Canto XXIII: The Sowers of Discord By: Jeylan Roby
Summary Dante, who’s in the eighth circle, reaches the ninth ditch (or bolgia) — of which is filled with those who create discord; the Sowers of Discord — Religious, Political, and that of Kinsmen — are those who invoke conflict or disaccord to that of God’s plan(s). Dante travels through this ditch with Virgil and looks down upon, and interacts with, multiple men who have found themselves in this part of Hell (all in agony). As we’ve seen in the cantos previous, Aligheri tends to display his distaste for the papacy, or general political figures, through a sense of greater punishments — for example, in Canto III, because of his inability to properly govern, as well as his aid to Pope Boniface VIII in the exiling of Dante, Pope Celestine V was “condemned” to utter darkness, as well as being surrounded by worms, maggots, wasps, and hornets all while chasing a banner he could never reach. Pope Clement V c. 1264-1314 Pope Boniface VIII c.1230-1302
Sinner Overview The sinners of Canto XXVIII would include those who Aligheri describes as the Sowers of Religious Discord, Political Discord, and that of Discord between Kinsman — all of which would suffer some form of physical mutilation, varying based on “degree.” Many are described in various ways as “severed” which is an allusion to those that caused schism, or severance, amongst a group of people which would affected subsequent generations. Despite this, Alighieri tends to attribute those who commit religious discord with those who commit political discord.
Sowers of Religious Discord As previously stated, Alighieri has a a grievance against those who are problematic in the face of Christianity; he creates a special place in his idea of Hell for those who cause schism within the church. Those who fall under this category particularly are shown with gruesome gashes, however we see Alighieri “lose” his ability to produce descriptions of what took place in this particular part of Hell; his absence of literary presence would contribute to how ghastly and frightful the ninth ditch would be, as well as emphasizing his disdain for that of political figures and those who attempt to stray from God’s path. Mahomet - severed from his chest to his bowels; Dante uses a plethora of adjectives to describe the severity of Mahomet’s injuries — of which also reflects his thought of Mahomet and what he inflicted on the church (Mohammedanism v. Christianity) Gustave Doré's version of the scene is probably the most well-known. The image is an illustration taken from an 1885 French edition of Dante's Divine Comedy. The original engraving is in the Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, Paris.
Sowers of Religious Discord (cont.) Fra Dolcino: During a confrontation with Dante, Mahomet tells him that if he is to return to Earth, to warn Fra Dolcino of his food supply during the crusade against him. This is ironic because Alighieri references Dolcino being forced surrender during his battle with the Catholic Church. Dolcino lead the reformist order called the Apostolic Brothers, who preached, among other things, the community of property and of women. Pope Clement V declared them heretical and ordered a crusade against them, forcing them to retreat to the hills of Novara and Vercelli; eventually running out of food and surplus, the Apostolic Brothers had to return back to Rome, causing him and a few of his followers to be burned as a result.
Sowers of Political Discord Pier Da Medicina, the Tribune Curio, and Mosca Dei Lamberti The Sowers of Political Discord are those Alighieri describes as people who instigate political unrest. It’s that simple. The Tribune Curio is a man who was exiled from Rome and joined Caesar’s regime and helped instigate the Roman Civil war by crossing the borders between Gaul and the Roman Republic. “Ah, how wretched Curio seemed to me with a bloody stump in his throat in place of the tongue which once had dared to speak so recklessly!”
Sowers of Political Discord (cont.) Pier Da Medicina is has his throat slit and using this wound like a mouth. He recognizes and pleads for Dante to spread his fame in the mortal world and also to take a message. He warns of two men from Fano to be very careful or else they’ll be betrayed by the foul Malatestino and be drowned aboard their very own ship warning may not be generously given; this can be seen as less of a warning and rather as a ploy show off his power or insight, or show his desire to make trouble (create political discord). One can assume that Alighieri identifies the political body (city or country) as a metaphor for the individual human body. Political “treachery” being the betrayal of the potential unity and peace of the ideal city he imagines to be possible — which would account for the severance of limbs and the severity of punishment(s).Elements of foreshadowing can be seen here. Those is the ditch are pictured in agony; one can see Mahomet and company in pain surrounding Dante and Virgil. Also by Gustave Doré
Sowers of Discord between Kinsman Unlike the rest of of the sinners, in respect to the Sowers of Discord between Kinsman, it seems as if there is only one man who is in this class: Bertran de Born. Born mentored King Henry to overthrow his father, Henry II; being that he aimed to separate both Father and Son (kinsman) Alighieri classified him as a sinner, alone with his head is severed from his body, in what even he [Born] sees as just retribution, saying “and since I parted those who should be one/in duty and in love, I bear my brain/ divided from its source within this trunk/ and walk here where my evil turns to pain/ an eye for an eye for all eternity: thus is the law of Hell observed in me” (lines 134-143)
Literary Devices Foreshadowing During his interactions with the sinners, Dante is told my multiple that if he should return to Earth to warn several of a variety of events that were to take place if a certain action was not taken. Alighieri uses foreshadowing in the sense of knowing the future and trying to prevent it — which is also ironic in respect that Alighieri has established his hatred for those who attempt to derive from that of God’s path; the use of foreshadowing throughout this Canto would aid in overturning the Lord’s plans. Imagery Regardless of his lack poetic presence, Alighieri displayed ample use of imagery throughout Canto XXVIII to describe how certain sinners were severed or to emphasize the severity of their wounds. It can also be seen as a lack thereof, as Alighieri. and Dante, are shown to have had lost their ability to describe the misery that embodied the ninth ditch.. Ex. • Dante describing Mahomet’s wounds (where they begin and where they end) and how they dangle.
Allusion One allusion that I associated with Canto XVIII would be the Great Schism of 1054 (the division of the Christian church into Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church). This event tore many friendships, alliances, and families apart, as they (those of the upper class(es) were forced to affiliate with either the Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church. Being that the magnitude of the event changed Rome forever and had a lingering effect on subsequent generations. Alighieri, coming from a very politically diligent family, would be seen incorporating many of his views of the papacy and the Church throughout this Canto specifically; he allows the reader to view his disdain for certain political heads and historical moments that came before his time, as well as those that occurred during.