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The Inferno: Novel Summary: Canto 11

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Summary
The stench of the next circle is so bad that Dante and Virgil have to wait until they get used to it before they can go on. Virgil uses the time to explain to Dante the plan of the rest of Hell, so that he won't need each circle explained to him-he'll see the souls and their sufferings, and he'll understand. After Virgil has explained, Dante asks how the people outside the wall fit in, and Virgil reproaches him for not remembering his Aristotle (the great authority in philosophy in the Middle Ages) any better than that. Weakness of will is of course a less serious offense than deliberate wrongdoing, but it still offends God.
Analysis
The easiest way to get the plan of Hell straight is to make yourself a map that you can keep in front of you, or to consult the maps in one of the editions of Dante. In Outer Hell, as we discussed before, are first the righteous unbaptized, and then those who simply gave in to their impulses, the incontinent. There are five circles in all in Outer Hell: the Second Circle for the lustful, the Third for the gluttonous, the Fourth for the hoarders and spendthrifts, and the Fifth for the wrathful. Within the walls of the city of Dis, which can be seen as symbolizing the hardened will that deliberately chooses to go wrong, are four circles. The Sixth Circle holds the heretics. The Seventh holds those who used violence to do wrong, the Eighth, those who used the divine gift of reason to practice fraud against other human beings in general, and the Ninth, those who used fraud against those they were especially bound to, in other words, the traitors. The Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Circles are all subdivided. The first round of the Seventh Circle holds those who used violence against the lives and property of other human beings, the second, those who used violence against themselves, whether by suicide or by destroying their own property (felt at that time to be an extension of oneself), and the third, those who used violence against God, whether directly, by blaspheming God, or by using violence against God's creation, against the natural order of things, by engaging in usury or sodomy. Each kind of simple fraud, which simply violates the bond of love that naturally unites all human beings, has its own place in the Eighth Circle. In the Ninth Circle, those who violate the special bonds that create a special trust are separated according to the bond they trampled on by their treachery.




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