An Analysis of The Souls Damned in Canto XX from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno Introduction
Virgil and Dante find themselves in Circle Eight, Bolgia Four. The damned in this circle are all diviners and soothsayers, viewed by Dante as practitioners of impious and unlawful arts who attempt to avert God’s designs by their predictions. Virgil implies that those who do prophesy believe that God Himself is “passive” in the face of their attempts to foresee, and possibly change, the future. For such impiety, those who have tried to look forward now have their heads turned backward on their bodies. Among these damned are Amphiareus, Tiresias, Aruns, Manto, Eurypylus, Michael Scott, Guido Bonatti, and Asdente. Body
Dante takes a step backward in his learning process in this canto. For the first time in Malebolge, Dante feels pity for the sinners in this circle, and Virgil chastises him for his behavior. Perhaps Dante wasn't ready to see the true nature of sin in those earlier cantos. Also possible is that Virgil is fallible and can also feel pity for some of the souls in Hell but not for those in the final circles. In lines 31-33, Virgil asks why did Amphiarus flee, Amphiarus is one of the souls damned in this circle, he was one of the seven kings who fought against Thebes, foreseeing his death in the war, he tried to escape death by hiding from battle but soon met death in an earthquake while attempting to flee his pursuers. In lines 40-45 Virgil continues that Tiresias was also here, a famous soothsayer of Thebes. Here Dante mentions an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which Tiresias came upon two coupling serpents and, striking them with his rod, was transformed into a woman. When, seven years later, an identical encounter provoked the same action, he was changed back to a man. In lines 46-51 Virgil states, that Aruns was also found here, he was an Etruscan soothsayer who came from ‘Luni’s hills” and who predicted the civil war and also that it would end with...
Cited: Alighieri, Dante. "The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri." Mandelbaum, Allen. New York, New York: Bantam Dell. A Division of Random House Inc., 1980.
Alighieri, Dante. "The Inferno." Ciardi, John. New York, New York: Signet Classics, New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2009.
Cliffnotes.com. The Divine Comedy: Inferno. n.d. 17 January 2013.
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