Dante’s Inferno: Canto 10; CIRCLE SIX; The Heretics

Writing title: Dante’s Inferno
Canto: Canto 10; CIRCLE SIX; The Heretics

Artwork: Salvador Dali

Canto 10 summary:
As the Poets pass on, one of the damned hears Dante speaking, recognizes him as a Tuscan, and calls to him from one of the fiery tombs. A moment later he appears. He is FARINATA DEGLI UBERTI, a great war-chief of the Tuscan Ghibellines. The majesty and power of his bearing seem to diminish Hell itself. He asks Dante’s lineage and recognizes him as an enemy. They begin to talk politics, but are interrupted by another shade, who rises from the same tomb. This one is CAVALCANTE DEI CAVALCANTI, father of Guido Cavalcanti, a contemporary poet. If it is genius that leads Dante on his great journey, the shade asks, why is Guido not with him? Can Dante presume to a greater genius than Guido’s? Dante replies that he comes this way only with the aid of powers Guido has not sought. His reply is a classic example of many-leveled symbolism as well as an overt criticism of a rival Poet. The senior Cavalcanti mistakenly infers from Dante’s reply that Guido is dead, and swoons back into the flames. Farinata, who has not deigned to notice his fellow-sinner, continues from the exact point at which he had been interrupted. It is as if he refuses to recognize the flames in which he is shrouded. He proceeds to prophesy Dante’s banishment from Florence, he defends his part in Florentine politics, and then, in answer to Dante’s question, he explains how it is that the damned can foresee the future but have no knowledge of the present. He then names others who share his tomb, and Dante takes his leave with considerable respect for his great enemy, pausing only long enough to leave word for Cavalcanti that Guido is still alive.

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