The Divine Comedy Questions and Answers
by Dante Alighieri

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What are the sins and punishments in canto 28?

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In this canto , Virgil guides Dante through the part of hell reserved for the creators of discord or scandals as well as those who caused divisions in the church. These people are condemned to walk around until they encounter a devil who slices them up with a sword, according to the particular nature of their crime. These are gruesome encounters: Mahomet, for example, is disemboweled for having created a division in the people of God through inventing (from the Roman Catholic point of view) Islam. Worse yet, the punishment never ends; as the sinner walks...

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lgarchibald | Student

Simply put, the souls that Dante and Virgil encounter in canto 28 have their bodies split in some way because they created schisms and disputes on earth.

With any of the circles in the Inferno, it’s important to remember the concept of contrapasso, which is the idea that the punishment must fit the crime. Canto 28 describes part of the eighth circle of hell (there are 10 pouches, or ”malebolge” as Dante calls them, in this circle), which is reserved for those who committed fraud against humanity in some way or another. (Note: this is also the only place in the Divine Comedy that uses the term “contrapasso“ itself, making this canto the example of the concept.)

Because the souls in the ninth malebolge of the eighth circle are guilty of creating schisms while on earth, their bodies are split violently in the afterlife. For example, Dante and Virgil meet a man named Ghibelline in this canto. During his life, Ghibelline‘s actions played a role in dividing the two political parties in Florence. For his sins, Ghibelline‘s hands are perpetually severed from his wrists in the afterlife.