Inferno

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Dante Character Analysis

Dante is the protagonist and narrator of The Inferno. He presents the poem as a true, autobiographical recollection of his miraculous journey. He is a good man who strays from the path of virtue, finding himself in the dark wood at the beginning of the poem. He is saved by his beloved Beatrice, who sends Virgil to guide him on his spectacular journey through hell. Dante is often terrified in hell and is moved by pity for the suffering sinners he sees there. However, he gradually learns from Virgil and becomes both more confident and less sympathetic toward those who have sinned against God. He is often interested in lingering to speak with sinners from Italy, particularly his native city of Florence. As the author of his own story, he wields the power to give both himself and others the immortality of fame through his work.

Dante Quotes in Inferno

The Inferno quotes below are all either spoken by Dante or refer to Dante. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Inferno published in 1950.
Canto 1 Quotes

Midway this way of life we're bound upon,
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
Where the right road was wholly lost and gone.

Related Characters: Dante (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Journey, Light and Dark
Page Number: 1.1-3
Explanation and Analysis:

These are the opening lines of the Inferno. They describe how the speaker, Dante, is personally and spiritually lost—and in need of aid to right himself again.

This beginning is a classic example of a story “in medias res,” or that which commences mid-action without any preface. Instead of outlining the scene or his personal history, Dante places his reader immediately in the moment. Indeed, the phrasing highlights suddenness with the opening word “Midway” and the opening image “I woke”—both of which point to a rapid shift. Thus the text stumbles into its own first events without any orientation—much as the speaker Dante has lost “the right road” and has no clear route forward. The Inferno places reader and speaker in analogous situations of being lost.

It is worth digging into the specific way in which the speaker Dante has become lost. He casts it, first, as a crisis that has hit at a specific moment—“midway” in his life, which implies that his experience in the Inferno will seek to address this personal plight. The image of the “dark wood” takes the idea of being internally lost and makes it an external experience, while the “right road” can indicate both a geographical disorientation and also an ethical or spiritual uncertainty. Thus the opening lines of the Inferno establish a key theme in this work: an external geography and journey will be used as an allegory for an internal one. As Dante travels through the different circles of hell, he will address these corresponding moral and personal uncertainties.

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Canst thou be Virgil? Thou that fount of splendour
Whence poured so wide a stream of lordly speech?

Related Characters: Dante (speaker), Virgil
Page Number: 1.79-80
Explanation and Analysis:

After being thwarted by several animals, Dante glimpses the shade of Virgil, who will become his guide. Dante then goes on to praise Virgil for his poetic prowess.

This interaction is the first of many in which Dante will seek to recognize a historical figure he encounters in the Inferno. Phrasing his greeting as a question—“Canst thou be Virgil?”—implies a certain surprise and indicates that the identifications will not always be automatic. Dante then clarifies his surprise by recalling the reason for Virgil’s fame. He uses the metaphor of a fountain spurting water to relate to Virgil’s creation of language. So as a renowned Roman poet, he is a “fount of splendour” for his ability to produce excellent verse—which is deemed a “stream of lordly speech.” The water imagery highlights the bountiful and rejuvenating quality of Virgil’s verse and foreshadows how Dante will be guided by it along the various bodies of water in the Divine Comedy.

That Dante (the writer) has selected Virgil to be his guide is highly significant. Beyond conveying his personal preference for Virgil's poetry, Dante has made the daring choice of selecting a pagan guide through a Christian landscape. He could well have chosen the figure to be Jesus or another Christian figure, but instead he selects a famed Roman poet. Such a choice reveals the relative importance of classical art even within the confines of a Christian society and poem. Dante has positioned his own work within a famed classical lineage, demonstrating that the text may be theological in nature but that it draws on a Greek and Roman heritage.

Canto 4 Quotes

And greater honour yet they [Homer, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan] did me—yea,
Into their fellowship they deigned invite
And make me sixth among such minds as they.

Related Characters: Dante (speaker), Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan
Page Number: 4.100-102
Explanation and Analysis:

In Limbo, Dante meets a number of important classical artistic figures. He describes, here, how these five ancient poets welcomed him into their fold.

Despite the earlier renunciations of these poets for being pagan, Dante here speaks in admiring, almost worshipful terms. He considers recognition to be “greater honour” and calls them “such minds,” which emphasizes their intellectual accomplishments as opposed to their religious flaws. Using the somewhat pretentious language of “fellowship” and “deigned invite,” Dante stresses the deep significance of their welcome, and so elevates himself to their level. Indeed, to be accepted into the arms of these five poets would place Dante at the pinnacle of classical Western culture.

Yet as his text is written in Italian, as opposed to Greek or Latin, and since it conforms to the necessities of Christian doctrine, his work would actually be of a far greater cultural significance to his time and place. Furthermore, Dante will be able to leave behind the Inferno, unlike these poets, and progress to Heaven. By placing his speaker-character in the company of these figures, Dante the poet has also written himself into their company on a symbolic level. The Inferno thus establishes itself, within its very pages, as a classic that would be “sixth” in the set of other canonical works.

