Inferno, Canto 10 | The American Conservative
For Gramsci, that Canto is shared by Farinata and Cavalcante, as it indeed is for us of radical Aristotelianism in Florence during Guido's time) seem now to go a Dante's complex relationship to Guido, from closeness to estrangement and. with Florence as a positive quality that has no relationship reason for being the sin of heresy. The behavior of Farinata and Cavalcante is, in my opinion, a The heretics, too, did not go beyond their earthly realities, for they did not believe . Virgil tells him to go back there and talk to Farinata. He's made the effort to From Dante's reply, Cavalcante gets the idea that his son is dead. When Dante.
Your mode of speech identifies you clearly as one whose birthplace is that noble city with which in my time, perhaps, I was too harsh" vv. After so much perceptive commentary there is little need to expatiate on the poetical power of this famous passage and its sequel; yet certain aspects still invite analysis. To begin with, the force of the unexpected. Although Dante had already mentioned to Ciacco, in an earlier circle, his wish to know Farinata's whereabouts in Hell, and then intimated to Virgil in the present context his eagerness to see the Ghibelline hero without naming the namein the midst of the latter conversation he is taken completely by surprise.
In this way the stage is set for the appearance of the formidable hero, and yet nothing lets pilgrim or reader expect it at this particular juncture. Farinata breaks into the conversation with the suddenness of lightning, and already in this gesture of the voice he delineates his character, the more so as, again quite unexpectedly, this forceful gesture ushers in a courteous, aristocratic eloquence instead of the rudeness it might have heralded. The mode of his entrance on stage is quite his own, as we can see by comparing it to Ciacco's, which was also memorable in its rhetorically elaborate way: May we, however, note that Ciacco and Farinata alike, and later on Ser Brunetto Latini Canto XVeach address Dante first, leaving to him the burden of recognition; this common trait marks the choreography of the intermittent Florence cantos, which set up a sequence of their own within the overall narrative system, 24 for they are special stations of the journey into personal and ancestral memory.
Temps perdu has a way of ambushing a man. Farinata is heard before he is seen, and his speech creates him for us before we have a chance, with Dante the pilgrim, to know who he is. The estranging displacement of the familiar sharpens it and at the same time makes it strange in turn; an effect Dante managed at least as well as the best writers of science fiction.
Inferno, Canto 10
You wouldn't expect to hear a voice from your own hometown if you were temporarily or permanently confined to an infernal dungeon or to another planet.
The effect, however, is no mere stage device in Dante's case but an intimate component of the poetry, of the transfiguring process that recovers time past and place lost by the double agency of distancing and reimmersion. That in the alienating distance of hell the image of Florence, the city both partners in the dialogue lost, should take shape aurally, as language, rather than visually, is imaginatively and logically congruous.
It is also consistent with Dante's lifelong concern with language, a concern that runs through so much of his prose and poetry, from Vita Nuova to Convivio, from De Vulgari Eloquentia to Divine Comedy. As I have said elsewhere, one distinctive trait of the Divine Comedy within the epic tradition of the West is its focal emphasis on the function and phenomena of language.
In this crowning poem, a poem whose several characters act chiefly by speaking, for the purpose of dramatic presentation Aristotle's man the political or social animal becomes man the speaking animal. Accordingly, action often occurs as speech act and speech transaction, with the remarkable power of overcoming for the duration of each meeting with the damned souls the isolation in which the sinners are locked.
If not communion a privilege reserved for the souls in Purgatory and Paradise communication is temporarily restored. It is no wonder that, in deference to such powers of the word, lines of Farinata's address to Dante should clearly echo a Gospel passage from Matthew XXVI, 73as Sapegno notes in his commentary: Farinata's homage is of course to his, and the unexpected visitor's, native city. Heretic he may be, and a damned soul, but his nobility, and the patriotic affection which enabled him to rise above fanatical factionalism in the Empoli showdown, are still with him, as can already be inferred from the muffled apology he proffers at the end of his first utterance line Dante is not interested in one-dimensional characters, but in the tragic plight of those whose earthbound magnanimity was not enough to avert mortal sin and consequent damnation.
The sequel to Farinata's eloquent interruption of Virgil's and Dante's conversation is marked by a rise in dramatic pitch and an acceleration of rhythm into alternating units of vivid reportorial depiction and gusts of feverish staccato utterance.
Rhythmic mimesis animates the tercet that follows the Ghibelline leader's peremptory if courteously worded self-introduction: One of the vaults resounded suddenly with these clear words, and I, intimidated, drew up a little closer to my guide vv. Ed el mi disse: Turn around and look at Farinata, who has risen, you will see him from the waist up standing straight" vv.
It is part of the swift pacing that this first visual image of the great warrior should be relayed to the pilgrim by Virgil, along with the identifying name, rather than directly perceived by Dante himself in the story. When Dante does perceive Farinata, the impact is compounded: I already had my eyes fixed on his face, and there he stood out tall, with his chest and brow proclaiming his disdain for all this Hell vv.
In the interaction with his leader, Dante the character begins to recover from his shock so as squarely to face the overwhelming presence, but he still needs Virgil's energetic assistance and cautionary advice: E l'animose man del duca e pronte mi pinser tra le sepulture a lui dicendo: My guide, with a gentle push, encouraged me to move among the sepulchers toward him: In the first two lines of this tercet Virgil is all action, and for the protagonist and narrator he exists just as a pair of determined hands, then as a voice, because Dante at this point, being mesmerized by Farinata, cannot see the fatherly guide, he can only feel and hear him.
