Divine Comedy-I: Inferno

Plutus’ Empyrean, Sublunary, and Infernal Conflicts: A Close Reading of Canto VII College

Pape Satán, pape Satán aleppe!”[1] These baffling, untranslatable words screeched by Plutus in the Fourth Circle of Dante’s Inferno have been the subject of extensive linguistic exegesis for many years but, unfortunately, the attention given by scholars to Plutus’ role in the Inferno is often limited to this one-line invocation. While Plutus, the demon of avarice and greed (Notes VII 8), is one of the most short-lived and seemingly inconsequential characters of Dante’s poem, he serves a vital role in the structural and subliminal unity of this canto, the Circles of the Incontinent (Circles 2-5), the Inferno, and the Divine Comedy as a whole. While Virgil conflicts directly and explicitly with Plutus early in Canto VII, he introduces two more indirect and implicit conflicts with Plutus: one in an empyrean realm and another in a sublunary realm. The empyrean conflict is between Pluto, who is conflated with Plutus, and Michael, whom Virgil references in his threat to Plutus early in Canto VII. The counterpart sublunary conflict is between Fortune and those sinners who committed the avaricious and prodigal sins embodied by the demon Plutus. Once the empyrean and sublunary conflicts are explicated, the rest of Dante’s stylistic and...

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