An Explanation of Dante's Hell
A reader encountering The Inferno without any prior knowledge of the relationship between the Greek and Roman cultures can easily be confused by Dante’s design of Hell. In the upper circles of Hell Dante has placed characters whose sins included lust, wrath, and violence; in the lower, more evil circles are sinners who lied, deceived, and committed treason. To modern-day readers, this categorization of evils may seem backwards, but Dante’s Hell is consistent with Roman thought.
The Romans adopted almost their entire civilization from the Greeks, except their notion of sin. The Greeks felt that a violent act against another human being was the worst form of evil. A good example is the Trojan Horse in Homer’s The Iliad. The Greeks exalted the resourcefulness and inventiveness of the Trojan Horse. The Roman idiom hated the Trojan Horse for its deceitfulness. The Romans held deceit and treason as the worst of all evils and felt physical violence was not as harsh. This belief could stem from the fact that the Roman Empire was so strong that it had nothing to fear from physical violence but was always defeated by treason and treachery.
Dante believed in the Roman idea of evil, so his structure of Hell is consistent. There are lesser examples of Dante’s affection for...
(The entire section is 250 words.)
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The Renaissance or the rebirth of learning, began in Italy in the fourteenth century and influenced all of Western civilization. Wealthy families in Italy, such as the Medicis of Florence, were patrons of the arts and sciences. Trade flourished and prosperity thrived throughout much of the country.
In contrast to these positive occurrences, all was not well in Italy during the Renaissance. Rulers of the independent Italian states often fought with each other to establish a large political unit. The Guelph Political party (which favored local authority) and the Ghibelline Political party (which favored imperial authority) were two such rival factions; the two had been at war periodically since the thirteenth century.
Dante’s birth in 1265 came at a time when the Guelph party, favoring local authority, was in control of Florence. Dante turned away from his Guelph heritage to embrace the imperial philosophy of the Ghibellines. His change in politics is best summed up in his treatise De Monarchia, in which Dante states his belief in the separation of church and state. The Ghibellines, however, were pushed from power by the Guelphs during Dante’s adulthood and confined to northern Tuscany.
The Guelph Political party eventually divided into two groups: the Whites (led by the Cerchi family) and the Blacks (led by the...
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Sources for Further Study (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
American Poetry Review. XXIII, September, 1994, p. 43.
Boston Globe. December 25, 1994, p. 16.
Chicago Tribune. February 12, 1995, XIV, p. 5.
Library Journal. CXIX, November 1, 1994, p. 80.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. December 10, 1995, p. 8.
The New York Review of Books. XLII, October 19, 1995, p. 4.
The New York Times Book Review. C, January 1, 1995, p. 7.
The New Yorker. LXX, January 23, 1995, p. 87.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, September 26, 1994, p. 57.
The Sewanee Review. CIII, Summer, 1995, p. lxxxv.
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Canto 1 Questions and Answers
1. What was Virgil’s occupation? When and where did he live?
2. Where did Virgil tell Dante that joy and its beginning could be found?
3. Name the creatures that Dante finds in the woods.
4. Which creature was the most horrible and why?
5. Dante felt fear for many reasons. What were some of these reasons?
6. Why did Dante not know how he got into the woods?
7. What helped Dante to feel hope?
8. What did Virgil say they would see and hear on the journey?
9. Why did Virgil explain that some sufferers were happy in their pain?
10. Virgil said he would guide Dante on a journey but Virgil would have to turn back at one point. Where would Virgil stop with Dante?
1. Virgil was a poet in ancient Rome.
2. Virgil told Dante that joy and its beginning could be found on the mountain.
3. Dante finds a leopard, a lion, and a wolf in the woods.
4. The wolf was the most horrible since it was greedy and never satisfied; it represented sins of age.
5. Dante felt fear from being lost, from being in the woods, from the three creatures he saw, and from the darkness of sin and the night.
6. Dante became lost because he was not paying attention; he strayed farther and farther before he became...
(The entire section is 311 words.)
Canto 2 Questions and Answers
1. With which two other travelers does Dante compare himself unfavorably?
2. Who opposes cruelty?
3. What is Virgil’s impression of Dante’s courage?
4. What happens to Dante’s courage after Virgil talks to him?
5. Who was the heavenly woman who was concerned about Dante?
6. Who was the New Testament Saint who recorded his images of Hell?
7. Who created the character of Aeneas?
8. Who guarded the gates of Heaven?
9. How does Virgil’s courage compare to Dante’s?
10. Why did Virgil decide to try to rescue Dante from his wanderings?
1. Dante compares himself unfavorably with the travelers St. Peter and Aeneas.
2. Lucy (St. Lucia) opposes cruelty of every kind.
3. Virgil sees Dante as a coward.
4. Dante’s courage blossoms like a flower after Virgil talks with him.
5. Beatrice was very concerned about Dante.
6. Paul was the New Testament Saint who recorded his images of Hell.
7. Aeneas was the character created by Virgil.
8. St. Peter guarded the gates of Heaven.
9. Virgil’s courage is initially great in comparison to Dante’s.
10. Beatrice and St. Lucia, the messenger of the Virgin Mary, talked him into the rescue....
(The entire section is 186 words.)
