Analysis Pages

Plot in Dante's Inferno

Plot Examples in Dante's Inferno:

Canto 1

🔒 3

"sleepy dullness..."   (Canto 1)

Dante has backslidden, though apparently more from inattention rather than a direct, willful act of disobedience against God. We do not know, however, if this inattention led him to commit specific sins that require restoration to the "path direct."

"when the true path I left..."   (Canto 1)

Another reference to Dante having left the right path, that is, the path that would lead him to a relationship with God.  A by-product of leaving the right path is that his senses are disordered.

"I do beseech thee (that this ill and worse I may escape) to lead me, where thou saidst, That I Saint Peter's gate may view, and those Who as thou tell'st, are in such dismal plight..."   (Canto 1)

There is scholarly controversy over the meaning of Saint Peter's gate in this line. Many argue that the "gate" is the gate of Heaven, often referenced in the Bible and elsewhere in literature, but not in "Inferno." Therefore, the stronger argument is likely that the gate here is not to Heaven but to Purgatory, a gate that is actually mentioned in Dante's poem. 

"Speed now, And by thy eloquent persuasive tongue, And by all means for his deliverance meet, Assist him...."   (Canto 2)

The Roman poet Virgil has appeared to assist Dante on his spiritual quest. Virgil lives in Limbo, which is the first level of Hell reserved for those who either lived before hearing (or simply ignored) the message of God. Virgil, who awaits the chance to be granted entrance into Heaven, has been commanded by Beatrice (the love of Dante's life) to guide Dante along the journey back to salvation.

"NOW was the day departing, and the air,..."   (Canto 2)

Canto II takes place the evening after Dante enters the dark forest, and here he meets his guide, the Roman poet Virgil, and they begin their journey down into the underworld.

"I who now bid thee on this errand forth Am Beatrice..."   (Canto 2)

This is one of the most important lines in the Inferno in part because Beatrice, Dante's idealized woman, is Dante's savior because she is trying to put him on the right path. In this moment, Beatrice asks Virgil to serve as Dante's guide through Inferno, establishing her role as a kind of guardian spirit.

"Now much I dread lest he past help have stray'd..."   (Canto 2)

In a metaphorical sense, Beatrice is afraid Dante has lost his soul, has "stray'd." Dante's progress through Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso represent an extended—often painful, often numinous—attempt to re-align himself with the proper path and to find his soul again.

"I enter'd on the deep and woody way..."   (Canto 2)

This entrance into "the deep and woody way" is meant to contrast with the first lines of the poem, in which Dante expresses his fear while entering the dark wood. Now that he understands the protection being afforded him by Virgil and the three divine women, he has much more confidence in this journey.

"THROUGH me you pass into the city of woe..."   (Canto 3)

Dante and Virgil are about to enter the area just before Inferno proper, where those spirits who have lived without praise or blame are kept.  If the Inferno were a house, this would be the foyer or anteroom.

"who intellectual good Have lost..."   (Canto 3)

Those "who intellectual good/Have lost" are the sufferers who are so miserable that they can no longer even think. Thus begins Dante's descriptions of the suffering souls in Inferno, which are sustained throughout the rest of the volume.

"All hope abandon ye who enter here..."   (Canto 3)

This is undoubtedly the most quoted line in the Inferno and among the most well-known line in medieval literature. Despite his sense of being protected, Dante is perturbed by the message.

"For these defects, And for no other evil, we are lost; "Only so far afflicted, that we live Desiring without hope."..."   (Canto 4)

Virgil explains that, like himself, the people damned to spend eternity in Limbo were not baptized—they either lived before the Gospel or died before their baptisms could take place. None of the people in Limbo are particularly evil; however, they did not achieve the redemption required to enter heaven.

"BROKE the deep slumber in my brain a crash Of heavy thunder..."   (Canto 4)

When Dante awakes from his fainting spell, he and Virgil are in the First Circle of Inferno, known as Limbo, where worthy pagans and infants who died before being baptized are kept.

"and in their port Bore eminent authority..."   (Canto 4)

The first group Virgil and Dante encounter in the castle-girded meadow encompasses important civil and military figures from Trojan and Roman history.

"The carnal sinners are condemn'd, in whom Reason by lust is sway'd..."   (Canto 5)

The lustful sinners are punished by being constantly buffeted by strong winds, which metaphorically represent the emotions that rage within them and overpower their reason or intellect.

