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Quotes

Quote #7

[Dante]: "Within my memory is fixed – and now
moves me – your dear, your kind paternal image
when, in the world above, from time to time
you taught me how man makes himself eternal;
and while I live, my gratitude for that
must always be apparent in my words.
What you have told me of my course, I write;
I keep it with another text, for comment
by one who’ll understand, if I may reach her." (Inf. XV, 82-90)

In the circle of sodomy, Dante indirectly addresses this type of sin by showing the inappropriate love that exists between himself and Brunetto Latini, his former teacher. In an unnecessarily intimate manner, Dante considers Latini a "kind, paternal image." But because Dante already has a father figure – namely Virgil – this is inappropriate. Some scholars have also suggested that in writing together or greeting each other, Dante and Latini come into physical contact, which means that Dante puts his hands on his teacher’s aging, naked body.

Quote #8

My guide snatched me up instantly, just as
the mother who is wakened by a roar
and catches sight of blazing flames beside her,
will lift her son and run without a stop –
she cares more for the child than for herself –
not pausing even to throw on a shift;
and down the hard embankment’s edge – his back
lay flat along the sloping rock that closes
one side of the adjacent moat – he slid.
No water ever ran so fast along
a sluice to turn the wheels of a land mill,
not even when its flow approached the paddles,
as did my master race down that embankment
while bearing me with him upon his chest,
just like a son, and not like a companion. (Inf. XXIII, 37-51)

To complement his stern, lecturing father-figure role, Virgil suddenly shows a spurt of motherly love when he and Dante are pursued by demons. In the comparison of Virgil to a mother bearing her child away from a fire, Virgil grows overprotective of his protégé Dante and "lift[s] her son and run[s] without a stop," instinctively treating his adult charge like a child. In the last line, where Dante describes himself as a "son, and not like a companion," one can hear the hint of pride and love in his voice.

Quote #9

[Ulysses]: "…I sailed away from Circe, who’d beguiled me
to stay more than a year there, near Gaeta –
before Aeneas gave that place a name –
neither my fondness for my son nor pity
for my old father nor the love I owed
Penelope, which would have gladdened her,
was able to defeat in me the longing
I had to gain experience of the world
and of the vices and worth of men." (Inf. XXVI, 91-99)

Ulysses’ abandonment of his family is perhaps the most explicit illustration that fraud severs human bonds of love. Despite having braved twenty years of hardship on the open sea to get home, Ulysses quickly forgets his wife Penelope’s devotion, his son’s admiration, and his aging father’s dependence on him. In denying these intimate and tangible ties to life, Ulysses turns to a cold abstract concept of glory. His punishment for forfeiting his family’s love is death and eternal damnation.

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