Love as Pleasure and Pleasure as Sin in Inferno Five

4 April 2015
An essay which provides a deep analysis of Canto V of Dante’s Inferno.

The essay provides a deep analysis of Canto V of Dante’s Inferno. It studies Francesca and Paolo, their sin, Dante’s reaction to Francesca’s story, and the various interpretations critics have of Canto V. The significance of Francesca’s presence in this Canto and the themes that come through in her speech and interaction with Dante are important to the Divine Comedy as a whole. The essay explores the significance of Canto V in regard to Dante’s views on love, sin, pleasure and discusses the ‘dolce stil novo’ movement of the time. It also looks at the various interpretations that the Canto has inspired among critics. Francesca has been seen as both gentle and innocent, and as a deceptive maipulator. Dante the pilgrim’s sympathy is explained in regard to Dante the poet’s desire to express messages to the reader.
“Dante’s representation of Francesca da Rimini in his Inferno is a crucial scene of interaction. Her (mis) use of the language of the thirteenth century movement, Dolce Stil Novo, exposes Dante the Poet’s thoughts on love through the reactions that her lyrical speech invokes in Dante the Pilgrim. The dramatic effect Francesca’s tale has on Dante serves to reveal his naivety and amateur ability to judge sin, and thus highlight the difference between Francesca and Beatrice, the latter of which is consequently presented as the epitome of ethereal grace and spirituality. Dante’s encounter with Francesca is found in Canto V of the Inferno, the first realm after Limbo (Canto VI) and the entrance to Hell Proper. Francesca is the first soul with whom the pilgrim speaks. The second circle, in which she and her lover Paolo reside, is that of “i pecator carnali/che la ragion sommettono al talento” (5: 38-39), and her sin that of adultery.”
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