Canto 10

  • They followed the path between the city walls & the fires. Dante wanted to know about the souls there. They weren’t being hidden, their graves were wide open & there was no guard.
    • Virgil said the tombs would be sealed on Judgment Day. Here lied buried the souls of Epicurus & his followers. It seemed as though Virgil could read Dante’s mind. Dante was slightly embarrassed by this fact & promised not to hide his thoughts anymore, except to keep talking to a minimum as the moment may require.
    • Virgil pointed out a soul popping his head out of a tomb, Farinata. He pushed Dante towards the grave to encourage him to talk to him. Dante looked down & the soul responded that he’d never liked Dante’s clan, the Guelphs, & was always ready to fight them. Dante told him that he had never been fond of the Ghibellines & they seemed to be just as thick-headed as ever at the moment.
      • Another soul pulled up beside Farinata, looked around & started to weep. He asked if his son was with Dante. He told him that he wasn’t down there of his own accord. Perhaps his son, Guido, was further down the road. This made the soul believe that Guido was no longer alive. He was too depressed to carrying on talking face-to-face & fell back into the grave.
      • The man said that if the Guelphs hadn’t returned to power within 50 months, Dante would never return to Florence. But he wanted to know why his side hated the Ghibellines so much. The Guelph churches had always offered prayers for the downfall of the Ghibellines & when they’d gotten in to power, ordered their exile. When the Ghibelline leaders decided to destroy Florence, Farinata was the sole dissented, saying he would kill thousands to save Florence if needed. He was the only one willing to save it among them. Florence was not destroyed after all.
      • Dante was puzzled how Farinata could see the future but couldn’t tell what was going on in the present. Farinata said they were far-sighted thanks to God’s light but when anything approached them, their intellect was useless & they could only know things if people like Dante came & told them about it. All they could do was wait for the end of time.
      • Dante told Farinata to tell the other soul that his son was still alive. If he’d taken his silence the wrong way, Dante’s mind was preoccupied & he made a mistake.
    • As Dante began to leave, Farinata told him that thousands of others were in the same grave, including Frederick II & Cardinal Ubaldini, among others.
      • Virgil asked him why he seemed so down. He cheered him up by telling him that in a little while, Beatrice would explain the meaning of his life to him. They walked on past the graves to another path.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • Heretics – Dante meant by “heresy” an obdurate mind, a spiritual state which defied a power to which trust & obedience were due – intellectual obstinacy. A heretic was a man who knew what he was doing, accepted the Church but preferred his own judgment to that of the Church. The tombs of the intellect obdurate – iron outside & fire within – fittingly opening the Circles of Nether Hell – Circles of deliberately willed sin.

