• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Dantes Divine Comedy. Discuss what you consider to be the most important allegorical features of the journey of Ulysses in the Inferno, and give your interpretation of their meaning.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Discuss what you consider to be the most important allegorical features of the journey of Ulysses in the Inferno, and give your interpretation of their meaning. Word Count: 2443 Ulysses represents great ambiguity for Dante both as the pilgrim and as the poet. Is he the hero of Greek Cicero and Seneca whose love of knowledge, in Dante's adaptation, desires to go beyond all earthly boundaries in order to seek human knowledge? On the other hand is he the Ulysses of Latin Virgil and Ovid, the man of cunning and manipulation, who seeks knowledge of the external world and discards all others and more importantly discards all virtue? Canto 26 is set among the eighth ditch of the eighth circle of Hell, a scene in which the sinners are punished in flames that burn inward, and the central feature is a 'cloven-crested flame'1 which embodies the shades of Ulysses and Diomed. In all of this Dante creates some of the most complex and intriguing allegory in the whole of the Divine Comedy. The significance of this allegory is based upon the interpretation of Ulysses' journey. To understand the allegories you first must understand the interpretations. To understand the interpretations you first must understand the role of Dante. This preface, to the discussion of the most important allegorical features, will outline Dante's duality, and the two main competing interpretations of Ulysses' journey - it will set the context. ...read more.

Middle

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison...'5 In this verse the idea that the tongue is untameable by man and that its unremitting use is inevitably poisonous is reflected in the character of Ulysses. This identifiable connection to canto 26 is referring to Ulysses and his gift of intellect and rhetoric, so that in the end it eventually leads to the death of himself and of the crew who were seduced by his exalted words. The sin which is founded on the tongue of Ulysses expresses itself in other ways in this canto, in as much, as he has also silenced his partner Diomed and the crew of his ship6. Dante the poet therefore is criticising the use of intellect without virtue as it denies people their voice and manipulates them to carry out one's will. In my opinion, this allegory and 'the purpose of Dante's visit to the eighth bolgia is for him and us to learn that the use of intelligence unrestrained by virtue is self-destructive'7. This can be seen from a purely biblical sense - as man has been endowed with gifts from God - and Ulysses was given the gift of a brilliant intellect. Ulysses, whether through tacit or expressed choice, chose to act without virtue - and so the 'misuse of mental powers runs against the will of God8' which in part leads to his demise. ...read more.

Conclusion

With this in mind, Ulysses in his speech about his journey says 'Wheeling our stern against the morning sun, we made our oars our wings in crazy flight'14 - this crazy flight, the story of Elijah's journey, and the Platonian allegory all show that it is here where Ulysses gives ground to the sinful horse and leads his ship to damnation. In finishing this allegory it is the horses, one being of virtue and the other of sin, that pull the soul towards its end, and so it is in the hands of the charioteer to take charge and steer it in the right direction. Elijah to the poet is therefore the exemplification of the virtuousness of humanity, and while Ulysses exemplifies the sinfulness. In conclusion, these three allegories diversify the meaning that Dante the poet has of Ulysses' journey. The allegory of the tongues of fire and the horses of the soul both strengthen the interpretation that Dante inevitably condemns Ulysses. While on the other hand the allegory of introspection enhances Dante's admiration for the love and the pursuit of knowledge - that Ulysses' characterises although he condemns him the form of the three reasons as stated by Virgil. The allegorical features within the Divine Comedy, then, have infinite meanings and infinite interpretations because only in this ambiguity can Dante get the audience to glimpse an aspect of their own interpretation - and in doing so, get to glimpse an aspect of themselves. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Medieval section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Medieval essays

  1. Pity for the Damned. In the epic poem The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, ...

    Virgil brings Dante further into the woods because he believes that Dante should honor these souls and pay attention to them, for the possibility remains they were not shown attention in their lives on earth. Continuing through the forest, Virgil tempts Dante to break a twig and witness the result

  2. Virtue and the 'endless figure' in the works of the Pearl-poet. The Pearl-poets works ...

    paye 1212 Ande precious perlez vnto His pay Gawain 1 Sithen the sege and the assaut watz sesed at Troye 2525 After the segge amd the asaute watz sesed at Troye In Pearl in particular the poem itself is 'endelez rounde'.

  1. The Knight's Tale and the Miller's Tale. There is no more reason for ...

    She understands the world in which she lives, the world of fabliau, of appetite and survival, and she lives according to its rules.'4 Nicholas's downfall lies in the way that he tries to play Alison's trick a second time and he 'shows himself less than smart, less than his true animal self, and he pays the price.

  2. Chaucers presentation of Troilus and Criseydes love reflects the insurmountable influences of the conventional ...

    The events that conspire against his love and determine his fall and rise to fall again are mirrored in the fortunes of Troy, its war and in the cultural contradictory strands of love.

  1. The main characters in Le Roman de la Rose and Sir Gawain and the ...

    These qualities are represented by the Pentangle and its five points, the five virtues that truly defined the chivalric behaviour: Liberality, Lovingkindness, Continence, Courtesy, and Piety; virtues "more firmly fixed on that fine man than in any other" (Sir Gawain ll.

  2. 'It is clear...that Chaucer used the couple relationship as a kind of open field ...

    byrthe, Deceite, wepyng, spynnyng, God hath yeve To wommen kyndely whil they may lyve. ('The Wife of Bath's Prologue', lines 400-402) By gifting the Wife with not only the resilience to meet each pain her life as a woman involves but the wisdom to recognize it as 'yeven' by God,

  1. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - The audience, the Pentangle and the Green ...

    He wrote for an audience who well understood the conventions of court life, as described at Camelot and Bertilak's castle. Latin and French and would also have been familiar, as would the Beheading Game which appears in Part 1 and Part 4.

  2. Beowulf: The Trojan Horse of Christianity.

    Here, we find another instance where the poet puts on hold the role of "poet" and take on the role of "Christian" when he states, "[...] The truth is clear: / Almightily God rules over mankind / and always has" (700-702).

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work