Enjoying the "Divine Comedy": INFERNO- CANTO XVII

Enjoying the

Enjoying the "Divine Comedy": INFERNO- CANTO XVII

Canto XVII is all dominated by the impressive figure of Gerion, a monster of classical mythology (killed by Hercules) whose physical characteristics are altered by Dante to serve his purposes. As in other situations, a monster appears in the transition from one infernal circle to another, presenting symbolic character, related to the nature of this new circle, which in this case is the eighth, of the fraudulent, presented in ten different forms. As Charon, at the beginning of this journey through Hell, Gerion will transport the two poets to the next circle (the so-called "Malebolge").

Gerion is an allegory of fraud. The description of his physical appearance covers the first twenty-seven verses of the Song. He is the "sordid image of fraud" (sozza imagine di froda-v.7). He has the face of a righteous man, but his body is like that of the serpent. It is a "monster with a sharp tail" (the beast with the coda aguzza- v.1), which, passing through mountains and destroying walls and weapons, contaminates the whole world with its bad smell (che tutto 'mondo appuzza- v.3 ), that is to say, fraud is present everywhere. It has two legs, with hair up to the armpits. Verses 26-27 say that the tip of his tail is bifurcated and venomous, like that of the scorpion. Explicit references to the serpent and the scorpion indicate the harmful and treacherous character of the fraud, which harms the human being and condemns it to Hell. Virgil begins the Canto by giving Dante this information about Gerion. At his summons, the monster lands with its head and bust on the rocky shore by the side of the sand, while its tail shudders over the precipice, causing the author of the "Comedy" to compare this situation with boats and with the beaver in the Germanic region in these two similes:
Come talvolta stanno a riva i burchi,
che part sono in acqua e parte in terra,
e come là tra li Tedeschi lurchi

lo bivero s'assetta to make his war, (v.19-22)

Dante makes yet another comparison, the drawings ("knots and slices") painted on the back and chest of the monster with those of Tartar and Turkish fabrics, famous in the Middle Ages, or with the canvases of Arachne, the skillful weaver transformed in spider by the arrogance of having challenged Minerva (2). Such comparisons are certainly intended to show how fraud conceals its intrinsic villainy by appearing pleasing to the human senses.

As long as Virgil goes to parley with the beast, "to give us his strong shoulders" do not grant i suoi omeri forti v. 42), ie Dante, who had seen "a little more distant, on the sand, / people sitting near the abyss" (little più oltre veggio in his reindeer / people seder propinqua al loco scemo- v.35-36) has the authorization of his guide to have with those condemned a "short conversation". This is Dante's account of them, the usurers , who practiced violence against art (3):
Per li occhi fora scoppiava lor duolo;
di qua, di là soccorrien con le mani
when it is steamed, and when the broth suolo:

non altrimente fan di state i cani
or col ceffo or col piè, when they are morsi of the pulci of the mosche or the tafani. (v.46-51)

("Through his eyes they poured out his pain; / on this side of that, with his hands defending himself / sometimes the flames, sometimes the hot soil: / the dogs in summer, / with the muzzle or the paw, when troubled / by the fleas, flies or moscardos "(we have another comparison here).

Dante does not recognize anyone there. dal collo to ciascun pendea un tasca
ch'avea certain color and certain segno, and quindi par che 'l parchio si pasca (v. 55-57)

from the neck of each one hung a bag, which had a certain color and a certain emblem, and his eyes seemed to delight in contemplating it. "

It is striking how often animals are mentioned in this Corner. The ox has just been named. Before, in the reference to the coats of arms, they were mentioned lion, goose, nut and goat. Even before, dogs, fleas, flies and moscardos. When Gerion was described, serpent and scorpion were mentioned. At the end of the Corner, eels and falcon are mentioned. Certainly this does not happen by chance. Dante must be emphasizing the fact that the usurer is dehumanizing, brutish in the exercise of his reprehensible activity, far from a truly human and productive practice (the "art"). He, by canceling out the reason for his monetary obsession, reduces himself to the condition of the beast. In fact, the 7th circle, of which the two poets are leaving and in which the usurer is the last outstanding representative, is the circle, as we have seen, of violence and bestiality, of the violent against the neighbor, against himself and against God; the latter include blasphemers, sodomites, and usurers. While Sodomites offend God for infringing upon the laws of nature, the usurers offend Him by opposing art.

Dante returns to Virgilio, and finds him already mounted on the croup of the beast. The author of the "Aeneid" tells him:
/.../ "Or sie strong and ardito.

Omai si scende per sì fatte scale;
monta dinanzi, ch'i 'voglio esser mezzo,
sì che la coda non can far male. "(v.81-84)

(" Now, be strong and bold./ We will descend by this kind of ladder; front, that I stand in the middle, / so that the tail does not hurt you. ")

In the end, Gerion leaves the two poets at the bottom, at the foot of the steep rock. It is compared to the hawk, which after flying long time without killing any bird, resents resentfully away from the falconer. In the last two verses, Dante says: (Gerion) "free from our persons, / the arrow has shot like a rope." (e, discarcate le nostre persone, / si dileguò eats the rope cocca- v. 135-136).

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