Fraudulent counselors

Bruce N H

Hi all,

In last week's class there was some discussion of what is the sin in cantos 26 and 27. The key line is canto 27, 116. In Mandelbaum "the counsel that he gave was fraudulent". In Longfellow "because he gave the fraudulent advice". In Sayers "he counselled fraud". In Italian that line is "perché diede ’l consiglio frodolente," Hey! I can actually get that one, because in the Godfather the advisor was the consigliere, and obviously "frodolente" is "fraudulent" - but Google translate gives it as "because he gave the fraudulent advice", exactly the Longfellow translation.

So what does that mean? Based on just that line alone it could be read that they were defrauding the people that they were advising - that people came to them seeking good advice, but they lied to them. But that can't be it. In the case of Guido da Montefaltro in canto 27, the pope absolved him in advance for the advice he was about to give. You wouldn't forgive someone in advance because they're about to trick you. Instead the pope was forgiving him advance because the pope knew the scheme he was about to present would be an evil one. So the "fraudulent advice" was advising the Pope how to defraud others. In lines 110-111 Mandelbaum "long promises and very brief fulfillments will bring a victory to your high throne." Longfellow "The promise long with the fulfilment short Will make thee triumph in thy lofty seat." Sayers "Promise great things, promise and do not pay". The note in the Penguin edition says "The forces of the Colonna had retired to this stronghold [Palestrina or Penestrino]. On Guido's advice, the Pope offered them an amnesty, and when they had surrendered on those conditions, razed the place to the ground."

So it seems to come clear - Guido wasn't offering bad advice, in the sense of ineffective advice (either knowingly or unknowingly) - he was advising the Pope to act badly or fraudulently in his dealings with his enemies.

Turning back to canto 26. The Greeks didn't beat the Trojans outright on the field of battle. They did it through a ruse. They fought dirty. Line 58, they "mourn the trickery of the horse", and also the theft of the Palladium. But if this is consistent with Guido in the next canto, it's not just that they did these things themselves, but that they led the Greeks in doing so. They counseled the Greeks to do fraud.

We've seen this elsewhere in this circle - people whose sin wasn't just their own, but also leading others into sin. Pimps and prostitutes, for instance. Pimps are leading the prostitutes into sin, and both are leading their customers into sin. Flatterers are leading others into the sin of pride. Caiaphas led the Sanhedrin into the sin of crucifying Jesus.

If we wanted to get more specific with the counselors of fraud, the examples we got weren't only advising random people to do random fraud. They were advising political leaders to be fraudulent in their actions during wartime. So maybe if I teach you how to be a better con man I don't end up in this pouch, but if I become secretary of state and advise the president to break a treaty and attack our allies I do (unless that sends me down to circle 9 as a traitor maybe).