Blog post due Feb. 25

For your next post, please consider commenting on one single aspect/image/idea found in cantos 14-17. You have some freedom about the organization of this post, but I suggest reading Barolini’s commentary to these cantos (in the Digital Dante website) and the notes in your book before writing your post. Barolini discusses Dante’s condemnation of homosexuality. We all disagree with that condemnation today and we all fight for LGBT rights, but Dante is a man of his time and even progressive, if we consider that lust and sodomy are desexualized in Inferno (as Barolini suggests).

Writing tips:

Try to focus on quality rather than quantity. Consider spending a little time reread your post pretending you are somebody else. Would another person understand your main point? Do you refer to the text to prove your point? Are your references accompanied by canto and line number, in case another person needs to find the passage?  It is a  good idea to ask a friend to read your post.

Separate your post into paragraph or write one coherent paragraph. Remember that one paragraph can explore one idea. Is there a sentence that can summarize your point in a specific paragraph? There should be one. The other sentences work as support or contrast to that main idea (or topic sentence, if you want).

Sentence structure: Are your sentences short enough and clear enough? Are you avoiding ambiguous pronouns? Have you used one million words to describe one simple action? Try to cut “unnecessary words” and see if your post reads better. Read it aloud if necessary.

Reread your post once again only looking at the spelling of your words. Did you mispell “Vingil,” “Alogherio,” etc.? Did you capitalize proper names? Did you close your parentheses? Did you use quotation marks? Are you using punctuation?

Lastly, use the category “Post 4” even if it’s not the forth post that you write.

Thank you for reading this. I look forward to reading your posts.

Stefania

 

 

Contractarianism and Fraud

Virgil, the tour guide of Dante’s pilgrimage explains the itinerary for the inner construction of the seventh and eighth circle of hell. For Virgil the tour guide, he has the power to anticipate what’s coming next in the journey to Inferno, therefore giving Dante the tenacity to descend further while overcoming fear and cowardice.

In Virgil’s account, the seventh circle consists of violence, and it is separated “and constructed in three sub-circles. [It is the type of violence that applies] to God, to oneself, and to one’s neighbor.” (XI 30-31). He also hints that fraudulence is a sin that is caused by human intellect, therefore the degree of suffering would be greater than that of violence (XI 25-27). By anticipating deeper to the Malebolge, we are confronted by the various characteristics of fraudulence: hypocrisy, flattery, casters of spells, impersonators, thievery and simony, panders, embezzlers, and similar filth (XI 58-60).

From verse 55 to 56, Alighieri mentions that Fraudulence severs the connection between Nature and human. To a further extent, this type of disconnection also applies to the citizen and society and citizen to citizen as well. In the philosophical theory of ethics, Contractarianism explains that the authority of moral norms is derived from the mutual agreement that everybody agrees on, and it rejects the notion that divine ideals would provide justifications for moral norms (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Contractarianism). In this sense, fraudulence in various degrees corrupts the political and moral contracts of modern society. And it undermines the idea of self-interest because there is a reciprocal response in how human beings are committing fraudulent act to violate each other’s self-interest. I believe Alighieri realizes that fraudulence is indeed a contagious force. When fraudulence is committed within the individuals, this will further erode the moral and political stability of the society (which is expressed in the political state of Florence during that time). If we are looking at society and its human beings as a whole, doesn’t this also corrupts the ever-changing state of Nature?

 

Canto 11 – A Brief Break to Explain the Organization of Hell/The Presence of the Number 3 and The Importance of Nature

Canto 11 reminded me of previous cantos where Virgil and Dante pause because Dante, the pilgrim, needs explanations and clarity from Virgil. This is a recurring technique of Dante, the writer, in which he allows the readers to mirror his character and gain answers to similar confusions that the pilgrim himself is experiencing.

While Virgil and Dante are resting, Virgil explains the organization of Hell in more depth. The organization also enables the reader to note how Dante, the poet, classifies the severity of certain sins over others. I thought it was compelling that the religious presence of the number three appears again in this Canto. First, Virgil tells Dante there are three smaller circles. Hell is separated into three parts. The first circle in middle hell is also divided into three subcircles where the sinners are separated into three groups based on the gravity of violence either committed against others, against oneself, and the worst, which is violence against God.

