeze’s gate had fallen. He doesn’t think he can really help. He notices that there is a crowd of skaa standing behind the defense force. When Sazed confronts them, telling them that they should flee to safety inside the city, the skaa answer that they are there to witness the fall of the koloss at the hands of Vin, who they are sure will return and make her appearance at Sazed’s gate. Then the gate breaks. Sazed musters his stored strength, growing in size, and faces the lead koloss, shouting for the men to fight. Vin, half collapsing and out of pewter, reaching a small village. At first she thinks to ask for pewter, but then she remembers how she used to travel with Kelsier on a path of metal bars in the ground. She asks for horseshoes, using them to “walk” by leaping, placing horseshoes ahead of her and pulling the ones behind to place further. In this way, she uses the horseshoes like stilts to help her travel in the air.
Outside Luthadel, Straff Venture sees that the koloss have now broken into the city gates. His men are ready to attack the koloss from the rear, but Straff decides to wait longer. Sazed, fighting the koloss, realizes that they need to get the gate closed again in order to survive. Using strength and weight, he manages to fight off the koloss and get the gate closed again. While getting a little break, a messenger comes and says that Tindwyl’s gate fell over an hour ago. Meanwhile, Clubs and Breeze are attacked and forced to run. Clubs is killed, while Breeze hides in a building. Dockson contemplates the root of their failure. He attacks a koloss, only to be cut down. Straff decides not to swoop in a save the city while the koloss are weak. Instead, he’d rather wait for the koloss to kill everyone and burn the city. Then Straff will move in. Meanwhile, Sazed fights on, wondering what happened to Tindwyl. He feels he is going to die, but then Vin arrives and starts killing koloss. Breeze is found by Ham and some others. They want to try to escape.
Vin continues killing koloss, several at a time. Sazed, outside Lord Penrod’s keep, begs the newly appointed king to go with them as they try to escape. Penrod insists on staying inside his keep. Vin continues to fight the koloss, but now she is almost completely out of pewter, steel, and almost every other metal. In desperation, to save some skaa from certain death, she super-soothes them, like she’d done to TenSoon, controlling the koloss with her mind. Sazed is standing outside Penrod’s keep when Vin walks up with koloss in tow. She orders Penrod to gather his men and put out the fires in Luthadel. Vin will take care of the koloss throughout the city. Later, Sazed finds Tindwyl’s dead body among the slain soldiers. He feels that all the faith, all the religions, he has always treasured is now useless. His life, he believes, has been a sham.
Straff wakes up and takes a sample of the drug he needs to stay alive. He gathers his men, expecting to be able to take the city now. But the koloss come out with the remaining soldiers of Luthadel. Vin jumps from among the koloss, sailing through the sky with a giant sword, cleaving Straff and his horse in half on impact. Allrianne watches these events from her father’s camp. She charges after them to help Luthadel’s army, forcing her father and his men to ride after her. Straff’s army surrenders, and Janarle, Straff’s general, is named the new Lord of the Venture army. Janarle, Penrod, and Cett all swear loyalty to Elend as their Emperor. Vin, needing rest, leaves Sazed in charge of the Empire until Elend can return to Luthadel.