- the exordium of Inferno 30 emphatically transitions from the high style — “l’altezza de’ Troian che tutto ardiva” (Inf. 30.14) — to the low style: “di quel modo / che ’l porco quando del porcil si schiude” (Inf. 30.26-27)
- in this way Dante signals again the creation of a hybrid mixed discourse that typifies comedìa and that is distilled in the hybridity of verse 128, which combines high and low: “e per leccar lo specchio di Narcisso”
- the last bolgia of Malebolge features two sets of the classical/contemporary pairings of souls that are so important in the eighth circle, and that are another way of combining high and low
- impersonation, a performance art, and its deployment in order to circumvent the law
- representational and economic fraud are intertwined in this canto, as in Inferno 29
- the Gianni Schicchi episode impugns Forese Donati’s father Simone Donati, much as Forese Donati had impugned Dante’s father in the tenzone of scurrilous sonnets that the two exchanged (circa 1296)
- this canto is connected also to other moments of Dante’s lyric past: the sonnet O voi che per la via d’Amor passate and the longue durée of Lamentations in Dante’s poetry
- ver versus falso in the altercation between Maestro Adamo and Sinon
- Virgilio’s rebuke and the issue of narrative voice
- the theme of vergogna is reprised
- to dream that one is dreaming = to dream the truth
 The tenth bolgia, devoted to four different types of falsifiers, continues. Inferno 30 begins with elaborate classically inspired similes that led the great philologist Gianfranco Contini to speculate that Dante wrote this passage with Ovid open on the desk in front of him. In Dante’s Poets I describe in detail the cascading effect of the first 27 verses of Inferno 30, which opens with a great mythological panorama. Here Dante moves from the “high” Ovidian sonority of the tragic madness of Athamas and Hecuba to the “low” simile that describes two souls running through Hell, like pigs freed from a pigsty.
 As discussed in Dante’s Poets, the effect of the opening 27-verse cascade of Inferno 30 is to persuade the reader that, when we reach the description of the first two sinners of this canto — when we reach the pigs freed from the pigsty, when we reach Dante’s Hell — we have in effect reached “reality”:
Dante devotes the first twenty-one lines of canto XXX to two classical examples of madness, one Theban and the other Trojan. The first is Athamas who, driven insane by Juno as part of her revenge on Semele, is responsible for the deaths of his wife Ino, Semele’s sister, and their two sons (1-12); the second is Hecuba, reduced to barking like a dog by the loss of her home, husband, and children (13-21). These exempla are executed in a deliberately high style: in each case the protagonist, Athamas or Hecuba, is presented only in the fourth line of the exemplum, after an initial terzina of background material. Thus, the canto opens with a great mythological panorama, which sets the madness of Athamas within the ongoing narrative of Jove’s amours and Juno’s anger: “Nel tempo che Iunone era crucciata / per Semelè contra ’l sangue tebano” (In the time when Juno was irate because of Semele against the Theban blood [1-2]); and Hecuba is preceded by a sweeping evocation of the fall of Troy: “E quando la fortuna volse in basso / l’altezza de’ Troian che tutto ardiva” (And when Fortune brought low the pride of the Trojans that dared all [13-14]).
The canto thus moves progressively forward in time: from remote Thebes, to less distant Troy, and finally to the present, in which the pilgrim sees “due ombre smorte e nude, / che mordendo correvan di quel modo / che ’l porco quando del porcil si schiude” (two pale and naked shades, who were running and biting like the pig when it is let out of the pigsty [25-27]). Here Dante presents the bolgia’s first sinners in a terzina whose style is in intentional opposition to the canto’s extraordinarily literary exordium; the unmediated realism of the brief simile of the pig loosened from the pigsty contrasts sharply with the elaborate Ovidian exempla. We note, moreover, that the introduction of low language, such as porco and porcil, corresponds to the moment in which the canto reaches “reality”: i.e. the sinners, the events of this bolgia. (Dante’s Poets pp. 235-236)
 After the exordium, Inferno 30 presents the three types of falsifiers that remain in the tenth bolgia. We remember that there are four categories of falsifiers: 1) the falsifiers of metal, or alchemists, whom Dante met in the previous canto; 2) the falsifiers of persons, or impersonators; 3) the falsifiers of money, or counterfeiters; 4) the falsifiers of words, or liars.