"let not the entrance broad Deceive thee to thy harm..."   (Canto 5)

As Dante enters the second circle, King Minos tells him that even though the gate is wide, he is still in danger. Presumably, the danger arises from the sinners themselves.

"FROM the first circle I descended..."   (Canto 5)

Dante and Virgil move to the Second Circle, an area in which those who are consumed by the sin of lust are punished.

"Down to the second, which, a lesser space..."   (Canto 5)

Dante makes it clear that, as he descends into the lower levels of the underworld, spaces become increasingly small, a metaphor for one of the greatest punishments of all—the lack of freedom.  The more serious one's sins, the less freedom one has to escape punishment. Dante and Virgil have reached the second circle, the place of those guilty of lust.

"Caina waits The soul, who spilt our life..."   (Canto 5)

Caina is the first section of Cocytus, the ninth and final circle of Hell. A full description of Caina can be found in Canto 32. It is named after the first human murderer, Cain, whose story is told in the biblical Book of Genesis. In this section of the circle, those who betray their families are punished. Caina "waits" because Gianciotto has not yet died 1300, when Inferno takes place. Gianciotto died in 1304, early enough for Dante to have been aware of his death during his composition of the poem.

"the dun midnight air..."   (Canto 6)

Dante and Virgil have been on their journey now for about nine hours. The air is "dun," meaning that the atmosphere is a dim, dull shade of gray-brown.

""No more his bed he leaves, Ere the last angel-trumpet blow..."   (Canto 6)

Virgil tells Dante that Ciacco will not rise again until the Last Judgment, when Jesus will supposedly judge the living and the dead.

"Farinata and Tegghiaio say, They who so well deserv'd, of Giacopo, Arrigo, Mosca..."   (Canto 6)

All of the individuals named here are prominent Florentine citizens with whom Dante is familiar. Later on in the poem, Dante encounters several of these men in the Inferno's lower circles.

"In the third circle I arrive..."   (Canto 6)

After another fainting spell, Dante awakes in a new area of Inferno, this time in the Third Circle, where gluttons are punished. For eternity, gluttons are tormented by the three-headed dog, Cerberus.

"If thou so far descendest, thou mayst see them..."   (Canto 6)

Ciacco's prediction that Dante will meet these condemned souls proves accurate. He will encounter Farinata degli Uberti in Canto 10; Tegghiaio Albobrandi and Jacopo Rusticuci in Canto 16; and Mosca del Lamberti in Canto 28. 

"they wrongfully With blame requite her..."   (Canto 7)

That is, even those who are favored by Fortune, figured as a goddess, blame her for everything that goes wrong. In Dante's universe, such relinquishment of moral responsibility is a grave error.

"The water dwells a multitude, whose sighs Into these bubbles make the surface heave..."   (Canto 7)

Virgil explains to Dante that the bubbles he sees on the surface of the Styx are actually the sighs of disappointment issued by the greedy spirits who are stuck in the mud at the bottom.

"Plutus, in accent hoarse of wild alarm:..."   (Canto 7)

This is Circle 4, where those guilty of the sin of avarice—or greed—are doomed to spend eternity.  In the Inferno, Plutus is associated not merely with wealth but with the insatiable desire to acquire wealth for its own sake. Plutus is depicted ambiguously as a kind of wild human being, capable of speech and understanding, but only barely.

""Fear not: for of our passage none Hath power to disappoint us, by such high Authority permitted. ..."   (Canto 8)

Evil guardian spirits refuse to let Virgil accompany Dante into the City of Dis, where Satan lives. They point out that Virgil is destined to remain in Limbo for the time being because he brought a living human into Hell. Therefore, they argue, Dante should have to continue alone. Dante is terrified and insists that if he and Virgil cannot proceed together, they should both turn back. Virgil assures him that though the guardian spirits forbid their entrance, they have been given permission by a higher "authority" and are thus qualified to enter.

"Hesitating I remain At war 'twixt will and will not in my thoughts..."   (Canto 8)

Virgil has left Dante to argue with himself over whether he should stop his journey or continue on. He characterizes this argument as a war between "will and will not."

"who more than seven times Security hast render'd me..."   (Canto 8)

Virgil has thus far guided Dante safely through seven circles and aided him on seven separate occasions. Dante is conscious of his indebtedness to his guide and mentor.

