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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 24: Canto XXXIII. Ugolino: Pity's Final Assault 237


CHAPTER24 Canto XXXIII Ugolino: Pity's Final Assault The appeal is not made in terms of fame, but of justice and amounts to a contract with the sinner: if he complains •with reason," the Pilgrim will make a case for him in the world of the living. The sinner agrees to speak in spite of the pain (XXXIII, 4-9): ·vouwill have me renew desperate grief, which even to think of wrings my heart before I speak of it. But if my words are to be seed that may bear fruit of infamy to the traitor whom I gnaw, you shall see me speak and weep together. • The words are a paraphrase of Aeneas's words to Dido at the beginning of his retelling of the fall of Troy (Aeneid, II, 3-8): •Beyond all words, 0 Queen, is the grief thou bidst me revive, how the Greeks overthrew Troy's wealth and woeful realm - the sights most piteous that I myself saw and whereof I was no small part. What Myrmidon or Dolopian, or soldier of stern Ulysses could in telling such a tale refrain from tears 7" This passage has been paraphrased once before in Canto V by Francesca (V, 121-126): And she to me, "There is no greater sorrow than to recall, in wretchedness. the happy time; and this your teacher knows. But if you have such great desire to know the first root Of our love, I will tell as one who weeps and tells. • 238 Ugolino Francesca's canto establishes...

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