Roberta Writes – Divine Comedy, Inferno: Canto 11

At the edge of the Seventh Circle of Hell, Virgil and Dante are greeted by a terrible stench. It is so overpowering, they must sit down and wait to adjust to it before moving forward. Dante sees a headstone with an inscription, “I guard Anastasius, once Pope, he whom Photinus led from the straight road.”

Gustave Doré - Dante's Inferno - Canto 11 Verses 6-7
Picture credit: https://spiffingprints.com/products/gustave-dore-dantes-inferno-canto-11-verses-6-7

Virgil explains that the structure of hell and that there are other, smaller circles within the next three circles [7th, 8th, and 9th].

Seventh Circle, which is for violence, is divided into three smaller circles. These three small circles punish sins of violence against one’s neighbour and includes robbers, murderers, and plunderers, sins against one’s self which include suicide or recklessly gambling away one’s possessions or property, or sins against God which include sinners who curse, deny or defame God, as well as usurers and follows of Sodom [the city of Sodom represented unnatural vice].

It is interesting to me that Dante does not distinguish between a sinner who takes another life i.e. a murderer, and someone who damages property, i.e. a arsonist or robber. It also seems rather harsh that a person who charges interest on a loan is treated in the same manner as a murderer.

An extract from Canto 11:

“All the first circle holds the violent;

but since against three persons force is used,

its shape divides it into three great rings.

Both against God, one’s neighbor, and one ’s self

may force be used; against themselves, I mean,

and what is theirs, as clearly shown thou ’lt hear.

By force both death and painful wounds are given

one ’s neighbor, and thereby his property

is ruined, burned, and by extortions robbed;

the first ring, hence, torments in separate troops

all homicides and those that smite with malice,

spoilers of property and highway robbers.”

Welcome to my Magick Theatre has shared a wonderful post including some beautiful paintings of an artist, Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s, impression of Dante and Beatrice from Divine Comedy: https://carrieannebrownian.wordpress.com/2021/11/15/artwork-of-dante-and-beatrice/

37 thoughts on “Roberta Writes – Divine Comedy, Inferno: Canto 11

  1. That is interesting that property would be viewed the same as a life or a soul. It would suggest an unhealthy obsession with material possessions, wouldn’t it? Fascinating stuff. Thanks for continuing to post these synopses.

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    1. Hi Staci, I am glad you find them interesting. I thought that was very odd – taking a life and taking a possession don’t seem nearly equivalent, unless the theft of world possessions left the person destitute and they died as a result.

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  2. Granted, I often have a warped sense of humor… but “a person who charges interest on a loan” — my take on that made me snort. Since I’ve been paying on my student loans for 20 years, the actual amount (without interest) would have been paid long long ago… Yes, I’d treat those rat ba$#ard$ like murderers. o_O Haha.
    Have a brilliant new week, Robbie. Big hugs.

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    1. That sounds horrible, Teagan, when do you finish paying. Usually loans have a repayment schedule and over time the interest portion reduces and the capital portion increases. I do agree that micro lending can be very unjust and harmful to people. I was going to add “can you imagine how full Hell would be now if charging interest was still regarded as a sin.” I though it might be a little offensive to some people.

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    1. My pleasure, Jan. I found Inferno the most interesting section of this book by far. Dante’s Hell is so interesting and I keep thinking about a modern version. I wouldn’t mind toasting the feet of certain politicians.

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  3. I wonder if the Roman Catholic hierarchy of mortal and venial sins plays a role in how Dante envisaged the circles of hell. I seem to remember from studying the Middle Ages in college that usury was looked upon very, very negatively. Thank you for posting the link to My Magick Theatre. The paintings are fascinating.

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    1. Hi LIz, I am glad you enjoyed this post. My Magick Theatre write some great posts about Dante for people who want to delve more deeply. Having being a strict Catholic for many years, and still being fairly immersed in the faith as you can tell from my books, I know that Dante was hugely influenced by the ideas of Catholicism with regards to sin and redemption. When I was a girl, I thought Dante was a past Pope.

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      1. I think for people of Dante’s time, hell was a real place rather than a state of being? Growing up a low-church Episcopalian in a larger Roman Catholic community, I was always surprised by how complicated Catholic theology seemed to be.

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    1. This book is very insightful into religious [Catholic] ideas on sin at the time. I must admit that this changed slowly. Suicide was still a mortal sin when I was a child and that has always bothered me as I believe it is a great tragedy and a cry for help gone to far.

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  4. Like everything else, our hierarchy of sin keeps evolving. Not that we agree on it even now.

    And I agree with Teagan that too often interest is excessive and traps the borrower in an endless cycle of debt. It may not be true where you live, but in the United States, even unpaid medical bills accrue interest at a rate no person making an average salary could ever pay. Ditto for many student loans. (K)

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    1. Hi Kerfe, I have learned a lot about life in the USA through blogging, and it is not at all what most people think. We have laws against usury interest rates here, but people do still get trapped. WE loaned our gardener the money to build a small house as we didn’t want him getting caught in this cycle of debt. He paid us back within a year and I’ve never know such gratitude. It makes me feel bad if you can understand what I mean.

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  5. I’m so enjoying this series of yours, Robbie, living the poets’ journey all over again. Some of Dante’s ‘choices’ about the occupants of the various circles are surprising. Those paintings are amazing!

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      1. Yes, it is on my retirement list of ideas. I have my current The Soldier and the Radium Girl and The Creeping Change to finish. Then I have a trilogy planned about SA history from the 1820 settlers through to Anglo Zulu war and the dissolution of Zululand. After than, I will have time [hahahaha!]

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  6. I am currently reading a book about an 1800th century usurers’ murder. And the supposed retailation of a secret society that takes justice into its own hands.

    One discussion (in the book) is about how another country can be a usurer to another – changing the terms of outlandish agreements of payback and creating a dependance that can’t be negated. The high interest rates and dependance upon contiunual borrowing reminds me of some of the big corp arrangements for railroad workers and miners. Owing one’s soul to the ‘company store’.

    I think there is a difference between killing (especially in self defense) and planned murder.

    I think many of the stories of a nasty underworld are created to promote fear. And if one believes in a loving and forgiving (and reforming) Entity – there should be no such place, should there?

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  7. How fascinating, Robbie, and the various circles are interesting. I don’t think all sins equal the same punishment. Taking someone else’s life is a little different than robbing a building. My two cents. And I read what you wrote about suicide which I agree with. Our son had a friend who at 14 years old took his own life. No one would’ve known he was struggling. It was a shock and so sad and tragic. Our son and his other friend think of Peter ever February 16th in his honor. Anyway, thank you again for educating us.

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      1. wow Robbie, I’ve never seen anyone with so many ‘closed comments’!
        my password is kateswork … please delete this comment once you’ve downloaded your copy?

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  8. This was written long enough ago that many attitudes and thoughts have changed, evolved. Yet, many people hold onto archaic & estranged ideas; out of fear, religious doctrine and now from false idol ideas found in the neo rings of hell…… the internet’s social de-evolution.

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    1. Hi Resa, I have just written more or less the same thing to you in response to your previous comment. Great minds link alike. I agree that whether your thought process in this regard will modernise or not, depends on your upbringing and whether you were allowed to be a free thinker. I was brought up with the fire and brimstone version of Hell at my school [not at home].

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      1. I got that at Catholic school. When I was 12, mom said I could choose any religion or none.
        Ha! That began a lot of years of delving into many religions and philosophies.
        I just thought about the title “Divine Comedy”…

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