Here’s a literary puzzle I hope someone can solve for me. In the opening Canto of Dante’s Inferno, the narrator encounters a ravening she-wolf (una lupa, I.49), which Virgil shortly describes as follows: “[ella] ha natura si malvagia e ria / che mai non empie la bramosa voglia, / e dopo ‘l pasto ha piu fame che pria” (“Her nature is so vicious and malign / her greedy appetite is never sated — / after she feeds she is hungrier than ever,” I.97-99). Dante presents the reader with a wolf of universal appetite, which perhaps figures appetite in general.
This passage immediately brought to mind another, from Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida: “Then every thing includes itself in power, / Power into will, will into appetite; / And appetite, an universal wolf, / So doubly seconded with will and power, / Must make perforce an universal prey, / And last eat up himself” (III.1).
Here’s the puzzle: I don’t know of any other passage from Western literature in which universal appetite is figured as a wolf (and a table full of English and Rennaisance lit professors couldn’t either, when I asked them about this a couple of weeks ago). The images are strikingly similar, so much so that I would think it obvious that Shakespeare had Dante in mind — if it weren’t for the fact that Shakespeare almost certainly never read a line of Dante! Could there be some obscure common source inspiring both? Or is this just an instance of an apt trope striking two geniuses independently?