Dante Alighieri

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Inferno: Canto 24 Summary & Analysis

Dante is distressed to see Virgil upset, but when they get to the rocks by which they can climb up to the next bridge Virgil has his familiar, confident smile back. Virgil helps hoist Dante up as they climb up the rocks. The climb is difficult and when they finally reach the top, Dante sits to rest, as he is exhausted. Virgil scolds him for his sloth, saying that resting is not the way to attain fame. Fame, Virgil says, is the only memorial of someone on earth after he or she dies.
Virgil's continual scolding of Dante is part of his educating and guiding Dante through his physical and spiritual journey. Not only does Virgil encourage him to become a more pious soul, but he also tells Dante to seek fame by making this great journey (and telling the tale in his poem).
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Dante gets back up, catches his breath, and tells Virgil to lead on. As they cross the bridge, Dante hears unintelligible voices from below but cannot see into the dark where they are coming from. He asks Virgil if they can go down after crossing to see these souls.
The voices of the sinners below are a mess of unintelligible noise, as opposed to the eloquent speech of Dante and Virgil.
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Virgil assents and when they cross and go down into the trench, Dante sees a mass of strange, frightening serpents and lizards, unlike any earthly creatures. He sees naked men running around, their hands tied behind their backs with snakes, trying to flee the lizards. One of these souls passes close by Dante and is stung by a snake. He instantly burns and crumbles to ash.
The terrifying creatures Dante finds here are unlike any lizards one might find on earth. They are literally other-worldly.
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But then the ashes come together again and form the body of the sinner again, like a phoenix emerging from its own ashes. Virgil asks the reconstituted soul who he is and where he is from. He is from Tuscany, and names himself as Vanni Fucci. Dante asks what crime he is guilty of and Vanni looks at him with shame and refuses before admitting that he robbed a church. This part of the eighth circle contains thieves. Vanni then foretells that Dante's favored political party will be defeated in the future.
Vanni is an interesting soul in that he doesn't want fame—he doesn't want to reveal his past or what he did. In this way he reveals the difference between fame, being remembered for something good, and infamy, being remembered for something shameful.
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