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Dante Alighieri's Inferno
Transcript of Dante Alighieri's Inferno
"All hope abandon, ye who enter here." (Alighieri 18)
Major Characters - Dante
“Do not be afraid; our fate Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.” (Aligheri 47)
Thirty-five years old at the beginning of the story, Dante—the character as opposed to the poet—has lost his way on the “true path” of life; in other words, sin has obstructed his path to God. The Divine Comedy is the allegorical record of Dante’s quest to overcome sin and find God’s love; in Inferno, Dante explores the nature of sin by traveling through Hell, where evil receives punishment according to God’s justice. Allegorically, Dante’s story represents not only his own life but also what Dante the poet perceived to be the universal Christian quest for God. As a result, Dante the character is rooted in the Everyman allegorical tradition: Dante’s situation is meant to represent that of the whole human race. For this reason, Dante the character does not emerge as a particularly well-defined individual; although we know that he has committed a never-specified sin and that he participates in Florentine politics, we learn little about his life on Earth. His traits are very broad and universal: often sympathetic toward others, he nonetheless remains capable of anger; he weeps at the sight of the suffering souls but reacts with pleasure when one of his political enemies is torn to pieces. He demonstrates excessive pride but remains unsatisfied in many respects: he feels that he ranks among the great poets that he meets in Limbo but deeply desires to find Beatrice, the woman he loves, and the love of God. Dante fears danger but shows much courage: horrified by Hell, he nevertheless follows his guide, Virgil, through its gates. He also proves extremely emotional, as shown by his frequent fainting when he becomes overly frightened or moved. As the story progresses, Dante must learn to reconcile his sympathy for suffering with the harsh violence of God’s justice; the deeper he proceeds into Hell, the less the agonies of the damned affect him. Virgil encourages him to abhor sin and not pity the justice meted out to sinners; Dante must achieve this level of stringent moral standards before he may begin his journey to Heaven, played out in Purgatorio and Paradiso.
Major Characters - Virgil
The only character besides Dante to appear all the way through Inferno, Virgil’s ghost is generally taken by critics to represent human reason, which guides and protects the individual (represented by Dante/Everyman) through the world of sin. As befits a character who symbolizes reason, Virgil proves sober, measured, resolute, and wise. He repeatedly protects Dante from hostile demons and monsters, from Charon to the Centaurs; when he appears powerless outside the gates of the city of Dis in Canto VIII, his helplessness appears very ominous, signifying that Lower Hell offers far darker dangers than Upper Hell. Virgil’s reliance on the angelic messenger in this scene also symbolizes the fact that reason is powerless without faith—an important tenet of Dante’s moral philosophy and one that marks Inferno as a Christian poem, distinct from the classical epics that preceded it. In the fullest sense of the word, Virgil acts as Dante’s guide, showing him not only the physical route through Hell but also reinforcing its moral lessons. When Dante appears slow to learn these lessons—such as when he sympathizes with sinners or attempts to remain too long in one region of Hell—Virgil often grows impatient with him, a trait that humanizes this otherwise impersonal shade.
Beatrice - One of the blessed in Heaven, Beatrice aids Dante’s journey by asking an angel to find Virgil and bid him guide Dante through Hell. Like Dante and Virgil, Beatrice corresponds to a historical personage. Although the details of her life remain uncertain, we know that Dante fell passionately in love with her as a young man and never fell out of it. She has a limited role in Inferno but becomes more prominent in Purgatorio and Paradiso. In fact, Dante’s entire imaginary journey throughout the afterlife aims, in part, to find Beatrice, whom he has lost on Earth because of her early death. Beatrice is an allegorical representation of spiritual love.
Lucifer - The prince of Hell, also referred to as Dis. Lucifer resides at the bottom of the Ninth (and final) Circle of Hell, beneath the Earth’s surface, with his body jutting through the planet’s center. An enormous giant, he has three faces but does not speak; his three mouths are busy chewing three of history’s greatest traitors: Judas, the betrayer of Christ, and Cassius and Brutus, the betrayers of Julius Caesar.
Minos - The king of Crete in Greek mythology, Minos is portrayed by Dante as a giant beast who stands at the Second Circle of Hell, deciding where the souls of sinners shall be sent for torment. Upon hearing a given sinner’s confession, Minos curls his tail around himself a specific number of times to represent the circle of Hell to which the soul should be consigned.
Dante Alighieri's Inferno
Dante Alighieri was born in 1265 in Florence, Italy, to a family of moderate wealth that had a history of involvement in the complex Florentine political scene (Berg). Around 1285, Dante married a woman chosen for him by his family, although he remained in love with another woman—Beatrice, whose true historical identity remains a mystery—and continued to yearn for her after her sudden death in 1290. Around the time of Beatrice’s death, Dante began a serious study of philosophy and intensified his political involvement in Florence (Reade). He held a number of significant public offices at a time of great political unrest in Italy, and, in 1302, he was exiled for life by the leaders of the Black Guelphs, the political faction in power at the time. All of Dante’s work on The Comedy (later called The Divine Comedy, and consisting of three books: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) was done after his exile. He completed Inferno, which depicts an allegorical journey through Hell, around 1314. Dante’s personal life and the writing of The Comedy were greatly influenced by the politics of late-thirteenth-century Florence (Pequigney 24). The struggle for power in Florence was a reflection of a crisis that affected all of Italy, and, in fact, most of Europe, from the twelfth century to the fourteenth century—the struggle between church and state for temporal authority. The main representative of the church was the pope, while the main representative of the state was the Holy Roman Emperor. In Florence, these two loyalties were represented by the Guelph party, which supported the papacy, and the Ghibelline party, which supported imperial power. The last truly powerful Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, died in 1250, and by Dante’s time, the Guelphs were in power in Florence. By 1290, however, the Guelphs had divided into two factions: the Whites (Dante’s party), who supported the independence of Florence from strict papal control, and the Blacks, who were willing to work with the pope in order to restore their power (Reade). Under the direction of Pope Boniface VIII, the Blacks gained control of Florence in 1301. Dante, as a visible and influential leader of the Whites, was exiled within a year. Dante became something of a party unto himself after his exile. His attitudes were, at times, closer to those of a Ghibelline than a Guelph, so much did he dislike Boniface. The pope, as well as a multitude of other characters from Florentine politics, has a place in the Hell that Dante depicts in Inferno—and not a pleasant one.
