Canto 23 Summary
Last Updated on March 1, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 230
Dante walks behind Virgil, and the pair continue their expedition. He recalls one of Aesop’s fables about a mouse and a frog, a story explaining why it is immoral to harm others. As he ruminates on the story, he begins to grow more and more apprehensive about the demons lurking behind him, who remind him of the fable’s awful end. Dante shares his unease with Virgil, who confesses similar apprehensions. Their anxieties prove prescient, as they soon notice the demons swooping downward in an attempt to capture them.
The pilgrims narrowly escape capture, ducking into an adjacent trench to avoid the demons’ clutches. They are greeted by a group of hypocrites, who are punished for their sins by wearing gaily-colored hoods filled with lead, which are painful and weigh them down. Among the hypocrites are two souls formerly of the Jovial Friars—a Florentine peacekeeping order—who introduce themselves as Catalano and Loderingo. Catalano points out a crucified sinner lying on the ground nearby and explains that he is guilty of advising the Pharisees, a traditional Jewish sect.
Because the demons forced them to stray from their path, Virgil inquires about the route forward; the souls, who are guilty of the sin of deceit, provide directions. However, he comments that the directions may be poor or dishonest, and Dante detects a sense of indignant fury in his companion.