Analysis of Dante’s Inferno: Canto XVI
In the epic poem, The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri paints a vivid picture of hell, purgatory, and heaven while including his own interpretation of society. While looking particularly into the Inferno, the reader is given a true insight to the inner workings of Dante Alighieri’s mind as he assigns certain punishments to particular sinners from his time period. Dante arranges hell into nine circles and places sinners into each circle based on what evils they took part in when they were alive. In each circle there are different rings, which account for particular sins and their punishments. As Virgil guides the character Dante further into hell, the severity of the punishments increase steadily. The progression of the severity of sins moves from incontinence to violence and then fraudulence. The final circle of hell is designated for the traitors, and the sinners in this section receive the most gruesome punishment. The number three is a reoccurring factor in much of The Divine Comedy. For example, there are three sections of the epic poem with each containing 33 cantos. The emphasis of the number three reflects greatly upon Dante’s religious standing and shows his great respect to the divine trinity. In Canto XV, Dante becomes familiar with the sodomites who are categorized within sins against nature in Circle VII. Dante and Virgil view the sodomites as they walk through the burning sands. Dante sees Brunetto Latini, who introduced Dante into philosophy in his teenage years and was very important to his overall education (Wilson 67), and chats with him about his beloved city of Florence. It is important to note the extreme respect Dante feels for Brunetto Latini, despite Brunetto’s sin and his condition from the fire in this ring of hell. Canto XVI begins as Virgil leads Dante into the third ring of the seventh circle in hell which is still designated for men guilty of Sodom. Dante and Virgil now approach an area where the water creates a soft roar as it plummets down to the adjacent circle. It’s something like the soft buzzing of a beehive. All of the sudden, a trio of men with a single influence depart from a cluster of suffering souls that are cruising past Dante and Virgil. The trio quickly approaches Dante because they recognize his attire as being from their city-state of Florence that they refer to as debauched. Dante sees the lesions that blanket the three men’s extremities. Some of the abrasions are mature, while others are newly acquired by the fire. Even as Dante writes the story he is mournful from the degree of the wounds he saw.
The shrieks from the three men quickly catch Virgil’s consciousness and he turns to Dante to advise him that the approaching men deserve his reverence. If it were not for the precipitation of fire, Virgil would propose that Dante sprints their way because it would be an appropriate gesture. As Dante and Virgil come to a halt, the trio of men continues with their usual stride. When the three men get close to Dante and Virgil, they each begin to rotate. Each man in the unit forms a spinning wheel. The men are just like professional wrestlers, naked and greased, inspecting one another before the hard blows and punches begin. While the three men spin, their faces are directed toward Dante and each man’s collar and feet move in opposite directions.
All of the sudden, a man in the group blurts out that if the sorrow among the fruitless sands and the disgusting conditions of the burns on their flesh makes them, and what they inquire, abhorrent to Dante, then Dante should allow their worldly notoriety to convince his heart into telling the trio who he is and how he can journey through hell with blood gushing through his veins. The man talking points out that the man he is following behind, who is naked with his burnt flesh gruesomely flaking off of his body, is of higher nobility than one may venture to guess. His name is Guido Guerra and he...
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