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Inferno | Quotes

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1.

When I had journeyed half our life's way/I found myself within a shadowed forest,/for I had lost the path that does not stray.


Dante, Canto 1

Dante begins his epic poem by explaining that he was halfway through his life when he lost the true path to God and so found himself in a dark wood. This is where Virgil finds him and becomes his guide.

2.

Justice urged on my high artificer;/my maker was divine authority,/the highest wisdom, and the primal love.


Narrator, Canto 3

This is part of the inscription above the gates of Hell. God's perfect justice, authority, wisdom, and love require that unrepentant sinners suffer punishment.

3.

As many times as Minos wraps his tail/around himself, that marks the sinner's level.


Dante, Canto 5

When the damned first enter Hell, they come to the creature Minos, who decides which circle of Hell they belong in. Minos communicates this by wrapping his tail around himself.

4.

I learned that those who undergo this torment/are damned because they sinned within the flesh,/subjecting reason to the rule of lust.


Dante, Canto 5

In the second circle of Hell, Dante reflects that the lustful are here because they allowed reason to be overcome by desires of the body. Reason is a God-given human trait that helps people overcome sinful impulses and gives them the ability to live virtuous lives.

5.

When you shall stand before the gentle splendor/of one whose gracious eyes see everything,/then you shall learn—from her—your lifetime's journey.


Virgil, Canto 10

Virgil reminds Dante that Beatrice, the woman in Heaven who sent Virgil to help guide Dante, will later be his guide and teacher. This will occur after Virgil has led Dante through Hell and Purgatory.

6.

Have you forgotten, then, the words with which/your Ethics treats of those three dispositions/that strike at Heaven's will: incontinence/and malice and mad bestiality?


Virgil, Canto 11

In describing the structure and punishments of Hell, Virgil reminds Dante of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, in which Aristotle divides sins into three categories. Incontinence refers to sins of excess and indulgence; mad bestiality refers to sins of violence; malice refers to fraud. Dante mixed these categories with categories of sin from Catholic doctrine to map out his Inferno.

7.

Your art would follow nature,/just as a pupil imitates his master;/... your art is almost God's grandchild.


Virgil, Canto 11

Virgil explains that nature is God's artwork and so, when a person creates something that imitates nature, the person's creation is like a child of nature and, therefore, God's grandchild.

8.

Ask of him/whatever you believe I should request;/I cannot, so much pity takes my heart.


Dante, Canto 13

Dante defers to Virgil when confronted with a soul who has committed suicide because he is so moved with pity he cannot ask the shade any questions. Dante is often overcome with pity for the suffering of those in Hell, but this pity is flawed because it suggests that he does not fully accept the justice of God's punishments.

9.

We came along from one bridge to another,/talking of things my Comedy is not/concerned to sing.


Dante, Canto 21

Dante writes the poem as if it were based on real memories, and he is choosing from the memories to communicate what is necessary for the poem's purpose. As he and Virgil travel along together they talk about many things, but Dante only includes those relevant to his purpose.

10.

I made the son and father enemies:/... Because I severed those so joined, I carry—/alas—my brain dissevered from its source,/which is within my trunk. And thus, in me/one sees the law of counter-penalty.


Bertran de Born, Canto 28

A sinner who sowed division is punished by being split into pieces, demonstrating the principle of contrapasso, or counter-penalty.

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