Circle 8, pouches 1–6: Fraud

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 8, pouches 1–6: Fraud

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This chapter presents a brief plot summary for pouches one through six of the eighth 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. Circle eight, also called Malebolge (“evil pouches”), contains ten concentric ditches corresponding to different categories of fraud. The embankments separating the ditches are connected by stone bridges. Dante and Virgil view the shades by walking along the embankments and across the bridges, and at times by descending into a ditch. Punished in the first six ditches are (in order) pimps and seducers, flatterers, simonists (corrupt religious leaders), soothsayers, barrators (crooked public officials), and hypocrites. Jason, leader of the Argonauts, captures Dante's attention among the seducers being whipped by horned demons. In the next ditch, Dante recognizes a flatterer from Lucca wallowing in excrement. After verbally thrashing Pope Nicholas III, stuffed upside down in the ground for prostituting the church, Dante is himself rebuked by Virgil for weeping at the sight of the soothsayers, whose necks are twisted so that tears wet their buttocks. Barrators, immersed in a sea of boiling pitch, are tortured by a band of devils, whose malicious intentions force Virgil to grab Dante and slide down into the sixth pouch. There the travelers find Caiaphas; nailed to the ground, he is trampled by other hypocrites weighed down by gilded, lead-lined cloaks.

Keywords: Dante Alighieri; Virgil; Malebolge; ditches; Jason; Lucca; Pope Nicholas III; Caiaphas; hell

Chapter.  5356 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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