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Free Study Guide-The Divine Comedy-The Inferno by Dante Alighieri-Notes
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Dante says that describing the horrible Ninth Circle is a difficult task. He asks the help of the Muses who helped Amphion to build a wall around Thebes.

The poets are moving deeper and deeper in the Ninth Circle. They find themselves in the first division of Cocytus (Ninth Circle) called Caina where those who had murdered their relatives are punished. The surface of Caina resembles a frozen river. And Dante it to the Danube and Don wintertime. He says that the ice of Caina is so thick that even if Mount Tambernic or Pietrapana feel on it, the thick surface wouldn’t crack.

The sinners are impaled in the ice. Their bodies are beneath the icy surface with only their heads emerging out. Dante compares them to frogs that lie in water with only their nuzzles showing the sinners teeth are chattering with the cold and they are weeping.

The Pilgrim’s attention is caught by two souls tightly packed with each other, their chests touching. These two are butting their head against who they are, his question is answered by Camicion de Pazzi who lies buried nearby. He tells t he Pilgrim that both of them are sons of Albert. He adds they their sins are more grievous that of the man who was killed by Arthur, Focaccio and Sassal Mascheroni. Then Camicion de Pazzi reveals his own name and adds that he is waiting for Carlin to join him in Hell.

When the Pilgrim gazes ahead he sees thousands of faces emerging from the ice. Then accidentally, he kicks a soul in its face. The soul starts weeping and cursing him. He asks if the Pilgrim had come to avenge Montaperti. The Pilgrim leaves Virgil to find out the sinners identity. The two poets are now in the second division of Cocytus called Antenora. Here are punished those who betrayed their country, city or political party. The Pilgrim reveals he is a living man and promises the shade he’ll refresh the memory of his name on Earth. The shade doesn’t want this and refuses to divulge his identity. The Pilgrim grabs his hair and pulls it to force him to reveal his name. Although in great pain at having his hair ripped the soul still resists. He cries disturb another shade nearby who addresses him as "Bocca". Having found this out the Pilgrim vows to reveal to those on Earth Boca’s shameful fate. The angry Bocca tells him all to mention others who are punished here. He names "the one from Duera" (Buoso de Duera), "one from boccheria" (Tesauro dei Beccheria), Gianni Soldanier, Ganelon and Tibbold.

The Pilgrim and Virgil leave the angry shade behind and move further on. Soon they reach two soles lying frozen together in a single hole, with one’s head fitting the other’s like a cap. The soul whose head is lower is biting the other souls neck in great anger. Dante compares this to the angry Tydeus biting Menalippus. And adds that this soul is far more angry and vicious in its biting then Tydeus. The Pilgrim addresses the biter and asks him why he is gnawing the other shade. He adds that if he is justified in his revenge and tells the Pilgrim about the other’s crime he will reveal the truth to people on Earth.


The Pilgrim and Virgil are now in the Cocytus or the Ninth Circle of Hell. The previous canto builds up eager anticipation in the readers to know what this least Circle is like. So Dante t he poet opens this Canto by saying that words are not sufficient to describe what a "horrid hole" this is. He says he needs words that are "grating and crude" to describe this place. Thus he gives the readers clues to the nature of this place. It is grating and crude to the senses. He asks the help of the Muses ("those heavenly ladies") to aid him in his task of description of Cocytus. The muses helped Amphion, the son of Jupiter and Antiope, to construct a wall around Thebes. When he played upon his lyre, the sound charmed the stones of on Mt. Cithaeron and they cam themselves to form a wall.

Next Dante addresses the souls punished here. He calls them a "misbegotten rabble" showing his contempt for this sinners. He adds that it would have been better if instead of being men they had been sheep or goat. His words reveal that he deems them unworthy of being human beings. He says they deserve to be "sheep or goat" that is, senseless animals. Throughout the canto Dante compares these souls using the imagery of animals (dogs, frogs, storks). Thus he equates them with the lower life forms of animals. This reveals his anger and contempt at the nature of their crimes. That are so animal-like in nature.

