Canto 26 Summary and Analysis
Counselors of Fraud: Sinners who convince others to practice fraud; spiritual thieves who rob others of integrity
The Dual Flame: Ulysses and Diomede; planned the Trojan horse
Dante appears to praise Florence because its reputation is scattered across land, water, and Hell. Dante refers to the bitter favor which Prato wanted for the city.
As they move on the stairs, Dante reflects that he must curb his “hot spirit” so as to use wisely his good gifts. Ahead Dante sees the Eighth Trench with its fires. These spires of flame come from the bodies of each thief below. While Dante watches, he nearly falls but is saved by Virgil.
Dante asks who walks in the tall, fiery spire he sees, and Virgil answers that it is Eteocles and his brother who had killed one another in a battle. Virgil also recognizes Ulysses and Diomede.
Virgil says that Dante should not talk to these spirits. Instead Virgil will ask the questions since he can sense Dante’s thoughts and can speak to the Greeks who may spurn the language spoken by Dante.
Ulysses tells of his love of travel which not even his wife, his son, or his aging father could quell. On the sea voyage he recounts, his ship made good speed and he saw many things. He observed the “other pole” by night; five times the light kindled and waned. Foul weather struck, a whirlwind hit, and the seas closed over the ship.
Discussion and Analysis
Dante is actually being sarcastic when he praises Florence for its reputation because its reputation is not all good and, therefore, extends to Hell—where many of its citizens dwell. Even the Church, through Cardinal Nicholas of Prato, cursed Florence; Pope Benedict XI had sent the Cardinal to Florence in hopes of bringing together the hostile political factions. The Cardinal gave up on Florence and said that since it refused to be blessed, Florence could remain cursed. After his departure, a bridge collapsed and a fire killed over 2,000.
Dante sees the thieves with a spire of flame rising from each body. Virgil saves Dante from the fall; this could be a literal statement, but it could also be allegorical since Virgil is also rescuing Dante from the woods in which he was lost.
Dante questions whose spire burns so brightly and Virgil explains that Eteocles and his brother had killed each other in battle. The two brothers had fought in the war of the Seven against Thebes. Their bodies had been placed on a funeral pyre, but even in death the flames would not merge because of their hatred for each other.
Virgil explains also that the dual fires belong to Ulysses, a Greek hero who fought against the Trojans, and Diomede;...
(The entire section is 701 words.)