In Dante’s Inferno, why is the leopard a symbol of incontinence or self indulgence?

One Response to “In Dante’s Inferno, why is the leopard a symbol of incontinence or self indulgence?”

  • aida says:

    First of all, it isn’t explicit that the leopard stands for those vices rather than for malice and fraud. It seems to be accepted the the lion stands for violence and ambition, but some scholars see the leopard as standing for incontinence and the she-wolf for malice and fraud, and some see those two the other way around. Dorothy Sayers’s translation sees them as your question does, but John Ciardi’s sees the she-wolf as standing for the sins in Upper Hell. I suppose either interpretation will work, but since the wolf is a female of the genus canis and female dogs have a certain promiscuous image or reputation, she seems to me to work better in that role than the leopard. However, both are sly, ravenous animals, so I suppose either will do equally well to represent malice and fraud. Still, I don’t know what would make the leopard a better symbol of self-indulgence than the she-wolf!

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