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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Essay: Play: Antony and Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare, by Julie Renee Phelan


“Antony and Cleopatra,” by William Shakespeare was written between 1599 and 1608.  Cleopatra, the female protagonist, dominates the play. This play was the last of three love tragedies written; the others include “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Othello.” It is set against a backdrop of bloody political conflict from the East, represented by the Egyptians, to the West, represented by the Romans.  In those days, Egypt was likened to Las Vegas, as Rome is to Washington D.C. In this play, Antony and Cleopatra avoid all soliloquies, and their motivation seems opaque―arguably, even to themselves. Antony believes marriage to Octavia will solve his political problem, but we never learn why. As well, we do not learn why Cleopatra flees at Actium, or why she negotiates with Caesar in the last act. Instead of self revelation, the play provides contradictory framing by minor figures. Therefore, “Antony and Cleopatra” is a new transitional tragedy, and the intimations of transcendence point toward the magical or supernatural resolution of the romance. This play relies on blank verse while nearly always avoiding rhyme.


“Antony and Cleopatra” covers the period from 40 to 30 B.C.E., and completes the narrative of Roman civil war and the final destruction of the Republic as the dominant military power throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. Rome is ruled by Lepidus, Octavius Caesar, and Mark Antony, who governs the Mediterranean portions of Africa, Europe and Asia. The stylistic restrained of Rome’s internal political system gives way to Rome’s external imperial domains; which is represented by extravagant, hyperbolic verse in accordance with Rome’s expansive grandeur. Thus, the scene is set for heroic, legendary performances: Antony is compared to Hercules, and Antony and Cleopatra are repeatedly compared to Mars and Venus.


“Antony and Cleopatra” offers an epic view of the political arena but deprives that arena of heroic significance. Although Mark Antony and Octavius Caesar battle for political supremacy, the love formed between Antony and Cleopatra increasingly occupies center stage. The plays fascination arises from intertwining the empire and sexuality. This play elicits complicated judgments; Cleopatra routinely embodying Oriental sexual vice. Rome is contrasted to Egypt, West to East, and the conquerors to the conquered. Obviously, a sober, masculine military ethos opposes a frivolous, feminized, and sexualized court. Antony marries Octavia for political opportunism, Cleopatra provides love and sexual desire; he chooses between fidelity to a chaste yet frigid white wife, and adultery with a promiscuous “tawny” black seductress (I.i.6, I.v.28). Antony revels in extravagant generosity and challenges Caesar to combat; Caesar is a bureaucrat of the future, and Antony is a warrior of the past; Caesars concerns are public, while Antony’s are private. Antony is guilty by association with his brother and previous wife, Fulvia, who attack Caesar. Caesar promises “the time of universal peace is near” (IV.vi.4), an assertion that anticipates Roman peace, and the birth of Christ in a Roman province.


The play produces dichotomies only to undermine them. Antony boasts of his valor, while Caesar “alone / Dealt on lieutenantry” (III.xi.38-39). However, Antony’s officer, Ventidius remarks, “Caesar and Antony have ever won / More in their officer than person” (III.i.16-17). Caesar’s promise of universal peace is anticipated in a version of Christ’s Last Supper that Antony shares with his followers:


Tend me tonight.
Maybe it is the period of your duty.
Haply you shall not see me more; or it,
A mangled shadow. Perchance tomorrow
You’ll serve another master (IV.ii.24-28).


Enobarbus criticizes Antony for moving his friends to tears. However, the skepticism is challenged. Enobarbus becomes a Judas figure who betrays his master by defecting to Caesar and dies shortly thereafter, his heart broken with feelings of guilt by Anthony’s generosity.


The geographical contrast dissolves into parallelisms: Roman war is eroticized, Egyptian love is militarized. The external representation of the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra, the absence of them alone, and their pride in displaying their affair intensifies the feeling that love and war influence each other, and there is no distinction between public and private. Antony focus is on Cleopatra, and his servant Eros (love) commits suicide; an act foreshadowed in the opening by Philo (love) “this dotage of our General’s O’erflows the measure” (I.i.1-2), which means this infatuation of Antony’s goes beyond suitable bounds.


The eroticization of Rome takes the form of powerful feelings directed at Antony. Octavius Caesar acts almost as though he was the son―rather than grand nephew and adopted son―of Cleopatra’s former lover, Julius Caesar, whose paternal role Antony has usurped. Octavius Caesar is disgusted by Antony and Cleopatra coronation:


At the feet sat
Caesarion, whom they call my father’s son,
And all the unlawful issue that their lust
Since then hath made between them (III.vi.5-8).


There is a possibility for confusion here between Antony and the older Caesar, and a definite one between Caesarion and the younger Caesar, both of whom are “my father’s son.” At the death of Antony, Caesar movingly recalls his foe:


thou, my brother, my competitor
In top of all design, my mate in empire,
Friend and companion in the front of war,
The arm of mine own body, and the heart
Where mine his thought did kindle (V.i.42-46).


The display of emotion leads in different directions. By naming, Antony his “brother” and “mate,” and by invoking a meeting of “heart” and mind, Caesar suggest an intimacy between the two men that borders on the erotic. However, Caesar neutralizes any filial anxiety he may feel by describing Antony first as “my brother” and then as a subordinate, “the arm of mine own body.”


The opening of “Antony and Cleopatra,” displays the Republic all but dead. The independence of Egypt is at stake. However, the independence of Egypt occurs only to Cleopatra. Therefore, only the conflict between Antony and Caesar remains between two ambitious men. It is the end of the Roman civil war, but it is difficult to celebrate the victory of Caesar while lamenting the defeat of Antony.


