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Inferno, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1953

Essay

Dante Essay

The fifth and tenth cantos see different points of Dante and Virgil’s story.  At different Circles of Hell, these two cantos help to place a number of important characteristics into light.  Both see tendencies which help to descript underlying themes within the cantos and the work as a whole.  The two cantos see Dante in the Second and Sixth Circles of Hell, interacting with spirits in Hell and discovering dynamics within themselves as well.  The two cantos illuminate a number of prominent and secondary themes within the Inferno, placing punishment within Christianity, sin, and respective of the character of Dante.

Canto 5

The beginning of the fifth canto sees Dante enter the Second Circle.  Minos is seen sitting at the front of a line of sinners, where he assigns them accordingly.  The sinners confess everything to the horrible, snarling demon, where is assigns them their sentence there.  Wrapping his tail around them a certain number of times, sinners are made aware of which circle to go, according to the wrapping of his tail.

At this point Dante is warned to turn back, telling Dante to “be careful how you enter” (Dante 40).  Minos recognizes Dante as living and he warns him to not proceed.  Asserting that Dante’s journey is divinely ordained, Virgil attests to Dante’s mission and enables them to pass through safely.

Light is mute in the next place Dante enters.  Dante hears wailing in a storm comparable to that of Hell.  The storm drives spirits throughout the air, driving the tormented endlessly as they have no hope in less pain or in rest.

It becomes clear that the lustful are in this place.  Virgil informs Dante, after having asked of the spirits there, that they have died due to love and sins of the flesh.  From this Dante is moved and shocked, feeling pity.

Dante asks Virgil’s permission to speak to one of the souls.  He speaks to Francesca who tells them of her story, of how she and her husband’s brother were involved.  She believes that Love brought them together and led to their deaths, after her husband found them together and killed them both.

Dante also sees other individual souls.  He recognizes Helen and Cleopatra before speaking to Francesca.  Many of them were well known individuals.

At the end of the canto, Dante is moved towards pity yet again.  Francesca’s lover Paolo weeps from his lover’s words.  Hearing this, Dante faints in this moment from feelings of sheer pity.

Canto 10

The tenth canto sees Dante and Virgil in the Sixth Circle of Hell.  Virgil tells Dante that this circle is of the heretics who believe that the soul dies with the body.  Dante wishes to speak to the souls in the tombs, where Virgil informs him that his wish to speak to them will soon be granted.

Scorning Hell, Farinata rises from his tomb and begins speaking to Dante.  Dante respected this Florentine of earlier times, although Farinata was from a different party.  The Ghibelline then asks Dante who his ancestors were.  After Farinata is informed by Dante of this, Farinata states that they were driven out twice, where Dante replies that they were able to come back.

Immediately the father of Dante’s friend Guido interrupts them.  It is Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti, who wants to know why his son did not come with Dante there.  When Dante proposes that he may have held Virgil in disdain, the shade asks if his son is still alive.  However he has already read too much into Dante’s response, and then begins to believe that his son has died.

Farinata and Dante speak of politics, leaving off where they were before they were interrupted.  Dante realizes that the shades in Hell are able to predict the future.  However, they are not able to view present events.

Farinata confirms that part of their punishment is being able to see future events, but not current events.  Farinata also predicts Dante’s exile from Florence.  While Virgil tells Dante that he will hear more regarding this, Dante has trepidations regarding the remaining time, where Dante finds some anxiety and nervousness.

Help of Virgil

The assistance from Virgil is a prominent, though perhaps less significant, theme within all of the cantos.  It is certainly relevant within these two cantos.  Virgil is able to guide and assist Dante through his journey.

The fifth canto sees Virgil’s guiding qualities throughout the Second Circle of Hell.  As Minos is assigning sinners their punishments, he tells Dante that they must turn back.  Virgil speaks to Minos and allows them to pass without harm.

Virgil also helps to commentate, if you will, on their journey.  Virgil tells Dante of those who have died from love in the fifth canto, and also helps to identify some of the particular individuals throughout history.  Later in the canto, Virgil also gives Dante permission to speak to the souls, where he calls them for Dante as well.

Within the fifth canto Virgil’s assistance can be seen.  From guiding them both throughout Hell to identifying and interaction those in Hell, Virgil is able to guide Dante and himself on their journey.

In the tenth canto Virgil continues to assist Dante.  Virgil here identifies individuals who they have conversations with.  Also, Virgil helps to identify where they are within Hell, such as in which Circle of Hell they have arrived.

The end of the tenth canto sees Virgil in a unique role, in terms of the similarities between the fifth and tenth canto.  As Dante becomes nervous regarding his remaining time in Florence, Virgil is able to help calm Dante.  He states that he will be able to hear more about his furthermore, and redirects him onward in their journey.

These elements help qualify the roles Virgil displays in these cantos.  From simpler roles to that of guiding and identification, to those of assistance and supporting Dante, Virgil clearly fulfills a number of vital roles.  He certainly demonstrates his important assisting roles within these cantos.