Summary of Inferno
Circle One - Those in limbo
Summary of Inferno
Circle Two - The lustful
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Circle Three - The gluttonous
Circle Four - The hoarders
Circle Five - The wrathful
Circle Six - The heretics
Circle Seven - The violent
Circle Eight - The Fraudulent
Bowge (Trench) I. Panderers and Seducers
Bowge II. Flatterers
Circle Nine - Traitors
Region i: Traitors to their kindred
Region ii: Traitors to their country
Region iii: Traitors to their guests
"Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road" (Alighieri 28). Midway on his journey through life Dante realizes he has taken the wrong path. The Roman poet Virgil searches for the lost Dante at the request of Beatrice; he finds Dante in the woods on the evening of Good Friday in the year 1300 and serves as a guide as Dante begins his religious pilgrimage to find God. On Easter Sunday, Dante emerges from Hell back onto the Earth.
"A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark." (Alighieri 37)
A clap of thunder restores Dante to consciousness. When he wakes, feeling as though he has been asleep for a long time, he finds himself on the other side of the river, apparently having been carried off the boat by Virgil. He looks down into a deep valley that stretches in front of him: the First Circle of Hell, or Limbo. Virgil informs him that this circle, which contains the souls of those who led virtuous lives but either were born before the advent of Christianity (and thus could not properly honor God) or were never baptized. Dante asks if any souls have ever received permission to leave Limbo for Heaven, and Virgil names a number of Old Testament figures—Noah, Moses, and others. Christ granted these souls amnesty when he descended into Hell during the time between his death and resurrection (an episode commonly known as the Harrowing of Hell).
Many other notable figures, however, remain in Limbo. Virgil himself resides here, and has been given only a brief leave to guide Dante. Dante watches a group of men approach and greet Virgil as a fellow poet. Virgil introduces them as Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan—the greatest poets of antiquity. They lead Dante to a great castle with seven walls, wherein he sees the souls of other great figures from the past: the philosophers Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato; Aeneas, Lavinia, and other characters from the Aeneid; the mathematician Euclid and the astronomer Ptolemy; and many others. Virgil guides Dante out of the castle and again off into the darkness.
“I felt for the tormented whirlwinds
Damned for their carnal sins
Committed when they let their passions rule their reason.” (Alihirei 12)
Dante and Virgil now descend into the Second Circle of Hell, smaller in size than the First Circle but greater in punishment. They see the monster Minos, who stands at the front of an endless line of sinners, assigning them to their torments. The sinners confess their sins to Minos, who then wraps his great tail around himself a certain number of times, indicating the number of the circle to which the soul must go. Minos recognizes Dante as a living soul and warns him not to enter; it is Virgil’s word that again allows them to pass unmolested.
Dante and Virgil pass into a dark place in which torrential rains fall ceaselessly and gales of wind tear through the air. The souls of the damned in this circle swirl about in the wind, swept helplessly through the stormy air. These are the Lustful—those who committed sins of the flesh.
Dante asks Virgil to identify some of the individual souls to him; they include many of great renown, including Helen, for whose sake the Trojan War was fought, and Cleopatra. Dante immediately feels sympathy for these souls, for essentially they are damned by love. With Virgil’s permission, he calls out to the souls to see if they will speak to him and tell him their story. One woman, Francesca, recognizes Dante as a living soul and answers him. She relates to him how love was her undoing: bound in marriage to an old and deformed man, she eventually fell in love with Paolo da Rimini, her husband’s younger brother. One day, as she and Paolo sat reading an Arthurian legend about the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, each began to feel that the story spoke to their own secret love. When they came to a particularly romantic moment in the story, they could not resist kissing. Francesca’s husband quickly discovered their transgression and had the young lovers killed. Now Paolo and Francesca are doomed to spend eternity in the Second Circle of Hell. Overcome with pity, Dante faints again.
When Dante wakes, he finds that he has been moved to the Third Circle of Hell, where the rains still fall. Now, however, the drops consist of filth and excrement, and a horrific stench fills the air. A three-headed dog, Cerberus, tries to stop Virgil and Dante’s progress, but Virgil satisfies the beast by throwing it a chunk of earth. Dante and Virgil then advance into the circle of the Gluttonous, who must lie on the ground as the sewage rains down upon them.
One of the Gluttonous sits up when he sees Virgil and Dante, and asks if Dante recognizes him. When Dante replies that he does not, the shade announces himself as Ciacco, saying that he spent his earthly life in Florence. At Dante’s request, he voices his predictions for Florence’s political future, which he anticipates will be filled with strife. Dante then asks about figures from Florence’s political past, naming individuals he believes to have been well intentioned. Ciacco replies that they reside in a much deeper circle of Hell. Before lying back down, he asks Dante to remember his name when he returns to the world above.
Virgil and Dante continue down toward the Fourth Circle of Hell and come upon the demon Plutus. Virgil quiets the creature with a word and they enter the circle, where Dante cries out at what he sees: a ditch has been formed around the circle, making a great ring. Within the ring, two groups of souls push weights along in anger and pain. Each group completes a semicircle before crashing into the other group and turning around to proceed in the opposite direction. The souls condemned to this sort of torturous, eternal jousting match, Virgil explains, are those of the Avaricious and the Prodigal, who, during their lives, hoarded and squandered, respectively, their money.