Canto 3 Questions and Answers
1. What was Dante’s first reaction to the wailing?
2. To what does Dante compare the worry that the uncommitted might be missing something?
3. What is the name of the river which circles the rim of Hell?
4. What was the name of the ferryman?
5. Who were the cowards in Canto III?
6. The river’s name is translated as “joyous.” Why is this a good name for the river?
7. The uncommitted had saved their blood all their lives. What was the ultimate result of this act?
8. What is Dante’s initial reaction to the many souls he sees in the Vestibule of Hell?
9. Who are the cowards whom Dante describes?
10. What is Dante’s reaction to the sights and sounds of Hell at the end of Canto III?
1. Dante cried when he heard the sound of the wailing.
2. Dante compared the worry that the uncommitted might be missing something to the sting of wasps and bees.
3. The river was the Acheron.
4. The ferryman was named Charon.
5. The cowards are those who were afraid to make a decision.
6. The river could bring joy because it takes the dead to an area where they have made a conscious decision to travel.
7. They now find their blood spilled by wasps and...
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Canto 4 Questions and Answers
1. Where is Dante when he awakes from his swoon?
2. What causes Dante to wake from his swoon?
3. What causes the thunder Dante heard?
4. What is the sound of the first circumference?
5. Who is in the First Circle?
6. Who are the four mighty shades?
7. Dante says that the group of six dwindles to two. What does he mean?
8. What is the occupation of the “men that know”?
9. Why is the first circle called “Limbo”?
10. Who is the first father that the one with crowns took from the First Circle?
1. Dante is on the brink of the pit when he awakes.
2. Thunder wakes Dante from his swoon.
3. The thunder that Dante hears is the sound of the wails of anguish from the pit.
4. The sound of the first circumference is that of sighing.
5. In the First Circle are those who are blameless but are unbaptized and lived before the days of Christendom.
6. Homer, Horace Ovid and Lucan are the four shadows.
7. Horace, Homer, Ovid, and Lucan stay behind and Virgil and Dante move forward.
8. The men that know are philosophers and teachers.
9. The First Circle is called Limbo because the souls there are neither in Heaven nor in Hell.
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Canto 5 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Francesca’s heart still hurt and ache?
2. How does Dante react to Francesca’s tale?
3. What does Francesca say is the greatest sadness in this place?
4. What is the punishment in this Second Circle?
5. What caused Francesca to commit the sin of lust with Paolo?
6. How did Francesca die?
7. Why does Dante not tell the reader of the trip from Circle One to Circle Two and from Circle Two to Circle Three?
8. What does Minos do?
9. In Canto III and in Canto V Dante refers to will and power being one. Where is this place where will and power are one?
10. What does it mean when Dante says that he is grieved by the way in which the murder of Francesca and Paolo came about?
1. Francesca’s husband murdered her without her having a chance to repent; she will be punished eternally. She will continue to remember the love.
2. Dante cries and swoons with pity at Francesca’s tale.
3. The greatest sadness is to remember the happy times.
4. The punishment in the Second Circle is to drift in the wind and to continue to remember the sin; there is no peace or redemption.
5. Francesca and Paolo were reading of Sir Lancelot and Guinevere when they, too, yielded to sin.
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Canto 6 Questions and Answers
1. What is the atmosphere like in Circle Three?
2. Of what crimes were the souls in Circle Three guilty?
3. From where did the gluttonous soul who talks to Dante and Virgil in Circle Three come?
4. From what city did Dante come?
5. What are the three sparks from Hell sowed in every person’s breast?
6. Who is the great enemy that Dante and Virgil will find at the next descent?
7. What does the word Ciacco mean?
8. Who is the guardian of Circle Three?
9. What were the gluttons eating in Hell?
10. What is the “Enemy Power?”
1. The atmosphere in Circle Three includes rain, sleet, snow, and hail.
2. The souls in Circle Three are guilty of gluttony.
3. The gluttonous soul who spoke with Dante and Virgil was from Florence.
4. Dante was from Florence.
5. The three sparks were Avarice, Envy, and Pride.
6. Pluto will be at the next level down.
7. The word Ciacco means “pig.”
8. The three-headed dog Cerberus was the guardian of Circle Three.
9. The gluttons were eating mud in Hell.
10. The “Enemy Power” is a reference to Christ, the enemy of sin.
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Canto 7 Questions and Answers
1. Who guards the Fourth Circle?
2. What sins have been committed by those in the Fourth Circle?
3. Describe how the squanderers and the hoarders are punished.
4. What is the name of the marsh in the Fourth Circle?
6. How does Dante travel within the Fourth Circle?
7. The Fourth Circle is the last of the circles of Incontinence. What is “incontinence”?
8. What did Virgil and Dante find at the foot of the path and stairs?
9. To whom do nations owe the credit for the amassing great wealth or the blame for not amassing this wealth?
10. Why did Virgil encourage Dante to move more rapidly?
1. Pluto guards the Fourth Circle.
2. The souls in the Fourth Circle are guilty of squandering, hoarding, and wrath.
3. The squanderers and the hoarders are being punished by being forced to push and pull weights with their chests.
4. The name of the marsh is the Styx.
5. The passively wrathful are underneath the mire of the marsh.
6. Dante travels by a path and down stairs.
7. “Incontinence” refers to sins of self-indulgence; these sins imply a lack of will and are sins against the self.
