Recapping Dante: Your Midterm Exam


Arts & Culture

Standardized Test Tom Woodward

Photo: Tom Woodward/Flickr

This week, we pause our winter-long recap of the Inferno (read along!) to quiz you on all that we’ve learned thus far. This is an open-book exam; all grades are final. Good luck!

Part I: Multiple Choice

1. Dante is
(a) The poet’s first name
(b) The poet’s last name
(c) The poet’s performance alias, à la Madonna or Ginuwine
(d) The owner of the peak in the 1997 Pierce Brosnan vehicle, Dante’s Peak

2. In canto 1, Dante encounters a Lonza, a beast best described as
(a) A leopard-lion hybrid
(b) Probably completely made up
(c) An allegorical stand-in for Dante’s enemies in the City of Florence
(d) All of the above

3. In canto 5, Francesca tells Dante that she was unfaithful to her husband after reading a love story. What story was it?
(a) The story of Dido and Aeneas
(b) The story of Lancelot
(c) Ars Erotica, Ovid’s bodice ripper
(d) Irrelevant. The story she was reading was merely a vehicle for the affair, not the cause of it

4. A Dantista is
(a) The Italian word for dentist
(b) A Dante scholar
(c) A female Dante scholar with attitude
(d) A superlative used to describe Dante’s best work

Part II: Match the sinner to his or her punishment.


Pier delle Vigne
Brunetto Latini
Francesca da Rimini
Filippo Argenti


Cruel and unusual sex denial
Trapped as a shrub
Stuck in a flaming tomb
Drowning in the Styx
Running under fire and brimstone
Revocation of ticket to paradise
Eternal boiling bloodbath

Part III: Short Answer

Who is Charon? _________________________________________________
Would someone please tell me what a Lonza is? ___________________________
To which party did Dante belong? _____________________________________
What is the plural of canto? _________________________________________

Part IV: Write a short essay on all of the following.

(1) How does Dante feel about Florence?
(2) Is Virgil the good cop or the bad cop? Compare and contrast.
(3) What is sodomy, anyway?
(4) In which circle would Dante himself belong?
(5) How does the Lonza from canto 1 make you feel?

Part V: Write a long essay on one of the following. A second may be answered for extra credit.

(1) In Italian, Dante is known as il Sommo Poeta—the Supreme Poet. Imagine you are the manager of a sandwich shop and have been charged with designing a sandwich called the Supreme Poet. What is this sandwich? A strong essay will explain why each ingredient is supreme, and why they all fit together.
(2) Pasta is often cooked al dente, “to the tooth”—retaining a certain firmness. What would it mean to do something al Dante?
(3) Discuss the opposing political ideologies of the warring Guelph and Ghibelline factions. Support your argument with historical information and precise dates. (Hint: explain what happened in 1250.)
(4) Consider the Tuscan wine-making tradition of Chianti. Prepare an extended argument for why Dante is either the original Chianti Classico wine or the controversial Nuovo Chianti.

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.