Circle 9: Treachery

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 9: Treachery

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This chapter presents a brief plot summary for the ninth 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. Towering over the inner edge of circle eight are Giants, one of whom (Antaeus) lowers Dante and Virgil onto the frozen surface of Cocytus, the ninth circle of Hell. Embedded in separate regions of the ice are those who betrayed kin (Caina), homeland or political party (Antenora), guests (Ptolomea), and benefactors (Judecca). After kicking one of the political traitors hard in the face, Dante learns that this man (Bocca) betrayed the Florentine Guelphs at Montaperti. In the same region Dante finds Count Ugolino gnawing on the skull of Archbishop Ruggieri, whose cruelty caused Ugolino (with his sons and grandsons) to die of hunger. Fra Alberigo informs Dante that souls of those who betray their guests arrive in Hell even while their bodies continue to live on earth. In Judecca, at the very center of Hell, Dante sees Lucifer. Much larger than the Giants, he has three hideous faces and six huge, batlike wings that generate the winds needed to keep the lake frozen. Two mouths, one on each side, chew on Caesar's assassins, Brutus and Cassius, while the middle mouth engulfs Judas, the betrayer of Jesus. Virgil carries Dante down the shaggy body of Lucifer, making sure to flip over and climb once they have passed through the center of the earth. Dante then follows Virgil along a trail through the other half of the globe until he is able to see the stars again.

Keywords: Dante Alighieri; Virgil; Cocytus; Caina; Antenora; Ptolomea; Judecca; Bocca; Count Ugolino; Archbishop Ruggieri

Chapter.  5006 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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