a vignette from “Inferno”


When I was taking a class on epic literature, we were required to keep a reading journal.  Once a week or so, we could wander from literary criticism and write a more creative entry using the text as our inspiration.  Here’s one of mine based on lines from Dante’s “Inferno.”  [see symptom 2 of Seven Symptoms of an English Major]


“I am Friar Alberigo,” he answered therefore,

“the same who called for the fruits from the bad garden.

Here I am given dates for figs full store.”  (Ciardi 278)

The following is my version of what led Friar Alberigo to his place in the ninth circle of Dante’s The Inferno. 

Figs from a Bad Garden 

            One afternoon, as the bright sunshine sparkled down upon my beautiful vineyard.  I was picking some of my best burgundy grapes as a present for the banquet I was holding in honor of my older brother Manfred when I found myself daydreaming as the little white butterflies fluttered in the distance among the ripening fruit. 


The previous year, Manfred had invited me to dine with him, his wife and the Bishop, as well as the sundry other guests whose presences are mandatory at those occasions.  I was rather puzzled, because Manfred and I had never really gotten along well.  Our mother had always favored him, and then I took the cowl, of which Manfred never approved.  He had always believed that I should have followed in the footsteps of father and hired myself out to the latest political party to make quick money.  I had told him literally thousands of times that I wanted to be my own man, even if it meant pledging myself to God, becoming Friar Alberigo in the process, but he simply would not let the matter drop.


            At the banquet, I quickly came to understand that Manfred wanted to rehash the ancient argument.  I finally lost my temper with him and asked him if he wanted to take our disagreement outside.  Instead, he slapped me on the face in front of all of the important guests and told me not to be a hysterical little boy.  He then sat down and finished eating his dripping, gluttonous beef.


            At that moment, I knew that I must exact my revenge and reclaim my dignity under the same circumstances in which it had been shattered.  As I took my seat again, and, like a soul-less thing, mechanically finished the meal without tasting a thing, various evil schemes rolled around in my boiling skull.  The heat in my cheeks kept the contents of my brain churning throughout the rest of the evening, and on beyond that.  Finally, I knew, and I understood–an instant strike wouldn’t do.  Only delicate, exacting patience would do justice. 


           Now, back in my vineyard, I called my men, the ones who would do the dirty deed, and handed them both large, overflowing baskets of my precious blood grapes.  “Now, when I call for the fruit, that will be your signal.  You know your jobs.  Manfred will lose much more than his dignity tonight.  He will lose his life and his heir, double retribution for an unforgivable crime.”


“I am Friar Alberigo,” he answered therefore,

“the same who called for the fruits from the bad garden.

Here I am given dates for figs full store.”  (Ciardi 278)


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