Dante’s Inferno A guided tour through hell
Dante Alighieri • Born 1265 • Died 1321 • Exiled from Florence by his political enemies in 1302 • Wrote Divine Comedy in 1312 • First major writer to use the Italian language
Divine Comedy • Inferno=Hell • Purgatorio=Purgatory • Paradiso=Heaven Not surprisingly Dante’s Inferno is the most popular book of the Divine Comedy
The Principle of the TrinityDante’s Organizing Principle • Poem has 3 parts • Each part has 33 Cantos • The verse is Terza Rima • Journey took 3 days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.
Allegory • Work that has 2 meanings (literal and symbolic • Rowboat=person • Water=flow of time • Two oars=hard work and persistence • Rudder=love or guidance
Dante’s Inferno is an allegory • Dante’s literal journey=his struggle for redemption
His Guide • Beatrice • Virgil
Important Places in Inferno • City of Dis: The Capital Of Hell. The city comprises all of lower hell. At the center of the city, Dis (Satan) is imprisoned. • Cocytus: The final pit of Hell. • Great Tower, The - The tower signals Phlegyas to bring souls over the river Styx. • Lethe, the river - In classical mythology, the river of forgetfulness, from which souls drink before being born. In Dante's Divine Comedy, it flows down from Purgatory, where it has washed away the memory of sins from souls who are undergoing purification. Then the River Lethe delivers that memory to Hell, which draws all sin to itself. • Lower Hell - The second division of Hell where souls are punished for the various sins of violence and bestiality (sins of the Lion), and fraud and malice (sins of the Leopard).
Important Places in Inferno • Malebolge(In Italian Bolgia=“ditch” Therefore, Malebolge is a ditch of evil • Phlegethon, the river - The river of boiling blood that composes the first round of the seventh circle. It sluices through the Wood of Suicides and the Burning Plain. The river plunges over the edge of the seventh circle to form a waterfall. The river has miraculous powers that protect Dante from the torments of Hell. • Upper Hell - The first division of Hell where sinners are punished for the various sins of Incontinence (sins of excess, the She-Wolf). • Wall Of Dis - The flaming wall that encloses all of Lower Hell
A Detailed Outline Of Inferno • Gate of HellVestibule: The Opportunists • Upper HellA.River Acheron • B.Circle I (Limbo) Virtuous PagansUnbaptized ChildrenMinosC.Circle IICarnalD.Circle IIIGluttonsPlutusE.Circle IVHoardersWasters • F.Circle V (Styx) WrathfulSullenPhlegyasWall of Dis(Fiends And Furies)
III. Lower HellG. Circle VIHeretics, The Minotaur, CentaursH.Circle VII 1. Round One: Phlegethon Violent against Others 2. Round Two: Wood of SuicidesThe Harpies, Suicides,and Wasters of their Substance3. Round Three: Burning Plain Blasphemers, Sodomites, andUsurers,Geryon
I. Circle VIII (Malebolge) 1. Bolge I: Panderers, Horned Devils With Lashes, and Seducers 2. Bolge Two Flatterers 3. Bolge Three Simoniacs 4. Bolge Four Fortune TellersandDiviners 5. Bolge Five GraftersandBlacktalons 6. Bolge Six Hypocrites 7. Bolge Seven Thieves 8. Bolge Eight Evil Counselors 9. Bolge Nine Sowers Of Discord 10. Bolge Ten Falseifiers Central Well and Titans
J. Circle IX (Cocytus)1. Caina Treacherous To Kin 2. Antenora Treacherous To Country 3. Ptolomea Treacherous To Guest or Host 4. Judecca Treacherous To MasterBrutusCassiusJudas Iscariot
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” A Brief Overview of Dante’s Inferno Gate of hell Vestibule River Acheron and Charon Circle I: Limbo Circle II: Lust Circle III: Gluttony Circle IV: Avarice and Prodigality Circle V: Wrath or Sullenness Circle VI: Heresy Circle VII: Violence Circle VIII: Fraud Circle IX: Treachery
……… The Vestibule: The Opportunists Here sighs and cries and wails coiled and recoiledon the starless air, spilling [your] soul to tears....They are mixed here with the despicable corpsof angels who neither for God nor Satan,but only for themselves. The High Creatorscourged them from Heaven for its perfect beauty,and Hell will not receive them since the wickedmight feel some glory over them...These wretches never born and never deadran naked in swarms of wasps and hornetsthat goaded them the more the more they fled,and made their faces stream with bloody goutsof pus and tears that dribbled to their feetto be swallowed there by loathsome worms and maggots.Inferno 03.022-03.066*The Opportunists are souls who, in life, were neither good nor evil but only for themselves. Mixed with them are the angels who took no sides in the Rebellion of the Angels. These souls are neither in Hell nor out of it.
