Danté is accosted by three shades from his hometown, Florence, a "degenerate" city. These men are covered with sores and joined together like a wheel "their feet moved forward while their necks were straining back." These sinners are punished by continual movement, reflecting their agitated lives. Two of the men are Guido Guerra and Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, Guelph powerhouses and usurers. The speaker is Iacopo Rusticucci, another Guelph and possible homosexual.
We again run into a problem when looking at sodomy. Rusticucci says, "It was my bestial wife, more than all else, who brought me to this pass." Some say this line means his wife drove him to homosexuality while others believe that his wife enjoyed anal sex (a sin at the time). The reader never actually meet homosexuals in Hell, so this can be interpreted in many ways. Something to consider is that homosexuality is punished, but later on in The Inferno.
The shades start reminiscing about the good old days in Florence to which Danté replies that the nouveau riche are ruining the place. The three shades seem more concerned with their fame, "See that you speak of us to others." Although one can also interpret this passage as speak of our fate to others so they will not suffer as we do.
Dante feels considerable "sadness. [I've] fixed your condition in my heart..." Some like to say that Danté only puts his political enemies in Hell, but these are men Danté admires, men he feels sympathy for.
Canto XVI ends with a cliffhanger. Virgil throws a rope into the abyss and something comes "swimming up through that dense and murky air,"something that looks like a man.
Canto XVII - Leaving Circle Seven - Meet the Userers and Geryon
Danté meets some unrecognizable shades who are sitting as they gnaw at themselves like "dogs in summer . . . when fleas or horseflies bite them." From their necks hang purses, each containing a different crest, purses that, when they were alive, contained money.These are the usurers.
Their punishment fits their sin. Usurers cause money to move quickly from person to person, while they remain hunched over their counting desks. They don't look at each other, rather they look at their empty purses, their true identity once being the money held inside.
They descend far into the pit before Geryon sets them down at the bottom of a jagged cliff.
Canto XVIII - The Eighth Circle, Bolgia 1 and 2 - Fraud - Pimps, Seducers and Flatterers
Being "horned" from Medieval to Renaissance times represented a cuckold (a man with a cheating wife), hence these sinners are punished by "horned demons" to represent that their own actions often resulted in a husband's disgrace.
This canto describes Rome's crowds and its invention of two-way traffic, which is practiced in this bolgia; the panderers move one way while the seducers move another. This also brings up the image of how the condemned were often whipped along the route to the execution place.
Next, Danté meets a character from classic mythology, Jason of the Golden Fleece, a flatterer who seduces the "young Hypsipyle" only to leave her pregnant and Medea, daughter of King Colchis.
Finally, Danté meets a character from a play by Terence, a poet of the Roman Republic, a courtesan, a flatterer of the first rank who has found herself in the eighth circle of Hell forever "scratching herself with her filthy nails." Actually, in Terence's play she isn't the flatterer by the flatteree, so this passage leads scholars to wonder how much Terence Danté was familiar with. Remember, in Medieval times classic texts were just being rediscovered.
As Danté continues down into Hell he is mixing his sources from Biblical to Classical to political tittle tattle. The Inferno is a very intertextual work that borrows from many sources including those that were very new to the Medieval world - Greek and Roman classical texts.
Do the nouveau riche cause problems in America? Or is that just the outcome of the American Dream? What about gentrification of the entire Bay Area? Do you think you will be able to live here once you graduate?
Human trafficking is a huge problem worldwide. Do you think the pimps' punishment fits the sin?
Where do we see flatterers and seducers at work in our society today? How would you characterize people who are "handlers"? Those employees whose job it is to get celebrities and politicians from one place to another and keep them insulated from society while keeping their spirits up?
Do you think people have changed much since Medieval times?