Nay, but I tell not all that I saw then;
The long theme drives me hard, and everywhere
The wondrous truth outstrips my staggering pen.

Related Characters: Dante (speaker)
Page Number: 4.145-147
Explanation and Analysis:

Dante continues to pass through Limbo, recounting the scores of luminaries he finds there. Here he notes that it would be impossible to make reference in the work to every single person he spotted.

This passage presents the poet in an artificially humble fashion. His text, represented by the “staggering pen,” is supposedly incapable of fully rendering the “wondrous truth” of the reality he experiences. That is to say, his art cannot measure up to the complexity and nuance of the world, and therefore he must “tell not all.” A comment such as this one plays several roles in the text. First, it generates sympathy for the speaker and makes the audience accepting of any aesthetic flaws in what he has created; second, it makes a broader philosophical comment on the impossibility of any “pen” to fully capture the complexity of reality, and particularly the reality of spiritual and supernatural realms; third, and most subtly, it shows the importance of Dante’s “long theme.”

Any artist or poet takes such a theme to organize the direction of their work. For Dante, the theme is the ascendence to spiritual salvation. To pursue this theme with a singular purpose, he must refrain from distractions and becoming too deeply lost in the characters of Limbo. Thus Dante must carve a specific direction for his work from the vast potential available to him—a choice made by any artist, but here one that takes a specific religious “long theme.”

Canto 9 Quotes

So we stirred
Our footsteps citywards, with hearts reposed,
Safely protected by the heavenly word.

Related Characters: Dante (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Journey
Page Number: 9.103-105
Explanation and Analysis:

When Dante and Virgil first arrive in Dis, they are distraught at the resistance they meet from the Furies and other diabolical forces. After an angel clears the way, however, they proceed more confidently.

That Dante and Virgil stay “safely protected by the heavenly word” corroborates that their quest is sanctioned by God. More specifically, it shows that the heavens are taking an active stake in their journey as it proceeds, continuing to protect and to aid the travelers. The emphasis on “heavenly word” accents how this protection stems from language—God's word and the angel's word (which cleared the way to Dis), just as Dante has exalted his own poetic verse and Virgil harnesses speech to move various obstacles aside.

The scene at Dis also shows the innovative way Dante generates dramatic tension and suspense. This is a somewhat difficult task, for he must affirm God’s omnipotence, while also leaving sufficient textual obstacles to create a compelling narrative. As a solution, Dante will often describe events like this one at the gates of Dis: an evil creature surfaces who will be eventually dispelled by God, but first it is able to instill sufficient terror in Dante and Virgil to generate an emotional response. Thus Dante is able to maintain both his loyalty to religious doctrine and his commitment to crafting a well-wrought, suspenseful tale.

Canto 15 Quotes

Keep handy my Thesaurus, where I yet
Live on; I ask no more.

Related Characters: Brunetto Latini (speaker), Dante
Page Number: 15.119-120
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Dante speaks to the shade of his teacher Brunetto Latini. As their conversation finishes, Latini asks Dante to recall and continue to use his book: the Thesaurus.

Latini repeats and develops the pattern of characters asking Dante to honor their memory outside of Hell. This repeated theme indicates that the characters in Hell maintain a vested interest in the Earth even after their demise—and that, more specifically, they want to protect their reputation and memory beyond their death.

That Latini wishes this to take place through his Thesaurus offers a slightly different spin on the theme. Whereas other characters have requested that Dante speak of them as people, Latini focuses on the written work he has produced. There he can “yet live on”: he will continue to exist through its pages—existing, in fact, beyond the confines of Hell. Dante establishes, then, the way that inscribed language grants a version of immortality to its writer. And, of course, this is precisely what the Divine Comedy is permitting Dante to do: crafting his own "thesaurus" of the divine spheres that will allow him to persist beyond death, and even beyond his own personhood.

Canto 16 Quotes

So may thy soul these many years abide
Housed in thy body, and the after-light
Of fame shine long behind thee.

Related Characters: Guido Guerra, Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, and Jacopo Rusticucci (speaker), Dante
Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 16.64-66
Explanation and Analysis:

Dante speaks to three Florentine noblemen, who give him advice on how to act when he returns to earth. They encourage him, particularly, to seek fame so that he will be more immortal than a common man.

The exchange reveals the fraught relationship that Dante as both poet and speaker has to the idea of fame. If one were to take Jacopo’s comments at face value, one might believe that “the after-light of fame” is an essential end for Dante to pursue. That is to say, that while he should try to “abide” in the world for an extended period of time, more important is seeking a fortune and renown that persist “long behind” him. Similar recommendations have been offered by other characters, and they repeatedly request that Dante aid their fame in shining beyond the confines of Hell.