"Charon, bite back your spleen:this has been willed where what is willed must be, and is not yours to ask what it may mean."Inferno 03.091-03.093 Charon and the River Acheron 1There are three main rivers in Hell, all three come from the same source.2There into Acheron flow Periphlegethon and Cocytus, which is a branch of the water of the Styx; and there is a rock, and the meeting place of the two roaring rivers.Odyssey 510-515
Circle I: Limbo (a) the temporary place or state of the souls of the just who, although purified from sin, were excluded from Heaven. (b)the permanent state of unbaptized children and virtuous pagans (those who were moral individuals, but not Christians)
The first division of Hell punishes for the various sins of Incontinence (sins of excess). These sinners receive the least punishment because an excess of sexual passion is the most natural sin; it is the sin most closely associated with love. Circle II: The Lustful [You come] to a place stripped bare of every lightand roaring on the naked dark like seaswracked by a war of winds. Their hellish flight of storm and counterstorm through time foregone,sweeps the souls of the damned before its charge.Wirling and battering it drives them on,and when they pass the ruined gap of Hellthrough which [you] had come, their shrieks begin anew.There they blaspheme the power of God eternal.And this...was the never ending flightof those who sinned in the flesh, the carnal and lustywho betrayed reason to their appetite.Here, there, up, down, they whirl and, whirling, strainwith never a hope of hope to comfort them,not of release, but even of less pain.Inferno 05.031-05.048
Circle III: Gluttony Huge hailstones, dirty water, and black snowpour from the dismal air to putrefythe putrid slush that waits for them belowHere monstrous Cerberus, the ravening beast,howls through his triple throats like a mad dogover the spirits sunk in that foul paste.His eyes are red, his beard is greased with phlegm, his belly is swollen, and his hands are claws to rip the wretches and flay and mangle them.And they, too, howl like dogs in the freezing storm, turning and turning from it as if they thought one naked side could keep the other warm.Inferno 6 A great storm of putrefaction falls incessantly, a mixture of stinking snow and freezing rain, which forms into a vile slush underfoot. The Third Circle is meant to resemble a giant garbage dump. In life the Gluttons made no higher use of the gifts of God than to wallow in food and drink, producers of nothing but garbage and offal. Here they lie in all eternity, themselves like garbage, half buried in fetid slush while Cerberus slavers over them as they in life slavered over their food.
Circle IV: Avarice and Prodigality Here, too, [you see] a nation of lost souls,far more than were above: they strained with their chestsagainst enormous weights, and with mad howlsrolled them at one another. Then in haste they rolled them back, one party shouting out:"Why do you hoard?" and the other: "Why do you waste?"So back around the ring they puff and blow, each faction to its course, until they reach opposite sides, and screaming as they gothe madmen turn and start their weights againto crash against the maniacs...Inferno 07.025-07.035 One mob is made up of the HOARDERS, the other of the WASTERS. In life, they lacked all moderation in regulation their expenses; they destroyed the light of God within themselves by thinking of nothing but money. Thus in death their souls are encumbered by dead weights.
The River Styx And crossing over the chasm's edge[you come] to a spring that boiled and overflowedthrough a great crevice worn into the ledge.By that foul water, black from its very source,[You find] a nightmare path among the rocksand followed the dark stream along its course. Inthe swamp-like water of the river Styx, the wrathful fight each other on the surface, and the sullen or slothful lie gurgling beneath the water. Phlegyas reluctantly transports Dante and Virgil across the Styx in his skiff.
“[keep your] eyes on those foul souls that swallow the slime of Hell…” Circle V: Wrath or Sullenness ...a swarm of spirits in that bog savage with anger, naked, slime-besmutchedThey thumped at one another in that slimewith hands and feet, and they butted, and they bitas if each would tear the other limb from limb.Inferno 08.110-08.131 'Sullen were we in the air made sweet by the Sun;in glory of his shining our hearts poureda bitter smoke. Sullen were we begun;sullen we lie forever in this ditch.'This litany they gargle in their throatsas if they sang, but lacked the words and pitch."