I was a little confused as to why Dante punishes sodomy as a worse punishment than the crimes committed by the lustful in Circle 2/Canto 5. But, when I reread Virgil’s explanations to Dante I gained more clarity. It is important to note that sodomy is a sin of violence. This means that Dante, the writer, does not punish sodomizers for their morality but more so because he views it as unnatural to the world. Dante the poet defines crimes against God as the most violent because they go against the natural will of life. Virgil states that sodomy and those who harm God scorn “nature and its goodness.” (Canto 11, Line 47). For Dante, something that contradicts nature is far worse and violent than engaging in lust. Above all, God is the most important, therefore going against him and harming what he created is worse than harming others.

Lastly, Dante, the writer, punishes the fraudulent at a lower place in Hell. Virgil tells the pilgrim that fraud, “seems to cut solely into the bond of love” and “forgets the love that Nature makes” (Canto 11, Lines 52-58). It is clear again how severe defying nature is to Dante, the poet. When one is fraudulent and deceitful, he is going against the natural trust and love people are meant to have for one another. Dante ranks fraud worse than violence because it directly contradicts natural trust.

Mankind’s Fraud

In Canto 11, Dante and Virgil have a brief respite from their journey before continuing on, and both agreeing that they should make use of this time, Virgil decides to tell the pilgrim who they will be seeing next, so that he does not have to explain later. In lines 22-24: “Of every malice gaining the hatred of Heaven, injustice is the goal, and every such goal injures someone either with force or with fraud.” This line explains that the actions of men that Heaven punishes, are all actions that have the end goal of hurting someone. Virgil goes on to say later in the canto, that this hurt can be directed at “God, to oneself, and to one’s neighbor..” (Line 31). However, those who hurt another with violence are not punished to the same degree as those who are fraudulent, which here means those who lie or mislead.

Line 25-27: “But because fraud is an evil proper to man, it is more displeasing to God; and therefore the fraudulent have a lower place and greater pain assails them.” The mention of fraud being an evil that only mankind has is the reasoning for the greater punishment of those who commit fraud. Later in the canto, Virgil explains that fraud can be committed only where there is trust, and that fraud takes advantage of this trust (lines 52-53). This greater punishment of fraud because it is a human flaw may be linked to Satan deceiving in the Garden of Eden, committing the first fraud.

Religious and Political Allegory in Canto 13

In Canto 13 Dante reintroduces a political and religious allegory through the folly recount Pier Delle Vigne. In this Canto, Dante and Virgil arrive at the seventh circle, second sub-circle, where obscure atmosphere confuses Dante and gives forth to the instruction from Virgil to rip a branch from a tree. As Dante dismembers the branch he sees blood spewing from its end. The tree then cries out ” Why do you split me?” (Canto 13, 31.3). This cry of pain was the voice of Pier Delle Vigne, a politician who acted as secretary to Emperor Frederick II. Within this seventh circle the sin is that of suicide, which Dante uses as a religious allegory by showing that although Pier may have been without sin, meaning, Pier might have been innocent of the treasonous crimes attributed to him at the time and therefore sinless, Pier committed suicide which is blasphemous to God and in and of itself condemns the suicided to hell through lack of ability to repent. Furthermore a religious contrast between Pier and St. Peter by noting that Pier scarcely let anyone from the emperors presence, ” that i excluded almost everyone from his intimacy;” (Canto 13, 61.1) whereas Peter is the one who holds the gates of heaven open to those worthy. This shows a love of openness in Peter and not in Pier. However, as Pier continues to unpack his emotional distress, he reveals folly in his lack of wisdom and repentance stating, “by the strange new roots i swear to you that i never broke faith with my lord.”; Pier is incredulous to his betrayal of God and feels pitiful towards himself.

In terms of political allegory, Dante illustrates the corrupt political nature in Florence. Although Pier is possibly innocent, the ease in which corruptness is introduced and convicted upon Pier depicts an unstable and weak political system in which corruptness is expected and will be apparent throughout the rest of Dante’s journey through hell.

Violence Against Themselves

 

Dante about to rip off a twig off of Pier della Vigna, Illustration by Gustavo Dorè

In Canto 13, Virgil and Dante enter the 7thcircle, Second ring: Violence against themselves. Dante had noticed all these black trees and black leaves surrounding them; it had been the homeland of the Harpies. Virgil then asks Dante to break off a part of branch and as soon as Dante does it the tree cries out.

