Dante's Inferno Canto 27: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

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

After overhearing Virgil and Dante speaking with Ulysses, another soul in the eighth bolgia of the eighth circle of hell approaches them to chat. Find out what they talk about in this summary with quotes from Canto 27 in Dante's ''Inferno.''

Another ''Evil Counselor''

Have you ever had someone give you bad advice on purpose for their own benefit? In the eighth bolgia of the eighth circle of hell, Dante and Virgil have been talking to sinners who provided or practiced dishonest advice, or counsel. Now these deceiving souls are stuck forever moving around encased in flame. For instance, they've just gotten done speaking with Ulysses, the Greek hero who largely contributed to such deceptions as the Trojan Horse and who now shares a double flame with his partner, Diomede. No sooner do these two head on their way than another flame approaches, wanting to speak with Dante and Virgil. Let's find out what this flame discusses with our travelers as we summarize, and take note of interesting quotes, in Canto 27 of Dante's Inferno.

A Fellow Italian

Their new acquaintance has barely begun to speak, but already Dante is struck by the ''strange and muffled roar'' it makes. This roar sounds like a Sicilian Bull, which Dante explains is a ''brazen spit'' torture device made out of brass. The person being tortured is shoved inside while the bull is placed in fire. Eventually, this painful process led to the person being cooked to death. Since it was a pretty painful way to die, that victim would usually make noise. With the way the bull was made, ''it seemed itself to howl and agonize.'' It's this kind of noise that seems to come from the flame that is beginning to talk to them now.

The sinner in this flame overhears Virgil and Dante talking with Ulysses, and wonders if he can have a turn asking them a question now. It turns out this soul is from Italy, and wants to know, ''is there peace or war in Romagna?'' Since Dante is the Italian in the pair, it makes sense for him to field this question. He reassures the man that, though ''your sad Romagna is not and never was without war in her tyrants' raging blood; but none flared openly when I left just now.'' Romagna is far from peaceful, but at least they aren't actively engaged in new battles.

The Italian's Story

Now that Dante's answered the question, he asks the soul to return the favor and tell them his story. At first the soul hesitates, but he figures it'll be okay to share his story since ''no shade ever returned - if what I am told is true - from this blind world into the living light.'' Since he doesn't believe Dante will be able to tell anyone about him, he launches into his tale. He's still careful not to share his name, but he shares enough of his story that we can be reasonably certain this is the shade of Guido da Montefeltro. When younger, he ''was a man of arms: then took the rope of the Franciscans, hoping to make amends'' for the bad deed of his younger years by becoming a monk. That may sound extreme, but he says he was pretty bad as a young man: ''my deeds were not of the lion but of the fox: I raced through tangled ways; all wiles were mine from birth.''

Though he saw the light, repented of his sins, and became a monk, things went downhill when the ''Great Priest,'' or pope, ''drew his sword and marched upon the Lateran.'' This pope, whom Guido calls the ''Prince of the New Pharisees'' and whom history tells us is Pope Boniface VIII, called for advice on how to proceed. At first, the reformed man wanted no part in helping the pope ''cure the fever of pride that burned his blood.'' But the pope attempted to reassure Guido by saying, ''Your soul need fear no wound; I absolve your guilt beforehand.'' Hearing the pope talk about wanting to ''smash'' his supposed enemies was enough to make Guido ''fear silence was worse than sin.'' In this spirit, he gives the pope some advice that turns out to be less than helpful.

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