Carrol Cox wrote:
>If I recall
correctly Dante called his poem a _Comedy_ because it was in
dialect rather than in Latin.
Actually, you recall it quite
wrong, Carrol. Comedy -- as a title -- derives, of course, from the
medieval rhetorical thoughts. There were three styles: tragic, comic/middle,
elegiac/humble. In his Epistle to Cangrande della Scala, Dante
explained why he called his work a Comedy: 1) it has a painful beginning (hell)
and a happy ending (heaven), which tragedy has not, 2) the style is "remissus et
humilis", that is the third one, from common life. But this latter point was NOT
linked to the fact that the work had been written in the vulgar language (Dante
himself had used it to write in the tragic style). Dante provides a new kind of
sublime style: it is not the ancient one (linked to the aulic language), but
it's sublime because it was inspired by the Christian view of the world, which
is willing to accept also the everyday aspects of reality. Everything has a
sense in a divinely-ordered world, from the lowest layers to the highest.
Dante wrote a book called
De Vulgari Eloquentia, eplaining how the intellectual minds all over
Italy should try to use a sort of "vulgaris illustris" in their works, for it
had the same dignity as Latin. Of course, always as a literary language. Dante
valued the vulgar very much. And the problem was that there was no "Italian
dialect" as such -- there were hundreds of them, as there are now. I am
bilingual as well -- Italian and Venetian dialect.