Dante Alighieri

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Canto 15

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Canto 15 of Dante Alighieri's epic poem Inferno.

Inferno | Canto 15 | Summary



Dante and Virgil are still in the seventh circle. They come to a group of spirits moving around who peer intently at them, and one of these is someone Dante recognizes: the Florentine Brunetto Latini, politician and poet, and Dante's former mentor. They talk for a while, and Dante explains his journey and expresses his gratitude to Brunetto for teaching him "how man makes himself eternal" through writing. Dante learns that the spirits gathered with Brunetto all committed the same sin, and include clerics, as well as "men of letters and of fame."


The people who are forced to move about continually in this circle are "sodomites," that is, people who have homosexual sex. Brunetto is very talkative until Dante asks him for the names of people in his group. Then he seems reluctant to name too many names.

It may seem strange that homosexuals are included with the violent against God, but in the Church's view at the time, homosexual acts were against the created natural order, and against the Church's doctrine that sexual acts were meant to produce children. Therefore, Dante includes them with the violent. However, it is clear that Dante views Brunetto with great affection and respect, and Brunetto is represented as a virtuous, gentle man and a devoted statesman who cares about the common good. The sodomites whom Brunetto will not name are clerics and illustrious men who are "stained" by their sin. Brunetto's mix of virtue and sin makes him a complex, sympathetic character, and it also makes clear that the damned are not simply evil people who can be dismissed. Sin is not just an isolated evil; on the contrary, confrontation with sin is a fundamental part of the human condition.

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