Dante, as before, inquires whether he knows any of the souls here. Virgil informs him that most of the Avaricious are corrupt clergymen, popes, and cardinals but adds that the experiences they undergo here render them unrecognizable. He notes that the Avaricious and Prodigal share one essential characteristic: they were not prudent with the goods of Fortune. Dante asks Virgil to explain the nature of this “Fortune.” Virgil replies that Fortune has received orders from God to transfer worldly goods between people and between nations. Her swift movements evade human understanding; thus, men should not curse her when they lose their possessions.
"In weeping and in grieving, accursed spirit, may you long remain..." (Alighieri 68)
Pondering this explanation, Dante follows Virgil down to the Fifth Circle of Hell, which borders the muddy river Styx. They see souls crouched on the bank, covered in mud, and striking and biting at each other. They are the Wrathful, those who were consumed with anger during their lives. Virgil alerts Dante to the presence of additional souls here, which remain invisible to him as they lie completely submerged in the Styx—these are the Sullen, those who muttered and sulked under the light of the sun. They now gurgle and choke on the black mud of the swampy river.
Continuing around the Fifth Circle of Hell, Virgil and Dante come to a tall tower standing on the bank, its pinnacle bursting with flames. Virgil and Dante encounter the boatman Phlegyas, who takes them across the Styx at Virgil’s prompting. On the way, they happen upon a sinner whom Dante angrily recognizes as Filippo Argenti. He has no pity for Argenti and gladly watches the other sinners tear him apart as the boat pulls away.
In the Sixth Circle of Hell, Dante and Virgil wander among the fiery tombs of the Heretics. Virgil describes the particular heresy of one of the groups, the Epicureans, who pursued pleasure in life because they believed that the soul died with the body. Suddenly, a voice from one of the tombs interrupts them and addresses Dante as a Tuscan (Tuscany is the region of Italy in which Florence is located). The voice belongs to a soul whom Virgil identifies as Farinata, a political leader of Dante’s era. Virgil encourages Dante to speak with him.
Dante and Farinata have hardly begun their conversation when another soul, that of Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti, the father of Dante’s intimate friend Guido, rises up and interrupts them, wondering why his son has not accompanied Dante here. Dante replies that perhaps Guido held Virgil in disdain. (According to some translations of Inferno, Dante says that Guido held God, or Beatrice, in disdain. The point is a matter of considerable debate among scholars.) Frantic, the shade reads too much into Dante’s words and assumes that his son is dead. In despair, he sinks back down in his grave.
Farinata continues discussing Florentine politics. He and Dante clearly represent opposing parties (though these parties are not named), yet they treat each other politely. From Farinata’s words and those of the nearby soul, Dante realizes that the shades in Hell can see future events but not present ones. Farinata can prophesy the future—he predicts Dante’s exile from Florence—but remains ignorant of current events. Farinata confirms that, as part of their punishment, the Heretics can see only distant things.
At the edge of the Seventh Circle of Hell rises a stench so overpowering that Virgil and Dante must sit down at the tomb of Pope Anastasius in order to adjust to it. Virgil takes the opportunity to explain the last three circles of Hell and their respective subdivisions. The Seventh Circle of Hell, which contains those who are violent, is subdivided into three smaller circles: they punish the sins of violence against one’s neighbor, against oneself, and against God. Worse than any violence, however, is the sin of fraud, which breaks the trust of a man and therefore most directly opposes the great virtue of love. The last two circles of Hell thus punish the Fraudulent. The Eighth Circle punishes “normal fraud”—sins that violate the natural trust between people. Such fraud includes acts of hypocrisy and underhanded flattery. The Ninth Circle, the seat of Dis, punishes betrayal—sins that violate a relationship of particularly special trust. These are the loyalties to kin, to country and party, to guests, and to benefactors.
Dante asks Virgil why these divisions of Hell exist, wondering why the sinners they have seen previously do not receive this same degree of punishment, as they too have acted contrary to divine will. In response, Virgil reminds Dante of the philosophy set forth in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, which posits the existence of “[t]hree dispositions counter to Heaven’s will: / Incontinence, malice, insane brutality” (XI.79–80). The disposition of incontinence offends God least, says Virgil, and thus receives a more lenient punishment, outside of the city of Dis.
Dante then asks for clarification of one more theological issue: why is usury a sin? Virgil explains to Dante that usury goes against God’s will because a usurer makes his money not from industry or skill (“art”)—as Genesis stipulates that human beings should—but rather from money itself (in the form of interest). Thus, usurers also go against God’s “art,” or His design for the world.
Ring 3, First Zone. Those harmful against God
Ring 2. Suicides and those harmful to the world
Ring 1. Murderers, robbers, and plunderers
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
The passage to the First Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell takes Virgil and Dante through a ravine of broken rock. At the edge, the monstrous Minotaur threatens them, and they must slip past him while he rages to distraction. As they descend, Virgil notes that this rock had not yet fallen at the time of his previous journey into the depths of Hell. Coming into the ring, they see a river of blood: here boil the sinners who were violent against their neighbors. A group of Centaurs—creatures that are half man, half horse—stand on the bank of the river with bows and arrows. They shoot at any soul that tries to raise itself out of the river to a height too pleasant for the magnitude of his or her sin.
The head Centaur, Chiron, notices that Dante moves the rocks that he walks on as only a living soul would. He draws an arrow, but Virgil commands him to stand back, and he obeys. Because the broken rocks make the ring treacherous to navigate, Virgil also asks that a Centaur be provided to guide them through the ring around the boiling blood. Chiron provides one named Nessus, on whose back Dante climbs.
Leading Virgil and Dante through the ring, Nessus names some of the more notable souls punished here, including one called Alexander (probably Alexander the Great), Dionysius, and Atilla the Hun. Those who lived as tyrants, and thus perpetrated violence on whole populations, lie in the deepest parts of the river.