“Then I stretched out my hand a little way and from a great thornbush snapped off a branch,
at which its trunk cried out: “Why do you tear me?” And then, when it had grown more dark with blood, it asked again: “Why do you break me off? Are you without all sentiment of pity?” (Inferno 31-36)

When reading through this canto you immediately picture entering a dark place, filled with tall black trees filled with black leaves bleeding black blood everywhere. Along with seeing this you hear the loud moans of something sounding like humans, almost like loud cries. With all of this dark and gloomy imagery, the reader can sense the feelings of loneliness, disparity, and melancholy as described in canto 13. When reading through these two terzinas, I thought to myself how sad it was to be stuck inside a tree for the rest of your life for the sin you committed. Since, committing suicide was one of the biggest sins, they received a very harsh punishment. They are punished to feel as inhumane as possible; they’re stuck inside trees with no voice whatsoever. They even get tortured when harpies eat their leaves. Moreover, the tree that talked to Dante was Pier della Vigna, who was the private counselor to Emperor Frederick the Third. Pier goes on to explain that he and the rest of the forest used to be men and they deserve greater mercy by men like Dante. Pier was stuck in the 7thcircle because he had committed suicide after hearing nasty rumors about himself and the Emperor. After Dante hears his story, Pier asks Dante if he could clear his reputation in the living world by clarifying that he never betrayed Emperor Frederick the Third. Lastly, Dante’s use of imagery was very effective throughout this canto because you were vividly able to picture the forest in your mind. It makes it more pleasurable to read because you start to imagine everything in your head making easier to follow.

Virgil got his groove back- Canto 12

I’ve come to realize that Virgil is regaining his confidence in Canto 12. For example, at the start of the Canto both Virgil and Dante meets the Minotaur, Crete: Virgil with annoyance shouts at the Cretin to leave or else he faces punishment, ”Get thee gone, beast, for this one cometh not/ Instructed by thy sister, but he comes/ In order to behold your punishments.” (Alighieri 19-21).  Furthermore, When Crete goes insane with rage and charges towards to them, Virgil takes lead and instructs Dante to dodge pass Crete while he is distracted by his wrath,  “Run to the passage;/ While he wroth, ’tis well thou shouldst descend.”(Alighieri 26-27). It is evident that Virgil is no longer like his defeated self when he was denied entry to the city of Dis (Canto 8). Virgil goes as far as to boasts upon outsmarting Crete, “Thou art thinking/ Perhaps upon this ruin, which is guarded/ By that brute anger which just now I quenched.” (Alighieri 31-33). Furthermore, as they continue with their journey, Virgil and Dante encounters a group of Centaurs with bows and arrows demanding an explanation about their presence, to which Virgil, again with confidence and bravado states, “Our answer will we make/ To Chiron, near you there; in evil hour,/ That will of thine was evermore so hasty.”  (Alighieri 63-35).  Virgil takes a stand; he will not budge until he speaks to Chiron. This whole Canto, in my opinion has a hidden theme, which is reclamation. Virgil is now becoming a true leader, a proper guide. Up until now, Virgil had helped Dante through the seven circles of Hell, and that does merit trust, but with this new confident assertive Virgil; I feel that Dante can now shed any doubts he has accumulated from Virgil’s previous failed actions.

 

Being Fraudulent Hurts Like Violence

In Canto 11, Dante and Virgil are delayed from entering the lower division of Hell. Virgil describes the circles that they will soon descend. He tells Dante in lines 22-27: “Of every malice gaining the hatred of Heaven, injustice is the goal, and every such goal injures someone either with force or with fraud. But because fraud is an evil proper to man, it is more displeasing to God; and therefore the fraudulent have a lower place and greater pain assails them.” This terzina shows Dante the poet’s opinion that fraudulent people are worse than people who physically hurt, or even kill others. He appeals to reasoning. First he states that Heaven hates intentional injustice, and claims that every injustice is done either by force or by fraud. Then he says that God hates fraud more than violence. He hates fraud more than violence because while violence is a form of pain that all creatures can experience, and fraud can only be experienced by humans, God gave humans the gift of intellect and fraud is a direct injustice against that gift. It’s also using God’s gift to harm others. That is why the frauds are in a lower circle than the violent ones. There is also a bigger potential of people being hurt by frauds than by violent people. Fraud can hurt more than one person at a time. Somebody in power, like a president, could commit fraud and it would affect millions of people. False information can be spread very quickly. Propaganda is a form of fraud and it causes discrimination and hatred. The Holocaust is an example of fraud that lead to mass killings. Being lied to and tricked can also lead to mental health issues, for example insecurity and anxiety. There is no way somebody can kill people at a faster rate than the rate at which somebody can scam people through fraud.