 This tenth and last bolgia of Malebolge includes two pairings of classical and contemporary figures. These pairings, a feature of Malebolge, are another signal of the combining of high and low in a mixed style.
 Thus, both the first canto of Malebolge, Inferno 18, and the last, Inferno 30, contain two sets of classical/contemporary pairings. In Inferno 18 the two sets are divided between the two bolgie that are packed into canto 18. Here, in Inferno 30, the two sets of classical/contemporary couples are divvied among the three remaining categories of falsifiers. The impersonators, who are afflicted with madness, include the contemporary Florentine Gianni Schicchi and the classical figure Myrrha (Inf. 30.32-41). Later in the canto we will witness the quarrel between the contemporary Maestro Adamo of Brescia — a counterfeiter — and Sinon, a protagonist of Book 2 of the Aeneid, perhaps the most notorious liar of antiquity (Inf. 100-129).
 Let us begin with the two impersonators, described in verses 37-48. The sinners in this category are performance artists who take on other identities for sinful purposes. Classical Myrrha — “l’anima antica / di Mirra scellerata” (the ancient soul / of wicked Myrrha [Inf. 30.37-38]) — took on a form other than her own in order to consummate her incestuous erotic passion for her father: “Questa a peccar con esso così venne, / falsificando sé in altrui forma” (She came to sin with him by falsely taking / another’s shape upon herself [Inf. 30.40-41]).
 The second impersonator is Florentine Gianni Schicchi, whose acting skills are motivated by greed rather than by lust. Instead of impersonation to achieve a forbidden sexual act, Gianni Schicchi engages in impersonation to circumvent the law. Gianni Schicchi was prompted by Simone Donati — the father of Dante’s friend Forese Donati — to disguise himself as Simone’s dying uncle, Buoso Donati: “falsificare in sé Buoso Donati” (he disguised himself as Buoso Donati [Inf. 30.44]). The goal was to ensure that Buoso’s estate be left to Simone, with a cut of the proceeds (a prize mare) going to the impersonator.
 Gianni Schicchi’s skills of impersonation were such that, upon taking Buoso’s place in his deathbed, he was able to deceive the notary and the witnesses and thus to have them ratify the will. Dante’s language is legal and precise. Gianni Schicchi, pretending to be Buoso Donati, drew up a will (“testando”) and gave to it all requisite legal norms: “testando e dando al testamento norma” (Inf. 30.45).
 Impersonation — a form of identity theft — as a means of securing fraudulent gain continues to attract the attention of law enforcement. Here is an example of a debt collection scam that was closed by the FBI in 2014 because of false representations (impersonations) on the part of the debt collectors, who in effect were engaged in the kind of “falsificare in sé” practiced by Gianni Schicchi:
According to the joint press release by the offices of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and the Assistant FBI Director George Venizelos, the scam unfolded in 2009 and continued well into 2014. Employees working for WSA would routinely coerce victims into paying consumer debts through a variety of false statements and threats. Typically, the WSA employees would use aliases, sometimes referring to themselves as a “Detective” or “Investigator,” and falsely advise consumers they had committed crimes such as “check fraud” or “depository check fraud.” They then told the victims that a warrant would be issued for their arrest if they failed to make an immediate payment to WSA.
