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In Dante's WakeReading from Medieval to Modern in the Augustinian Tradition$
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John Freccero, Danielle Callegari, and Melissa Swain

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823264278

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823264278.001.0001

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Epitaph for Guido

Epitaph for Guido

(p.50) Epitaph for Guido
In Dante's Wake

John Freccero

, Danielle Callegari, Melissa Swain
Fordham University Press

This chapter examines canto 10 of Inferno, focusing on the character of Guido. The canto is Dante's “hellfire sermon,” the masterpiece of Dantesque drama, unrivaled in the poem for its conciseness and power. The distinction between the author and his persona is especially critical in this canto. The stark contrast between the confusion of the character “Dante” and the subtle manipulation of the poet reflects the ambivalence of the historical Dante toward Guido Cavalcanti, his sometime rival and erstwhile friend. Because Guido had been dead for almost a decade when Dante wrote these verses, the pilgrim's reproof or warning is the poet's final sentence, passed posthumously on his former friend. The episode takes the form of a subtle and learned morality play, intended for Guido. For the poet, however, and for us, the problematic verse is an epitaph, like those inscribed on the sepulchers of the heretics, whose names make their cameo appearance in the drama, but who, like Guido, have no role to play. Far from the trivial matter that some critics have taken it to be, Guido's “disdain” represents the abyss that divided the two friends.

Keywords:   Divine Comedy, Dante, canto 10, Inferno, Guido Cavalcanti, poet, pilgrim, epitaph

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