David Bruce: Dante’s INFERNO: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 32: Caina and Antenora”

“Canto 32: Caina and Antenora”

  • What is the punishment of the Traitors, and how is it fitting?

The Ninth Circle is divided into four rings. Each ring punishes one kind of traitor: traitors against kin/family, traitors against government, traitors against guests, and traitors against benefactors, including God. The traitors are punished by being frozen in ice, perhaps reflecting the idea that being a traitor is a sin committed in cold blood. Mark Musa also points out that in the sinners punished here “all warmth of love for God and for their fellow man has been extinguished” (384). In addition, the traitors were engaged in actively betraying others, so now they are condemned to perpetual immobility.

Because the traitors are frozen in the ice, they can do nothing should someone — such as Dante the Pilgrim — kick one of them in the head. As soon as the sinners are aware of the presence of Dante in the 9thCircle, a sinner requests that he be careful not to kick any of the sinners in the head (Musa, Inferno32.19-21). Later, Dante does exactly that — perhaps by accident, but perhaps on purpose (Musa, Inferno32.76-78). Dante the Pilgrim believes that these traitors deserve to be treated badly.

  • What are the four rings of the Ninth Circle, and who are they named after?


In the first ring, Caina, which is named after Cain, who slew Abel, are punished those who were treacherous against kin/family. They are frozen “in ice / up to where a person’s shame appears” (Musa, Inferno32.34-35). This means that they are buried up to their necks; shame appears with a blush in a person’s face.


In the second ring, Antenora, which is named after a Trojan who betrayed his city, are punished those who were treacherous against their countries or political parties.


In the third ring, Tolomea, which is named after Ptolemy, a captain of Jericho who murdered his father-in-law and his father-in-law’s two sons after inviting them to a feast, are punished those who were treacherous against guests. In this ring we will see some traitors who are completely buried under the ice.


The very bottom of the Inferno is reserved for the worst sinners of all. In this fourth and final ring of the ninth and final Circle of the Inferno, Judecca, which is named after the apostle Judas, who betrayed Christ, are punished those who were treacherous against their benefactors, and especially God. Lucifer, the angel who led the rebellion against God, is punished here by being buried in the ice with his head and wings outside the ice. He has one head, but three faces, and three mouths. In each mouth, he chews a great sinner. In the middle mouth is Judas, and in the other mouths are Brutus and Cassius, who betrayed Julius Caesar and thus postponed the coming into being of the Roman Empire, which Dante felt was desired by God. Lucifer chews on these great sinners in a parody of the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

  • What is Cocytus?

A river has been flowing throughout Hell. At various places it has different names. Here it is called Cocytus (which means “Lamentation”), and it is a frozen lake. The traitors are frozen in the lake.

  • What does Dante think when he first sees Circle 9 of Hell?

Dante looks around, and he wonders whether he can ever be able to find words harsh and grating enough to describe what he saw. To do that, he says that he would need the help of the Muses, who helped Amphion to build walls around the city of Thebes. They helped him to play the lyre so well that stones moved on their own and built the wall by themselves.

  • How are the traitors to kin/family punished in Caina?

In Ring #1 are punished traitors to kin/family.This ring is called Caina, and it is named after Cain, who slew Abel, his brother.

The traitors to kin/family are punished by being frozen in ice, like the other sinners in the 9thCircle. The traitors to kin/family have their heads sticking out of the ice, and they are able to bow their heads down towards the ice. This has an important advantage: Their tears fall to the ground instead of freezing the sinners’ eyes shut. These sinners, like most of the sinners in the Inferno, continually cry. Being able to cry is better than having one’s eyes frozen shut so that the sinner is unable to cry. Later, a sinner will ask Dante to remove the frozen tears from his eyes so that the sinner can get a little relief by being able to cry some more tears.

We read of a sinner whose ears have been frozen off (Musa, Inferno32.52). Apparently, his ears froze, and then the wind from the beating of Lucifer’s wings broke off his ears. This can happen during cold winters to livestock.

  • Who are Napoleone and Allessandro?

Napoleone and Allessandro were brothers and rivals in two different political factions. Allessandro was a Guelf, while Napoleone was a Ghibelline. They murdered each other — not because of politics, but over their inheritance.

The two are frozen together in the ice. Here we see that they still hate each other, as they are still fighting each other:

Clamp never bound together wood with wood

So strongly; whereat they, like two he-goats,

Butted together, so much wrath o’ercame them.       

(Longfellow 32.49-51)

When these two sinners look up at Dante, their tears freeze their eyes (Musa, Inferno32.46-48).

