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Free Study Guide-The Divine Comedy-The Inferno by Dante Alighieri-Notes
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DIVISIONS OF HELL

Hell can be divided into three major divisions, presided over by the three beasts the Pilgrim encounters in Canto I. These beasts are the leopard, the lion and the she-wolf.

The she-wolf represents the different types of incontinence, which are punished in Circles two to five. The sins included in these are: lust, gluttony, hoarding-wasting wealth and wrath. These five circles together with Circle one (Limbo) and the vestibule make up the region of Upper Hell.

Lower Hell consists of all the other remaining regions of Hell. Thus it extends from circle six right up to the circle nine and includes the body of Lucifer. Mark Muso says "Circle six where Heresy is punished is not included in any of the three main divisions of Incontinence, violence and fraud. Heresy is not due to weakness of flesh or mind (incontinence), nor is it a form of violence or of fraud; it is a clear willed sin based on intellectual pride, and because it denies the Christian concept of reality, it is punished outside of the area allocated to the Christian Categories of sin. The sin of Heresy is more serious than those caused by weakness of flesh but somehow less serious than willed, premeditated sins of violence and fraud; it is a sin of intellect and a state of being, not a source of sinful action (fraud, violence). Therefore it is between incontinence and violence".


In circle seven are punished all forms of violence. And the beast representing this circle is the Lion, the symbol for violence. The seventh circle has three divisions. In the first murders, destroyers and plunderers are punished. In the second division those who committed violent acts or harm to themselves or to their wealth, suffer. This includes those who committed suicide or wasted their wealth. In the third division lie those who violated the name of God or harmed or violated nature and its laws.

The Leopard, symbolizing fraud, rules over the eighth and ninth circles. In the eighth circle are punished sins of simple fraud. These include the ten Malebolge. And the sinners in these are: panderers and seducers, flatters, simonists, sorcerers, barrators, hypocrites, thieves, deceivers, sowers of discord and falsifiers.

Between the eighth and ninth circles is the well / pit of the giants. The pit of the giants along with the ninth circle, represents sins of complex fraud. Mark Musa differentiates between simple and complex fraud thus, "simple fraud (in the Malebolge is the product of 'evil will' allied with 'the faculty of intellect'. But complex fraud, exemplified by the giants, the Fallen Angels, Lucifer, and the other figures in the ninth circle, is a combination of simple frauds and violence (all of the figures in this circle are here for violent rebellion or treacherous murder), that is, of "the faculty of intellect ... joined with brute force and with evil will". It can be seen that the key to the sins in lower Hell is the "evil will", that is, an active willing of evil ends; and of all the capital sins, only pride and envy could cause such a will to evil". Thus the sins in lower Hell (heresy, violence and fraud) are fuelled by envy and pride.

Lower Hell covers circles VI to IX.

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