David Bruce: Dante’s INFERNO: A Discussion Guide —“Canto 11: Virgil Teaches Dante”

“Canto 11: Virgil Teaches Dante”

  • Canto 11 is a kind of break for Dante the Pilgrim. Why does Virgil want Dante to take a break here?

Virgil and Dante need to take a break here in order to become accustomed to the stench that is rising from the lower Circles of Hell. Virgil uses this opportunity to educate Dante about the lower levels of the Inferno.

By the way, we see in this canto the tomb of a pope: Pope Anastasius (496-498 C.E.). He was believed to have denied that Christ is divine.

  • How do we know that Dante is an eager student?

When Dante and Virgil take a break in order to become accustomed to the stench that rises from the lower Circles, Dante tells Virgil, “You will have to find / some way to keep our time from being wasted” (Musa, Inferno11.13-14).

This says something about Dante the Pilgrim. He is taking this journey through the Inferno and the rest of the afterlife in order to learn things that will save his soul, and he is eager to learn.

  • How is Hell organized, according to Virgil? (Briefly, what do the three final Circles contain?)

Virgil is a teacher. He and Dante are taking a break, but Virgil uses this break to educate Dante about what lies ahead.

Hell is divided into three main parts:

First, the incontinent are punished in Circles 2-5. These sinners committed the sins of incontinence.

Circle 2 punishes those who are guilty of not controlling their lust.

Circle 3 punishes those who are guilty of not controlling their desire for food and drink; they are guilty of gluttony.

Circle 4 punished those who are guilty of not controlling their desire either for money or for the things that money can buy.

Circle 5 punished those who are guilty of not controlling their anger.

Second, the violent are punished in Circle 7. These sinners committed the sins of bestiality (acting like a beast).

Third, those who committed fraud are punished in Circles 8-9. The sins of fraud are also sins of malice.

In addition, as we have seen, heresy is punished in Circle 6, which is located between the Circles devoted to punishing the incontinent (Circles 2-5) and the Circle devoted to punishing the violent (Circle 7). Also, the virtuous pagans reside in Circle 1: Limbo. Heresy and paganism are both Christian concepts and so are not parts of a pagan classification of sins.

  • The 7th Circle contains the violent. Into which three sub-categories can the violent be subdivided?

The three sub-categories of violence are these:

1) A sinner can be violent against neighbors. You can do this by harming the person or by harming the person’s property.

2) A sinner can be violent against self (by committing suicide). The violent wasters of wealth punished in the Wood of the Suicides committed a kind of suicide by deliberately courting death after they wasted their wealth. We will see a sinner who did not retreat in battle, but instead stayed and fought so that he would be killed. He had violently wasted his wealth and did not want to live anymore.

3) A sinner can be violent against God by blaspheming or by being an atheist. A sinner can also be violent against God by opposing Nature, which God created; for example, the Sodomites oppose Nature by engaging in sex that is incapable of resulting in children.

  • Fraud is punished in the final two Circles. What are the two major kinds of fraud? How many subdivisions do these kinds of fraud have?

Fraud is depriving another person of a right through the use of willful misrepresentation.

The two major kinds of fraud are simple and complex.

Simple Fraud

Simple fraud is punished in Circle 8.

Simple fraud does not involve the betrayal of a special trust.

Ten kinds of sinners engage in simple fraud:

1) Seducers and Panderers

2) Flatterers

3) Simonists

4) Fortune-Tellers and Sorcerers

5) Grafters

6) Hypocrites

7) Thieves

8) Evil Deceivers/Those Who Misuse Great Gifts

9) Schismatics: Those who caused divisions (in families or in politics or in religion, etc.)

10) Falsifiers, including Counterfeiters

Complex Fraud

Complex fraud is punished in Circle 9.

Complex fraud does involve the betrayal of a special trust. Complex fraud is fraud to which is added treachery toward those to whom we have a special obligation to be honest and forthright.

Four kinds of sinners engage in complex fraud:

1) Traitors against kin/family.

2) Traitors against government.

3) Traitors against guests or hosts.

4) Traitors against God — the worst sin possible.

  • Which is worst? The sins of incontinence? The sins of violence? The sins of fraud?

The deeper you go into Hell, the worst the sins become.

The sins of fraud are the most evil. The sins of complex fraud are more evil than the sins of simple fraud. Being a traitor against God is the worst sin possible. As you would expect, Lucifer, the angel who led the rebellion against God, is the worst sinner of all time.

The sins of incontinence are the least evil. Lust is the least evil sin of all. The sins of incontinence are punished outside the walls of the city of Dis, which is the city of Lucifer. The sins of heresy, violence, and fraud are punished within the walls of the city of Dis.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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Free eBooks by David Bruce (pdfs) (Includes Discussion Guides for Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise)

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INFERNO: CANTO 9 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 10  RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 11 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 12  RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 13  RETELLING

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