The political symbolism of Antony and Caesar are antithetical; Caesar adopts republican style, whereas Antony offends Roman sensibilities with monarchical trappings (III.vi.1-19). Caesar, the antagonist of Antony, does not emulate the older Caesar, whose sexual and military conquests were intertwined (III.xiii.82-85). Hence, the younger Caesar represent the diminution of traditional Roman values, a constriction of heroic culture which Antony is the last survivor: The play insists that politics and sex or other grandeur are irrevocably sundered, that one can no longer have it both ways.


Obviously, Antony and Cleopatra cannot have it both ways. The characterizes Antony and Cleopatra through exalted language, shared by the protagonists and other minor characters; only to subvert the rhetoric through commentary and the behavior of Antony and Cleopatra, who remain maddeningly self-absorbed and self-destructive―lying, ignoring business, acting impulsively, bullying underlings, reveling in vulgarity, and betraying each other. The two lovers are peripheral participants regarding the military, as the fighting scenes, except the first Battle of Alexandria. The battle scenes occur offstage and helpless observers report on the debacle. Thus, Enobarbus laments at Actium:




Naught, naught, all naught! I can behold no longer.
The’Antoniad, the Egyptian admiral,
With all their sixty, fly and turn the rudder (III.x.1-3).


During the last battle, it is the turn of Antony:


This foul Egyptian hath betrayed me.
My fleet hath yielded to the foe, and yonder
They cast their caps up, and carouse together
Like friends long lost (IV.xiii.9-13).


Antony and Cleopatra, despite their failings, are unable to fit into the narrowed world of self-discipline of Caesar. Their grandeur is described through paradoxical hyperbole. The heart of Anton “is become the bellows and the fan / to cool a gipsy’s lust:” his heart is a fan that cools the lust of Cleopatra by satisfying it, but by doing so, he rekindles her passion, as if his heart were also a bellows (I.i.9-10). When Cleopatra meets Antony, “pretty dimpled boys” (II.ii.208) attend to her―




With divers-coloured fans whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did (II.ii.209-211).


In the end, the marriage of Antony to Octavia will force him to abandon Cleopatra. Enobarbus demurs in the most famous lines of the play:


Never. He will not.
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety. Other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies (II.ii.239-243).


These passages may be considered an accounting of middle aged lust or mid-life crises. The desire of the play is to convince the audience that the relationship of Antony and Cleopatra is about love. The feelings of Antony may be easier to believe than the feelings of Cleopatra. After all, it is Antony who gives up the empire. However, the teasing frivolity, comic jealousy, and cold calculation have rendered the motives of Cleopatra suspect. Yet the passages of Cleopatra give her extraordinary dignity early in the play, when Antony decides to leave her when he hears about the death of his wife, Fulvia.


Courteous lord, one word.
Sir, you and I must part; but that’s not it,
Sir, you and I have loved; but there’s not it;
That you know well. Something it is I would―
O, my oblivion is a very Antony,
And I am all forgotten (I.iii.87-92).


Cleopatra experiences something more than she can express. Its articulation initially takes the form of a failure to articulate. There is an echo of this later, when Enobarbus attempts to describe her to his fellow Romans: “her own person . . . beggared all description” (II.ii.203-204). However, here Cleopatra tries to convey her meaning through a witticism: her forgetfulness makes her like Antony, who is forgetful of her. She forgets and is forgotten. When Antony misses the point, thinking he has merely witnessed idle wordplay, she corrects him.


Tis sweating labour
To bear such idleness so near the heart
As Cleopatra this. But sir, forgive me, . . .
Be deaf to my unpitied folly,
And all the gods go with you (I.iii.94-100).


Cleopatra’s playfulness is the surface of her essential depth, a depth that involves a “sweating labour” like that of childbirth.


The last two acts of this play made Cleopatra the central character. The geographical restlessness of Antony and Cleopatra diminishes as the sphere of the protagonist is reduced to Alexandria. Cleopatra sends Antony a false and manipulative report of her death, Antony botches his suicide attempt in response, and she refuses to leave her monument to attend to him as he lies dying. Instead, Cleopatra hoists him up with her comment, “here’s sport indeed. How heavy weighs my lord!” (IV.xvi.33), where “sport” is both playful and bitter, and “weights” carries both physical and mental meaning. Hence, the scene as a whole combines grotesque comedy with genuine pathos. Antony’s presumably climactic death becomes a false ending that shifts the burden to the final act. Egypt and Cleopatra are the significant matter. Egypt is associated throughout the play with the overflowing that Antony is faulted at the outset. Antony declares his love for Cleopatra by rejecting the state he rules: “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch / Of the ranged empire fall” (I.i.35-36). When Cleopatra hears of the marriage of Antony to Octavia, Cleopatra prays, “Melt Egypt into Nile, and kindly creatures / Turn all to serpents!” (II.v.78-79). This apocalyptic imagery anticipates the loss of Antony to self when he believes Cleopatra has betrayed him. The body of Antony seems to him as “indistinct / As water is in water” (IV.xv.10-11). The language of liquefaction is connected to the confusion of gender identity. Antony―


is not more manlike
Than Cleopatra, nor the queen of Ptolemy
More womanly than he (I.iv.5-7).


As Cleopatra reports, “I . . . put my tires and mantles on him whilst / I wore his sword Philippan” (II.v.21-23). This statement either dangerously confuses gender roles, thereby leading to ignominious flight of Antony at Actium, or overcomes a destructive opposition.


