Comment on Article
Dante and Hell
DANTE: - Dante Alighieri is the tour guide of Hell. In fact you could say he is the creator of Hell if you did not understand he was directed and encouraged as others were being forced to write and create all manner of graven images and religious icons or treatises to support Hell, Satan and the whole dogma of ‘sins and demons’. The Church owned all creative work because such creative things came from God and they were the representatives of this God. Nice scam if you can make it work – eh? Here is a little academic insight into how he also was tasked to diminish the perception of prior seers and wise people.
“Inferno XX falls into four narrative segments. Lines 1-30 present the sin of divination in general terms; lines 31-57 introduce famous diviners of antiquity, each of whom figures in and represents a major classical text: Amphiaraus from Statius' Thebaid, Tiresias from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Arruns from Lucan's Pharsalia, and Manto from Vergil's Aeneid; lines 58-99 encompass the digression on Mantova; lines 100-130 contain Dante's query regarding further diviners, and Vergil's response, in which he names Eurypylus from the Aeneid and various contemporary practitioners. We note the canto's symmetry; the general opening and closing sections, each of thirty lines, frame the more particularized interior sequences. The seemingly extraneous section on Mantova is thus entirely surrounded and informed by the commanding issue of prophecy, an issue which is directly related to the canto's highlighting of poets and poetry, to its evocation of the classical auctores and to the arresting behavior of Vergil. For prophecy is in fact a textual issue; a profeta for Dante is one who foretells, who reads in the «magno volume» of God's mind (Par. XV, 50), and deciphers the book of the future. Because prophecy is therefore essentially a matter of correct and incorrect reading, the canto's emphasis on textuality is insistent: from the initial terzina, which proclaims in deliberately technical language the author's need to make verse and give form to his twentieth canto, to the equally technical reference to the Aeneid as an «alta tragedìa» in line 113; if this is the only locus in the poem in which Dante affixes a numerical tag to a canto, it is also a unique definition of Vergil's poem as a text belonging to a specific genre. Moreover, the textual awareness of the canto's opening lines __ «Di nova pena mi conven far versi / e dar matera al ventesimo canto / de la prima canzon» __ is shared by its final verse: «Sì mi parlava, e andavamo introcque». Here the presence of a word, introcque, whose use by the Florentines is caricatured in the De Vulgari Eloquentia, raises a host of questions about writing and genre, and serves to close the canto on the same textual key with which it began.
Inferno XX deals with the validity and legitimacy of the acts of writing and reading. As Hollander has shown, Dante evokes his classical auctores in order to correct them, misreading their texts in such a way as to damn diviners, like Amphiaraus and Tiresias, whom the ancients considered noble practitioners of the art, tellers of truth. By placing these diviners in the fourth bolgia, Dante establishes their falsity, and his disagreement on this score with his classical predecessors. One of the classical predecessors so invoked is Vergil, the Comedy's resident poeta, and it is as his new self that Vergil retells the story of Manto, altering the earlier account found in the tenth book of the Aeneid. The Latin poem relates that the prophetess bears a child, Ocnus, who founds the city and gives it his mother's name: «qui muros matrisque dedit tibi, Mantua, nomen» («who gave you walls and the name of his mother, O Mantua» [Aen. X, 200]). The Comedy, on the other hand, relates that Manto, «la vergine cruda» (82), settled and died in a spot later chosen by men from the surrounding regions as suitable for a city: «Fer la città sovra quell' ossa morte» (91). Most interesting about Vergil's speech is his closing injunction to the pilgrim to disregard all other accounts of Mantova's founding; since the only true story is the one he has just heard, the pilgrim must «let no lie defraud the truth», i.e. he must reject all other accounts as false (97-99):” (1)