Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
This fall, we’re recapping the Inferno. Read along
As we find ourselves in the midst of Nielsen sweeps month, it seems a good time to consider the facto that can ensure the longevity of certain shows. Yes, critical acclaim is great, but in the end, critics are only a small fraction of a high seven or even eight-figure audience turnout, and critics certainly don’t get a show a spot after the Super Bowl. For this, we rely on the viewers, and this week, it’s their turn to speak.
When I saw promos for The Inferno, I thought to myself “wow, what an incredibly awesome sounding name for a show.” And then when I learned it was about hell I thought it would be full of action and adventure, and because Virgil and Dante were traveling together, I even assumed it would be some sort of buddy cop series. It turns out I was wrong. So far, in Canto III and in Canto V, Dante has fainted. TWICE. Get out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat. And somehow, after fainting, at the beginning of the next Canto Dante mysteriously ends up somewhere new, probably because Virgil had to carry him. If I were Virgil I would slap some sense into Dante, or ditch him next time he passes out. And on top of that Virgil is clearly the best character but we don’t get enough of him. Maybe there will be some sort of Virgil spinoff.
To be honest, I like The Inferno. But if there’s one thing I won’t stand for, it’s plagiarism or cheap and obvious rip-offs. In Canto VI Dante and Virgil run into a snarling three-headed dog named Cerberus, who is fierce but easily neutralized. Any well-read person would know right away that this idea was clearly copied from Fluffy, the three-headed dog from the pages of Harry Potter. Try harder next time, Dante.
Here at college, we are taught to appreciate depth. And Dante has clearly got it goin’ on. It might be a bit over the average reader’s head, but for those of you who didn’t have the fortune of taking our first year seminars, let me tell you, THIS SHOW IS DEEP. First, it has themes—the last Canto was all about lust, and this one about gluttony. The idea of hell as a landscape divided by type of sin is clearly a literary device used by Dante to allow him to focus on one sin per canto. Second, and this is really complicated, Ciacco—the sinner Dante encounters in Canto VI—asks Dante to remind the people up in the living that Ciacco once existed. But simply by writing the scene in which Ciacco asks to be mentioned among the living, Dante is already doing just that. That’s what you call Meta.
Ricardo—New York, NY
I’m really torn about The Inferno. I’m thoroughly entertained but then the plot holes really get to me. In Canto VI, Dante enters a circle of hell with hailstones and filthy water, but he doesn’t seem to get hit by them, only the sinners. FINE. But later on, he walks through a pile of sinners, so clearly he has a physical presence that the sinners do not. Logically, he should be the one suffering under the hail and rain, not the sinners. So which is it? I don’t know anymore. And I am really supposed to believe that hell is just full of Italians and Florentines? Either people from Florence are the absolute worst, or Dante has really narrowed his scope in a way that might be his undoing. And this Canto so far is the shortest of them all, we only just got to hell—don’t tell me Dante is already running out of steam. And at the end of Canto III Dante passes out like a sleeping body, and at the end of Canto V he passes out like a dead body. The similes are getting stale.
To catch up on our Dante series, click here.
Alexander Aciman is the author of Twitterature. He has written for the New York Times, Tablet, the Wall Street Journal, and TIME. Follow him on Twitter at @acimania.
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