WSA employees also falsely claimed that the debt collection company had contracted with, or was otherwise affiliated with, certain federal or local law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Justice and the United States Marshals Service. Alternatively, they might say that they represented non-existent government agencies like the “Federal Government Task Force” and the “DOJ Task Force.” To further create the appearance that it was affiliated with the federal government, WSA would send victims correspondence containing the seal of the United States Department of State and the following language: “Warrant Services Association, A Division of the Federal Government Task Force.” (Story by Ken Berry, columnist in Accounting Web, dated 12/1/2014, accessed at http://www.accountingweb.com/crime-story-defendants-charged-in-massive-debt-collection-scam)
 In the Myrrha-Gianni Schicchi passage we encounter the rare rhyme forma/norma. The word “forma” applies to Myrrha, who falsifies her form to have sex with her father: “falsificando sé in altrui forma” (Inf. 30.41). The word “norma” instead describes the legally ratified but deceptive will achieved by Gianni Schicchi: “testando e dando al testamento norma” (Inf. 30.45). The forma/norma rhyme will achieve full philosophical dignity in the divine form and shape of the universe (see Paradiso 1.103-08). It appears, in the plural forme/norme, on one other occasion, in Inferno 25. The shared presence of the forma/norma rhyme in Inferno 25 and Inferno 30 signals the common theme of perverse transmutation of self:
ché due nature mai a fronte a fronte non trasmutò sì ch’amendue le forme a cambiar lor matera fosser pronte. Insieme si rispuosero a tai norme . . . (Inf. 25.100-03)
he never did transmute two natures, face to face, so that both forms were ready to exchange their matter. Together they answered to such norms
 The fraudulent lengths to which Gianni Schicchi will go in order to secure Buoso Donati’s prize mare — “per guadagnar la donna de la torma” (that he might gain the lady of the herd [Inf. 30.43]) — and the greed and deceit of Simone Donati once more underscore the economic motivations that compete with representational issues as the key theme of the bolgia of the falsifiers. In Inferno 30 economic and representational matters are intertwined, as they are in Inferno 29. Economic issues are foregrounded in the treatment of two of the four sinners of this canto, the impersonator Gianni Schicchi and the counterfeiter Maestro Adamo.
 It is worth noting that trivial and non-heroic desire, like Gianni’s desire for the prize mare, “the lady of the herd”, is very much in the spirit of the earthy and quotidian personal accusations that sprinkle the six sonnets that make up Dante’s tenzone with Forese Donati. This scurrilous sonnet-exchange features as well the mutual denigration of family members. The Gianni Schicchi episode seems therefore to be a direct reprise of the tenzone with Forese Donati, for the episode indicts not only Gianni Schicchi but also Forese Donati’s father, Simone Donati. Simone Donati’s greed set the whole preposterous (but successful) plot against Buoso Donati into motion.
 By directing so strong an accusation at Forese Donati’s father, the Gianni Schicchi episode of Inferno 30 seems to respond to Forese’s denigration of Dante’s own father, Alighieri, in the tenzone. In the sonnet L’altra notte Forese imagines that he has come across the ghost of Dante’s father among the graves: “ch’io trovai Alaghier tra le fosse” (I found Alighieri among the graves [L’altra notte, 8]). Forese’s sonnet L’altra notte paints Dante’s father in a sinister and unflattering light, and Dante’s retort is the unflattering indictment of Forese’s father in the Gianni Schicchi episode of Inferno 30. For more analysis of the hold of Forese’s sonnet L’altra notte on Dante’s imagination, see the Commento on Inferno 10, especially paragraph 24.
 In the tenzone between himself and Forese Donati, Dante practiced the very art of altercation in language that is featured in the latter part of Inferno 30, an art called “botta e riposta” in Italian (tit for tat or cut and thrust in English). The tenzone has long been considered by critics the developmental backdrop for the quarrel between Maestro Adamo, a famous contemporary counterfeiter, and Sinon, the Greek liar who according to the account of Aeneid 2 helped bring about the fall of Troy. For more on the tenzone and the Commedia, see my essay “Amicus eius: Dante and the Semantics of Friendship,” cited in Coordinated Reading.
