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Canto 8 of Dante’s Inferno

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In recent discussions of Canto 8 of Dante’s Inferno, many scholars have argued about Dante the pilgrim’s controversial abuse of one of the wrathful sinners of the fifth circle, Filippo Argenti. The altercation between the two is viewed in numerous lights. From one perspective it is seen as unjustified (ira mala) because Dante is seen as guilty of the sin being punished for in this circle, but also because his response was wrongly motivated. Others state that Dante’s anger was righteous (ira bona) because there was proper reasoning behind it. Kleinhenz, one particular scholar, argues that Dante’s outburst at Filippo Argenti is a result of the praise Dante received after initially criticizing the sinner. In his book, Inferno 8: The Passage Across the Styx, he maintains that Virgil’s praise “is perhaps wrongly motivated and consequently, that Dante’s reaction to Fillipo Argenti in this canto is equally erroneous”. Kleinhenz alludes to this point in his interpretation of Luke 11:27, where a woman who is praising Jesus is correct in her exaltation of the Mother and Son, but her praise is inappropriate to the situation. By analyzing the parallels between Virgil’s praise and the biblical verse, Kleinhenz argues that both Virgil and Dante’s actions are inappropriate and therefore ira mala.

John A. Scott, however, views Dante’s outburst as being justified. In his book,Understanding Dante, Scott argues that Florence was very much a part of Dante’s life and that Filippo Argenti was an ostentatious man whose “arrogance and insolent display of wealth” as well as “corrupt nature” is viewed synonymously with Florence’s decline. Therefore Scott argues that Dante’s rage was appropriate because it was inspired by the new decadence of Fl...

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...is anger can be viewed as ira bona and ira mala simultaneously. Wishing further pain upon Argenti in order to receive further praise from his mentor is an unreasonable excuse, but trying to become a better pupil and person by doing as his mentor says is reasonable. Becoming furious as a human instinct is rational, whereas doling out punishments while you are only a human is not. Dante did not react to the sinner in the way that he did for only one reason, instead he had many reasons to respond as he did.

Works Cited

Alghieri, Dante. Inferno. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.

John A. Scott’s Understanding Dante, Univ. of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, 2004 (210-11)

Kleinhenz, Christopher. “Inferno 8: The Passage Across the Styx.” Lectura Dantis. Brown University. No. 3 Fall 1988 21 pars: 21 Sept. 2009 .
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