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by Dante Alighieri

Inferno Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.

Quote #16

For if Count Ugolino was reputed
to have betrayed your [Pisa’s] fortresses, there was
no need to have his sons endure such torment.
O Thebes renewed, their years were innocent
and young – Brigata, Uguiccione, and
the other two my song has named above! (Inf. XXXIII, 85-90)

Although Dante condemns Ugolino for his traitorous crime, he shows pity for Ugolino’s sons and considers them "innocent and young" victims. This could be read as an extension of Dante’s steadfast sympathy for Geri del Bello, because here Dante carries on the theme of well-intentioned family members. Here, however, he seems more in the right than he did with del Bello.

Quote #17

[Fra Alberigo to Dante]: "But now reach out your hand; open my eyes."
And yet I did not open them for him;
and it was courtesy to show him rudeness. (Inf. XXXIII, 148-150)

In breaking his promise to Fra Alberigo, Dante not only demonstrates his ruthlessness towards the sinner but also commits a traitorous act almost comparable to the crime Alberigo himself perpetrated. By virtue of Virgil’s silence in response to Dante’s peccadillo, one might conjecture that Virgil condones Dante’s behavior and commends his lack of mercy to so black a sinner. Hell’s punishments, Dante is beginning to understand, are the sinners’ just desserts.

Quote #18

He [Lucifer] wept out of six eyes; and down three chins,
tears gushed together with a bloody froth.
Within each mouth – he used it like a grinder –
with gnashing teeth he tore to bits a sinner,
so that he brought much pain to three at once. (Inf. XXXIV, 34-57)

Lucifer, the most severely punished sinner and potentially the greatest pity-inducer, instead elicits little heartfelt emotion in Dante. Unlike the vast majority of the sinners interviewed in the Inferno, Lucifer never gets the opportunity to speak to Dante and tell his side of the story. But Dante’s lack of pity stems from an even deeper source. Lucifer, despite his tears, seems like a giant automaton; his teeth gnash mechanically "like a grinder" and his wings flap rhythmically. Lucifer seems to have lost the ability to feel and emote, leaving readers with the sense that he is simply the engine which powers Hell, an enormous generator, and nothing more. To Dante and his readers alike, Lucifer seems soulless, inhuman, and mechanical. Thus is the nature of evil; it is a lack of heart and will, a void, rather than anything actively degenerate.

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