Cleopatra, who metaphorically brakes through boundaries, is literally linked to Egypt throughout the play. In particular, Cleopatra identifies herself with the goddess Isis (III.vi.17). The conclusion seeks the regenerative powers of the Nile in Cleopatra. The play ponders whether she is the equivalent of Isis, whether she is the wife of Antony (Osiris), whether she does restore him after he is pursued to death by his brother (Caesar).



This is the work of Cleopatra, and her suicide, which defends these imagistic patterns, retrospectively justifying the decision of Antony to die for her. “Antony and Cleopatra” convinces us that the suicides of the two lovers are a heroic achievement, and anything less constitutes abject failure. The ending of the play evokes the synthesis precluded by the dichotomies of the play, but implied by its subtle patters. Cleopatra dies the death of a Roman man:


My resolution’s placed, and I have nothing
Of woman in me. Now from head to foot
I am marble-constant. Now the fleeting moon
No planet is of mine (V.ii.234-237).


As well, Cleopatra dies the death of a faithful Roman wife:


. . . methinks I hear
Antony call. I see him rouse himself
To praise my noble act . . .
Husband, I come.
Now to that name my courage proves my title (V.ii.274-279).


Cleopatra takes the poisonous asp to her breast, and become a Roman mother as well, in a passage that equates her earlier representation of intense feeling in the language of childbirth:


Peace, peace.
Dost thou not see my baby at my breast,
That sucks the nurse asleep! . . .
As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle.
O Antony!
Nay, I will take thee too (V.ii.299-303).


Since the Folio does not have stage direction, the final line may mean that she take Antony to her breast, like a mother comforting her infant son.


Perhaps the words of Cleopatra “O Antony” is a cry of orgasm that back shadows earlier sexual assertions by Cleopatra, “I am again for Cydnus / To meet Mark Antony” (V.ii.224-225) and “Husband, I come” (V.ii.278), and forward to sexually ecstatic dying words of Charmian, “Ah soldier!” (V.ii.319). The manner in which Cleopatra dies is clearly Egyptian. The asp is a back shadow of a description made of her by Antony as “my serpent of old Nile” (I.v.25). Rome and Egypt, Antony and Cleopatra, martial valor and sexual ecstasy are united in death as they cannot be in life. Antony and Cleopatra eclipse “Dido and Aeneas” (IV.xv.53). They wonder together through the afterlife of the play.


Cleopatra is troubled by countercurrents “immortal longings” (V.ii.272). She resolves on suicide not after learning that Antony killed himself for her, but rather when she understands that Caesar plans to lead her in a humiliating triumph in Rome. Cleopatra understands that her suicide will ruin the plans of Caesar. She receives pleasure in imagining that Antony will “mock / The luck of Caesar,” that the asp will “call great Caesar ass / Unpolicied” (V.ii.276-277, 298-299). The concluding rhetoric puts a new face on earlier dubious behavior, and best possible face on defeat. Accordingly, heroic aristocratic individualism can behave in the world only be leaving it. The domestic Cleopatra is reduced to a conventional gender role of a woman who challenges sexual hierarchy; in her death, Cleopatra “lies / A lass unparalleled” (V.ii.305-306). This alliterative eulogy turns the Latinate “unparalleled,” typical of the rhetoric of the play, with the homespun “lass.” That humble word matches’ Cleopatra’s own rhetoric―”Husband,” “baby,” and “nurse.” As well, it echoes her contempt for “Caesar [that] ass / Unpolicied” which praises her at his expense.


Although Antony and Cleopatra may lie together unparalleled by others, the play registers ambivalence as well to the last. This duality is affirmed in the account by Cleopatra of the response she expects in Rome:


The quick comedians
Extemporally will stage us, and present
Our Alexandrian revels. Antony
Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see
Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness
I’th’ posture of a whore (V.ii.212-217).


Cleopatra questions the absurdity of a boy actor badly impersonating her. However, during Elizabethan times the part of Cleopatra was performed by a boy, for woman were not allowed on stage. This reminder to the audience punctuates the dramatic illusion. It back shadows the deliberate blurring of gender division by Cleopatra. It emphasizes the artifice of Cleopatra, a veteran actress. Shakespeare is flaunting the power of his medium. To represent Cleopatra adequately, no “boy” could do justice to her “greatness.” To do Cleopatra justice the audience must look beyond what is shown, and take her “immortal longings.”


Work-Cited:


Archer, John Michael. “Antiquity and Degeneration in Antony and Cleopatra.” Race, Ethnicity, and Power in the Renaissance. Ed. Joyce Green MacDonald. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1997.


Bloom, Harold, ed. William Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra.” New York: Chelsea House, 1988.


Deats, Sara Munson, ed. “Antony and Cleopatra: New Critical Essays.” New York: Routledge, 2005.


Drakakis, John, ed. “Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare.” New York: St Martin’s, 1994.


Holderness, Graham, Bryan Loughrey, and Andrew Murphy, eds. “Shakespeare: The Roman Plays.” London: Longman, 1996.


Loomba, Ania. “Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.


Madeleine, Richard, ed. “Antony and Cleopatra.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.


Rose, Mark, ed. “Twentieth Century Interpretation of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’: A Collection of Critical Essays.” Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1977.


Wofford, Susancce L. “Shakespeare’s Late Tragedies: A Collection of Critical Essays.” Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1996.


