Canto 34 Summary and Analysis
Dis (Satan): Ruler of the pit
Judas Iscariot: Resident of Region iv of Dis; betrayer of Jesus
Brutus: Later a Shakespearean character; opposed to the Divine and secular world; a resident of Dis
Cassius: Defeated by Anthony and took his own life; later a Shakespearean character; a resident of Dis
Canto XXXIV begins with the statement that “The banners of the King of Hell go forth.” Virgil asks Dante if it will be possible for Dante to recognize Dis (Satan) if they see him. The two pass over Judecca.
Dante sees Satan in Region iv, Dis. Satan is devouring Judas Iscariot. Cassius and Brutus are also residents of this lowest region.
The two poets climb down—and then up—the body of Satan. At the end of the journey they can see the stars once more.
Discussion and Analysis
The two poets pass over the region of Judecca, the last ring of the circle; this region is that in which the traitors to their Lords reside. The traitors here are totally covered with ice.
Symbolism is used in the description of Satan. His colors refer to the colors of people all over the world. If Lucifer’s present ugliness is equivalent to his earlier beauty before his desert, his betrayal must have been monstrous to have created such hideousness.
Judas is the first shade that they see in Dis. He is suffering severe pain because of his sins against God. Judas opposed God and is here for that reason. The other two shades that they recognize are Cassius and Brutus. They are here because of their opposition to both secular and divine world. The stronger ones—God and His son—banish him to the lower region. Other dark angels go with him to this lower place.
The body of Satan is between 1,500 and 1,800 feet tall; the two poets use his hair and body to cling to as they make their trip downward; when they reach the center (the navel) of the giant (Dis), Dante and Virgil begin their upward climb.
The canto ends with the hopefulness of upward motion as well as the word stars as they once again see the night sky.