The Hero of Aeneid and the Non-Hero of Dante’s Inferno

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The Hero of Aeneid and the Non-Hero of Dante’s Inferno Although Dante bases much of Inferno's structure on the Aeneid, the central characters, the central voices in each, are used very differently. Dr. Andrew Bernstien, in his essay The Philosophical Foundations of Heroism, defines a hero as ... an individual of elevated moral stature and superior ability who pursues his goals indefatigably in the face of powerful antagonist(s). Because of his unbreached devotion to the good, no matter the opposition, a hero attains spiritual grandeur, even if he fails to achieve practical victory. And that "... the four components of heroism: moral greatness, ability or prowess, action in the face of opposition, and triumph in at least a spiritual, if not a physical, form." The intrinsic conflict needed to create a hero also enhances the elements of rhetoric. Also, a hero needs moral stature, which is a strong appeal to pathos. The form of the tale itself, with the establishment of an antagonist the conflict itself, offers an orderly appeal to logos for the greater argument to take a hold of. Nevertheless, the ethical appeal is the most forceful element; the hero must hold fast to his beliefs and demonstrate courage and sacrifice. These actions are the basis for ethics and lend credence to the cause he is championing. Aeneas fulfils the role of hero, developing into an excellent rhetorical tool; however, Dante fails in this endeavor. While not being a hero does not forbid his use as a good rhetorical tool, Dante amplifies the comparative shortcomings by relying on his single voice and period specific details. Virgil uses forceful diction that focuses on the actions of the Aeneas, and continuously develo... ... middle of paper ... ...ustify the existence of Rome and his audience; he is brave, valiant, loyal, and he defends these ideals against any odds. Dante creates himself, and then uses himself to justify nothing; he is timid, fearful, a hypocrite, and he never has to defend anything. The failure of Dante to create a hero, even though he relies on him as the mouth through which the tale is told, deflates the overall argument. Virgil, on the other hand, makes use of the main character, develops a hero, and enhances every element of his argument. Works Cited Alighiere, Dante. Inferno. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighiere: A Verse Translation. Trans. Allen Mandelbaum. New York: Bantam, 1982. Dr. Bernstien, Andrew. "The Philosophical Foundations of Heroism." 2000. http://www.mikementzer.com/heroism.html Virgil. Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Ventage, 1985.

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