 Before getting to the quarrel at the canto’s end, I will briefly consider other lyrical moments in Inferno 30. The presence of such moments in these lower reaches of Hell points again to the stylistic incongruity that we have been tracking through Inferno. A perfect example of stylistic hybridity is verse 128, where Dante weds the crude verb “leccar” (to lick) to a precious periphrasis for water, “the mirror of Narcissus”, and creates “e per leccar lo specchio di Narcisso” (to have you lick the mirror of Narcissus [Inf. 30.128]). This verse is rightfully singled out by Battaglia Ricci as emblematic of the poetics that govern these cantos. (See Dante e la tradizione letteraria medievale [Pisa: Giardini, 1983], pp. 28-29.)
 The words with which Maestro Adamo greets Dante and Virgilio echo, as commentators note, Lamentations 1:12: “O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus” (Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow [King James Version]). Here Maestro Adamo greets the travelers “qui transitis per viam”, who pass by on this road, and asks them to witness his sorrow. Decades previously, Dante had begun a sonnet in the Vita Nuova with an echo of the same words from Lamentations. However the young Dante had, quite daringly, inserted the words “d’Amor” into his citation of the Bible, so that the passers-by are now on “the road of Love”:
O voi che per la via d’Amor passate, attendete e guardate s’egli è dolor alcun quanto ’l mio grave (1-3)
O you who walk along the path of Love, behold and see if there be any grief as deep as mine (Lansing trans.)
 The sonnet O voi che per la via is, moreover, a sonnet that exists in a pre-Vita Nuova redaction, offering us an opportunity to consider the truly longue durée of Lamentations in Dante’s poetry: used first in a courtly sonnet that predates the Vita Nuova, Lamentations then migrates to the Vita Nuova, whose theologized prose-frame draws attention to the biblical textuality that hybridizes the early courtly poem, and ultimately resurfaces in Inferno 30. For more on the sonnet O voi che per la via, see my commentary to the sonnet in Dante’s Lyric Poetry, cited in Coordinated Reading.
 There are further echoes of Dante’s lyric poetry in this section of Inferno 30. Maestro Adamo’s poigant recall of the “verdi colli / del Casentin” (green hills of the Casentino [Inf. 30.64-65]) reminds us of the lover’s location in Dante’s canzone montanina. Maestro Adamo’s reference to the castle of Romena “where I counterfeited / the currency that bears the Baptist’s seal” (“là dov’ io falsai / la lega suggellata del Batista” [Inf. 30.73-74]) is a reference to the castle in the Casentino that belonged to the Conti Guidi, and thus takes us back to the tenzone with Forese, where the Conti Guidi are mentioned as good marriage prospects because of their great wealth. In Maestro Adamo’s more jaundiced description they are the powerful lords who hired him to counterfeit the Florentine florin.
 All the sins of the tenth bolgia are a form of falsificare, and Dante in the last sequence of this bolgia gives heightened resonance to the idea of falsification by staging a quarrel between Maestro Adamo, the falsifier of the florin, and Sinon, the falsifier of words. The intertwining of economic and representational fraud, a central theme of Malebolge, literally takes central stage, and is performed in the quarrel between the counterfeiter and the liar.