Wood, Nigel, ed. “Antony and Cleopatra.” Buckingham, Eng.: Open University Press, 1996.



























































































Summary: Analysis: Manuscript: Play: Doctor Faustus: Act II, scene iv, lines 1 to 25, by Christopher Marlowe, by Julie Renee Phelan


Christopher Marlowe, 1564 to 1593.
Summary:
In the case of Doctor Faustus, the Chorus, Act II, scene 3, lines 1 through 25, foreshadows the demise of Faustus in what is referred to as a literary aside. In this manner, the Chorus is not heard by the characters in the play, but rather it is heard by the audience.  

If Faustus is able to gain the secrets of the world, he could be similar to Jove.  Jove is the king of the Gods, God of the sky and thunder. If Faustus can discover those secrets, he could sit upon Olympus, and ride the chariot. This chariot may signify the Greek tragedy of the Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, his chariot melted, and he fell to his death. In this manner, the Chorus may be foreshadowing the demise of Faustus. The chariot is powered by the necks of the coupled dragons. By the light of the moon, Faustus will travel around the world, and know everything about the universe.
The dragon will lead him from the east to the west. After “eight days” (14), the dragons will bring Faustus home. Faustus will rest, and venture “out again” (17). Once again, Faustus will ride upon the backs of the dragons, and their wings will part the air. In this manner, Faustus will explore the universe, the “coasts of kingdoms of the earth” (21). In order to visit with the Pope and his court, and take part in the somber but holy feast of Peter, Faustus will land in Rome.

Analysis:
In the case of Doctor Faustus, the Chorus, Act II, scene 3, lines 1 through 25, foreshadows the demise of Faustus in what is referred to as a literary aside. In this manner, the Chorus is not heard by the characters in the play,  but rather it is heard by the audience.

The chorus sings of Faustus “learnèd” knowledge (1), and his quest to find the secrets of astronomy, which are engraved in the book of Jove. In this manner, Faustus equates himself similar to Jove.  Jove is the king of the Gods, God of the sky and thunder. The book of Jove is highly desirable due to its lofty ideology. If Faustus could discover those secrets, (2), he too could ascend and “mount” himself upon the top of Olympus (4) On top of Olympus, sits a “chariot burning bright” (5).  This chariot may signify the Greek tragedy of the Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, his chariot melted, and he fell to his death. The chariot burns bright, and is powered by the necks of “yoked dragons’” (6). Through the travels in the sky, Faustus can view “the clouds, the planets, and the stars” (7). By the light of the moon, Faustus can see the tropics, and other segments of the sky. It is from this orbit that he may ascend to the “height” of the outermost sphere (10).
Faustus will whirl around this “circumference” (11), which is within the “concave compass of the pole” (12). The dragons will quickly draw Faustus from “east to west” (13). After “eight day” (14), the dragons will bring Faustus home to rest. After rest, other interest will make Faustus to venture “out again” (17). Faustus will ride upon his “dragon’s back” (18), and their wings will part the air. In this manner, Faustus will explore the universe, which includes “coasts and kingdoms of the earth” (21). In order to visit with the Pope and his court, and take part in the somber but holy feast of Peter, Faustus will land in Rome.
Doctor Faustus: Act II, scene 3, lines 1 through 25:

Text:
Enter the Chorus
(1)   Learnèd Faustus,
(2)   To find the secrets of astronomy
(3)   Graven in the book of Jove’s high firmament,
(4)   Did mount him up to scale Olympus’ top:
(5)   Where, sitting in a chariot burning bright
(6)   Drawn by the strength of yokèd dragons’
(7)   He views the clouds, the planets, and the stars,
(8)   The tropics, zones, and quarters of the sky,
(9)   From the bright circle of the horned moon
(10)   Even to the height of primum mobile.
(11)   And whirling round with this circumference
(12)   Within the concave compass of the pole,
(13)   From east to west his dragons swiftly glide
(14)   And in eight days did bring him home again.
(15)   Not long he stayed within his quite house
(16)   To rest his bones after his weary toil
(17)   But new exploits do hale him out again.
(18)   And mounted then upon a dragon’s back,
(19)   That with his wings did part the subtle air,
(20)   He now is gone to prove cosmography,
(21)   That measures coast and kingdoms of the earth,
(22)   And as I guess will first arrive at Rome
(23)   To see the Pope and manner of his court
(24)   And take some part of holy Peter’s feast,
(25)   The which this day is highly solemnised.

Work Cited
Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus. Ed. by Barnet, Sylvan. New York: Penguin Group, Inc., 1969. 

Steane, J.B. Marlowe: A Critical Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964.

Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2nd ed. 1989. Lane Library, Ripon College, Ripon, WI.




                                              

Summary: Analysis: Translation: Manuscript: Poem: The Inferno: Canto XXIX, by Dante Alighieri, by Julie Renee Phelan


Canto XXIX:  Summary:
In Circle Eight, Bolgia Ten, Virgil to Dante explains, “The moon already is under our feet; the time we have is short and there is much that you have yet to see.”  “The moon is under our feet” refers to the time of the day. If the moon, nearly at full, is under their feet, the sun must be overhead. Therefore, it is approximately noon of Holy Saturday.

Dante to the reader describes the Falsifiers, “Out from that ledge Malebolge’s final cloister lay outspread, and all of its lay brethren might have been in sight but for the murk; and from those dead such shrieks and strangled agaonies shrilled through me like shafts, but barbed with pity, that my hands flew to my ears. If all the misery that crams the hospitals of pestilence in Maremma, Valdichiano, and Saridinia in the summer months when death sits like a presence on the marsh air, were dumped into one trench―that might suggest their pain. And through the screams, putrid flesh spread up its sickening stench.” Please note: “Maremma,Valdichiano, and Sardinia” are malarial plague areas.

