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A Modern Reader's Guide to Dante's «Inferno»

Second Printing

Series:

Rodney J. Payton

This book is a thorough introduction to the Inferno for today's reader. It is based on Professor Payton's many years of reading Dante's masterpiece with university undergraduates and upon the work of the very best modern critics. The Guide can be used alone as a critical aid or as a reference work for further research.

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Chapter 7: Canto V-IX. Form in Inferno 57

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CHAPTER 7 Cantos V through IX Form in Inferno In this chapter I will discuss Cantos V through IX in general terms. These cantos are alike in that they share a particular sort of organization which we can come to understand and recognize. Several times in Inferno, Dante ties groups of cantos together with recurring motifs. Such groups of cantos I call umovements." I think Cantos V-IX are a movement and the first part of the discussion will tell you why. In the second part of the chapter I want to talk about the political history of Dante's time since complex issues are raised by Ciacco in Canto VI. The last section will be concerned with the explanations of various things offered by Virgil to the Pilgrim. Readers will need to have their copies of Inferno close at hand since I will make many references to it. To this point, we have considered the Inferno in terms of its symbol- ism, underlying philosophical concepts, literary and historical associations and the like. We have now reached a point from which we can begin to consider the poem in its formal or structural aspects as well. Great works of art such as the works of Michelangelo, the plays of Shakespeare, the symphonies of Beethoven, as well as the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri owe their effectiveness in large part to the principles of construction and organization which the artist devised for them. An awareness of these will help the reader's appreciation and...

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