Dante’s Inferno Outline

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Dante’s Inferno Outline/Review Sheet

-----The following is a list of questions/characters/ideas to look out for and remember from the list of cantos. You will find these helpful as you complete your reader’s response journals

-----Refer to the Dore sketches to get a visual sense of each canto.

-----Keep the map of the Inferno handy

-----Be able to discuss the items listed in each canto

Dante Alighieri & The Divine Comedy

Dante's Life

•  Born in Florence in 1265; died in Ravenna in 1321

•  Met Beatrice circa 1274

•  Married Gemma Donati in 1289

•  Elected Prior (highest magistrate, a 2 month post) in 1300

•  Exiled from Florence in 1302


Literary Works

•  De Vulgari Eloquentia, on the origin and development of language

•  De Monarchia, on political theory

•  Convivio, unfinished, a compendium of knowledge

•  Vita Nuova, lyric poems and commentary

•  Commedia , dubbed The Divine Comedy in the 16th century, written from 1307-21.  Relates a symbolic pilgrimage through Hell, Purgatory, & Heaven undertaken by the fictitious pilgrim Dante beginning the evening before Good Friday, 1300.

The Divine Comedy


Literary Influences:

•   Old & New Testament

•   Homer’s Odyssey, and especially Virgil's Aeneid

•   St. Augustine's Confessions

Structure in Multiple Layers of Three to Symbolize the Trinity:

• Three Guides:

1. Virgil, symbol of human reason & poetry, through Inferno & Purgatorio

2. Beatrice, his “pure” human love, through most of Paradiso

3. St. Bernard de Clairvaux, a 12th century contemplative monk

• Written in vernacular Italian in terza rima (aba, bcb, cdc, etc.)

• 33 cantos in each canticle (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), plus one in the beginning as an introduction = 100.

• Nine circles of Hell + anteroom = 10; seven levels of purgatory plus three ante-terraces = 10; nine heavenly spheres + empyrean = 10.

• Three beasts block his path: Leopard, Lion, and She-Wolf.

"Peopled" by hundreds of historical, contemporaneous, and mythical figures who had died by the year 1300, but who may have lived centuries before.

Inferno Map:

  Circle 1: The Virtuous Pagans                   Circle 7:  The Violent

  Circle 2: The Lascivious/Lustful                 Circle 8:  The Fraudulent

  Circle 3: The Gluttonous                            Circle 9:  The Lake of the Treacherous

  Circle 4: The Miserly and the Wasteful                     against kindred, country,

  Circle 5: The Wrathful                                              guests, lords, etc.

  Circle 6: The Heretics

The poem begins on Holy Thursday, April 7th running to Easter Sunday, April 10, A.D. 1300

Three types of sin:

1) Incontinence: Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Circles. (Arch-heretics inhabit the

Sixth Circle.)

2) Violence: Seventh Circle (three concentric parts: river, wood, desert)

3) Fraud: (a) without treachery: Eighth Circle (ten “evil pouches” of Malebolge)

(b) with treachery: Ninth Circle (four concentric rings of ice)



The poem begins on Holy Thursday, April 7th running to Easter Sunday, April 10, A.D. 1300

Holy Thursday Dante in the dark wood:

“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray

from the straight road and woke to find myself

alone in adark wood.” (Inferno 1.1-3)

Good Friday morning: Dante attempts the sunny hill:

“But at the end of that valley of evil

whose maze had sapped my very heart with fear!

I found myself before a little hill

and lifted up my eyes. Its shoulders glowed

already with the sweet rays of that planet

whose virtue leads men straight on every road,” (Inferno 1.13-18)

Good Friday day: Dante confronts the three beasts:

“And lo!

almost at the beginning of the rise

I faced a spotted Leopard, all tremor and flow


Yet no so much but what I shook with dread

at the sight of a great Lion that brok upon me

raging with hunger, its enormous head

held high as if to strike a mortal terror

into the very air. And down his track,

a She-Wolf drove upon me, a starved horror

ravening and wasted beyond all belief. (Inferno 1.31-60)

Good Friday evening: Dante meets Vergil and begins his journey:

“And as I fell to my soul’s ruin, a presence

gathered before me on the discolored air,

the figure of one who seemed hoarse from long silence. (Inferno 1.61ff)

Holy Saturday morning just past midnight: Dante and Vergil approach the River Styx

“But the stars that marked our starting fall away.

We must go deeper into greater pain,

for it is not permitted that we stay.” (Inferno 7.97-99)

Around 4:00 AM: Dante and Vergil enter the Seventh Circle (the violent and bestial)

“But come, for it is my wish now to go on:

the wheel turns and the Wain lies over Caurus,

the Fish are quivering low on the horizon,

and there beyond us runs the road we go

down the dark scarp into the depths below.” (Inferno 11.112-116)

Around 6:00 AM (just before sunrise): Dante and Vergil leave the Fourth Bolgia of the

Eighth Circle

“But come: Cain with his bush of throns appears

already on his wave below Seville,

above the boundary of the hemispheres;

and the moon was full already yesternight,

as you must well remember from the wood,

for it certainly did not harm you when its light

shone down yupon your way before the dawn.” (Inferno 20.124-130)

Easter Sunday morning: Dante emerges from Hell.

“He first, I second, without thought of rest

we climbed the dark until we reached the point

where a round opening brought in sight the blest

and beauteous shining of the Heavenly cars.

And we alked out once more beneath the Stars.” (Inferno 34.139-143)


Holy Thursday Last Supper Matthew 26.17-35; Mark 14.12-31; Luke 22.7-34; John 13.21-30,36-38

Good Friday Crucifixion. Mt. 27.32-56; Mk. 15.21-41; Lk. 23.26-49; Jn. 19.17-30

Easter Sunday Resurrection. Mt. 28.1-10; Mk. 16.1-10; Lk, 24.1-12; Jn.

Possible Reading Response Journal Topice


1. Good Friday, April 8th, 1300: Dante lost; three beasts; Virgil rescues Dante; what are Dante’s first spoken words and why is this important? Fascination with threes: terza rima, three beasts representative of sins of youth, maturity, and old age, etc.

2. Dante hesitates; three heavenly women; start of twenty-four hour trip to Earth’s center

3. Hell’s gate: the morally neutral; the gathering of the damned; Charon; Acheron

4. First Circle: Limbo; the unbaptized; the good pagans; how is Dante treated by the good

pagans?; how do we countenance the necessity of putting unbaptized

children in hell?

5. Second Circle: Judge Minos; the lustful; the dark winds; Francesca and Paola; how

does Dante treat the lustful sinners?; why does Dante collapse as he

leaves this part of hell?

6. Third Circle: the dog Cerberus(again, the number three!); the gluttonous; endless cold,

dirty rain; Ciacco: what does Ciacco ask Dante to do when the poet

returns from hell?

7. Fourth Circle: the wolf Pluto; misers, wastrels; rock-pushing; the River Styx. Fifth

Circle: the angry (thrashed); the sullen (submerged, bubbles); how are

the punishments in the fifth circle appropriate to the sin?

8. Fifth Circle (continued): the boatman Phlegyas; Filippo Argenti; City of Dis sighted;

how does Dante treat Argenti?; should we be troubled by this?

9. Fifth Circle (continued): the Furies at the gate; the delivering angel; City of Dis

entered. Sixth Circle: heretics in flaming tombs; what is the distinction

Dante makes between the heretics within Dis and the heretics (noble

pagans) in Limbo?

10. Sixth Circle (continued): Epicurus; Farinata prophesies; father of Dante’s friend

Calvalcanti; what does Farinata prophesize about Dante?; how does Dante


11. Respite: Virgil explains the classification of sins; why does Dante include this review?

12. Seventh Circle: Minotaur, centaurs; the violent against others; the river of blood

13. Seventh Circle (continued): the violent against self; the tangled wood; the suicides;

the Harpies. How is the punishment in this area of the circle

appropriate to the sin?

14. Seventh Circle (continued): the violent against God/nature; the desert, with flame

flakes; the blasphemers; Capaneus; how does Virgil respond to

Capaneus? Why was Capaneus punished and why does this not fit in

Dante’s Christian belief?

15. Seventh Circle (continued): the violent against nature; the sodomites; Brunetto

Latini;; what is Brunetto punished for?; Is his punishment just? What

does Dante the character think? And is this different from Dante the


16. Seventh Circle (continued): the violent against nature (continued): three Florentine

nobleman; the usurers; How does Dante present the sinners in this

circle? Why does he seem to treat and speak of them differently from

other sinners?

17. Man-serpent Geryon lowers Virgil and Dante to the next circle; what two

mythological stories does Dante use to describe his flight on the back of Geryon? How is the description of flight more nightmarish despite the details?

18. Eighth Circle: first ditch: panderers, seducers; whipped by demons; Jason. Second

ditch: flatterers; immersed in filth; Thais; this circle is called Maleborge

(evil pouches) probably in reference to the money-pocketing greed

linked with fraud. How do the sinners in this circle differ from the

sodomites and the usurers? Why is there a difference in behavior?

19. Eighth Circle (continued): third ditch; simonists; popes upside down in flaming holes;

how does Dante treat the sinners?; how is this scenario similar to the

Argenti scene, particularly in the way that Virgil responds to Dante’s


20. Eighth Circle (continued): fourth ditch: soothsayers; heads on backwards; what is the

story of Tiresias? How does Dante react to the sight of the sinners in

this canto? And what is Virgil’s reaction to this?

21. Eighth Circle (continued): fifth ditch: grafters; boiling pitch; deceiving demons

(Malebranche); discuss whether the demons act appropriately in this


22. Eighth Circle (continued): fifth ditch (continued): Ciampolo of Navarre; deceived

demons; what happens to the demons in this canto?

23. Eighth Circle (continued): sixth ditch: hypocrites; leaden cloaks; two monks; Caiphas

and Annas; what is the punishment for Caiphas and Annas?; why or

why not is it appropriate?

24. Eighth Circle (continued): seventh ditch: thieves; fiery serpents; Vanni Fucci; what

imagery does Dante evoke to describe the change of Virgil’s angry

countenance in the beginning of this canto; how does this imagery

contradict the punishment for the sinners in this circle?

25. Eighth Circle (continued) seventh ditch (continued): transformation of thieves; what

happens to the thieves in this circle and why might this be appropriate

to their sin?

26. Eighth Circle (continued): eighth ditch: evil advisers; enflamed souls; Ulysses/Diomedes; What is the nature of Dante’s dreams? How could Ulysses have inspired the poet Tennyson in his poem “Ulysses?” Why doesn’t Dante speak to either Ulysees or Diomedes?

27. Eighth Circle (continued): eighth ditch (continued): soldier monk Guido da Montefeltro (in whose poem does Montefeltro’s words appear?) what is this spirit/sinner’s story?

28. Eighth Circle (continued): ninth ditch: dividers; mutilated; Muhammad, Bertran de Born; what was Bertran’s crime and how is his punishment appropriate? What relation is Ali to Muhammad? Find out how the relationship between Muhammed and Ali leads to a religious schism founding the sects of Sunnites and Shiites.

29. Eighth Circle: (continued): tenth ditch: falsifiers; ills of mind, body; alchemists; what is the story of the shade from Azezzo, whay does this lead to Dante’s assertion about all people from Siena? What is the story of Capocchio? How is Cappuchio related to Dante?

30. Eighth Circle: tenth ditch (continued): impersonators, counterfeiters, liars; Gianni Schicchi. How does Dante react to the events surrounding the brawl between Schicchi and Sinon? How does Virgil react to Dante’s reaction?

31. Towering Giants: Dante and Virgil lowered into pit; Nimrod: why is his punishment appropriate?; Ephialtes and Anteus: why are they punished; frozen Cocytus: how does Dante feel about the way he was moved to the floor of hell?

32. Ninth Circle: traitors. Caina: traitors to kin; ice up to neck, heads down. Antenora: traitors to city; faces upward; why does Dante provide another invocation as he enters Cocytus? How does Dante treat Bocca? What does Dante’s treatment of Bocca reveal about the poet’s character?

33. Ninth Circle (continued): Ugolino: Was Ugolino guilty of cannibalism in life? Tolomea: traitors to guests; on backs, heads up; review Gaddo’s cry in line 69, to what is it reminiscent? What does Fra Alberigo mean when he refers to figs having been repaid with dates?

34. Ninth Circle (continued): Judecca (in Dante’s time this was a word for Jewish ghettos, what does this reveal?): traitors to benefactors; under ice, except for Satan; Judas, Brutus, and Cassius; To what does Lucifer’s three faces refer? Dante leaves this last canto at dawn before Easter Sunday: why is this significant? What do the stars symbolize?



Below is from:

Lines from John Milton’s Paradise Lost(1667)

Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime,

Said then the lost Arch-Angel, this the seat

That we must change for Heav'n, this mournful gloom

For that celestial light? Be it so, since he [ 245 ]

Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid

What shall be right: fardest from him is best

Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream

Above his equals. Farewel happy Fields

Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail [ 250 ]

Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell

Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings

A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.

The mind is its own place, and in it self

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n. [ 255 ]

What matter where, if I be still the same,

And what I should be, all but less then he

Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least

We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built

Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: [ 260 ]

Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce

To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:

Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.

But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,

Th' associates and copartners of our loss [ 265 ]

Lye thus astonisht on th' oblivious Pool,

And call them not to share with us their part

In this unhappy Mansion, or once more

With rallied Arms to try what may be yet

Regaind in Heav'n, or what more lost in Hell? [ 270 ]

How is Milton’s Satan different from Dante’s? Which poet’s vision coincides with your own view of Satan?

Below is from:


Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,

By this still hearth, among these barren crags,

Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole

Unequal laws unto a savage race,

That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel; I will drink

life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed

Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those

that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when

Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades

Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name;

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known---cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments,

Myself not least, but honored of them all---

And drunk delight of battle with my peers,

Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough

Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades

Forever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end.

To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!

As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life

Were all too little, and of one to me

Little remains; but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things; and vile it were

For some three suns to store and hoard myself,

And this gray spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, my own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the scepter and the isle---

Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill

This labor, by slow prudence to make mild

A rugged people, and through soft degrees

Subdue them to the useful and the good.

Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere

Of common duties, decent not to fail

In offices of tenderness, and pay

Meet adoration to my household gods,

When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;

There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,

Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me---

That ever with a frolic welcome took

The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed

Free hearts, free foreheads---you and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.

Death closes all; but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;

The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.

'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;

It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are---

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


Below is from:

T. S. Eliot: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1919)


Eliot was born in St. Louis and educated at Harvard University, but most of his adult life was passed in London. In the vanguard of the artistic movement known as Modernism, Eliot was a unique innovator in poetry and The Waste Land (1922) stands as one of the most original and influential poems of the twentieth century. As a young man he suffered a religious crisis and a nervous breakdown before regaining his emotional equilibrium and Christian faith. His early poetry, including "Prufrock," deals with spiritually exhausted people who exist in the impersonal modern city. Prufrock is a representative character who cannot reconcile his thoughts and understanding with his feelings and will. The poem displays several levels of irony, the most important of which grows out of the vain, weak man's insights into his sterile life and his lack of will to change that life. The poem is replete with images of enervation and paralysis, such as the evening described as "etherized," immobile. Prufrock understands that he and his associates lack authenticity. One part of himself would like to startle them out of their meaningless lives, but to accomplish this he would have to risk disturbing his "universe," being rejected. The latter part of the poem captures his sense defeat for failing to act courageously. Eliot helped to set the modernist fashion for blending references to the classics with the most sordid type of realism, then expressing the blend in majestic language which seems to mock the subject.

What makes this poem different from a normal love song?


S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse

A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,

Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.

Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo

Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,

Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo. (1)

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized (2) upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust (3) restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .

Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"

Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo. (4)

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

And seeing that it was a soft October night,

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time

For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,

Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;

There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time

To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--

[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--

[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]

Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:--

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I know the voices dying with a dying fall

Beneath the music from a farther room.

So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all--

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin

To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all--

Arms that are braceleted and white and bare

[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]

Is it perfume from a dress

That makes me so digress?

Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.

And should I then presume?

And how should I begin?

. . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets

And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes

Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!

Smoothed by long fingers,

Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,

Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, (5)

Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,

Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter, (6)

I am no prophet--and here's no great matter;

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,

After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,

Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,

Would it have been worth while,

To have bitten off the matter with a smile,

To have squeezed the universe into a ball

To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

To say: "I am Lazarus, (7) come from the dead

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"--

If one, settling a pillow by her head,

Should say: "That is not what I meant at all.

That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,

Would it have been worth while,

After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,

After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the


And this, and so much more?--

It is impossible to say just what I mean!

But as if a magic lantern (8) threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:

Would it have been worth while

If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,

And turning toward the window, should say:

"That is not it at all,

That is not what I meant, at all."

. . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, (9) nor was meant to be;

Am an attendant lord, one that will do

To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

Deferential, glad to be of use,

Politic, cautious, and meticulous;

Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous--

Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . .I grow old . . .

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.


(1) A passage from Dante Alighieri's Inferno (Canto 27, lines 61-66) spoken by Guido da Montefeltro in response to the questions of Dante, who Guido supposes is dead, since he is in Hell:. The flame in which Guido is encased vibrates as he speaks: "If I thought that that I was replying to someone who would ever return to the world, this flame would cease to flicker. But since no one ever returns from these depths alive, if what I've heard is true, I will answer you without fear of infamy."

(2) Anesthetized with ether; but also suggesting "made etherial," less real.

(3) Cheap bars and restaurants used to spread sawdust on the floor to soak up spilled beer, etc.

(4) The great Renaissance Italian artist.

(5) Cookies and ice cream.

(6) Like John the Baptist (see Matthew 14: 1-12)

(7) A man raised from death by Jesus (see John 11: 1-44).

(8) Early form of slide projector.

(9) Shakespeare's sensitive hero known for procrastination.


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