New Light on Dante’s Construction of Geryon
Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture
Italian Language and Literature
This essay aims to improve our understanding of Dante’s construction of Geryon in Inferno 16-17. First, I address the vexed question concerning the truth-status of the monster vis-à-vis that of the poem. After rejecting alternative interpretations, I defend the exclusively allegorical reading of Geryon and suggest that it should be seen as a conscious corrective reaction to Virgil’s metapoetic construction of Fama in Aeneid 4. In the second part of the essay, I demonstrate an unappreciated wordplay between Gerion(e) and girone and argue that this serves as a key to appreciating his allegorical nature. The latent anagrammatic wordplay underscores his symbolic mirroring of the structure of Hell and instantiates both the motif of hybridity and that of deception.