As we all know, a first impression is a lasting one. As true as this statement may be, when reading between the lines of someone’s seemingly innocent story, they can turn out to be totally different people. In Canto 5 of Inferno, this exact phenomenon is portrayed. Canto 5 brings us to the second circle of Hell, the circle for the lustful souls, where we meet Francesca and Paolo.
These two sinners tell Dante a woeful tale of love and betrayal through their tears. Francesca, the woman who tells the story seems so pitiful and sad, not because of what she had done, but because she is in Hell. Francesca says that she is in hell unjustly because she loved the man she is now spinning in an eternal wind with. Dante believes her wholeheartedly and is sucked into her sob story. The readers other the other hand, know better.
Before telling exactly how she ending up in the Second Circle of Hell, Francesca says “Love that flames soonest in the gentle heart.. love which allows no loved one not to love seized me... love lead us to one death.” (Esolen, 5:100-106). By speaking of love this way, Francesca is falsely personifying an emotion. She claims love made her commit this sin of incontinence which, by definition, is the failure to restrain ones desires. Without looking beyond her words, there is an instant feeling of pity for the couple who seems to be incorrectly placed here. However, looking past her false images of love we know that love is not a seizing force; it is a feeling which Francesca is confusing lust with.
Francesca repeatedly speaks of love and how it is the reason of her death and suffering, then quickly switches to hate. She sends hatred to the man who ended her life. The sinner says “The realm of Cain waits for the man who quenched us of our lives.” (Esolen, 5:106-107). With subtle clues, we as the readers piece together who this man Francesca speaks of is as well as what Francesca and Paolo have truly done. Cain is the Bible’s first murderer, on top of knowing that Paolo and Francesca were murdered, Cain murdered his own brother. If Francesca says the man who ended her and Paolo’s lives is going to the realm of Cain or Caina, it must mean the man who killed them was a brother to one of the two souls.
Dante is filled with sorrow for the two and must know how their love sent...