Canto 18 Summary and Analysis
Venedico Caccianemico: Member of the Guelphs who sold his own sister
Horned Fiends: Those who beat the naked sinners in the Malbowges
Jason: Greek hero who searched for the golden fleece and seduced others
Alessio Interminei: A White Guelph; a flatterer with “slick” manners
Dante describes the region in Hell called the Malbowges, or Evil Pockets. He explains that this area is made of iron-gray stone and has ten divisions. In the middle of this cone, or narrowing round, is a well. Dante describes how the traffic of the souls in the Malbowges is controlled: one side keeps their eyes on the Castle (perhaps the Castle on the road called the Castello Sant’ Angelo) and the other side keeps their eyes on the Mount (perhaps the mountain called Janiculum).
Dante observes the naked sinners and the horned fiends who beat them and drive them along with heavy whips. The trail moves in opposite ways; the first procession is composed of panders and the second procession is composed of seducers. Dante recognizes Venedico Caccianemico coming from one direction and Jason moving from the other direction.
Dante sees, deep in the trench, people submerged in filth. One of these persons is Alessio Interminei; this former resident of Lucca explains that flatteries brought him here. Virgil also recognizes the harlot Thais in this trench.
Discussion and Analysis
“In the gutter,” or in the trenches of Malbowges, one finds the disintegration of human beings, the city, and morals. The depths of the trenches reflects how far human beings have sunk sexually, morally, and even in words—such as flatterers. The flatterers in the trench include Alessio Interminei and the harlot Thais—both are being punished for their sins with words—and deeds.
Dante recognizes Venedico Caccianemico, a Guelph and a pander who sold his own sister to Obizzo d’ Este of Ferrara (Canto XII). From the other direction he recognizes Jason of the Argonauts, a seducer who married and deserted Medea and who lured Hypsipyle after she rescued her father from Lemnos.
The flatterers in the trench include Alessio Interminei and the harlot Thais; both are here only for their sins with words. (Thais is not here for her prostitution.)