Dante spends thirteen cantos in Malebolge, the eighth circle of Hell. This is a lot longer than he spends with any other circle.

Why do the sinners in this circle get so much of his attention?

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    The thing to remember about Inferno is that, while it is presented as a religious, cosmological odyssey through the afterlife, it is also a commentary on current affairs of Alighieri's time. Many of the tormented souls in Hell are real people. They are being punished for their alleged crimes as Dante would want them to be punished, with true poetic justice. For instance, the late Pope Nicholas III is face first in a hole in the third ditch (canto 19). Nicholas mistakes his visitors for Pope Boniface VIII, who is still alive but destined for the next hole. This scene is much like the politica Jul 3, 2017 at 15:05
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    This is better suited for Literature SE.
    – Spencer
    Jun 9, 2019 at 19:43
  • How do you know he was giving his attention to the sinners & not exploring another realm.Maybe he got lost for thirteen cantos, however long that is...
    – Ryan Stone
    Feb 18, 2020 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


I asked Mythos Guide GPT your question. Here’s the response:

Ah, Dante's journey through the Malebolge, a vivid and complex part of his descent into Hell in "The Divine Comedy." This eighth circle of Hell, distinct in its structure and the variety of sins it punishes, is indeed where Dante and his guide Virgil spend a considerable amount of time. The reasons for this extended stay are as intriguing as the stories it contains.

Malebolge, literally meaning "evil ditches," is a place of diverse and specific sins, each punished in a uniquely fitting manner. This circle is reserved for those guilty of deliberate, malicious fraud, and is divided into ten different bolgias or ditches, each punishing a different form of deceit:

  1. Seducers and Panderers: These sinners are whipped by demons as they walk.
  2. Flatterers: They are submerged in human excrement, reflecting their insincere flattery in life.
  3. Simony: Here, simonists are placed upside down in rock holes with their feet set on fire.
  4. Sorcerers and False Prophets: Their heads are twisted around on their bodies.
  5. Corrupt Politicians: They are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch.
  6. Hypocrites: They walk in gilded cloaks lined with lead.
  7. Thieves: These souls are pursued and bitten by snakes and lizards.
  8. Evil Counselors: They are concealed within individual flames.
  9. Sowers of Discord: They are mutilated by a demon with a sword.
  10. Falsifiers: They suffer from various diseases.

The reason Dante gives so much attention to Malebolge could be multifaceted:

  1. Complexity of Sins: Malebolge showcases a wide array of sins, each distinct and requiring detailed description. This diversity captures Dante's intricate understanding of human vices and the complexity of fraudulent acts.

  2. Artistic and Didactic Purpose: Dante uses this opportunity to demonstrate his poetic skill, creating vivid, memorable images and punishments that correspond symbolically to each sin. It's also a chance for him to provide moral lessons on the consequences of deceit and fraud.

  3. Political and Personal Commentary: Dante uses Malebolge to comment on the political and religious corruption of his time. Many of those he encounters in this circle are contemporaries or historical figures, allowing him to criticize and immortalize their deeds.

  4. Theological Significance: In Dante's scheme of Hell, sins of fraud, especially those against those who trusted the sinner, are considered more grievous than sins of passion or violence. Thus, they are placed lower in Hell and given more narrative weight.

The journey through Malebolge is rich with allegory, symbolism, and vivid imagery, making it a compelling and significant part of "The Divine Comedy." It's a testament to Dante's genius in blending personal, political, and theological elements into a cohesive and powerful narrative. How do you find the intertwining of these elements in Dante's portrayal of Malebolge?

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