David Bruce: Dante’s INFERNO: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 18: Panderers and Seducers; Flatterers”

“Canto 18: Panderers and Seducers; Flatterers”

  • What is the difference between simple fraud and complex fraud?

Fraud involves the willful use of misrepresentation to deprive another person of his or her rights. For example, someone can claim to be able to foretell the future and charge people money to be told their future.

Simple fraud is betrayal of strangers, and complex fraud is betrayal of those with whom we ought to have a bond.

Simple fraud is fraud, but it is not committed against those to whom one has a special obligation of trust.

Complex fraud is fraud committed against those to whom one has a special obligation of trust. Sinners who commit complex fraud are traitors of various kinds: e.g., traitors to kin/family, traitors to government, traitors to guests, or traitors to God.

  • Give some examples of simple fraud.

The acts of simple fraud are

1) pandering and seducing,

2) flattering,

3) committing Simony,

4) doing sorcery,

5) committing graft,

6) being a hypocrisy,

7) stealing,

8) evil counseling,

9) discord-sowing, and

10) counterfeiting.

The numbers refer to the ditch in which those who committed these sins are punished.

  • What does the term “Malebolge” mean?

Malebolge means “evil pockets” or “evil pouches.” They may be called that because the sinners here regard everything as being for sale. They wish to pocket money.

Circle 8 has 10 ditches (pockets, pouches) in it. In each ditch a different kind of sinner is punished. The sinners cannot get out of the ditches, but a number of stone bridges cross the ditches. These bridges resemble the spokes of a wheel.

As Dante and Virgil travel down to Circle 8 on the back of Geryon, Dante is able to see a bird’s-eye view of the malebolge (or evil pockets) that make up the Circle. In all, the Circle contains 10 pockets or ditches in which many kinds of sins are punished.

  • What does the term “pander” mean?

A Pander or Panderer is a pimp or a procurer. If you are a man who wishes to have an affair with someone else’s wife, a Pander will help you do that. A Pander is a go-between for two people who wish to have an affair. “To pander” is a verb that means to act like a pimp or a procurer.

  • How are the Panderers and Seducers punished, and why is that punishment fitting?

In the first bolgia are punished Panderers and Seducers. These sinners walk in lines past each other, showing that their sins are related. (Both sins involve unethical sex.) Here we see the first horned devils of the Inferno. These devils whip any sinner who is slow; they also insult the sinners. These sinners caused others to feel pain in the living world; now they feel pain themselves.

  • Who is Venedico Caccianemico, and what is his sin?

Venedico Caccianemico used his own sister to advance himself. He let the Marquis of Este sleep with his sister, who was named Ghisolabella. Thus he is a Panderer.

We should note that Venedico Caccianemico does not want to be recognized. Dante writes that “that whipped soul thought that he would hide from me / by lowering his face” (Inferno18.46-47). In the two lowest Circles, the sinners have committed such heinous crimes that they do not want to be remembered on earth. (By “whipped,” Dante is referring to the whipping of the sinners by devils, part of the sinners’ punishment here.)

  • Who is Jason, and what is his sin?

Jason is the Jason of Jason and the Argonauts, who sailed in search of and found the Golden Fleece. Unfortunately, he was a Seducer who would sleep with women, then abandon them when he found it convenient to do so.

He slept with, and then abandoned Hypsipyle when she was pregnant. She had twins.

He married and had children with Medea, but he abandoned her when someone he thought was better came along: Creusa. Creusa was the daughter of the King of Corinth, Creon. Medea killed their children in response.

Jason is one of the proud sinners. Some sinners in the Inferno are still proud — and rebellious. We read about Jason:

And the good Master, without my inquiring,

Said to me: “See that tall one who is coming,

And for his pain seems not to shed a tear;”

(Longfellow 18.82-84)

  • How are the Flatterers punished, and why is that punishment appropriate?

In the second bolgia are punished Flatterers. This bolgia is filled with excrement from human privies, and the excrement coats the Flatterers. In the living world, insincere flattery — or crap — came from the mouths of the Flatterers, so in the Inferno they are covered with crap. Thaïs the whore is punished here, and so we see a connection with the previous bolgia, which punished some sinners whose sins had a connection with sex.

  • Who is Alessio Interminei from Lucca, and what is his sin?

Alessio Interminei from Lucca is a Flatterer, and he is in a ditch filled with excrement, along with the other Flatterers. We read about him:

He beat his slimy forehead as he answered:

“I am stuck down here by all those flatteries

that rolled unceasingly off my tongue up there.”

(Musa 18.124-126)

We know, of course, that the slime on his forehead is excrement.

One thing to note about Alessio Interminei from Lucca is that we know little about him. His fame comes from being in Dante’s Inferno, although he is mentioned in some historical documents from the time he was alive. Many people in The Divine Comedyare famous, but some of them are not famous.

  • Who is Thaïs, and what is her sin?

Thaïs was a prostitute who flattered her clients. She prostituted her body, and she prostituted her words. She is punished by being immersed in excrement.

Thaïs is a fictional character in the play Eunuchusby Terence. In his De Amicitia, Cicero wrote about her.

  • Do you know of any famous Flatterers, either in real life or in fiction?

Expensive prostitutes probably flatter their clients.

Wormtongue from Tolkien’s Lord of the Ringsflattered the king to control him.

Pick-up lines may be a form of flattery.

Good Pick-Up Lines (Assuming that Pick-Up Lines Can be Good)

You must be in the wrong place — the Miss Universe contest is over there.

Was that an earthquake or did you just rock my world?

A Bad Pick-Up Line

Did you fart? Because you blew me away.

Source: http://www.pickuphelp.com/

  • What are the advantages of being a flatterer? What are the disadvantages of being a flatterer?

Mulla Nasrudin lived on a poor person’s diet of chickpeas and bread, while his rich neighbor, who served the emperor, feasted on sumptuous food. The rich neighbor said to Nasrudin, “If only you would learn to flatter the emperor like I do, then you would not have to live on chickpeas and bread.” Nasrudin replied, “If only you would learn to live on chickpeas and bread like I do, then you would not have to flatter the emperor.”(Source: Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman, Soul Food, pp. 273-274.)

  • Why do you think the sinners in this Circle don’t want Dante to talk about them on Earth?

The sinners deep in the Inferno have committed worse sins than those who are high in the Inferno. For this reason, they don’t want to be remembered on Earth.

Also, misrepresentation is a part of fraud. These sinners may be trying to keep whatever good reputation they have on Earth.

  • Why do you think the language used in the Infernois coarse: “shit” (Musa, Inferno18.116) and “shitty” (Musa, Inferno18.131)?

Dante uses various kinds of language throughoutThe Divine Comedy. In the Inferno, it is appropriate to use coarse language, and so Dante uses it. The language in the Paradisewill be much different.

John Ciardi writes that Dante’s use of such low language earned him the title of “Master of the Disgusting.” Similarly, controversial director John Waters’ movies have earned him the title of the Prince of Puke. (Mr. Waters knows how to keep censors happy: Get a can of creamed corn and film a puke scene so the censors can cut it from your movie.)

  • What is the difference between these words: bolgiaand bolge?

Bolgia: singular

Bolge: plural.

By the way, this is good advice: Proofread three times. (Proofreading is hard work.)


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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