Okie dokie everyone, time to press on with our journey into Hell. Also just a heads up, from this point on the distribution of the circles amongst the cantos gets a little more complicted. Up to this point it's been simple: one circle, one canto. Now that we're past the third circle sometimes there will be multiple circles in a canto or, as is the more common occurance, a circle will be stretched out over multiple cantos. When a circle is broken up between cantos, I'll be sure to make note of the circle number so they're easy to keep track of. Anywho...now that that is out of the way, let's get a move on.


Canto VII


Plutus screams gibberish at the Poets, trying to scare them, but Virgil orders him to stand down as their journey has been willed by God. They then enter the Fourth circle of hell where Dante sees two groups of souls, each pushing large weights at the other while the first group accuses the second of hoarding and the second group accuses the first of wasting. When they finally collide, the groups push their weights in the opposite direction and start again. Dante asks who these sinners are and Virgil informs him that these are the Hoarders and Wasters, who spent all their lives worrying about money and possessions in some form and the Poets pass by. While heading on to the next circle, Virgil explains the role of Fourtune in the world. Virgil tells Dante that Fortune is on of the angels that God created to guide humanity through life. As this discussion comes to a close, they enter the Fifth circle which is situated in the middle of the Marsh of Styxx. In the marsh there is a mob of souls savagely fighting each other in the muck. Virgil informs Dante that the mob is made up of the Wrathful and that buried under the swampy surface are the Sullen. The Sullen lay beneath the muck and chant an endless chant describing what led them to this. Once again Dante and Virgil pass through without talking to any of the shades and come upon a tower.

Important Stuff

"Papa Satan, Papa Satan, aleppy" = This is doesn't really mean anything. So far no one has been able to find real meaning behind this phrase other than it must be something like cursing since it mentions Satan.
Plutus = Greek god of Wealth
Reasoning behind punishment (Fourth circle) = The Hoarders and the Wasters wasted their lives worrying about money and possessions, either by going to any lengths to keep it (Hoarders) or not caring about what they did with it (Wasters). The weights represent the fact that worrying about money weighed these people down so that they lost sight of God. Also each group punishes the other because, a hoarder and a waster seem like complete opposites because their ultimate goals are at odds, they both are guilty of the same sin of focusing on money and possesions.
Dame Fortune = Since Dame Fortune was a major character in medievel mythology, Dante needed to find a way to justify her existence in his concept of the universe and he does this by making Fortune into an angel. Dante sees Fortune as an agent of God who has a place in the ranking of Heaven just like any other angel.
Styxx = The other river in the Greek Underworld, here made into a marsh to help illustrate the punishment of the Fifth circle. This also marks another division of Hell, because this is the end of the sins of the she-wolf and the beginning of the punishments for the sins of the lion and the leopard.
Reasoning behind punishment (Fifth circle) = The Fifth circle contains the Wrathful and the Sullen. The punishment for the Wrathful is pretty obvious, those who are guilty of this sin spend the rest of eternity beating, clawing and fighting one another. The punishment for the Sullen is a bit more poetic. The Sullen are forever stuck buried underneath the muddy swamp of the Styxx, never to see the light again since they refused to see God's light.
Additional thought: I thought the set up of this canto was very interesting considering not only are there two cicles in it, but both circles had punishments were two seemingly different groups of people were being punish but the two groups were actually just the extremes of one sin, in a way. The Hoarders and the Wasters may have had different goals in life but their base sin was the same: too much focus on money. The Wrathful and the Sullen both dealt with anger but they expressed it in two different ways: one lashed out at others, the other ruined their life by stewing in their anger.


Canto VIII


At the tower, Virgil and Dante wait as flames from the top of the tower shoot up in the sky and see fire across the river in answer. Dante asks who the tower is signaling and Virgil tells him to look out across the swamp and he'll see Phlegyas the boatman. Phlegyas paddles over quickly but is disappointed to find out the Poets aren't new souls sentenced for torment when Virigl informs him that he only is taking them across and nothing more. As the boat begins to move, one of the Wrathful souls rises out of the sludge and asks who Dante is. At first glance Dante doesn't know who he is but Dante quickly deduces who this soul is and begins to tell the soul that he deserves to be in Hell. Virgil beats down the soul and rejoices at Dante's reaction. Dante then expresses to his guide that he wants to see this soul beaten down into the muck and immediately a mob of souls begin to do just that and though their jeers it is revealed the soul is that of Filippo Argenti, a political enemy of Dante. As the boat crosses the swamp, Virgil tells Dante that they are headed towards Dis, the capital of Hell. Eventually they reach the other side and the boatman yells at them to get out in front of a huge wall with a set of gates. The gates are guarded by the rebellious angels that where expelled from Heaven. The fallen angels deny Virgil and Dante enterance to the city and when Virigl attempts to order them to open the gates, they laugh and slam the door in his face. Dante begins to panic but Virgil soothes him by informing him that their journey is not over and that someone is on their way to help them.