"To Filippo Argenti..."   (Canto 8)

Filippo Argenti is Black Guelph and Dante's natural political enemy. He attempts to overturn the boat in which Virgil and Dante are crossing the Styx. It is possible that Dante's and Argenti's feelings about each other are intensely personal rather than just politica. Argenti may have slapped Dante across the face, a deadly insult in the Middle Ages. It is an act that Dante repays by having Argenti torn to pieces by his own followers in this canto.

"tombs are freighted..."   (Canto 9)

Each tomb holds a multitude of heretics who are all guilty of particular heresies.

"The arch-heretics are here..."   (Canto 9)

Each heretic is guilty of a particular form of heresy. When Virgil refers to "arch-heretics," he is accusing all in this circle of the most serious heresy: the denial of the soul's immortality.

"THE hue, which coward dread on my pale cheeks Imprinted, when I saw my guide turn back..."   (Canto 9)

Dante and Virgil are still in Circle 5, the zone for those guilty of wrath and sullenness.

"out of Judas' circle..."   (Canto 9)

The fourth and lowest circle in the ninth circle of Hell is "Judecca," so named for Judas, the man who betrayed Christ. In Dante's organization of Inferno, there is no worse sin than betrayal and thus none more deserving of severe, eternal punishment. 

"Guido thy son Had in contempt..."   (Canto 10)

Here Dante is speaking to the departed soul and former leader of the Guelph party, Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti (died circa 128). His son was the poet Guido Cavalcanti, whose works were translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the 19th century and by Ezra Pound in the 20th century. Dante Alighieri and Guido were very close; Dante called the man his "first friend" in La Vita Nuova. Guido ended up marrying Farinata's daughter Beatrice in a effort to end the political fighting between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. In this passage, it is not entirely clear whom Guido holds in such ill-esteem. It might be Virgil, Beatrice, or even God.

"Which e'en thus high exhal'd its noisome steam..."   (Canto 10)

As Virgil and Dante descend into the lower levels of the underworld, the odorous atmosphere becomes overwhelming.

"she of thy life The future tenour will to thee unfold..."   (Canto 10)

Virgil comforts Dante by telling him that he is soon to see Beatrice, who will tell him of his future.

"Now shalt thou say To him there fallen, that his offspring still Is to the living join'd..."   (Canto 10)

Dante asks Farinata to explain to Cavalcanti, who fell back into the tomb, that his son, Guido, is actually still living. Dante didn't answer Cavalcanti's question because he was unsure of the answer until talking further with Farinata.

"Our knowledge in that instant shall expire, When on futurity the portals close..."   (Canto 10)

In other words, as soon as the future becomes the present, the damned lose their ability to foresee events.

"Ye seem to view beforehand, that which time Leads with him, of the present uninform'd..."   (Canto 10)

Farinata and the other heretics, perhaps all of the damned, have "farsightedness." They can see distant events clearly and therefore predict the future, but as events come closer to the present, they lose their vision.

"down fell Supine, not after forth appear'd he more..."   (Canto 10)

After inferring from Dante's expression that his son, Guido, is dead, Cavalcante lies back down in the tomb in despair and disappears from the narrative.

"Where is my son? and wherefore not with thee..."   (Canto 10)

Cavalcanti seems desperate to learn the fate of his son, whom he knows is Dante's friend.  In Dante's Vita nuova (1295), Dante's exploration of courtly love, Dante calls Cavalcante's son, Guido, his best friend.

"Rose from his side a shade, high as the chin..."   (Canto 10)

This refers to Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti. As a member of the Guelph family, Cavalcanti was an enemy of Farinata and the Ghibellines, and an ally of Dante. In an attempt to create peace between the Ghibellines and Guelph families, Cavalcanti arranged for his son, Guido, to marry Farinata's daughter, Beatrice degli Uberti (no relation to Dante's beloved Beatrice).

"Say, what ancestors were thine..."   (Canto 10)

This is a not-so-subtle way for Farinata to determine if Dante's family supports the Ghibellines, Farinata's party, or the Guelphs, Dante's.  

"NOW by a secret pathway we proceed..."   (Canto 10)

Dante and Virgil, having passed through the gates of Dis, are now in the sixth circle of Hell. This circle resembles a cemetery and is reserved for the most grievous heretics, those who deny the immortality of the soul.

"incontinence the least offends..."   (Canto 11)

"Incontinence"—the over-indulgence in things that are not inherently bad—is the least offensive sin, and those who are guilty of incontinence reside in Hell's upper levels.

