Dante's Inferno Canto 28: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

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

Moving on through the eight circle of hell, Dante and Virgil come to the ninth bolgia, where Dante is astounded by the gory punishments. Find out more about how 'sowers of scandal' are punished in this summary with quotes from Canto 28 of Dante's ''Inferno.''

A New Level of Hell

Have you ever tried to describe something but felt you didn't have the words to get the picture across? If so, you've got something in common with Dante when he first sees the ninth bolgia in the eighth circle of hell at the beginning of Canto 28 in his Inferno. He wonders whether anyone would be able to accurately convey ''the blood and wounds that now were shown to me.'' Don't get him wrong - Dante's seen some pretty bad stuff since beginning his journey through hell with his guide Virgil. For instance, he and Virgil are leaving the eighth section of the eighth circle, where those guilty of giving dishonest advice are forever stuck inside a flame. But nothing they've seen compares to what he's looking at now. Let's go through a summary of Canto 28, with some focus on important quotes, and see how he paints the picture for us.

So Much Blood

The ninth bolgia, or section, must be a pretty ghastly sight if Dante is left searching for words. He claims that even if you gathered up all the people who were injured in all the bloodiest battles he can think of, their wounds still ''could not equal the mutilations of the ninth pit's crew.'' You see, this is truly a case where the punishment fits the crime. Every single sinner's body in this bolgia is split open somehow because in life they ''were sowers of scandal and schism: as they tore others apart, so are they torn.''

Dante sees a man sliced open from his chin all the way down so that ''between his legs all of his red guts hung with the heart, the lungs, the liver, the gall bladder'' and every other intestine you can think of. This sinner, Mahomet, sees Dante watching him and responds by ''opening his own breast with both hands.'' Mahomet doesn't pause only to gross Dante out. He also takes the time to explain how the ninth bolgia works. Being sliced open might seem punishment enough, but that isn't all these souls go through. As they walk around the circular ditch, they're healed. While you may have experienced an injury where you would have been thankful for immediate healing, these sinners have good reason to be less than thrilled. It turns out their wounds heal only to have the demon guarding these sinners re-inflict those same wounds over again.

The sinners in the ninth bolgia are healed only to be cut open again.
Canto 28

Messenger Service

Now that he's described his torment, Mahomet realizes he doesn't know who he's talking with. Virgil steps in at this point and explains that Dante isn't dead, and Virgil is only taking him on a journey ''through the drear and darkened halls of Hell, from round to round.'' This announcement makes quite an impression, and Dante notices that over a hundred of the punished souls stop to stare at him. Mahomet stops, too, but shakes himself out of it to request that Dante ''tell Fra Dolcino unless he longs to come and march with me he would do well to check his groceries before the winter drives him from the hills and gives the victory to the Novarese.'' Message imparted, Mahomet goes about his bloody way.

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