The first division of Cocytus is Caina. It is an icy region. Circular in shape, it resembles the frozen surface of a river. Indeed, Dante compares this frozen place to be rivers Danube and Don in Winter time. Don begins in Russia and thus it would be frozen during the cold Russian winter. The ice of Caina is so thick that even Mount Tambernic or Pietrapana falling down on it wouldn’t crack it. Tambernic lies in the Balkans Pietrapana is a rocky peak in the Northwest region of Tuscany. Today it is know by the name of Pania della croce. To emphasize the nature of Caina Dante uses the example of the cold rivers and a hyperbole of mountains crashing down and unable to break it. This way the wants his reader to understand this place is far colder than any on earth. It is this otherworldly and extreme nature of the place that he wants to impress upon his readers.

The icy outer most ring of Cocytus is called Caina. It is named after Cain who slew his brother Abel. In Caina are punished those souls who murdered their own kith and kin. The punishment insoles being impaled in the ice from neck down. Only the head of the sinner emerges from the ice. The extreme cold causes their teeth to chatter and their fate causes them to weep. Dante describes them as "frogs with their muzzles out of water" and "their teeth clicked notes like storks beaks shaping shut". This animal imagery used to describe the sinners dehumanizes and debases them. And that is why Dante has used it. He deliberately reduces these sinners to the level of animals, because for their sins they merit such a contemptuous treatment.

Two souls, lying pressed to each other, and angrily butting their heads catch the Pilgrims' attention. He asks them who they are and his question is answered by a sinner lying in the ice nearby. As he himself later recalls, this speaker is Comicion de pazzi. He had murdered Ubertino, one of his relatives. He tells the pilgrim that the two souls lying together are of two brothers: Napoleone and Alessandro, sons of Count Alberto of Mangona. The Count owned part of the valley of the Bisenzio near Florence. The two often fought and eventually killed each other in a fight over their inheritance. Now as punishment each finds himself buried in the icy Caina. Their being placed together is part of their punishment. Each looking at the other sees his murderer and also the reason for being damned. Their anger far from abating is still there. Hence they butt their head against the other. This makes their state even worse than of other sinners who lie in Caina. Clearly a lack of wisdom and learning only leads to more pain. It they had only forgiven each other, their misery would have been lessened.

Camicion names others sinners in Caina. The him who had his breast...from Arthur’s hand" refers to Mordred, nephew of king Arthur. Mondred tried to kill Arthur in order to take his kingdom. But Arthur pierced him with a lance. When the lance was withdrawn, the hole made by the blow allowed sunlight to treasure his body and interrupted Modred’s shadow. This story is taken from the old French romance "Lancelet du Lac".

The next sinner named is named is "Facaccia". He belonged to the Cancellieri family of Pistoia. Fascia belonged to the white party. He treacherously murdered his cousin Death de Cancellieri who belonged to the Black party. This murder is believed to have been responsible for the Florentine intervention in Cistaian affairs.

The last sinner Camicion points out to is Sassol Mascheroni, who belonged to the Toschi family of Florence. He murdered his nephew in order to gain his inheritance.

Camicion adds that he is waiting for "Corlin" to join him in Hell. He is talking about one of his relatives, Carlino de pazzi from Valdarno, who was still alive when the Pilgrim’s conversation with Camicion was taking place. But Camicion already knew that Carlino, in July 1302, would accept a bribe to surrender the castle of Piantravigne to the Blacks of Florence. This treachery would place Carlino in the region of Antenora, the second division of Coytus where those who betray their country, city or political party are punished. Hence Camicion says that in front of Carlino’s guilt his own will "seem less". Because Camicion is in the first division of Cocytus and hence less severely held guilty.

