Danté begins canto XXVIII with a catalog of the horrors of war, who "could tell the blood and wounds that I saw now?" where men were "cleft from the chin right down to where men fart." From Aeneas's Trojans (1150 BCE)--a Roman victory--to the Roman defeat by the Carthaginians (216 BCE), the Norman defeat of the Saracens (1070 CE) and the defeat of Manfred by Charles of Anjou (1266 and 1268 CE). In other words, from ancient times to Danté's time.
Danté even runs into Mohammad in this bolgia who "looked at me and, with his hands, ripped apart his chest." Danté believed that Islam was a rival Christian sect, thus Mohammad is divided in belief. Danté also describes the Sunni/Shiite split that occurred in 656 and still divides Muslims.
All the inhabitants of this bolgia "sowed scandal and schism while they lived and that is why they here are hacked asunder. Their punishment fits their sin since they ripped apart nations, religions, families, politics. They are incessantly hacked apart by a sword-wielding devil who hacks them apart when "all our wounds have closed."
Virgil tells Mohammad that Danté is just visiting "to give him great knowledge." Mohammad is stunned and tells Danté to warn Fra Dolcino, the head of an outlawed Christian sect, that he better straighten up "unless he'd like to join me here quite soon."
Danté is recognized by Pier da Medicina and is intrigued by the inhabitants. He tells da Medicina "Point out to me and make him known, if you would have me carry news of you above, the one to whom that city's [Rimini] sight was bitter." da Medicini pries open the mouth of Curio, but he can't speak because his tongue has been cut out. He is seen as schismatic because he told Caesar he should march on Rome, thus destroying the republic, and causing civil wars in Rome.
Here's a great image from all your B-horror films worth their screams and blood. Towards the end of the canto Danté views "a headless body . . . and by its hair he held his severed head swinging in his hand as if it were a lantern." This sinner caused a rebellion between king and prince and "because I severed persons thus conjoined, severed, alas, I carry my own brain."
Canto XXIX - Circle Eight, Bolgia Ten - The Counterfeiters
Danté takes a look around at the multitude of "people and their ghastly wounds." Virgil rebukes him "What are you staring at?" It's like a scene from a fatal car crash where everyone slows down to take a look. Virgil also says the pair needs to get a move on because "the moon already lies beneath our feed. The time we are allotted soon expires." Virgil's lunar time-telling leaves five hours for the remainder of their journey through Hell.
Danté is offended. He's not just curious rubbernecker. "I do believe I saw someone of my own blood." Virgil tells him it's Geri Del Bello, a member of his family, who is a troublemaker and was murdered. Danté then sticks up for Del Bello saying, that because "no vengeance has been taken yet" makes "any person partner to his shame." Danté is stuck, he should seek vengeance for his fallen relation, but as all Christians know, vengeance is the provenance of God.
Danté offers a simile to explain the forgers' punishment. Juno sent a plague that laid waste to the island of Aegina - in the same way the counterfeiters are a plague on society, so they have been afflicted with every kind of disease one can imagine. These particular inhabitants are covered "with scabs from head to foot" and "clawed his nails across his skin because of that mad itch."
Virgil asks if "any are Italian"?
"We whom you see so blasted are Italian?"
Virgil directs Danté to "Ask them what you will."
Griffolino d'Arezzo was burned alive for heresy, but landed in Hell for falsifying metals. The other Capocchio, the Arentine, does the same thing, he first tells a story about the indulgences of the Sianese - using clove to spice food - and then says I “altered metal by means of alchemy” and that’s what landed him in Hell.
Canto XXX - Circle Eight, Bolgia Ten - The Counterfeiters (cont'd)
Canto XXX opens with a long classical simile from Ovid's Metamophoses, tales that end in madness and involve deception through disguise. Myrrha disguises herself to have sex with her father, etc. The classical sinners bear off Capocchio (see XXIX above), the scratcher, who is dragged away "so his belly scraped the rock-hard ground.” The other sinner, the Arentine (see XXIX above) is Gianni Schicchi, a man known as a great imposter. These sinners are all plagues on society.
There are four different kinds of falsification that are afflicted by various diseases: falsifiers (alchemists) are punished with scabs, impersonators are rabid, counterfeiters of coin are stuck with dropsey (edema), and perjurers are fever ridden.
One of the hell bound, Adam, a debaser of gold coinage, "the coinage stamped with John the Baptist" was burned at the stake. He blames his employer, the Conti Guidi, (typical) "for it was they made me strike the florins that held three carats' worth of dross."
Virgil rebukes Danté "Go right on looking and it is I who'll quarrel with you." Danté does not offer a retort, like he did in the last canto; instead he takes it, feeling guilty for enjoying the back-and-forth quarreling of the sinners.
"Do not forget I'm always at your side should it fall out again that fortune take you where people are in wrangles such as this. For the wish to hear such things is base."
When we began the descent into circle eight’s ten bolgias, the translator Dorothy Sayer notes, Maleboge "began with the sale of the sexual relationship, and went on to the sale of Church and State; now, the very money is itself corrupted, every affirmation has become perjury, and every identity a lie.” Do you see the sins progressing as you would have thought from lesser sin (at the top of circle eight) to the worst sin at the bottom?
So what do you think the punishment should be for those selling knock off goods? That's counterfeiting. Do you believe counterfeiting money is a victimless crime?
Do you know someone who just loves to stir up trouble and then watch what happens?