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Dante Alighieri

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Canto 27

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Canto 27 of Dante Alighieri's epic poem Inferno.

Inferno | Canto 27 | Summary



Granted permission from Virgil to leave, the double flame moves away. Another flame approaches—one that is making a strange noise, as if the words being spoken by the soul inside the flame are expressed in the language of the fire itself. As the words make their way to the tip of the flame, they become understandable. The voice asks if Romagna is at war or enjoys peace. Dante replies that it is not yet free of war "inside its tyrant's hearts" but that at the moment there is no active war. He gives a few details before asking the soul his name. The soul thinks it is unbelievable that anyone could return to the world above, so he is willing to tell his story. He says he was a wily man skilled in the deeds "of the fox" rather than the lion—sneaky, rather than courageous and powerful. Later, he wanted to make amends, so he became a Franciscan monk. However, the pope asked him to do some dirty work for him, and absolved him of the sins he would need to commit in advance. However, when he died, he found out the absolution from the pope didn't work because he had not repented of those sins. He was taken to Minos, who sent him to the eighth circle.

After this soul moves away, Dante and Virgil continue on along the ridge and over the next bridge.


This canto includes an example of dramatic irony, which occurs when the reader knows more than the character or characters in the story. Guido da Montefeltro, the sinner reluctant to identify himself to Dante, was only willing to tell his story because Dante cannot tell it above, so his reputation in the land of the living will remain intact. However, readers know that Dante did indeed remember this story and tells it—in Inferno!

During Guido's story, he reveals that St. Francis could not take him to Heaven because a person can't receive absolution until he or she has repented. This is a reminder to readers that the shades in Hell are not simply sinners—after all, all people sin—but are unrepentant sinners. People who die repenting of their sins can go to Purgatory, where their punishment will purge their sin and allow them to eventually enter Heaven. Later, in Purgatorio, Dante will come to the Lethe River, where those who have sufficiently purged their sins can also forget them. As unrepentant sinners, those in Hell maintain their sinful attitudes and practices. The angry are still angry, the liars are still liars, and the flatterers are still flatterers. In some sense, part of contrapasso is that God allows the unrepentant to continue in their sin rather than allowing or helping them become better. They cannot learn, as Dante is being allowed to learn, how to be more virtuous.

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