every other fate 48 Only they who have no fate can be envious of any fate To

Every other fate 48 only they who have no fate can be

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every other fate" (48). Only they who have no fate can be envious of any fate. To have no fate means to be at the zero point in the scale of being and actuation; it means to be frozen in potentia, as a mere hypothesis of being, never to become, never to live ("These wretched ones, who never were alive" [64]). In Dante, the cowardly are characterized by a series of negations. They are nameless (36 and 49), spiri- tually deathless and hopeless (46), without pity and justice (50), without life (64). The uncommitted are, in fact, an ontological absurdity: they are the reification of nothingness. It is one of Hell's eternal ironies—and the In- ferno's first contrapasso —that the lifeless should undergo punishment by rac- ing restlessly around what amounts to a zero:
4 2 E U G E N I O N . F R O N G I A And I, looking more closely, saw a banner that, as it wheeled about, raced on—so quick that any respite seemed unsuited to it. (52-54) Guido da Pisa, one of Dante's earliest commentators (1324), inter- preted these lines as follows: 'They abide between the gate of Hell and the river Acheron, and they race around the circle formed by the river" (58). The vagueness of the banner of Hell is appropriate to them. Guido Mazzoni comments: "The banner of these wretched ones, who, angels in heaven, men on earth, refused to follow either banner, flag, or insignia which took to the battlefield for whatever cause, good or bad, just or oth- erwise, has to be without discernible color or shape to themselves and to the readers." To this formless banner any respite seems unsuited. Mazzoni adds, "Unworthy of respite is he who does not commit himself, does not risk, does not struggle. After victory or defeat, one rests; or even after a journey; but these did not want to win, were afraid of losing, never made a move" (192). In this amorphous crowd, Dante makes it a point to recognize someone who certainly is guilty of the Thomistic recusatio tensionis, a refusal to strive toward a great goal set within the limits of his natural capacity: After I had identified a few, I saw and recognized the shade of him who made, through cowardice, the great refusal. (58-60) Commentators point out both the willing lack of historical specificity in the paraphrastic description of the one "who made, through cowardice the great refusal," and the personal, passionate, almost vengeful indictment of the unnamed coward. According to Francesco Mazzoni, here we have Dante the man who comes face to face with the one whom he blames for his re- cent troubles. The intensity and the scornful tone of the characterization following the recognition of the cowardly shade confirms the reading: At once I understood with certainty: this company contained the cowardly, hateful to God and to His enemies. (61-63) According to some, Dante expunged Celestine V's name after he was can- onized by the Church in 1312. Others emphasize the abstract exemplar- ity of the figure, which, in its historical namelessness and facelessness, embodies the very concept of the sin Dante is so harshly condemning. In
C A N T O I I I 4 3 the specific case of a supreme pontiff who, having put his hand to the plow, turned to look backwards and away from his task, the recusatio of-

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