In Dante's Inferno, what is Dante's reaction to the sinners introduced in Circle 9?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Canto XXXI of Dante's Inferno introduces the Ninth Circle of Hell, the level containing the very worst of the sinners. In Dante's vision, this circle consists of the traitors. The traitors are divided into four classes, each class having its own ring. The four rings of the Ninth Circle are:

First Ring (Caina): betrayers of their own kin

Second Ring (Antenora): betrayers their political party of homeland

Third Ring (Ptolomea): betrayers of their guests

Fourth Ring (Judecca): betrayers of benefactors

When Dante first encounters the Ninth Circle, he is so shocked and horrified as to be almost speechless:

... with faltering awe

I touch The mighty theme; for to describe the depth

Of all the universe, is no emprise

To jest with

He is warned by Virgil that the sinners will be literally underfoot under the ice, and takes care not to step on them. Initially, when he sees their plight, he feels some sympathy for them, but as he continues his tour and discover their stories, that sympathy recedes, and he often appears to be critical of them. Dante interacts with several individual sinners, often asking about their stories out of curiosity.