"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, February 2, 2018

Dante's Inferno, Cantos VI thru XI

Continuing on with the summary of Dante's Inferno.  First installment was here.

Dante finds himself awake in third circle, the circle of the gluttons.  The souls punished for the this sin are stranded in a torrential rain and deep in mud, exposed to the harshest elements.  The three-headed dog Cerberus who tears and flays at the spirits, who are wasting away from trying to withstand the elements.  The pilgrims meet someone from Florence nicknamed Ciacco, which means hog, and he predicts the war between the White and Black Guelphs that will come in a few years.  Dante asks about a list of Florintine patriots, and Ciacco says they are further below in hell.  (Canto VI)

As the pilgrims turn into the fourth circle, they encounter Plutus the classical god of wealth, who is babbling incoherently.  With a few words fro Virgil, who invokes the archangel Michael, Plutus falls down unconscious.  Here is the circle for the sin of avarice, where the spendthrifts and the tightwads are pushing stones in counter direction to each other.  Dante notices that many religious clerics are here. and they move on to a marsh which comprises the fifth circle, that of the wrathful and sullenness.  Those souls are underneath the mire where they are unable to speak, just blow up air bubbles.  (Canto VII)

The pilgrims come to the river Styx where the City of Dis can be seen in the distance, signaling code with little lights.  A reluctant ferryman named Phlegyas ferries across the river, and the soul of the Black Guelph Filippo Argenti , tries to avail them.  The pilgrims take delight in watching Argenti get submerged back underwater.  On being dropped at the City gates, Virgil goes off to attempt to enter, while Dante stays back in fear.  Virgil has the gates slammed in his face, and so the pilgrims are prevented from entering.  (Canto VIII)

With the gates of Dis closed the pilgrims have come to a crises.  While the pilgrims still in their doubt, the three furies, winged infernal goddesses, screech above and summon up Medusa to turn the living person into stone.  Virgil himself covers Dante’s eyes to ensure his safety.  Meanwhile an angel from heaven, unnamed though possibly the archangel Michael,  comes to the pilgrims’ rescue by scattering all the infernal spirits and with a touch of his wand, opens the city gates.  The pilgrims walk in and into the sixth circle, where the sin of heresy is punished, where the heretical souls reside in tombs.  (Canto IX)

The pilgrims walk through the sixth circle in an area where the Epicureans reside, those who only believe the material world exists.  Here they lay in sepulchers with the lids open, laying on a bed of fire until the last judgment.  Suddenly the famous Ghibelline, Farinata delgli Uberti, have rises up out of his tomb to enquire about Dante’s family.  While they discuss the events of Farinata’s life, another soul, Cavalcanti, the father of Dante’s one time best friend and fellow poet, Guido Cavalcanti, sticks his head up from the sepulcher and enquires about his son.  Before Dante can answer him, he sticks his head back down and Farinata finishes his conversation, until he too returns to his bed of fire.  (Canto X)

At the inner edge of the sixth circle, the two pilgrims come across the tomb of Pope Anastasius and move on.  They come to the rim and can sense the stench that comes from below, and so Virgil recommends they stop and get accustomed to the smell before moving down.  While they wait, Virgil describes the structure of hell.  It is divided into three overarching parts; the first part are the sins of incontinence, the first five circles, sins from a lack of control; the second part, those inside the City of Dis are the sins of malice, heresy and violence, circles six and seven.  Finally come the sins of Fraud, which are contained within the eighth and ninth circles.  (Canto XI)


  1. Another good overview. I'd highlight the 'compare and contrast' thing on the fifth (I think) terrace: avarice and prodigality. Dante shows either extreme as a bad idea - - - a balanced view, but a 'hard sell' in some social circles.

    I'm looking forward to your next installment.

    1. Great. I'm glad you're reading along and getting something out of this. This is why I post this blog!