"simony..."   (Canto 11)

"Simony" was a serious problem in the Catholic church in the Middle Ages. Simony is the selling, usually by monks or other clergy, of indulgences and pardons to allow Christians to preemptively avoid Purgatory— a kind of 'get-out-of-jail-free' card.

"Cahors..."   (Canto 11)

"Cahors" is a town in southern France, well known in the Middle Ages as a center for Italian money-changers and financiers. Dante links the town to Sodom because its inhabitants, in their greed, ignore what Dante would call "the right path."

"My son..."   (Canto 11)

This is important because the phrase signals the growing relationship between Virgil and Dante as analogous to that between parent and child. During the journey, Virgil begins to take a paternal interest in Dante, and Dante begins to depend on Virgil as if he were a father.

"From the right path..."   (Canto 11)

The "right path" is a reference that harkens back to the first few lines of the Inferno, in which Dante describes the path that is the proper relationship to God.

"And there our passage lay athwart the foss..."   (Canto 12)

In other words, the level of moat-blood is low enough for them to cross the river.

"who at the throat Were extant from the wave..."   (Canto 12)

These sinners in the bloody river committed such egregious acts that, as a fitting punishment, they are allowed to emerge only to the level of their throats.

"From out the blood, more than his guilt allows..."   (Canto 12)

The violent sinners in the river of blood are allowed to emerge by a length equivalent to the gravity of their sins. If they stick their heads or bodies too far above the surface, one of Centaurs shoots an arrow at them to keep them at the proper height above the surface.

"Centaurs..."   (Canto 12)

Centaurs are half-man, half-horse creatures known for their violence. In this circle of Hell, they patrol the moat, ready to shoot arrows at the sinners in the moat who try to climb out.

"Perchance thou deem'st The King of Athens here..."   (Canto 12)

Virgil cleverly reminds the Minotaur, who is blocking their way, of his death by Theseus—the "King of Athens." This so enrages the Minotaur that he starts biting himself and ignoring his duty to guard the pass into this section of Hell.

"THE place where to descend the precipice..."   (Canto 12)

Dante and Virgil are entering Circle 7, in which the violent are punished.

"for what a man Takes from himself it is not just he have..."   (Canto 13)

Pier is saying that, because suicides take their own lives, justice requires that they never recover their bodies, which must be willingly discarded.

"The Harpies, on its leaves Then feeding, cause both pain and for the pain A vent to grief..."   (Canto 13)

The suicides, who are doomed to live as gnarled, stunted trees in the underworld, are constantly attacked and bitten by the Harpies. According to Pier, the bites, which allow blood to escape, offer some relief from their constant suffering.

"Men once were we..."   (Canto 13)

In this gloomy grove, Dante learns that the trees are actually the embodied souls of those who have committed suicide.

"We enter'd on a forest, where no track Of steps had worn a way..."   (Canto 13)

Dante and Virgil enter the second ring of the Seventh Circle, reserved for those who have been violent against themselves, including suicides and those who carelessly destroy their own possessions, squanderers.

"which from the third the second round Divides..."   (Canto 14)

Dante and Virgil enter the Third Ring of the Seventh Circle, reserved for those who are violent against God. The first group consists of blasphemers.

"Thou from the confines of man's nature yet Hadst not been driven forth..."   (Canto 15)

Dante tells Brunetto that if he had his way, Brunetto would still be alive.

"That thou by either party shalt be crav'd..."   (Canto 15)

Brunetto tells Dante that both the Ghibellines and the Guelphs will seek his knowledge.

"One of the solid margins bears us now..."   (Canto 15)

Still in the Third Ring of the Seventh Circle, Dante and Virgil are on firmer ground than sand, and here they encounter those guilty of sodomy.

"The painted leopard..."   (Canto 16)

This refers to the spotted leopard that Dante encounters in canto 1 as he enters the dark forest, shortly before he encounters Virgil.

"See that of us thou speak among mankind..."   (Canto 16)

Speaking together, the men punished for sodomy express the perspective that, though they sinned, they led good lives otherwise. Therefore, they wish to be remembered for their goodness, not their sins.

"NOW came I where the water's din was heard..."   (Canto 16)

Dante and Virgil remain in the Seventh Circle but have entered the second zone of the Third Ring, the realm of "other sodomites."

