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Free Study Guide-The Divine Comedy-The Inferno by Dante Alighieri-Notes
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

"Inferno' here refers to Hell, and that is where the whole story is set. Virgil rescues Dante from the dark woods in which he is lost. The only way out is through Hell and so they proceed downwards into the bowels of the earth.

They pass through the three divisions of hell, namely; incontinence, violence and fraud. The first circle of Hell is the Limbo, followed by the other circles of carnality, gluttony, avarice, and anger. They, then come to the city of Dis where the arch-heretics are punished, this is the sixth circle. The seventh circle is that of Violence.

Then they pass a dense forest called The Wood of the Suicides; where people who took their own lives are punished.. The Eight Circles of Hell consist of ten stone ravines called Malebolge (evil pockets). In each of these a particular type of sin is punished. The ninth circle contains people who have been treacherous. And at the very center of "Inferno", which is the center of the Earth, suffering eternal damnation is Lucifer.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Dante the Pilgrim

‘Dante the Pilgrim’is the literary invention of ‘Dante the Poet’. The Pilgrim is the main protagonist of The Divine Comedy. The entire action revolves around his plight and his experiences. When Virgil comes to his rescue in the dark woods, he (Pilgrim) is a confused novice, full of fear and doubts. But as Inferno progresses he learns to put his full faith in his guide, Virgil. He also grows spiritually and hardens his heart against sin. He learns to look dispassionately upon unrepentant sinners. He starts understanding the nature of sin. He further learns how important despising the sin is, rather than despising any particular sinner.


Virgil

Virgil is a shade from the Limbo. He comes to guide the Pilgrim at the behest of Beatrice. Virgil is the personification of ‘human reason’in the poem. And thus it is his task to teach the Pilgrim about Hell, sin, and punishment in order to direct his spiritual growth in the right direction. He is a strict teacher and loses all patience with the Pilgrim’s uncontrolled pity for sinners. Nevertheless he encourages the latter and reinforces him with ample praise, when the pilgrim treads on the right path.

Minor Characters

Alessio Interminei

A Florentine, who was known for his flattery skills, and who lived in the eighth circle of Hell called Bolgia.

Ali

He was the first of Mohammed’s followers and married the prophet's daughter Fatima. Ali became the Caliph in 656 AD. He is punished in the Ninth Bolgia with sowers of scandal and schism.

Antaeus

Son of Neptune and Gaea and one of the Titans. He did not join the other Titans in their rebellion against the gods.

Archbishop Ruggieri

He was the Archbishop of Lisa and an associate of Count Ugolino. He deceived Ugolino and imprisoned him along with his family and caused them to starve to death.

Branca D Oria

A prominent resident of Geno, he murdered his father-in-law, Miche Lanche, after having invited him to dinner.

Brutus

Marcus Junius (85-42 B.C.) He sided with Pompey in the civil war of 49 B.C. After the battle of Pharsalia in 48 B.C. Julius Caesar pardoned him and raised him to high favor, making him governor of Cisalpine Gaul in 46 B.C. Persuaded by Cassius, he took part in the conspiracy to murder Caesar in hope of re- establishing the Republic.

Bocca Degli Abati

A Ghibelline who pretended to support the Florentine Guelfs. And by cutting the hand of the Guelf standard bearer caused their defeat in the battle of Montaperti.

Bertran De Born

He was lord of Altaforte and a soldier and a troubadour. He caused the rebellion of Prince Henry against his father, Henry II, King of England. Bertran lies punished in Inferno for this sin in the ninth Bolgia.

Brunetto Latini

Florenine politician and man of learning. He wrote the 'Tresor' and 'Tesoretto' works that greatly influenced Dante's own life and work. Latini is punished in the seventh circle for Sadomif.

Beatrice

She was a noble Florentine woman of outstanding grace and beauty. She was the daughter of Eolco Portinari and later became the wife of the banker Simone dei Bardi. Dante's life and writings were influenced by his acquaintance with her. Dante gathered all the poems he wrote to her in a book called "Vita Nuova" or the New life, where he added a commentary on the meaning and occasion of each.

Charon

The boatman of River Acheron. He ferries the souls of the sinners across Acheron, from the vestibule of Hell, into Hell proper.

Cerberus

Cerberus is the three headed, dog-like beast who guards the Gluttons in the Third Circle of Inferno.

Ciacco

A Florentine punished in the third circle of Gluttons. He makes a prophecy concerning the political future of Florence.

Cavalcante De Cavalcanti

A Florentine nobleman and father of Guido Cavalcanti. Guido was a poet and friend of Dante's. Both Guido and his father were reckoned Epicureans. And Cavalcanti lies in the sixth circle, punished for having being an Epicurean heretic.

Centaurs

Half-horse, half-man creatures who guard the first division of the seventh circle, where the murderess and tyrants are punished.

Chiron

The chief of the Centaurs.

Capaneus

One of the seven Kings who fought against Thebes. While scaling the walls of Thebes he blasphemed against God, who then struck him a thunderbolt. In Inferno he represents the blasphemers.

Catalano De Malavoltin

He is in the sixth Bolgia where hypocrites are punished. A Jovial Friar from Bologna. He was elected jointly to the office of mayor in Florence with Loderingo Degli Andalo.

Caiaphas

He was the high priest of Jews who decided to sacrifice Jesus to save the Hebrew nation. He lies crucified and transfixed to the ground in the sixth bolgia of hypocrites.

Capocchio

A sinner sitting back to back with Griffolino da Arezho in the tenth Bolgia of the eighth circle.

Count Ugolino

Belonged to a noble Tuscan family whose political affiliations were Ghibelline. He cheated his party by supporting the Guelfs.

Cassius

Caius Cassius Longinus, Roman statesman and general. He was pardoned by Caesar and made praetor and promised the governorship of Syria. Cassius, however, repaid this generosity by heading a conspiracy to murder Caesar and persuading Marcus Brutus to join it.

Diomed

He was the king of Argos and a major Greek figure in the Trojan War and was frequently associated with Ulysses in his exploits. In Inferno both Ulysses and Diomed are punished in one burning flame.

Ephialtes

Son of Neptune and Jphimedia. He was a giant. He tried to climb to Heaven to make war on the gods.

Friar Alberigo

A Jovia Friar and native of Eaenza. He invited his relative Manfred and his son to dinner and then had them killed.

Filippo Argenti

A Florentine, member of the Adimari family. He lies in the Styx where the wrathful are punished.

Farinata

Farinata Degli Uberti, Ghibelline leader of Florence. He is punished in the sixth circle for being an Epicurean heretic.

Francesca Da Rimini and Paolo

Francesco was the wife of Gianciotto de Verruchio and Paolo was his brother. Francesca was her brother-in-law Paolo's lover. When he discovers this love affair, Gianciotto kills both of them.

Giacomo Da Sant Andrea

A native of a Padua, he was an incorrigible self-vandalizer who wasted most of his riches.

Guido Guerra

A Florentine nobleman and grandson of "good Gualdrada". He is in the seventh circle with other warriors.

Guido Da Montefeltro

A famous deceiver, he was a soldier who became a friar in his old age to repent for his sins. But he was untrue to his vows when, at the urging o Pope Boniface VIII, he counseled the use of fraud in the Pope's campaign against the Colonna family.

Geri Del Bello

He was the first cousin of Dante's father. He was murdered by one of the Sacchetti family. Geri lies in the ninth bolgia of the eight circle.

Griffolino Da Arezzo

Lies in the tenth of bolgia of falsifiers. He is in Hell for living a practitioner of alchemy.

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