| Quote #13
[Virgil]: … "Are you as foolish as the rest?
Ironically, the emotion Dante is trying to evoke in readers – pity for the magicians – is rebuked by Virgil. His denunciation of the magicians’ practice as advocating "God’s…passivity" means that the magicians, in prophesying, believe they have power over the future, necessarily rendering God’s will passive. Such an assumption is so mistaken that it should kill the pity of any reasonable person. This is why "pity only lives [here] when it is dead." In other words, there should be no sympathy for these sinners.
| Quote #14
O you who read, hear now of this new sport…
Although Dante exhibits the same distaste for all the guardians of Hell, none of them is depicted so comedically as the demons. In this passage, the action concentrates completely on the demons and their pursuit of the escaping sinner, not at all on Dante or his emotional reactions. The action here is almost cartoonish in tone, complete with dastardly villains, a cunning escape, and the scoundrels’ useless fighting amongst themselves when finding their quarry gone. Such slapstick comedy requires an emotional distance, especially when dealing with such serious topics as sin and punishment, and this burlesque suggests that Dante feels no pity for either the demons or their victims, the barrators.
| Quote #15
[Dante]: … "In that hollow upon which
At the unexpected information that one of his own kin inhabits Hell, Dante predictably reacts with pity. In fact, it’s his relative – Geri del Bello – for whom Dante had wept a few lines ago, not for the sowers of scandal at large. When Virgil tells Dante to ignore del Bello, Dante shows a surprising amount of resolve. Unlike the sycophantically obedient Dante seen in the early cantos, the more mature Dante stands up for his opinions – even against his master. He sides with Geri del Bello, allowing for his obscene gestures and claiming that del Bello wants only a just revenge for his violent death. Although Dante may err against God in showing mercy to his kinsman, he endears himself to readers by defending his family and showing some backbone against his taskmaster Virgil.