Yet one must also note that these recommendations come from Florentines who have been condemned to Hell. Though Dante may treat them with interest and respect, the fact that they have sinned should cause their advice to be received skeptically. Too much pride and ruthless seeking of fame is, indeed, staunchly opposed to the universal love and humility so repeatedly lauded by this poem. Thus while Dante’s characters often place value on immortality through fame—and the Divine Comedy itself could be seen as the fulfillment of that project—the work also implies that egoistically searching for immortality will be self-defeating in the end.

Canto 24 Quotes

Put off this sloth [...]
Sitting on feather-pillows, lying reclined
Beneath the blanket is no way to fame—

Fame, without which man's life wastes out of mind,
Leaving on earth no more memorial
Than foam in water or smoke upon the wind.

Related Characters: Virgil (speaker), Dante
Page Number: 24.46-51
Explanation and Analysis:

Dante and Virgil climb an arduous set of rocks, which winds the speaker. Virgil scolds him in response and reminds him of the dangers of laziness.

Virgil returns to the complicated theme of fame in the Divine Comedy, here linking it to the value of active work. He likens the physical “sloth” of Dante in the moment to the broader sins of sloth: this would be practiced by those who would simply be “sitting on feather-pillows” instead of pursuing any true end. Though Virgil could have finished his reproach by noting how sloth is a sin in the eyes of God, he instead links it to notoriety, pointing out that “fame” will require active effort on Dante’s part.

Thus Virgil further valorizes the importance of being famous on earth after one’s death, because it will grant a type of immortality. With the metaphor of “foam in water or smoke upon the wind,” Virgil summons two poetic images of ephemerality—to which he juxtaposes the potential sturdy immortality granted by “fame.” Dante thus presents his journey through hell and the corresponding task of writing the Divine Comedy to be intensely arduous, but also to be his way to leave a “memorial” upon the earth that will outlast his life (while, at the same time, condemning the excessive desire for earthly fame).

Canto 26 Quotes

Florence, rejoice, because thy soaring fame
Beats its broad wings across both land and sea,
And all the deep of Hell rings with thy name!

Five of thy noble townsmen did I see
Among the thieves; which makes me blush anew,
And mighty little honour it does to thee.

Related Characters: Dante (speaker)
Page Number: 26.1-6
Explanation and Analysis:

After meeting a number of shades that hail from Florence, Dante gives this ironic set of comments on his city. He simultaneously glorifies Florence and disparages it for producing these agents of sin.

Dante plays on a traditional way of exalting cities: by recounting their fame and how they have emissaries spread throughout the world. Thus he notes the “soaring fame” of the city whose metaphorical “wings,” or broad presence, are a fixture in “both land and sea.” Yet by adding the detail “all the deep of Hell rings with thy name,” Dante makes this praise ironic—turning their fame into infamy. For a presence in Hell would speak to a fame due to sinning. This condemnation becomes more explicit when he hones in on the specific characters—“five of thy noble townsmen”—he encountered. He says explicitly that they brought “mighty little honour” to their city. This passage differentiates, then, between different forms of fame that a city or a person may experience. Dante shows that one may indeed remain significant beyond one’s death, but that “little honour” is accrued if the reason for that fame is having sinned.

Canto 28 Quotes

Who, though with words unshackled from the rhymes,
Could yet tell full the tale of wounds and blood
Now shown me, let him try ten thousand times?

Related Characters: Dante (speaker)
Page Number: 28.1-3
Explanation and Analysis:

As he enters the ninth circle of Hell, Dante observes once more how his work will be unable to convey the full extent of the horror he sees. He then challenges anyone else to attempt that feat.

This statement presents Dante as simultaneously humble and proud: he notes that he is unable to "tell full the tale" he sees, while also contending that no other would be able to do so. His tone, however, has grown more assertive from the earlier mentions that his pen would never properly describe the journey. Through his adventure, it seems, Dante's aesthetic confidence has grown and he now believes that while his text may not be perfect, it is indeed a masterpiece.

Attention is drawn, in particular, to the poetic artifice of the text: Dante explicitly notes the "rhymes" that metaphorically shackle him, for he writes within a strict form of meter and rhyme. Thus he cannot necessarily select the easiest language to convey his experience, but must rely on words that function within the form. These constraints are evidence of Dante's struggle against the sin of sloth, and he claims that even without them no other poet would be able to match the work. Thus Dante accents his adherence to form, and claims that other artists with less meticulous compositions will never outmatch his descriptive powers.

Canto 31 Quotes

The self-same tongue that first had wounded me,
Bringing the scarlet blood to both my cheeks,
Thus to my sore applied the remedy.

Related Characters: Dante (speaker)
Page Number: 31.1-3
Explanation and Analysis:

Dante reflects on the benefits and detriments of his linguistic talent. He observes that poetry is not inherently a praiseworthy end, but that it can be so in service of God.

