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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 14: Cantos XVI-XVII. Geryon: Dante's Claim to Truthfulness 129


CHAPTER 14 Cantos XVI and XVII Geryon: Dante's Claim to Truthfulness Since Inferno is a place memory system we should expect a major marker at this location. At Cantos XVI and XVII Dante and Virgil are half way along on their journey, at the dividing line between sins of violence and sins of fraud. The marker we are looking for is, of course, Geryon and the flight down the waterfall which sticks in the memory of every reader. Geryon' s significance is emphasized by the fact that his advent is anticipat- ed by the two references to the waterfall which frame the episode of the Florentine politicians. The first of these informs us of the existence of the waterfall and gives us a sense of its distance (XVI, 1-3): Already I was in a place where the re- sounding of the water which was falling into the next circle was heard, like the hum which beehives make. The implication of the bee like hum is that we have a distance to go to the source. However, after the encounter with the politicians (during which Dante and Virgil stand still and the sinners circle) we travel only a short while and are suddenly at the falls and the sound is overwhelming (90-93): Wherefore it seemed well to my master to depart. I followed him; and we had gone but a little way when the sound of the water was so near we could scarcely have heard each other speak. The cataract...

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