Analyzing Canto XXI
Dante Alighieri, known as the father of the Italian language or il Poeta, wrote The Divine Comedy which is an epic poem cut into three sections that blends traditional Catholic belief with fanciful poetic invention. Book I: Inferno discusses the protagonist Dante the Pilgrim’s journey through Hell from Good Friday to Easter Sunday and Canto XXI deals with the Eighth Circle of Hell, the Malebolge or evil pockets, which are divided into ten Bolige. In this essay, I will walk through Canto XXI noting the poetic devices, integrated Catholic traditions, masterful incorporation of humor, the philosophical theme of faith over reason, Virgil’s misguided attempts at bravado towards Malacoda in contrast to Dante’s hesitance, and use of setting to guide with syntactical tone. Dante’s masterpiece shows a level of artistry that was clearly orchestrated over time and with careful attention to minutiae, creating a complex and brilliant work of literature that has been considered to be a classic by the current scholars, and revolutionary within it’s own historical context.
Canto XXI chronicles a journey through the Fifth Bolgia and interactions with its inhabitants. The sins of those who are confined to the Fifth Bolgia are categorized as fraud. These inhabitants are barrators, people who obtained government positions through the exchange of coin, rather than the normal processes of the bureaucratic system. The Fifth Bolgia is also host to a set of demons called the Malebranche, with the purpose of facilitating torture and mayhem to the sinners, under the command of Malacoda.
One aspect of Dante’s craftsmanship that is lost in this particular translation of the Inferno is rhyme. Most modern translators attempt to mainta...
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...erfect contrapasso that a divine Lord Almighty could conceive, with that self imported God being Dante the Poet placing his baser desires personified as Dante the Pilgrim within his own manifestation of hell. Due to the perfect nature of this God, Inferno is a perfect epic that builds on its predecessors, and a walk through Canto XXI shows a variety of evidence towards that particular claim due to the plethora of poetic devices, naturally integrated Catholic traditions, masterful incorporation of humor, and the various philosophical themes addressed within five pages of narrative poetry. Incorporating scholarly works within this essay adds in clarity and verification of claims. Any segment of The Divine Comedy can be used as a display of Dante’s mastery with detail and attention to such, as he created a work of literature that clearly deserves the label of a classic.
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