by Dante Alighieri
Inferno Lies and Deceit Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
He [the Friar] answered: "Closer than you hope, you’ll find
a rocky ridge that stretches from the great
round wall and crosses all the savage valleys,
except that here it’s broken – not a bridge.
But where its ruins slope along the bank
and heap up at the bottom, you can climb."
My leader stood a while with his head bent,
then said: "He who hooks sinners over there
gave us a false account of this affair."
At which the Friar: "In Bologna, I
once heard about the devil’s many vices –
they said he was a liar and father of lies." (Inf. XXIII, 133-144)
Malacoda, who was supposedly trying to help Virgil, deliberately gave him false information to torture him. Ironically, the truth comes from the hypocrites, who also rebuke Virgil for so naively trusting a demon, a known "liar." So even the seemingly infallible Virgil, master and guide for Dante, can be deceived.
[Virgil]: … "Within that flame, Ulysses
and Diomedes suffer; they, who went
as one to rage, now share one punishment.
And there, together in their flame, they grieve
over the horse’s fraud that caused a breach –
the gate that let Rome’s noble seed escape.
There they regret the guile that makes the dead
Deidamia still lament Achilles:
and there, for the Palladium, they pay." (Inf. XXVI, 55-63)
In this passage, Dante shows how the fraud practiced by individual men can come to torture a whole community of people. The "horse’s fraud" here is the trickery used to bring the Trojan horse within the walls of Troy so that the Greek soldiers, hidden inside the wooden statue, could emerge to ransack the city from within. This, of course, got many good Trojans killed. In addition, Ulysses persuaded Achilles to leave his lover Deidamia and their unborn son to fight in the Trojan War, leaving the pregnant woman distraught and vulnerable. To compound their guile, Ulysses and Diomedes lied their way into the Palladium (Athena’s sacred temple) and desecrated it, forcing countless Trojans to question their faith in the goddess.
[Guido da Montefeltro]: He [Boniface VIII] asked me to give counsel. I was silent –
his words had seemed to me delirious.
And then he said: ‘Your heart must not mistrust:
I now absolve you in advance – teach me
to batter Penestrino to the ground.
You surely know that I possess the power
to lock and unlock Heaven; for the keys
my predecessor did not prize are two.’
Then his grave arguments compelled me so,
my silence seemed a worse offense than speech,
and I said: ‘Since you cleanse me of the sin
that I must now fall into, Father, know:
long promises and very brief fulfillments
will bring a victory to your high throne." (Inf. XXVII, 97-111)
Dante sees lying as a disease. To illustrate the point, he shows Guido da Montefeltro considering Pope Boniface’s words "delirious" or, as the Italian reads, "feverish." Pope Boniface VIII exchanges a promise he cannot fulfill – absolution – for advice to raze a rival family’s estate to the ground. In a telling statement, Guido reflects the pope’s moral corruption because he advises "long promises and very brief fulfillments." Here, Dante seems to comment that language – for all its eloquence – can just be a sham. Silence here would have been a better response for Guido than saying anything at all.