Study Guide

Dante's Inferno

by Dante Alighieri

Dante's Inferno Analysis

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 Roman culture, such as his spelling “Odysseus” with its Latin form, “Ulysses.” Although it may not fit contemporary views of evil, Dante’s Hell is consistent with the Roman ideas of sin.

Dante's Inferno Historical Background

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 Donati family and later aided by Pope Boniface VIII). Dante became a member of the Whites and served as an ambassador to talk with the Pope in Rome about conditions in Florence. While Dante was out of town, the Blacks took over Florence. The Blacks sentenced Dante to banishment from the city; his punishment for return would be death. His wanderings gave him time to write and to study the Scriptures. This banishment also gave Dante his perspective on the corruption of the fourteenth century papacy, a view that he would clearly describe in The Inferno.

In the year 1310, Henry VII became Holy Roman Emperor; Dante believed that this German prince would bring peace. But Henry VII died in 1313 and his Italian campaign collapsed. Dante became disillusioned and left the political life; he ceased work on other materials he had begun and concentrated on The Divine Comedy.

Dante's Inferno Analysis (Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

Any new English translation of Dante’s allegorical poem on life, death, and redemption needs to justify itself immediately and to support its claim to existence consistently, since the versions in print are many and varied. Scholars have relied upon the six-volume major edition of La divina commedia (c. 1320; The Divine Comedy) by Charles S. Singleton, which contains the Italian text, full commentary, and English translation, since its appearance in 1970. The three-volume prose translation of the entire poem with précis for each canto and notes by John D. Sinclair first appeared in 1939; it remains available in paperback, has an Italian text on facing pages, and is relatively inexpensive. The Penguin edition begun by the celebrated mystery novelist Dorothy L. Sayers during World War II appeared in its first installment, the Hell canticle, in 1949. Barbara Reynolds completed the Paradiso canticle in 1962, following Sayers’ death. This version, in three paperback volumes, includes an English translation that attempts to reproduce the idiom of Dante’s terza rima (rhymed tercet) form and offers a full commentary. Those who know Dante’s Italian perennially discover humor in Sayers’ Anglicizations, though many who first came to love Dante’s poem through the Sayers version retain an affection for it; it has reliable notes and good diagrams and is the least expensive edition suitable for students.

English translators have tested their mettle on Dante’s allegory since at least 1802, but the problem that afflicts all translations to some degree can become serious when the translators are themselves primarily either poets or creative writers. Such individuals are predisposed by creative impulse to express their own vision of Dante’s distinctiveness rather than to create in English the tone of the Italian text. John Dryden’s translations of the classical poets are, to take an extreme example, inevitably more poems by Dryden than renderings of an original text.

Even so, and despite the odds, Robert Pinsky’s translation of the Infernosucceeds admirably. Perhaps this is because he is an academic as well as a poet, but it is also likely that the nature of his own verse lends itself to the confessional yet universal nature of Dante’s allegory. Pinsky’s verse collections, An Explanation of America (1979), History of My Heart(1984), and The Want Bone (1990), are essentially confessional explorations of the self upon which the poet projects a universal dimension. Perhaps this element in his own creative work predisposes him to see that writing, and for that matter translating, allegory as complex as Dante’s corresponds directly to the difficulty of the journey the Pilgrim undertakes. Dante as pilgrim and poet are the same man, yet the poet must successfully complete a technical feat (rendering the ineffable nature of divinity in vernacular and finite language) even as the Pilgrim needs to finish a course never completed by any living person (a journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven). In essence, Pinsky recognizes that the progress of the Pilgrim corresponds directly to the progress of the poet.

John Freccero, the eminent American Dantist who holds the chair in Italian studies at Stanford University, originated this confessional approach to Dante’s poem, and it is to Freccero that Pinsky turns for the foreword that accompanies the translation. Unlike many prefatory essays, which are simply endorsements of a text, Freccero’s is a masterful overview of his own approach to the entire poem, yet he writes in a style suitable for general readers. Before its appearance in Pinsky’s volume, readers could find such guidance only in Freccero’s articles, collected under the title Dante: The Poetics of Conversion (1986). Any reader who would fully appreciate Pinsky’s translation must begin by reading Freccero’s essay.

A further comment on the format of the book concerns the thirty-six illustrations by Michael Mazur, which begin on the endpapers and as the frontispiece, then continue at the beginning of each of the thirty-four cantos. These appear as black-and-white washes, are expressionist in overall style, and are either representational or simply evocative of the cantos they introduce. Black and white implies the interiority and exteriority that cohabit Dante’s allegory. Mazur often does not concern himself with illustrating particular scenes of the canticle, as had Gustave Doré, or with presenting his own cosmology, as had William Blake, so much as with suggesting states of mind appropriate to pilgrim, to poet, and, not least, to reader.