Circle VI: Heresy By Heretic, Dante means specifically those who did violence to God by denying immortality. Since they taught that the soul dies with the body, so their punishment is an eternal grave in the fiery morgue of God's wrath. “for, in a ring around each tomb, great fires raised every wall to a red heat. No smith works hotter iron in his forge. The biers stood with their lids upraised, and from their pits an anguished moaning rose on dead air from the desolation of tormented spirits.” Inferno 09.109-09.120
The Minotaur As a bull that breaks its chain just when the knifehas struck its death-blow, cannot stand nor runbut leaps from side to side with its last life-so danced the Minotaur...Inferno 12.022-12.025 The Minotaur was more beast than human, he was conceived in a sodomitic union, and he was a devourer of human flesh- in all ways a fitting symbol of the souls he guards in the seventh circle.
The Centaurs They run by that stream in thousands, snapping their bowsat any wraith who dares to raise himselfout of the blood more than his guilt allows.Inferno 12.072-12.075 Centaur - The centaur is a being part human and part horse. Usually the head and upper body are human, and the lower body is equine. The centaur is a potentially uncontrollable creature, often associated with drunkenness, lust, licentiousness and physical, especially sexual, violence.
Circle VIIRound One: Violence Against Others "But turn your eyes to the valley; there we shall findthe river of boiling blood in which are steeped all who struck down their fellow men." Oh blind!Oh ignorant, self seeking cupiditywhich spurs us so in the short mortal lifeand steeps us so through all eternity!Inferno 12.046-12.051 1the river of boiling blood - the river Plegethon*The Violent Against Others - great war-makers, cruel tryants, highwaymen - all who shed blood the blood of their fellowmen. As they wallowed in blood during their lives, so they are immersed in boiling blood forever, each according to the degree of his guilt, while fierce Centaurs patrol the banks , ready to shoot with their arrows any sinner who raises himself out of the boiling bloodbeyond the limits permitted him.
Round Two: Wood of SuicidesHarpies, Suicides, and Wasters of their Substance [You break] off a branchlet from an enormous thorn:and the great trunk of it cried:"Why do you break me?"And after blood had darkened all the bowlof the wound, it cried again: "Why do you tear me?Is there no pity left in any soul?”Inferno 13.013-13.015
More on the suicides… The souls of the suicides are encased in thorny trees whose leaves are eaten by the odious Harpies, the overseers of these damned. When the Harpies feed upon them, damaging their leaves and limbs, the wound bleeds. Only as long as the blood flows are the souls of the trees able to speak. Thus, they who destroyed their own bodies are denied human form; and just as the supreme expression of their lives was self destruction, so they are permitted to speak only through that which tears and destroys them. Only through their own blood do they find a voice.
Round Two Continued…Wasters of their Substance ...And suddenly in his rush,perhaps because his breath was failing him,he hid himself inside a thorny bushand cowered among its leaves. Then at his back,the wood leaped with black bitches, swift as greyhoundsescaping from their leash, and all the packsprang on him; with their fangs they opened himand tore him savagely, then withdrew,carrying his body with them, limb by limb.Inferno 13.121-13.129 They are driven naked through the thorny woods pursued by ravenous dogs who tear them to pieces and carry off the limbs. The dogs may be taken as symbolizing conscience, the last besieging creditors of the damned who must satisfy their claims by dividing their wretched bodies, since nothing else is left of them.
Round Three: Burning PlainBlasphemers, Sodomites, and Usurers just so in Hell descended the long rainupon the damned, kindling the snad like tinderunder flint and steel, doubling the pain.In a never ending fit upon those sands,the arms of the damned twitched all about their bodies,now here, now there, brushing away the brands.Inferno 14.016-14.039 Enormous herds of naked souls [you see],lamenting till their eyes were burned of tears;they seemed condemned by an unequal law,for some were stretched supine upon the ground,some squatted with their arms about themselves, and others withoutpause roamed round and round.And over all that sand on which they layor crouched or roamed, great flakes of flame fell slowlyas snow falls in the Alps on a windless day.
