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Dante's Inferno Canto 14: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson we will summarize Canto 14 of Dante's 'Inferno', when Dante and Virgil are in the third ring of the seventh circle of hell, the place for Blasphemers.

Introduction to the Third Ring of the Seventh Circle

As Dante and Virgil have travelled through the levels of hell they have seen several rivers. In this canto we learn the source of these rivers. This canto is when Virgil and Dante enter the third ring of the seventh circle of hell, the ring for those who commit 'violence against God. Blasphemers.'

Before leaving the second ring Dante gathered the twigs which were broken off of the bush (who had been a man who committed suicide). He gave those twigs back to the bush. As they stepped into the third ring the difference was stark from the second ring. The second ring was full of woods and plants, while this third ring was 'a barren plain, which from its bed removeth every plant. The woeful wood is as a garland round it as round the former is the dismal moat'. We are reminded that there are actual circles and rings through which Dante and Virgil are travelling.

Punishment

Those in this level were people who had blasphemed against God. Each of the souls are naked; 'all wept very sorely'. There were different levels of the law laid down upon them. Some had to lay their entire bodies upon the ground, others had to sit together, huddled on the ground, and many others were free to walk about. But they were all crying.

Falling onto this desert were 'flakes of fire, like flakes of snow that fall on windless Alps… even such descended here the eternal heat, whereby the sand was set on fire, as tinder is kindled under steel, to double pain.' The rain fell as flakes of fire, which heated the sand, making it painful to walk or lay upon. These people were subjected to eternal burning.

Capaneus

Eventually Dante notices one man 'who seems not to mind the fire, but lies there scornful and awry, so that the rain seems not to ripen him'. Upon Dante inquiring about the man, the man angrily replies:

'As I was alive, such am I dead! If Jove should tire that smith of his, from whom, in wrath, he took the pointed thunderbolt, wherewith I smitten was that final day… and should he shoot at me with all his might, no glad revenge would he obtain thereby!'

Capaneus continued to blaspheme against God, despite his punishment
Capaneus

Virgil responds with 'so much force' and power:

'In that thine arrogance, O Capaneus, is not extinguished, art thou all the more chastised; no torment, saving thine own rage, were for thy furious pride a fitting pain.'

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