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.
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.