Chapter 25: Canto XXXIV. The Defeat of Satan 247
CHAPTER25 Canto XXXIV The Defeat of Satan Canto XXXIV is perplexing even by the standards of the Divine Comedy which has perplexities by the multitude. Possibly the biggest problem is that Satan, whom we have long expected, seems anticlimactic and the impression of the reader, who has not yet read the whole of the Divine Comedy, is that the Inferno lacks a satisfactorily climactic conclusion. In the last chapter we discussed the fact that the end of Inferno isn't really an ending, but rather the sign of a new beginning and readers should be assured that if they do work their way through the whole poem, the fitness of the vision of Satan here will be abundantly clear to them. I don't want to describe in detail why this is so, since that would deprive readers of the pleasure of wonder while watching Dante work it out. This discussion will largely remain concerned with what is immediate in the canto. It is possible that our expectations are so influenced by other visions of what the Devil should be like, ranging from modem Pr~testantism to Walt Disney, that our surprise is in some part that Dante's image is so different. Satan seems so helpless and undramatic, so stupid and pointless. Neverthe- less, we are obliged by Virgil's exhortation and by the Poet's Address to the Reader to accept that the being actually is dangerous (XXXIV, 20-27): •Lo Dis! - and lo the place where you must arm yourself with fortitude....
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