by Dante Alighieri
Inferno Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
O Muses, o high genius, help me now;
o memory that set down what I saw,
here shall your excellence reveal itself! (Inf. II, 7-9)
In a nod to the Virgilian epic, Dante invokes the muses to lend credence to his words. This invocation, along with frequent apostrophes to God, reveals that Dante draws as much from the Classical tradition as from the Christian one.
[Virgil quoting Beatrice]: "’Go now; with your persuasive word, with all
that is required to see that he [Dante] escapes,
bring help to him, that I may be consoled.’"(Inf. II, 67-69)
In this key passage, Beatrice anoints Virgil as one possessing the "persuasive word." This is Virgil’s most important attribute because he uses language to impart lessons to Dante, engage sinners in conversation, condemn sin, and basically to keep Dante out of trouble. Virgil is the embodiment of ornate and eloquent language in the Inferno, and for the most part, he uses it wisely.
[Virgil quoting Beatrice]: "‘I trusted in your [Virgil’s] honest utterance,
which honors you and those who’ve listened to you.’"(Inf. II, 113-114)
This is the first explicit reference to language’s unique ability to affect large numbers of people. Beatrice acknowledges Virgil’s "honest utterance" as a benefit to all "those who’ve listened to [it]" – namely, the Romans. Virgil has done for the Latin language what Dante will do for the Italian one: standardize it and give his fellow countrymen a sense of national pride.