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Fourfold Analysis - Circle Nine in Dante's Inferno

            Dante Alighieri, one of the most respected poets of all time, accomplished many things during his life; with his crowning achievement being the invention of the fourfold analysis method. The allegory of the literal, political, moral, and spiritual aspects of a work of literature can be quickly and easily derived with this method. As the creator of this method, it makes perfect sense that Dante would include numerous examples of it within his works, which he does. One specific group that is particularly apt for analysis is who were treacherous to kin, located in the first layer of circle nine in the Inferno. These individuals are frozen up to their necks in ice, the cold symbolizing a lack of human love and warmth, which they denied others in life. But one question continuously plaguing scholars is why Dante the poet considers familial relationships important enough to merit such heinous punishment.
             In the outermost layer of Cocytus, the frozen lake at the bottom of hell kept cold by the endless beatings of Satan's wings, reside those who betrayed their families, and among them are Alesandro and Napoleoni Degli Alberti. They stand together in a lover's embrace encased neck deep in ice, but can still move enough to butt heads repeatedly, which is a way of coping with the intense pain they feel. This pain stems from their eyelids being shut "tighter than any clamp grips wood to wood"1 by frozen tears. In life, these individuals were twin counts of Mangona, but they killed one another in a fight over their inheritance, so in death they are fittingly denied any warmth or human love, just as they denied it to each other in life. However, this denial of compassion is all the more torturous because they did not deny it to just strangers, but to their own siblings. It is often said that fratricide is the worst crime imaginable as "Each is aggressor and victim as they merge into a monstrous, bipartite unity".

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