illustration of a human covered in a starry sky walking from the sky and plains toward a fiery opening to hell

The Divine Comedy

by Dante Alighieri

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What are the sins and punishments in Canto 28 of The Divine Comedy?

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In this canto, Virgil guides Dante through the part of hell reserved for the creators of discord or scandals as well as those who caused divisions in the church. These people are condemned to walk around until they encounter a devil who slices them up with a sword, according to the particular nature of their crime. These are gruesome encounters: Mahomet, for example, is disemboweled for having created a division in the people of God through inventing (from the Roman Catholic point of view) Islam. Worse yet, the punishment never ends; as the sinner walks around, his wound heals, but as soon as it heals, he meets the devil with the sword again and the cycle repeats itself. In The Inferno, the punishment always fits the crime, so in this case, these people are physically torn apart because they metaphorically tore people or groups of people apart in life. 

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Canto 28 of Dante Alighieri's Inferno describes people who have sinned through scandal and creating discord. The punishment here is to walk endlessly around a chasm towards the center of hell, with wounds which heal but are re-opened by the Devil and his sword at the center. The wounds described reflect the sin committed during that person's lifetime. 

For example, Dante meets the soul of Curio, who encouraged Caesar to cross the Rubicon. For his sin (giving advice which started a war,) Curio's tongue has been cut out. Dante also meets the soul of the Prophet Muhammad or Mahomet, who has been disembowled and effectively split in two. This is punishment for his perceived sin on Earth, as Dante believed that Muhammad's founding of Islam split the community of people who believed in the Abrahamic God, turning them against each other. 

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