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Dante's Inferno Canto 15: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Karen Wolak

Karen has taught 4-8th grade English/Language Arts and has worked closely with adult learners for several years. M.Ed. in Adult Education.

In Canto XV of Dante's ''Inferno,'' Dante is surprised to find an old friend in the seventh circle of Hell. Let's take a closer look at their reunion, and the significant quotes surrounding it.

Fancy Meeting You Here

Dante and Virgil continue along the stream on the fiery plain they encountered in the previous canto. There is a mist rising from the stream that protects them from the fire that falls from the sky. They cross paths with a group of souls. Of them, Dante says, ''each one / Stared at us as men at dusk will study / Each other in the light of a new moon, / Knitting their eyebrows at us in a squint / Like an old tailor threading a needle's eye'' (XV.17-21). In other words, the group studies Virgil and Dante with something more than idle curiosity.

Brunetto Latini
Brunetto Latini

One of the souls recognizes Dante. Despite the soul being covered in burns, Dante realizes it is his earthly mentor Brunetto Latini. Brunetto asks if he can walk with Dante for a while. Dante suggests that they sit, but Brunetto explains that if they stop wandering, the fires will consume him for one hundred years.

Catching Up

Brunetto asks how Dante has come to be in this level of Hell. Seeing Virgil, he asks (XV.48), ''And who is this one here who shows the way?'' Dante explains his journey through Hell. Brunetto laments his own death and how he could not assist Dante in his earthly life any longer. Brunetto and Dante shared the same political views on Earth, and Brunetto warns Dante about the political forces that are against him. He says, ''For the good you do shall be your enemy, / And the reason is: among the bitter sorb trees / It is not right the sweet fig should bear fruit'' (XV.64-66). He also predicts Dante's upcoming political exile.

The Guelphs-Ghibellines Conflict Raged in Florence at the time of Dante. Dante and Latini were both Guelphs.
Guelphs Ghibellines Conflict

Dante shares his regrets that Brunetto is in this place. He expresses gratitude for everything Brunetto has taught him and assures him that he always speaks highly of him. He makes note of Brunetto's warning, and tells him that he will face whatever may come. (Inferno was written after Dante's political exile had already happened, so he is speaking more to his current state than his future one.)

''The Selfsame Sin''

Dante asks about Brunetto's companions in Hell and he responds, ''To know of some is good, Of others it is better to be silent, / As time would be too short for so much talk'' (XV.103-105). He indicates that he resides here with other learned men who were ''Dirtied by the selfsame sin on earth'' (XV.108). He mentions a few that Dante may know.

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