Canto 11

  • They hung out for a bit where the jagged rocks formed a cliff to deeper parts of Hell. The pit was giving off a terrible smell. They felt compelled to hide from it for a while near a vault that had a message: “Pope Anastasius was lured from the true path by Photinus”.
    • While recovering their senses, Dante wanted to take advantage of the situation & asked about Hell itself. Virgil told him 3 narrowing circles wind within the cliffs, all filled with damned spirits & Dante would have little trouble knowing who they were. Heaven’s biggest hatred comes from injury done by force & fraud. Both perpetuate evil to others. But since man alone can commit fraud, God sees that as the worst. So it is in the deepest circle. The first of these circles held violent men but they were divided up according to who their victims were.
      • 1 – Man can injure his neighbor through death & mayhem by force or damage his property through extortion, pillage or fire & flame. Murderers & those violent with their hands (robbers & plunderers) will be in the 1st ring, within different bands.
      • 2 – Man can be violent against himself & destroy their own lives or goods. They are those who kill themselves, toy with fortune, gamble or waste the wealth & turn to weeping what’s meant for joy.
      • 3 – Man can be violent towards God – curse him or deny him, or defame his bounty, & natural universe. This 3rd ring contains the double shame of Sodom & Cahors, & the contrarian heart, dishonoring God’s name.
    • Fraud gnaws at every conscience – may be a breach of trust against the confiding or those who are disloyal. They are both fraud but the 2nd one is meant to split love & nature’s ties.
      • The 2nd circle is for hypocrites, flatterers, panderers & cheats – as well as theft, simony & barratry. Fraud of other sorts forget love & its source.
      • In the smallest circle, the core of earth is the throne of Dis. This is where traitors go.
  • Dante asked why all the souls they saw before they got to the city walls were on the outside & not inside. If God was angry with them, why weren’t they deeper down?
    • Virgil rebuked him for forgetting Aristotle’s Ethics (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, Book 5, Book 6, Book 7, Book 8, Book 9, Book 10). There were 3 conditions contrary to heaven’s will & rule – incontinence, vice & brute bestiality.
    • Not all sins were equally bad. The sinners on the outside were distressed souls. Once they went down further to see those below, he’d see how bad sinners can really be & why God hates those sins.
    • Dante asked where the sin of usury fit into all of this. Virgil answered that he ought to re-read Aristotle’s Physics to see how Art & Nature are. Genesis also states man ought to receive his bread & make prosperity for all. But the usurer & his art scorns nature.
      • They got up & moved on.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • The only image here is Hell itself. The classification of sins is based mostly on Aristotle’s Ethics & a little from Cicero.
    • Aristotle described wrong behavior in 3 kinds: 1- Incontinence (uncontrolled appetites), 2- Bestiality (perverted appetites), 3- Malice/Vice (Abuse of specifically human faculty of reason)
    • Cicero declared all injurious conduct to be either 1- Violence, or 2- Fraud.
      • Dante combines these 2 classifications & gets 3 classes of sin: 1- Incontinence, 2- Violence/Bestiality, 3- Fraud/Malice, & subdivides & arranges 7 circles: 4 of incontinence, 1 of violence & 2 of fraud.
      • He adds to the purely ethical behavior, as a Christian, 2 circles of wrong belief: 1- unbelief (Limbo), & 2- misbelief (heretics), making 9 circles. He adds the vestibule of the futile, who have neither faith nor works. Since it’s not a circle, it has no number.
      • So we have 10 divisions of Hell. There’s further subdivision. The circle of violence has 3 rings. The Circle of Simple Fraud has 10 “Bowges” & the Circle of Complex Fraud has 4 regions. There for Hell has 24 divisions

Canto 12

  • As they got to the cliff, the only way down was craggy & broken up rock that was unsteady & difficult to walk over. But at the edge was the Minotaur stretched out. Once he saw them, he began to gnaw at himself.
    • Virgil told it that there was no point in going after Dante because he was only there to see the punishments of Hell. The Minotaur bounced around all over the place, & Virgil told Dante they really ought to make their escape before the Minotaur crashed into them.
    • The path down was trick because Dante’s weight was making the stones shift. Virgil told him when he’d gone down before, the rocks hadn’t fall but when Jesus had gone down into the 1st circle of Hell, a giant earthquake ravaged the place.
    • Now they approached a river of blood where those who were violent on earth boiled forever. The river moved around in an arc surrounding an entire plain.
      • At that point, a few centaurs strapped with bows & arrows (as if on a hunt) approached them. They were prepared to fire & one of them called out asking why Virgil & Dante were there. Virgil answered that he’d answer to Chiron. Then he nudged Dante & pointed out the others: Nessus & Pholus – all of whom live life seeking vengeance.
      • Chiron noticed Dante’s movements affected the environment unlike the other souls. Virgil told them Dante was alive & he was his guide through Hell. He wasn’t a tourist or a prankster. He, Virgil, had his orders from high up in Heaven to be his guide. He asked for safe passage & a guide to show them where to ford the river.
      • Chiron ordered Nessus to guide them & ward off anyone who interfered with them. They set off with their escort, along the river where shrieks came out. Nessus pointed out the tyrants who’d given themselves to plunder & blood – Alexander, Dionysius, Azzolino, Obizzo d’Este & Prince Henry of England.
      • Eventually they got to the ford & the Centaur told them it wasn’t so deep here & not as hot. But it would continue full circle where Pyrrhus, Sextus & Atilla were. He turned around & left them.

Notes According to Dorothy Sayers

  • Circle of Violence – From here until Canto 17, we’re in the circle devoted to violence & bestiality, together with the Circle of Heretics making up the first division of Nether Hell.
  • The Minotaur & Centaur – In this & the next ring, we find demon-guardians compounded of man & brute. They’re the perverted types of appetites – human reason subdued to animal passion. The Minotaur had the body of a man & the head of a bull. The Centaurs were half-man, half-horse.
  • Phlegethon – (“the fiery”) The 3rd main river in Hell. Like Acheron & Styx, it forms a complete circuit about the abyss, & it’s deep at one side & shallow at the other. The sinner whose fiery passions caused them to shed man’s blood are here plunged in the blood bath forever.

 

Leave a Reply