It is, in fact, slighting to call Mazur’s drawings illustrations, since they do not attempt to control the reader’s perception. An inspired use of Mazur’s work appears at canto XI, as the Pilgrim is about to enter the first ring of Hell’s seventh circle. Mazur’s drawing merely suggests from bird’s-eye view the circles that the Pilgrim has traversed and those that lay ahead. The following page reproduces Mazur’s black-and-white wash in gray with a definite schema of Hell’s topography superimposed. What had been suggestive thereby becomes informatively narrative.

Notes by Nicole Pinsky appear at the conclusion of the volume. These are brief when compared to the scholarly editions, but this is an asset given the requirements of general readers.

Ultimately, though, the success of Pinsky’s volume rests with the words the poet-translator uses to express the words of the poet-pilgrim. Pinsky supplies the Italian text on facing pages and remains remarkably literal, yet translates with admirable skill. He commendably resists full English rhyme in his rendering of the aba, bcb terza rima, employing half rhyme in the first and third lines of the tercets when full rhyme would lack grace. Strong rhyme would turn Dante’s verse into doggerel or create patter-songs like those of W. S. Gilbert’s libretti.

Pinsky’s rendering of the familiar lines that begin canto I illustrates his sensitivity to the confessional nature of Dante’s verse. Having completed his journey, the Pilgrim announces his intention to attempt a re-creation of the man he had been when he had first awakened in the Dark Wood.

Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell
About those woods is hard—so tangled and rough

And savage that thinking of it now, I feel

The old fear stirring: death is hardly more bitter.
And yet, to treat the good I found there as well

I’ll tell what I saw, though how I came to enter

I cannot well say, being so full of sleep
Whatever moment it was I began to blunder

Off the true path.

Pinsky carefully establishes the complementary duality that exists between the difficulty of the journey itself and the difficulty of rendering an accurate account of it. The fear is simultaneously from recollection of near spiritual disaster, the treacherous process itself, and the possible inadequacy of conveying the experience. The good the Pilgrim finds exists not only in Heaven but also in the divine justice that creates Hell and Purgatory. The poet recognizes comparable good in re-creating the experience for its universal value. This sense of divine justice is so strong in Dante’s poem that it admits of degrees of damnation and salvation appropriate to each of the damned and saved. Primal love impels both pilgrim and poet, the former realizing this in the beatific vision of Heaven, the latter in conveying the process of conversion.

The hierarchies of damnation and redemption that inform Dante’s cosmology derive from Plotinus, as articulated in the writings of Saint Augustine. Pinsky calls Hell’s circles “tangled . . . rough and savage,” but they resolve themselves into the ordered spheres of Heaven once the Pilgrim, guided by his pre-Christian predecessor poet Virgil, sorts out an appropriate path and makes the Plotinian leap from the dross of Hell and Purgatory to the infinite bliss of Heaven. Correspondingly, it is the paradoxical task of the poet to free himself from the heavy chains of linguistic signification that allegory imposes even as he continues to write allegory to his poem’s end in Paradise. If one understands the daunting nature of the task imposed upon pilgrim and poet, one can appreciate the trepidation with which any translator must approach Dante’s poem.

Dante’s Virgil, identifiable with the Roman poet of the first century b.c.e. Publius Vergilius Maro, did not have to surmount the challenge to linguistic signification that a journey to Heaven imposes. His poem, The Aeneid (c. 19 b.c.e.), brings its hero through the pre-Christian underworld. Though it uses the city as an exponential metaphor, as doesLa divina commediaThe Aeneid is essentially a poem that emphasizes the dolor (sorrow) inherent in loss. Aeneas can realize love only in its defective, transient state; hence he loses his wife Creusa, his beloved Dido, his father Anchises, his protégé Pallas, and, indeed, Troy itself. Hence Virgil cannot accompany the Pilgrim through Heaven or provide the poet with an exemplar poem to serve as inspiration for the final canticle. Pinsky’s translation, despite all of its virtues, remains at the end of The Inferno a work that is comparably incomplete.