Dante describes the scene, “One lay gasping on another’s shoulder, one on another’s belly; and some were crawling on hands and knees among the broken boulders. Silent, slow step by step, we moved ahead looking at and listening to those souls too weak to raise themselves from their stone bed. I saw two there like two pans that are put one against the other to hold their warmth. They were covered with great scabs from head to foot. No stable boy in a hurry to go home, or for whom his master waits impatiently, ever scrubbed harder with his currycomb than those two spirits of the stinking ditch scrubbed at themselves with their own bloody claws to ease the furious burning of the itch. And as they scrubbed and clawed themselves, their nails drew down the scabs the way a knife scrapes bream or some other fish with even larger scales.”

Canto XXIX:  Analysis:
Dante’s feelings “Sight of that parade of broken dead had left my eyes so spotted with their tears I longed to stay and weep, but Virgil said: ‘What are you waiting for? Why do you stare as if you could not tear your eyes away from the mutilated shadows passing there? You did not act so in the other pits. Consider―if you mean perhaps to count them―this valley and its train of dismal spirits winds twenty-two miles round. The moon already is under our feet; the time we have is short and there is much that you have yet to see’” (1-12).

“The moon is under our feet” refers to the time of the day (10-11). If the moon, nearly at full, is under their feet, the sun must be overhead. Therefore, it is approximately noon of Holy Saturday.

Dante to Virgil responds, “Had you known what I was seeking, you might perhaps have given me permission to stay on longer. Within that cavern upon whose brim I stood so long to stare, I think a spirit of my own blood mourns the guilt that sinners find so costly there” (13-21).

Virgil to Dante suggests, “Hereafter let your mind turn its attention to more worthy matters and leave him to his fate among the blind; for by the bridge and among that shapeless crew I saw him point to you with threatening gestures, and I heard him called Geri del Bello. You were occupied at the time with that headless one who in his life was master of Altaforte, and did not look that way; so he moved on” (22-30).

“Geri del Bello” is a cousin of Dante’s father (27). Geri became embroiled in a quarrel with the Sacchetti of Florence and was murdered. At the time of the writing he had not been avenged by his kinsmen in accord with the clan code of a life for a life. The “headless one who in his life was master of Altaforte” is Bertrand de Born (28-29). Bertrand de Born, from 1140 to 1215, was a great knight and master of the troubadours of Provence. Bertrand was Lord of Hautefort.

Dante to Virgil responds, “O my sweet Guide his death came by violence and is not yet avenged by those who share his blood, and thus, his shame. For this he surely hates his kin, and, therefore, as I suppose, he would not speak to me; and in that he makes me pity him the more” (31-36).

Dante to the reader describes, “Out from that ledge Malebolge’s final cloister lay outspread, and all of its lay brethren might have been in sight but for the murk; and from those dead such shrieks and strangled agaonies shrilled through me like shafts, but barbed with pity, that my hands flew to my ears. If all the misery that crams the hospitals of pestilence in Maremma, Valdichiano, and Saridinia in the summer months when death sits like a presence on the marsh air, were dumped into one trench―that might suggest their pain. And through the screams, putrid flesh spread up its sickening stench” (39-51). Please note: “Maremma,Valdichiano, and Sardinia” are malarial plague areas (47).

Dante to the reader continues his description, “Still bearing left we passed from the long sill to the last bridge of Malebolge. There the reeking bottom was more visible. There, High Justice, sacred ministress of the First Father, reigns eternally over the falsifiers in their distress. I doubt it could have been such pain to bear the sight of the Aeginian people dying that time when such malignance rode the air that every beast down to the smallest worm shriveled and died (it was after that great plague that the Ancient People, as the poets affirm, were reborn from the ants)―as it was to see the spirits lying heaped on one another in the dank bottom of that fetid valley” (52-66).

The reference to the “Aeginian people dying” is regarding Juno (59). Juno was incensed that the nymph Aegina let Jove possess her. So Juno set a plague upon the island that bore her name. On that island, every animal and human died until only Aecus, the son born to Aegina of Jove was left. The son born to Aegina of Jove prayed to his father for aid, and Jove repopulated the island. Jove repopulated the island by transforming the ants at his son’s feet into men. The Aeginians have since been called Myrmidons. Myrmidons is Greek meaning ants. Ovid (Metamorphoses, VII, 623-660).

Dante describes the scene, “One lay gasping on another’s shoulder, one on another’s belly; and some were crawling on hands and knees among the broken boulders. Silent, slow step by step, we moved ahead looking at and listening to those souls too weak to raise themselves from their stone bed. I saw two there like two pans that are put one against the other to hold their warmth. They were covered with great scabs from head to foot. No stable boy in a hurry to go home, or for whom his master waits impatiently, ever scrubbed harder with his currycomb than those two spirits of the stinking ditch scrubbed at themselves with their own bloody claws to ease the furious burning of the itch. And as they scrubbed and clawed themselves, their nails drew down the scabs the way a knife scrapes bream or some other fish with even larger scales” (67-84).

Virgil to Griffolino d’Arezzo said, “O you, you there who rip your scabby mail as if your fingers were claws and princers; tell us if this lair counts any Italians among those who lurk in its dark depths; so may your busy nails eternally suffice you for your work” (85-90).

