Dante and the Latin Poets: Metamorphosis and Literary Antagonism in the Bedlam of Thieves
In Inferno’s Cantos 24 and 25 Dante points out the auctoritas of Latin epic poets (Ovid, Lucan), but uses a series of rhetorical figures intended to emphasise his own superiority and the novelty of his poetic enterprise. Dante competes with Ovid (Cadmus’s metamorphosis into a snake in Ov. met. 4. 569-603 = Dante Inf. 25. 103-138) by recycling Ovid’s grammar of description and lowering its high style according to the new poetic objective as he recounts the anti-sublime world of Malebolge. Virgil as a character of Dante’s Commedia also participates in this procedure, since he presents one of his epic creatures, Cacus (the monster slain by Hercules in Aeneid 8), in terms strongly divergent from the high diction adopted by the real Virgil as Aeneid’s author.