Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 539
Pluto: God of the underworld and riches; at entrance to the Fourth Circle
The Hoarders and the Spendthrifts: Condemned to push and pull great weights for their sins
The Wrathful: Those who are ferocious and those who withdraw in black sulkiness and can find no joy; condemned to a marsh
As Dante and Virgil enter the Fourth Circle, they encounter Pluto. Pluto begins to say a chant to Satan. Virgil reminds Dante that Satan has no power over them.
Dante compares the movements of the souls in the Fourth Circle with the waves caused by the Charybdis. The souls hoarded and squandered in their life and for punishment they must move great weights with their chests. Those who squandered are pushing the weights away; those who hoarded are pushing the weights toward themselves. The pushing and pulling results in bumping and bruising. Virgil explains that Luck, through Divine Providence, is responsible for the distribution of wealth; riches do not remain in one nation or with one family for long because of the workings of Luck.
Virgil and Dante cross near a bubbling spring which had cut a cleft in the rock; the pair go down a stair into a marsh—the Styx, one of the most famous features of classical Hell. In the mire beneath, Dante sees people fighting and tearing one another with their teeth; these are the people who expressed their wrath openly or actively. The passively wrathful are those who lie sighing beneath the mire of the marsh; they had taken no pleasure in life and instead had retreated into a black mood or sullenness.
At the end of their path, Dante and Virgil see a tall tower.
Discussion and Analysis
Dante and Virgil hear the chant uttered by Pluto. Though the exact meaning is not clear, it seems that Pluto is calling on Satan for help. Satan would be Pluto’s only source of help since Pluto consciously made a choice against God.
The way to deeper sin and punishment is becoming more clear to Dante. The initial slip to sin and punishment is barely noticed. Dante, for instance, did not notice the move from Circle One to Circle Two or from Circle Two to Circle Three; he did not notice when he originally became lost. Now, however, the way is becoming more evident as sin becomes more deliberate.
In The Odyssey the Charybdis is a sea monster; three times a day this monster sucks down the sea water and spits it out again. The resulting waves pound nearby ships.
Those who squandered in life are pushing the weights away as eternal punishment. Those who hoarded in life are pulling the weights toward themselves. The pushing and pulling results in the shades bumping and bruising one another; this physical conflict is symbolic of the philosophic conflict that is evident between the two groups. The actively wrathful continue to make contact with one another in Hell; the passively wrathful withdraw in Hell to the mud just as they once withdrew from the mainstream in life.
Dante believes that avarice is the fault of the clergy; therefore, clerics largely compose the population of this level. On line 39 Dante asks, “ … were they each a clerk?”
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