“Griffolino d’Arezzo” is an alchemist who extracted large sums of money from Alberto da Siena (85). Griffolino extracted money by promising Alberto that he would teach him to fly like Daedalus. When Alberto discovered he had been tricked, he had his “uncle,” the Bishop of Siena, burn Griffolino as a sorcerer. Griffolino is not punished for sorcery, but for falsification of silver and gold through alchemy.

Griffolino d’Arezzo to Virgil responds, “We both are Italian whose unending loss you see before you, but who are you who comes to question us?” (91-93)

Virgil to Griffolino replies, “I am a shade, who leads this living man from pit to pit to show him Hell as I have been commanded” (94-96). Dante to the two wraiths of misery, Griffolino and another, said, “So may the memory of your names and actions not die forever from the minds of men in that first world, but live for many suns, tell me who you are and of what city; do not be shamed by your nauseous punishment into concealing your identity” (103-108).

Griffolino to Dante admits, “It is true that jokingly I said to [Alberto] once: ‘I know how to raise myself and fly through air’; and [Alberto]―with all the eagerness of a dunce―wanted to learn. Because I could not make a Daedalus of [Alberto]―for no other reason―[Alberto] had his father burn me at the stake. But Minos, the infallible, had me hurled here to the final bolgia of the ten for the alchemy I practiced in the world” (112-120).

Dante to Virgil asks, “Was there ever a race more vain than the Sienese? Even the French compared to them, seem full of modest grace” (121-123). The other sinner to Dante responds, “Excepting Stricca, who by careful planning managed to live and spend so moderately; and Niccolo, who in his time above was first of all the shoots in the rank garden to discover the costly uses of the clove; and excepting the brilliant company of talents in which Caccia squandered his vineyards and his woods, and Abbagliato displayed his intelligence. But if you wish to know who joins your cry against the Sienese, study my face with care and let it make its own reply. So you will see I am the suffering shadow of Capocchio, who, by practicing alchemy, falsified the metals, and you must know, unless my mortal recollection strays how good an ape I was of Nature’s ways” (121-140).


“Stricca, Niccolo, Caccia, and Abbagliato” were all Sienese noblemen, who were members of the Spendthrift Brigade (125-132). The Spendthrift Brigade wasted their substance in competitions of riotous living. Niccolo dei Salimbeni discovered some recipe, details unknown, prepared with fabulously expensive spices. Therefore, the word “Excepting” is ironical. “Capocchio” was a Florentine friend of Dante’s student days (137). In 1293, Capocchio was burned at the stake.

Canto XXIX: English Translation:

(1) The sight of that parade of broken dead
(2) Had left my eyes so sotted with their tears
(3) I longed to stay and weep, but Virgil said:

(4) What are you waiting for? Why do you stare
(5) As if you could not tear your eyes away
(6) From the mutilated shadows passing there?

(7) You did not act so in the other pits.
(8) Consider―if you mean perhaps to count them―
(9) This valley and its train of dismal spirits

(10) Winds twenty-two miles round. The moon already
(11) is under our feet; the time we have is short,
(12) and there is much that you have yet to see.”

(13) “Had you known what I was seeking, “I replied,
(14) “you might perhaps have given me permission
(15) To stay on longer.” (As I spoke, my Guide

(16) Had started off already, and I in turn
(17) Had moved along behind him; thus, I answered
(18) As we moved along the cliff.) “Within that cavern

(19) Upon whose brim I stood so long to stare,
(20) I think a spirit of my own blood mourns
(21) The guilt that sinners find so costly there.”

(22) And the Master than: “Hereafter let your mind
(23) Turn its attention to more worthy matters
(24) And leave him to his fate among the blind;

(25) For by the bridge and among that shapeless crew
(26) I saw him point to you with threatening gestures,
(27) And I heard him called Geri del Bello. You

(28) Were occupied at the time with that headless one
(29) Who in his life was master of Altaforte,
(30) And did not look that way; so he moved on.”

(31) “O my sweet Guide, “I answered, “his death came
(32) By violence and is not yet avenged
(33) By those who share his blood, and, thus, his shame.

(34) For this he surely hates his kin, and, therefore,
(35) As I suppose, he would not speak to me;
(36) And in that he makes me pity him the more.”

(37) We spoke of this until we reached the edge
(38) From which, had there been light, we could have seen
(39) The floor of the next pit. Out from that ledge

(40) Malebolge’s final cloister lay outspread,
(41) And all of its lay brethren might have been
(42) In sight but for the murk; and from those dead

(43) Such shrieks and strangled agonies shrilled through me
(44) Life shafts, but barbed with pity, that my hands
(45) Flew to my ears. If all the misery

(46) That crams the hospitals of pestilence
(47) In Maremma, Valdichiano, and Sardinia
(48) In the summer months when death sits like a presence

(49) On the marsh air, were dumped into one trench―
(50) That might suggest their pain. And through the screams,
(51) Putrid flesh spread up its sickening stench.

(52) Still bearing left we passed form the long sill
(53) To the last bridge of Malebolge. There
(54) The reeking bottom was more visible.

(55) There, High Justice, sacred ministress
(56) Of the First Father, reigns eternally
(57) Over the falsifiers in their distress.

(58) I doubt it could have been such pain to bear
(59) The sight of the Aeginian people dying
(60) That time when such malignance rode the air

(61) That every beast down to the smallest worm
(62) Shriveled and died (it was after that great plague
(63) That the Ancient People, as the poets affirm,

(64) Were reborn from the ants)―as it was to see
(65) The spirits lying heaped on one another
(66) In the dank bottom of that fetid valley.

