Divine Comedy-I: Inferno

Stories of Sin: Storytelling as Confession in Dante

To tell a story is to narrate events, or to give an account. Within literature, storytelling becomes a frame within a frame, a story within a story. A character from the outer frame of the book creates a smaller frame in the form of his or her story. As Dante descends through Hell in his Inferno, he and his guide Virgil hear many damned souls tell stories. Some sinners foretell the future, as do the suicide of Canto XIII, the gluttonous Ciacco of Canto VI, and the heretics of Canto X. Others, such as the Jovial Friars and Navaresse barrater, identify other sinners and explain punishments distinct from their own. Most of the stories that the damned tell, however, are their personal confessions. The structure of each confession is usually tripartite, consisting of the sinner's identification of himself or herself, narration of the occasion for his or her particular sin, and the description of his or her punishment. The suicide in Canto XIII, for example, begins his lengthy confession to Dante and Virgil by identifying himself: "I am the one who guarded both the keys to Frederick's heart and turned them..." (Canto XIII, lines 58-59). He then explains how he was driven to suicide. He tells Dante and Virgil that he...

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