Dante's Inferno Canto 22: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will summarize Canto 22 from Dante Alighieri's epic poem ''Inferno,'' which is an allegory that describes a journey through Hell. The story takes place and was published in the early 1300s.

Background and Characters

What do you believe happens after you die? Many religions depict a glorious place, such as Heaven, for those who follow God's commands, as well as a terrible place, or Hell, for those who live a life of sin. In Inferno by Dante Alighieri, Dante writes about what happens to those who end up in Hell. The journey begins when Dante, the protagonist and narrator, gets lost in the woods. He meets up with Virgil, the ghost of a Roman poet, who guides Dante back to his path to Heaven. However, they must first take a journey through the gates of Hell. Each of the Circles of Hell contains those who are being punished for a particular sin. As Dante moves across the Circles, the sins and the punishments become progressively worse. The Eighth Circle of Hell, Malebolge, is divided into ten Pouches. During Canto XXII, Dante and Virgil are in the Fifth Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell where they are being escorted by 10 Malabranche (evil-clawed demons), including their leader, Malacoda. Let's find out what happens in Canto XXII.


Dante explains, 'We went upon our way with the ten demons; Ah, savage company! but in the church/With saints, and in the tavern with the gluttons!' He may not have gotten his choice of tour guides, but what did he expect in Hell? Dante observes that the sinners in this Pouch are stuck to a surface made of boiling black pitch. Curious, Dante searches for someone to explain how they got there.

After speaking with a Navarrese, who is a former servant of King Thibault, Dante discovers that this Pouch is filled with Barterers. This Navarrese admits that he accepted bribes during his life. However, their conversation is incomplete because the Navarrese is gored by Ciriatto, a demon with tusks. Dante explains, 'And Ciriatto, from whose mouth projected, On either side, a tusk, as in a boar, Caused him to feel how one of them could rip.'

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