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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 22: Cantos XXIX-XXX. Alchemy: The Pilgrim's Shameful Pleasure 219


CHAPTER22 Cantos XXIX-XXX Alchemy: The Pilgrim's Shameful PleaslM'e The next section of the poem, one of the internal •movements," begins at line 36 of Canto XXIX. Unes 1-35 are the ending of the previous movement, but some issues are raised in them which continue throughout so that they function as a transition. The images which the poet has presented since the bolgia of the grafters have become stranger and stranger. The torn figure of Mohammed and the bifurcated Bertran de Born are a momentary climax of the gro- tesque; no wonder then, that the Pilgrim reels under their impact (XXIX, 1-12): The many people and the strange wounds had made my eyes so drunken that they longed to stay and weep; but Virgil said to me, "What are you still gazing at? Why does your sight stiH rest down there among the dismal mutilated shades7 You have not done so at the other pits. Consider, if you think to count them, that the valley circles two and twenty miles; and already the moon is beneath our feet. The time is now short that is allowed us, and there is more to see than you see here. • Not only are the Pilgrim's eyes "drunken," but his guide is testy. He is sarcastic about the Pilgrim's supposed wish to count the damned. His assertion that Dante has not previously become engrossed in the sights of Hell is not strictly true. It is belied by Dante's own statement in Canto XXII, 16-18: My...

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