Dante's Inferno Canto 11: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

Dante and Virgil are getting ready to face the last three circles of hell. First, Virgil shares information about what's coming up. Find out what's on the horizon and some significant quotes in this summary of Canto 11 from Dante's ''Inferno.''

So Far Among the Heretics

Think of the worst smell you've ever encountered. No matter how bad it was, it probably doesn't compare to the awful stench that Dante and Virgil encounter at the border between the sixth and seventh circles of hell in Dante's Inferno. They've been making their way through Dis, the city where the sixth through ninth circles of hell lie. They're currently coming to the end of the sixth circle, where the heretics are punished.

At the beginning of Canto 11, Dante and Virgil are ready to move into the seventh circle, but that horrible smell stops them in their tracks. Virgil proposes they take some time to adjust to it before moving on. Let's see what they talk about by summarizing Canto 11 and looking at some significant quotes.

Virgil and Dante need to adjust to the awful smell.
Canto 11

The Next Circles

Virgil figures he may as well take advantage of their downtime to describe the layout of the upcoming circles. He explains, ''Malice is the sin most hated by God. And the aim of malice is to injure others whether by fraud or violence.'' Thus, the remaining circles are divided according to two categories: violence and fraud. Of these two, violence is considered the lesser of two evils, so the violent are up first in the seventh circle.

Seventh Circle

The violent offenders aren't just grouped together. Instead, Virgil says ''violence sins in three persons, so is that circle formed of three descending rounds of crueler torments.''

In the first level of the seventh circle are the people who committed violence against other people or other people's property; murderers or people who go around smashing up other people's belongings are in this group. Next up are the people who hurt themselves like ''the suicides and all who gamble away and waste the good and substance of their lives.'' Finally, in the third level, are those who commit violence against God. For example, this is someone who has a ''heart that blasphemes and refuses Him.''

Eighth and Ninth Circles

Next up are those guilty of fraud. Because ''fraud is the vice of which man alone is capable, God loathes it most.'' Fraud is so bad that both the eighth and ninth circles house those guilty of different types of fraud.

Types of Fraud

There are two types of fraud; there are the people who set out to be dishonest in general and there are those who set out to deliberately deceive a friend or loved one. Since the more general kind ''seems only to deny the bond of love which all men have from Nature,'' it is the less serious of the two. Some examples of those guilty of this kind of fraud are ''simoniacs, sycophants, and hypocrites, falsifiers, thieves, and sorcerers, grafters, pimps, and all such filthy cheats.'' Basically, people who lie for their own benefit without a specific target in mind.

Those who plot to betray a specific person in their life have committed a far worse sin because their ''mode of fraud not only denies the bond of Nature, but the special trust added by bonds of friendship or blood-ties.'' These ''traitors'' get the worst of it in the ninth and smallest circle of hell.

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