Summary Of Dante

’s Inferno Essay, Research Paper

Part One – Sins of Incontinence (She-Wolf)

(excepting, of course, the first circle)

Circle One- Virtuous Pagans and Unbaptized Children (Limbo)

This circle is a grassy field illuminated by the light of human reason. Here reside the great poets of antiquity, whom Dante envies greatly. The only pain of the people here is that they have no hope.

Circle Two- Lustful Persons (The Carnal)

Those who reside here gave themselves up to their passions. They swirl in an eternal wind (lust) through murky air (beclouding of their reason by passion.) Since this is a sin associated with love, it is the least serious sin. Even some more serious sins, motivated by love or passion can be ?pled down? to this level. Lancelot and the courtly lovers of the middle ages are punished here, as are, of course, Francesca and Paola.

Circle Three- Gluttons (The Gluttons)

Putrefaction and other forms of human waste fall from the sky, and the glutinous spirits lie in the waste they produced during their lives. As they consumed, they are consumed by Cerberus, the dog of Hell. Dante has a long conversation here with Ciacco the hog.

Circle Four- Selfish People (The Hoarders and Wasters)

Since these people lacked moderation during their own lives, they are condemned to carry immoderate weights upon their chests. There are two divisions within the circle: those who kept everything for themselves, and those who wasted what they had. Symbolic of their actions during life, they stand in a great crowd, pushing huge lead weights around. No one here is recognizable, since their greed and extravagance has made them indistinguishable from each other.

Circle Five- Mean People (The Wrathful and Sullen)

Again, there are two divisions with this circle. The first, the wrathful, run around the swamp of the river Styx, attacking each other furiously. The sullen are entombed beneath the mud. They chant eternally an infernal hymn, which admits their sin of grumpiness.


(not really a sin of any of the evil aminals)

Circle Six- Deniers of God (The Heretics)

This is just inside the walls of Dis, the city of Hell. It is a great cemetery where those who denied the eternal life of Heaven and God are buried in fiery crypts. Epicurus, his followers, and Pope Anastasius reside here. The burning cemetery is guarded by the Rebellious Angels, and the reasoning behind their positioning here is obvious.

Part Two – Sins of Violence (Lion)

Circle Seven – Violent People (The Violent and Bestial)

Round One: Violent Against your neighbor

People who made war against their neighbors, other countries, or other large groups of people, as well as highwaymen and mass murderers reside here, submerged eternally in boiling blood, just as they wallowed in blood during life. If they rise up too far out of the blood, the guarding Centaurs stick them full of arrows. Naturally, great generals – Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, probably Genghis Kahn – are here.

Round Two: Violent Against yourself

Suicides are here, their souls encased in thorny trees. Since these people could only express themselves in life through the shedding of their own blood, they are only allowed to speak while bleeding. Harpies, birds who defile all they touch, rip and tear the plants through eternity. This is also symbolic, since the suicides defiled their own bodies through their self-mutilation.

Round Three: Against God, Nature, and Art

Blasphemers (sinners against God,) homosexuals (sinners against Nature,) and usurers (sinners against Art [in Dante?s day, another word for industry]) all reside here. This round is a large stretch of open sand. The sand is burning, and flaming rain falls from the sky. Blasphemers, the worst of the three, are stretched out upon the sand, and bear the brunt of the rain. Sodomites (homosexuals, who broke down the order of Nature, God?s child) run in circles for eternity. Those who practice usury, the least serious sin of these three (a sin against Art, the child of Nature, and therefore, the grandchild of God) are allowed to huddle in the sand, though they have to stare eternally at a purse around their neck. The sand here represents sterility (as these are all inherently sterile sins) and the rain, wrath.

Part Three – Sins of Fraud (Leopard)

Circle Eight- Frauds (The Fraudulent and Malicious)

In the eighth circle, there are ten mini-circles. Each contains a different type of sinner, and each is punished differently. However, they are all under the same category: those who committed simple fraud.

Bolgia One: Panderers and Seducers

In the first ditch, those who drove others on in life are forced to march for eternity, driven on by demons with huge whips. Jason of the Argonauts, from Greek mythology, is here.

Bolgia Two: Flatterers

Here, people who flattered others in life are sunk for eternity in the true value of their flatteries: poop (for lack of a better word.)

