MedXXXIII:1 Count Ugolino: Inferno Canto XXXIII:1
Ugolino, the Pisan, spins his tale of Pisan treachery, adding that city to Dante’s list of Italian viper’s nests. Ugolino challenges Dante to do anything but show sorrow, and empathy, at the piteous nature of the childrens’ sufferings. Here in the depths of Hell is a dark and powerfully told story shot through nevertheless with the brightness of love, of the heart (however sinful) for its kin. Here Pity is evoked in the reader, that covert leit-motif of the whole Inferno. If Pride is Hell’s ubiquitous sin, Pity and sorrow is Dante’s Christian response to what we see and hear.
Ugolino’s own doubtful reputation and his own treacheries, for which he is in this circle, still do not justify the torture of innocents, which made Pisa shameful throughout the land. Dante himself curses Pisa, a strangely un-Christian curse since it presumably condemns innocent Pisans, and then offers no further comment on Ugolino’s tale. He leaves it to stand entire on its own feet. What else is there to say? That treachery and evil often involve the innocent, and bring sinless others within the shadowy net: that the evil force of the downward spiral curses all it touches? That a love counterbalanced by a hatred that gnaws our enemy’s skull is not in itself sufficient?