Dante’s ‘Inferno’: Influence on Keats Hyperion

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      If we sit down to study Keats’s Hyperion, having already read the Inferno of Dante, we find numerous echoes of the latter in the former. That Keats had studied Inferno with keen interest becomes clear from his copy of Dante’s Inferno which contains his markings and underlings. These markings were not done at random, rather Keats was very choosy about the portions that he liked or the portions that he wanted to keep before himself while composing his own epic. This amounted to a tremendous influence of Dante’s ‘Inferno’ on Keats’s Hyperion.

      The influence of Dante is more than apparent in the opening lines of Hyperion which owe a lot to canto XIV or Inferno, in particular, and to Cantos IX to XV in general. There is a close similarity between the descriptions of stillness in the forest valley of Inferno and the deserted valley in which we find Saturn after his fall. This is how Dante describes the forest valley of those who have done violence against their own person, the suicides:

      It shall be proper to mention here that at one time Keats had used the words, “dead subline” instead of “listless dead”, the latter resulting from an after-thought.

      This brief study of ours shows that Dante’s Inferno enjoyed a tremendous influence on Keats’s Hyperion. For a real enjoyment of the two one should be read as complementary to the other.

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