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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 21: Canto XXVIII. The Sowers of Discord: Scandal and Schism 211


CHAPTER 21 Canto XXVIII The Sowers of Discord: Scandal and Schism We have learned over the course of the last several cantos that the arena of "simple fraud" is more complicated than Virgil's catalog would have lead us to think. Far from punishment merely for fraudulent acts against people in general, "upon one who reposes no confidence" (XI, 54), the movement from the grafters to the "fraudulent counsel" of Guide da Montefeltro expands to include the misuse of talent and the forms of vainglory. It can be seen to include as well an essay on the interrelatedness of all sin and a psychological study of the consistently sinful nature of the damned. Virgil's listing in Canto XI is only a generalized and schematic map of Hell; its threefold divisions (incontinence, violence and fraud) do not comprehensively define the essence of sin. Too, we have come to understand that the shortcomings of Virgil's catalog are in part the result of the shortcoming of the spirit himself. Virgil is pagan man, he is reason unassisted by revelation; unbaptized, he is inherently inferior to the Christian poet whom he guides. His understandings proceed no further than the pagan knowledge of Aristotle and Cicero who are his sources. We and the Pilgrim have the advantage of Christian insight. Canto XXVIII in important ways is a continuation in the sense that the sins here are not simply fraud. This bolgia, the ninth bolgia of the eighth circle, is given over to those guilty of the...

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