Saturday, November 5, 2011


When I was reading the Inferno, it occurred to me that Dante's since of humor is sometimes pretty raunchy. I think it's sort of funny that such an important work of western literature has fart/butt/poo jokes running through it to break the tension. The Divine comedy is such a collasal, well-written piece of writing that it's sort of funny to me that Dante decided to throw in these not-so-highbrow/aristocratic jokes in there too. Literacy was so low back in the day, it seemed like Dante's only audience would be those from wealthy Italian families or those connected to the church. I wonder if the clergy that read this found this kind of funny or if the "ass-trumpet" sort of turned off the scholastics.
What I'm talking about didn't happen constantly, but it's defiantly in there, hidden among epic similes and poetic language. In the Inferno, gluttons were lying in a river of crap (like pigs,) the butts of head-on-backwards sinners were mentioned specifically because I guess Dante just wanted to put that in, and something weird happened in the snake canto when a giant snake took over a sinners body... I'm not going to go into detail but there was an explanation of the transformation of every body-part, including this weirdly placed penis reference/simile that made the whole horror move feel of the canto seem sort of South Park-like.
I feel like when reading this, we are not filled with horror and we don't fall to our knees in repentance; it seems like a modern comedy. It's certainly funnier and less-scary than some other descriptions of hell like the devout puritanical sermons we read sophomore year. There are a lot of elements of satire in there as well, like putting popes and political enemies in hell for example. Maybe fart jokes were put in there to break the tension making this into more of a dark comedy than a call to repentance (which I think would happen if this were only a description of hell, I think it would read a lot like that bit in the middle of Portrait of an Artist last year and that there would be less "Virgil is awesome" and a lot more fire and brimstone.) I really like the Divine comedy and I'm glad it maybe wasn't deadly serious the entire time, things in the Inferno stayed interesting and readable. I sort of like that and I wonder if Dante was an influence on Voltaire.

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