Count Ugolino's Story

In his book, “From Hell to Paradise: Dante and his Comedy,” Olaf Lagercrantz argues that this story is perhaps the most terrible in the entire Comedy.  It becomes more terrible, if in fact the Count was later so overcome by hunger that he was tempted to try and eat the dead bodies of his children and grandchildren, as some annotators infer.Dante has placed both Count Ogolino and the Archbishop Ruggiero in the ice as punishment for their sins on earth.  For the Count, Lagercrantz argues, gnawing like a starving dog at his enemy's neck, is so beside himself with anguish at the suffering he has inflicted that no other pain can touch him.  Count Ogolino could even be removed from the ice in Hell and placed in a flower garden with birds singing and his agony would be just as great, his lust for revenge just as fierce.  Count Ogolino's state is an example of where we see punishment existing as a state and not a penalty.   
Source: “From Hell to Paradise:  Dante and his Comedy,” by OlafLagercrantz. 1966



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