Opting for the metaphor of spoken language, he uses the image of “self-same tongue” and then differentiates between its positive and negative effects. Language “wounded” Dante spiritually because it was sacrilegious, but it also could serve as the “remedy” to that same issue if it is properly used. Dante moves toward resolving his earlier experience of being lost in life’s path, indicating that redemption comes from being able to differentiate between these two types of language.

Dante is also intervening, here, on a complicated religious debate on the meaning of art, and the role it should play in conjunction with the Church. As we have seen throughout the Inferno, art is often associated with pagans and heretics—yet Dante is also evidently drawn to the creative prowess of the classics. Here, he seeks to resolve that tension by explicitly casting language as both capable of harm and healing. Thus Dante defines a uniquely religious type of classic, fusing the Christian and classical traditions together within his own piece.

Canto 32 Quotes

As ‘tis, I tremble lest the telling mar
The tale; for, truly, to describe the great

Fundament of the world is very far
From being a task for idle wits at play,
[...]

But may those heavenly ladies aid my lay
That helped Amphion wall high Thebes with stone,
Lest from the truth my wandering verses stray.

Related Characters: Dante (speaker)
Page Number: 32.5-12
Explanation and Analysis:

As is characteristic by now, Dante opens Canto 32 by observing how difficult it is for him to recount his journey. He asks the muses to assist him in conveying the events that will transpire.

The precise anxiety that Dante holds to his artwork has shifted here. Before, he was primarily worried about including a sufficient quantity of information—always reflecting on the number of people and sights that he failed to include. Here, on the other hand, he is concerned with accuracy. Saying, “lest the telling mar the tale” differentiates between the actual content (“tale”) and the form (“telling”) through which that content is conveyed to the audience. Dante worries that his particular tale has great stakes being “the great fundament of the world” and that therefore “idle wits” may be likely to incorrectly convey the information. He thus sets the stakes of his endeavor and also shows how any who are indeed able to convey the “tale” would be quite impressive for having done so.

That Dante seeks help in this endeavor from the muses (ancient Greek goddesses) is quite provocative. He cites an example of their prowess in classical mythology: helping “Amphion wall high Thebes with stone,” yet one must recall that this action and its tale were pre-Christian, and thus heretical to the Church. The muses, after all, belonged to the Greek and Roman pantheons, and it was traditional in the Greek classics, such as Homer's, for the speaker to ask the muses for aid is conveying his tale. Once more, Dante straddles a complicated line between affirming his Christian roots and incorporating classical figures and traditions. That he believes the muses will allow his verses to center on “truth” reveals a firm commitment that the two worlds can bridged to great spiritual and aesthetic benefit.

Canto 34 Quotes

How cold I grew, how faint with fearfulness,
Ask me not, Reader; I shall not waste breath
Telling what words are powerless to express.

Related Characters: Dante (speaker)
Page Number: 34.22-24
Explanation and Analysis:

When Dante penetrates the final recesses of Hell, he grows increasingly frightful and reserved. He claims that he cannot describe certain horrors that he experiences.

Despite Virgil’s earlier cautions that Dante should be brave and face his anxieties, he seems to have regressed here, being “faint with fearfulness.” Instead of just having an emotional reaction to the experience, however, Dante observes how this feeling affects his ability to craft art. Evidently, there is a direct connection between the horror experienced and Dante’s ability or willingness to represent it in language. He implies, perhaps, that recounting terrors is a painful process—or that the negativity is carried forth in the artwork itself.

As with many of Dante’s similar asides, we must remain skeptical of his actual inability to describe certain things. Throughout the text, already, we have seen a clear ability to present the various terrors of Hell. Indeed, this has been his task: to represent, without pity or empathy, what he sees to warn potential sinners on earth and to internalize these values himself. This passage thus shows how despite Dante’s progress toward this end, he maintains the human flaws of fear and reticence.

Each mouth devoured a sinner clenched within,
Frayed by the fangs like flax beneath a brake;
Three at a time he tortured them for sin.

Related Characters: Dante (speaker), Judas, Lucifer, Brutus and Cassius
Page Number: 34.55-57
Explanation and Analysis:

Dante here describes the horrifying body of Lucifer himself, as he holds and punishes Judas, Brutus, and Cassius for the worst sin of all: betrayal of one's master.

This final image confirms and centers the moral system that Dante has been recounting thus far, in which traitors are considered to be the most appalling of criminals. Notably, he includes both religious and classical figures: though Judus may suffer the worst fate for having betrayed Jesus, Brutus and Cassius both make an appearance for betraying the secular figure of Julius Caesar. By placing these three characters at the bottom rank of hell, Dante sets the stakes of the most despicable action—from which one can recover the full hierarchy of lesser sins up to Limbo.