8. Virgil and Dante found a tall tower at the foot of the path and the stairs....
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Canto 8 Questions and Answers
1. Who rows the boat for Dante and Virgil?
2. What is the signal used to send for the oarsman?
3. What does the soul in the mud mean when he asks who is here before his time?
4. Why is the oarsman angry when he sees who has come for a ride?
5. What is the name of the soul in the mud who causes Dante to show anger?
6. What is Dante’s reaction to the pulling and hauling that Filippo Argenti receives?
7. Dante says at one point that his gentle father has left him. To whom is he referring?
8. What is the name of the city at which they arrive?
9. How is Virgil received at the gates of the City of Dis?
10. What does Virgil have to do to gain admittance?
1. Phlegyas rows the boat for Dante and Virgil.
2. The signal that is used to send for the oarsman is two signal lights in the tower.
3. The soul in the mud wants to know who is here in Hell before his death.
4. The oarsman is angry when he sees who has come for a ride because they are not going to be permanent residents of Hell at this time.
5. The soul in the mud is Filippo Argenti, a resident of Florence.
6. Dante thanks and praises God for the pulling and hauling that Filippo Argenti receives from the souls in Hell....
(The entire section is 287 words.)
Canto 9 Questions and Answers
1. From where did Virgil hope to get help?
2. Who is Erichtho?
3. Why had Virgil been in Hell before?
4. Who are the Furies?
5. Who was the queen whom the three goddesses served?
6. Describe Medusa.
7. What are the tombs like near the City of Dis?
8. How does the heavenly messenger open the gate?
9. Why do you think the heavenly messenger spent so little time with Dante and Virgil?
10. Who are the heretics?
1. Virgil hopes to get help from Heaven.
2. Erichtho is a witch.
3. Virgil had been in Hell previously to fetch a spirit from Judas’s circle.
4. The Furies are three goddesses who haunt those who commit certain crimes.
5. The queen is Medusa.
6. Medusa is a queen with serpents for hair; she could turn people to stone if they looked on her.
7. The slabs on the graves have been pushed aside; the fire and souls within can be seen and heard.
8. The heavenly messenger waves a wand over the gate and it opens.
9. The heavenly messenger does not spend much time with Dante and Virgil because he had other duties and because he dislikes Hell.
10. The heretics are those who lie within the open graves and who in life had trusted...
(The entire section is 208 words.)
Canto 10 Questions and Answers
1. Dante addresses the power that “wheels” him. To whom is he referring?
2. What is an Epicurean?
3. Who is the family enemy that Dante encounters in the graveyard?
4. One of the shades inquires of a family member to Dante. About whom does he ask?
5. What does he find out about this family member?
6. With whom does the shade say he is lying in that graveyard?
7. Name the term used to refer to Christ in Canto X?
8. About what do Dante and Farinata argue in Canto X?
9. What is the reference to Beatrice in Canto X?
10. Who is the queen who reigns below?
1. Dante is referring to Virgil.
2. An Epicurean is one who believes that when the body dies the soul dies also.
3. The family enemy that Dante finds in the graveyard is Farinata.
4. The shade asked about his son.
5. When Dante accidentally uses the word felt, he reveals that the shade’s son (Guido) is dead.
6. The shade says that he is lying with thousands, including Frederick II and the Cardinal Ottaviano degli Ubaldini.
7. In Canto X Christ is called the All-Guider.
8. Dante and Farinata argue about the battles fought between their two political parties.
9. The reference to...
(The entire section is 251 words.)
Canto 11 Questions and Answers
1. What sin does Virgil say that people—but not animals—are subject to commit and that God hates worst?
2. In which ring would one find murderers, people who are violent with their hands, and robbers?
3. In which ring would one find those who gamble, waste their money, and rob themselves of goods?
4. What is the sin of Sodom?
5. What is the sin of Cahors?
6. Where would one find flatterers, sorcerers, hypocrites, and cheats?
7. Which is least blameworthy: incontinence, vice, or brute bestiality?
8. What does Dante say will heal all light which was dim?
9. Contempt of art and contempt of Nature are the same, according to Dante, in that they express contempt of whom?
10. What does Dante define as a breach of trust against the confiding?
1. People are subject to commit the sin of fraud but animals cannot. God hates the sin of fraud more than any other sin.
2. In the first ring one would find murders, people who are violent with their hands, and robbers
3. In ring two one would find those who gamble, waste their money, and rob themselves of goods.
4. The sin of Sodom is homosexuality.
5. The sin of Cahors is usury.
6. Flatterers, sorcerers, hypocrites, and cheats are in...
(The entire section is 254 words.)
Canto 12 Questions and Answers
1. Canto XII begins with a reference to a “Thing.” What is this thing? Describe it.
2. What natural disaster or occurrence has happened since Virgil’s trip to that area?
3. Who is the great Prince referred to in the Canto?
4. Who is the prey mentioned in Canto XII?
5. What is a centaur? Who is the leader or chief of the centaurs?
6. What is the task of the centaurs?
7. When they are walking together, Chiron reveals that he is aware of the fact that Dante is still alive. How does he know this?
8. When Chiron asks why Dante is there, how does Virgil respond to him?
9. Who are Nessus and Deianira?
10. At one point Virgil speaks of a woman who told him to bring Dante to Hell. Who is this woman?
1. The “Thing” is a Minotaur with the head of a bull and the body of a man.
2. A landslide has caused a rock to break in two and a wall to split.
3. The great Prince is a reference to Christ.
4. The prey is a reference to those taken from Hell by Christ.
5. A centaur has the head and upper torso of a man; the rest of its body is that of a horse. Chiron is the leader of the centaurs.
