At first blush, this Canto seems to have precious little to do with medieval doctrinal purity and right belief. There seem to be only three lines that deal with actual heretical belief:
13 'Here Epicurus with all his followers,
14 who hold the soul dies with the body,
15 have their burial place.
The rest of the passage seems to be hijacked by the imposing speech and figure of Farinata who surprises and frightens Dante the Pilgrim as they walk along. Indeed, he interrupts Dante and Vigil with his thundering “O Tuscan passing through…” We have in him a figure who may indeed have served as a type or model for Milton’s portrayal of Satan in Paradise Lost. Farinata stands proudly in the open tomb, refusing to show pain, raising an eyebrow at Dante’s lineage as opposed to his own. His pride even baits and draws out Dante the Pilgrim’s pride in ‘winning the battle’ of the two families. Pride of Place, even in the Sixth Circle of Hell, is important it seems.
32 Look, there Farinata stands erect --
33 you can see all of him from the waist up.'
34 Already I had fixed my gaze on his.
35 And he was rising, lifting chest and brow
36 as though he held all Hell in utter scorn.
Hopefully your translation and notes will unpack this canto and all the backstory of Farinata’s betrayal of Florence. Here, more than any other to date, one needs to know some of the history behind the politics and choices that tore Florence and, in fact, much of southern Europe apart. Mark Musa does a good job in his notes explaining all this, as does the website out of the University of Texas, Danteworlds. I will share simply two insights from Canto X.
It seems to me that Dante the Poet [and theologian] places the Heretics here as much for whom they have chosen to follow as for the specific doctrinal belief systems they embraced. I’ve mentioned before that where one chooses to stand dictates where one resides in Hell, but that should be expanded, of course, to who one chooses to FOLLOW leads one to this inevitable place of standing. Epicurus is there in the Sixth Circle, as are his FOLLOWERS. Farinata is there due to who he FOLLOWED, the actions which resulted and because of those whom he led astray.
It behooves us all to examine our beliefs and question those whom we have chosen to follow. Dante will give no excuses to the followers that are led astray by their leaders. Each person has a responsibility to choose wisely and well, and one’s beliefs should in fact, dictate who one follows as a leader. That person or persons can help us sharpen and examine our beliefs, but in the end, we ourselves are responsible for what we believe and the actions that follow from those beliefs. I’m sorry, but there is no getting to heaven [or hell] on the coattails of another.
There seem to be several layers here of inability to communicate or even refusal to communicate and perhaps these too contribute to heresy and the integrity of belief. Virgil assumes that Dante the Pilgrim has hidden desires that are not being expressed or shared.
16 'But soon your need to have an answer
17 will be satisfied right here,
18 as will the wish you hide from me.'
Dante assures him that, indeed, he may have kept a few things from him, but it was only out of respect and etiquette and a desire to say only the most necessary things.
19 And I: 'Good leader, from you I do not keep
20 my heart concealed except to speak few words --
21 as you've from time to time advised.'
Immediately their line of communication is interrupted by Farinata’s cry, rising from the tomb as in a bad B-Horror movie.
22 'O Tuscan, passing through the city of fire,
23 alive, and with such courtesy of speech,
24 if it would please you, stay your steps awhile.
We then have verbal jousting as opposed to honest communication between these two Florentines. And even that is interrupted yet again by a third party, the father of Dante’s best friend and fellow poet, Guido, who pokes his head up out of the same tomb, apparently resting his chin on the ground.
52 Then, beside him, in the open tomb, up came
53 a shade, visible to the chin: I think
54 he had raised himself upon his knees.
In the lack of communication here, even the space between words is misunderstood and dialogue stopped abruptly by a turning away with a mistaken assumption and the father burying himself again in this ignorance. How often, indeed, have I witnessed similar interruptions, outbursts and cutting off of dialogue based solely on mistaken assumptions which are nurtured without the benefit of clarification.
Farinata then continues his own dialogue in media res, as if he had never been interrupted. He is not interested in dialogue for he now continues and tries subterfuge and self-justification; yes, he may have helped slaughter many of his neighbors, but at least he told them to keep the buildings intact. [Hmmm, any parallel here with two people carrying on two monologues, each trying only get a pet point across without listening to or reacting with the other’s ideas and responses? Hmmmm…]
Dante the Pilgrim, to his credit, attempts to find some real dialogue, clarification and care in asking about knowledge of the souls and their limitations as well as the name of those who share the tomb with him. He then also asks Farinata to help the father of Guido to know the truth about his son, but almost certainly that won’t happen. There is some resolution, but as they turn away from these open tombs, the air is still filled with self-justification, half-truths and refusal to listen to or acknowledge the other.
Apparently for Dante, how well one communicates and respects one’s neighbor also impacts one’s belief system and its integrity.