ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Dante's Inferno Cantos V-VII

Updated on August 13, 2013
Dante's Circle of Hell
Dante's Circle of Hell | Source

The Message in Cantos V-VII

Dante struggled in life with desires of lust, wealth, and ambition. His book, known as La Divina Commedia, seems to represent his vision of the sins of man on earth and his struggle to overcome his own short comings. It can be said that it is an allegory or story symbolic of Dante’s own life and struggles. Also known as The Inferno of Dante, Dante is introduced into the circle of Hell by Beatrice, who stands for his courtly love, or divine love. It is interesting that he chose Beatrice, a woman that he may have only met twice in his life, but loved and respected, to lead him on his path or spiritual quest. It suggests that divine love is the goal and answer to Dante’s quest.

Cantos V-VII best describes Dante's definition of divine love and what is not divine love.

Canto V
Canto V | Source

Canto V

In Canto V, Dante encounters Minos, the judge at Hell’s gate. It is Minos who decides the fate of all souls. It seems that Minos judges with great apathy as we are told that he listens to the sins and flicks the souls with his tail to the layer of Hell that they belong in.

“It comes before him, and confesses all; Minos, great connoisseur of sin, discerns

for every spirit its proper place in Hell,” (Inferno V, lines 8-9)

Minos is told by Virgil, Dante’s guide, not to interfere with Dante’s destiny. This suggests that it is intentional that Dante must go through the lowest of Hell to find the spiritual awakening that he seeks.

We find the lustful swirling around in the wind in the second circle of Hell.

“Floundering on the wind’s rough buffetings,

upward or downward, driven here and there” (Inferno V, lines 36-38).

The punishment of swirling can be compared to the helplessness they had in controlling their lust on earth. Francesca, Paolo, Dido, Helen, and Cleopatra are all mentioned by name or by act in this Canto as being in this circle. These people are all guilty of lustful, sexual behavior. Some speak to Dante and tell of their tales and seem to ask for pity at their plight, but do not seem to repent. It is interesting that Dido and Cleopatra killed themselves because of love, but they are put in this circle instead of circle seven where other suicides are cast. At the end of Canto V, we hear the thoughts of Dante:

Francesca talks about her love for her husband’s younger brother, Paolo. She compares it to the love of Lancelot and Guinevere. Dante almost faints as he is reminded of his love for Beatrice, while he is in an arranged marriage himself.

“Swooning as in death, I felt like a dying body” (Inferno V, line 117).

This could be seen as a beginning of a rebirth for Dante, or forgiveness for his own transgressions.

Love for another person is closer to the divine love; however their love is misguided for persons they cannot have.

Canto VI
Canto VI | Source

Canto VI

In Canto VI, we find the gluttonous in circle three. It is guarded by Cerberus, a three headed dog that is quieted by throwing chunks of mud in his mouth.

“Enormous hail and tainted water mixed with snow are showered” (Inferno VI 8-9).

We are told of a cold and smelly torturous place. Cerberus;

“claws the horde of spirits, he flays and quarters them in the rain.” (Inferno VI 16-17).

Dante tells of the gluttons laying around in the cold mud or mire, like pigs, to symbolize the life style they had on earth. Dante speaks with Ciacco, who tells Dante of his sin of gluttony and asks Dante to speak of him when he returns to Florentine. Ciacco is thought to be a nickname for hog or pig in Florentine dialect. Ciacco also tells of the fate of

“Farinata, Mosca, Tegghiaio, men of good reason,

Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo” (Inferno VI 9-11),

all men that Dante knew of, that are in a deeper part of hell, for pride or envy or greed.

It is easy to see why these transgressions would be a greater punishment, as they are all parts of the deadly sins but they would all be devoid of divine love. Their misdirected love was for a thing, and the thing was food. They are put in the circle above the greedy as food, in moderation is necessary in life.

At the end of Canto VI, Dante asks Virgil about judgment day, if the punishment these souls now endure will change. Virgil answers,

“A creature is perfect, the more it perceives the good

And likewise, pain. The accursed people here

can never come to true perfection.” (Inferno VI 98-100).

This tells us two things: that Dante believed in the same teachings of that of the Summa, and that divine love is salvation, and that these people have no chance of redemption. Their fate is sealed in Hell. Dante is telling us that God put us above the animals by giving us free will, but that our choices reject God and the manner in which they do, determines our punishment. These beliefs are similar to that of Thomas Aquinas,

Dante and Virgil
Dante and Virgil | Source

Canto VII

In Canto VII, we find the spendthrifts and misers in circle four. Plutus, known as the god of riches, guards this circle. Their punishment is to roll stones against the walls and each other, which can symbolize the abuse they gave material goods in life:

“Each pushes a weight against his chest, and howls

at his opponent each time that they clash:

“Why do you squander?” and “Why do you hoard?” (Inferno VII 25-27).

This behavior is continuous. Virgil comments that

“How all the gold there is beneath the moon,

or that there ever was, could not relieve

one of these weary souls.” Inferno VII 58-60). What a profound lesson for today’s world. How many of us grew up hearing the statement that “you can’t take it with you” and that money is surely the root of all evil. They spent their lives worshiping material goods, instead of God.

Their journey continues in this Canto, and they find themselves at the river Styx. Virgil tells Dante,

“These are the souls whom anger overcame,” (Inferno VII 101).

Dante watches as people fight and hit with all parts of their bodies. Punishment for anger is an eternal place of fighting. The sullen lay beneath the river’s surface, suggesting that they are hidden just as they hid their feelings during life.

Dante uses a lot of symbolism in his punishment for crimes. His symbols or punishments seem to point to the old testament of “an eye for an eye.” Dante’s justice is defined as cause and effect or divine justice. It is further defined as the sinners have chosen this path for themselves by their sins.

Divine Love

Even though Dante was a Christian, the forgiving Christ-like virtues are not shown in this story. This shows of his own inability to forgive himself, although he is making this journey to find divine love and salvation at the end. We are told that he must journey through all of Hell to reach Heaven, on the other side. As a child, many of us are told that when we die, our entire life flashes before us, good and bad. We might speculate that Dante wrote this poem to mirror his own life and to reflect on the sins of man and of himself. He wrote to teach us that to obey God, and to love in the divine sense, is our hope of salvation.

“Thus hope springs anew with the growth and the knowledge and the understanding of the light on the way, and that life indeed is an eternal expression of the love of the Father; and that as it gives the expression through the individuality of each and every soul as it comes in material manifestation by the weaknesses, we find the strength in the Lord--and in the glories ever in His beauteous purpose with each soul; that purpose that ye might be the companions, one with Him.” Edgar Cayce 1504-1

© 2013 Rebecca Shepherd Thomas


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)