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Canto 10

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Canto 10 of Dante Alighieri's epic poem Inferno.

Inferno | Canto 10 | Summary

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Summary

Virgil leads Dante past the tombs of Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who did not believe in immortality, and his followers. He also accuses Dante of keeping a secret longing. Then they hear a voice speaking from inside a tomb and Dante is afraid, but Virgil explains that it is Farinata degli Uberti, another Florentine, who has risen half out of his tomb to speak with them. Farinata notes that Dante's ancestors were enemies of his family, so he "had to scatter them twice over." Dante replies that even if his family was driven out of Florence twice, they always returned. Another shade—Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, whose son Guido is Dante's friend—asks Dante where his son is. When Dante speaks of Guido in past tense, the man falls back into his tomb, wrongly assuming his son is dead.

Farinata and Dante continue to discuss the political situation in Florence, and while they do not agree, Dante expresses his wish that Farinata's descendants would find peace. As they talk Dante begins to suspect that Farinata can see the future but is blind to present events. Farinata confirms this. Before returning to Virgil, Dante asks Farinata to tell Cavalcante that Guido is not dead. Virgil advises Dante to remember the words that have been spoken to him, and that he will receive more information about his "lifetime's journey" later.

Analysis

For the most part, Dante's classifications of sin are based on Aristotle's: incontinence (lack of self-control), mad bestiality (violence), and malice (fraud). Heresy, however, does not fit easily into these classifications, because it means having incorrect beliefs about God or spiritual matters. As such, it is a sin defined by the Church. Dante, as a Catholic, needs to include this important type of sin in Hell, so he places it between sins of incontinence and sins of violence. This gives some insight into how severe of a sin he deems heresy—bad enough to be in lower Hell, but not as bad as sins of violence. Although not many specific heresies are called out, Dante does learn that Epicurus and his followers are punished here—those who did not believe in the immortality of the soul, an important Christian teaching. Epicurean ideas were popular in Florence in Dante's time. Their punishment is to be imprisoned in tombs, a dark twist on what they believed would happen after death.

The presence of two more Florentines, one from a faction that opposed Dante's and one who is a friend and ally, implies that Dante sees the political situation of Florence as heavily intertwined with specific sins. While sins of incontinence mean that the sinner focuses on material pleasure rather than spiritual purity, heresy is another kind of corruption associated with a society that places too little value on faith and virtue. However, heretics, like the virtuous unbaptized, do not commit active sins; rather, their sin is a lack of faith or false belief. Thus, they do not have a clear place in the divisions of incontinence, violence, and fraud.

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