Dante's Inferno - Circle 6 - Canto 10
Farinata & Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti. by his situation and his words: he is Cavalcante de' Cavalacanti, the father of Dante's early friend, the poet Guido Cavalcanti. The scene which now takes place between Cavalcante and Dante is brief (only 21 lines). As soon as it . relationship of counterpoint, of the sudden breaking in of some- thing dimly foreboded. According to the medieval way of thinking, a heretic was one who chose two characters we meet in this canto—Farinata and Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti. were related to one another on earth through marriage and are now.
What follows, however, is anything but a dignified and courteous exchange. Farinata immediately wishes to establish to what party Dante's ancestors belonged. He brusquely asks Dante: Both are now furiously engaged in a heated debate along strictly partisan lines. Farinata boasts of having dispersed the Guelphs twice. He haughtily makes this declaration in the first person, as if he had single-handedly driven them out.
As Sapegno points out in his commentary p.05. Inferno IX, X, XI
Dante has automatically taken up the rhetoric of his Guelph ancestors. He participates in and perpetuates a schism that plagued Florence even before he was born. One could easily imagine just such retorts taking place between other members of the different factions at any time; there is nothing particular to Dante and Farinata in this.
At the moment Dante reminds Farinata of what most torments him in Hell, their conversation is suddenly interrupted by the appearance of Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, father of Dante's best friend and fellow poet Guido Cavalcanti. Unlike the entrance of Farinata, for which the poem amply prepares us, Cavalcanti's appearance is unexpected. He interrupts the debate between Farinata and Dante, an action which effectively emphasizes the point at which Dante delivers a stinging blow to Farinata.
Parker: Lectura Dantis: Inferno X
Although present, Farinata remains silent during the entire conversation between Cavalcante and Dante. One highly charged exchange is replaced by another, and the level of dramatic interest in the canto is constant, but we might ask what function Cavalcante's entrance serves? How does Cavalcante's exchange with Dante, embedded within Dante's debate with Farinata, relate to the over-riding political concern of the canto up to this point? His sudden appearance makes for good theater, and it is an effective way of punctuating and emphasizing the last point Dante makes in the exchange, but we need to examine the relation of these two parts of the canto rather than treating them as separate episodes.
Commentators on this passage tend to assume that the sudden change in the presentation encourages us to examine the canto in terms of the contrasts presented in it: Dante's portrait of these two men, however, goes beyond the mere presentation of two character types. Cavalcante's exclusive preoccupation with his son acts as a catalyst to the conversation between Farinata and Dante which he interrupts.
And it is Cavalcante's symbolic value which will ultimately allow Dante and Farinata to transcend the narrowly partisan positions they embodied earlier. Cavalcante represents the personal pain attendant upon party strife. Cavalcante's behavior toward Dante, just as Farinata's speech earlier, betrays the extent to which these two men are still caught up in earthly matters. Their heretical attitude is underscored by their continual obsession with what they held most dear on earth: Farinata is still greatly occupied with Florentine politics, and Cavalcante's greatest concern is for his son, Guido.
Upon recognizing Dante, Cavalcante anxiously looks about for his son: He looked round about me as if he had a desire to see whether someone was with me, but when his expectation was all quenched he said, weeping: Cavalcante is stunned by Dante's words: Lives he not still?
Strikes not the sweet light on his eyes? Cavalcante's ignorance about his son causes Dante some confusion: This entire episode is rendered all the more poignant by the fact that at the time of the poem's composition Guido was already dead although he was still alive on April 7,the fictional date of the poem.
Guido died in August ofand Dante himself was indirectly responsible for his death, having exiled him along with the other heads of the Black and White parties for having fomented unrest in Florence. While Guido was exiled to Sarzana in Lunigiana he contracted malaria. He died shortly after being allowed to return to Florence. Thus Guido's death was a direct result of the party strife. The effects of the Cavalcante episode as catalyst are obvious at once.
Farinata resumes his conversation with Dante precisely at the point where it left off, but his tone is decidedly different. It is not an immediate conversion, which would run counter to the realistic and dramatic vein of the previous exchanges in the canto, but a gradual one in which the recognitions are shown us. Although Farinata has been present all along during this exchange between Dante and Cavalcante, he registers no emotion whatsoever at Cavalcante's suspicion that his son might be dead, despite the fact that Guido Cavalcante was also his son-in-law: But that other, the great soul at whose desire I had stopped, did not change countenance, nor move his head, nor bend his form Farinata matches Dante's stinging observation that the Ghibellines never reentered Florence by predicting Dante's own expulsion from Florence: Ma non cinquanta volte fia raccesa la faccia de la donna che qui regge, che tu saprai quanto quell' arte pesa.
Canto 10: The Problem with Nearsightedness
But not fifty times shall the face of the lady who reigns here be rekindled before thou shall know for thyself how hard is that art. In short, his concerns begin to echo those of Cavalcante. Vindictive hatred remained toward the Uberti's after Farinata's death. The Ghibellines never returned to Florence as a party, and in the peace ofthe most powerful Ghibelline families, among them the Uberti, were excluded from the agreement.
They were denounced as enemies of the state and sentenced to decapitation if captured. Dante then reminds him of the battle of Montaperti inin which the Ghibellines defeated the Guelphs in one of the bloodiest battles of that time.
Farinata tries to extenuate his actions, claiming that he was not solely responsible for the massacre, and pointing out that at the parliament which look place at Empoli after the Guelphs were defeated, when the Ghibellines wished to destroy the city completely, he alone stood against the complete destruction of Florence: Ond' io a lui: To which I answered him: He looked around me, just as if he longed to see if I had come with someone else; but then, his expectation spent, he said in tears: Why is he not with you?
Then suddenly erect, he cried: He is not still alive?
The sweet light does not strike against his eyes? And yet the Lady who is ruler here will not have her face kindled fifty times before you learn how heavy is that art. And so may you return to the sweet world, tell me: But where I was alone was there where all the rest would have annihilated Florence, had I not interceded forcefully.
But when events draw near or are, our minds are useless; were we not informed by others, we should know nothing of your human state. So you can understand how our awareness will die completely at the moment when the portal of the future has been shut.
He moved ahead, and as we made our way, he said to me: And then that sage exhorted me: Their cemetery have upon this side With Epicurus all his followers, Who with the body mortal make the soul; But in the question thou dost put to me, Within here shalt thou soon be satisfied, And likewise in the wish thou keepest silent. Thy mode of speaking makes thee manifest A native of that noble fatherland, To which perhaps I too molestful was.
And unto me he said: Behold there Farinata who has risen; From the waist upwards wholly shalt thou see him. Round me he gazed, as if solicitude He had to see if some one else were with me, But after his suspicion was all spent, Weeping, he said to me: Up starting suddenly, he cried out: