eNotes Lesson Plan
Introductory Lecture and Objectives
The Inferno is one-third of the Divine Comedy, the masterpiece epic poem by Dante Alighieri. The Inferno is a vivid series of cautionary tales drawn from Biblical and classical figures and from Dante’s Italian contemporaries. Dante’s title for his work was Commedia or “Comedy”; the word “Divine” was added after Dante’s death. In medieval literature, the term “comedy” refers not to humor but simply to a tale with a happy ending. The three parts, or canticles, of the Divine Comedy—Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso—describe Dante’s fictional journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, the three realms of the Catholic afterlife. The Inferno is the most widely read of the three canticles; it is as expansive in its verse as it is fascinating in its orderly ranking of sins and horrific images of Hell.
Dante wrote the Divine Comedy in his Tuscan dialect of vernacular Italian instead of in Latin, which was the accepted literary language of his time. For his verse he chose terza rima or “third rhyme,” with three-line stanzas in which the rhymes extend into the next stanza. The rhyme scheme has the pattern a-b-a, b-c-b, c-d-c, and so on. The Divine Comedy represents the first known use of terza rima. Dante’s choice of the three-line stanza is thought to pay homage to the Christian Holy Trinity. He made use of the holy number three in other ways, too. The Divine Comedy has three canticles composed of thirty-three cantos each, with one extra introductory canto at the beginning of the Inferno, bringing the total cantos to an even one hundred. There are three beasts of sin in the first canto and three heavenly angels concerned with Dante’s fate in the second. Thirty-three is also the age at which Jesus is thought to have died. Dante’s journey in the Inferno takes place from Good Friday to Easter morning in the year 1300. We know the precise year he intended because he alludes in the first canto to being halfway through his life. According to the Bible, a human’s life expectancy was seventy years.
The journey in the Inferno is allegorical. Dante’s main character in the story can be seen as any man trying to find a virtuous path in life. Through the voices of sinners consigned to Hell, Dante comments on morality and the degradation of Italian society by greed, violence, and corruption. The sinners in his Hell are also an embodiment of sin itself, and many of them are very compelling. Dante’s Hell has nine circles, each punishing a particular kind of sin. The Eighth Circle for the fraudulent is further divided into ten “bolgias,” or pouches, each pouch punishing a specific type of fraud. The Ninth Circle, for traitors, is subdivided into three rings. Dante’s ranking of the sins is thought to be based more on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics than on the traditional concept of seven deadly sins accepted among medieval Christians.
Born in Florence in 1265 to an aristocratic family, Dante experienced tragedy very early in his life. His mother died when he was seven, and his father died when he was a teenager. After their deaths, he became responsible for his younger siblings and half-siblings. In his youth, he relied on several mentors, including the scholar Brunetto Latini, whose condemned soul Dante greets warmly in Hell. The poet Guido Cavalcanti was another of Dante’s mentors; his father appears in the Inferno. Dante and Cavalcanti founded a poetry movement called the dolce stil nuovo, the “sweet new style.” The new style was less flowery and more straightforward than that of poetry popular at the time.
A central figure in Dante’s life was Beatrice, a little girl he claimed to have met at a party when he was nine. Though there is no evidence they were close friends, she served as a muse in his early work and as his heavenly guide in the Paradiso. His Beatrice is thought to have been a real-life Florentine girl named Bice. Both Bice and Dante wed others through arranged marriages, but Dante’s Beatrice continued to be prominent in his poetic imagination. When she died at age 24, Dante wrote a series of poems about their relationship titled La Vita Nuova, or New Life.
Dante told his friend and patron Can Grande in a letter that his purpose in writing the Divine Comedy was to help people move from a state of misery into a state of happiness. He may have been trying to inspire himself, as well. Dante wrote the Divine Comedy during his permanent exile from Florence, a city divided at the time by political strife as opposing factions, the White Guelphs and the Black Guelphs, struggled for power. The Whites were mostly merchants; the Blacks were aligned with banking and imperial interests and had the support of Pope Boniface VIII. Entering politics in Florence in 1295, Dante was a member of the Whites. In 1301 while Dante was in Rome on a political visit, the White Guelphs lost control of the city to the Black Guelphs, and fearing for his safety, Dante did not return to Florence. By 1302 he had been formally exiled; he would never return home again. Dante lived his remaining years in various Italian towns, writing and being supported financially by the generosity of friends.
The Inferno was finished and in circulation by 1314. Dante completed the final canticle of his Comedy, the Paradiso, in 1320, a year before his death from malaria in Ravenna. Dante’s poetry was well known in Italy at the time of his death, and later in the century, Florentine poet Giovanni Boccaccio worked to repair Dante’s reputation in Florence. Dante’s personal life and reputation suffered as a result of the political climate of his times, but his work prevailed, transcending his life and times. In its artistry and complex vision, the Divine Comedy is considered one of the greatest works of Western literature. Dante’s given name comes from the name “Durante,” which means “enduring.” It is perhaps a perfect name for the poet, as his literary legacy continues to span the centuries.
Finally, it should be noted that the Inferno reflects the religious precepts—and the cultural biases—of Dante’s fourteenth century. For a student audience, some elements in the poem may be genuinely disconcerting, especially those in regard to homosexuality, women as symbols of promiscuity, and condemnation of Jews and Muslims. In presenting the Inferno, it is important to establish that the content of the poem does reflect fourteenth-century thinking and to confront and discredit the cultural biases in the work that are demeaning.
By the end of the unit the student will be able to:
1. Identify the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso as the three parts of the Divine Comedy.
2. Identify and discuss the Inferno as allegory.
3. Describe the structure of Dante’s Hell.
4. Discuss Dante’s conception of Divine Justice.
5. Define contrapasso, the rule of retribution.
6. Discuss how man’s use of language is depicted in the poem.
7. Recognize the poem’s satire of Dante’s contemporaries in politics, Church leadership, and poetry.
8. Discern the allusions to famous figures from the Greek and Roman classical tradition and discuss the poem as an extension of Virgil’s Aeneid and Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Instructional Focus: Teaching With an eNotes Lesson Plan
This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom.
Student Lesson Guide
- The Lesson Guide is organized for a canto-by-canto study of the poem. Lesson Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace.
- Lesson Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in reading each canto and to acquaint them generally with its content.
- Before Lesson Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading comprehension.
- Lesson Guide vocabulary...
(The entire section is 585 words.)
Essay and Discussion Questions
1. Do you agree with Dante’s ordering of sins? If not, how should they be reordered? Is fraud worse than violence? Should any sins be added or omitted?
2. Should a person be defined for eternity by his or her worst deed? How are justice and mercy balanced in the modern criminal justice system?
3. Is the God of the Inferno a loving God, as Dante claims? Why or why not?
4. Empathy is often considered a natural and a desirable human trait, but Virgil discourages Dante’s compassion for sinners. In the modern world, can a lack of empathy be a path to spiritual growth? If so, in what circumstances?
5. Which sins punished in Dante’s Hell are the most tempting to...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
lucre: money; profit
pelt: the hair and skin of an animal
ravenous: extremely hungry
relentless: oppressively constant; unending
renowned: celebrated, famous
shade: a ghost, a visible form of a dead person
tremors: vibrations, shaking movements
trod: (past tense of tread) walked
Troy: an ancient city in what is now Turkey, site of the Trojan War described in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad
wrath: violent anger
wretchedness: a condition of great misery caused by misfortune, poverty, or other adversity
1. Inferno is an example of allegory, the extension of a metaphor...
(The entire section is 537 words.)
compassion: the feeling of being moved by and wanting to relieve another’s suffering
dwell: to reside, to inhabit
girding: preparing (oneself) for action
harrow: to wound
manifest: clearly revealed, open to view
piteously: in a manner evoking pity or sympathy for one’s suffering
recount: to narrate, to relate (a story)
suffice: to be enough, to be adequate
vast: very large or great
verge: an edge, a border
1. Why does Dante call on the Muses to help him?
He asks for the help of their “high genius” in telling the story of his journey from his memory....
(The entire section is 455 words.)
abyss: a bottomless pit
Acheron: one of the five rivers of the classical underworld
Charon: Greek mythology the ferryman to Hades
countenance: facial expression
din: a loud, unpleasant, and prolonged noise
goads: urges or provokes by irritation or insult
groveling: moving while lying facedown; (figuratively) performing an act of humility or humiliation
infamy: evil fame or reputation
livid: of a bluish or bruised color
omnipotence: the state of having unlimited power
paltry: base, weak, unimportant
tumult: commotion; unruly or turbulent disturbance
woe: misery, sorrow
(The entire section is 407 words.)
anguish: extreme suffering
baptism: a Christian sacrament marked by ritual use of water admitting the recipient to the Christian community
bleared: clouded, dimmed
brink: the edge at the top of a steep place
homage: an expression of reverence, respect, or honor for someone or something
lofty: high, towering
mantled: covered, clothed, concealed
quelling: putting an end to
throngs: crowds of assembled persons
1. Limbo, “the edge” of Hell, is the least punishing realm in the Inferno. Who inhabits Limbo? What do Dante’s encounters in this least punishing circle of Hell suggest about his...
(The entire section is 350 words.)
buffets: strikes or knocks about
decree: an official command or decision
entreat: to beg, to plead
founder: to stumble, to sink
Francesca (da Rimini): a contemporary of Dante who betrayed her husband with his brother Paolo
lecher: a person excessively given to sexual indulgence
malignant: harmful, evil in nature
Minos: Greek mythology the king of Crete, son of Zeus
pander: a person who arranges illicit love affairs
sanctuary: a holy place
tributaries: streams or rivers that flow into larger bodies of water
whelm: a surge
(The entire section is 459 words.)
Cerberus: Greek and Roman mythology three-headed dog that guards the underworld
confounding: confusing or bewildering
desecrating: degrading, profaning
discord: strife; disagreement
gullets: passages between mouth and stomach
riven: torn; split
scruff: the nape of the neck
taut: tense; having no give or slack; tightly drawn
trump: poetic a trumpet
1. Explain why Cerberus, the doglike beast, is a fitting mascot for the sinners in Hell’s Third Circle. Cite at least two details from Dante’s description of him....
(The entire section is 457 words.)
browbeats: intimidates or disconcerts by stern manner or arrogant speech
fritter: to waste bit by bit
gnaw: to bite or chew on with the teeth (especially to wear away by persistent biting)
jest: a joke
joust: (in context) a battle
mire: a swamp
Plutus: Greek and Roman mythology god of wealth (Note: It is believed that Dante may have confused Plutus with Pluto, the classical ruler of the underworld.)
slough: a muddy or swampy area
squall: to scream loudly or discordantly
squelch: the sound made by liquid when subjected to sudden or intermittent pressure
sullen: gloomily or resentfully silent or...
(The entire section is 560 words.)
chafed: fumed, was angry
forge: a furnace used by blacksmiths to heat iron
garrison: a fortress
indignant: provoked to anger and scorn by something unjust or unworthy
melee: a confused struggle (especially a hand-to-hand fight among several people)
prow: the pointed front of a boat
skiff: a small boat
1. As they cross the Styx, why does Virgil suddenly hug and kiss Dante? Why is this an important moment in Dante’s spiritual journey?
Instead of sympathizing with a sinner as he has previously done, Dante curses the...
(The entire section is 386 words.)
briars: thorny tangled bushes
cleave: to split
conjured: invoked by supernatural power
Furies: Roman mythology female goddesses of the underworld, usually adorned with snakes and dripping blood from the eyes
gale: a strong wind
Gorgon: Greek mythology a female creature with snakes for hair whose gaze turns humans to stone
herald: a messenger
heresy: the holding of an opinion that is counter to church doctrine
heretics: those who hold or express opinions counter to church doctrine
hydras: Greek mythology marsh snakes with many heads
patriarch: a male leader of a...
(The entire section is 480 words.)
Epicurus: ancient Greek philosopher who believed the death of the body was the death of the soul
loathsome: repulsive, offensive
sovereign: supreme in rank or power
Valley of Jehosophat: Biblical the location where the last judgment will take place, according to the Book of Joel
1. The second entombed soul that Dante meets in Canto Ten is Cavalcante, the father of Dante’s friend Guido, who was his first mentor in poetry. Cavalcante speculates that Dante’s poetic genius is the reason for his distinction as a traveler in Hell. How is his emphasis on Dante’s worldly...
(The entire section is 388 words.)
afflict: to trouble, to harm
bestiality: the nature of qualities of a beast (stupidity, irrationality, brutality)
the Deity: God
derive: to take its origin from
fraud: criminal deception with the intent to gain an unfair advantage over or injure the rights of another
hypocrites: persons who put on a false appearance of virtue or religion
incontinence: lack of self-restraint, usually with bodily appetites
malice: the intention to cause harm to another person
peculiar: (in context) unique
repent: to review and feel regret for wrong actions, especially in a religious context
simonists: persons who use...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
alleluia: Christian word used in prayer or hymn, meaning “praise the Lord”
centaurs: Greek mythology creatures with human heads and torsos and bodies and legs of a horse
Chiron: Greek mythology a particular centaur who is not traditionally given to violence
croup: the rump of any four-legged creature, especially a horse
cupidity: extreme desire
fledge: the feahers on an arrow or dart
Lucifer: Biblical Satan, a fallen angel cast out of Heaven
Minotaur: Greek mythology a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man, conceived by Minos’s wife when she was inside a...
(The entire section is 617 words.)
boles: stems or tree trunks
deft: skillful in action
gallows: a structure used for inflicting the punishment of death by hanging
gingerly: cautiously; delicately
gnarls: contorted knotty bumps, especially on a tree
Harpies: Greek mythology winged female birdlike creatures with human faces, known for stealing food
rankest: (regarding vegetation) thickest or most overgrown
shuck: to strip off; to remove
thickets: dense growths of shrubs or small trees
1. What is the punishment for the sin of suicide? How is it appropriate? What will happen to the souls of the suicides at the final...
(The entire section is 412 words.)
Capaneus: Greek mythology a warrior who cursed Zeus before the siege of Thebes; Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt
fissure: a narrow opening or crack of considerable length and depth, usually occurring from some breaking or parting
gulch: a narrow canyon
moor: uncultivated flat land, usually marshlike
torrid: intensely hot
unalloyed: (regarding metal) pure; not mixed with other metals
1. In life, sinners against God deny or defy the natural order created by God on Earth. Explain how the landscape of their punishment both denies and perverts nature.
(The entire section is 389 words.)
banished: required by authority to leave a country; driven out or removed from a home or place of usual resort or continuance
bulwarks: large defensive walls or dikes
glossed: explained; interpreted
pedagogue: a teacher; a schoolmaster, especially a dull, formal, or pedantic one
prophecies: predictions of the future
provender: to feed on
scab: a rascal
sinews: connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments
sorbs: fruits of the service tree
wont: to be in the habit of
1. Dante’s former mentor Brunetto wants to be remembered for his worldly achievement, his book Treasure. What is...
(The entire section is 275 words.)
chasm: a crack or gap in the Earth’s surface
hastening: accelerating; hurrying
litany: a long, continuous repetition
plummets: drops or falls rapidly
shrewish: (in regard to a woman) given to scolding
thresh: to thrash; to beat as if to separate
valor: personal bravery
ventured: exposed to hazard; undertook the risks and dangers of (such as a journey)
1. Dante feels sympathy for sinners whom he respected on Earth as members of his political faction. He stresses their good deeds, not dwelling on their sins. How does his attitude convey the Inferno’s ongoing tension between the value of worldly...
(The entire section is 448 words.)
cape: a piece of land jutting into the sea
dolorous: causing, marked by, or expressing misery or grief
farrowing: (relating to a pig) giving birth
Geryon: Greek mythology a monster, usually with a human face or faces and sometimes possessing wings
haggle: to dispute or bargain persistently
insignia: an emblem of a nation, person, or family
languid: slow-moving, unhurried
mooring: securing a ship or boat to the shore or by an anchor
particolored: partly of one color and partly of another
quartan: archaic a fever that recurs every four days
quay: a structure built parallel to the bank of a...
(The entire section is 337 words.)
buttress: a prop or support, usually used to strengthen the wall of a building
haunch: the part of the body comprising the hip, buttocks, and upper thigh
Jason: Greek mythology hero, leader of the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece
pate: the head; the skull
precipice: a high, steep cliff
sniveling: running at the nose; making a sniffling sound
1. Virgil and Jason are both gifted speakers. Explain how Jason’s use of language differs from Virgil’s. How does Jason’s use of language relate to the sin of fraud?
Virgil has used his talent with words to win Dante’s safe passage...
(The entire section is 414 words.)
apportion: to divide and share according to a plan; to make a proportionate division or distribution of
baptistery: the part of a church where the rite of baptism is performed
idolater: a worshipper of a false God or something other than God
plumb: exactly in alignment
rapacious: aggressively greedy
shanks: the parts of the legs extending from knee to ankle
1. On arriving at the pocket of the simonists, those who have profited from Church office, Dante praises God: “O highest Wisdom, how much art you show / in Heaven, on earth, and in the evil world! / How justly does...
(The entire section is 442 words.)
awry: crooked; out of course or place
brutish: resembling an animal in character; unintelligent, uncultured
disposed: inclined; in the mood to
diviner: a magician or fortune-teller
laments: passionate expressions of grief
untilled: (in regard to land) unplowed
vale: a valley, especially a wide one
1. What is the eternal fate of the diviners, or fortune-tellers, that is so grotesque it makes Dante weep? How is their punishment fitting?
In life, the diviners tried to see and influence the future, or at least to convince people they could do so. In Hell, their heads are turned backward so that they...
(The entire section is 407 words.)
aldermen: civil officers
caulk: to seal a seam or a gap with a waterproof filler
grappling hooks: devices with iron claws, usually attached to ropes and used for gripping
lunge: to make a sudden forward movement
mastiff: a breed of large, powerful dog
platoon: a small body of soldiers
prongs: forked instruments; pitchforks
scullery: the department of a large household concerned with the care of the plates, dishes, and kitchen utensils
1. What simile does Dante use to introduce the landscape of the fifth pocket at the beginning of Canto Twenty-One?
Dante compares the boiling pits of tar in...
(The entire section is 223 words.)
alleviate: to relieve
cavalry: the collective term for soldiers on horseback
conniving: secretly allowing or aiding something considered immoral, illegal, or harmful to occur
grafters: persons who make money dishonestly; thieves
limed: smeared with a sticky substance
mange: skin disease caused by mites
muster: (in regard to an army) to come together
rogue: a dishonest, unprincipled person
scot-free: without being punished
swine: a pig or pigs
1. What imagery does Dante use in the similes of the first twelve lines of Canto Twenty-Two, and what is his ultimate point? (It may help to reread...
(The entire section is 249 words.)
distilled: (in context) to be wet with
grindstone: a disc of stone turned on an axle and used for grinding or milling
heavy-laden: bearing a heavy burden
mill: an apparatus for grinding corn or the building that holds such an apparatus
paddles: spoked wheels on which water falls to turn the grindstone of a mill
rankles: annoys or irritates
sluice: a structure for controlling the flow of water
smock: a woman’s undergarment
transfixed: rendered motionless
Tuscan: a person from the Italian region of Tuscany; the dialect spoken in that region
(The entire section is 438 words.)
antidote: a medicine given to counteract the effect of poison or venom
fodder: food, especially dried hay or feed for livestock
forage: to rove in search of food
headlong: with unrestrained course
Phoenix: mythology a sacred bird whose body and nest burn to ash from which a new Phoenix is then born
plaster: medicine or bandaging material applied to a wound
sacristy: a room in a church where sacred vessels and vestments are kept and where the clergy vests in preparation for a service
suffice: to be enough
tempestuous: stormy; rough and violent
vestments: garments worn by Christian clergy on special...
(The entire section is 350 words.)
anterior: to the front; toward the head
haughty: high in one’s own estimation; proud
juncture: the place at which two things are joined
Lucan: an ancient Roman poet
Ovid: an ancient Roman poet; author of Metamorphoses
shifty: dishonest, untrustworthy
transmute: to alter or change in appearance or form
1. How does Dante silence three of his poet predecessors in Canto Twenty-Five? How might his silencing them be interpreted?
First he puts his finger to his lips to signal Virgil, and then he directly instructs Lucan and Ovid to be silent. In silencing them, he seems to assert his own...
(The entire section is 307 words.)
Diomedes: Greek mythology hero of the Trojan War who appears in Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid
kindled: lit up, as if on fire
Penelope: Greek mythology wife of Odysseus
Ulysses: Greek mythology Roman name for Odysseus, king of Ithaca and hero of Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey
1. Dante describes the tip of the flame that traps the soul of Ulysses by comparing it to a tongue. How does this image suggest the sin Ulysses is guilty of?
The tongue is a tool of speech, and Ulysses used his speech to commit his sin of false counsel....
(The entire section is 256 words.)
absolve: to grant forgiveness of sin
brazen: (in context) brass
expedients: means to an end
hawsers: large ropes used in sailing
imparted: gave, shared
logician: a student of logic; one skilled in reasoning
plied: applied oneself, worked at
vex: annoy, bother
1. What does Montefeltro admit to being concerned about before speaking to Dante? Considering his concern, why does he identify himself and tell his story to Dante?
Montefeltro is another of Hell’s citizens concerned with his earthly reputation. Since he appeared to be a virtuous friar when he died, he...
(The entire section is 376 words.)
beset: to surround; to entrap
bored: pierced, made a hole in or through
cowlick: a tuft of hair that will not lie smoothly
gored: pierced or stabbed deeply with a sharp weapon
helm: the wheel that controls the rudder and steering of a ship
lopped: cut off, truncated
midstave: the middle piece of thin, shaped wood that, when joined with others, forms a barrel
retribution: the dispensing or receiving of reward or punishment, especially in the afterlife
treachery: betrayal of trust
1. At the beginning of Canto Twenty-Eight, Dante claims to have no...
(The entire section is 399 words.)
alchemy: a medieval study concerned with turning base metals into precious metals
cloister: an enclosed space
currycomb: a metal comb used to groom horses
infallible: incapable of mistakes or failure
1. Whose soul does Dante see among the damned as he and Virgil leave the ninth pocket? How does Dante respond to him? How does the soul respond to Dante? Why?
Dante sees the soul of his relative, Geri del Bello, and lingers to watch him among the other sinners; he feels great pity for him. Virgil tells Dante, whose attention had been elsewhere momentarily, that Bello pointed at Dante in a...
