Explain Dante’s use of allusion in canto 5 of the Inferno. What purposes do the references to Minos and the lustful figures from mythology serve?

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Minos was an important figure in Greek mythology. Sometimes he was described as a human king and sometimes as the son of Zeus and Europa. He is famous for being heartless, as he would feed young people to the Minotaur. In some stories, he judges the dead in Hades. He...

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Minos was an important figure in Greek mythology. Sometimes he was described as a human king and sometimes as the son of Zeus and Europa. He is famous for being heartless, as he would feed young people to the Minotaur. In some stories, he judges the dead in Hades. He punishes Scylla for disobeying her father. He would have been a familiar figure to literate Italians in Dante's time. His background as a judge makes him an apt judge of what circle of hell souls should be assigned to. Because he was heartless to young people, it is appropriate he would show up in the section about those punished for lust.

Figures of lust from classical literature and mythology who appear in canto 5 are Helen of Troy, Dido, and Achilles, all high-ranking figures who loved too much. This shows that nobody, not even queens and great warriors, are exempt from punishment. These people, like Minos, would have been familiar figures to Dante's audience, and readers, like the character of Dante, might have been distressed that such figures could be consigned to hell for love or lust.

These allusions show Dante to have been a well-read humanist and one who studied classical texts.

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