Inferno

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A giant whom Dante sees in the eighth circle of hell. Nimrod attempted to build the Tower of Babel, which would reach up to heaven. When God destroyed the tower, the one language spoken by all men on earth fractured into the many languages we have now. In hell, Nimrod is unable to speak intelligible words.

Nimrod Quotes in Inferno

The Inferno quotes below are all either spoken by Nimrod or refer to Nimrod. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Inferno published in 1950.
Canto 31 Quotes

That's Nimrod, by whose fault the gracious bands
Of common speech throughout the world were loosed.

We'll waste no words, but leave him where he stands,
For all speech is to him as is to all
That jargon of his which no one understands.

Related Characters: Virgil (speaker), Nimrod
Page Number: 31.77-81
Explanation and Analysis:

When Virgil and Dante encounter the figure of Nimrod, Virgil offers this poignant commentary on the nature of communication. He observes that their language will be incomprehensible to Nimrod, just as his language is incomprehensible to them.

To Nimrod, Virgil attributes the origin “of common speech,” which is deemed a perversion compared to the singular language of God. Nimrod was responsible for this because he built the tower of Babel, which fractured the one language of humanity into many (according to the Old Testament story). That, as a result,he  would be unable to understand Dante and Virgil implies that their language is fundamentally different and ordained by God. Furthermore, Virgil sets a high value on the importance of their language, for they should “waste no words” when they need not to. The implication is that Dante’s language—as it appears in the poem itself—is highly valuable and should only be passed to those who deserve to hear it.

The question of common versus holy speech is particularly significant in Dante’s work. Dante wrote the Divine Comedy in Italian instead of the traditional Latin, which was otherwise seen as a holy language. Thus when Virgil says that they are indeed speaking a language that evades “jargon” and that comes from God, as opposed to Nimrod, he is inherently saying that Dante’s Italian is on equal footing with Latin.

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Nimrod Character Timeline in Inferno

The timeline below shows where the character Nimrod appears in Inferno. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Canto 31
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...hangs around its neck (and which Dante heard just earlier). Virgil identifies this giant as Nimrod, who was responsible for the construction of the failed tower of Babel. (In a biblical... (full context)