Geryon ...swimming up through that foul aira shape to astonish the most doughty soul,a shape like one returning through the seafrom working loose an anchor run afoulof something on the bottom-so it rose,its arms spread upward and its feet drawn close.Inferno 16.129-16.134
Circle VIII: Malebolge 1. Bolge One Panderers, Horned Devils With Lashes, and Seducers 2. Bolge Two Flatterers 3. Bolge Three Simoniacs 4. Bolge Four Fortune TellersandDiviners 5. Bolge Five GraftersandBlacktalons 6. Bolge Six Hypocrits 7. Bolge Seven Thieves 8. Bolge Eight Evil Counselors 9. Bolge Nine Sowers Of Discord 10. Bolge Ten Falseifiers Central Well and Titans
Bolge One: Panderers, Horned Devils, and Seducers All of these sinners were naked; on our sideof the middle they walked toward us; on the other,in our direction, but with swifter stride.And everywhere along that hideous track[there are] horned demons with enormous lashesmove through the souls, scourging them on the back.Inferno 18.022-18.039
Bolge Two: Flatterers Here [you hear] people whine in the next chasm, and knock and bump themselves with open palms, and blubber through their snouts as if in spasm.Streaming from that pit, a vapour rose over the banks, crusting them with a slime that sickens eyes and hammer at the nose.Once there, [you peer] down ; and [you see] long lines of people in a river of excrement that seemed the overflow of the world's latrines.Inferno 18.103-18.117
Bolge Three: Simoniacs Along the walls and on the ground were long rows of holes cut in livid stone; all were cut to a size, and all were round.From every mouth a sinner's leg struck outas far as the calf. The soles were ablazeand the joints of the legs quivered and writhed about.As oiled things blaze upon the surface only,so did they burn from heel to the point of their toes.Inferno 19.013-19.027
Bolge Four: Fortune Tellers and Diviners between the top of their chests and the lines of the jaw; for the face was reversed on the neck, and they came on backwards, staring backwards at their loins, for to look before them was forbidden. [You see] the image of our humanitydistorted so that the tears that burst from from their eyesran down the cleft of their buttocks...Inferno 07.025-07.035 [Your] vantage point permitted a clear view, of the depths of the pit below: a desolationbathed with the tears of its tormented crew,who moved about the circle of the pit at about the pace of a litany procession. Silent weeping, they wound round and round it.And when I looked down from their faces, I saw that each of them was hideously distorted
Bolge Five: Grafters All...attention was fixed upon the pitch: to observe the people who were boiling in it,and the customs and punishments of that ditch. So now and then, some soul, to ease his pain, showed us a glimpse of his back above the pitch and quick as lightning disappeared again.and Catclaw, who was nearest, ran a hook through the sinner’s pitchy hair and hauled him in. He looked like an otter dripping from the brook.Inferno 22.016-22.042 Here the crew of demons criedall together, “Give him a taste of your claws. Dig him open a little. Off with his hide."
Bolge Five: Blacktalons They turned along the left bank in a line;but before they started, all of them togetherhad stuck their pointed tongues out as a signto their captain that they wished permission to pass,and he had made a trumpet of his ass.Inferno 21.136-21.140
Bolge Six: Hypocrites All wore great cloaks cut to as ample a sizeas those worn by the Benedictines of Cluny.The enormous hoods were drawn over their eyes.The outside dazzled, golden and fair;the inside, lead…"These burnished robes are of thick lead," said one,"and are hung on us like counterweights, so heavy that we, their weary fulcrums, creak and groan."Inferno 23.057-23.099
Bolge Seven: Thieves Amid that swarm, naked and without hope,people ran terrified, not even dreamingof a hole to hide in… Their hands were bound behind by coils of serpents which thrust their heads and tails between the loins and bunched in the front, a mass of knotted torments.Inferno 24
Bolge Eight: Evil Counselors more than a the flame, a cloudlet in the sky, once it had risen-so within the fosse only those flames, forever passing bywere visible, ahead, to right, to left; for through each steals a sinner's soul from view not one among them leaves a trace of the theft.Inferno 26 such myriads of flames...shine through the gloom of the eighth abyss when [you arrive] at the rim from which its bed comes into view.As he the bears avenged so fearfully beheld Elijah's chariot depart- the horses rise toward heaven-but could not see
