Dante's Beasts

2989 Words Apr 30th, 2012 12 Pages
The Beasts and Monsters in Dante's Inferno
The Inferno is the first section of Dante's three-part poem, The Divine Comedy. Throughout Dante's epic journey into the depths of Inferno he encounters thirty monsters and five hybrid creatures. The most significant of these monsters are of central importance to his journey and to the narrative, as they not only challenge Dante's presence in Inferno, but are custodians of Hell, keeping in order or guarding the "perduta gente". In this essay I am concentrating on these prominent beasts, namely Minos, Cerberus, Plutus and Geryon, establishing why they feature in Dante's eschatological vision and discussing the sources which influenced his inclusion of these particular creatures. These four
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His serpentine torso and writhing tail connect him with the previous monsters that Dante has encountered. The twisting movement of Geryon's tail reminds the reader of the manner with which Minos wraps his tail around the sinners, and the description of Cerberus as "il gran vermo" adds to this snaky imagery associated with these beasts. The power the monsters have in their tails would have been meaningful for Dante's readers as it was commonly noted in medieval times that a beast's tail showed its ferocity and held much of its strength. This is illustrated by Brunetto Latini's descriptions of the dragon and the lion in his Li Livres dou Tresor, as well as in Revelations where the power of the horses lay...in their tails; for their tails were like snakes.(6)
This association with serpents is also significant as the serpent was the first deceiver (7), establishing the deception and terror connected with these monsters which adds to the uncertain and disordered atmosphere in Inferno.
Dante's readers would have been familiar with the beasts he discusses in Inferno as they are firmly
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