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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 20: Canto XXVII. Guido da Montefeltro: Prideful Presumption 205


CHAPTER 20 Canto XXVII Guido da Montefeltro: Prideful Presumption St. Thomas explains in the Summa Theologiae, 2 2ae. 21 , 4, that there are two kinds of presumption, the first, we have seen, helps bring Ulysses to Hell. there are two kinds of presumption. One of these involves relying confidently on one's own abilities, attempting what in actual fact lies outside personal competency as though this were not so. Presumption of this sort obviously comes from vainglory, for the fact of seeking a great deal of personal glory leads a person to attempt things beyond his powers, especially things that tend to stir up greater admiration. This is the significance of St. Gregory singling out, presumption where extraordinary things areconcemed, as a daughter of vainglory. The other variety of presumption damns Guido da Montefeltro. Quite different from this is the other kind of presumption which, relying on the divine mercy or power, but in a distorted way, expects to obtain eternal life therefrom without having merited it, and pardon apart from repen- tance. This sort of presumption appears to spring directly from pride; implying, in effect, that one thinks so much of himself that he imagines God will not punish him nor exclude him from eternal life in spite of his continuing in sin. Guido is presumptuous because he manufactures the form of repentance without its substance. He tells us of his conversion in what seem sincere words (XXVII, 84): When I saw myself come to that part of my life...

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