Circle 4: Avarice & Prodigality

Guy P. Raffa

in Danteworlds

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226702674
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226702780 | DOI:
Circle 4: Avarice & Prodigality

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This chapter presents a brief plot summary for the fourth circle of Hell, followed by explanations of “encounters” and “allusions”, significant verses (in Italian and English), and study questions to aid in comprehension and facilitate discussion of the poem. Plutus, a wolflike beast, shouts a warning to Satan as Dante and Virgil enter the fourth circle of Hell, but Virgil's harsh rebuke silences him and allows the travelers to pass unscathed. Dante now sees a multitude of shades damned for the sin of avarice or its opposite, prodigality. The two groups push heavy boulders with their chests around a circle in opposite directions: when the avaricious and the prodigal collide, they turn and, after casting insults at one another, repeat the journey in the other direction. So filthy have the souls become as a result of their sordid lives that Dante cannot recognize them individually, though Virgil reports the presence of many clerics, including cardinals and popes, among the avaricious. He also explains to Dante the divine role of Fortuna in human affairs.

Keywords: Dante Alighieri; Plutus; Satan; Virgil; shades; souls; clerics; Fortuna

Chapter.  1044 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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