Variations in Heresy

      Dante defines heresy as the denial of the soul’s immortality. Dante’s definition is supported by his condemnation of epicureanism philosophies. Virgil claims that “Epicurus and his followers have their cemetery in this part, who make the soul die with the body.” (line 13, Canto 10, pg 30). Epicurus was a Greek philosopher that believed the soul was also mortal like the body. He claimed that humans should live in materialistic moderation so that they can achieve a state of tranquility. This state was defined as the exoneration from fear and anxiety caused by death and the existence of Gods/Goddesses. Epicurus and his disciples expected their souls to die when they were buried, hence, their punishment is that even in the afterlife, their souls are buried. This makes them even more “dead” than the other heretics because they’re completely buried whereas other heretics are partially buried in the sepulchers. They’re defined as the worst heretics because all the other souls needs to be reunited with their bodies from the “valley of Jehoshaphat”(line 10, Canto 10, pg 30) on judgement day  before they can lie down in their monuments but these souls are already lying down in their graves. In a sense, the worst has already occurred to them.

      Farinata’s heresy is defined in terms of his political association with Frederick II. Farinata’s is physically described as “stood erect: from the waist up you will see all of him” (line 31, Canto 10, pg 30). Farinata is partially submerged in the sepulcher. His body posture corresponds to the dual nature of his heresy as a misguided Christian. While Farinata supported Christianity, he supported King Frederick II who was excommunicated twice and deemed a heretic. Hence, Farinata is a heretic by association. The Bible claims that “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying  the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” (Second Peter 2:1). Farinata supported a “false teacher”. Frederick II used the Ghibelline army to conquer the papal states so he could rename himself the King of Jerusalem. Farinata wasn’t completely aware of Frederick II’s ulterior motives. It wasn’t until the Guelfs had control again that Farinata was posthumously deemed a heretic and his dug-up body was burned. Farinata never realized that he supported the wrong political authority attempting to become a religious authority; he also didn’t have the opportunity to make amends with the Church. Hence, he’s partially buried because he’s only a heretic by association. This belief is further reiterated when Dante asks Farinata about who is with him in the 6th circle of hell and he claims “Here within is the Second Frederick and the Cardinal;” (line 118, Canto 10, pg. 32). This confirms that Frederick II was a heretic and implies that he was responsible for Farinanta’s displacement into hell.

       Farinata’s verbal exchange mirrors his earthly status as a Ghibelline leader to his eventual transcendence of all partisans to a Florentine citizen that prioritizes his city’s welfare above all else. In the beginning of their verbal exchange, both Farinata and Dante argue their loyalties for their respective political parties. Farinata claims “Fiercely were they opposed to me and to my ancestors and to my party, so that twice I scattered them.” (lines 45-47, Canto 10, pg 31). He uses 3 subjects to compose his identity: “Me,” “My ancestors,” and “My party”.  This implies that his war with the Guelfs extends beyond personal vendetta, he was protecting his lineage and the people he represented in his party. He claims that “so that twice I scattered them,” the clause is placed at the end of the sentence to imply that he waged war as a consequence of the partisan disputes between the Ghibellines and the Guelfs and not vice versa. By engaging in the war, he was doing justice by his people. This depicts his loyalty towards the Ghibellines and their cause. Dante responds “If they were driven out, they returned from every side,’ I replied ‘the first time and the second; but your people did not learn that art well.” (lines 47-51, Canto 10, pg 31). Dante uses the word “returned from every side” to emphasize the solidarity that exists among the Guelfs. When the Guelfs were defeated twice, they regrouped from diverse states in order to reclaim their power in Florence. By stressing the strong bond that exists between Guelfs, he emphasizes his own loyalty towards the partisan. Both verses are well measured to show that both Farinata and Dante are equally loyal to their parties. Both verses also depict that they’re both heavily involved in earthly politics. However, in the last verses, Farinata transcends his earthly politics for Florence’s welfare. He claims that “If they had learned that art badly’ he said, ‘that torments me more than this bed.” (lines 75-77, Canto 10, pg 31). The “art” refers to the predicament that both parties (especially the Ghibellines) don’t realize that the war will never end. It will be a continuous struggle for power before one, if not both, parties are entirely wiped out. He elaborates that “Before not fifty times will be rekindled the face of the lady who reigns here, before you will know how much that art weighs.” (line 78-80, Canto 10, pg 31). Since Farinata can see into the future, he understands that the war will have casualties on both sides before either political group can understand the implications of their wars on Florence itself. “The lady who reigns here” most likely refers to Medusa who guards the city of Dis. She will be “rekindled” by many more souls before the Ghibellines realize that their religious association is incorrect and they’re all virtually condemned. Farinata’s reflection allows him to understand that the political war is damaging Florence itself. This objective understanding allows him to redefine himself as a citizen of Florence rather that a partisan leader. The verbal exchange mimics his life’s defining moment when he conquered Florence as a Ghibelline leader, but he also defended it as citizen from higher orders. He claims that “But I alone, there where all other would have suffered Florence to be razed, was the one who defended her openly.” (lines 90-92, Canto 10, pg 32). When the Ghibellines conquered Florence, they wanted to destroy it, however, Farinata was the only one that defended Florence and said that it should be saved. He prioritized the welfare of Florence over his own party’s political agenda. This allows him to be redefined as a Florentine rather than a Ghibelline leader.

