Sunday, September 20, 2015

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos VII to IX

Canto VII - Circle Four: Greed (Avarice and prodigal) to Circle Five: Anger

Danté and Virgil meet up with Plutus (Greek god of wealth) who guards the entrance to circle four where they see shades rolling money bags back and forth endlessly. As Virgil says "All the gold that lies beneath the moon, or ever did, could never give a moment's rest to any of these wearied souls." Seriously, do you know people like this? And I'm not just talking about money.

How many shoes do you need? How many buttons, Pokemon cards, books, action figures, stamps, Pez dispensers, cars, guns, records, DVDs, CDs, MP3s, etc., etc., etc. does one person need? These are the hoarders.

Then there are the prodigal that squander goods. Can't find your lipstick - just go out and buy a new one, or two, or three. Got a scuff on your new Nike's? Oh well, go buy another pair on your credit card. Got too rough with your new iPhone - it's all covered, no problem.

In this circle, Danté observes a lot of clerics who hoard the church's wealth . . . in fact it is the only class of people he mentions. He doesn't see (or discuss) moneylenders or bankers.

The inhabitants of circle four are so consumed by greed they are no longer recognizable.

There is a long speech about Fortune "who shifts those worthless goods, from time to time, from race to race, from one blood to another beyond intervention of human wit." Fortune can be seen as divine providence and she is to blame for all good and bad luck we encounter. The message: we should understand that we control our own fates and should not pin our hopes on stuff.

Besides rolling money bags around the avaricious will have their fists forever clamped to remind them of their grasping behavior, while the prodigal will have their hair cut off to remind them of their lack of care for their possessions.

Danté and Virgil then cross to the swamp of Styx where they encounter the angry who "struck each other with their hands, their heads, their chests and feet, and tore each other with their teeth." These people are just angry, forever.

How about you? Ever lash out at anybody? Have a younger sibling that makes you want to throw shoes? Have you ever been in charge of people and lorded it over them by lashing out? Get angry at your significant other just because you had a bad day?

One thing to notice is that Danté doesn't stop to chat with any of these people and he seems to have quit making excuses for every shade he encounters.

Canto VIII - Circle Five: Anger

In the swamp of the Styx, Danté encounters a man he knows and curses him. "In weeping and in misery, accursed spirit, may you stay." Virgil congratulates Danté for his harsh words.

The shade is that of Filippo Argenti, a Black Guelph, (remember Danté was a White Guelph), whose brother got much of Danté's property when he was banished from Florence. In fact,  Danté "would be most eager to see him pushed deep down into this soup" and rejoiced when as he watched Argenti torn to pieces by the "muddy crew."

Has Danté learned to quit falling for the stories of these shades, or is this a simple case of vengeance? Whatever the answer, Virgil is pleased  by Danté's reaction and praises him because Argenti did "not one good deed."

Virgil and Danté travel across the swamp towards the iron-walled city of Dis with its burning Hell fires where they are met by a thousand rebel angels who block their way. The iron walls are a symbol of the iron will of the sinners from this circle downward.

Remember, Danté's Hell is broken down into three sections; one reserved for the incontinent (no self control), another for the violent, and the lowest level contains those committing fraud. We are leaving the incontinent circles and entering the circles reserved for those who committed violence.

Virgil tells Danté to wait while he handles the rebel angels, but they deny him entrance. Virgil is stumped.

Canto IX - From Dis to Circle Six: Heresy

Virgil is confused. He has been bested by the rebel angels, but he has to win. It's ordained.

Three furies appear above Dis crying "Let Medusa come and we'll turn him to stone." Virgil covers Danté's eyes and just when all appears lost, an angel descends from heaven.

The angel is filled with disdain "Why do you kick against the will which never can be severed from its purpose?" In other words, don't argue against heaven.

He opens the gate of Dis and Virgil and Danté enter where Danté sees "graves [that] were strewn with flames that made them glow with heat hotter than iron is before it's worked." This is the entrance to Circle Six.

Danté asks who are these forever burning in their graves?

"The arch-heretics of every sect," responds Virgil and we'll meet them next time.

How do you think Danté's Inferno can help post modern people live a better life?

After studying Cantos I to IX what do you think has the most relevance for today's world?

Have you seen yourself yet?


  1. I want someone to come up with the Dante's version or Seven Deadly Sins version of Captain Planet...Honestly...can't you see the opening credits? It would be called Captain Dammit...and the Dammiteers. Teenage kids with fancy rings, powered by one of the deadly sins.

    WRATH...GREED...ENVY...SLOTH...LUST....When your powers combine...I am CAPTAIN DAMMIT

  2. postmodern people sees the world different than pre-modern people. I don't believe Dante's inferno could help them live a better life, unless that, the way how they see the world, was based in religion. Like that than because Dante describes what he sees, what he is seeing is hell the way he describes it is nothing pleasant, "Dante sees graves [that] were strewn with flames that made them glow with heat hotter than iron is before it's worked." that sounds like a place where I don't want ever to pass by so it is just a reminder that hell exists and is not pleasant to be in that place. So its an indirect message for post modern people, and the message is to be good, because with that fear they will be in controlled and wont act in a way to harm people.

  3. In today's world, it is very easy to take things for granted. I do know people who spend money like it's no bug deal on new shoes just because their's got a little dirty, and I can't deny that I've done something similar to that. I come from a very religious family- go to church every Sunday, attended Sunday classes- although when I see other Catholics, or others of the like, call someone out for "sinning," I don't always agree. In today's world, everyone hoards or replaces something that's broken to them, but how does that make them sinners? I think a more universal topic within today's world is the sin of heresy. Many people believe in God, then lose faith in Him for whatever reason. From what I see in today's world, many people who believe in God stop believing after something terrible has happened in their life. In my eyes, those people look at the situation in only a negative way. I believe those who continue to believe in God after something bad happens to them are the ones who look at things in the long run- it's bad at that moment, but things will look up because you believe God will be there for you. Those who continue believing go to Heaven and live forever with God, but those who stopped believing go to Circle Six of Hell, where they see too late that they were wrong.

  4. The proclaimed gory and self-help advised overall well put poem, the Inferno by Dante, draws attention of many people. Depending on the mood that you are in, you can conceptualize the sins as a way to learn morals and values. Applying them to your everyday actions depends whether you feel that a righteous life is what you want to live or maybe the Inferno scared you into changing your sinful habits. That being said I definitely feel that the poem can be picked up by this generation, with the help of translators, and understood because most of the sins drawn to the reader can be compared to a situation most of the readers have witnessed or have done. Dante’s Inferno was written for commoners 700 years ago, giving it light amongst the everyday man who commits sin and happens to come across the book and wants to change.