(67) One lay gasping on another’s shoulder,
(68) One on another’s belly; and some were crawling
(69) On hands and knees among the broken boulders.

(70) Silent, slow step by step, we moved ahead
(71) Looking at and listening to those souls
(72) Too weak to raise themselves from their stone bed.

(73) I saw two there like two pans that are put
(74) One against the other to hold their warmth.
(75) They were covered with great scabs from head to foot.

(76) No stable boy in a hurry to go home
(77) Or for whom his master waits impatiently,
(78) Ever scrubbed harder with his currycomb

(79) Than those two spirits of the stinking ditch
(80) Scrubbed at themselves with their bloody claws
(81) To ease the furious burning of the itch.

(82) And as they scrubbed and clawed themselves, their nails
(83) Drew down the scabs the way a knife scrapes bream
(84) Or some other fish with even larger scales.

(85) “O you,” my Guide called out to one, “you there
(86) Who rip your scabby mail as if your fingers
(87) Were claws and pincers; tell us if this lair

(88) Counts any Italians among those who lurk
(89) In its dark depths; so may your busy nails
(90) Eternally suffice you for your work.”

(91) “We both are Italian whose unending loss
(92) You see before you,” he replied in tears.
(93) “But who are you who come to question us?”

(94) “I am a shade,” my Guide and Master said,
(95) “who leads this living man from pit to pit
(96) To show him Hell as I have been commanded.”

(97) The sinners broke apart as he replied
(98) And turned convulsively to look at me,
(99) As others did who overheard my Guide.

(100) My Master, then, ever concerned for me,
(101) Turned and said: “Ask them whatever you wish.”
(102) And I said to those two wraiths of misery:

(103) “So may the memory of your names and actions
(104) Not die forever from the minds of men
(105) In that first world, but live for many suns,

(106) Tell me who you are and of what city;
(107) Do not be shamed by your nauseous punishment
(108) Into concealing your identity.”

(109) “I was a man of Arezzo,” one replied,
(110) “and Albert of Siena had me burned;
(111) But I am not here for the deed for which I died.

(112) It is truly that jokingly I said to him once:
(113) ‘I know how to raise myself and fly through air’;
(114) And he―with all the eagerness of a dunce―

(115) Wanted to learn. Because I could not make
(116) A Daedalus of him―for no other reason―
(117) He had his father burn me at the stake.

(118) But Minos, the infallible, had me hurled
(119) Here to the final bolgia of the ten
(120) For the alchemy I practiced in the world.”

(121) And I to the Poet: “Was there ever a race
(122) More vain than the Sienese? Even the French,
(123) Compared to them, seem full of modest grace.”

(124) And the other leper answered mockingly:
(125) “Excepting Stricca, who by careful planning
(126) Managed to live and spend so moderately;

(127) And Niccolờ, who in his time above
(128) Was first of all the shoots in that rank garden
(129) To discover the costly use of the clove;

(130) And excepting the brilliant company of talents
(131) In which Caccia squandered his vineyears and his woods,
(132) And Abbagliato displayed his intelligence.

(133) But if you wish to know who joins your cry
(134) Against the Sienese, study my face
(135) With care and let it make its own reply.

(136) So you will see I am the suffering shadow
(137) Of Capocchio, who, by practicing alchemy,
(138) Falsified the metals, and you must know,

(139) Unless my mortal recollection strays
(140) How good an ape I was of Nature’s ways.”

Canto XXIX: Italian Manuscript:

(1) La molta gente e le diverse piaghe
(2) avean le luci mie sì inebrïate,
(3) che de lo stare a piangere eran vaghe.

(4) Ma Virgilio mi disse: «Che pur guate?
(5) perché la vista tua pur si soffolge
(6) là giù tra l’ombre triste smozzicate?

(7) Tu non hai fatto sì a l’altre bolge;
(8) pensa, se tu annoverar le credi,
(9) che miglia ventidue la valle volge.

(10) E già la luna è sotto i nostri piedi;
(11) lo tempo è poco omai che n’è concesso,
(12) e altro è da veder che tu non vedi».

(13) «Se tu avessi», rispuos’ io appresso,
(14) «atteso a la cagion per ch’io guardava,
(15) forse m’avresti ancor lo star dimesso».

(16) Parte sen giva, e io retro li andava,
(17) lo duca, già faccendo la risposta,
(18) e soggiugnendo: «Dentro a quella cava

(19) dov’ io tenea or li occhi sì a posta,
(20) credo ch’un spirto del mio sangue pianga
(21) la colpa che là giù cotanto costa».

(22) Allor disse ’l maestro: «Non si franga
(23) lo tuo pensier da qui innanzi sovr’ ello.
(24) Attendi ad altro, ed ei là si rimanga;

(25) ch’io vidi lui a piè del ponticello
(26) mostrarti e minacciar forte col dito,
(27) e udi’ ’l nominar Geri del Bello.

(28) Tu eri allor sì del tutto impedito
(29) sovra colui che già tenne Altaforte,
(30) che non guardasti in là, sì fu partito».

(31) «O duca mio, la vïolenta morte
(32) che non li è vendicata ancor», diss’ io,
(33) «per alcun che de l’onta sia consorte,

(34) fece lui disdegnoso; ond’ el sen gio
(35) sanza parlarmi, sì com’ ïo estimo:
(36) e in ciò m’ha el fatto a sé più pio».

(37) Così parlammo infino al loco primo
(38) che de lo scoglio l’altra valle mostra,
(39) se più lume vi fosse, tutto ad imo.