"be thy wheeling gyres Of ample circuit..."   (Canto 17)

Virgil requests that Geryon fly in wide circles so that he and Dante don't fall off.

"My guide already seated on the haunch Of the fierce animal I found..."   (Canto 17)

Virgil has successfully convinced Geryon to transport him and Dante to a lower circle of Hell.

"A yellow purse I saw with azure wrought, That wore a lion's countenance and port..."   (Canto 17)

Dante identifies the usurers not by their names but by the symbols on their purses, which tell him which money-lending family they represent. In the first encounter, Dante sees a yellow purse with a blue lion, the emblem of the Gianfigliazzi family. This was most likely held by Catello di Rosso, well known for his usury in France and Italy but most condemned because he left his family in poverty after his death.

"On which it seem'd as if their eye did feed..."   (Canto 17)

Because these sinners are money lenders and value money above all things, they look longingly at the pouches of coins suspended from their necks.

"I with him meantime Will parley, that to us he may vouchsafe The aid of his strong shoulders..."   (Canto 17)

Virgil and Dante need Geryon's help to traverse the underworld and progress down into deeper layers. Virgil plans to enlist Geryon to help them.

"LO! the fell monster with the deadly sting..."   (Canto 17)

Dante and Virgil arrive in the Third Zone of the Third Ring of the Seventh Circle, an area reserved for sinners guilty of violence against nature and art. Dante identifies this sin with usurers, those who lend money at high interest rates to take advantage of borrowers' distress.

"Strike on thy ken, faces not yet beheld, For that together they with us have walk'd..."   (Canto 18)

Virgil asks Dante to stop and look at the sinners whose faces he has not seen because they have been walking alongside him in the same direction.

"THERE is a place within the depths of hell Call'd Malebolge..."   (Canto 18)

Dante and Virgil have reached the Inferno's eighth circle, which, instead of rings, has ten concentric "pouches," and is where different categories of "ordinary" fraud are punished.  Malebolge means "Evil pouches."

"One of the which I brake, some few years past, To save a whelming infant..."   (Canto 19)

Dante is recounting an incident in which he saved an infant who had fallen into the baptismal font. It is unclear if anyone doubted the truth of this incident, but Dante chooses to make a definitive statement about it.

"The moon was round..."   (Canto 20)

Virgil reminds Dante of the full moon which had aided him with its light when he was lost in the selva oscura, the dark wood, in Canto 1.

"What, and art thou too witless as the rest..."   (Canto 20)

Virgil, who holds no sympathy for these sinners, rebukes Dante for his feelings of pity.

"such their step as walk Quires chanting solemn litanies on earth..."   (Canto 20)

The prisoners walk as slowly as those walking in religious processions. This is ironic, given the sacrilegious nature of their offenses.

"Fit argument of this the twentieth strain..."   (Canto 20)

Virgil and Dante have reached the Fourth "Pouch" of the Eighth Circle, in which those who claim to know God's intentions, as well as magicians and astrologers, are punished by having their heads turned backwards.

"Ah! without escort, journey we alone, Which, if thou know the way, I covet not..."   (Canto 21)

Dante tells Virgil that if he knows the way, it would be better to go without the escort of Malebranche, whom he does not trust.

"for ye shall find them nothing fell..."   (Canto 21)

Malacoda assures Virgil and Dante that they will be safe with the Malebranche for guides.

"Go, Malacoda..."   (Canto 21)

Malacoda, which literally means "evil tail," is the leader of the Malebranche, the demons who so enthusiastically enjoy torturing the corrupt officials.

"His shoulder proudly eminent and sharp Was with a sinner charg'd; by either haunch He held him, the foot's sinew griping fast..."   (Canto 21)

This as-yet-unidentified demon has a sinner slung across each shoulder and is holding the pair of them by the ankles.

"with other talk, The which my drama cares not to rehearse..."   (Canto 21)

As Virgil and Dante move to the Fifth Pouch, they talk about things not related to the journey in the Inferno.

"To view another gap, within the round Of Malebolge, other bootless pangs..."   (Canto 21)

Dante and Virgil have entered the Fifth Pouch of the Eighth Circle, the area in which barrators—corrupt public officials—are tortured.

"Ye of our bridge!" he cried, "keen-talon'd fiends..."   (Canto 21)

The condemned soul here is an unnamed politician who died on the day of this canto's setting. He is guilty of barratry: the buying and selling of public offices.

