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CANTO SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
The pilgrim is absorbed in gazing at the scene below, looking at various mutilated shades. This angers Virgil who reminds the Pilgrim that their time is running out and they have more to see. The Pilgrim says that he was looking for a particular shade, me belonging to his family. Virgil tells him that the shade in question, Geri de Bello, stood below their bridge. But Dante didnít notice him because he was too taken up with "the lord of Altaforte" (Bertran de Born). Geri noticed Dante, cursed him and left unnoticed by the latter. Dante replies that since his family didnít avenge the death of Guri, the latter didnít speak to him.
They reach the bridge across the tenth Bolgia, the last of the Malebogle. The pit is dark but the pilgrim can hear cries of pain from the bottom. He compares the misery and the stench of decay in the 10th Bolgia to all the sickness that can be found in the hospitals of Maremma, Voldichiana and Sardinia from the month of July to the month of September.
Walking to their left, they climb down the bridge and reach the bottom of the 10th Bolgia. The Pilgrim can now see the condition of the punished souls. He says the sinners in this pit are the Falsifiers, punished by Divine Justice. He says that the misery of these souls is greater than that of all the living - beings that perished in a plague on the island of Aegina. According to the poets the human race began again here, later on, from ants.
Dante describes the condition of the punished souls. They are lying around in groups, piled atop each other. Some are crawling around the dirty valley on their hands and knees. Slowly and quietly the two poets move among the sick and the suffering. All the while observing the punished and listening to their words. Some are so sick that they cannot move their bodies.
The Pilgrim notices two shades sitting leaning against each other, their backs touching. Each of the sinners is covered with scabs and they are scratching their bodies ferociously to ease the itching. They use their nails to tear off the scabs from their bodies. Virgil asks one of them if there are any Italians in the Bolgia. One of the shades reveals that both he and his partner are Italians. He asks Virgil who he is. Virgil says that he is guiding his living companion through hell. Hearing this many shades turn to stare at the Pilgrim. Virgil asks the Pilgrim to question the two men.
The Pilgrim asks the two men to reveal their identities so that their name is remembered back on Earth. He says that they shouldnít let their punishment make them hesitant to reveal their names. One of the sinners reveals that he is from Arezzo and was burnt to death by Albert of Siena. He had promised Albert that he would teach him how to fly. But he lied and failed to do as he promised. The angry Albert had him burnt by one whose child he was. "The sinner says he isnít in the bolgia for defrauding Albert. He is here because he was a practitioner of Alchemy. For this sin Minor sent him to the tenth Bolgia.
The Pilgrim says to Virgil that the Sienese are the silliest of all people. They are sillier than even the French. The other leper responds to this remark of the Pilgrimís in a mock - serious way. He mentions that a few Sienese are exception to what the Pilgrim has just said them. He point out (ironically) how frugally Stricca lived, how Niccola introduced the use of expensive clove in Siena, how Caccia squandered his wealth and how Abbagliato displayed his intelligence. This speaker reveals himself to be Capacchio. He admits he was an alchemist. And adds that the Pilgrim is acquainted with him.
Virgil rebukes the Pilgrim for lingering on the bridge, staring at the scene below. The Pilgrim revels that he is searching for a family member. Virgil tells him that he saw this man, Geri Del Bello, pointing a finger at the Pilgrim.
Geri Del Bello was a first cousin of Danteís father. He was involved in a blood feud with the Sacchetti family. It is believed that he was murdered by one of the Sacchetti. During Danteís time the murder of a kinsman placed an obligation on his family to avenge his murder. The Pilgrim reveals that Geriís murder was still un-avenged by the Alighieri family in 1300. Hence the anger of Geri against the Pilgrim. He is angry because his death is un-avenged. He points at the kinsman, Dante, and curses him and leaves without exchanging a word.
As is revealed in this last Malebogle the Falsifiers are punished. While talking about Geri the two poets reach the bridge near the tenth and last Malebogle. The punishment of falsifiers is that they are sick and diseased. Their sickness causes their bodies to decay, leading to the stench that the Pilgrim can perceive from the bridge. He can also hear the cries of the sick souls who are in constant pain. When they reach the bottom the Pilgrim can see their state for himself. They are lying in groups. Some are too weak to move.
To describe this bolgia the Dante the poet uses the imagery of hospitals. To suggest the environment of this Bolgia. He says that the misery here is comparable to the sick of "Maremma, Valdichiana and Sardinia". Maremma and Valdichiana are swampy areas in Tuscany. They, along with the swamps of Sardinia were known as places where malaria and other diseases were rife. Hence, to a reader these names conjure up a picture of disease, pain and suffering. Dante uses them as an introduction to the scene the reader will find in the bottom of the 10th Bolgia.
