free booknotes online

Help / FAQ




<- Previous Page | First Page | Next Page ->
Free Study Guide-The Divine Comedy-The Inferno by Dante Alighieri-Notes
Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes

CANTO SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

CANTO XVII

Summary

Greyon comes and rests on the edge of the precipice. Virgil points him out as a symbol of Fraud to the pilgrim. Greyon has an honest looking face, a human face. The rest of his body is like a snake. He has two clawed paws and the limbs attached to them are covered with hair till his armpits. His hind and limbs and stomach are covered with numerous hues. His body ends in a poisonous forked tail. This tail he keeps hidden behind him, handing in the precipice just out of sight. The poets move towards Greyon.

Near the edge of the precipice, close to Greyon, Dante notices some people crouched on the sand. These are the usurers and Virgil advises Dante to go learn about their punishment. They are the third type of sinners punished in this round. The usurers are in great pain from the searing desert sand as well as the rain of fire. The use their hands to brush away the sand and the fire that torments them. Dante the poet compares their plight to a dog fighting off fleas and flies that trouble him. Dante doesn't recognize any of them by face. Around each of their neck is hung a colored pouch with a coat of arms on it. Each pouch is of a different hue and each usurer's attention is focussed greedily on his pouch.

Dante detects a yellow one with a blue lion on its surface. He also detects a red purse with a white goose symbol on it. Another bag, white in color, has a fat sow of blue color on it. The wearer of this pouch addresses him rudely and also tells him that Vitaliano will soon join the usurers here. The speaker is from Padua while the other sinners are all from Florence. These Florentines are awaiting the arrival of one who will have the symbol of three goats on his pouch. The speaker then sticks out his tongue at Dante.


Virgil had told Dante not to take too long. Remembering this Dante hurries away and finds Virgil atop Greyon. He encourages Dante to climb the monster who will take them to the seventh circle. He (Virgil) doesn’t trust Greyon therefore he place himself between Dante and Greyon's poisonous tail. Scared and ashamed of his fear Dante climbs onto Greyon's shoulders. Virgil aware of his ward’s fears-- hears his unspoken plea and then puts his arms around him. At a word from Virgil, Greyon starts his flying descent down the precipice. Dante compares his fear to the fear Phaethon and Icarus might have felt--

the former when he lost control of his father's chariot in the sky, and the latter when his wax wings started melting as he flew. Greyon descends in a spiral path and the roar of the waterfall is clearly audible to Dante. Dante looks down and sees flames and hears sound of pain, this increases his fears and he draws back on Greyon's back, trembling with fear. Nearing the bottom, Dante can now see signs of suffering everywhere. He compares Greyon's decent to that of an unsuccessful hunting falcon. The minute they get down from his back he flies away quickly.

Notes

In response to Virgil's signal (word that was thrown down) Greyon rises up to meet them. Classical mythology depicts Greyon as a three-bodied giant. He was the ruler of Spain. Hercules killed him in the course of his twelve labors. In "Inferno" he is ‘fraud’ personified. And his appearance is perfect for defrauding others. For he has an honest face with which he can beguile his victims. And then strike his unsuspecting victims with his poisonous tail. His apparent honesty fools his victims and gives him an opportunity to exploit them. This is how fraud works. To defraud someone you have to first win his trust and then you can obtain from him or her what you want.

Dante presents Greyon with a man's face, beast's trunk and a scorpion's tail. He takes this form from the Bible (Revelation IX) and from Pliny (Historia naturalis VIII. (Although he modifies it a little to suit his purpose.) The Greyon, with his three-fold nature is another example of the perversion of the Holy Trinity.

Dante compares Greyon's colorful belly to the fabric made by the Turks and tartars. During the Middle Ages, the Turks and the Tartars were deemed the best of all weavers. And their richly colored and ornate fabrics were very popular. Dante compares the complexity of Greyon's colorful belly design to the webs that Arachne spun. Arachne was from Lydia and an expert weaver. She was so good that she asked goddess Minerva to a competition of weaving against her. Seeing Arachne's perfectly woven cloth, the angry Minerva tears it in her rage. Arachne hangs herself but the goddess loosens the rope turning it into a web. She turns Arachne into a spider.

Greyon is sitting on the edge of the precipice, facing the poets. His tail is hidden from view and hanging in the abyss. Dante compares his posture to the beaver who fishes with his tail. It sits on the water's edge while his tail dips in the water. Also implicit in this posture is the methodology of Fraud. It presents an honest face, all the while keeping its poisonous tail (evil plans) out of sight. Thus it appears harmless and appealing.

Virgil advises Dante to take a look at the usurers sitting near the abyss. These sinners, crouched so near the abyss leading to the Eighth circle (where sins of Fraud are punished) compares the complexity of Greyon's colorful belly design to the webs that Arachne spun. Arachne was from Lydia and an expert weaver. She was so good that she asked goddess Minerva to a competition of weaving against her. Seeing Arachne's perfectly woven cloth, the angry Minerva tears it in her rage. Arachne hangs herself but the goddess loosens the rope turning it into a web. She turns Arachne into a spider.