In the Second Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, Virgil and Dante enter a strange wood filled with black and gnarled trees. Dante hears many cries of suffering but cannot see the souls that utter them. Virgil cryptically advises him to snap a twig off of one of the trees. He does so, and the tree cries out in pain, to Dante’s amazement. Blood begins to trickle down its bark. The souls in this ring—those who were violent against themselves or their possessions (Suicides and Squanderers, respectively)—have been transformed into trees.
Virgil tells the damaged tree-soul to tell his story to Dante so that Dante may spread the story on Earth. The tree-soul informs them that in life he was Pier della Vigna, an advisor to Emperor Frederick, and that he was a moral and admirable man. But when an envious group of scheming courtiers blackened his name with lies, he felt such shame that he took his own life.
Dante then asks how the souls here came to be in their current state. The tree-soul explains that when Minos first casts souls here, they take root and grow as saplings. They then are wounded and pecked by Harpies—foul creatures that are half woman, half bird. When a tree-soul’s branch is broken, it causes the soul the same pain as dismemberment. When the time comes for all souls to retrieve their bodies, these souls will not reunite fully with theirs, because they discarded them willingly. Instead, the returned bodies will be hung on the soul-trees’ branches, forcing each soul to see and feel constantly the human form that it rejected in life.
At this point, two young men run crashing through the wood, interrupting Dante’s conversation with the tree-soul. One of the men, Jacomo da Sant’Andrea, falls behind and leaps into a bush; vicious dogs have been pursuing him, and now they rend him to pieces. Virgil and Dante then speak to the bush, which is also a soul: it speaks of the suffering that has plagued Florence ever since it decided to make St. John the Baptist its patron, replacing its old patron, Mars (a Roman god). The bush-soul adds that he was a Florentine man in life who hanged himself.
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
"Remember now your science,
which says that when a thing has more perfection,
so much the greater is its pain or pleasure.
Though these accursed sinners never shall
attain the true perfection, yet they can
expect to be more perfect then than now." (Alighieri 111)
The First Zone is for the Blasphemers, who must lie prone on a bank of sand. The falling flakes of fire keep the sand perpetually hot, ensuring that the souls burn from above and below. Among these sinners Dante sees a giant, whom Virgil identifies as Capaneus, one of the kings who besieged Thebes. Capaneus rages relentlessly, insisting that the tortures of Hell shall never break his defiance.
The poets reach another river, which runs red, and Virgil speaks to Dante about the source of Hell’s waters. Underneath a mountain on the island of Crete sits the broken statue of an Old Man. Tears flow through the cracks in the statue, gathering at his feet. As they stream away, they form the Acheron, the Styx, the Phlegethon, and finally Cocytus, the pool at the bottom of Hell.
Ring 3, Second Zone. Those harmful against nature
Crossing the stream, Virgil and Dante enter the Second Zone of the Seventh Circle’s Third Ring, where the Sodomites—those violent against nature—must walk continuously under the rain of fire. One of these souls, Brunetto Latini, recognizes Dante and asks him to walk near the sand for a while so that they may converse. Latini predicts that Dante will be rewarded for his heroic political actions. Dante dismisses this prediction and says that Fortune will do as she pleases. Virgil approves of this attitude, and they move on as Latini returns to his appointed path.
Still in the Second Zone among the Sodomites, Dante is approached by another group of souls, three of whom claim to recognize Dante as their countryman. The flames have charred their features beyond recognition, so they tell Dante their names. Dante recalls their names from his time in Florence and feels great pity for them. They ask if courtesy and valor still characterize their city, but Dante sadly replies that acts of excess and arrogance now reign.
Before leaving the Second Zone, Virgil makes a strange request. He asks for the cord that Dante wears as a belt, then throws one end of it into a ravine filled with dark water. Dante watches incredulously as a horrible creature rises up before them.
Ring Three, Third Zone. Those harmful against art
Dante now sees that the creature has the face of a man, the body of a serpent, and two hairy paws. Approaching it, he and Virgil descend into the Third Zone of this circle’s Third Ring. Virgil stays to speak with the beast, sending Dante ahead to explore the zone, inhabited by those who were violent against art (Virgil has earlier denoted them as the Usurers). Dante sees that these souls must sit beneath the rain of fire with purses around their necks; these bear the sinners’ respective family emblems, which each “with hungry eyes consumed” (XVII.51). As they appear unwilling to talk, Dante returns to Virgil.
In the meantime, Virgil has talked the human-headed monster into transporting them down to the Eighth Circle of Hell. Fearful but trusting of his guide, Dante climbs onto the beast’s serpentine back; Virgil addresses their mount as “Geryon.” To Dante’s terror and amazement, Geryon rears back and suddenly takes off into the air, circling slowly downward. After setting them down safely among the rocks at the edge of the Eighth Circle of Hell, Geryon returns to his domain.
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Summary of Inferno
Bowge III. Simoniacs
Bowge IV. Sorcerers
Bowge V. Barrators
Bowge VI. Hypocrites
Bowge VII. Thieves
Bowge VIII. Counselors
Bowge X, First Zone. Falsifiers of Metals
Circle Nine - Traitors
Region iv: Traitors to their lords
Summary of Inferno
"Steaming from the pit, a vapor rose over the banks, crusting the with a slime that thickened my eyes and hammered at my nose." (Alighieri 147)
Virgil and Dante find themselves outside the Eighth Circle of Hell, known as Malebolge (“Evil Pouches”). Dante describes the relationship between the circle’s structure and its name: the circle has a wall running along the outside and features a great circular pit at its center; ten evenly spaced ridges run between the wall and the pit. These ridges create ten separate pits, or pouches, in which the perpetrators of the various forms of “ordinary fraud” receive their punishments. Virgil leads Dante around the left side of the circle, where they come upon the First Pouch.