       Cavalcante De’ Cavalcanti is a heretic because he is too invested in personal ties and thus, lacks self-reflection. Dante describes him as a “shade rose up, discovered to sight as far as the chin,” (line 48, Canto 10, pg 31). Cavalcanti’s head is only visible from the sepulcher and it reaches Dante’s knees. Cavalcanti is already a worse heretic than Farinata because while Farinata is half submerged, Cavalcanti is submerged up to his chin. Their tombs are next to each other because they’re related. Cavalcanti’s son Guido married Farinata’s daughter Beatrice. It is rumored that Cavalcanti was a heretic like his son Guido but the religious attribution is largely controversial. However Dante portrays Cavalcanti as a heretic that values his relationship with his son more highly than his relationship with the Divine. Cavalcanti asks Dante “Where is my son, and why is he not with you.” (line 58, Canto 10, pg 31). Cavalcanti could’ve asked Dante anything but he chose to ask about his son. Unlike Farinata, there was no self-reflection evident that could redeem his character. Dante even concludes that his “words and manner of his punishment had already read to me his name; therefore my reply was so full.” (line 64, Canto 10, pg 31). Dante implies that Cavalcanti is so obsessed with his son that  his “punishment” is that he can’t have any knowledge about his son. Dante says that “my reply was so full” because even though it was misinterpreted, it was more information that what Cavalcanti originally possessed. Cavalcanti’s is only concerned with his son and thus, he is a heretic because he never prioritized his own relationship with the divine.

         Heretics believed that their soul was mortal in some sense. Atheists literally believed that their souls didn’t exist past their death hence, they’re buried in a tomb in hell. Their souls don’t represent anything except death because that’s what the epicureans wanted. However, heretics attributed their souls to materialistic possessions in the world that have definitive ends which made their souls mortal in some sense. Farinata’s soul is represented by Florence thus, he’s punishment is he has no knowledge of Florence’s current political affairs though he can see what it becomes in the future. Cavalcanti’s soul is represented by his son thus, he’s punishment is that he has no current knowledge of his son, though he can almost see his son’s death in the future.

References:

Wolf, Gunther. “Frederick II.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 10 Jan. 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Frederick-II-Holy-Roman-emperor.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Farinata Degli Uberti.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 7 Nov. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Farinata-degli-Uberti.

Farinata friend of foe?

In canto 10, Dante and his master (Virgil) find themselves still in the 6th circle of hell. They both wander around the tombs of the Heretics. Amongst these heretics were the Epicureans. The Epicureans believed that the soul died with the body. A soul comes to Dante calling him a Tuscan which is later on discovered to be Farinata.

“O Tuscan who through the city of fire, alive, walk along speaking so modestly, let it please you to stop in this place. Your speech makes you manifest as a native of that noble fatherland to which perhaps I was too harmful.”(Inferno, Canto 10, 22-27)

These lines caught my attention because we can see that Virgil encourages Dante to have a conversation with Farinata. One of my questions to this is: how are Farinata and Dante connected? And why does he call Farinata his “leader”. Also, is Dante afraid of Farinata? I’m asking this because lines 34-36 mention “I had already fixed my eyes in his; and he was rising up with his breast and forehead as if he had hell in great disdain”. To me, that sounds a bit extreme to have all of Hell in disdain, how much power does Farinata have?.

I can tell that Farinata and Dante are discussing some sort of politics and it leads me to assume that they were of opposite parties since Farinata says “fiercely were they opposed to me and to my ancestors and to my party, so that twice I scattered them.”(Canto 10, 46-47).

Another soul interrupts the conversation that barely begun between Farinata and Dante which is later on known to be the father of Guido(Dante’s friend). The father asks Dante why his son did not accompany him, so I can imply that Guido is already dead.