That Dante has chosen there to be “three” sinners punished by Lucifer is no coincidence. Recall that the Divine Comedy is structured in three sections and composed of triplet verses—all of which serves to reiterate the importance of the Holy Trinity to his world system. Here, we see a corrupted version, in which the three greatest sinners have been unified into a single body through being consumed by Lucifer. (Just as the Holy Trinity combines three disparate beings into a single identity.) This symbolic association shows how the logic of God pervades every single component of Dante’s world, and how Hell and evil is essentially not its own entity, but only a perversion of what God has made. Even at the furthest depths of Hell, the structure is analogous to that of the height of Heaven.

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Dante Character Timeline in Inferno

The timeline below shows where the character Dante appears in Inferno. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Canto 1
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Individual Fame Theme Icon
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
Midway through the course of his life, Dante wakes up in a dark forest, having lost his way from the right road. He... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Dante sees a mountain with the sun shining above it. The sight comforts him, and he... (full context)
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Dante is frightened by the animals and loses all hope of scaling the mountain. He reluctantly... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Dante tells Virgil about how he was turned back from ascending the mountain by wild beasts,... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
Virgil says he will guide Dante on his journey. He says Dante will go through a terrible place with souls in... (full context)
Canto 2
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Individual Fame Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
It is now evening, as Dante begins his journey. As narrator, Dante invokes the muses and the personification of memory to... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Virgil chides Dante, telling him his anxieties arise from mere cowardice, which constantly "lays ambushes for men," (2.46).... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
...that the Virgin Mary sent St. Lucy to her, to encourage her to help save Dante. (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Individual Fame Theme Icon
Virgil thus immediately sought out Dante after Beatrice visited him, and saved him from the wolf. Virgil chastises Dante for showing... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
Dante takes this encouragement to heart, and his spirits are raised like a drooping flower that... (full context)
Canto 3
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
Dante and Virgil arrive at the gate of hell. Above the gate, there is an inscription... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
As they enter hell, Dante hears shrieks, shouts, screams, and lamentations filling the air. He asks Virgil who these suffering... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Dante sees these neutral souls, who committed neither to evil nor to good, chasing after a... (full context)
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...souls waiting by the river to despair and not hope for heaven. When he sees Dante, he tells him to leave, refusing to ferry across a living man. He tells Dante... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Virgil tells Dante that these souls are all the people who have died under God's wrath, and that... (full context)
Canto 4
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Dante is reawakened by a loud peal of thunder. He looks around to try to figure... (full context)
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Dante sees that Virgil is pale, and asks how he can be expected to go through... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Dante hears not loud, suffering groans, but constant sighing. Virgil tells him that the souls in... (full context)
Individual Fame Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Virgil identifies some of the souls for Dante: Homer and the Roman poets Horace, Ovid, and Lucan. These ancient poets come forward and... (full context)
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Individual Fame Theme Icon
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Dante, now accompanied by these five ancient poets, comes upon a great castle, surrounded by walls.... (full context)
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
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Dante also sees the great luminaries of ancient philosophy: Socrates, Plato, Democritus, Heraclitus, Cicero, Seneca, and... (full context)
Canto 5
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Dante and Virgil descend to the second circle of hell, where there is more suffering and... (full context)
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This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
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Love Theme Icon
Minos sees the living Dante and stops him, but Virgil tells Minos that Dante is fated and willed by God... (full context)
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Individual Fame Theme Icon
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Dante asks Virgil to identify some of the souls. Dante points out the Mistress of Babel,... (full context)
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Love Theme Icon
Dante is moved by pity for these souls, and asks Dante if he can speak to... (full context)
Individual Fame Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
One of the lustful souls tells Dante her life's story. Love was the downfall of her and the man she loved; both... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...that day," (5.138) summarizes Francesca. As Francesca tells her story, Paolo wails with grief and Dante is so overcome with pity that he swoons and faints. (full context)
Canto 6
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Dante comes to and finds himself in the third circle of hell, where rain never stops... (full context)
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
When Cerberus sees Dante and Virgil coming, Virgil scoops up several handfuls of dirt and throws some in each... (full context)
Individual Fame Theme Icon
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
...turmoil for Florence between its different political factions, spurred on by Avarice, Envy, and Pride. Dante further asks Ciacco about various famous men of Florence who have died and Ciacco tells... (full context)
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Virgil tells Dante that when the final judgment comes, these souls will be reunited with their earthly bodies.... (full context)
Canto 7
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
At the entrance to the fourth circle of hell, Dante and Virgil encounter Pluto (the underworld deity associated with wealth in Roman mythology), who is... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
Dante wonders if he can do descriptive justice to what he beheld in this area of... (full context)
Individual Fame Theme Icon
...on earth, while the other half—with bald heads—were covetous popes and cardinals who hoarded money. Dante wonders if he knows any of these souls, but Virgil says that their suffering has... (full context)
