Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Figure of Beatrice: A Study in Dante” as Want to Read:
The Figure of Beatrice:  A Study in Dante
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Figure of Beatrice: A Study in Dante

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  89 ratings  ·  18 reviews
One of the most ambitious essays in the interpretation of Dante our time has seen...his interpretation of the role of Beatrice is a subtle and individual one. Charles Williams was one of the finest-not to mention one of the most unusual-theologians of the twentieth century. His mysticism is palpable-the unseen world interpenetrates ours at every point, and spiritual exchan ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Apocryphile Press (first published 1943)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Figure of Beatrice, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Figure of Beatrice

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Sylvain Reynard
My friend, Katherine Picton, highly recommended this book.
James
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In a class of its own as Dante criticism, by an author in a class of his own. Anyone expecting him to be like C. S. Lewis or Tolkien, is in for a shock - and a very enjoyable, thought-provoking & memorable shock at that. Those who have read Dorothy Sayers' translation of Dante will have come across something of him at second hand, but there is no substitute for Williams' own Dante criticism. This book is part theology, part literature, part commentary, and wholly brilliant. Read this book.
Maria Elisabeth
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This is a must read for everyone studying Dante and for those that aren't, you could probably get something out of it anyways (as I learned a lot from the sections on the Vita Nuova and the Convivio without having read those works.) But it would make more sense to start reading Dante first, because, y'know, Dante's awesome. And I have The Figure of Beatrice to thank - it increased my love of Dante SO MUCH.

You wouldn't expect that a study of a seven hundred year old poem could be that releva
...more
J. Alfred
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most difficult books I've ever read, but wholly worth it: it's packed with meaning. For instance,

The wild and savage forest of chaotic vegetable affirmations has been fossilized into the fixed pattern of perverted voluntary affirmations. The circles of hell contain what is left of the images after the good of intellect has been deliberately drawn away.

Sheesh. And yet the prose is without false complexity and academic jargon.
If you love Dante, this book will help you love and
...more
Timothy Lawrence
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The immediate suggestion, put forward elsewhere, which coincides with that canzone, is that what Dante sees is the glory of Beatrice as she is 'in heaven' — that is, as God chose her, unfallen, original; or (if better) redeemed; but at least, either way, celestial. What he sees is something real. It is not 'realer' than the actual Beatrice who, no doubt, had many serious faults, but it is as real. Both Beatrices are aspects of one Beatrice."

I really appreciate Williams' commentary on Dante. He
...more
Ben McFarland
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One story recounted in The Fellowship is that Dorothy Sayers was inspired to translate the Divine Comedy (into a really good translation) by the enthusiasm of Charles Williams, the weirdest Inkling. I was intrigued by this and looked up Williams's The Figure of Beatrice -- and I sensed the same inspiration.


Before, I was a typical Dante reader: I made it through the Inferno easily, then gave up on the first terrace of Purgatorio. I didn't get it, and I'd heard that Paradiso was even more obscure.
...more
Melissa
Jul 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Reading Williams is less an exercise in comprehending logical argument than in being immersed in a mood or being shown a spiritual attitude. He does a good job of following the image of Beatrice through all of Dante's work, illustrating how she is both entirely herself and at the same time the God-bearing image of Dante's entire body of work.

He touches on lots of other themes along the way, densely interweaving them until it's impossible to tell where one 'argument' begins and another ends.

Rec
...more
Rick Davis
Feb 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This was undoubtedly one of the most difficult books I've ever read. The only way I made it through was by making copious notes in the margins, and going very slowly. The book got quite a bit easier after Williams began discussing the Commedia, but this is probably because I am familiar with the Commedia and not with Dante's earlier works. This book was truly great on every level. As a commentary on Dante it was superb. As a work of philosophical theology, it was challenging. And it was, to my s ...more
Cherie
Oct 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Suddenly it all makes snse.
A.E. Reiff
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
PARADISO

To cut to the bone, or as Jeremiah says, lay open bone to the sun, Romantic love is of the intellect, not emotion. In its lesser forms it is an approach to woman and in its higher an approach to God. All denigration or debasement of woman is therefore insult to God, but as woman also represents body, denigration of the body is insult to God. These bodies are instrumentality of transport to ecstasy of love and of the divine, all intellectual ventures. If earlier reviews in Notes from the
...more
Philip
I have been struggling with this book all year, although it is probably more accurate to say struggling against this book. As always when I read Charles Williams, I am not especially confident that I understand him. However, I think I do understand Dante better.
Ian
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very deep study of Beatrice's place in Dante's work, with an emphasis on the mystical and the contemplative. At times doesn't feel so much a work of criticism as a literary product in its own right. Written somewhat obscurely in places.
Rene Bard
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I discovered this insightful book by way of C.S. Lewis's The Discarded Image where it was mentioned. I had wanted to read Dante's The Divine Comedy for some time, but felt stymied by its length and breadth and depth. As it turned out, I had stumbled on an excellent course of study starting with CSL's book on the Medieval World of Literature, then moving to Williams's The Figure of Beatrice: A Study in Dante which I read concurrently with Dante.