 The altercation between Sinon and Maestro Adamo features and repeats the words ver (truth, true) and falso (falsehood, false). As analyzed in Dante’s Poets, the exchange of insults thus becomes a mise-en-abyme of Malebolge’s deepest thematics:
Within the sequence of insults exchanged by Sinon and maestro Adamo, we shall focus on the passage in which ver and its opposite — here not menzogna, but falso — are featured, since these terms are connected to the issue of genre throughout the Inferno. In response to Sinon’s taunt that maestro Adamo’s hands were less agile while he was being led to the stake than while he was coining money, the counterfeiter replies first by acknowledging that the Greek speaks the truth in this — “Tu di’ ver di questo” (112) — and then by reminding Sinon of his great untruth, that most notorious of literary lies, the lie that drove Hecuba mad, to the very condition in which we find her at this canto’s beginning: “ma tu non fosti sì ver testimonio / là ’ve del ver fosti a Troia richesto” (but you were not so true a witness / there at Troy where the truth was requested from you [113-114]). To this insistence on the ver that he did not tell, and on his role as a non-true witness, Sinon throws back the generic falsification for which both are damned, further noting that maestro Adamo’s crimes, unlike his own, were multiple. While maestro Adamo stresses the word ver, Sinon stresses falso. (Dante’s Poets, p. 236)
 The foundational binary ver versus menzogna — the very binary that is inherited from Inferno 16’s baptism of comedìa as “ver c’ha faccia di menzogna” (truth that has the face of a lie [Inf. 16.124]) — is now recast as the binary ver versus falso. In the form of tagged insults, “truth” versus “falsehood” is the sing-song refrain that seals and concludes Hell’s circle of fraud. As I noted in Dante’s Poets, these alignments suggest that, whereas Sinon from the tragedìa is related to falsehood, Maestro Adamo from the comedìa is related to truth. Such alignments are not moral, but ways of restating the foundational meditation on genre, style, and truth value that runs through Inferno and Malebolge in particular, as featured in the treatment of Ulysses and Guido da Montefeltro:
Such correspondences, it should be noted, have nothing whatever to do with a hierarchy of moral values; I am not suggesting that the counterfeiter is less evil than the liar, but that Dante has structured into the quarrel between these souls a metaphorical statement regarding the status of the genres comedìa and tragedìa. Maestro Adamo is related to ”truth” in the same way as is Guido da Montefeltro, not because he is “better” than Sinon, but because he is “comedic”: drawn not from the literary world of the classical tragedìa, but from the observed world of contemporary reality. (Dante’s Poets, p. 237)
 At the end of Inferno 30 Virgilio severely rebukes Dante for watching, with such avidity, the squabble between Maestro Adamo and Sinon:
Ad ascoltarli er’ io del tutto fisso, quando ’l maestro mi disse: «Or pur mira, che per poco che teco non mi risso!». Quand’ io ’l senti’ a me parlar con ira, volsimi verso lui con tal vergogna, ch’ancor per la memoria mi si gira. Qual è colui che suo dannaggio sogna, che sognando desidera sognare, sì che quel ch’è, come non fosse, agogna, tal mi fec’ io, non possendo parlare, che disiava scusarmi, e scusava me tuttavia, e nol mi credea fare. (Inf. 30.130-141)
I was intent on listening to them when this was what my master said: "If you insist on looking more, I'll quarrel with you!" And when I heard him speak so angrily, I turned around to him with shame so great that it still stirs within my memory. Even as one who dreams that he is harmed and, dreaming, wishes he were dreaming, thus desiring that which is, as if it were not, so I became within my speechlessness: I wanted to excuse myself and did excuse myself, although I knew it not.
 The traditional reading of this passage assumes that Virgilio is correct to rebuke Dante. This reading assumes that Virgilio speaks as the mouthpiece of the author and does not consider Virgilio as a character who is frequently corrected in the Commedia. In other words, the traditional reading does not take the issue of narrative voice into account.
 In Dante’s Poets, I argue that Virgilio is wrong, and that “the pilgrim’s wish to listen is right, for his is the comedic desire to confront evil and to bear witness to all of reality, including hell” (p. 238). As further support of the position that I took in Dante’s Poets, I would adduce the events of Inferno 32, in which Dante not only watches a quarrel, as he does in Inferno 30, but actually participates in it. In Inferno 32, Dante pulls Bocca degli Abati’s hair from his head, causing Bocca to howl in pain; Virgilio at that point does not rebuke Dante, nor does Dante apologize. Rather another sinner certifies Dante as a minister of divine vengeance, asking Bocca “what devil’s touching you?”: “qual diavol ti tocca?” (Inf. 32.108).
