Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer Reading: Inferno (canto 13)

Ready for a horrific image? Further into the seventh circle, harpies patrol a wilderness of thorns. When Virgil snaps a twig off one, it bleeds and screams in pain! Virgil explains that each bush is a soul; when Judgment Day comes, the resurrected bodies of these suicides will hang from their own branches (an echo of the arch-suicide, Judas). The thornbush weezes its tale through its broken stalk—he belonged to the court of Frederick II—but never gives his name. We're meant to deduce it, but the omission also suggests to me that Hell's punishments simultaneously emphasize and annihilate the self.

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