"Knowest thou any sprung of Latian land Under the tar..."   (Canto 22)

More simply put, Virgil asks, "Do you know of any other Italians under the tar?"

"Then hid more nimbly than the lightning glance..."   (Canto 22)

After the sinner has arched his back above the surface of the tar to relieve his pain, he goes back under quickly enough to avoid being hit by the whip of a demon guard.

"IT hath been heretofore my chance to see Horsemen with martial order shifting camp..."   (Canto 22)

Virgil and Dante are still in the Fifth Pouch of the Eighth Circle. Dante points out that he has seen a group of cavalry successfully moving camp.

"Thus abjectly extended on the cross..."   (Canto 23)

In Hell, Caiaphas is nailed to a cross that is lain horizontally on the ground so that Caiaphas feels the weight of everyone walking over him.

"we saw a painted tribe..."   (Canto 23)

In this ditch are the hypocrites, who wear cloaks made of lead. These lead cloaks are painted with gold to metaphorically reflect how, while alive, these people disguised their malice with false good will.

"as a child, Not a companion..."   (Canto 23)

Virgil carries Dante "in his bosom, as a child." The implicitly parental nature of the relationship between Virgil and Dante is now quite explicit. There is no doubt that their relationship is nearly that of parent and child

"so that from both I one design have fram'd..."   (Canto 23)

Virgil explains that, having intuited Dante's thoughts, he has formulated a plan that incorporates both of their wishes.

"For not on downy plumes, nor under shade Of canopy reposing, fame is won..."   (Canto 24)

Virgil claims that fame does not come to someone who rests on down beds or lies under canopies. Virgil says this to rouse Dante out of his weariness and into a greater state of activity.

"IN the year's early nonage..."   (Canto 24)

It is the "nonage," or early part, of the year. Dante and Virgil are still in the Sixth Pouch of the Eighth Circle, realm of the hypocrites.

"With arrowy hurtling o'er Piceno's field, Whence suddenly the cloud shall burst, and strike Each helpless Bianco prostrate to the ground. This have I told, that grief may rend thy heart..."   (Canto 24)

The prophecy Vanni Fucci gives here foresees the following event: In 1301, the Pistoian White Guelphs, with assistance from the Florentines, expelled the Black Guelphs. The Blacks then began an uprising in Florence, eventually recapturing the city in 1302 and banishing the Whites. This led to Dante's permanent exile. The "cloud" here is an allusion to Morello Malasapina, a successful military leader of the Blacks.

"Th' unsteady ballast of the seventh hold..."   (Canto 25)

Dante recognizes the "new" man—the one who just changed from lizard to man—as Francesco de' Cavalcanti, known as "Guercio" (Cross-Eyed). Buoso arranged to take over for him and continue stealing while in public office. Dante accurately describes him as "unsteady" because he was just transformed from a lizard into a man.

"Thus to another spake..."   (Canto 25)

Buoso Donati is in this part of the Inferno because he stole while serving the public. For Dante, such theft stands as one of the most serious sins of corruption.

"lo! upon his feet One upright rose, and prone the other fell. Not yet their glaring and malignant lamps Were shifted..."   (Canto 25)

These lines describe the lizard rising to a stand, and the man falling to the ground, but their eyes do not change in their form or in the direction of their gaze.

"Then, as they both had been of burning wax, Each melted into other, mingling hues..."   (Canto 25)

Cianfa, in the form of a large lizard, attacks a second sinner, Agnel. Agnel is is thought to be Agnello dei Brunelleschi, a White Guelph who switched over to the side of the Black Guelphs. Cianfi and Agnello meld into one hideous snake-like creature.

"WHEN he had spoke, the sinner rais'd his hands Pointed in mockery, and cried: "Take them, God..."   (Canto 25)

Dante and Virgil are in the Seventh Pouch of the Eighth Circle, the ditch in which thieves are punished. The sinner in question is Vanni Fucci, who "point[s] in mockery," most likely a crude Italian hand signal in which the mocker places the thumb between the first and middle fingers. This signal, similar to the modern practice of displaying one's middle finger, is an indication of Vanni's lack of respect even as a sinner.

"so fate decreed..."   (Canto 26)

Ulysses is acknowledging that nothing they could do would save the ship; once Fate decreed that the ship would sink, man is powerless to change that end.

