The difficulty surrounding the interpretation of the eighth Bolgia of Dante's Inferno
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The final voyage of Ulysses, which is recounted by the Greek hero in the eighth bolgia of Dante’s Inferno, has given rise to much critical debate. An authoritative reading of the episode has been difficult to establish because Ulysses’ monologue appears detached from its context. This occurs as a result of the grandeur of the hero, but also because the voyage seems to have very little in common with what else we hear about the sinners of the eighth bolgia. Depending on whether one looks at the episode of Ulysses, or the episode of Guido – also a sinner in the eighth bolgia – one is likely to come away with entirely different readings of the moral condition of the sinners in this region of Hell. While I do not propose to offer a precise definition of the sin of Ulysses and Guido (for example, fraudulent counsel or misuse of intellect), I would like to suggest that the only manner in which one can approach the sin of the eighth bolgia is through understanding that there is a relationship between the final voyage of Ulysses and the details that we learn elsewhere of the sinners’ lives. It is only through a unified reading of the entire episode that it might be properly understood.