I wanted a way into Dante's poetry and Charles Will
...more
Alyssa Will
Sep 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'm going to need to read this again, as I'm sure it is an amazing book - if only I could understand it properly. Williams provides excellent insights on the role of Beatrice in all of Dante's works spanning his lifetime, but his vocabulary is his own ("in-Godding", "in-othering") and his language therefore is impenetrably abstruse at times. Four stars for Fabulous Book, the one star taken off for Deliberate Academic Obfuscation of Terms.

The basic concept was, that Beatrice qua Beatrice figures
...more
Stephen
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost everything I know about Charles Williams comes from reading his strange theological fiction (All Hallow's Eve, The Greater Trumps, War in Heaven, Descent into Hell). When he wasn't writing this odd sort of novel, this member of the Inklings was an editor at Oxford University Press. He had a lifelong study of Dante Alighieri. "The Figure of Beatrice" is not at all limited to Beatrice Portinari -- a woman who Dante loved chastely and from afar, even while he was married to another -- but ra ...more
Paul Kieniewicz
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mind-expanding
This book is not only for Dante scholars, but bit is rather an exposition of Williams' theology. It helps if you know a little about Charles Williams (one of the Inklings. The early chapters are particularly interesting where he lays out his view of what actually happened between Dante and Beatrice, how Beatrice transformed Dante's life. Also, how for a man, a woman can carry a high spiritual vision. Readers of Carl Jung will recognize the "anima projection", how the woman within us can have a t ...more
Gretchen
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Between this book and Dorothy Sayers' commentary, anyone with a significant interest in Dante should be satisfied. Williams' insights are profound in understanding of the text and of Christian ideas. While a bit dense for a casual reader who wants a basic understanding of Dante, this is a wonderful read for anyone seeking to gain deeper insights into the text and the world of Dante's works. The bulk of the content focuses around the Comedy, but Williams builds his case by also incorporating the ...more
Phillip
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read something like, 'Charles Williams was as ugly as a monkey but when he spoke about the work of Dante his countenance was transformed so that he became as beautiful as an angel.' Reading this book must give a taste of that experience to us.
Lydia Holt
rated it it was amazing
Dec 28, 2015
Arielle Reads
rated it it was amazing
Feb 13, 2017
Sue Bridgwater
rated it really liked it
Aug 02, 2016
Scott Rushing
rated it really liked it
Jul 07, 2014
Acton Northrop
rated it really liked it
Feb 04, 2013
Justina Hayden
rated it really liked it
Aug 14, 2009
Pat Miller
rated it really liked it
Feb 29, 2012
Jonathan
rated it it was amazing
Jul 11, 2015
PJ
rated it liked it
Sep 23, 2018
Franceskane
rated it really liked it
Feb 10, 2013
Larry Swain
rated it it was amazing
Dec 18, 2018
David
rated it it was amazing
Sep 22, 2012
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture
  • Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer
  • Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature
  • The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas
  • Judges: Such a Great Salvation
  • Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought
  • Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning
  • The Art Of Biblical Poetry
  • Beauty for Truth's Sake: The Re-Enchantment of Education
  • What I Learned in Narnia
  • Why God Won't Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty?
210 followers
Charles Walter Stansby Williams is probably best known, to those who have heard of him, as a leading member (albeit for a short time) of the Oxford literary group, the "Inklings", whose chief figures were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. He was, however, a figure of enormous interest in his own right: a prolific author of plays, fantasy novels (strikingly different in kind from those of his friends), ...more
“The image of a wood has appeared often enough in English verse. It has indeed appeared so often that it has gathered a good deal of verse into itself; so that it has become a great forest where, with long leagues of changing green between them, strange episodes of poetry have taken place. Thus in one part there are lovers of a midsummer night, or by day a duke and his followers, and in another men behind branches so that the wood seems moving, and in another a girl separated from her two lordly young brothers, and in another a poet listening to a nightingale but rather dreaming richly of the grand art than there exploring it, and there are other inhabitants, belonging even more closely to the wood, dryads, fairies, an enchanter's rout. The forest itself has different names in different tongues- Westermain, Arden, Birnam, Broceliande; and in places there are separate trees named, such as that on the outskirts against which a young Northern poet saw a spectral wanderer leaning, or, in the unexplored centre of which only rumours reach even poetry, Igdrasil of one myth, or the Trees of Knowledge and Life of another. So that indeed the whole earth seems to become this one enormous forest, and our longest and most stable civilizations are only clearings in the midst of it.” 27 likes
“The forest itself has different names in different tongues — Westermain, Arden, Birnam, Broceliande; and in places there are separate trees named, such as that on the outskirts against which a young Northern poet saw a spectral wanderer leaning, or, in the unexplored centre of which only rumours reach even poetry, Igdrasil of one myth, or the Trees of Knowledge and Life of another. So that indeed the whole earth seems to become this one enormous forest, and our longest and most stable civilizations are only clearings in the midst of it.” 0 likes
More quotes…