Dante's Inferno Canto 8: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

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

As Dante and Virgil continue on their journey, they reach the point where they must cross the river Styx to enter lower Hell. Find out how they get across the river, and what awaits them there in this summary of Canto 8 in Dante's ''Inferno''.

Previous Circles

It's already been quite a journey for Dante in The Inferno. Since entering the gate to Hell, he and his guide Virgil have traveled through the first four circles. These circles included Limbo, where Dante met some of the greatest poets to ever live. Beyond Limbo, though, Dante has witnessed different levels of punishment for sins such as lust, gluttony, and wastefulness. They've most recently been making their way through the fifth circle of hell, where the ''wrathful'' are locked in an eternal fight and the ''sullen'' are stuck in the mud of the river Styx. In ''Canto 8,'' however, Dante must now prepare to cross into lower Hell. Let's learn a bit more about how they get to the entrance to this border in this look at a summary of, and quotes from, ''Canto 8.''

Another Boatman

When Dante and Virgil first entered Hell, they were taken across the river Acheron by Charon. Now that they are reaching the end of the fifth circle, they'll need to cross the river Styx. Dante has already spied a ''Great Tower'' while walking along the river. As they approach the tower, he sees ''two horns of flame flared from the summit, one from either side and then, far off, so far we scarce could see it across the mist, another flame replied.'' He asks Virgil what these flames are, but his guide tells him to be patient and he'll see ''the one they summon.'' Dante doesn't have to be patient very long before he sees a boat coming towards them. Phlegyas, the man piloting the boat, calls out, ''So, do I have you, at last, you whelp of Hell?'' He's pretty disappointed when Virgil replies ''You have us only for the time it takes to cross to the other side.''

A Former Acquaintance

As they head out across the water, Dante sees someone rising up from the water calling out, ''Who are you that come here before your time?'' He's pretty quick to respond that he's just passing through. When he returns the question, though, the person doesn't want to share his name, only saying he is ''one who weeps.'' His anonymity is short-lived, though, because Dante recognizes him. Apparently, Dante doesn't think too highly of this person, who turns out to be named Filippo Argenti. Dante calls him a ''hell-dog'' and says he's glad to see him suffering. Virgil pushes Argenti back when he tries to reach for the boat. Virgil tells Dante he's right to look down on this man because ''In world and time this one was haughtier yet.'' Before they are out of sight, Dante is glad to see ''the loathsome spirit so mangled by a swarm of muddy wraiths.''

Phlegyas takes Dante and Virgil across the river Styx in his boat.
Crossing Styx

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