Historical Figures

A prominent theme within the work and these cantos is in the use of historical figures.  It should be noted that these figures, interestingly enough, are both those that are personal and impersonal.  Within the fifth and tenth cantos we see Dante and Virgil meeting a number of characters throughout history.

The fifth canto sees a number of historical figures.  Dante and Virgil see a number of those that are more popular, such as Helen and Cleopatra.  Meeting Francesca, Dante and Virgil converse with someone who is not particularly popular, respective of the two previous examples.  The canto clearly sees real and fictional (such as in the legend of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere) historical figures.

The tenth canto sees a conversation with a historical figure or two.  Most importantly, Dante and Farinata have a conversation together, primarily regarding politics.  In this they string together a number of events, even those pertaining to Dante himself.

The two cantos make use of historical figures.  Most interesting is that of Farinata, who not only is able to converse with Dante on politics relevant to the main character, but is also able to establish a theme within the work itself, in that of Dante’s future exile from Florence.  This along with other instances in these two cantos represents an important dynamic within the text and cantos.

Christianity and Sin

The central themes of Christianity and sin can be found throughout these two cantos, as well as in the whole text.  These two interrelated themes are primary ones throughout the text, as Dante and Virgil travel throughout Hell and understand the punishment for different kinds of sin.  The two cantos paint slightly different pictures, based on the actions and thoughts of the particular circle of Hell.

The fifth canto sees damned souls who are serving for their sins of the flesh.  They are the lustful, those that have sinned against what they ought to do.  For instance, Francesca and Paolo are doomed due to their infidelity

The fifth canto thus expresses one sin against God.  Sins of the flesh certainly find its place in Christianity, where such actions are against the will of God.  Thus, the lustful are symbolically doomed to swarm around by a ferocious storm, an allegory to express such sins that they have committed.

The tenth canto sees the damned souls serving for their heretical views.  They are in the Sixth Circle of Hell due to their belief that the soul dies with the body.  Thus, perhaps symbolically as described in canto five, they are doomed to a grave.

This picture tells of another sin in Christianity.  Self-evidently, followers must believe in the afterlife, in according with Christianity.  Thus the Sixth Circle of Hell features those who do not believe in such ideas.

These two cantos, as well as the whole text, place the idea of punishment within Christian doctrine.  Dante asserts the stages of Hell as the offenses become more so in regards to God.  Evil becomes contradictory towards the will of God, and in response to that, Dante and Virgil view those who have committed crimes against God.

Emotion

Within the text we are able to see the emotion of Dante displayed.  While this may not be a prominent theme, at least in respect to ideas such as Christianity and sin, it is interesting to view how Dante is affected by emotion.  This effect shows the interrelationship Dante experiences between himself and others, as well as dynamics within his own life, in respect to these two cantos.

The fifth canto sees Dante overcome with emotion.  In response to Paolo and Francesca’s story, Dante feels an immense amount of pity.  This is where the fifth canto ends, as Dante faints from this swift feeling of pity.

The tenth canto sees a more developed interaction between Dante and his emotions.  This is in response to Farinata’s words, where she has foretold of his exile from Florence.  Apprehensive, Dante certainly feels a high level of anxiety as he is worried about his upcoming exile.

The tenth canto’s emotion felt by Dante is arguably more meaningful.  Relative to Dante’s life, and as a dynamic which will extend into other cantos, Dante’s trepidations continue onward to other circles of Hell.  The emotion that Dante feels in the fifth canto is likely more quick and direct, as opposed to that which extends and affects Dante personally.  Virgil feels the need to comfort Dante in the latter example.  Additionally, Dante feels emotion otherwise in this canto, such as where he is “trembling” from the “sound (that) had burst so unexpectedly” (Dante 86).”  Clearly there is a considerable amount of emotion from Dante in this canto.

Conclusion

The fifth and tenth cantos see a striking number of similarities.  Extending form the small and relatively insignificant to that which defines the work, Dante and Virgil witness and experience these dynamics within the two cantos.  It is interesting to speculate on the importance of each within the cantos and the work itself, especially in respect to those of lesser initial importance.

The two cantos see a number of dynamics which are interesting to asses as to its importance.  Ranging from necessary to speculatively important, we see dynamics such as the help of Virgil and the placement of real and factual characters historically.  Both of these dynamics play a role within the cantos, certainly setting up the larger themes as well as instituting some roles of its own.  For instance, Dante achieves political speech in order to drive political commentary of his own.

The two cantos also see the larger dynamics within the work.  The emotion Dante feels gives the work an interesting theme within Dante personally, as he travels into the circles of Hell.  The most important theme is also of course seen in these two cantos, where Christianity and sin fill the work and cantos.

Works Cited

Alighieri, Dante. Inferno. Tans. Allen Mandelbaum. New York, NY: University of California Press, 1990. Print.

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