Part of their punishment is to cause each other pain, and in doing so, to cause themselves pain. Using your head to butt someone else’s head is painful to both of you.

  • Who is Camicion de’ Pazzi?

Camicion de’ Pazzi murdered a relative named Ubertino. Camicion identifies the sinners Napoleone and Allessandro to Dante. His ears have been frozen off. By the way, the weather can get so cold in real life that the ears of herding animals will freeze and then wind will break the ears off.

Interestingly, Camicion de’ Pazzi voluntarily tells Dante his name, although other sinners do not want Dante to know their names. Camicion de’ Pazzi may volunteer his name simply so that he can mention “Carlin, whose guilt will make my own seem less” (Musa, Inferno32.69). Carlin is Carlino de’ Pazzi, who, in July of 1302, will surrender a castle to the Black Guelfs of Florence after accepting a bribe, even though he was supposed to be defending the castle for the White Guelfs of Florence. Carlin will be a traitor to country and so will be punished in Antenora, a lower place in Hell than the place that punishes Camicion de’ Pazzi.

  • Who is Mordred?

Mordred was the nephew of King Arthur of Camelot, but he was a traitor to the King, his uncle. In their final battle, nearly everyone was dead. King Arthur charged at Mordred and killed him, but Mordred mortally wounded King Arthur. When King Arthur stabbed Mordred with a spear, the hole created in Mordred was so big that the Sun shone through it, putting a hole in his shadow. Merlin the magician put King Arthur in a trance and hid him in a cave.

Mordred’s greed for power — along with Sir Lancelot’s adulterous relationship with King Arthur’s Queen — helped to destroy a civilization. According to the King Arthur myth, King Arthur instituted a great civilization, but after the civil war started that was caused by Sir Lancelot’s adulterous relationship with King Arthur’s Queen and by Sir Mordred’s greed for power, England’s civilization was destroyed and England slipped back into a Dark Age.

  • In Ring #2 (Antenora) are punished traitors to political party or city or country. Who is this ring named after?

Antenora is ring #2. It is named after Antenor, who was a traitor to his city: Troy. He opened the gates of the city after tacking a panther skin on his door. The panther skin alerted the Greeks that this was Antenor’s house, and it was not destroyed as were the other houses.

  • Who is Bocca?

Bocca was a traitor to his city. At the Battle of Montaperti (1260), in which Farinata (the heretic) was one of the generals of the troops fighting against Florence, Farinata’s troops were outnumbered. However, Farinata had a secret trick. He had Bocca on his side. Bocca supposedly was on the side of the Guelfs in the battle, but during the fighting he cut off the hand of the man bearing the Florentine standard. The standard fell, and this led to confusion among the Guelfs, who thought that their generals had been captured. This confusion led to the Ghibellines defeating the Guelfs.

  • Who is Ganelon?

Ganelon was another traitor. He betrayed Roland’s rear guard, which led to the deaths of Roland and all of his men.

  • How does Dante find out the names of some of the sinners in Ring #2 of the Circle?

Dante kicks a sinner in the face — Dante says perhaps by accident, but perhaps not — and then he asks the sinner who he is. The sinner will not say, although Dante pulls out a lot of the sinner’s hair. Eventually, another sinner reveals this sinner’s name — Bocca — and Bocca in revenge tells Dante the names of other sinners near him.

Note that Dante is treating the sinners badly — as they deserve to be treated. We should look at this as a sign of Dante’s maturing.

  • Do the sinners in the lowest part of the Inferno want to be remembered on Earth?

The sinners in this lowest of the Circles do not want their names to be remembered on Earth. Apparently, they are aware of having sinned very greatly, and they do not want to be remembered.

Before learning Bocca’s name, Dante tells him that he can give him fame on Earth if he will identify himself. Bocca replies, “That’s the last thing I would want!” (Musa, Inferno32.94).

Of course, Bocca gets the enduring fame — we read about him inThe Divine Comedy, which was written 700 years ago — that he did not want.

  • At the end of Canto 32, Dante sees two figures, one of whom is gnawing the head of the other. (We will hear their story in the next canto.) This sight reminds him of the myth of Tydeus gnawing the head of Menalippus (Musa,Inferno32.130-132). What is that myth?

In the Thebaid, Statius recounts the story that Menalippus mortally wounded Tydeus in battle, although Tydeus was able to kill Menalippus. Knowing that he would die, Tydeus ordered that the head of Menalippus be brought to him. When it arrived, Tydeus gnawed at the head. By the way, Tydeus was the father of Diomed, who is punished with Odysseus in the 8thbolgia, which is dedicated to punishing the Evil Deceivers (or the Misusers of Great Abilities).


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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