"Ulysses there and Diomede..."   (Canto 26)

Ulysses and Diomedes are here because, in Dante's eyes, they are guilty of fraudulent rhetoric. In Ulysses' case, he lured Achilles away from his mother, Thetis, by promising the warrior eternal glory on the battlefields of Troy. Diomedes is guilty of stealing the Palladium, a statue of Athene, symbol of the goddess who protected Troy. Ulysses and Diomedes are jointly punished for the Trojan horse, a stratagem they devised. Finally, Ulysses committed fraud by convincing his crew to sail across the Atlantic Ocean for one final voyage. It was this final trip, never mentioned in The Odyssey, which killed Ulysses and crew.

"FLORENCE exult..."   (Canto 26)

Virgil and Dante are still in the Seventh Pouch of the Eighth Circle, among the thieves. These opening lines are Dante's ironic congratulations to Florence for having sinners from Florence represented in every circle of the Inferno.

"Since the deep way we enter'd, when from far Appear'd a mountain dim, loftiest methought Of all I e'er beheld..."   (Canto 26)

Ulysses describes his crossing of the equator into the Southern Hemisphere. 

"To the dawn Our poop we turn'd, and for the witless flight Made our oars wings, still gaining on the left..."   (Canto 26)

Ulysses describes how he and his crew sailed southwest, aiming to arrive at the point on the globe precisely opposite to Jerusalem. Dante identifies this as the location of Mount Purgatory, which forms the setting of the next following volume of the Divine Comedy.

"Threw out its voice, and spake..."   (Canto 26)

Tennyson's masterpiece "Ulysses" was modeled after Ulysses's speech here. Both Dante and Tennyson describe the actions of Ulysses after he returns home to Ithaca at the end of The Odyssey. The aged captain sets out again for a final adventure, only to lead his crew to ruin on the Atlantic. Scholars are unsure whether Dante devised this epilogue for Ulysses. Tennyson and Dante tell episode in different ways. In Dante's estimation, Ulysses is a failure, primarily because he shirks his duties as a father and husband. He is also guilty of hubris, and of not recognizing the limitations imposed by the gods. Tennyson, however, lauds the bravery of the quest and argues that human progress is made possible by those who, like Ulysses, dare to push limits.

"NOW upward rose the flame, and still'd its light..."   (Canto 27)

Dante and Virgil are still in the Eighth Circle, but now in the Eight Pouch where false counselors are punished, including Guido da Montefeltro.

"Romagna..."   (Canto 27)

Romagna is a region located in northeastern Italy, extending from the Po River in the south, to the Appennines in the east. The range includes Mount Oranato, from which the Tiber originates. The speaker here, although not identified, is Guido da Montefeltro (1220–1298). He is considered the greatest of the Ghibelline commanders. He kept Romagna under Ghibelline rule when the majority of Italy, including the papacy, was controlled by the Guelphs. Montefeltro was excommunicated in 1289, although he was later reconciled with the Church and became a Franciscan in 1296. 

"By the hair It bore the sever'd member, lantern-wise Pendent in hand, which look'd at us and said, "Woe's me..."   (Canto 28)

Dante describes a headless man who carries his severed head by the hair as if it were a lantern. The head looks at Dante and says "Woe is me."

"WHO, e'en in words unfetter'd, might at full Tell of the wounds and blood that now I saw..."   (Canto 28)

Dante and Virgil are now in the Ninth Pouch of the Eighth Circle, in which scandal mongers and those who incite sedition are punished.

"already is the moon Beneath our feet..."   (Canto 29)

Because the moon is at the antipodes of Jerusalem, and the Inferno is below Jerusalem, the moon has already set. Therefore, it is early afternoon roughly two days after Dante set out on his journey.

"Thou hast not shewn in any chasm beside This weakness..."   (Canto 29)

At the sight of the prisoners suffering in this region of the Eighth Circle, Dante is deeply disturbed. Seeing Dante's state, Virgil remarks that Dante has not shown "this weakness" in any other "chasm" of hell so far. Virgil urges Dante to rouse himself, for they have much left to see and do.

"SO were mine eyes inebriate with view Of the vast multitude..."   (Canto 29)

Dante sees so many sinners with such indescribable wounds that his eyes are nearly "drunk" with the sight. He and Virgil are still in the Ninth Pouch of Circle Eight, among the sowers of discord and scandal.