(The entire section is 248 words.)
consumptive: affected or weakened by disease, especially tuberculosis
culling: selecting a few from a great number
dropsy: an accumulation of fluid in the body
dross: waste, refuse
lute: a stringed musical instrument
mangles: hacks, cuts, or mutilates by violence
1. To begin Canto Thirty, Dante uses two epic similes about classical figures, the first about King Athamas of Thebes and the second about Queen Hecuba of Troy. How does he compare their stories to the events he sees in the tenth pocket of the eighth circle?
Dante uses the classical references to emphasize the savagery of the souls in the tenth...
(The entire section is 272 words.)
askew: to one side; not straight
impending: (in context) overhanging
incriminates: charges with or shows evidence or proof of involvement in a crime or fault
loincloth: a simple garment worn around the hips
1. Dante expresses relief that giants no longer inhabit the earth, even though elephants and whales do. He says, “For where you join to evil will and might / the instrument of reason in the mind, / no shelter for mankind can ever stand.” What is Dante’s meaning here? How do evil will and reason relate to fraud?
A creature possessing evil will, great strength, and human intellect...
(The entire section is 318 words.)
abhors: hates, loathes
adjoins: is attached to
argent: French money
aspic: a savory meat jelly
beetling: (in context) hanging threateningly
blasphemies: acts of insult, contempt, or lack of reverence for God
hanks: skeins or coils of thread, yarn, or hair
vile: morally low, despicable
1. Why does Dante invoke the Muses for a second time? Why is it difficult for him to describe the Ninth Circle of Hell?
Dante claims he does not have the proper poetic sensibility to describe this deep circle of Hell upon which rest all the others he has seen; he can’t form the “bitter and...
(The entire section is 320 words.)
lest: for fear that
1. What evidence in the text supports the conclusion that Ugolino ate the bodies of his dead sons?
Prior to his death, one of the sons suggests that he be eaten. Later, Dante witnesses Ugolino gnawing the head of Archbishop Ruggieri; by the law of contrapasso, Ugolino’s punishment suggests he may have performed a similar act in his life.
2. To the sinner Alberigo, whose eyes are filled with ice, Dante says, “If I don’t clear your eyes, may I / go to the bottom of this icy Hell!” In what way is Dante’s...
(The entire section is 234 words.)
Brutus: ancient Roman senator and assassin of Julius Caesar
Cassius: ancient Roman senator and assassin of Caesar; brother-in-law of Brutus
cavern: a cave
descried: perceived from a distance
edifice: a large structure, usually a building
grapple: to grip firmly
Judas Iscariot: Biblical apostle who betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin priests in return for thirty pieces of silver
matted: tangled or densely interwoven
slaver: to drool
standards: flags or banners indicating the rallying point of an army
thresher: a person or machine that separates grain from straw
zenith: the highest point
(The entire section is 378 words.)
Multiple-Choice Test and Answer Key
1. Where does Dante find himself at the opening of the Inferno?
A. at home
B. in a dark wilderness
C. on an Italian beach
D. in the company of poets
E. at the walls of Dis
2. Which answer best describes the symbolic meaning for the “straight and true” path that Dante says he has wandered from in Canto One?
A. the road home
B. a virtuous life
C. the First Circle of Hell
D. the perfect poetry
E. a prosperous business
3. Which of the following is NOT true? An allegory
(The entire section is 989 words.)
Essay Exam Questions With Answers
1. Describe the important differences between Dante the pilgrim and the damned souls he sees in Hell. Discuss both literal and allegorical aspects of their differences. Include specific evidence from the text to support your discussion.
Dante the pilgrim differs from the damned souls he meets in several aspects: physical presence; hope for salvation; knowledge of the present and the future and their responses to it; and freedom of movement. These contrasts serve the author Dante’s idea of the importance of choosing the “straight and true” moral path in earthly life.
The Inferno’s text provides hints that Dante the pilgrim differs physically from the shades he meets in Hell. His soul is still...
(The entire section is 3626 words.)