Important Stuff

Phlegyas = Boatman of the Styxx, based on the Greek king who was the son of Ares, he set fire to Apollo's temple and was cast into Hades.
Dante's lack of pity = Dante's reaction to Filippo is one of the first signs of his losing pity for the souls in Hell. Virgil actually blesses him for it and this symbolizes the belief that people have to actively hate sin and not pity the sinners.
Dis = The capital city of Hell. It's gate is guarded by the fallen angels that rebelled against God with Lucifer. Dis is also another name for Pluto, the Greek god of the Underworld.
Fallen Angels = The angels that actually rebelled against God are further down in the pit than the angels who chose to withhold their alliegences. I find it interesting that angels are at the either at the gate or just inside all the gates of Hell so far, the entrance of Hell (which is also the entrance to Upper Hell) had the angels who didn't choose a side and the sins that followed where sins, but not as severe as the ones that occur in Lower Hell. Lower Hell's gate is guarded by the fallen angels, who committed a more severe crime by rebelling, so it makes sense that the sins that follow them are more severe and therefore are punished more severly.
"At this moment a Great One comes" = This refers to a Messanger of Heaven.


Canto IX


Dante starts to panic again when he notices that Virgil seems a bit frightened while his guide is searching for the Great One who is coming to help them. He questions whether Virgil knows the way. Virigl tells him that, shortly after he died, he was forced by Erichtho to go and summon a soul from Judaica, the deepest pit of Hell. Suddenly there is movement at the top of the turrent where three Furies appeared and begin to call for Medusa. Virgil forces Dante to turn his back and close his eyes because if Dante looks at her, he will never leave Hell. Dante then notices noises coming from the direction they came, noises that are causing souls to scatter. Virgil takes his hands off of Dante's eyes and tells him to look and Dante sees a Messanger from Heaven making his way towards them. The Messanger doesn't seem to be affected by Hell and just keeps walking towards them, not looking anywhere but forward. The angel finally makes it to the gate and, with a wave of his hand, the doors open. He then yells at the rebellious angels, asking why, even in their current state, they rebell against Heaven's will. He then turns and goes back the way he came, never saying a word to either of the Poets. No longer afraid after hearing the angel's words, Dante and Virgil enter the city to see what's inside. Inside the walls are a collection of tombs that are encased in fire and the souls trapped within them scream and wail. Virgil informs him that these are the Heretics, people who were part of various cults and make up the sixth circle. That said, Virgil turns and walks away with Dante trailing behind.

Important Stuff:

Virgil's fear = meant to show that even "Human Reason" has it's limits when compared to Heaven
Erichtho = a sorceress and a legendary witch from Thessaly, also a character in Lucan's Pharsalia who summons a spirit to show the outcome of Battle of Pharsalus
Judaica = the last pit of Hell where the souls who betrayed their masters reside
The Furies = Furies are used in classical mythology to symbolize the guilt of those who are damned and committed various taboos. There are three: Megaera (represents jealousy, punishes those who commit infidelity), Alecto (represents unceasing anger, punishes moral crimes) and Tisiphone (represents vengence, avenges murder). Here they are the handmaidens of Hecate.
Hecate = Greek godess, associated with spirits, the dead and sorcery
"Too lightly we let Theseus go free" = Theseus tried to kidnap Hecate and was punished by being chained to a rock but was freed by Hercules. The Furies want Dante to be made an example of in order to deter people from trying to get into the Underworld.
The Messanger's reference to Cerberus = The Messanger is telling the Furies that trying to stand in the way of Fate, which is an extension of Heaven's will, only ends in pain for them. Cerberus tried to stop Hercules fated journey to the Underworld and still suffers from injuries to the throat from where Hercules used a chain to drag the beast into the upper realm.
Reasoning behind punishment (Sixth circle) = Heretics are people who denied the existence of God and by extension, the immorality of the human soul. The are laid out in iron tombs that are heated to red hot. The lid are not on the coffins, these will be sealed on Judgement day. This symbolizes the fact since they didn't believe souls were immortal, they are forced into a second "death" for eternity. It's also note worthy that the Heretics are the first circle situated after the division of Upper and Lower Hell, making them a mirror of the virtuous pagans. The pagans didn't know to worship God which is why they are in the Upper (and less punishing) portion of Hell, while the Heretics denied his existence, a more serious sin, resulting in their location just inside the Lower (and therefore more punishing) portion of Hell.
Note = The sixth circle will be explored further in the next canto.

So, that's circles four and five, the capital city of Hell and a part of the sixth circle. Now that we're past the halfway point of Hell, geographically speaking, it's easy to notice some of symmetry when it comes to the locations of sins and how the location shows the severity of each sin.


The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso by Dante Alighieri, Translated by John Ciardi

Dante in Translation - Inferno V, VI, VII (online Yale course available on Youtube): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z2umV9UvIw

Dante in Translation - Inferno IX, X, XI (online Yale course available on Youtube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXroNUQluco

Dame Fortune: http://dgbirmhoneng10.blogspot.com/2010/12/dame-fortune.html

Phlegyas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phlegyas

Erichtho: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erichtho

The Furies: http://www.pantheon.org/articles/f/furies.html

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