6. The centaurs use their bows and arrows to shoot those who try to raise themselves from the...
(The entire section is 283 words.)
Canto 13 Questions and Answers
1. In line 94 a reference is made to Minos. Who is Minos?
2. In line 64 a reference is made to a harlot. Who is this harlot?
3. Why is Dante reluctant to speak to the trees?
4. A reference is made in line 8 to a place between Corveto and Cecina. What does this mean?
5. Canto XIII concludes with a reference to the fact that the shade made a scaffold of his roof-tree. What does this mean?
6. Why does Virgil ask Dante to pluck a small branch or twig from a tree?
7. Describe in detail the Harpies mentioned in Canto XIII.
8. In Canto XIII what comes forth from a tree in the woods if a branch is plucked?
9. What is meant by the phrase that suggests Florence changed her patron for the Baptist?
10. What do the Harpies eat?
1. Minos is a judge in the underworld.
2. The harlot is Envy.
3. Dante’s heart is so filled with pity that he is reluctant to ask further questions.
4. The reference in line 8 is to a place between the River Cecina and the town of Corveto.
5. The one who made a scaffold of his roof-tree had committed suicide by hanging.
6. When Dante cannot decide from where the sounds in the forest are coming from, Virgil asks Dante to pluck from
(The entire section is 284 words.)
Canto 14 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Dante gather the leaves from the ground and place them back near the tree?
2. What is the symbolism of the rain of fire?
3. Who is Capaneus?
4. Who is Cato?
5. What is the name of the mountain?
6. What is the man made from?
7. Which river is able to put out the flames on either side?
8. What is one of the greatest marvels that Virgil tells Dante he will see?
9. Where does Rhea reside?
10. How does Virgil feel about the many questions Dante asked?
1. Dante gathers the leaves because he loves Italy.
2. The rain of fire refers to the words which blaspheme and shower down on others.
3. Capaneus is one who participated in the “Seven against Thebes”; when he insulted the gods and said that he was invincible, he was killed by a lightning bolt.
4. Cato’s complete name is Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger; he was a Roman statesman who opposed the war between Caesar and Pompey but finally took sides with Pompey. After one battle he escaped and marched across the desert. Rather than making peace with Caesar, he committed suicide.
5. The name of the mountain is Ida.
6. The man is made of gold, silver, brass, and iron.
7. the Phlegethon is able to put out...
(The entire section is 253 words.)
Canto 15 Questions and Answers
1. With what does Dante compare the banks of the river as they continue their journey?
2. How long have Dante and Virgil been traveling?
3. Who is Brunetto?
4. How does Brunetto say that Dante can win?
5. What does Dante say that he will do with the words that Brunetto gives him?
6. Who is the wise lady that Dante mentions in the passage?
7. What is the meaning of the words “Well-heeded is well-heard”?
8. Why does the adviser not tell Dante who is in Circle VII?
9. Who is the “Servant of servants”?
10. How does Dante say that he feels about the future?
1. Dante compares the banks of the rivers with the dikes of Flanders and the dikes of Padua, Italy.
2. Dante and Virgil had left on Friday and the daylight of the day is fading. They talk through the dusk and the night until a new day dawns.
3. Brunetto was a former teacher/adviser to Dante.
4. Brunetto says that Dante could win by following his star.
5. Dante says that he will write down the words that Brunetto has shared with him and will give them to a wise lady.
6. The wise lady is a reference to Beatrice.
7. The words mean that what one really hears well is something that one obeys.
(The entire section is 242 words.)
Canto 16 Questions and Answers
1. What does Dante mean when he says that he has to fall to the center?
2. What do the three shades mean when they say that Guillim Borsier’ has “but late enrolled”?
3. How does Dante feel about the three shades and their punishment in Hell?
4. What is the political affiliation of the three shades?
5. How does Virgil say that Dante is to treat the three shades?
6. What are the Acquacheta and the Forli?
7. What does Virgil throw into the water?
8. What are the Apennines?
9. Whom does Jacopo blame for his vice?
10. What is the Comedy that Dante refers to in Canto XVI?
1. When Dante says he has to fall to the center, he means that he has to continue his journey through the pit.
2. The three shades mean that Borsier’ has just come to Hell when they say that he had recently enrolled.
3. Dante feels sadness that the shades are in Hell. His inclination is to keep the fire away even if he had to jump in himself but, of course, he cannot relieve their punishment.
4. The three shades belong to the Guelph party from Florence.
5. Virgil says that Dante is to treat the shades with courtesy.
6. The Acquacheta and the Forli are...
(The entire section is 241 words.)
Canto 17 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Virgil tell Dante to talk with those in the Circles of Fraud?