(40) Quando noi fummo sor l’ultima chiostra
(41) di Malebolge, sì che i suoi converse
(42) potean parere a la veduta nostra,

(43) lamenti saettaron me diversi,
(44) che di pietà ferrati avean li strali;
(45) ond’ io li orecchi con le man copersi.

(46) Qual dolor fora, se de li spedali
(47) di Valdichiana tra ’l luglio e ’l settembre
(48) e di Maremma e di Sardigna i mali

(49) fossero in una fossa tutti ’nsembre,
(50) tal era quivi, e tal puzzo n’usciva
(51) qual suol venir de le marcite membre.

(52) Noi discendemmo in su l’ultima riva
(53) del lungo scoglio, pur da man sinistra;
(54) e allor fu la mia vista più viva

(55) giù ver’ lo fondo, la ’ve la ministra
(56) de l’alto Sire infallibil giustizia
(57) punisce i falsador che qui registra.

(58) Non credo ch’a veder maggior tristizia
(59) fosse in Egina il popol tutto infermo,
(60) quando fu l’aere sì pien di malizia,

(61) che li animali, infino al picciol vermo,
(62) cascaron tutti, e poi le genti antiche,
(63) secondo che i poeti hanno per fermo,

(64) si ristorar di seme di formiche;
(65) ch’era a veder per quella oscura valle
(66) languir li spirti per diverse biche.

(67) Qual sovra ’l ventre e qual sovra le spalle
(68) l’un de l’altro giacea, e qual carpone
(69) si trasmutava per lo tristo calle.

(70) Passo passo andavam sanza sermone,
(71) guardando e ascoltando li ammalati,
(72) che non potean levar le lor persone.

(73) Io vidi due sedere a sé poggiati,
(74) com’ a scaldar si poggia tegghia a tegghia,
(75) dal capo al piè di schianze macolati;

(76) e non vidi già mai menare stregghia
(77) a ragazzo aspettato dal segnorso,
(78) né a colui che mal volontier vegghia,

(79) come ciascun menava spesso il morso
(80) de l’unghie sopra sé per la gran rabbia
(81) del pizzicor, che non ha più soccorso;

(82) e sì traevan giù l’unghie la scabbia,
(83) come coltel di scardova le scaglie
(84) o d’altro pesce che più larghe l’abbia.

(85) «O tu che con le dita ti dismaglie»,
(86) cominciò ’l duca mio a l’un di loro,
(87) «e che fai d’esse talvolta tanaglie,

(88) dinne s’alcun Latino è tra costoro
(89) che son quinc’ entro, se l’unghia ti basti
(90) etternalmente a cotesto lavoro».

(91) «Latin siam noi, che tu vedi sì guasti
(92) qui ambedue», rispuose l’un piangendo;
(93) «ma tu chi se’ che di noi dimandasti?».

(94) E ’l duca disse: «I’ son un che discendo
(95) con questo vivo giù di balzo in balzo,
(96) e di mostrar lo ’nferno a lui intendo».

(97) Allor si ruppe lo comun rincalzo;
(98) e tremando ciascuno a me si voles
(99) con altri che l’udiron di rimbalzo.

(100) Lo buon maestro a me tutto s’accolse,
(101) dicendo: «Dì a lor ciò che tu vuoli»;
(102) e io incominciai, poscia ch’ei volse:

(103) «Se la vostra memoria non s’imboli
(104) nel primo mondo da l’umane menti,
(105) ma s’ella viva sotto molti soli,

(106) ditemi chi voi siete e di che genti;
(107) la vostra sconcia e fastidiosa pena
(108) di palesarvi a me non vi spaventi».

(109) «Io fui d’Arezzo, e Albero da Siena»,
(110) rispuose l’un, «mi fé mettere al foco;
(111) ma quel per ch’io mori’ qui non mi mena.

(112) Vero è ch’i’ dissi lui, parlando a gioco:
(113) "I’ mi saprei levar per l’aere a volo";
(114) e quei, ch’avea vaghezza e senno poco,

(115) volle ch’i’ li mostrassi l’arte; e solo
(116) perch’ io nol feci Dedalo, mi fece
(117) ardere a tal che l’avea per figliuolo.

(118) Ma ne l’ultima bolgia de le diece
(119) me per l’alchìmia che nel mondo usai
(120) dannò Minòs, a cui fallar non lece».

(121) E io dissi al poeta: «Or fu già mai
(122) gente sì vana come la sanese?
(123) Certo non la francesca sì d’assai!».

(124) Onde l’altro lebbroso, che m’intese,
(125) rispuose al detto mio: «Tra’mene Stricca
(126) che seppe far le temperate spese,

(127) e Niccolò che la costuma ricca
(128) del garofano prima discoverse
(129) ne l’orto dove tal seme s’appicca;

(130) e tra’ne la brigata in che disperse
(131) Caccia d’Ascian la vigna e la gran fonda,
(132) e l’Abbagliato suo senno proferse.

(133) Ma perché sappi chi sì ti seconda
(134) contra i Sanesi, aguzza ver’ me l’occhio,
(135) sì che la faccia mia ben ti risponda:

(136) sì vedrai ch’io son l’ombra di Capocchio,
(137) che falsai li metalli con l’alchìmia;
(138) e te dee ricordar, se ben t’adocchio,

(139) com’ io fui di natura buona scimia».

Links to The Inferno, by Dante Alighieri:


Work Cited:

Alighieri, Dante, “The Inferno,” Trans. John Ciardi, Signet Classics, New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., New York, New York, 2009, Print.

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