Dante the invisible writer is performing a remarkable job as stage director by thus managing the transition from the Virgil-Dante interaction to the Dante-Farinata one. In the process, Dante the character undergoes a change of mood and attitude from childish dismay to the self-collected stance in which he will be able to stand his ground against the formidable opponent and actually score on him.
From now on the exchange becomes a duel as the two antagonists fight the old battles again, each throwing his own side's victories to the other's face: In this utterance Farinata's voice has an initial swiftness which the tercet's second line modulates into a staccato slowdown dictated by the metric need for two strong caesuras and three hiatuses two of them coincide with the caesuras: Meanwhile the interruption at the hands of pathetic Cavalcante generates new suspense and widens the circle of speakers and listeners.
This seems to be the canto of interruptions, and they propel the dramatized story; at the same time, on the level of discourse interruption cannot help mirroring the rifts that protracted civil war has inflicted on the body social of faction-ridden Florence.
In Farinata's time, it was the unremitting strife of Guelphs and Ghibellines that tore it apart; in Dante's own time, it is the strife of White and Black Guelphs. Farinata and Cavalcante ignore each other; they relate to their Florentine visitor from the world of the living, but not to each other, and this noncommunication, too, reflects the social wounds that are Florence's heritage by now.
They are a self-atomized society. What Dante the poet says here is that their heretical belief that life on earth is all that exists led them to embrace with passion the things of this world — and that, in turn, led to their blind and destructive egotism.
This had dramatic consequences for their communities: Dante is moving toward a vision of cosmic harmony, but first he has to see the consequences of division, of people being so passionate about the things they loved in the world that they made life for everyone a living hell. There was no such thing as common ground, or a common vision, nor did it even occur to them that some things are more important than temporal gain. Their insistence that this day, and this life, is the only thing that exists led them to destroy the tomorrows of their fellow citizens.
Dante explains that he and the Sienese-backed forces he led turned the River Arbia red with Guelph blood at the Battle of Montapertiwhich led to the Ghibelline takeover of Florence. Over 10, Guelphs died in that battle versus only Ghibellinesand it resulted in the exile of many Florentine Guelphs, and the annihilation of their homes by the vengeful Ghibellines.
This happened only 40 years before Dante meets Farinata in Hell; it should not come as a surprise that the Guelphs in Florence hold the family of the man who led the armies that ruined them in contempt. He sold them all out! For his part, Farinata believes that they ought to all be grateful to him for preventing the Sienese from leveling Florence entirely.
Farinata thinks of himself as a great man. He came from a prominent family, he was a serious thinker, and he led his party to victory on the field of battle. Yet there he is in Hell — and in his arrogance, he refuses to recognize it.
He did everything right by his own philosophy. He loved what he should have loved, and loved them in the way he should have loved them. No wonder he scorns Hell. Still, all his accomplishments on earth passed away, within a generation. And, as he will prophesy to Dante, his own political accomplishments in Guelph-led Florence will soon turn to dust as well. In this sense, the heresy of Farinata and Cavalcante includes believing that truth consisted in their all-consuming love for family, party, status, and so forth.
Recapping Dante: Canto 10, or Why We Are Doing This
The thing is, there is nothing wrong with loving your family, your party, your city and your creed. The error comes in believing that these are ultimate ends. Could this be why Jesus said to call your brother a fool puts you in danger of the fires of Hell?
This was incredibly helpful for me in trying to untie the knot that bound me after my return to my Louisiana home. The divisions between my Louisiana family and me that had been there for most of my life proved impossible to bridge.
And I loved them. So why the struggle? It was, I think, because all of us put far more value on the good things of this world than we ought to have done.
I could not ever hope to fit in as I wanted to because they considered me to be selfish and unloving for not loving as they loved — that is, for not sharing their particular view of what it meant to be devoted to family, to place, and so forth. In their view, if I loved as I ought to love, I never would have left, and I would have the same vision of the good as they do. I deeply believe they were, and are, wrong about this.
The thing is, I had grown up in this family culture, and had internalized its values.
Deep down, I accepted this critique, even though I have spent all my adult life fighting against it on the surface. Much of this is in Little Way — in the part where my niece Hannah reveals to me that her late mother and my father had raised her and her sisters to think bad of me for having left home, and for believing the things I do and living the way I do. Virgil points out a group of tombs containing the followers of Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who thought that the soul did not live on after death.
Even in the midst of his miraculous journey through the afterlife, Dante is interested in finding someone from Florence he might recognize. Epicurus's followers sin against God by not believing in the immortality of the soul. The entire concept of the afterlife described in Inferno is based on the immortality of the soul. Active Themes Just then, a voice from one of the tombs interrupts Dante and Virgil, calling out to Dante as a living Tuscan.
Virgil encourages Dante to go see the spirit, who turns out to be Farinata, a fellow Florentine. Farinata asks who Dante is and when Dante tells him, Farinata says that their families have long feuded. The local feuds between families in Florence are still a matter of concern for Farinata, even as he spends eternity suffering in hell.
Dante's Inferno - Circle 6 - Canto 10
This political conflict motivated much of the political strife in Florence and across all of Italy when Dante wrote. Active Themes Another suffering soul interrupts Farinata and Dante, asking why his son is not with Dante. Dante recognizes this soul as Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti, the father of his friend Guido. Dante says he comes this way because of God's will and suggests that maybe Guido disdained God.