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cantos 1-5

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English 10 G/T:
Dante’s Inferno Cantos 1-5 (extended similes)
Study questions: Write several sentences that contain at least one quotation from the Ciardi
translation. (5 points)
Canto I
When does this story take place in Dante’s life? How might that be translated to our world today?
This story takes place midway through Dante’s life.In the beginning of chapter one it states this.
“MIDWAY upon the journey of our life 1 I found myself within a forest dark, 2 For the straightforward
pathway had been lost.” This illustrates that he was midway through his life at an unspecified age. In our
world today, this would be about 40-45 years old.
Canto 2:
How does Virgil say that he was given the responsibility to help Dante?
Beatrice (Dante’s lover) came down from heaven to speak with Virgil. She asked him to take care of
Dante because he was lost in the forest. Virgil was moved by her sadness, and came to help Dante out.
She pleads to Virgil, “Bestir thee now, and with thy speech ornate, 32 And with what needful is for his
release, Assist him so, that I may be consoled.”
Canto 3:
Who is speaking in all CAPS in the opening lines?
The words on the inscription of the gates are “Before me there were no created things, Only eterne, and
I eternal last. “All hope abandon, ye who enter in!” “This is warning the people entering into hell that
they should be afraid. It is also used for suspenseful dramatic effect.
Canto 4:
How is Limbo (the first circle) a very sad place even though it is described as not that bad?
It is sad because all the people there led good lives. They were all virtuous. However, they were either
not born in the correct time period or they believed in different gods. When Virgil is explaining this to
Dante, he states “That they sinned not; and if they merit had, ’Tis not enough, because they had not
baptism Which is the portal of the Faith thou holdest.”
Canto 5:
Who are some of the lovers mentioned in this scene? What is happening to them?
They saw Cleopatra, Semiramis, and Achilles. They were all very lustful, and since they had a lack of
control, they were punished. All of them are whipped around in a big tornado for eternity. Dnte
describes it as complete chaos. He says “It hither, thither, downward, upward, drives them; No hope
doth comfort them for evermore, Not of repose, but even of lesser pain.”
Extended Simile number practice
Practice with the simile on lines number 22-27 in Canto one.
Your practice is to pick one: page 12, p. 21-22; page 36-37
Write your analysis here: (5 points)
On pg.12, Virgil compares himself to a flower opening. He states “Even as the flowerets, by
nocturnal chill, Bowed down and closed, when the sun whitens them, Uplift themselves all open on
their stems.” In this instance he was comparing, being convinced by Beatrice to help Dante, and the sun
making a flower to open. He specifically states that they are “bowed down and closed” in the beginning.
This means that they are bent over and the petals are closed to any outside influence. Nevertheless, the
flower then “Uplifts...all open.” The flower is “convinced” by the sun to open up and to lift itself up. This
is similar to how Virgil was persuaded by Beatrice. He, in the beginning, was in the dark depths of hell.
He refused to do it in the beginning. However, Beatrice convinced him to open up. She persuaded him to
go help Dante. Beatrice was compared to the sun in this instance. The sun is beautiful and stubbornly
rises every day and Beatrice is described in the book as very beautiful. She had to be stubborn, in order
to convince a poet to leave hell and guide a random guy out of the forest.
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