Here, Virgil and Dante see a group of souls running constantly from one side of the pouch to the other. On both of the pouch’s containing ridges, demons with great whips scourge the souls as soon as they come within reach, forcing them back to the opposite ridge. Dante recognizes an Italian there and speaks to him; the soul informs Dante that he lived in Bologna and now dwells here because he sold his sister to a noble. This pouch is for the Panders (pimps) and the Seducers—those who deceive women for their own advantage. Moving on, Virgil and Dante also see the famous Jason of mythology, who abandoned Medea after she helped him find the Golden Fleece.
As Virgil and Dante cross the ridge to the Second Pouch, a horrible stench besieges them, and they hear mournful cries. Dante beholds a ditch full of human excrement, into which many sinners have been plunged. From one of these souls, he learns that this pouch contains the Flatterers. After a few seconds, Virgil says that they have seen enough of this foul sight. They progress toward the Third Pouch.
Dante already knows that the Third Pouch punishes the Simoniacs, those who bought or sold ecclesiastical pardons or offices. He decries the evil of simony before he and Virgil even view the pouch. Within, they see the sinners stuck headfirst in pits with only their feet protruding. As these souls writhe and flail in the pits, flames lap endlessly at their feet.
Dante notes one soul burning among flames redder than any others, and he goes to speak with him. The soul, that of Pope Nicholas III, first mistakes Dante for Boniface. After Dante corrects him, the soul tells Dante that he was a pope guilty of simony. He mourns his own position but adds that worse sinners than he still remain on Earth and await an even worse fate. Dante asserts that St. Peter did not pay Christ to receive the Keys of Heaven and Earth (which symbolize the papacy). He shows Nicholas no pity, saying that his punishment befits his grave sin. He then speaks out against all corrupt churchmen, calling them idolaters and an affliction on the world. Virgil approves of Dante’s sentiments and helps Dante up over the ridge to the Fourth Pouch.
In the Fourth Pouch, Dante sees a line of sinners trudging slowly along as if in a church procession. Seeing no apparent punishment other than this endless walking, he looks closer and finds, to his amazement, that each sinner’s head points the wrong way—the souls’ necks have been twisted so that their tears of pain now fall on their buttocks. Dante feels overcome by grief and pity, but Virgil rebukes him for his compassion.
As they pass by the Fourth Pouch, Virgil names several of the sinners here, who were Astrologers, Diviners, or Magicians in life. He explains the punishment of one specific sinner, saying that, since this individual wanted to use unholy powers to see ahead in life (that is, into the future), he has now been condemned to look backward for all of time. Virgil and Dante also see the sorceress Manto there, and Virgil relates a short tale of the founding of Mantua. They then continue on to the Fifth Pouch.
Entering the Fifth Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell, Dante sees “an astounding darkness.” The darkness is a great pit filled with a kind of boiling tar similar to what the Venetians used to patch their ships (XXI.6). As Dante examines the pitch to determine its composition, Virgil yells for him to watch out: a demon races up the rocks on the side of the pit, grabbing a new soul and tossing him into the blackness. As soon as the sinner comes up for breath, the demons below—the Malabranche, whose name means “evil claws”—thrust him back underneath with their prongs.
Virgil now advises Dante to hide behind a rock while he tries to negotiate their passage. The Malabranche at first act recalcitrant, but once he tells them that their journey is the will of Heaven, they agree to let the two travelers pass. They even provide an escort of ten demons—a necessary accompaniment, they say, as one of the bridges between the pouches has collapsed. Malacoda, the leader of the Malabranche (his name means “evil tail”), informs them of the exact moment that the bridge fell: 1,266 years and nineteen hours (or, as he puts it, five hours later than the same time yesterday) before the present moment. Malacoda adds that a nearby ridge provides an alternate route.
The group goes forward, with Dante carefully watching the surface of the pitch for someone with whom to converse. He has few opportunities, as the sinners cannot stay out of the pitch long before getting skewered. Finally, Virgil manages to talk to one of the sinners who is being tortured outside of the pit. The soul, a Navarrese, explains that he served in the household of King Thibault and was sent to the Fifth Pouch because he accepted bribes—this pouch, then, contains the Barterers. The conversation breaks off as the tusked demon Ciriatto rips into the soul’s body. Virgil then asks the soul if any Italians boil in the pitch. The soul replies that it could summon seven if the travelers wait for a moment. A nearby demon voices the suspicion that the soul merely intends to escape the demons’ tortures and seek the relative relief of the pitch below. The other demons turn to listen to their coworker, and the soul races back to the pitch and dives in, not intending to return. Furious, two of the demons fly after the soul but become mired in the sticky blackness. As the other demons try to free their comrades, Virgil and Dante take the opportunity to make a discreet exit.
As he and Virgil progress, Dante worries that they may have provoked the demons too much with this embarrassment. Virgil agrees. Suddenly, they hear the motion of wings and claws from behind, and turn to see the demons racing after them in a mad pack. Virgil acts quickly. Grabbing hold of Dante, he runs to the slope leading to the Sixth Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell. He then slides down the slope with Dante in his arms, thus foiling the demons, who may not leave their assigned pouch.
Now in the Sixth Pouch, Virgil and Dante see a group of souls trudging along in a circle, clothed in hats, cowls, and capes. Dante soon notices that lead lines their garments, rendering them massively heavy. One of the shades recognizes Dante’s Tuscan speech and begs Dante to talk with him and his fellow sinners, as they include Italians in their ranks. These are the Hypocrites. The sight of one of them in particular stops Dante short: he lies crucified on the ground, and all of the other Hypocrites trample over him as they walk. The crucified sinner is Caiphus, who served as high priest under Pontius Pilate. Virgil asks one of the sinners for directions to the next part of Hell. He finds that Malacoda lied to him about the existence of a connecting ridge, and now learns the proper route.
