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by Dante Alighieri

Inferno Time Quotes

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

Quote #4

[Furies]: "Just let Medusa come; then we shall turn
him into stone," they all cried, looking down;
"we should have punished Theseus’ assault."
"Turn round and keep your eyes shut fast, for should
the Gorgon show herself and you behold her,
never again would you return above,"
my master said; and he himself turned me
around and, not content with just my hands,
used his as well to cover up my eyes. (Inf. IX, 52-60)

The pilgrims’ wait at the gates of Dis and the subsequent menace of Medusa are all threats of immobilization. The very act of waiting in the eternal space of Hell seems to stop time. In addition, Medusa endangers Dante by threatening to turn him to stone or, in other words, to paralyze him so that his body is frozen forever. The inability to move forward because of either the locked gates or the rigidity of a stone body renders time meaningless to Dante.

Quote #5

[Virgil]: "Within this region is the cemetery
of Epicurus and his followers,
all those who say the soul dies with the body." (Inf. X, 13-15)

By denying man’s immortal soul, the Epicureans condemn themselves to living purely in the present. Because they do not believe in the afterlife, they have no inhibitions to restrain them from indulging their basest pleasures at any time they please. They are trapped in the present time, just as after they die their souls are subjected to the eternal present of torment in Hell.

Quote #6

[Dante]: "It seems, if I hear right, that you can see
beforehand that which time is carrying,
but you’re denied the sight of present things."
[Farinata]: "We see, even as men who are farsighted,
those things," he said, "that are remote from us;
the Highest Lord allots us that much light.
But when events draw near or are, our minds
are useless; were we not informed by others,
we should know nothing of your human state." (Inf. X, 97-105)

Heretics, for denying the immortality of the soul, are denied a linear, straightforward understanding of time. Having lived their lives only in the present moment (like the Epicureans), heretics are punished by being imprisoned in the future. They can see only in front of them, but not around them; they remain ignorant of their present state and must spend eternity without knowledge of their own time.

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