Virgil and Dante Essay

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Virgil and Dante

In the note to Canto V regarding Francesca and Paulo, the Hollanders exclaim that “Sympathy for the damned, in the Inferno, is nearly always and nearly certainly the sign of a wavering moral disposition” (112). Indeed, many of the touching, emotional, or indignation rousing tales told by the souls in Hell can evoke pity, but in the telling of the tales, it is always possible to derive the reasons for the damned souls’ placement in Hell. However, there is a knee-jerk reaction to separate Virgil and, arguably, some of the other souls in limbo from this group of the damned, though, with careful perusal of the text, the thoughtful reader can discern the machinations behind their damnation.
Although the dynamic between
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Arguably, like the fathers of the Old Testament, he foresaw what would occur though not precisely knowing the saving details. Also, like the Hebrew prophets, his work is filled with an underlying sadness. The Aeneid ends, not with the joy or inevitably glory and majesty that would be Rome, but with the bitter, angry Aeneas plunging his sword into the breast of Turnus, howling for revenge for the dead Pallas. Thus, it is not surprising that Virgil ends up in precisely the same place as the writers of the Old Testament: Limbo. While in the first circle of the damned, a list is given of these souls which include Moses, Noah, Abel, “the patriarch Abraham” (IV.58), etc. However, “Out of our midst [Christ] plucked [these shades]” (IV.55) shortly after the poet’s death. These are not the only similarities between Virgil and the old prophets: as many came to reach goodness in and through the Old Testament, so did the poet Satius, who appears in Purgatorio reach Christianity only by the help of Virgil. True, there is some awkwardness when Statius confesses this fact to Virgil, but this awkwardness translates also to the rift between the old prophets and the new, as depicted in the Earthly Paradise in Purgatorio:

Go read Ezechiel who
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