Making their way to the Seventh Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell, Virgil and Dante face many dangers. Because of the collapsed bridge, they must navigate treacherous rocks, and Virgil carefully selects a path before helping his mortal companion along. Dante loses his breath for a moment, but Virgil urges him onward, indicating that a long climb still awaits them. They descend the wall into the Seventh Pouch, where teeming masses of serpents chase after naked sinners; coiled snakes bind the sinners’ hands and legs. Dante watches a serpent catch one of the sinners and bite him between the shoulders. He watches in amazement as the soul instantly catches fire and burns up, then rises from the ashes to return to the pit of serpents.
Virgil speaks to this soul, who identifies himself as a Tuscan, Vanni Fucci, whom Dante knew on Earth. Fucci tells them that he was put here for robbing a sacristy—the Seventh Pouch holds Thieves. Angered that Dante is witnessing his miserable condition, he foretells the defeat of Dante’s political party, the White Guelphs, at Pistoia.
Cursing God with an obscene gesture, Fucci flees with serpents coiling around him, and Dante now relishes the sight. Moving further along the pit, he and Virgil behold an even more incredible scene. Three souls cluster just beneath them, and a giant, six-footed serpent wraps itself so tightly around one of them that its form merges with that of its victim; the serpent and soul become a single creature. As the other souls watch in horror, another reptile bites one of them in the belly. The soul and the reptile stare at each other, transfixed, as the reptile slowly takes on the characteristics of the man and the man takes on those of the reptile. Soon they have entirely reversed their forms.
Virgil now leads him along the ridges to the Eighth Pouch, where they see numerous flames flickering in a deep, dark valley. Coming closer, Virgil informs Dante that each flame contains a sinner. Dante sees what appear to be two souls contained together in one flame, and Virgil identifies them as Ulysses and Diomedes, both suffering for the same fraud committed in the Trojan War.
Dante desires to speak with these warriors, but Virgil, warning him that the Greeks might disdain Dante’s medieval Italian, speaks to them as an intermediary. He succeeds in getting Ulysses to tell them about his death. Restlessly seeking new challenges, he sailed beyond the western edge of the Mediterranean, which was believed to constitute the rim of the Earth; legend asserted that death awaited any mariner venturing beyond that point. After five months, he and his crew came in view of a great mountain. Before they could reach it, however, a great storm arose and sank their ship.
After hearing Ulysses’ story, Virgil and Dante start down their path again, only to be stopped by another flame-immersed soul. This soul lived in Italy’s Romagna region, and now, hearing Dante speak the Lombard tongue, he asks for news of his homeland. Dante replies that Romagna suffers under violence and tyranny but not outright war. He then asks the soul his name, and the sinner, believing that Dante will never leave the abyss and thus will be unable to spread word of his infamy, consents to tell him.
He introduces himself as Guido da Montefeltro and states that he was originally a member of the Ghibellines. After a time, he underwent a religious conversion and joined a Franciscan monastery, but he was then persuaded by Pope Boniface VIII to reenter politics on the opposing side. At one point, Boniface asked him for advice on how to conquer Palestrina (formerly called Penestrino, it served as the fortress of the Ghibelline Colonna family). Da Montefeltro showed reluctance, but Boniface promised him absolution in advance, even if his counsel were to prove wrong. He then agreed to give his advice, which turned out to be incorrect. When he died, St. Francis came for him, but a devil pulled him away, saying that a man could not receive absolution before sinning, for absolution cannot precede repentance and repentance cannot precede the sin. Such preemptive absolution he deemed “contradictory,” and thus invalid. Calling himself a logician, the devil took da Montefeltro to Minos, who deemed the sinner guilty of fraudulent counsel and assigned him to the Eighth Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell.
Virgil and Dante continue on to the Ninth Pouch, where they see a line of souls circling perpetually. Dante sees they bear wounds worse than those suffered at the battles at Troy and Ceparano. A devil stands at one point of the circle with a sword, splitting open each sinner who walks by. One of the sinners speaks to Dante as he passes—it is Mohammed, prophet of the Muslims. These are the Sowers of Scandal and Schism, and for their sins of division they themselves are split apart. Worse, as they follow the circle around, their wounds close up so that they are whole by the time they come back to the sword, only to be struck again.
Many others in this line look up at Dante, hearing his living voice. The Italians among them beg Dante to carry messages to certain men still living on Earth. They make predictions of a shipwreck and give a warning for Fra Dolcino, who is in danger of joining them when he dies. Finally, Dante sees a man carrying his own head in his hands: it is Bertran de Born, who advised a young king to rebel against his father.
Bowge IX. Sowers of Discord
Summary of Inferno
Finally, Virgil and Dante follow the ridge down and to the left until they can see the Tenth Pouch below them. This pouch houses the Falsifiers, and it is divided into four zones. In the First Zone, souls huddle in heaps and sprawl out on the ground. Scabs cover them from head to foot; they scratch at them furiously and incessantly.
Dante locates two Italians in this zone. Since his journey will take him back to the world of the living, he offers to spread their names among men if they will tell him their stories. The two souls oblige. One of them is Griffolino of Arezzo, who was burned at the stake for heresy but has landed here in the Tenth Pouch for his practice of the occult art of alchemy. The other is a Florentine, Capocchio, who was likewise an alchemist burned at the stake. We learn that the First Zone holds the Falsifiers of Metals.
Summary of Inferno
Bowge X, Second Zone. Falsifiers of Others
Third Zone. Falsifiers of Coins
Fourth Zone. Falsifiers of Words
Beholding the Second Zone in the Tenth Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell, Dante recalls stories of antiquity in which great suffering caused humans to turn on each other like animals. But the viciousness portrayed in these stories pales in comparison with what he witnesses here, where the sinners tear at each other with their teeth; these are the Falsifiers of Others’ Persons. Dante sees a woman, Myrrha, who lusted after her father and disguised herself as another in order to gratify her lust. Some of the sinners of the Third Zone, the Falsifiers of Coins, mingle among these souls. Dante speaks with Master Adam, who counterfeited Florentine money; part of his punishment is to be racked with thirst. Adam points out two members of the Fourth Zone, the Falsifiers of Words, or Liars: one is the wife of Potiphar, who falsely accused Joseph of trying to seduce her, and the other is a Greek man, Sinon. The latter apparently knows Adam and comes over to pick a fight with him. Dante listens to them bicker for a while. Virgil harshly reprimands his companion, telling him that it is demeaning to listen to such a petty disagreement.
