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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes
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CANTO XX

Arriving at bowge iv, Dante sees sinners so twisted that they
face the back of their bodies. Their eyes are filled with tears.
These are the Sorcerers, the Fortune Tellers. Among them are
Tiresias, the famous Greek prophet; Amphiaraus, one of the
Seven against Thebes who foresaw his own death; and Manto,
daughter of Tiresias. Seeing them, Dante weeps. Virgil
chastises Dante severely for this sympathetic reaction, telling
him that, "Here pity, or here piety, must die..." In other words,
Dante, by showing pity at the results of God's judgment, is
showing both an unreadiness to understand the true nature of
sin and an arrogance at judging God's judgment. Dante pulls
himself together as Virgil catalogs the sinners in this trench.



You are probably wondering why Dante is so moved by this
particular punishment. We can only guess that Dante grieves
over the twisted human forms. The Sorcerers themselves face
backwards because they tried to see the future; their eyes are
filled with tears so that those who tried to usurp God's power
to penetrate the future can no longer even see in front of
themselves. Dante's reaction and the rebuke from Virgil show
that Dante's vision, too, is not clear enough for him to see
beyond the immediate and the physical to the source and the
reason beyond, the Divine Order of God.

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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes
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