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Imagery and Allegory in Dante A Virgilian Perspective Dantes portrayal of Hell in the Inferno is an undisputed masterpiece of visual and allegorical imagery enriched not only by extensive use of figurative language but by concrete physical descriptions as well Perhaps the most interesting display of Dantes skill in combining these sensory and metaphorical elements occurs in Canto XIV here as the two figures cross over a river encased in stone Virgil recounts to the Pilgrim in stunning detail the story of the statue buried in Mount Ida on the island of Crete whose falling tears form the waters for the three rivers of the Underworld In the course of the guides narration the reader who is first confronted and captivated by powerful geographical images gradually becomes aware of the underlying allegorical interpretation and realizes that the scenes portrayed here tell the story of the Fall of Man and his subsequent misery on earth The speaker though is neither Dante nor the Pilgrim but Virgil and the effect on the reader of this shift in perspective is indeed the most fascinating aspect of the passage not only is Dante using Virgil in Bloomian terms to authenticate his own creation but the emotions which Virgil himself conveys to the reader heighten the feeling of suspense amazement and appreciation of the work as a whole There are two distinct portions of the story Virgil recounts to the Pilgrim in this passage yet a third image comes from the landscape surrounding the two as they talk In all three sections the pictures painted by the poets are geographically and topologically defined with concrete depictions of the surroundings and a well-focused center The river for instance which the figures use as a pathway through the deserted landscape is at first seen through its environment and its origins are specified Dante then draws a comparison
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