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

Second Printing


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 10: Canto XII. The Minotaur: Dante's Elaborate Relationships 91


CHAPTER 10 Canto XII The Minotaur: Dante's Elaborate Relationships Canto XII resumes the variations on the formal pattern we have been observing since Canto Ill, variations which serve, as always, to advance important themes of the poem. One important motif is embedded in the description of the area at the beginning of the Canto. It is one of many places in Inferno where Dante makes an explicit comparison between the landscape of Hell and the landscape of Italy as in Canto IX in the reference to the cemetery of Pola just mentioned. Here the way down the cliff to the circles of the violent is by way of a landslide like one near Trent. Later (31) Virgil offers an explanation of the ruin which links it to the Harrowing of Hell, another major theme of the Inferno, which we have already seen accounting for the broken gates in Canto VIII, 125-6: a less secret gate which still stands without a bolt. The earthquake that accompanied Christ's challenge at the gate of Hell broke open the gate forever, caused this landslide here and, 3S Virgil says (45), other damage elsewhere. Dante's description of the fall of rocks as similar to the one near Trent is intended to make the scene real to his readers, some of whom would have been to Trent. There is also the implication, however, that there is some- thing hellish about Italy and that is precisely the point. Italy's corruption and divisiveness make it a place whose...

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