It may be doubted. Thomas and he. Inferno, dante is, John Ruskin wrote 100 years ago, «the central man of all the world». Yet Dante's age was riddled with follies, cruelties, and evils too and, brilliant and wise as he was, his epic starts out with him lost in a dark forest, where the true way was impossible to reach: «la diritta via era smarrita». We have a poignant vocabulary for this _ we speak of the 'bondage of purposeless freedom' and of 'the void at the heart of things'. Dante wrote these poems somewhere around the year 1300. But perhaps you may say to yourself, this is distant from the Dante who was writing almost 700 years ago. Man might know one thing were his sight less dim; That it whirls not to suit his petty whim, That it is quite indifferent to him. So I beheld, and lo! Well, Eliot and Dante both apparently believed that «if a way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst».
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The Inferno and King Lear speak universal truths about the human condition: that suffering is inevitable and unavoidable. At a time where the notion of culture and of European culture in particular, is somewhat in doubt, Dante is the sovereign underwriter. Many of their retributions seem much too severe for some of the sins that just dont seem that dire. He can detect someone following him, but each time he tries to approach, his pursuer vanishes. That statement is not only applicable to the characters in each of the works, but also to the readers.
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