The two poets move on. The Pilgrim sees thousands of faces emerging from the ice and is horrified at the sight. He accidentally kicks one of these souls in the face. The kicked soul at once starts cursing and asks if the pilgrim has kicked him to avenge Montaperti. This catches the pilgrim interest who then leaves Virgil to talk to the soul. As the soul reveals the two poets are new in Antenora, the second division of Cocytus. Antenora gets its name from a Trojan warrior who, according to one legend, betrayed his city to the Greeks. Thus in this round are punished who betrayed their country, city or political party. The pilgrim is eager to learn who this soul is so he promises to freshen his memory on Earth. But the soul isn’t persuaded. His words reveal that he doesn’t want to be remembered on Earth so shameful are his crime and fate. As he adds, at such a depth in hell are souls who have done shameful deeds and they don’t wish anyone to know what has become of them. The Pilgrim is quite fierce with this shade. He grabs his hair to find out his name. The shade cries out in pain but refuses to divulge its name. The truth comes out by the remark of another soul nearby who address the shade as "Bocca". Bocca di Abati was a Ghibellinc who pretended to support the Florentine Guelfs to panic. And they were then defeated by the Sienese Ghibellines and their German allies under Manfred, who took advantage of their panic stricken, condition. When the Pilgrim finds out his identity he addresses Bocca as a "vicious traitor". Being a Guelf, the Pilgrim is understandably enraged at the soul who betrayed the Guelfs in 1260, leading to their defeat.

Bocca reveals some other shades that lie punished in Antenora. The one he refers to as "the one from Duera" is Buoso da duera, a chief of the Ghibelline party of Cremona and a notorious traitor. When Charles of Anjou marched against Naples in 1265, Manfred sent troops under the leadership of Buoso to block them. But Buoso allowed Charles to bribe him ("French Silver") and let Charles and his men to pass without offering any fight. Then Bocca points out to a soul near the Pilgrim called "Boccheria". He is talking about Tesauro dei Boccheria of Pania who was an Abbet of Vallombrosa and a papal legate to Alexander IV in Tuscany. He maintained secret communication with the exiled Ghibellines. And for this he was tortured and finally beheaded in 1258 by the Guelfs of Florence.

Other sinners who lie in Antenora and are named by Bocca are Gianni Soldanier, Ganelon and Tibbold. Gianne Soldanier WAS A Ghibelline of Florence. When Ghibelline rule started to become unpopular in Florence Gianni deserted his party and joined the Guelfs.

Ganelon is the treacherous knight who betrayed Roland (and the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army) to the Saracens. Leading to the defeat of Charlemagne’s men at the hands of the Saracens (mention of this is also made in the Notes of Canto XXXI). Thus he betrayed his own army.

Tibbald belonged to the Zambrosi family of Faenza. He wanted to avenge himself on the Ghibelline Lambertazzi family. The latter had been exiled from Bologna in 1274 and were hiding in Faenza. Tibbald allows Lambertazzi’s Bolognese Guelf enemies to enter his city, by opening it to them on the morning of November 13, 1280. Thus he betrayed his own city.

The two poets move further along and come upon two souls lying close together in one hole. The head of one lies atop the others. And one souls is savagely lilting the neck of the other. The fury of this lilting is so great that Dante says it exceeds the savagery with which Tydeus chewed the head of Menalippus. Tydeus was one of the seven against Thebes (mentioned in Notes of Canto XIV). Although he slew Menalippus in combat, the latter had managed to wound Tydeus fatally before dying. The angry Tydeus asks for his enemy’s head. It is brought to him and in his rage he chews it. The Pilgrim asks the shade who is lifting the other who he is and why he is doing this. He promises that if his revenge is justified he will spread the truth about it on earth. This picture presented by Dante is certainly very savage and dramatic. Made more so by the comparison with Tydeus as it helps the readers visualize the picture more clearly. The Pilgrim’s question and curiosity find and echo in the reader who is by new equally anxious to learn about these two souls. The canto ends at this dramatic moment so that the reader turns eagerly to the next canto to discover the truth.

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