Dante says that the sinners have been meted out this punishment by "the High Lordís mistress/Justice infallible." This refers to Divine Justice, which is Godís instrument to ensure that every sinner gets his just punishment.
Dante compares the scene of disease that greets his eyes to that found in Aegina. And adds that the sickness of the 10th bolgia surpasses that the Aegina. Aegina is an island in Sardonic Gulf. According to mythology, Juno sent a plague to the island that killed all its inhabitants. The only survivor was Aeacus who then prayed to Jupiter to repopulate the island Jupiter did this by converting ants with men. Ovid writes about this in his "Metamorphoses." Hence, Dante says, "Later on this ancient race/according to what the poets tell as true,/was born again from families of ants."
Eventually the poets come across two sinners sitting back - to - back against each other. They are covered with scabs and use their nails to dig in their flesh and tear the scabs off their bodies. They are suffering from constant itching. And their frantic scratching is vividly brought to life by Danteís imagery. First he compares their action to the hurried combing of horses by a stable boy. This reduces them to animals, the scratching is done as one would indifferently comb a horseís coat. Their distress is so great that they are carelessly tearing their own bodies. Their Dante compares their actions to someone cleaning fish. Bath the comparisons show a total disregard for the human body. Disregard prompted by the instrument of torture that the body has become. The only though in the sinnerís mind is to find relief from itching. They have become mindless with their suffering.
In the Bolgia the punishment takes from the disease. There is no external instrument of torture. The body from within itself produces this discomfort. The enemy lies in the body itself, for the body is diseased and causes the suffering. Thus their very form becomes their enemy. Their very bodies cause them pain. Since they canít run from themselves or discard their form there is no hope of even momentary relief.
Virgil asks the two sinners if there are any Italians around. He is told that both the sinners are Italian. Prompted by the Pilgrimís promise to be remembered on Earth one of sinner reveals his name. Virgilís saying the Pilgrim was alive had made the latter the center of attention. The Pilgrim encourages the men to be honest about their identity. He is afraid that the punished men may be too ashamed to reveal their names. Encouraged by his words one of the sinner opens up and talks about himself. He begins with, "Iím from Arezzo". This man is believed to be Griffolino da Arezzo. He convinced the foolish Alberto da Siena that he would teach him how to fly. Convinced about the truth of this Alberto pays him. But when he finds out that Arezzo had duped him he tells the bishop of Siena that Arezzo is a magician. Danteís phrase "the one whose child he (Alberto) was" refers to the bishop. Meaning that either the bishop was Albertoís father or his protector. Arezzo tells the Pilgrim that he is in Hell not for being a magician as he was accused but because he practiced alchemy. Minos thus sent him to this bolgia where falsifiers are punished.
The Pilgrim lightly remarks to Virgil that Siense are the silliest of people. The Florentines made the citizens of rival Siena the butt of many jokes. Hence it is natural for the Florentine Dante to make fun of Siense. Hearing this remark the their sinner joins in making fun of Sienese. The comments he makes are ironical. He says that not all Sienese are ridiculous. He points out the exceptions, "...stricca, who lived so frugally." He is being sarcastic because "stricca" or believed to be stricca di Giovanni dei Salimbeni of Siena was a well known spendthrift. Thus he is joining the pilgrim is poking fun at Sienese. Stricca was believed to be a member of a group called "Spendthriftís Brigade", it consisted of young Sienese who wasted their wealth.
The second man mentioned, "Niccolo," Niccolo de Salimbeni was also a part of this group. He made the use of clove popular in Siena. At that time clove was a very expensive spice. The sinner uses this example to underline the silliness of Sienese where any fashionable custom, no matter how senseless, became popular. The "choice garden" refers to Siena. The other two names mentioned by the sinner are "Caccia" and "Abbagliato". They were both members of the "fashionable club" or the spendthriftís Brigade. The former is Caccia Asciano who wasted all the inheritance. And the latter is Bartolomeo dei Efolcacchieri who held an official position in Siena up to the year 1300.
Finally the sinner reveals himself to be "Capocchio." He was burnt alive in Siena in 1293 for practicing alchemy. He says that the Pilgrim knows him. This is because Dante knew him when both of them were young students. The Canto ends on a light note with Capocchio laughing at himself," how fine an ape of nature I once was."