Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 729
Sowers of Discord: Created discord on earth; their bodies are torn apart in Hell
Mahomet: Founder of Islam (Mohammed)
Pier da Medicina: Incited civil strife; disseminated scandal and misrepresentation; incited feuds between two Romagna families
Curio: Brought about civil strife; tongue removed for punishment
Mosca: Brought Florentine division by creating Guelphs and Ghibellines
Bertrand de Born: Headless shade who helped increase feud between Henry II of England and his young son Prince Henry
Dante is appalled at the suffering he sees from the bridge over the Ninth Bowge. He tries, in vain, to verbalize the extent of the pain by comparing it to battles, deaths, and wounds which the readers may recognize.
The two travelers see the Sowers of Discord in the Ninth Trench. The punishment of these shades is that a fiend rends their bodies in two with a sharp sword; the sinners can even rend their own bodies in two pieces.
The two poets are addressed by Mahomet, the founder of Islam, who states that Ali walks in the pit before him. He refers to places (like the plains between Vercelli and Marcabo, the passage near La Cattolica) and people (like Guido and Angiolello of Fano; the men of Argo; and Mosca). Mahomet shows the poets Curio, now with a missing tongue.
Dante sees an amazing sight: a body without a head and a hand carrying the head by the hair. When the figure approaches the two poets, it places the head on its shoulders so that it can speak. The two learn that the shade is Bertrand de Born.
Discussion and Analysis
To emphasize the bloodshed and injury in Hell Dante uses a particular literary device: he says that tongues are unable to describe the sights; this same device is used in Canto XXV.
Dante makes reference to Apulia’s ground, which is a place in southeast Italy where many wars and battles occurred. According to Livy (a Roman historian of the years 57 B.C. to A.D. 17), the seacoast town of Troy in Asia Minor was taken by the Greeks to recover Helen. Dante mentions the battles against Robert Guiscard, who himself had fought against the Greeks. and the place of Ceperano, where the barons of Apulia had deserted and Charles of Anjou had entered and defeated Manfred in 1266 at Benevento. Dante also alludes to the field of Tagliacozzo, where Charles of Anjou defeated Manfred’s nephew by allowing Alard de Valery to advise his army to retreat. When the “winning” army came searching for plunder, the retreating army returned and won the battle.
Mahomet (an Italian spelling for Mohammed, the founder of Islam) had brought division to the Christians by setting up his own sect. Ali is a reference to the nephew of Mahomet who brought division to the followers of Mahomet by setting up his own sect within.
This canto mentions several places. Two such places are the town Lombardy, with Vercelli at its western edge. Marcabo is a castle at the eastern extremity of Lombardy. The passage near La Cattolica is a reference to a town in Italy on the Adriatic Sea.
Canto XXVIII mentions several people. Guido dei Cavalcanti had been Dante’s friend and, like Angiolello da Calignano, was from Fano. Mosca had been partly responsible for the conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines in Florence. When Buondelmonte dei Buondelmonti was accused of jilting his betrothed, the townspeople decided how to settle the quarrel. Mosca dei Lamberti made a comment to suggest stoning the man to death, and the result was the murder of Buondelmonte. The entire city became involved in the rivalry between families and political parties. Mosca is an example of one guilty of creating family discord.
Curio (Caius Scribonius Curio) was an adherent of Pompey and had been brought to Rome by Julius Caesar. When Rome declared Caesar an enemy of Rome, Curio advised Caesar to cross the Rubicon and march upon Rome. Trial proceedings found Curio guilty of creating civil discord.
Bertrand de Born, the headless shade, helped to increase the feud between Henry II of England and his young son, Prince Henry. The symbolism of a head minus a body suggests the pain of a father minus a son; King David in the Old Testament experienced this same pain without his son Absalom. Bertrand de Born is an example of family discord.
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