Canto 8 Of Dante’s Inferno Essay

1439 words - 6 pages

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 Florence, which was once a city that was “at peace, sober and modest” before Argenti’s corruption. In other words, Scott believes that Dante has the right to be angry with Argenti who caused the fall of his beloved city. My opinion, however, is that Dante’s outburst was both ira mala and ira bona. Dante’s treatment of Argenti was motivated by many different factors and therefore the force that compelled Dante to act in the way that he did can not be classified solely as righteous or indignant.

Dante’s obsession with Virgil is evident in the nicknames that Dante uses –leader, lord, master, sweet father and teacher to name a few. Dante’s idolization of Virgil the poet causes him to act out in order to please his guide. For example, when Dante first recognizes Argenti as the sinner in the mud he cries out to him, “With weeping and mourning cursed spirit, now remain; for I recognize you, though you are filthy all over,” (Inf. 8.33-35). In this passage, Dante is not verbally abusing Argenti rather he is simply telling the sinner to remain where he is in order to prevent Argenti from reaching over the boat. After these words however, Virgil becomes elated at Dante’s distaste with the sinner and immediately praises Dante. ...

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