Dante & Marilyn

by Peter Y. Chou

for Professor John Freccero's
Dante's Paradiso class
Stanford University, Spring 2001

During Professor John Freccero's Dante lecture at Stanford (5-8-2001), he quoted Paradiso XV.34-36:

ché dentro a li occhi suoi ardeva un riso
tal, ch'io pensai co' miei toccar lo fondo
de la mia gloria e del mio paradiso

for in the smile that glowed within her eyes,
I thought that I— with mine— had touched the height
of both my blessedness and paradise.

(Allen Mandelbaum's translation)

He then said: “Here's your homework assignment. Go to the Saints Peter & Paul Church in San Francisco. You'll find on the church's facade a "gloria" quote from Dante's Paradiso. Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe there.”

Saints Peter & Paul Church The online Dante Concordance gave 22 citations of gloria: 2 in the Inferno,
7 in Purgatorio, and 13 in Paradiso. Which is the quote on the Church?

After some search, I located the church's website. Their web page on Church History contained the Dante quote:

A ribbon of verse from Dante's "Paradiso" spans the facade and translates:
"The glory of Him who moves all things penetrates and glows throughout the universe."

Searching through my Allen Mandelbaum translation of Paradiso,
I found it on the first line— Canto I.1-2:

"La gloria di colui che tutto move per l'universo penetra, e risplende"

"The glory of the One who moves all things permeates the universe and glows"

I had bookmarked dozens of news articles on Joe DiMaggio, when he died (March 8, 1999). In the New York Times photo galleries, I learned that the baseball great married Marilyn at the San Francisco courthouse on January 14, 1954. It turns out that DiMaggio married his first wife, actress Dorothy Arnold at the Saints Peter & Paul Church on November 19, 1939. I was disappointed in learning this fact. It would have been nice to have two of the greatest stars in sports and movies marry under the banner of Dante who knew something about stars.

However, I made some wonderful discoveries about Marilyn & Dante during the Freccero treasure hunt. It turns out that there may be some link between this famous American film icon and our Florentine poet. They were both born in the sign of Gemini. Marilyn on June 1, 1926, and Dante probably on May 30, 1265.

Marilyn's M-charm:
I came across this Marilyn Monroe's "M" Initial Charm
at an Internet memorabilia web site. It's a silver initial
charm in the shape of an M. The charm measures 1.5 inches
and has a loop at the top for a chain. The charm was given
to Marilyn soon after she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe
by her friend and foster sister, Eleanor Goddard.

Dante's M: Sphere of Mars (Paradiso XVIII.97-99, 103-105):
And I saw other lights descending on
the apex of the M and, settling, singing—
I think— the Good that draws them to Itself.

from that "M" seemed to surge more than a thousand
lights; and they climbed, some high, some low, just as
the Sun that kindles them assigned positions.

Alberto Martini,
Paradiso XVIII

Platonic Lambda Platonic Lambda: Soul of the Universe is the sum of the two series (Timaeus 35b):
Sum of the double interval series (powers of 2) = 20 + 21 + 22 + 23 = 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 = 15
Sum of the triple interval series (powers of 3) = 30 + 31 + 32 + 33 = 1 + 3 + 9 + 27 = 40
Sum of the double & triple interval series (Timaeus) = 15 + 40 = 55

“Now God did not make the soul after the body, although we are speaking of them in this order; for having brought them together he would never have allowed that the elder should be ruled by the younger... First of all, he took away one part of the whole [1], and then he separated a second part which was double the first [2], and then he took away a third part which was half as much again as the second and three times as much as the first [3], and then he took a fourth part which was twice as much as the second [4], and a fifth part which was three times the third [9], and a sixth part which was eight times the first [8], and a seventh part which was twenty-seven times the first [27]. After this he filled up the double intervals [i.e. between 1, 2, 4, 8] and the triple [i.e. between 1, 3, 9, 27] cutting off yet other portions from the mixture and placing them in the intervals” (Benjamin Jowett's translation of Plato's Timaeus 35b)

Did Dante & Marilyn know about the Platonic Lambda,
the World Soul whose number adds to 55?

Dante cites the word star (26 stella & 29 stelle) 55 times in his Commedia.

When I saw the Christie's Auction Catalog The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe,
it struck me that Marilyn's pose on the cover resembled the Greek letter Lambda
(an inverted V). When the prices realized from the October 27, 1999 sale came out,
I was shocked not by the 7-figure $1,267,500 price tag for Marilyn's "Happy Birthday
Mr. President" dress, but by the lot number— Lot #55. Plato's number for the World Soul!

It would have been interesting if the dress sold for
$1,265,000 so we could equate it to 1265, the year
of Dante's birth. So I converted $1,267,500 to 12675
and asked “What is Line 12,675 in Dante's Commedia?”

Inferno lines + Purgatorio lines = 4720 + 4755 = 9475

12,675 - 9,475 = 3200 (Paradiso Line 3200)

Paradiso 23.34

Oh Bëatrice, dolce guida e cara!

O Beatrice, sweet guide and dear!

Christie's Auction
October 27, 1999
Lot #55:

A full length evening sheath dress
of flesh colored souffle gauze
encrusted with graduated rhinestones
embroidered in a rosette motif.
Worn at the famous birthday tribute
to President John F. Kennedy
at Madison Square Garden where
Marilyn sang "Happy Birthday
Mr. President" on May 19, 1962.

What are we to make of this? In the April 29, 2001 New York Times article about Marilyn, “ Why No Star Shines as Bright”, Bernard Weinraub says that “the world's most famous starlet remains an extraordinary pop culture icon, even more so today than 40 years ago... Monroe herself pleaded with a reporter in her final interview, shortly before her death: 'I want to be a serious artist. Don't make a joke out of me.'”

When Lot #55 came up at the Christie's sale, the lights were dimmed, and Marilyn's "Happy Birthday" dress with 6000 rhinestones glowed and sparkled like stars in the night, reflecting its brilliance all around the room. It's interesting that the Christie's auction catalog cover shows Marilyn behind the letters "CHRIST", but her pose speaks silently about the Platonic Lambda, the Animus Mundi, the World Soul, whose message in Dante's Paradiso 23.34-39 tells us:

Oh Bëatrice, dolce guida e cara!
Ella mi disse: "Quel che ti sobranza
è virtù da cui nulla si ripara.

Quivi è la sapienza e la possanza
ch'aprì le strade tra 'l cielo e la terra,
onde fu già sì lunga disianza".
O Beatrice, sweet guide and dear! She said
to me: "What overwhelms you is a Power
against which nothing can defend itself.

This is the Wisdom and the Potency
that opened roads between the earth and Heaven,
the paths for which desire had long since waited."

(Allen Mandelbaum's translation)
Yes, Marilyn's sex appeal has overwhelmed the world, but her spirit is telling us through Dante that it is power of wisdom that opens the road between heaven and earth. Now, we could truly say as Dante did to Beatrice in line 3200 of Paradiso: “O Marilyn, sweet guide and dear!”

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