Showing posts from September, 2015

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos XVI to XVIII

Canto XVI - Circle Seven, Ring Three - Blasphemers, Usurers, and Sodomites (?)

Danté is accosted by three shades from his hometown, Florence, a "degenerate" city. These men are covered with sores and joined together like a wheel "their feet moved forward while their necks were straining back." These sinners are punished by continual movement, reflecting their agitated lives. Two of the men are Guido Guerra and Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, Guelph powerhouses and usurers. The speaker is Iacopo Rusticucci, another Guelph and possible homosexual.

We again run into a problem when looking at sodomy. Rusticucci says, "It was my bestial wife, more than all else, who brought me to this pass." Some say this line means his wife drove him to homosexuality while others believe that his wife enjoyed anal sex (a sin at the time). The reader never actually meet homosexuals in Hell, so this can be interpreted in many ways. Something to consider is that homosexuality is punished,…

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos XIII to XV

Canto XIII - Circle Seven, Ring Two - Suicides and Spendthrifts

Danté and Virgil enter a wood where the "filthy Harpies nest." Talk about metafiction. We have Danté writing about creatures from the Aeneid written by Virgil, his guide through Hell, in a poem about Christianity . . . but I digress.

The wood (the only vegetation in Hell besides the meadows of limbo) is populated by brambles that, when broken, can speak. Dante breaks off a branch.

"Are you completely without pity?" the branch laments as it "blisters and hisses."

The bramble was once Pier delle Vigne, a minister to Emperor Frederick II. Remember, the Ghibellines supported the Holy Roman Emperor, while the Guelphs (Dante's party) supported the pope. Delle Vigne rose to power quickly and held sway at court for about 20 years until he was accused of stealing from the treasury. He was blinded and thrown into prison where he committed suicide "to escape from scorn."

"Restore my r…

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos X to XII

Canto X - Circle Six: Heresy

Heresy can be a bit prickly among modern day folk because they are far too intelligent to believe in god or a higher power. That is exactly what Danté was writing about in the early fourteenth century: pride leads to heresy.

What's even weirder today is the proliferation of ghost "reality" shows and people that believe in zombies and vampires.

Oh, but you don't believe in zombies or vampires, do you? You're way too smart for that.

There is heresy in every age and it involves what we, as a society, are forbidden to criticize. Can't think of anything? What is the worst epithet you can be labeled? How about racist or homophobic?

Like George Orwell once said, "The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. "

Canto X takes us to Circle Six where we meet the shade of Farinata delgi Uberti, a Ghebelline (Danté is a Guelph) fr…

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos VII to IX

Canto VII - Circle Four: Greed (Avarice and prodigal) to Circle Five: Anger

Danté and Virgil meet up with Plutus (Greek god of wealth) who guards the entrance to circle four where they see shades rolling money bags back and forth endlessly. As Virgil says "All the gold that lies beneath the moon, or ever did, could never give a moment's rest to any of these wearied souls." Seriously, do you know people like this? And I'm not just talking about money.

How many shoes do you need? How many buttons, Pokemon cards, books, action figures, stamps, Pez dispensers, cars, guns, records, DVDs, CDs, MP3s, etc., etc., etc. does one person need? These are the hoarders.

Then there are the prodigal that squander goods. Can't find your lipstick - just go out and buy a new one, or two, or three. Got a scuff on your new Nike's? Oh well, go buy another pair on your credit card. Got too rough with your new iPhone - it's all covered, no problem.

In this circle, Danté observes …

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos IV to VI

Canto IV - Circle One: Limbo

In the last post Danté had reached the shore of Acheron just past Hell's gate and then promptly fell asleep. He wakes up on the other side of the river, refreshed and ready to continue his journey.

Virgil is by his side and guides Danté through Limbo, the first circle of Hell. It is Virgil's home and the home of the unbaptized, although some occupants have ascended to Paradise, one-time occupants like Moses, Abraham, and David.

On the surface, Limbo is not a bad place. It is made up green meadows and a castle with seven gates representing the seven virtues that these virtuous pagans practiced in their daily lives. What are the seven virtues, you ask? Prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope and charity.

Virgil meets up with his compatriots Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan, all famous writers of the classic world, and they hold a short conclave and then adopt Danté as one of their own. Wow, pretty gutsy for a guy who hasn't even finishe…

Reading Dante's Inferno 2015: Cantos I to III


Danté's Inferno is a self-help guide book that can aid you as you navigate your way through Hell (with a capital H). In 2015, most students may find this work challenging, but if you think of how Danté is relevant today that can help make The Inferno one of your best reads yet.

Some things to keep in mind, Danté wrote YOU into The Divine Comedy, an epic poem of 14,233 lines. That may sound like a lot of reading, but they are short 3-line verses (tercets) divided into 100 cantos (verses) and we are only going to look at Hell (34 cantos). So keep an eye out for friends, family, and yourself as we make our descent.

The Inferno is very descriptive and we'll look at many illustrations to help see what Danté was trying to show us, like the picture above. Danté's Hell is based on varying circles, or levels, with the worst sinners at the bottom.

Everyone in Hell gets the punishment they deserve, and the farther down one is located in Hell, the worse the punishment. Hel…

Celebrate Literacy

If you listen to some people, they complain about how young people today can't string five words together into a coherent sentence, BUT today more people then ever before can read and write.

Why is that?

It's called T-E-X-T-I-N-G!

In this digital age if you can't keyboard, you're sunk. Every job everywhere involves some form of written communication.

Hard to believe that 757 million adults cannot read or write. Maybe it's just third world countries.

But no! In America this may seem foreign to us, but guess again there are 32 million adults that cannot read or write.

Think about that. How do they go to the store? How do they pay their bills? How do they take public transportation? How do they read medication labels?

What does it mean to be illiterate? It means you, your children, and your family will live in poverty.

There's even a Literacy Day (Sept. 8) to help raise awareness of this problem.

Do you know someone that struggles with reading and writing? How do…

When the Post Office isn't enough

It seems everybody had to start somewhere.

Albert Einstein worked in the Swiss patent office.

Nathaniel Hawthorne worked at the Boston Custom's house.

William Faulkner worked at the post office.

After Faulkner dropped out of college, where he earned a D in English, he became a postmaster which he found "tedious, boring and uninspiring," according to Open Culture.

After all a Nobel laureate can only take so much. So, when enough was enough he sent the following to his superiors:
As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.  This, sir, is my resignation. Hmmm . . . a bit of caustic, self-aggrandizement? Faulkner was known to embellish a bit. Like all of us it is the sum of our experience that takes us where we will end up . . . and very few end up where they plan.