Language in Dante’s Inferno Essay

3881 Words16 Pages
Language in Dante’s Inferno What happens to language in hell? In Dante’s Inferno, the journeying pilgrim explores language’s variations and nuances as he attempts to communicate with hell’s pitiable and sordid inhabitants, despite multiple language barriers and relentless cacophonies. Dante thematically unifies language’s inconsistencies in hell; that is, he associates the pilgrim’s abortive attempts to communicate with particular shades, and the incomprehensible languages and sounds that beleaguer him, with a symbol from Christian mythology: the Tower of Babel. Dante juxtaposes this Christian myth with Virgil’s symbolic association with elevated speech in the Inferno. Virgil functions as the pilgrim’s guide and poetic inspiration,…show more content…
Moreover, similar to his inhabitancy of Limbo, the first circle of hell, among those who are not completely submerged in hell squalor, Likewise, the pilgrim’s relationship to the languages of hell’s denizens represents the limits of language in hell, which Dante allegorizes in the Tower of Babel myth. The myth shows that Nimrod, an architect, leads a massive effort to erect a colossal tower that, according to Augustine, “was intended not merely to ‘touch heaven,’ but was a conspiracy to usurp heaven” (Dronke 39). Due to the excessive pride of Nimrod and his followers, God punishes humans by destroying the tower. He then creates a number of languages that are not mutually understood, which replace the single, universally understood language that exists before the tower falls. Ultimately, Dante presents the multiplicity of languages, symbolized by the Tower of Babel mythology, as having a dual legacy in hell: the various languages symbolize either power, when one has control over languages, or alienation, when one cannot understand someone else’s speech. The pilgrim’s encounter with Nimrod underscores language’s ultimate detachment from successful communication in hell because the architect is an enigmatic figure whose language epitomizes incomprehensibility. Nimrod appears as a giant in the Inferno

More about Language in Dante’s Inferno Essay

Open Document