Essay on Dante 's Inferno, By Dante

779 Words Feb 5th, 2016 4 Pages
In his letter to Can Grande, Dante explained that his writing is “‘polysemous’, that is, having several meanings;” (20). Dante’s Inferno can be read in a literal sense, as most works are, but it is meant to be read in allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses as well. Reading a work of literature in a literal sense involves interpreting the words in the most basic sense, but Dante’s work has a much deeper meaning. The allegorical sense allows the reader to grasp the views the writer has of political, social, and religious ideas of the time. The moral sense involves reading to determine the writer’s sense of right and wrong. The anagogical sense uses concepts in the literary work to allude to heaven or the afterlife. While reading Dante’s Inferno, the reader must use all four methods to completely understand the true meaning of the work. One scene that exhibits the “polysemous” characteristic of Dante’s Inferno is Dante’s conversation with a tree in the second ring of the seventh circle. This circle is home to the souls of those who have committed violence against themselves. Dante is surrounded by a dense forest full of moans and cries. Following Virgil’s orders, Dante snaps off a branch and “from that broken stump issued together both words and blood” (Inferno 13.42-3). In the literal sense, he is talking to a tree. Dante describes the imagery of the bleeding tree to give the reader a direct sense of what he is seeing. However, the conversation Dante has with the stump…

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