“An eye for an eye to all eternity, thus is the law of Hell observed in me.” (Alighieri 231)
The First Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell is called Caina (after Cain, who, as Genesis recounts, slew his brother, Abel), where traitors to their kin receive their punishment. Virgil and Dante see twins frozen face to face, butting their heads against each other in rage. Walking farther, Dante accidentally kicks one of the souls in the cheek. Leaning down to apologize, he thinks he recognizes the face—it turns out to belong to Bocca degli Abati, an Italian traitor. Dante threatens Bocca and tears out some of his hair before leaving him in the ice. Virgil and Dante progress to the Second Ring, Antenora, which contains those who betrayed their homeland or party. Continuing across the lake, Dante is horrified to see one sinner gnawing at another’s head from behind. He inquires into the sin that warranted such cruelty, stating that he might be able to spread the gnawing sinner’s good name on Earth.
The sinner raises himself from his gnawing and declares that in life he was Count Ugolino; the man whose head he chews was Archbishop Ruggieri. Both men lived in Pisa, and the archbishop, a traitor himself, had imprisoned Ugolino and his sons as traitors. He denied them food, and when the sons died, Ugolino, in his hunger, was driven to eat the flesh of their corpses.
Dante now rails against Pisa, a community known for its scandal but that nevertheless has remained unpunished on Earth. He and Virgil then pass to the Third Ring, Ptolomea, which houses those who betrayed their guests. The souls here lie on their backs in the frozen lake, with only their faces poking out of the ice. Dante feels a cold wind sweeping across the lake, and Virgil tells him that they will soon behold its source.
The poets react with particular horror at the sight of the next two souls in the Third Ring, those of Fra Alberigo and Branca d’Oria. Although these individuals have not yet died on Earth, their crimes were so great that their souls were obliged to enter Hell before their time; devils occupy their living bodies aboveground. After leaving these shades, Virgil and Dante approach the Fourth Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell, the very bottom of the pit.
“There, High Justice, sacred ministress of the first Father, reigns eternally over the falsifiers in their distress.” (Alighieri (239)
Still journeying toward the center of the Ninth Circle of Hell, Dante becomes aware of a great shape in the distance, hidden by the fog. Right under his feet, however, he notices sinners completely covered in ice, sometimes several feet deep, contorted into various positions. These souls constitute the most evil of all sinners—the Traitors to their Benefactors. Their part of Hell, the Fourth Ring of the Ninth Circle, is called Judecca.
Dante and Virgil advance toward the giant, mist-shrouded shape. As they approach through the fog, they behold its true form. The sight unnerves Dante to such an extent that he knows not whether he is alive or dead. The figure is Lucifer, Dis, Satan—no one name does justice to his terrible nature. The size of his arms alone exceeds all of the giants of the Eighth Circle of Hell put together. He stands in the icy lake, his torso rising above the surface. Gazing upward, Dante sees that Lucifer has three horrible faces, one looking straight ahead and the others looking back over his shoulders. Beneath each head rises a set of wings, which wave back and forth, creating the icy winds that keep Cocytus frozen.
Each of Lucifer’s mouths holds a sinner—the three greatest sinners of human history, all Traitors to a Benefactor. In the center mouth dangles Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ. In the left and right mouths hang Brutus and Cassius, who murdered Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate. Brutus and Cassius appear with their heads out, but Judas is lodged headfirst; only his twitching legs protrude. The mouths chew their victims, constantly tearing the traitors to pieces but never killing them. Virgil tells Dante that they have now seen all of Hell and must leave at once.
Putting Dante on his back, Virgil performs a startling feat. He avoids the flapping wings and climbs onto Lucifer’s body, gripping the Devil’s frozen tufts of hair and lowering himself and his companion down. Underneath Cocytus, they reach Lucifer’s waist, and here Virgil slowly turns himself around, climbing back upward. However, Dante notes with amazement that Lucifer’s legs now rise above them, his head below. Virgil explains that they have just passed the center of the Earth: when Lucifer fell from Heaven, he plunged headfirst into the planet; his body stuck here in the center.
In Dante’s Inferno, justice is not merely cruel and unusual punishment designed to elicit cheap shock from onlookers. Inferno portrays God’s justice as springing from primal love, and thus is conditioned with compassion, however difficult it may be to recognize. Still, the point of justice is that transgressors must get their just desserts. Dante ensures this happens using the concept of contrapasso, which translates literally as "counter-penalty." Here, sinners are punished according to the nature of their sin, so that their punishment fits their crime. Some sinners literally become the embodiment of their sins while others become victims in the afterlife of the crimes they committed while living.
To Dante, Nature’s author is God himself and thus anything described as natural must honor the Divine. Thus, the most unnatural scenes occur in the circles of heresy and violence, where familiar or pastoral landscapes become distorted in some fundamental way. The violent, especially those who have sinned against nature, demonstrate this best – in the image of reproduction. Usurers gain from the unnaturally speedy accumulation of money, which requires no coupling but simply produces more and more in and of itself. Sodomites, on the other hand, engage in sexual practices that cannot possibly yield a child; they are the incarnation of sterility. Similarly, heretics, in denying man’s immortal soul, reject one of the basic truths. Heresy and violence are considered worse sins than incontinence. Where the incontinent are weak victims of their emotions, the heretics and violent willfully warp the natural order.
1) Dante reaches Acheron, and according to Greek Mythology this is one of the five rivers of Hades. Throughout the book Dante the Pilgrim approaches all of these rivers. Those including Styx, Phlegethon, Cocytus and Lethe.(Longfellow 189)
2) During the first circle of Hell, Limbo, Dante the Pilgrim includes infants in it and according to church doctrine this is true due to the non-cleansed spirits. (190).
