Cannibalism In Dante's Inferno

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Cannibalism. Hatred. Sorrow. These three words describe Count Ugolino’s dark tale. The Inferno, written by Dante Alighieri, is about a journey through hell that the main character Dante must go through due to being exiled. At the final 9th circle, Dante encounters Count Ugolino, a traitor against italy. Dante listens to Ugolino’s story about the tragedy of himself and his sons, reflects the theme of human reason and emotions. Count Ugolino commits an ambiguous sin and has an unreliable reaction towards it, which causes the reader to question the incredibly heavy punishment that Count Ugolino is dealt. This passage draws attention to issues with reliability, regarding Ugolino, Dante the author, and Dante the pilgrim.
Dante as both the author …show more content…

Ugolino is placed at the absolute lowest circle in Hell and as such receives the brutal punishment of being forced to eat someone's head. Count Ugolino demonstrates that he is being punished this way when “His eyes narrowed to slits when he was done, and he seized the skull again between his teeth grinding it as a mastiff grinds a bone” (XXXIII.76-79). This quote contains a metaphor which compares Ugolino to the likes of an animal feasting upon a bone. Because of how primal Ugolino becomes after telling his story it can also echo the earlier line about fasting overcoming Ugolino's grief. Both of these lines are symbolically vague in the sense of what Count Ugolino sinned for exactly. One quote that is equally ambiguous and actually hints towards the sin of cannibalism is when Ugolino’s son says “‘Father, it would give us much less pain if you ate us: it was you who put upon us this sorry flesh; now strip it off again.’ I calmed myself to spare them” (33. 61-64). Ugolino’s son outright asks if his father would be willing to eat them so Ugolino could live longer. What makes this significant is that if Ugolino is a cannibal, then it would make more sense to put Count Ugolino into Circle seven instead of nine, as cannibalism is more unnatural against nature rather than treacherous. Furthermore, because of the questionable sin and placement of Ugolino, Dante could again be an unreliable narrator in this

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