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Free Study Guide-The Divine Comedy-The Inferno by Dante Alighieri-Notes
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After he finishes making his prophesy the angry thief (Vanni Fucci) makes an obscene gesture of God. To the Pilgrimís satisfaction many snakes soon attack the thief. One snake wraps itself around Fucciís neck making it impossible for the thief to say any more and another wraps itself around his arms rendering the thief incapable of any movement with them.

The Pilgrim wishes that Pistoia would burn itself since the city causes so much destruction. It is more harmful now than were its evil founders. The Pilgrim says that Fucci is the most arrogant of souls he has encountered in Hell. His disrespect is directed against God and is more than the disrespect showed by Capaneus ("he who fell from Thebesí high walls").

Fucci runs away and a centaur, half covered with snakes, comes there looking for him. The Pilgrim says he had more snakes on him than are in the region of Maremma. Moreover, a fire- spitting dragon sat on the centaurís back. Virgil informs the Pilgrim that the Centaur is Cacus, who killed many people living in the area below Mount Aventine. He is punished in the Bolgia because he stole his neighborís cattle-herd. His brothers, the other centaurs are the guardians of the first round of the seventh circle where the wrathful are punished. Caccus isnít there because he committed theft. He died at the hands of Hercules.

Cacus gallops away from there and three shapes arrive. They ask the poets to identify themselves. The Pilgrim didnít recognize any of them. Then one shade asks another the whereabouts of Cianfa. The Pilgrim signals his guide to keep quiet.

He saw a six-footed serpent attack one of the shades. The serpent wrapped his middle feet round the sinnerís stomach, the front ones around the sinnerís thighs. The serpent bit the sinner on both his cheeks, one after the other. The serpentís tail slid through the sinnerís legs and reached up on the shadeís back. The shade and the serpent were tightly bound, their limbs entangled. Then both began dissolving and combining with the other. So that both began to look different. The other two shades address the melting sinner as Agnel and shout that he is changing form and looks neither like himself nor like the serpent.

The heads of the two combine to form another face. The arms of the two creatures were burnt away as were the legs. From the abdomen grew monstrous limbs unlike any other seen creatures on Earth. The newly formed creature bore no resemble to either of the two and was a deformed mixture of both. This new creature than moves off slowly from there.

Soon a black little serpent bites both the remaining thieves. After biting him the serpent falls to the ground. The wounded thief then yawns as if he were sleepy or feverish. He and the snake maintain eye contact. Smoke starts emerging from the sinnerís navel and the serpentís mouth and this smoke mingles. Dante compares what he saw to Lucanís story of Nasidius and Sabelle and to Ouidís story of Cadmusí and Arethusaí metamorphosis and claims what happened before him was far more fantastic. The serpentís tail splits into two and the sinnerís legs join into one mass. The serpentís skin loses its scale and becomes like human skin. And the sinnerís skin acquires scales. The sinnerís arms shrink and the snakeís legs grow in size proportionate to the shrinking of the sinnerís legs. The serpent sprouts human male genital organs while the sinnerís penis turns into two legs. The smoke from one is moving towards the other and bringing about a full interchange of appearance. At the end of it the serpent turns into a human form and the sinner turns into a serpent and the slithers away from there. All the while this transformation is occurring the two maintain eye contact, hate in both eyes. The newly formed man address the remaining shade saying that it is fitting that Buoso is a serpent like he used to be.

Although the Pilgrim was lazed by what he had just witnessed he still recognized the two shades before him. One is Luccio Sciancato, the only shade that remained unchanged of the three that had appeared. The other man is the one who brought misery to Gauille. This is Francesco Cavalcanti (explained in detail in the Notes that follow).


The canto opens with the angry thief Vanni Fucci making an obscene gesture to God. This sacrilege is immediately punished, to the Pilgrimís joy, by two snakes coiling them around the thief rendering his capable of further sacrilege. The name of God is scared and any ill cast on it draws immediate punishment. Vanni Fucci is unrepentant and proud of being in Hell. He refuses to bow down before God. Dante compares him to Capaneus ("he who fell from Thebesí high walls") who continues blasphemies against god even in Hell (Canto XIV). Vanni Fucciís arrogance surpasses even Capaneus. No doubt it is his very pride and disdain that lies at the root of evil and sin. For a man who reveres God and follows the path of righteousness would never sin.

Dante breaks into a passionate apostrophe addressed to Pistoia, lamenting the evil that its citizens cause. He calls upon the evil city to destroy itself for presently its sins have even surpassed its evil founders. Pistoia was founded by a group of soldiers who survived after Caitlinís army was defeated.

Vanni Fucci leaves the scene and Cacus comes looking for him. Cacus, is a centaur, he was the son of Vulcan. He was a fire- breathing monster and lived in a cave beneath Mt. Avetine. He terrorized the native of that area. Hercules killed him when he stole Herculesí cattle. Hence Cacus is in the Bolgia of thieves unlike other centaurs who are in the seventh circle in the round of the wrathful.

Soon after Cacus leaves the poets are joined by the shades who have come looking for Cianfa. A six-footed serpent attacks one of the shades. The result of this attack is that the sinner (Agnel) and the serpent blend into one creature. The description of this blending is quite dramatic and the poet precedes it by admitting that the reader until find it incredible. Nonetheless Dante is a bona-fide wisdom and the readers have to accept the veracity of his account. This strange attack and its consequences bring into fore the Contrapasso meted out to the thieves. Not only are they tormented by snakebites but their very bodies are changed and possessed by the attack. In this case, Agnelís (Agnel is a Florentine from the Brunelleschi family) body is combined with the serpentís so what results is a combination of both. Consequently the pure essence of Agnel as such is defiled and taken over. His very identify is perforce taken from him. The reader could say that his identity is "stolen" from him. A felting punishment for a thief who perpetuated theft on others possession on Earth.

Next, another of the three shades is attacked by a serpent. This time the result is a total exchange of bodies. The sinner (Buoso) turns into a serpent while the serpent acquires a human form. Dante devotes many lines to this exchange and presents a detailed word-picture for his readers (in the summary). So amazing is the scene that he says it surpasses any such incident written by "Lucan" or "Ovid ". He is referring to Lucanís "Pharsalia" which has a story concerning two soldiers of Catoís army, these two men, Sabella turns into ashes and Nasidius into a formless mass. In his "Metamorphoses". Ovid tells how Cadmus becomes a serpent and Arethuse turns into a fountain. Dante says his story surpasses theirs because in this transformation there is a reciprocal exchange while theirs was a "one-way" transformation.

The sinner that he just turned into a serpent is "Buoso". His identity is not certain, some critics claim he is Buoso Degli Abadi while others maintain he is Buoso Donati.

Stunned as he is by what he has just witnessed the Pilgrim nonetheless recognizes the two shades before him. One is Puccio Sciancato, the only one of the original three that has retained his own for. He was a supporter of the Ghibellines and a member of the Galigai family. He was exiled from Florence in 1268. The second is Francisco Cavalcanti (serpent turned into man). He was killed by the people of Gaville, a small town near Florence in the Arno valley. He is called Gavilleís reason to mourn because to avenge his death the Cavalcanti family killed all the people of Fraville.

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