2. Describe the sounds that Dante hears while riding the creature from the depths.
3. What part of the Geryon does Dante consider dangerous?
4. To what animal does Dante compare the Usurers?
5. What do the Usurers wear about their throats?
6. What is on the purses of the Usurers?
7. What are the faces of the Usurers like? Why are they like that?
8. How do Dante and Virgil get to the next circle?
9. How does Dante feel on the trip to the next circle?
10. Who was Icarus? How does Dante’s fear compare with Icarus’s fear?
1. Virgil wants Dante to learn all he can about this ring.
2. Dante hears the noise of the cataracts to the right and the wails from the pit.
3. The Geryon’s tail is a venomed fork.
4. Dante compares the Usurers to dogs.
5. The Usurers wear purses about their throats.
6. The coats of arms of their families are on the Usurers’ purses.
7. The faces of the Usurers are burned and scarred. The hot ground has burned their faces because they spurned making a living by Nature (or the arts) and concentrated on money lending.
8. Dante and Virgil get to the next...
(The entire section is 267 words.)
Canto 18 Questions and Answers
1. What is Malbowges? Of what is Malbowges made? What is in the middle of Malbowges?
2. Compare and contrast seducers and panders.
3. Why is Alessio Interminei in this place?
5. What is a bowge?
6. Of what sins are those in the first and second parts of Malbowges guilty?
7. How are these seducers being punished?
8. On which side of the road do the sinners walk?
9. How are the flatterers punished?
10. For what sin is the harlot being punished?
1. Malbowges is a region in Hell made of iron-gray stone with a well in the middle.
2. One who lures or stimulates others into sin is a seducer; one who panders may sell or exploit sin.
3. Alessio Interminei is in Malbowges because of his sins of flattery.
4. There are ten parts in Malbowges.
5. A bowge is a trench.
6. Those in the first and second parts of Malbowges are guilty of seduction and flattery.
7. Horned fiends with whips are beating the seducers.
8. Sinners walk on the right side of the road in Malbowges.
9. The flatterers were submerged in dung.
10. The harlot is being punished for the sin of flattery.
(The entire section is 185 words.)
Canto 19 Questions and Answers
1. How does Dante know that Virgil approves of what he says?
2. Who is Simon Magus?
3. Why does Dante break up an area made for the priests to stand in to perform baptisms?
4. What is the punishment of the Simoniacs?
5. What is the punishment of the priests?
6. Who is the priest with whom Dante speaks?
7. For whom does Nicholas III mistake Dante?
8. Who is the “Fairest among Women” that the priests had used poorly?
9. Why does Nicholas III not realize that Dante is not Pope Boniface VIII?
10. Who is the disciple who replaces Judas?
1. Dante knows that Virgil approves of his words because 1) he smiles when Dante speaks and 2) he clasps him to his breast when Dante finishes speaking.
2. Simon Magus had sold holy items for profit.
3. When a child becomes caught in the area made for priests to stand in, Dante breaks up the area.
4. The Simoniacs are head-down in the holes with fire burning their feet.
5. The priests are placed on top of each other in the same hole.
6. The priest with whom Dante speaks is Nicholas III.
7. Nicholas III mistakes Dante for Pope Boniface VIII.
8. The woman whom the priests had used poorly is the Church.
(The entire section is 230 words.)
Canto 20 Questions and Answers
1. Dante mentions the Abyss and the chasm; to what is he referring?
2. What is unusual about the sinners that Dante sees in Canto XX?
3. Amphiaraus tried to look ahead to save his own life; what happens to him when he leaves a battle?
4. What does Tiresias strike with his wand?
5. What happens to Tiresias after he uses his wand the first time in striking these objects?
6. How does Tiresias change himself back after using his wand the first time?
7. What is the crime of the sinners who have their heads turned backwards on their bodies?
8. Who is the daughter of Tiresias?
9. At about what speed do those with their heads twisted on their necks move?
10. On what day of the week do all these events occur?
1. Dante is referring to Hell when he makes mention of the Abyss and the chasm.
2. The sinners have their heads twisted backwards.
3. When Amphiaraus tries to save his own life by leaving a battle, he is killed by an earthquake.
4. Tiresias strikes his wand upon twin and tangled snakes.
5. Upon using his wand to strike the twin and tangled snakes the first time, Tiresias becomes a woman.
6. Tiresias strikes the twin snakes with his wand again to turn back into a man....
(The entire section is 264 words.)
Canto 21 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Virgil pull Dante to one side and cry out?
2. What is a barrator?
3. Why do the barrators remain in the boiling pitch?
4. How does Virgil manage to get by and to help Dante get by the demons?
5. What is the name of the main demon?
6. Describe the appearance of the demons.
7. What caused the earthquake that destroyed the bridge?
8. On what day of the week does the encounter with Belzecue occur?
9. What year did the earthquake occur?
10. What time of day is it as the demons talk with Dante and Virgil?
1. Virgil pulls Dante to one side and cries out because he sees a demon with an alderman in his arms.
2. A barrator is one who makes money through public office; usually undercover deals and secret money-taking is involved in such profit.
3. The barrators remain in the boiling pitch because demons torture them if they emerge.
4. Virgil has Dante hide until he says to come out; Virgil speaks to the demon and explains their presence.
5. The name of the main demon is Belzecue.
6. The demons have wings, high-hunched shoulders, and hideous hooks.
7. The earthquake occurred at the death of Christ.
8. The encounter with Belzecue takes place on...
(The entire section is 222 words.)
