Fear Of The Unknown : Dante 's Inferno Essay

1447 Words Nov 2nd, 2016 6 Pages
Fear of the Unknown in Dante’s Inferno All humans have fears. Common fears are those of threatening or dangerous subjects. All the most common fears have a face or a name: a fear of spiders, a fear of heights, or a fear of blood, for example. Perhaps the most important fear, though, is the fear that cannot be named. The greatest threat is a threat that cannot be anticipated. All humans have some fear of the unknown. Dante Alighieri’s Inferno brings into focus the innate human fear of the unknown or uncertain. Throughout Dante’s pilgrimage through hell, he comes face to face with these fears and, occasionally, overcomes his fears. These fears bring questions of Dante’s virtue and of his fate, both physical and spiritual. One distinct example of the pilgrim’s fear of the unknown can be found in Canto XVII, in which he and Virgil ride on the back of Geryon, the flying beast of fraud, down to the 8th circle of Hell, the circle of fraud. During the entirety of this trip, the mortal poet fears for his life. Considering his period, his terror makes sense. During Dante’s lifetime, during the Italian Renaissance, aviation was yet to exist. Humans had only ever dreamt of flying. Virgil tries to accommodate his perishable companion when he tells Geryon to “descend with gentle motion, circling wide: remember you are carrying living weight.” (p. 449, Canto XVII, ln. 98-99). Unfortunately, this does not ease the pilgrim as much as it should. Despite Virgil’s apparent…

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