Ron Herzman and Bill Stephany on Inf. 27 for “Canto per Canto”


“‘What do you need to be a member of Dante’s afterlife?’, Ron Herzman asks in conversation with Bill Stephany. To receive the privilege of being immortalized in the pages of the Inferno, one has to be, of course, dead by 1300 and an unrepentant sinner. The ‘mechanics of repentance’ in Hell is based on a subtle rhetoric of self-justification and reciprocal accusation hidden behind a submissive, noble or miserable attitude. Distinguishing between false and true repentance, as well as between false and true conversion, is as complicated as it was essential for Dante. The ‘exercise in reading’ required to orient us in this mechanics is complicated by the empathy for sinners and by the particular ‘foxiness’ of some of them. A prime example is that of Guido da Montefeltro in Inferno 27. The lacrimetta that redeems a life of sins is the same impalpable difference that separates falsehood from truth, Hell from Purgatory and Paradise. Because what can be feigned will never be in God’s eyes, and with him in Dante’s: Francesca, Paolo, Brunetto and, here, Guido are all, after all, in Hell.” –Maria Zilla

Watch or listen to the video “Inferno 27: An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse” here.

Canto per Canto: Conversations with Dante in Our Time is a collaborative initiative between New York University’s Department of Italian Studies and Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, and the Dante Society of America. The aim is to produce podcast conversations about all 100 cantos of the Divine Comedy, to be completed within the seventh centenary of Dante’s death in 2021.