Divine Comedy: Novel Summary: Inferno section 11- Inferno section 15

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Inferno section 11: Still in the Sixth Circle, Dante and Virgil pause behind the tomb of Pope Anastasius to acclimate to the vile stench that now surrounds them.  To pass the time, Virgil instructs Dante on what lies ahead.  Virgil explains that the next Circle (Seven) holds sinners who were violent against their neighbors, against themselves, and against God and Nature.  Sinners who committed ten different types of "ordinary" fraud live in Circle Eight while traitors who committed treacherous fraud-against kindred, country, guests, and masters-live in Circle Nine closest to Satan.  Dante wonders why the sinners guilty of incontinence (Circles Two through Five) live outside the walls of Dis.  Virgil reminds Dante of Aristotle's Ethicsin which the author explains why incontinence is less offensive to God than fraud because people commit acts of incontinence without malice.  The poets' discussion then moves to the subject of usury. When a man tries to evade the labors necessary to live by nature and by his own art, he commits usury, an act that violates God's plan.  Virgil closes the discussion by asking Dante to follow him down the cliff into the next Circle.
Inferno section 12: Upon descending the rocky cliff, Dante and Virgil come to an opening that is guarded by the Minotaur.  In a great rage, the Minotaur can do nothing to stop this journey.  The poets descend through the opening quickly.  As they climb down, Virgil instructs Dante to look below to view the river of boiling blood where the violent sinners live.  Dante sees that centaurs stand at the banks of this river, launching arrows at the shades in the river who act out of order.  The centaurs spy the poets and send three of their own-Nessus, Chiron, and Pholus-to meet them. Chiron speaks first, noting that the rocks move under Dante's feet indicating that Dante is still alive.  Chiron sends Nessus to carry Dante across the river of blood.  As they glide across the river, Nessus explains that the sinners sunk deepest were tyrants and murderers on Earth.  Once they reach the ford over the river, Nessus leaves Dante and explains that the river grows deeper on the other side of the ford where major tyrants like Attila reside.
Inferno section 13: Still in the Seventh Circle, Dante and Virgil enter a dark and foreboding forest.  Dante notices that the trees in this wood have strange black leaves on misshapen branches and poison sticks rather than fruit.  Harpies nest in the barren branches.  Virgil explains that this second round of the Seventh Circle houses people who committed suicide.  For their punishment, these sinners have been turned into trees.  Pulling a branch from one of the trees, Dante is surprised when the tree-spirit responds in agony from the pain of losing its branch.  Dante feels pity for the spirit and asks it to tell its story.  The spirit belongs to the man who served as a faithful aid to Fredrick II.  But when Fredrick turned against him he could not stand to be out of his master's favor so he killed himself.  Virgil asks the spirit to explain how the suicides become trees.  The sad shade describes that when a soul is ripped from its body by suicide it is sent to this Circle by Minos where it sprouts roots and grows from the fetid soil.  The trees then spend eternity feeling horrible pain as Harpies eat their leaves.  As the tree-spirit finishes its story, the poets hear a great rumble thundering through the forest.  Chased by black bitches as fast as greyhounds, two spirits belonging to Lano and Jacopo da Santo Andrea seek cover behind a spirit-bush to no avail.  The dogs easily catch the spirits and tear it to shreds.
Inferno section 14: Dante and Virgil move into the last round of the Seventh Circle where those who were violent against God (blasphemers) spend eternity.  A vast and desolate plane sprawls before the poets as they behold numerous souls lying, crouching, and wandering across the desert.  The desert floor burns as flakes of fire continuously scorches the sand.  Dante turns to one spirit lying in the sand that seems undaunted by the rain of fire.  This soul, Capeneus, defied gods in ancient times and was struck down by Zeus.  Yet Capeneus still thinks of himself as unconquered and, therefore, still blasphemous despite his horrendous punishment.  Virgil admonishes the spirit and calls Dante to move on.  Dante and Virgil come to a deep red river and realize that they must use it as a path through the desert.  As they follow the river, Virgil describes the legend of a great creature that lives in the island of Crete.  From this creature flow the tears that collect in Hell and form the great rivers: Acheron, Styx, and Phlegethon.  The river that they now follow will lead them to Cocytus (Satan) at the very bottom of Hell.  In response to Virgil's description, Dante asks, "But if the rivulet must follow such a course down from our world, why can we see it only at this boundary?" Virgil replies that as they have descended into Hell (which is shaped like a circular cone) they have traveled to the left and have not yet made a complete circle.
Inferno section 15: Still walking along the river in the Seventh Circle, Dante enters the area of Hell reserved for those who were violent against God-the Sodomites.  As the poets walk across the burning plain, a group of shades approaches them.  Dante recognizes one of the spirits as that belonging to Ser Brunetto.  After Dante explains how Virgil found him and brought him to Hell, Brunetto prophesies Dante's fame and gives him details of his exile.  Brunetto was one of Dante's mentors in life so upon meeting him in Hell, Dante feels sorrowful and speaks to his friend with kindness and gratitude.  As they conclude their conversation, Dante asks Brunetto who else dwells in this part of Hell.  Brunetto mentions a few, all-renowned scholars who were guilty of sodomy (although Brunetto does not identify this crime by name).  Another group of spirits approaches Dante and Brunetto.  Brunetto runs off because he is not allowed to be with those spirits.

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