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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 8: Canto X. Farinata: Virgil's Quarrel with Dante 71

Extract

CHAPTERS Canto X Farinata: Virgil's Quarrel with Dante Canto V presented the Pilgrim and the reader with the powerful challenge of Francesca. Farinata, five cantos later in X, is the next of the great sinners of Hell, those who are serious obstacles to both the Pilgrim and the reader. That we are at an important division in the plan of Hell is clear to everyone. The wall of the city of Dis, like the gate of Hell and the noble castle of Limbo (all physical structures), is a locus in the place memory system of the Inferno in which important ideas are associated with memorable images. However, the passing of the wall of Dis, while clearly marking a stage in the journey, does not clarify things greatly. Neither the Pilgrim nor the reader knows why the wall is where it is or why the sinners so far are outside it. The ordering of those sins has not been made plain. The Pilgrim, of course, has been confused at all of the structural locations, confused about the fate of the virtuous pagans and about the meaning of the inscription over the gate. Here, at the circle of the heretics, the uncer- tainty is caused by the lack, so far, of a principle of organization and by the fact that there is a growing rift between the Pilgrim and his guide. Merle E. Brown (1971) points outthatoverthe course of the preceding cantos, Virgil has become overconfident and, as a result, becomes stuck...

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