Canto 22 Questions and Answers
1. What is the legend of the dolphins mentioned in Canto XXII?
2. What is the reaction of the shades to Barbiger?
3. What is the name of the shade who does not submerge himself?
4. How do Dante and Virgil manage to get rid of their escort?
5. How do the demons punish Gian Polo when they find him out of the pitch?
6. What does Gian Polo promise to bring back from the pit?
7. Gian Polo is from which kingdom?
8. To which animals does Dante compare those in the pitch?
9. From which country does Gian Polo come?
10. What signal do the shades use to tell the others that the coast is clear?
1. The legend mentioned in Canto XXII is that of dolphins’ warning those at sea of storms.
2. The shades are frightened of Barbiger.
3. The shade who does not submerge himself promptly is Gian Polo.
4. Dante and Virgil manage to get rid of their escort when the demons begin to fight among themselves.
5. The demons pull him up on a hook and rip off parts of his body.
6. Gian Polo promises to bring others back from the pit with him.
7. Gian Polo is from the kingdom of Navarre.
8. Dante compares the people in the pit to dolphins and frogs.
9. Gian Polo is from...
(The entire section is 221 words.)
Canto 23 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Dante say that he is particularly frightened of the demons?
2. Is Dante alone in his fear?
3. What is Virgil’s reaction when he sees the demons?
4. Who are the sinners in Circle VIII, Bowge VI?
5. How are they attired?
6. Who is the shade Dante sees crucified?
7. What is the formation that Virgil and Dante take when they resume travel?
8. Who are Catalano and Loderingo?
9. How are the demons able to overtake the two travelers if the travelers have a head start?
10. How long are the hypocrites to wear the cloaks?
1. Dante says that he is particularly frightened that the demons may become angry; because of Virgil and Dante, the demons have been tricked, made fools of, and knocked about. If the element of rage is added, the demons will probably come looking for them.
2. Dante is not alone in his fear; Virgil is also fearful.
3. Virgil becomes protective of Dante when he sees the demons.
4. The sinners in Circle VIII, Bowge VI are the hypocrites.
5. The hypocrites wear brightly colored cloaks lined with lead.
6. The shade who has been crucified is the high priest who had condemned Christ to the crucifixion.
7. Virgil walks ahead and Dante follows in...
(The entire section is 230 words.)
Canto 24 Questions and Answers
1. What is a hind?
2. Describe the relationship between Dante and Virgil.
3. Virgil warns Dante several times to make sure that the rocks he steps on will bear his weight. Dante is not worried about this. Why?
4. What is Virgil’s reaction to Dante’s stopping for breath?
5. What does Dante see in Bowge VII with the sinners?
6. How are the sinners in Bowge VII tied?
7. What is Vanni Fucci’s disposition?
8. Vanni Fucci refers to Mars. Who is Mars?
9. Fucci predicts the defeat of a faction? Which faction is this?
10. Why does Fucci share this prediction with Dante?
1. A hind is a farm assistant.
2. Virgil senses Dante’s concern and smiles at him; Dante feels distress when his master is concerned. Virgil opens his arms to Dante; Virgil’s action shows a love and friendship for Dante.
3. Dante is not worried about rocks bearing his weight because he reasons that if the hypocrites with cloaks of lead can walk on the rocks, his weight should not be a problem.
4. Virgil chastises Dante and urges him to continue moving down the path.
5. Dante sees serpents in Bowge VII with the sinners.
6. The sinners in Bowge VII are tied up with snakes.
7. Vanni Fucci is an...
(The entire section is 239 words.)
Canto 25 Questions and Answers
1. Fucci makes a sign at the beginning of the canto. What kind of sign is this?
2. At whom does Fucci make the gesture?
3. How does Dante feel about Fucci after observing his actions?
4. What does Dante believe is unique about Fucci?
5. What is Maremma?
6. Do you think that Fucci feels remorse for the sins he committed in life?
7. What is Cacus?
8. Where does Cacus live?
9. What does the term metamorphosis mean?
10. How does Dante recognize Puccio?
1. Fucci makes a rude gesture at the beginning of the canto.
2. Fucci makes the gesture at God.
3. Dante dislikes Fucci intensely and does not regret that he is being punished.
4. Dante believes that Fucci is the most defiant spirit against God he has ever seen.
5. Maremma is a swampy area near Tuscany.
6. Fucci’s actions in Hell do not indicate that he is a changed person so he evidently does not feel remorse; he seems sorry that he is caught.
7. Cacus is a dragon with spread wings and fiery breath.
8. Cacus lives beneath the high rock of Mount Aventine.
9. A metamorphosis is a change from one creature to another.
10. Dante recognizes Puccio because he limps.
(The entire section is 194 words.)
Canto 26 Questions and Answers
1. Dante begins Canto XXVI with irony. Describe this irony.
2. How are the Counselors of Fraud punished?
3. What does Virgil think of Dante’s desire to speak to the flame?
4. Does Dante get to ask his questions?
5. Who is the flame who tells them of his travels?
6. What was the Palladium?
7. How was Eteocles killed?
8. What was unusual about the funeral pyre of Eteocles and his brother?
9. How was Ulysses killed?
10. What is the name of Deidamia’s son?
1. Dante says for Florence to rejoice because it is so well known—in Hell.
2. The Counselors of Fraud are punished by the fire burning above their heads, through which they must speak.
3. Virgil thinks that Dante’s wish is worthy of high praise and in no way wrong.
4. Virgil reads Dante’s thoughts and asks the questions for Dante.
5. The flame who tells them of his travels is Ulysses.
6. The Palladium was the statue of Troy, on which the safety of the city was to depend.
7. Eteocles and his brother killed each other in battle.
8. After their death, Eteocles’s and his brother’s bodies were placed on a funeral pyre; the flames stayed separate and would not united even in death.
