Divine Comedy-I: Inferno

Canto XIII: Piero delle Vigne

In Canto XIII of Dante's Inferno, one of the most pitiful souls that Dante comes in contact with is Piero delle Vigne. Condemned to the second tier of hell for the sin of self-abuse and suicide, the reader, like Dante, is torn between sympathizing and feeling pity for delle Vigne, and understanding that he did commit a mortal sin against God. Throughout the canto, Dante really plays upon the reader's emotions, making it almost impossible to dislike delle Vigne; nevertheless, in the end, he makes it very clear why he remains damned for his sin. In that sense, Dante forces the reader to emulate himself as the pilgrim - the reader is allowed to feel sorry for the damned, but never disregard the gravity of the sins in question. If Dante or the reader ever feels that the punishment is unjust, that itself would be a venial sin. Nevertheless, although Dante never says outright that delle Vigne should be pardoned, the way in which the character is presented almost makes the reader wish that he were.

Dante creates a very realistic human portrait of Piero delle Vigne by making the reader sympathize with him and his fate. As sympathy is a truly human emotion, Dante could do no better than to play upon it with his audience. Just...

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