Dante conceives his Hell as a medieval city, but its topography is inverted. It is la città dolente (the sorrowing city), but it is without the happy dolor of fond memory one can find in The Aeneid. When one sympathizes with the plights of various sinners, the sympathy arises from the tragic nature of their commedia (condition, situation). In canto V, for example, in the circle of the lustful, the Pilgrim and reader pity Paolo and Francesca. Their adultery was prompted by Francesca’s proxy marriage to a hunchback but more by their reading of the story of Lancelot and Guinevere. Francesca tells the Pilgrim the story of their entrapment and murder, but she does so without emotion. Pinsky’s translation captures the Pilgrim’s regret

“that sweet conceptions and passion so deep
Should bring them here!” Then, looking up toward
The lovers [he says]: “Francesca, your suffering makes me weep
For sorrow and pity.”

Their adultery has placed Paolo and Francesca in a single flame, yet is this not as much an everlasting memorial to their passion, an eternal consummation, as a punishment for their sin? Divine justice damns Paolo and Francesca as it must, but it also recognizes the circumstances of their adultery.

A parallel example appears in canto XIII, the forest of the suicides. At Virgil’s suggestion, the Pilgrim breaks a branch from a thornbush, only to discover that the bush is the bodily form of Pier della Vigna, once a highly trusted adviser of Frederick II, but falsely accused of treason. In disgrace, della Vigna committed suicide. Again, Pinsky places the burden of regret with the Pilgrim as he hears a moan and the words “Why do you break me? . . ./ Why have you torn me? Have you no pity, then?” The Pilgrim does feel compassion, for he sees in della Vigna’s situation the elements of cruelty, treachery, meanness, and tragedy that touch the lives of most human beings. When the Harpies have done even more damage to the limbs of the suicides, the Pilgrim, “compelled by the love I bear my native place,” gathers the branches and returns them to the broken della Vigna. In doing so, he explicitly recalls the love he bears for Florence, the city that had unjustly accused him of treason and forced him into exile.

Hell’s sinners endure environments that range from the fire of passion-inspired sin to the ice of sin that is premeditated and employs treachery. Increasing moral disorder is the element that characterizes the entire place. Satan is himself packed in ice, and he resides in Hell’s frozen arxwith Brutus and Judas Iscariot, the betrayers of Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ, in either hand. The landscape is bizarre indeed, yet it is entirely appropriate to the human condition.

Sources for Further Study

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.

Dante's Inferno Quizzes

Canto 1 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

(The entire section is 311 words.)

Canto 2 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

...

(The entire section is 186 words.)

Canto 3 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

...

(The entire section is 265 words.)

Canto 4 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. Dante...

(The entire section is 211 words.)

Canto 5 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?...

(The entire section is 333 words.)

Canto 6 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?”

...

(The entire section is 182 words.)

Canto 7 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

(The entire section is 248 words.)

Canto 8 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

(The entire section is 287 words.)

Canto 9 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. Virgil hopes to get help from Heaven.

2. Erichtho is a witch.

3. Virgil had...

(The entire section is 208 words.)

Canto 10 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

(The entire section is 251 words.)

Canto 11 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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....

(The entire section is 254 words.)

Canto 12 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?...

(The entire section is 283 words.)

Canto 13 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

(The entire section is 284 words.)

Canto 14 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. Dante gathers the leaves because he loves...

(The entire section is 253 words.)

Canto 15 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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 entire section is 242 words.)

Canto 16 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

(The entire section is 241 words.)

Canto 17 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

(The entire section is 267 words.)

Canto 18 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. Malbowges is a region in Hell made of iron-gray stone with a well in the middle.

2. One who lures or...

(The entire section is 185 words.)

Canto 19 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

...

(The entire section is 230 words.)

Canto 20 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?...

(The entire section is 264 words.)

Canto 21 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

...

(The entire section is 222 words.)

Canto 22 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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 entire section is 221 words.)

Canto 23 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

...

(The entire section is 230 words.)

Canto 24 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

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Canto 25 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. Fucci makes a rude gesture at the beginning of...

(The entire section is 194 words.)

Canto 26 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. Dante says for Florence to rejoice because it is...

(The entire section is 221 words.)

Canto 27 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

(The entire section is 243 words.)

Canto 28 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. The Sowers of Discord received bodily...

(The entire section is 225 words.)

Canto 29 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

(The entire section is 233 words.)

Canto 30 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. Dante is watching the sinners and listening intently to what they say when...

(The entire section is 201 words.)

Canto 31 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. Virgil says that...

(The entire section is 236 words.)

Canto 32 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

...

(The entire section is 291 words.)

Canto 33 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
...

(The entire section is 216 words.)

Canto 34 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

...

(The entire section is 208 words.)