This dissertation examines the high medieval female figure of Beatrice as the consummate Lady Wisdom. It follows the literary path which the biblical female figure of Lady Wisdom (Sophia, Sapientia) herself took from the Wisdom Literature (Old Testament) through the Gospels (New Testament), the sixth-century non-biblical work, Boethius’ Consolatio, and the Marian liturgy and commentary tradition of the Song of Songs from the seventh to the twelfth-century to Dante’s Comedy completed in 1321.
Who is Lady Wisdom? In an attempt to answer the question in part, I focus on three metaphors used by the Jewish-Hellenistic writers to describe her: prophetess, spiritual mother, and mediatrix. I analyze her three metaphors according to the three Solomonic steps. Origen, in the prologue of his Commentary on the Song of Songs, linked Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, all of three attributed to Solomon as “author” in ancient and medieval period, as constituting a three-step ladder that Solomon had provided for the soul’s ascent in the stages of spiritual life, from moral to natural to mystical or contemplative. The first chapter discerns Lady Wisdom first in Jesus-Wisdom-Prophet; second, in Jesus-Wisdom-Mother-Nurse-Bride; third, in Jesus-Wisdom-Mediator. The second chapter discerns Lady Wisdom and Jesus-Wisdom first in the Moral-Lady Philosophy; second, in the Natural-Lady Philosophy; third, in the Contemplative-Lady Philosophy. The third chapter examines Mary, “the Seat of Wisdom (Sedes Sapientiae),” first as the New Eve at the Incarnation; second, as the spiritual mother at the Passion; third, as the mediatrix upon her assumption. The final chapter systematically demonstrates Beatrice as a synthetic figure of Mary, Lady Philosophy, and Lady Wisdom.
The method is inter-textual analysis. I demonstrate the identification of Lady Wisdom, Jesus, Lady Philosophy, Mary, and Beatrice in various texts through their common words and actions. The goal is to discern the biblical female figure of Lady Wisdom in the non-biblical medieval female figures, Lady Philosophy and Beatrice, and to bring the mediatrices “secularized” by modern critics back to their “sacred” source: Lady Wisdom identified with Christ, and in the Middle Ages, with Mary.