 In conclusion, we come back to the theme of shame, discussed also in the commentaries on Inferno 28 and to Inferno 29. In Inferno 30.136-41 Dante describes his experience of shame at being rebuked by Virgilio. He compares his feeling to that of a man who dreams of his suffering and in his dream wishes that he were dreaming. This passage is fascinating both for what it tells us of Dante’s feelings about shame and for what it suggests about the experience of dreaming. Let us look at both issues.
 Dante was always susceptible to feeling social shame, as we can see from the Vita Nuova, and as is evidenced as well in the Geri del Bello episode of Inferno 29. Here his great vergogna at being corrected by his guide reminds us that Dante did not reject authority lightly and that the feelings of social inadequacy incurred by Virgilio’s displeasure did not pass easily. In fact, in this passage Dante insists on the intensity of his feeling of shame, telling us that he still now — in the present tense, after the cessation of his vision — can conjure the feeling in his memory:
Quand’io ’l senti’ a me parlar con ira, volsimi verso lui con tal vergogna, ch’ancor per la memoria mi si gira. (Inf. 30.133-35)
And when I heard him speak so angrily, I turned around to him with shame so great that it still stirs within my memory.
 The shame that Dante scripts for himself in this passage confirms that his refusal to feel onta at not having avenged Geri del Bello is an acquired, not an innate, skill. In other words, Dante was naturally susceptible to the societal shame of family dishonor, as he was susceptible to the shame of being rebuked by his teacher. He was able to learn, through moral analysis and deployment of reason, to resist the feeling of onta and the actions that it could trigger (e.g. the desire for vendetta, as discussed in the Commento on Inferno 29).
 Most fascinating in the concluding section of Inferno 30 is Dante’s comparison of himself to “one who dreams that he is harmed / and, dreaming, wishes he were dreaming, thus / desiring that which is, as if it were not”:
colui che suo dannaggio sogna, che sognando desidera sognare, sì che quel ch’è, come non fosse, agogna tal mi fec’io (Inf. 30.136-39)
Even as one who dreams that he is harmed and, dreaming, wishes he were dreaming, thus desiring that which is, as if it were not, so I became
 Dante feels ashamed and wishes he were no longer experiencing shame. He does not know that Virgilio has already forgiven him, and that his desire has therefore already become reality. His desire to no longer feel ashamed is compared to the desire of a dreamer who dreams that he is experiencing harm and, while dreaming, wishes for release from harm — and, thus, while dreaming wishes to be dreaming.
 The dreamer to whom Dante compares himself is someone who craves the reality that is already his. His reality is that he is dreaming. He craves that reality as though it were not his reality: in his dream he wishes he were dreaming. In conclusion to this comparison, Dante compresses and ends up with a profoundly existential statement: he is one who craves that which is — “quel ch’è” — as though it were not: “come non fosse” (138).
 The simile at the end of Inferno 30 therefore depicts someone who craves a reality of which he is already in possession, if he could but recognize the reality of his dream. As I write in Chapter 7 of The Undivine Comedy, which treats true dreams:
Here the dream is reality; the dreamer need dream no more. All the while that he craves reality, “what is” — “quel ch’è” — he is in possession of it, if he could but recognize the reality of his dream, the truth — nonfalsity — of his error. (The Undivine Comedy, p. 164)
 To dream and to wish that one were dreaming is to dream the truth. One is dreaming of what one already possesses, although one does not know it. Hence, one is dreaming reality: one is dreaming what is. We have here another mise-en-abyme of the Commedia itself. Here, at the end of Malebolge, we encounter a final definition of comedìa, completing the meditation that began with the encounter with Geryon in Inferno 16. Comedìa is a true dream, a dream that is the truth.
 And, finally, for those like my son who saw and loved the movie Inception, in which dreams nest within dreams, we note the fascinating modernity and psychological suppleness of Dante’s extraordinary comparison, and of the very idea of one who “sognando desidera sognare” (dreaming, wishes he were dreaming [Inf. 30.137]).