Bolgia Three: Simoniacs

In life, church officials who sold church offices and favors for money are held upside-down in mock baptismal fonts, with fire replacing water. As new sinners come, the residents are bumped down into the fiery rock to make room. The popes come here often, and the current resident is Nicholas III.

Bolgia Four: Fortune Tellers and Diviners

Tiresias, as well as others who tried to look into the future, have their heads turned and can only walk backwards. This is because they always looked forward, and used means forbidden by God, and they always tried to live in the future instead of the present. So, the can only move backwards. Even their backwards sight is blinded by tears.

Bolgia Five: Grafters

The stickiness of the grafter?s fingers is represented here by the boiling pitch they are submerged in eternally. Grafters, who tore funds from others, via embezzlement or other means, are ripped by demons if they come up too high out of the boiling pitch.

Bolgia Six: Hypocrites

Since hypocrites appear to be brilliant on the outside, their robes are gilded on the outside, but the terrible burden on their souls is apparent; inside, the robes are made of lead. The hypocrites march in a circle unceasingly. All of them walk over the body of the crucified Caiaphas, the greatest hypocrite in the world. As Christ bore the weight of the world?s sins through his crucifixion, Caiaphas bears the world?s hypocrisy. Caiaphas was the chief priest of the Jews who wanted Jesus crucified in the name of convenience, to make an example of him.

Bolgia Seven: Thieves

Thievery is reptilian in it?s secrecy; so the thieves of earth are tormented by reptiles. Upon being struck by one, they burst into flame and slowly reform, painfully. Other reptiles transform sinners into reptiles, and they cannot change back until they touch another sinner. In this way, the thieves are condemned to steal each other?s forms for eternity.

Bolgia Eight: Evil Counselors

Since these people obscured their true agendas in life, they are obscured (and burned) by large tongues of flame (the tongue of flame being a play on the fact that they used their own tongues for their sins.) Odysseus, hero of the Iliad and Odyssey is here, as is the record of his last adventure.

Bolgia Nine: Sowers of Discord

There are three categories of sinners in this bolgia: sowers of religious discord, sowers of political discord, and, finally, sowers of discord between kinsmen. They all march in a circle, and take turns being cut open by a demon with a huge sword. As they make their way around the circle, they are healed, slowly and painfully. Mohammed is the chief sinner here, and each trip around he is cut completely in two. His son and successor, Ali Bakr, is also here, cleft from head to tummy.

Bolgia Ten: The Falsifiers

People who fooled other?s senses have their own senses assailed for eternity. They are bombarded by stench, thirst, filth, disease, noise, and are attacked by demons. Basically, they are subject to the sum of the world?s corruptions. There are four classes of sinners here. The first is the alchemists, who tried to use false methods to create materials, and usually faked the results. Next are those who impersonated others. In Hell, they run without end, preying on others, and they themselves being preyed upon. They change form constantly, just as they did on earth. The third class, the counterfeiters, have an especially bad case of eternal thirst. Finally, there is the fourth class, the false witnesses.

Central Pit of Malebolge (The Titans)

Here, the great giants of antiquity, who were unbalanced by love or compassion, are chained to the ground, guarding the well that leads downward to the plain of the Ninth Circle.

Circle Nine- Really Bad Fraud (Compound Fraud)

Round One: Treacherous to Kin

Those who betrayed blood ties are frozen up to their shoulders in the Lake of Hell, allowed to bow there heads to the wind the blows from Satan?s wings.

Round Two: Treacherous to Country

People who sold out on their countries are frozen up to their necks, unable to move their heads.

Round Three: Treacherous to Guests and Hosts

Violators of the bonds of hospitality have ice up over half their face; their tears freeze in their eyes, forming a crystal sheet over their face. This sin is so great that the body leaves the soul before the body even dies. The soul comes here, and the body is inhabited by a demon.

Round Four: Treacherous to their Masters

Those who killed or otherwise betrayed their masters are submerged completely in the ice, their bodies distorted into strange positions.

The Center- Satan

Finally, here rests Satan, frozen in the center of the Lake of Hell, to which flow all the rivers of guilt. His eternally beating wings freeze the waters of the Ninth Circle, holding him and the sinners in. In his three multi-colored mouths are those who committed the worst sins of betrayal: Judas, Cassius, and Brutus. They are torn by his teeth for eternity.


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