David Bruce: Dante’s INFERNO: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 22: Ciampolo of Navarre and Deceived Demons”

“Canto 22: Ciampolo of Navarre and Deceived Demons”

  • What is the punishment for the Grafters, and why is it fitting?

Those who engaged in graft are punished in the fifth bolgia. These sinners allowed themselves to be bribed. Their punishment is to be submerged in boiling pitch and tormented by winged devils. These winged guards attempt to capture any Grafter who is sticking his back out of the boiling pitch to ease his pain. The guards use their pitchforks to fish the Grafter out of the boiling pitch and then torment the Grafter with their pitchforks.

The Grafters were sticky-fingered, and now they are sticky all over because of the boiling pitch (tar).

The Grafters used their political and judicial offices to take bribes and make money. As these people manipulated and tormented other people during their lives, so the demons manipulate and torment the Grafters.

  • Which trick does the captured sinner play on the demons, and how does it show the sin of fraud in action?

The devils capture a Grafter who has been raising his back out of the boiling pitch to ease his pain. (By the way, the Grafters work together to foil the devils. They communicate to each other when the devils aren’t looking and let each other know when it is safe to raise their backs out of the boiling pitch — an action that makes them look like frogs in water. This usually works, but this time the devils capture Ciampolo.)

Ciampolo ends up bribing the devils to do as he wishes. He tells them that he can get them more sinners to torment if they will back up a little so that he can give the all-clear signal to the other sinners. That way, the other sinners will raise their backs out of the boiling pitch, and the devils can spear them and pull them out of the pitch so they can torment them.

This bribe is not paid, however. Ciampolo jumps back into the pitch and escapes the devils, who try to capture him but fail.

Of course, this illustrates the sin of simple fraud. Ciampolo has tricked the devils by promising to do one thing only to do another. He is like Geryon here — seeming to be an honest man who can be trusted to make a deal and keep it but instead going against his word to trick the devils (thus stinging them).

Note the comedy that we have here. We have a trickster getting his way with some stupid devils, two of whom fight and fall into the pitch themselves. Of course, the Grafters are being punished, despite the comedy.

  • Why are the devils fooled so easily?

Answering this question involves interpretation because the answer is not spelled out in the Inferno. It appears that the devils allow themselves to be fooled so easily because they wish to pick a quarrel with one particular devil.

Ciampolo uses a rhetorical technique in his attempt to deceive the devils. He first tells what is apparently the true history of his life. By telling the truth, including that he is “tricky” (Musa, Inferno22.110) and then following it with a lie, Ciampolo attempts to make the devils believe that the lie is the truth. Ciampolo does persuade one devil, Alichino; however, the other devils may be pretending to believe Ciampolo in order to pick a fight with Alichino.

The devil named Alichino wishes to accept Ciampolo’s devious offer. A devil named Cagnazzo was suspicious of Ciampolo’s offer from the very beginning, but he is the “first to turn” (Musa, Inferno22.119) to hide himself as Ciampolo had requested that the devils do. Of course, we are told specifically that Cagnazzo is “hoping that the shade [Ciampolo] would make it [make his escape], / so he [Cagnazzo] could pick a fight with his companion [Alichino]” (Musa, Inferno22.134-135).

One interpretation is that the other devils are like Cagnazzo, knowing that the sinner wishes to escape and hoping that he would so that they can fight with Alichino.

  • Are we entirely sure that the captured sinner is named Ciampolo?

Early commentators identify the captured Grafter as Ciampolo or Giampolo of Navarre; however, it is possible that they are wrong. We note that the captured sinner does not identify himself by name, although he does identify the region he is from and he does refer to other sinners by name. This deep in the Inferno sinners do not wish to be remembered on Earth. Many sinners in the Inferno are able to recognize that Dante is still alive, so it is possible that Ciampolo (or whoever he may be) does, also. Of course, in writing about this canto, I am using the usually accepted name Ciampolo.

  • In which ways are the Grafters compared to animals, and why are they compared to animals?

The Grafters are compared to dolphins, frogs, an otter, a mouse, and a wild duck. In addition, the devils are compared to falcons and hawks.

One reason Dante does this is to make the association that sin is dehumanizing. Another reason is to prepare for the animal fable that he will allude to at the beginning of the next canto.

  • Canto 21 and Canto 22 are known as the Gargoyle cantos. Why?

This is a definition of a gargoyle:

“A figurine that projects from a roof or the parapet of a wall or tower and is carved into a grotesque figure, human or animal.”

Source of definition: <www.lynnerutter.com/glossary.html>.

Certainly Canto 21 and Canto 22 contain grotesqueries in the form of the devils. In addition, some commentators have argued that parts of Dante’s Inferno correspond to parts of a cathedral. These cantos would correspond to the gargoyles found in a cathedral.


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