How we cite our quotes:
And just as he who unwills what he wills
and shifts what he intends to seek new ends
so that he’s drawn from what he had begun,
so was I in the midst of that dark land,
because, with all my thinking, I annulled
the task I had so quickly undertaken. (Inf. II, 37-42)
When Dante has a moment to reflect on his hasty decision to take a tour of Hell with Virgil, his anxiety paralyzes him so that he is unable to move forward. This immobilization is shown linguistically in the oscillating back and forth between "unwills" and "wills" and his mental tangents that "draw [him] from what he had begun." Dante is rendered wholly indecisive.
And after this was said, the darkened plain
quaked so tremendously – the memory
of terror then, bathes me in sweat again.
A whirlwind burst out of the tear-drenched earth,
a wind that crackled with a bloodred light,
a light that overcame all of my senses;
and like a man whom sleep has seized, I fell. (Inf. III, 130-136)
In ending a canto with the protagonist fainting away "like a man whom sleep has seized," the author Dante effectively stops the action and freezes time from the reader’s perspective. From the moment the character Dante passes out right up until his awakening, readers are left unaware about whatever action takes place.
And while one spirit [Francesca] said these words to me,
the other [Paolo] wept, so that – because of pity –
I fainted, as if I had met my death.
And then I fell as a dead body falls. (Inf. V, 139-142)
Again, Dante’s tendency to faint with pity inserts a gap into the plot. When Dante wakes up at the beginning of the sixth canto in the third circle, readers are left to conjecture how he got there. Because our narrator Dante is unconscious in that transit period, time seems to stop for readers as well.