Greyon is sitting on the edge of the precipice, facing the poets. His tail is hidden from view and hanging in the abyss. Dante compares his posture to the beaver who fishes with his tail. It sits on the water's edge while his tail dips in the water. Also implicit in this posture is the methodology of Fraud. It presents an honest face, all the while keeping its poisonous tail (evil plans) out of sight. Thus it appears harmless and appealing.

Virgil advises Dante to take a look at the Usurers sitting near the abyss. These sinners, crouched so near the abyss leading to the Eighth circle (where sins of Fraud are punished) link the sins of violence and Fraud. The same connection is also established by Greyon who sits in the 7 th circle with his tail hanging in the 8 th circle. Here Dante the poet is effecting transition from violence to Fraud. He effected a similar transition (from Incontinence to Violence) through the sin of Anger, where the poets have to cross the river of the wrathful. In this Canto he effects the transition to Fraud through the sin of usury.

The usurers are crouched on the sand, burnt by the hot sand and the flames raining down on them. Dante shows his contempt for these sinners by comparing their agitated actions in protecting themselves from the fire with those of a dog fighting of fleas and flies. Around each usurer's neck is hung a money pouch and their gaze is riveted to it. Even here in Hell they haven't overcome their greed that led to their damnation. Each pouch bears a coat of arms through which they can be identified. They can be identified by their faces and interpreters like Mark Musa believe that this is because their total absorption with wealth caused the usurers to lose their individuality.

The yellow purse with the blue lion represents the Gian Figliazzi family of Florence. The red purse with the white goose shows the Ubriachi family of Florence and the white purse with a blue sow is a sign of the Scrovengi family from Padua. The Paduan addresses the pilgrim rudely and also tells him that soon he will be joined by Vitaliano. He refers to the future new arrival as "any neighbor" thus revealing that Vitaliano is a fellow Paduan. The Paduan points out that he is one among many Florentines. Indicating the decay and dominance of greed and materialism in Florence. The Florentines are waiting for Giovanni Buiamonte, from the family of Becchi (Florentine family). He was active in public affairs and given the title of "knight" in 1298. His family obtained its wealth by money lending. But they lost their wealth and Giovanni died in 1310 without a penny.

Virgil and Dante are to descend to the 8 th circle on Greyon's back. Virgil divines Dante's fear and puts his arms around him. He sits between Dante and Greyon's tail because he doesn't trust this embodiment of fraud. A Greyon circle gently downward but the pilgrim’s fear is great. It is quite understandable. He has never flown, even the concept is incredible (there were no planes in the 13 th century). Moreover he is on the back of a monster. He compares his fear to that felt by Phaethon and Icarus. Phaethon was the son of Apollo (the Greek God). Epaphus told him that Apollo wasn't his father. To prove this charge to be a lie, he asks Apollo to let him drive the Chariot of the sun. Apollo gives him his permission but Phaethon is unable to control the chariot. He looses control of the ruins and the chariot goes wildly across the heavens. The path it burns through the heavens is called the Milky Way in our times. Through its wild careening it comes very close to the Earth, almost burning it. To save Earth, Jupiter kills Phaethon with a thunderbolt. Dante, probably knew this story from Ouid's "Metamorphoses II ".

Daedalus and his son Icarus were trapped on Crete. To escape, Daedalus builds wings for them both. He uses wax to bind the feathers together and advises his son to stay far from the son. But Icarus ignores his advises and flies too high. The sun melts the wax and Icarus falls to his death.

During the middle ages the stories of Phaethon and Icarus were used to highlight the pitfalls attached to excessive pride. Dante's use of these example indicates that pride and envy underlie the sins punished in Lower Hell.

Greyon deposits the two poets in the Eighth circle and flies off quickly. The poet uses the metaphor of an arrow shaft from a bow to describe his departure. This is similar to the one used to describe the approach of Phlegyasin Canto VIII. That Phlegyas was angry was revealed by his words, "Aha, I've got you now, you wretched soul !" Thus it can be safely assumed that Greyon is angry too. He has reason to be. He has been outwitted by Virgil. He flies up, responding to the cord thrown by Virgil, and has to serve as a means of transport for the too two poets. Mark Musa claims that in this instance Reason has clearly claimed a victory over Fraud by outwitting the latter to serve him. Dante's description of Greyon's descent gives further proof of the beast's anger. It is compared to that of a falcon who has been unsuccessful in his hunt and is subsequently angry. In this instance Greyon isn't successful either because Virgil protects Dante from Greyon's poisonous tail. Another thing that suggests Greyon's impotent indignation is the fact that he lands very near the jagged cliffs, thereby bringing the two poets very close to it. But it is a futile gesture and the two poets are now find themselves safe and in the Eighth circle.

Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes


<- Previous Page | First Page | Next Page ->
Free Study Guide-The Divine Comedy-The Inferno by Dante Alighieri-Notes
Google
Web
PinkMonkey

Google
  Web PinkMonkey.com   

All Contents Copyright © PinkMonkey.com
All rights reserved. Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.


About Us
 | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page
This page was last updated: 5/9/2017 8:52:39 AM