Canto 19 Summary

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Last Updated March 1, 2023.


Dante mentions Simon Magus and his followers, all of whom sold divine goods for personal gain. As he recalls these figures, he narrates the sights before him, explaining the nature of punishment for sinners in  the Third Trench of the Malbowges. There are holes in the ground and wall of the trench, and the feet of those sinners are visible through them; they appear to be covered in burning fire, which causes immense pain. Dante inquires about the identity of these suffering souls, and Virgil leads him to a lower bank where he can see and identify them for himself.

Looking into their agonized faces, Dante speaks to one of the sinners, who mistakes him for someone else, Pope Boniface VIII, and reminds him of the betrayal of the Fairest among Women. Dante clarifies that he is not Pope Boniface VIII. The confused sinner tells Dante that he, too, was once a Pope and wore the Great Mantle and was the Son of the Bear. Moreover, he explains that he exploited his power in service of himself.

The unnamed man refers to Pope Boniface VIII as being like Jason. Dante, uncertain about the veracity of the man’s claims, asks him how many coins God required of Peter and Matthias. He also invokes Constantine and watches as the Pope wiggles his feet with all his might. Virgil commends Dante for his eloquent words to the shade and proceeds to guide him on the remainder of their journey.

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