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20091006-930 Inferno, cantos 9-17 (Group 4)

Page history last edited by Brian Quigley 10 years, 12 months ago


     Today's lecture focused on the relgious aspect of the Inferno. Throughout the first 17 cantos Dante refers to the christian faith either through his writing style or through his critiscisms of the Pagan Virgil. Dante makes religious references through his references to the number 3. Three is a reference to the Holy Trinity, or the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit. There are 3 parts in the comedy, the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. Each has 33 cantos and each stanza has 33 syllables (Terzarima). This is believed to be significant because Christ lived for 33 years as a man on Earth.

     Another part of discussion was on the stages of Hell according to Dante; when understood correctly, these stages make are combined in a funnel shape as depicted below. Since Dante invokes a muse at the beginning we realize that Dante is telling the story of his trip to hell to us. The style in which Dante informs us of the stages of hell is different; by giving us the experiences he had just as he experienced them, the reader is able to learn of the events as well as the reasoning be in the same way Dante did how the people were placed in each circle of hell. Dante first describes the environment that surrounds him. He then talks to someone who dwells in that section, for example Ciacco in Canto 6. He finally talks to Virgil about what they have experienced.

Word Count: 214 words


Hell According to Dante's Inferno


Passage on Religion before Christ


"Now you should know before we go on farther,

they have not sinned. But their great worth alone

was not enough, for they did no know Baptism,

which is the gateway to the faith you follow,

and if they came before the birth of Christ,

they did not worship God the way one should." (pg 1224 ln 33-38)


This phrase was uttered before entering Limbo, the circle dedicated to the people who were born prior Christ that worshipped other gods. Virgil tells Dante how these people were good people, but unfortunately were not born late enough to have been a part of the Christian religion. This shows God's passion for even those who did not worship him in that they do not have to suffer like other sinners; however, at the same time, it serves as indication of God's insistence upon humans adhering only to Christianity. 


Passage on the view of the universe


"Now let me tell you that the other time

I came down to the lower part of Hell,

this rock has not fallen into ruins;

but certainly, if I remmeber well,

It was just before the coming of that one

who took from Hell 's first circle the great spoil,

that this Abyss of stench, from top to bottom

began to shake, so I thought the universe

felt love-whereby, some have maintained, the world

has more than once renewd itself in chaos." (Pg 1249 ln 34-43)


Once Dante and Virgil made their way down through the ruins of the rocks in the seventh circle, Virgil explains his view of the universe. From his point of view, the universe get together as a result of the balance between love and chaos. On the other hand, the Christian belief was that God's love is the primary source with which the universe is held together.


Passage about the Wrath of God

"O Capaneus, since your blustering pride will not be stilled, you are made to suffer more: no torment other than your rage itself could punish your gnawing pride more perfectly."


This passage is an example of God's seemingly fair and wise punishment towards those who have disobeyed his commandments. It also demonstrates irony in that Capaneus was punished for blasphemy despite cursing Jupiter.


Organization and Structure of the Poem


3 Parts to the Divine Comedy


- Inferno- 33 Cantos (Dante cheated by writing 34 cantos, but he is given the benefit of the doubt.)

-Purgatory- 33 Cantos (Plateau between heaven and hell)

-Paradise- 33 Cantos (Heaven)


- 11 syllables per stanza; 3 stanzas and 33 syllables (significant because Christ lived as a man on Earth for 33 years.)




Terzarima - Interlocking rhyme scheme; the order was ABA BCB CDC... and so on. Three stanzas and the rhyme scheme continued until the end of the canto.


Holy Trinity - According to Christianity, the Holy Trinity represents the father, the son, and the holy spirit as one supreme being called God.

Comments (6)

rjaafar said

at 6:43 pm on Oct 7, 2009

I was wondering if the passage in p.1249 (line 35-43) is a good one to add. it shows the difference between christian s' view of the universe and Virgil s' view. Virgil sees it as balance between chaos and love, and christian sees it as God' love.

Aaron Tourtellot said

at 8:55 pm on Oct 7, 2009

yea thats a good one, just make it sound good

rjaafar said

at 10:38 pm on Oct 7, 2009

As I was looking through my notes, I found one more passage we might can use that shows God 's justice. it is passage p.1257 line 63-66. if you guys think that it is a good one. I can add it.

Alex M. Talbert said

at 10:47 pm on Oct 7, 2009

Go for it .

Brian Croxall said

at 4:45 pm on Oct 8, 2009

You've done a pretty good job with the notes for this day, although they could be improved with some careful copyediting. I appreciate the image that you found of hell. It's a common one and certainly easier to understand than whatever it was that I drew on the board. To be really on the ball, you should have provided some attribution for where you found the image, however. Still, including this prevented you from trying to use time in your summary to talk about the structure of hell, and that was the right move. Memorizing the structure isn't the most important thing to do in this instance.

Your summary hits most of the main points. You tell me all the important things about the poem's structure (notice the parallel move between hell's structure to poem's structure?). What you could have emphasized still more is how all of these structural details are silent, secondary witnesses to the Christian thematics of the poem. You also do a good job discussing the patterns of how Dante behaves in each canto and why this matters. The one thing that you are missing is more about why Virgil is in hell. Your second sentence implies that you'll talk more about him later in the summary, but you never get there. Understanding the reasons for Virgil's being in hell (justice/punishment/commandments) was a critical concept from the class.

Your passages, however, help us get a better understanding of this. The first one's explanation is a bit confusing as it suggests that this virtuous pagans' punishment shows God's passion for the people. I don't really see how this is so; instead it seems to show how his expectations are linked to the people following particular commandments. In your passage about Capaneus, I'm surprised that you don't discuss the irony of his cursing Jupiter and still being punished for blasphemy. Finally, I think that you might have chosen a quotation that was on a different aspect of the poem, rather than three that focused on the same thing.

Krysta Klein said

at 12:33 am on Nov 3, 2009

anyone notice the 8th circle of hell has a malebolge edited to say "highway maintenance planners?"

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