Purgatorio Canto 1




Dr. Scott Moore is associate professor of philosophy and Great Texts at Baylor University and specializes in philosophy and literature, hermeneutics and philosophy of religion, with interests in the writings of Iris Murdoch and Wendell Berry. He is the author of How to Burn a Goat: Farming with the Philosophers and The Limits of Liberal Democracy: Politics and Religion at the End of Modernity.

Questions for Reflection

  • Dante begins this new cantica with the image of a boat sailing on “better waters” (1.1). How does this contrast with the seafaring imagery in Inferno 1?
  • Dante pays a lot of attention in canto 1 to the sky: its colors, the light of the planets, the presence of stars. How does this attention contrast with Inferno? What might be the significance of this detail for understanding how different Purgatory is from hell?
  • The first person that Dante and Virgil encounter in Purgatory is Cato of Utica. Why is Cato such a surprising figure to encounter in Purgatory? Does Cato’s presence change our understanding of Inferno at all?
  • Dante describes Cato’s appearance using iconography traditionally used for Moses. What might Dante be trying to tell us by doing so?
  • Why does Virgil’s invocation of Cato’s wife Marcia not move Cato (1.78-90)? Does this imply a callousness toward the damned or is there something more going on in this scene?
  • Why does Virgil wipe Dante’s face (1.124-129)? Is this an image of resurrection? Why would Virgil then gird Dante with a “humble reed”? Why might humility be necessary for the climb up Mount Purgatory?


  • Dr. Scott Moore
  • Baylor University
  • Run Time 9:19