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Dante asks Virgil to tell him more about the nature of Fortune. According to Virgil, God... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Dante and Virgil walk along a dark, bubbling body of water and the marsh which forms... (full context)
Canto 8
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Dante sees two lights at the top of the tower and sees a beacon far off... (full context)
Individual Fame Theme Icon
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
As Dante and Virgil ride through the marshy Styx, a soul sits up through the grime and... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Virgil tells Dante that this spirit was arrogant on earth and that, "Many who strut like kings up... (full context)
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Virgil announces that they are approaching the city of Dis, and Dante sees a city with buildings glowing red. Virgil explains that they glow from the endless... (full context)
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...walking through hell. Virgil tries to speak with them, but they tell him to leave Dante behind and stay with them in Dis. Dante is terrified and begs Virgil not to... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
Dante, though, is so terrified that he hardly hears Virgil's reassurances. The fallen angels slam the... (full context)
Canto 9
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
...He voices a worry that the angel coming to help them is taking too long. Dante asks him if anyone has made this journey past the gate before and Virgil tells... (full context)
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
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Virgil keeps talking, but Dante stops following what he is saying, as he is distracted by the tops of the... (full context)
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Under the protection of the angel's words, Dante and Virgil proceed into Dis. Dante looks around and sees a plain filled with sepulchers,... (full context)
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Dante asks Virgil who these people are in the burning tombs, and Virgil says that they... (full context)
Canto 10
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
While still walking by the heretics' tombs, Dante asks Virgil if he can see the souls who are inside the tombs, since all... (full context)
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
Just then, a voice from one of the tombs interrupts Dante and Virgil, calling out to Dante as a living Tuscan. Virgil encourages Dante to go... (full context)
This World vs. the Afterlife Theme Icon
Another suffering soul interrupts Farinata and Dante, asking why his son is not with Dante. Dante recognizes this soul as Cavalcante dei... (full context)
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Dante asks Farinata how it is that he and other souls in hell seem to be... (full context)
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Virgil urges Dante to hurry along, but before he does Dante asks Farinata to tell him quickly some... (full context)
Canto 11
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Dante and Virgil reach the edge of a cliff overlooking the descent to the lower parts... (full context)
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...of even more serious fraud and betrayal. At the very core of Dis are traitors. Dante asks Virgil why hell is arranged in this way, with some damned souls suffering outside... (full context)
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Virgil calls Dante foolish and reminds him that, as Aristotle teaches in his Ethics, there are three kinds... (full context)
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Dante then asks Virgil why usury (money-lending with excessive interest) is so wrong. According to Virgil,... (full context)
Canto 12
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Dante and Virgil find a way down from the precipice into the seventh circle, but their... (full context)
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Virgil explains to Dante that the path down through the cliffs was created by the massive earthquake when Jesus... (full context)
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Dante sees centaurs (half-man, half-horse creatures) all around the banks of the Phlegethon with bows and... (full context)
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Chiron notices that Dante is a living soul and Virgil explains to him that he is leading Dante on... (full context)
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While walking along the riverbank, Dante looks at some of the souls submerged in the river and Nessus points out where... (full context)
Canto 13
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Virgil and Dante come upon a dark forest filled with old, gnarled trees and devoid of any greenery.... (full context)
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Virgil tells Dante to pluck a small branch from a tree. When Dante does this, the tree cries... (full context)
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...Pier delle Vigne. Pier says that he was never unfaithful to Frederick and asks for Dante to heal his reputation on earth. Virgil encourages Dante to ask Pier more questions. (full context)
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Dante says that he cannot think of anything more to ask Pier, because he is so... (full context)
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...bodies will hang upon the trees, rather than being truly reintegrated with their souls. Suddenly, Dante hears a loud noise and turns to see two naked men sprinting through the forest,... (full context)
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Virgil guides Dante to the bush, which is itself trying to speak. It cries out in pain (its... (full context)
Canto 14
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Moved by love for his native city of Florence, Dante gathers the scattered leaves and returns them to the bush, before continuing to follow Virgil... (full context)
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...(14.29) fall like snow, keeping the desert sands hot and burning the souls suffering there. Dante compares the falling fire to the fireballs that enemies of Alexander the Great shot at... (full context)
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Virgil explains to Dante that Capaneus was a king who besieged Thebes and made light of God. Even in... (full context)
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Virgil then tells Dante about the source of hell's rivers. Under the island of Crete there is a giant... (full context)
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Dante questions Virgil further, asking where Lethe, the other river of the classical underworld, is. Virgil... (full context)
Canto 15
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Leaving the forest behind, Dante and Virgil walk along the narrow path made by the banks of the Phlegethon. A... (full context)
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Dante explains to Brunetto how he found himself in the dark wood and is now being... (full context)
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Dante asks Brunetto to name some of the more famous sinners who are in his group,... (full context)
Canto 16
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As Dante and Virgil continue along the river, Dante can start to hear the waterfall where the... (full context)