"WHAT time resentment burn'd in Juno's breast..."   (Canto 30)

Dante and Virgil are in the Tenth Pouch of the Eighth Circle, still among the falsifiers.

"He in the upper world can yet bestow Renown on thee, for he doth live..."   (Canto 31)

Virgil refers to Dante, who, because he will return to earth, can remind everyone in "the upper world" of Antaeus's greatness. Fame is Antaeus's price for his services.

"who shall place us there Where guilt is at its depth..."   (Canto 31)

Virgil and Dante need Antaeus to transport them to the deepest pit of the Ninth Circle, where Lucifer is chained.

"O senseless spirit! let thy horn for thee Interpret: therewith vent thy rage..."   (Canto 31)

Virgil tells the Giant to use his rear end—"thy horn"—if he wants to communicate or vent his anger.

"THE very tongue, whose keen reproof before Had wounded me..."   (Canto 31)

Dante and Virgil, their time running short, finally arrive in the Ninth Circle, the central pit of hell. This is the home of the Giants—often known as "Titans"—who tried to overthrow the Greco-Roman gods.

"COULD I command rough rhimes and hoarse, to suit That hole of sorrow..."   (Canto 32)

Dante and Virgil are in the First Ring of the Ninth Circle in which they find those who betrayed their families. The condemned are immersed in ice, their heads bent downward.

Dante laments that he does not have "rough rhymes[...] to suit/That hole of sorrow." By claiming not to possess the poetic power to describe the events at hand, Dante lends the events added reality and horror. This is a technique Dante uses throughout the Divine Comedy.

"When this one left a demon in his stead..."   (Canto 33)

This passage explains how Branca Doria and Zanche are in both the world of the living and in Inferno at the same time. Their living bodies are inhabited by devils while their souls are in Inferno

"There very weeping suffers not to weep; For at their eyes grief seeking passage finds Impediment, and rolling inward turns For increase of sharp anguish..."   (Canto 33)

The sinners cannot weep because the tears freeze in their eyes. Thus, their grief has no outlet in tears, and so the grief turns inward and increases their agony.

"Brigata, Ugaccione..."   (Canto 33)

Brigata is one of Ugolino's grandsons, and Ugaccione one of his sons.

"HIS jaws uplifting from their fell repast..."   (Canto 33)

Dante and Virgil have entered the Second Ring of the Ninth Circle and are still among traitors against their country. Next, they enter the Third Ring, home of traitors to their guests.

"the beautiful lights of heav'n..."   (Canto 34)

Dante and Virgil emerge from the underworld through a cave, bidden by the sounds of a stream. They climb forth from the shadowed depths to see the stars shining above them. Each of the three books of the Divine Comedy end on the word stelle, meaning "stars."

"Thou deemest thou art still On th' other side the centre, where I grasp'd Th' abhorred worm..."   (Canto 34)

In this and the following lines, Virgil explains to Dante that they have passed through the middle point of the underworld, and now everything is reversed, including time. As a result, they are now twelve hours earlier than they had been before they reached Inferno's center. It is now early evening on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. It is significant that Dante exits Inferno on the eve of Easter. Just as Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, so too does Dante rise from the Underworld and return to the land of the living.

"Let the grosser sort, Who see not what the point was I had pass'd, Bethink them if sore toil oppress'd me then..."   (Canto 34)

Dante expresses a desire to let those who are ignorant mistakenly decide how he and Virgil got out of their situation. He demurs from explaining in expansive detail.

"I clipp'd him round the neck, for so he bade..."   (Canto 34)

The following lines describe Virgil's acrobatic postures movements as he climbs Lucifer's enormous, hirsute frame, often with his heels over his head.

"banners of Hell's Monarch do come forth Towards us; therefore look," so spake my guide, "If thou discern him..."   (Canto 34)

Virgil's comment is an ironic reference to a 6th-century Christian hymn, “The Standards of the King Advance.” The hymn refers to the cross, an emblem adopted later by the Crusaders for their shields and tabards, the cloak they wore over their armor.

Dante and Virgil have entered the Fourth Ring of the Ninth Circle, also called Judecca, where traitors to their benefactors are punished. Among them is the most notorious traitor in Christian history, Lucifer.

The name Judecca reflects the unfortunate but prevalent anti-Semitism of 13th century. Christian Europeans viewed Jews as the assassins of Christ, a view that led most European countries to restrict Jews to living in specific areas away from the Christian majority.

Analysis Pages