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.
[Capocchio to Dante]: "…see that I’m the shade of that Capocchio
whose alchemy could counterfeit fine metals
And you, if I correctly take your measure,
recall how apt I was at aping nature." (Inf. XXIX, 136-139)
Capocchio’s "counterfeit[ing of] fine metals" is comparable to Dante’s "aping nature." Here, Capocchio contends that writing is just as false and damnable an enterprise as alchemy. To "ape" implies an imitation or mimicry that is but a distant reflection and degradation of the original. This calls into question the truth of Dante’s words. It plants doubts into readers’ minds about whether or not a mortal pen can accurately and objectively capture the happenings in Hell.
"If I spoke false, you falsified the coin,"
said Sinon: "I am here for just one crime –
but you’ve committed more than any demon." (Inf. XXX, 115-117)
In attacking Master Adam’s counterfeiting practice, Sinon unwittingly conveys Dante’s lesson to readers. Sinon makes the point that every coin Master Adam counterfeits counts as a sin. To Dante, money is one of the basic links between individuals – much like language. If one cannot trust a coin’s value, doubt falls on the whole economy, thus throwing everyone in a society into hysteria. Again, fraud may start with a dishonest individual but its consequences are widespread.
I’d only turned my head there briefly when
I seemed to make out many high towers; then
I asked him: "Master, tell me, what’s this city?"
And he to me: "It is because you try
to penetrate from far into these shadows
that you have formed such faulty images.
When you have reached that place, you shall see clearly
how much the distance has deceived your sense;
and, therefore, let this spur you on your way." (Inf. XXXI, 19-27)
On the verge of entering the last and most treacherous circle of Hell, Dante becomes a victim of fraud. He mistakes the unmoving torsos of giants for a city of towers. It is not, as Virgil claims, only the distance that "deceive[s Dante’s] sense," but the sheer amount of deceit surrounding them that darkens their path and warps Dante’s vision so he can see only "faulty images."