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Dante stops and the three Florentines form a circle, so that that they can keep moving... (full context)
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Jacopo wishes for Dante to have a long life and to live on in fame after his death. He... (full context)
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Dante and Virgil arrive at the waterfall where the Phlegethon falls down into the eighth circle.... (full context)
Canto 17
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...scorpion's. (Though not yet named, this is Geryon, a monster from classical mythology.) Virgil tells Dante that they must walk over to this beast. As they approach, Dante sees a group... (full context)
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Dante goes alone to the souls sitting in the hot sand and does not recognize any... (full context)
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Geryon sets off from the cliff (Dante compares him to a boat leaving its dock and returning to sea) and Dante describes... (full context)
Canto 18
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Virgil and Dante are now in the eighth circle of hell, reserved for those who committed fraud. The... (full context)
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...wall, looking down into the trench. They whip the souls, driving them back and forth. Dante recognizes one of these suffering souls and wonders who he is. Virgil allows him to... (full context)
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Venedico says that he would rather not answer, but that Dante's clear words compel him to. He admits that he sold his sister to a lustful... (full context)
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Dante and Virgil now come to the edge of the second trench. Dante can hardly see... (full context)
Canto 19
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Dante and Virgil arrive in the third trench, which holds Simonists, those who bought or sold... (full context)
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Dante asks who one of the souls is, who seems to be burned even worse than... (full context)
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Pope Nicholas predicts that after Boniface there will be an even more evil pope. Dante chastises Nicholas, asking him how much Jesus charged Peter for the keys to the kingdom... (full context)
Canto 20
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In the next (fourth) trench, Dante sees souls weeping quietly, their heads turned completely around so that they have to walk... (full context)
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Virgil tells Dante to look at one of the backwards-facing souls, Amphiaraus (a seer of Greek mythology). Virgil... (full context)
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...story of the origins of Mantua, and that other versions of its foundation are false. Dante assures Virgil that he believes him entirely. Virgil points out more seers and witches in... (full context)
Canto 21
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The fifth trench is filled with boiling pitch and Dante cannot see anything in the pitch, which is continually bubbling. Suddenly, Virgil tells him to... (full context)
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Virgil tells Dante to hide behind a rock while he talks with these devils. When the devils see... (full context)
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Dante hurries to Virgil's side. A few of the devils debate poking and stabbing at Dante... (full context)
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Dante is terrified and begs for Virgil to guide him alone, without the dubious company of... (full context)
Canto 22
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Dante says that, although he has seen horsemen and soldiers and other military crowds advancing and... (full context)
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...hair and pulls him out of the pitch. While the devils gleefully consider flaying him, Dante asks Virgil if he can possibly know who this is. Virgil asks the sinner where... (full context)
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...while they are distracted, he escapes their notice and dives into the pitch in what Dante calls "a merry prank," (22.118). The angry demons try to pursue him, but he has... (full context)
Canto 23
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As Virgil and Dante walk on, Dante worries that the devils will get angry and come after the two... (full context)
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In this sixth trench, Dante sees souls walking around slowly, covered in cloaks. The cloaks are bright and gilded on... (full context)
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Virgil asks the friars how he and Dante might get out of this trench and Catalano tells him that there is a rock... (full context)
Canto 24
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Dante is distressed to see Virgil upset, but when they get to the rocks by which... (full context)
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Dante gets back up, catches his breath, and tells Virgil to lead on. As they cross... (full context)
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Virgil assents and when they cross and go down into the trench, Dante sees a mass of strange, frightening serpents and lizards, unlike any earthly creatures. He sees... (full context)
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...and where he is from. He is from Tuscany, and names himself as Vanni Fucci. Dante asks what crime he is guilty of and Vanni looks at him with shame and... (full context)
Canto 25
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Vanni curses God and at once a snake curls around his throat. Dante is disgusted with Vanni and wishes that his home city of Pistoia would burn to... (full context)
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Three spirits come up to Dante and Virgil and ask who the two poets are. One of them calls for someone... (full context)
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...bodies: the lizard turns into a human body while the spirit morphs into a lizard. Dante says that this incredible transformation is more remarkable than anything told by the Roman poets... (full context)
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Dante describes, detail-by-detail, how the lizard's body transforms into a human's, and vice versa. The spirit... (full context)
Canto 26
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Dante ironically praises Florence, because its fame spreads throughout not only earth, but hell as well.... (full context)
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Dante and Virgil take the dangerous climb up some rocks and Dante can see the eighth... (full context)
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Dante sees a flame split in two and asks who is under that flame. Virgil tells... (full context)
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Dante eagerly asks Virgil if he can speak to the two heroes. Virgil agrees that this... (full context)
Canto 27
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Ulysses leaves and another flame draws near, making strange muffled noises that Dante likens to the noises coming from a Sicilian bull: a torture device that is a... (full context)