Bolge Nine: Sowers of Discord Between his legs all of his red guts hung with his heart, the lungs, the liver, the gall bladder, and the shriveled sac that passes shit to the bung. Opening his own breast with both hands he cried: "See how I rip myself!See how Mahomet's mangled and split open!Ahead of me walks Ali in his tears, his head cleft from top-knot to chin.And all other souls that bleed and mournalong this ditch were sowers of scandal and schism: as they tore others apart, so are they torn.Inferno 28
Bolge Ten: Falsifiers on the marsh air, were dumped into one trench-that might suggest their pain. And through the screams,putrid flesh spread up its sickening stench.They were covered with great scabs from head to foot.No stable boy in a hurry home,or for whom his master waits impatiently,ever scrubbed harder with his currycombthan those two spirits of the stinking ditchscrubbed at themselves with their own bloody clawsto ease the furious burning of the itch.And as they scrubbed and clawed themselves, their nailsdrew down the scabbs the way a knife scrapes breamor some other fishwith even larger scales.Inferno 29.075-29.084 Malebolge's final cloister lay outspread,and all of its brethren might have beenin sight but for the murk; and from those deadsuch shrieks and strangled agonies shrill through [you]like shafts, but barbed with pity, that [your] hands flew to [your] ears. If all the miserythat crams the hospitals of pestilencein Maremma, Valdichiano, and Sardiniain the summer months when death sits like a presence
The Titans “The better to prepare you for strange truth,let me explain those shapes you see ahead:They are not towers but giants. They stand in the wellfrom the nave down; stationed round its bankthey mount guard on the final pit of Hell."Inferno 31.029-31.033
Circle IX: TreacheryAgainst Kin ...stretching out ahead, a lake so frozenit seemed to be made of glass. So thick a sheetnever yet hid the Danube's winter course,nor, far away beneath the frigid sky,locked the Don up in its frozen source:for were Tanbernick and the enormous peakof Pietrapana to crash down on it,not even the edges would so much as creak. The way frogs sit to croak, their muzzles leaningout of the water, at the time and seasonwhen the peasant woman dreams of her day's gleaning-Just so the livid death are sealed in placeup to the part which they blushed for shame,and they beat their teeth like storks. Each hold his facebowed toward the ice, each of them testifiesto the cold with his chattering mouth, to his heart's griefwith tears that flood forever from his eyes. Inferno 32.023-32.039
Circle IX: TreacheryAgainst Country In reply to Dante's exhortation , The sinner who is gnawing his companions head looks up, with his bloody mouth on his victim hair, and tells his harrowing story. He is Count Ugolino and the wretch he gnaws is Archbishop Ruggieri. Both are in Antenora for treason. In life they once plotted together. Then Ruggieri betrayed his fellow-plotter and caused his death, by starvation, along with his four "sons."In the most pathetic and dramatic passage in the Inferno, Ugolino details how their prison was sealed and how his sons dropped dead before him one by one weeping for food. His terrible tale serves only to renew his grief and hatred, and he has hardly finished it before he begins to gnaw Ruggieri again with renewed fury. In th immutable law of Hell, the killer-by-starvation becomes the food of his victim.
Satan "Now see the face of Dis! This is the place where you must arm your soul against all dread."The Emperor of the Universe of Pain jutted his upper chest above the ice; If he was once as beautiful as nowhe is hideous, and still turned on his Maker, well may he be the source of every woe!Under each head two wings rose terribly their span proportioned to so gross a bird: I never saw such sails upon the sea.He wept from his six eyes, down three chins the tears ran mixed with bloody froth and pus.In every mouth he worked a broken sinner between his rake-like teeth. Thus he kept three in eternal pain at his eternal dinner.
Count Ugolino and the Archbishop Ruggieri “He seized the skull again between his teeth grinding it as a mastiff grinds a bone.” Inferno 33
Circle IX: TreacheryAgainst a Guest or Host [You] passed on further where the frozen mineentombs another crew in greater pain;these wraiths are not bent over, but lie supine.Their very weeping closes up their eyes;and the grief that finds no outlets for its tearsturns inward to increase their agonies:for the first tears that they shed knot instantlyin their eye-sockets, and as they freeze they forma crystal visor above the cavity.Inferno 33.091-33.099
Circle IX: TreacheryAgainst Masters [You stand] now where the souls of the last class(with fear my verses tell it) were covered wholly;they shone below the ice like straws in glass.Some lie stretched out; others fixed in placeupright, some on their heads, some on their soles;another like a bow, bends foot to face.Inferno 34.010-34.015