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Posts Tagged ‘Canto XVI’

Recapping Dante: Canto 16, or the Pilgrim’s Progress

February 3, 2014 | by

Stradano_Inferno_Canto_16

Giovanni Stradano, Canto XVI, 1587.

This winter, we’re recapping the Inferno. Read along!

At this point in The Inferno, as Dante continues to test, stretch, and deplete Virgil’s patience, let us imagine for a moment what Virgil might say given the opportunity to write a performance review for the pilgrim.

Performance Review

Pilgrim name: Dante Alighieri
Occupation: Poet/expert stalker/political commentator (fascist?)
Age: Roughly halfway through the journey of his life

Supervisor’s notes:

Dante has done well on this divine quest so far, especially considering the fact that I found him lost in a forest not long ago. When we reached the end of this most recent section of Hell, Dante confessed that he’d intended to use a belt to fight off the leopard I saved him from—it’s safe to say that he has made considerable progress since he first came on. 

I still worry about him, however. He seems to listen to me almost blindly—I’m fairly certain that if I told him to jump off a bridge, he might actually do it. He can’t think for himself, and he’s not exactly a self-starter; he has middle management written all over him. He’d make a great lifelong employee, though I recommend putting him through purgatory before sending him up high. He still has a lot to learn. Read More »

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Recapping Dante: Canto 14, or a Finger-Wagging Editorial Letter

January 20, 2014 | by

Inf._14_Capaneo,_Giovanni_di_Paolo_(c.1403–1483)

Priamo della Quercia, Dante Meets the Sodomites, c. 15th century.

This winter, we’re recapping the Inferno. Read along!

Dear Dante,

I’ve received your manuscript for Canto 14 of the Inferno, and I have quite a few notes. The language and poetry of this passage is absolutely magical; a few passages in particular caught my attention, such as “The gloomy forest rings it like a garland,” (line ten), which is such a beautiful way of phrasing it. And the expression “scorn for fire,” on line forty-six, sounds like the title of a Philip Roth novel. You have a good ear for lyricism and your poem is a unique, fascinating glimpse into theology, history, literature, even love. You’re really carving out a niche for yourself in the Italian canon—kudos!

That said, certain parts left me wanting more, and they confused me enough to wonder if you were really trying your hardest. On line forty-three, Dante addresses Virgil by saying, “Master, you who overcome all things—all but the obstinate fiends who sallied forth against us at the threshold of the gate.” This really threw me off. For the whole poem, Dante has been meek, eager to be with Virgil, and here it almost seems as if he’s mocking Virgil. It doesn’t really fit in with the reader’s impression of Dante—which, I hasten to mention, you have spent the last thirteen cantos crafting expertly.

This canto focuses on those who have sinned against God. Their punishment is to have flakes of fire slowly rained down on them (nice touch, by the way—very Sodom and Gomorrah). Our attention is drawn to one sinner who is sitting in the corner brooding, almost without regard for the flakes of fire falling over him; it’s such a magnificent image that I almost expect him to be Hector or Achilles, but instead it’s a small-timer named Capaneus, who goes on to talk about Thebes for a few lines. From what I understand, Capaneus is in hell because after his victory at Thebes, he scorned Jupiter, who in an instant struck him with lightning for blasphemy. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: you need to find a readership and speak to it. Nobody will know who Capaneus is, Dante. You already told the story of an unknown historical figure in the last canto; now it’s time to make a splash. If you want to talk about Thebes, let’s tag in Oedipus himself. Read More »

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