The Importance Of Contrapasso In Dante's Inferno

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In Dante’s Inferno, Dante Alighieri comes across a groaning tree, as he makes his way through the seventh level of Hell. Dante was introduced to Pier della Vigna, a trusted counselor of Frederick II, in the form of a tree as his punishment. As Dante enters conversation with Pier della Vigna it become clear to the true significance of della Vigna’s contrapasso.
As Dante says on the seventh level of Hell, “I am convinced he thought that I believed the groans I heard were issuing from shades who hid from us behind trees.” (Canto XIII, 24-26). Here Dante is emulating the peculiar speaking style of Pier della Vigna (Notes to Canto XIII, 24). Pier was one of the King’s most trusted counselors. This relationship incited jealousy among the members
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He claims he served the King with fidelity. He sacrificed sleep and worked relentlessly for King Frederick II. Yet he was thrown into jail for mere rumors of his betrayal. Pier blames, “The harlot, Envy, who with vice and death poisons every court, cast her meretricious eyes on Caesar’s courtiers, kindled minds against me.” (Canto XIII, 64-66). The rumors must have been sufficient evidence for his unfaithfulness because King Frederick II finds Pier guilty then Pier kills himself in jail. Initially, the punishment makes sense because he can no longer hurt himself in this tree form. However, this punishment is not to prevent Pier from feeling pain because he feels pain when Dante snaps a branch off of him. Furthermore, another part of this contrapasso is the vulnerability to the harpies and the pain inflicted by …show more content…
He asks if Dante would clear his name once he returns to the world. This shows how much pride he has in his reputation. He doesn’t mention any loved ones nor does he mention King Frederick II. This shows the reader where Pier’s interests really lie. It is not the King he cares for, but the power and the reputation that comes with being the King’s counselor. This reveals that Pier’s sin is not only suicide, but also pride. Even as a tree Pier seems to lack humility, he says, “Your gentle words appeal to me. And so I won’t be silent…” (Canto XIII, 53-54). He speaks as if he still has a choice and that he is not at the complete mercy of these passing travelers. It is also revealed through this conversation that Pier was more than just a trusted advisor. He says, “Both keys to Frederick’s heart were in my hands. Softly I turned them in the wards: I locked an unlocked.” (Canto XIII, 56-58). Frederick II held Pier in such high regard making it a simple task to manipulate the King. The way he speaks of the keys to Frederick’s heart conveys how easily it was to control the King. This undermines Pier’s loyalty and reveals his true desire was

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