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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes
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2The path the Friars indicated is far more difficult than Dante
imagined. He and Virgil must scale the rocky wall, measuring
each move and heaving their weight to the next foothold.
Virgil does most of the hoisting and Dante does most of the
panting, so when the poets do reach the top and Dante sits
down to rest, Virgil criticizes his laziness. Dante, ashamed,
tells Virgil that he is resolute. They climb the steep arch of the
seventh bridge, again no small task, and Dante hears voices
from the trench below. He asks Virgil if they can cross over
this bridge and climb down the far wall into bowge vii to
inspect what they can't see from above in the darkness. As he
does whenever Dante makes any move to understand actively
what he is experiencing, Virgil readily agrees.

The trench is like something from a nightmare. It is filled with
a mass of serpents and reptiles, swarming and repulsive. Over
this mass run naked men, whose hands are tied behind with
snakes that curl and loop through the loins of the men. Dante
sees a shade run by; a snake darts up and stings the sinner on
the neck. Immediately the sinner bursts into flames, burns, and
crumbles to ash. Just as rapidly, the forms grow again out of
the ashes, stunned and bewildered with the pain.

Virgil approaches the sinner and asks who he is and what he
has done to deserve such a fate. Vanni Fucci identifies himself
as a Thief cast here because he stole the treasury of the
sacristy. (History tells of additional sides to Vanni Fucci. He
escaped, allowing an innocent man to be jailed for a year for
the crime he had committed before Fucci's accomplices were
hanged.) Vanni Fucci tells Dante that his worst shame is
having Dante find him here and goes on to give Dante a
threatening prophecy of events in Florence, with hope that the
news hurts Dante.

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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes

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