While Inferno's author denounces fraud as contradicting the truth, his contempt for it runs way deeper than that. The root of fraud is linguistic sin and because man’s unique gift is language, human beings seem particularly susceptible to fraud.
As one of the major unifying bonds in society—uniting individuals and facilitating communication—language holds a high status in Dante’s eyes. The fraudulent, by corrupting language, threaten to compromise the cohesiveness of society. Unlike incontinence and violence, which affect only the agent or his victim, fraud has the ability to deceive whole communities of people—even institutions like the Church and entire cities like Florence.
Questions About Lies and Deceit
- Why is fraud considered the worst type of sin? Compared to incontinence and violence, whom does it affect? Why does Virgil call fraud "man’s peculiar vice"?
- How is Geryon a fitting symbol for fraud? How does Dante describe him?
- Why does fraud "cut off the bond of love that nature forges"?
- Consider the sinners of treacherous fraud in particular.
- What does Capocchio claim is common ground for both his occupation, alchemy, and Dante’s, poetry? Why does this throw Dante’s work into a bad light? How, in future cantos, does Dante try to defend himself against this accusation?
Chew on This
Fraud is considered a more wicked sin than incontinence or violence because it compromises universal human connections like language and money and has the ability to dupe whole communities of people, instead of harming only the individual committing the fraud.
Based on Geryon’s appearance and the metaphorical language with which Dante surrounds his description, the beast clearly represents the sin of fraud.