Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hannibal analysis - part 3: Hannibal and Clarice represent Dante and Beatrice


Dante and Beatrice, by Henry Holiday. Dante (standing at far right) looks longingly at Beatrice (in white) passing by with friend Lady Vanna (red) along the Arno River in Florence. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Dante and Beatrice (painting)' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

Beatrice di Folco Portinari (1266–1290) was a Florentine woman and the principal inspiration for Dante Alighieri's La Vita Nuova. Beatrice also appears as Dante's guide in The Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia) in the last book, Paradise, and in the last four canti (parts) of Purgatory. Being the incarnation of beatific love, as her name implies, it is Beatrice who leads into the beatific vision.

In Hannibal, part of the conversation that takes place between Hannibal Lecter and the Pazzis (after the showing of the opera Vide Cor Meum), has Allegra Pazzi saying to Lecter ('Dr. Fell'), with regard to the content of the opera, "Dr. Fell, do you believe that a man can become so obsessed with a woman from a single encounter?" Lecter responds, "Could he daily feel a stab of hunger for her and find nourishment in the very sight of her? I think so. But would she see through the bars of his plight and ache for him?" The fundamental romantic metaphor at work in the movie Hannibal is that Lecter represents Dante, and Clarice Starling represents his beloved, Beatrice (note the common '-rice'/'-ice' ending of the two names, Beatrice and Clarice). The fragment of conversation quoted above refers to the fact that Hannibal's obsession with Clarice began at the moment of their very first encounter, in The Silence of the Lambs (the prequel to Hannibal). Subsequent to this, Lecter encountered Starling an additional three times (in The Silence of the Lambs). (All four encounters took place while Lecter was imprisoned).

In Christian theology, the beatific vision is the eternal and direct visual perception of God enjoyed by those who are in heaven, imparting supreme happiness or blessedness. While humans' understanding of God while alive is indirect (mediation/prayer, not actually looking at Him), the beatific vision is direct (immediate, visual), or literally, seeing God. In other words, the beatific vision means a soul is actually looking at God, as is, viewing Him without any sort of censorship like that found in the biblical book of Isaiah. Furthermore, seeing God in the beatific vision does not take the viewer's life.[a]

Hannibal Lecter believes that if he gets close enough to Clarice, who represents Beatrice, then he will experience the beatific vision.

a. Wikipedia, 'Beatific vision'. Web, n.d. URL =


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