(The entire section is 221 words.)
Canto 27 Questions and Answers
1. For what does the tall flame have to wait before it can pass on to another place?
2. What was the purpose of the Sicilian bull?
3. What is meant by the statement that uncontrite is unabsolved?
4. What is the occupation of the shade before he became a friar?
5. Who is the shade who asks of conditions on earth in this canto?
6. Why does the shade reveal his identity to Dante?
7. What does Dante tell him of the condition of Romagna?
8. Why is the shade present in Bowge VIII?
9. The shade says it was brought to Minos. Who is Minos?
10. Why had Constantine sought Silvester, according to the shade?
1. The tall flame has to wait for Virgil’s permission before it can pass on to another place.
2. The Sicilian bull was used to roast its victims alive.
3. If one is not sorry (uncontrite), one is not forgiven (unabsolved).
4. Before the habit, the shade was a man of arms, a soldier, a Cordelier.
5. The shade is a great Ghibelline leader by the name of Guido da Montefeltro.
6. The shade reveals his identity to Dante because he does not believe that Dante will return to earth.
7. Romagna, Dante tells him, has no open strife at the time, but there is...
(The entire section is 243 words.)
Canto 28 Questions and Answers
1. What is the punishment of the Sowers of Discord?
2. Who is Absalom?
3. Who is Bertrand de Born?
4. Why does Virgil say that Dante is in Hell?
5. What advice does the outcast give to Caesar?
6. What is the outcast’s punishment for giving ill advice to Caesar and for creating discord?
7. How is the outcast able to speak?
8. Which type of discord does Bertrand represent?
9. Which type of discord does Mahomet represent?
10. Which type of discord does Curio represent?
1. The Sowers of Discord received bodily injury specific to their crimes for their actions.
2. Absalom was David’s son; David was King of Israel.
3. Bertrand de Born is the shade with his head in his hand. He is guilty of starting the quarrel between Henry II and his son.
4. Virgil says that Dante is in Hell to find “full experience of the Way.”
5. The outcast told Caesar that delays were dangerous and he gives the sign for the civil strife to start.
6. The outcast had his tongue cut from his mouth because of the ill advice he had given to Caesar and for having created discord.
7. The outcast is able to speak because he puts his head on his body.
8. Bertrand is guilty of having...
(The entire section is 225 words.)
Canto 29 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Dante spend time observing the people in the Ninth Trench?
2. What does Virgil say that his business is in Hell?
3. Why is Aretine being punished in Hell?
4. What is the punishment for falsifying?
5. How large is the fosse, according to Canto XXIX?
6. According to the myth, how did Jupiter repopulate the island of Aegina?
7. According to the myth, why did Jupiter have to repopulate the island of Aegina?
8. What was the “joke” that Aretine had told Albero of Siena?
9. How did Albero punish Aretine?
10. What are some examples of falsifying?
1. Dante spends time observing the people in the Ninth Trench because he is looking for a kinsman.
2. Virgil says that his business in Hell is to show Dante what Hell is like.
3. Aretine is being punished for the crime of alchemy.
4. The sin of falsifying is punished by disease.
5. The fosse is 22 miles round.
6. Jupiter repopulated the island of Aegina with ants.
7. Jupiter had to repopulate the island of Aegina because Juno had sent pestilence which destroyed the people of the island of Aegina.
8. The “joke” that Aretine had told to Albero of Siena was that he could take wings and could fly....
(The entire section is 233 words.)
Canto 30 Questions and Answers
1. What is Dante doing when Virgil reprimands him?
2. What is Dante’s reaction to Virgil’s reprimand?
3. What images of falsifiers are found in Bowge X?
4. In Canto XXX about what does the Greek lie?
5. Whose image is on the counterfeit coins in Canto XXX?
6. How did Hecuba kill herself?
7. What is the sin of Myrrha?
8. What is the sin of Gianni Schicchi?
9. Who is Capocchio?
10. What did Juno send to Athamas for revenge?
1. Dante is watching the sinners and listening intently to what they say when Virgil reprimanded him.
2. Virgil’s reprimand of Dante brings Dante shame.
3. In Bowge X are falsifiers of person, of words, and of money.
4. The Greek that Dante describes in Canto XXX had lied about the wooden horse that the Greeks used to hide soldiers when they took the horse into the walls of Troy.
5. In Canto XXX the image of John the Baptist is on the counterfeit coins.
6. Hecuba killed herself by drowning.
7. Myrrha’s sin was that she lay with her own father.
8. Schicchi’s sin was that he dressed as another and dictated a will.
9. Capocchio had been the student-friend of Dante.
10. Juno sent madness to Athamas for...
(The entire section is 201 words.)
Canto 31 Questions and Answers
1. What does Virgil say causes Dante not to see well?
2. What are the towers that Dante thinks he sees?
3. What does Dante think about nature’s decision to discontinue the giants?
4. How large (using the measurement of hands) is the giant from the place where the mantle is buckled to the ground?
5. Who is Ephialtes?
6. What is the punishment of Ephialtes?
7. Who is Nimrod?
8. What is the duty of Antaeus?
9. Who is the military leader that Scipio causes to retreat?
10. What is Carisenda?
1. Virgil says that the fog has caused Dante not to see well.
2. The towers that Dante thinks he sees are actually giants.
3. Dante says that nature’s decision to discontinue the giants is a wise one because persons of regular size cannot protect themselves against such large creatures, which also have some intelligence.