Dante directly alludes to Electra, "The mother of Dardanusand founder of Troy" (193).
Personal experience connections
1) One of these morals that can be learned from this book is to not be indifferent towards the existence of God. This matter is approached in the very beginning of the book, kind of a pre-first circle of Hell and Dante is very fearful of what is surrounding him. (Vestibule of Hell)
2) In canto 5 Dante refers to the second circle more promptly as the second and this is where the lesser of the sins lie. This connects to the personal experience because this shows the moral standpoint of Dante the writer.
3) The point of Dantes inferno is to reflect on how your actions can ultimately determine where you can be placed in the afterlife.
1) Avarice- Extreme Greed. This is important because its an informal name for one of the circles of Hell
2) Gluttony- Excess in eating. This is again another informal name of one of the circles of Hell
3) Ordure- as dante used it, the translation is shit
4) Vex- anger
5) Schism- Split or division between oppressed sections or parties
6) Simonists- selling sacrec things for profit
7) Lamentation- expressing grief
8) Omnipotence- having unlimited power
9) Pagan- A person holding religious beliefs of that other than the main world religions
10) Pallor- An unhealthy pale appearance
11) Gyre- A ring or circle
12) Seduce- To lead astray from duty
13) Alchemist- Someone who is versed in Alchemy
14) Asunder- into seperate parts or into pieces (malebolge)
15) Canto-one of the sections into which long poems are divided
Berg, Marcus, Enrico Pajer, and Stefan Sjors. "Dante's Inferno." (2009). Web.
Dante Alighieri. Inferno. Ed. Giuseppe Mazzotta. Trans. Michael Palma. New York: Norton, 2007. Print.
Pequigney, Joseph. "Sodomy in Dante's Inferno and Purgatorio." Representations (1991): 22-42. Web.
Reade, William Henry Vincent." The Moral System of Dante's Inferno." Associated Faculty PressInc, 1909. Web.
Roglieri, Maria Ann. “Twentieth-Century Musical Interpretations Of The ‘Anti-Music’ Of Dante’s Inferno.” Italica 79.2 (2002): 149-167. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 28 May 2013.
Although love is not frequently mentioned in the text of the Inferno, it is always in the back of the astute reader’s mind. Love’s single most surprising appearance comes at the threshold of Hell, where Dante learns that this place of punishment has been created from "Primal Love." As Dante meets sinner after sinner and hears their pitiable stories, readers are encouraged to question – along with Dante – how a loving God could impose such pain on seemingly decent people. With his often sympathetic portrayals of sinners, Dante directly challenges the notion that Hell could have been created out of love. On a more mundane level, love – like language and matter – is considered one of the fundamental bonds that tie individuals together. When this bond is broken, many people can be affected and led into sin.
1) What is the significance of the Vestibule?
2) What moral can be learned from the Vestibule?
3) Is Dante's relationship with Virgil deeper than just being his guide?
4) Are the characters realistic?
5) What can we infer from the flatterers being thrown in feces?
6) What do all the greek mythology references symbolize?
7) What is the significance of dante speaking to the reader canto XVI?
8) Why did Dante include 10 Bolges in the Malebolge?
9) How does the author convey the emotions of Dante the Pilgrim?
10) What is admirable about Dante?
11) What is the temperature in the center of Hell?
12) Why is Judas important to the ninth circle?
13) Where is Virgil cited before Dante's Inferno?
14) What is the role of politics in inferno?
15) Should Dante go with Virgil into Hell?
Real world connections
1) In Limbo, Dante and Virgil meet up with many famous philosophers, including: Homer, Socrates, Plato, etc.
2) In the first canto Dante meets virgil and discusses topics on where he is and Hell, this is a connection to the real world because Virgil was the author who wrote the Aeneid.
3) Dante meets many politicians during the poem and all the politicians were actual people
1) Dan Brown wrote a book also named inferno after Dante's inferno.
2) Rice and Beans Orchestra made an album named Dantes Inferno
3) Dantes Dark, north coast roasting co.
Dante's portrayal of Hell in the Inferno is an undisputed masterpiece of visual and allegorical imagery, enriched not only by extensive use of figurative language, but by concrete physical descriptions as well. Perhaps the most interesting display of Dante's skill in combining these sensory and metaphorical elements occurs in Canto XIV: here, as the two figures cross over a river encased in stone, Virgil recounts to the Pilgrim, in stunning detail, the story of the statue, buried in Mount Ida on the island of Crete, whose falling tears form the waters for the three rivers of the Underworld. In the course of the guide's narration, the reader, who is first confronted and captivated by powerful geographical images, gradually becomes aware of the underlying allegorical interpretation, and realizes that the scenes portrayed here tell the story of the Fall of Man and his subsequent misery on earth. The speaker, though, is neither Dante nor the Pilgrim, but Virgil, and the effect on the reader of this shift in perspective is indeed the most fascinating aspect of the passage: not only is Dante using Virgil, in Bloomian terms, to authenticate his own creation, but the emotions which Virgil himself conveys to the reader heighten the feeling of suspense, amazement, and appreciation of the work as a whole.
Without exchanging words we reached a place
where a narrow stream came gushing from the woods
(its reddish water still runs fear through me!);
Like the one that issues from the Bulicame,
whose waters are shared by prostitutes downstream,
it wore its way across the desert sand.
This river's bed and banks were made of stone,
so were the tops on both its sides; and then
I understood this was our way across. (Alighieri 76-84)
At first, this picture is much like any other that occurs in Dante's work: a strange and foreign landscape is depicted in words that make it partially comprehensible to the human reader, but the portrayal retains its haunting and disturbing imagery.
"Pride, envy, avarice - these are the sparks have set on fire the hearts of all men." - Dante Alighieri
By: Bailey Blevins