Dante's Inferno Second Circle of Hell: Punishments & Description

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Dante's Inferno Third Circle of Hell: Punishments & Description

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 What Is an Incontinent Sin?
  • 0:44 The Second Circle: Lust
  • 2:21 Punishments in the…
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Celeste Bright

Celeste has taught college English for four years and holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.

Lust is considered one of the seven deadly sins, but have you ever wondered how Dante thought it ranked as a sin? We'll learn about the punishments for sinners in the Second Circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno.

What Is an Incontinent Sin?

If you look up the word ''incontinent'' in the dictionary, you'll most likely find a highly unfortunate disorder of the bladder or bowels. However, in its more abstract sense, this word refers to a general lack of restraint in some form. This is what Dante meant when he assigned Circles Two through Five of Hell to sins of incontinence.

Sinners in these circles are guilty of not being baptized, lust, gluttony, overspending or hoarding, ''wrathful'' or ''sullen.'' All these sins indicate a lack of discipline or moderation, and those affected exhibit excess or negligence with regard to their religion, bodies, money, or moods.

The Second Circle: Lust

The Second Circle of Hell contains the lustful, or people whose sexual appetites are excessive or prioritized over more important things. We'll learn about this area, which is described in Canto Five. As is the case throughout the Inferno, Dante's narrator, the fictional character Dante, is accompanied by Virgil, his guide. Virgil explains the nature of each area of Hell. Since lust is assigned only to the Second Circle rather than the deepest pits of Hell, we can reasonably conclude that Dante did not consider this one of the most serious sins.

At the beginning of Canto Five, Dante tells us he ''descended'' from the first to the second circle, and that this circle is smaller than the previous one. He also indicates that ''the gate is wide,'' meaning that sins of incontinence are some of the most common and that many souls enter this circle.

Once inside, Dante hears ''the noise of lamentation,'' which ''comes at [him] in blasts of sorrow.'' He describes this sound as ''a bellowing like the ocean'' and observes that the atmosphere of the Second Circle is like a hurricane of constantly buffeting winds.

The Second Circle is inhabited by a monster called Minos, who judges each soul that descends to the Inferno. Virgil explains that ''a crowd is always waiting,'' since each person is judged individually. Minos does this by wrapping his tail around himself. The number of rings he creates with his tail indicates which numbered circle of Hell the sinner belongs in. Dante calls him a ''great connoisseur of sin,'' suggesting that his judgments are both accurate and precise.

Punishments in the Second Circle

Because sinners in the Second Circle are guilty of the incontinent sin of lust, they're doomed to be caught up in and whipped around for eternity in the cyclones of wind. This punishment is symbolic. Just as the wind is forever changing direction and never settles down, so these sinners are guilty of frequently changing lovers or sexual partners.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account