4. From the place where the giant’s mantle is buckled downward in hands is a full 30 hands.
5. Ephialtes is the giant who had fought against Jove.
6. The punishment of Ephialtes is that he remain in chains because of his attack on Jove.
7. Nimrod is the giant who is responsible for the many languages on the earth.
8. Antaeus is the giant who...
(The entire section is 236 words.)
Canto 32 Questions and Answers
1. What is the temperature like in Region ii?
2. What does Dante find in the lake beneath him?
3. What is Region ii called?
4. In Canto XXXII what is one of the shades eating that causes Dante horror?
5. One of the shades would not tell his name. How is Dante able to learn his name?
6. What is unusual about the tears of the shades in Region i?
7. Whose sin is more severe: traitors to country or traitors to kin?
8. What about the location of that sin in Hell enables one to know the answer to question 7?
9. Where does the land of Caina get its name?
10. Bocca tells Dante the names of others in the region. What does this tell you about Bocca’s repentance?
1. The temperature in Region ii is extremely cold.
2. Dante finds the heads and faces of shades in the lake beneath him.
3. Region ii is called Antenora.
4. One of the shades in the region is eating the man beside him.
5. Another shade calls the name of the shade unknown to Dante and Dante is able to learn the shade’s name.
6. The tears of the shades in Region i are frozen.
7. The sin of being unfaithful to one’s kin is not as severe as the sin of being unfaithful to one’s country.
(The entire section is 291 words.)
Canto 33 Questions and Answers
1. Why does the sinner speak to explain his ugly feast?
2. Which of the shades is Count Ugolino?
3. What is the occupation of the shade who is being eaten?
4. How had Count Ugolino died?
5. What relation to Count Ugolino were the four who died, according to the canto?
6. What is the day when Dante visits the lowest area of Hell?
7. What promise does Dante fail to keep?
8. What was the dreadful den in which Ugolino died?
9. What is the name given the dreadful den after Ugolino was found?
10. Who was Anselm?
1. The sinner tells his story to shame the one who had sinned against him.
2. Count Ugolino is the shade who was feasting on the head of the other.
3. The shade who was being eaten was an archbishop.
4. Count Ugolino had died of famine.
5. The four who died with Count Ugolino were his sons, according to the canto.
6. The day on which Dante visits the lowest realms of Hell is Saturday.
7. Dante refuses to open the eyes of the shade.
8. Ugolino’s dreadful den is a tower.
9. The dreadful tower, or den, is called the Tower of Famine after Count Ugolino and his sons were found dead.
10. Anselm was the youngest son of Count...
(The entire section is 216 words.)
Canto 34 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Dante not describe all the sights he sees in Canto XXXIV?
2. What name does Dante give Satan in Canto XXXIV?
3. How does Satan’s size compare with that of the giants?
4. How are Dante and Virgil able to climb out of the pit?
5. What is the sin of Iscariot?
6. What is Satan doing to the sinners in Region iv?
7. What is the name of Region iv?
8. Name one of the shades that Satan is devouring.
9. Dante says that he grasps the hair of the Worm. To what is he referring?
10. Dante refers to Lucifer in Canto XXXIV. Who is Lucifer?
1. Dante does not have the words to describe all the sights he sees in Canto XXXIV.
2. Dante calls Satan Dis in Canto XXXIV.
3. Satan is taller than the giants; they come only to his armpits.
4. Dante and Virgil are able to climb out of the pit by climbing up Satan’s body.
5. Iscariot had betrayed Jesus his Lord.
6. Satan is devouring the sinners in Region iv.
7. The name of Region iv is Judecca.
8. The shades that Satan is devouring are Cassius, Brutus, and Judas.
9. The hair of the Worm is a reference to the body of Satan.
10. Lucifer is another name for Satan.
(The entire section is 208 words.)
Bibliography and Further Reading
Some quotations from Dante's Inferno were taken from the following translation: The Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Cantica I: Hell. Translated by Dorothy L. Sayers. New York: Penguin Books, 1949. In addition, Sayer's introduction was indispensable to this study.
Anderson, William. Dante the Maker. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980.
Auerbach, Erich. Dante: Poet of the Secular World. Translated by R. Manheim. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.
Ayearst, Morley. "Divine Comedy." Merit Students Encyclopedia. Chicago: Crowell-Collier Educational Corp., 1969, p. 28.
Bergin, Thomas. "Dante Alighieri." Encyclopedia Americana. Danbury, CT: Grolier, Inc., 1989, pp. 487-490.
———. "Dante Alighieri." Merit Students Encyclopedia. Chicago: Crowell-Collier Educational Corp., 1969, p. 444.
Boyde, Patrick. Human Vices and Human Worth in Dante's Comedy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Cogan, Marc. The Design in Wax: The Structure of the Divine Comedy and Its Meaning. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999.
Dante (Alighieri). Dante's Inferno: The Indiana Critical Edition. Translated by Mark Musa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
(The entire section is 331 words.)