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Quotes

Quote #1

And he [Virgil] to me: “Whatever makes them suffer their
heavy torment bends them to the ground;
at first I was unsure of what they were.
But look intently there, and let your eyes
unravel what’s beneath those stones: you can
already see what penalty strikes each.” (Purg. X, 115-120)

On the first terrace, the Prideful are punished by carrying heavy stone weights on their backs that force them to “bend to the ground” in a submissive position so humiliating that Dante does not even recognize them as human at first glance.

Quote #2

O Christians, arrogant, exhausted, wretched,
whose intellects are sick and cannot see,
who place our confidence in backward steps,
do you not know that we are worms and born
to form the angelic butterfly that soars,
without defenses, to confront His judgment?
Why does your mind presume to flight when you
are still like the imperfect grub, the worm
before it has attained its final form? (Purg. X, 121-129)

Dante chastises man for presuming to understand God’s ways enough to try to “fly” when he cannot even walk correctly (“backward steps”). Man’s pride makes humans believe they are already an “angelic butterfl[ies]” when truly “we are worms.” Although good Christians can one day hope to achieve the rank of an “angelic butterfly,” they should not delude themselves through their “sick intellects” into thinking that they are better than they are.

Quote #3

[Omberto Aldobrandeschi]: “And were I not impeded by the stone
that, since it has subdued my haughty neck,
compels my eyes to look below, then I
should look at this man who is still alive
and nameless, to see if I recognize
him – and to move his pity for my burden.
I was Italian, son of a great Tuscan:
my father was Guiglielmo Aldobrandesco;
I do not know if you have heard his name.
The ancient blood and splendid deeds of my
forefathers made me so presumptuous
that, without thinking on our common mother,
I scorned all men past measure, and that scorn
brought me my death – the Sienese know how,
as does each child in Campagnatico.
I am Omberto; and my arrogance
has not harmed me alone, for it has drawn
all of my kin into calamity.” (Purg. XI, 52-69)

As asserted in Inferno, sin is infective, spreading once it has captured an individual. Here, the sin of pride spreads from Omberto outward through the rest of his family, bringing “all of [his] kin into calamity.” Now, as punishment for his sin, Omberto’s “haughty neck” is so “subdued” that he cannot look up, even to see who is talking to him. This is another instance of contrapasso punishment.

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