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The spirit begs Dante and Virgil to speak with him. He asks about Romagna, a region of Italy. Virgil... (full context)
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The spirit says that Dante will never carry his name to earth, since no one can escape from hell, and... (full context)
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...hell, for his fraudulence and deceit. Having told his story, Guido leaves, lamenting his fate. Dante and Virgil go onward toward the ninth trench of this circle of hell. (full context)
Canto 28
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As Dante looks down from the bridge into the ninth trench, he claims that no one could... (full context)
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Mohammed tells Dante that the souls here were all sowers of scandal and discord. Since they "split" people... (full context)
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Virgil explains that Dante is not dead and is not being punished here, but is journeying through hell, guided... (full context)
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Mohammed then walks off, and another spirit comes up to Dante with his ear and nose cut off and a wound in his throat. He asks... (full context)
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Dante asks Pier da Medicina to identify another suffering soul, and he points out one whose... (full context)
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Then, Dante sees—and he cautions his reader that he would hesitate to tell this without proof, but... (full context)
Canto 29
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Dante continues to look at the sowers of discord in amazement, and Virgil tells him that... (full context)
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Virgil says that Geri looked angrily at Dante, and Dante says that this must be because no one has avenged Geri's violent death... (full context)
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The souls here suffer from horrible diseases and sicknesses, worse than any on earth. Dante and Virgil walk down into the trench and Dante sees that here falsifiers are punished.... (full context)
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...hell. The two souls (and others who heard Virgil) draw near in amazement. Virgil encourages Dante to ask them whatever he wants. Dante tells the spirits to identify themselves, so that... (full context)
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...impossible miracles. He is punished here, though, for his pursuit of alchemy (falsifying precious metals). Dante criticizes the people of Siena loudly and another spirit agrees with him. This spirit identifies... (full context)
Canto 30
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Dante describes two more shades he saw, whose suffering surpassed even that of Hecuba and Athamas,... (full context)
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Dante sees another soul who is bloated and swollen grotesquely. This soul tells Dante to look... (full context)
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...someone named Guido, who convinced him to practice counterfeiting and is now somewhere in hell. Dante asks Adam to identify a pair of sinners "rolled in a heap," (30.92) and giving... (full context)
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Dante is enjoying watching these sinners feud, but Virgil rebukes him, telling him that he will... (full context)
Canto 31
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Relieved that Virgil is not seriously upset with him, Dante follows him forward. Dante can hardly see anything in the darkness, but hears a loud... (full context)
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Virgil tells Dante that what he sees are not towers, but actually giants stuck from their navels down... (full context)
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Dante then sees an even taller giant, with its hands bound by a huge iron chain.... (full context)
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Virgil addresses the fearful giant Antaeus and tells him to carry Dante and him safely down the well, since Dante, who is alive, can report his name... (full context)
Canto 32
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Dante hesitates as to whether his words can even come close to conveying the hideous innermost... (full context)
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Close to his feet Dante sees two souls whose hair is tangled together and who continually butt heads. He asks... (full context)
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...no other souls deserve as much as these two to be frozen together and tells Dante that he is Camicion dei Pazzi (who murdered a family member). Dante sees thousands more... (full context)
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As they walk, Dante accidentally steps on a head. The spirit cries out and Dante thinks he recognizes it.... (full context)
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Dante grabs the soul's hair and threatens to rip the hair from his head unless he... (full context)
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Bocca tells Dante to write whatever he wishes, but tells Dante to include mention of other souls nearby.... (full context)
Canto 33
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The sinner just addressed by Dante stops eating the head for a moment (wiping his mouth grotesquely on the other spirit's... (full context)
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Ugolino tells Dante that he is cruel if he does not weep at his story. One morning in... (full context)
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Dante cries out against Pisa. Although Ugolino betrayed Pisa in its disputes with other Italian cities,... (full context)
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Dante feels a wind and asks Virgil what is causing it. Virgil tells him that he... (full context)
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...himself as Friar Alberigo, who killed his own brother after inviting him to a dinner. Dante asks if Alberigo is already dead and Alberigo says he isn't, but that this region... (full context)
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Branca had invited his father-in-law to a banquet and killed him there. Dante is incredulous that Branca's soul could come here even before he dies. Alberigo answers that... (full context)
Canto 34
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Virgil informs Dante that they are now approaching Lucifer, once the fairest of angels before he rebelled against... (full context)
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Lucifer's upper body sticks out of the ice and Dante says that Lucifer is even larger than the giants he saw earlier. In fact, Dante... (full context)
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Lucifer has wings larger than any ship's sails that Dante has ever seen. The flapping of these wings causes the gusts of wind that Dante... (full context)
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Virgil tells Dante that they have now seen all of hell. They wait until an opportune time and... (full context)
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Virgil tells Dante to get on his feet again, because they must continue their journey, even though the... (full context)
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Dante describes a cavern as far from Lucifer through the earth as Lucifer is from the... (full context)