Roberta Writes – Divine Comedy, Inferno: Canto 14

In order to understand Canto 14, you need to remember the detail of Canto 13 which I wrote about here:

Virgil gathers up the leaves that were torn off the tree damaged during the hunt in Canto 13, and returns them to the shade trapped inside. He then follows Virgin towards the third ring of the seventh circle of Hell.

The two poets come out of the forest into a desert where they see groups of naked shades either wandering about, squatting, or lying on their backs. The prostrate shades are screaming the loudest. These shades were previously blasphemers or those “violent against God” and are condemned to walk, squat, or lie on a plain of burning sand while fire rains down upon them.

Picture caption:

Dante sees a gigantic man lying in the sand ignoring the fire flakes as if they do not hurt him. The man cries out that he still blasphemes all gods and is still unconquered. He adds that he will never by subdued by Zeus (also called Jove or Jupiter), no matter how many thunderbolts he throws at him. Virgin identifies him as Capaneus, a king who besieged Thebes and scorned God, and who was killed by a thunderbolt thrown by Zeus.

Picture caption:

Virgil and Dante continue walking and eventually come to where a red river flows from the edge of the surrounding forest. The rivers banks have turned to stone. Virgil says that this river puts out the flames when they reach its banks.

Virgil tells Dante that there is a giant man under the Island of Crete, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, with a golden head, silver arms and chest, a brass torso, iron legs, and one foot of clay. His tears run down and flow into Hell forming the rivers and the lake at the bottom of Hell. The Old Man of Crete is an allegory for the ages of humanity: firstly the golden age, which was corrupted and transformed into the silver age, followed by the bronze age and then the iron age, with a foot of age.

Virgil also tells Dante that Lethe, the river of forgetfulness in Greek mythology, is in purgatory and is where souls wash off their guilt and sins.

Extract from Canto 14

“Of naked spirits many a flock I saw,
All weeping piteously, to different laws
Subjected: for on the’ earth some lay supine,
Some crouching close were seated, others pac’d
Incessantly around; the latter tribe,
More numerous, those fewer who beneath
The torment lay, but louder in their grief.”

32 thoughts on “Roberta Writes – Divine Comedy, Inferno: Canto 14

  1. What are the other circles of hell? Last minute shopping on Christmas Eve? Being on hold waiting to find out why your utility bill has doubled? Finding your TV has acquired a parental lock over night that seems to be based on taste and you don’t have the code? Your summary is fascinating btw. Ignore my flippantly!!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I think your idea of breaking it down into bite sized chunks has a lot of merit. Did I see you’re attacking War and Peace? I tried but the names… drove me potty trying to work out who was who…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I am reading War and Peace, I’m on Chapter 18. I have read it before and one of the families featured are the Rostov’s and this family is also central to A Gentleman in Moscow, although the MC in that book, Alexander Rostov, appears to be fictional, the author has used a real family and settings. I have read it before in my decadent youth, so that might be why the going is easier.


  2. I am amazed how defiant he remains even in his punishment when others feel it. And the thought of the tears, this is one place I never want to see!


  3. Lots of imagination in this …Inferno!
    At least those in Purgatory get to wash their sins away.
    It is of keen interest that Christianity and Mythology are melded into one hell.
    Thank you for posting these Cantos!


  4. Thank you for a glimpse into this classic I’ve never read. Capaneus is an intriguing character. I hope he stays where he is, otherwise, he could be a dangerous villain in my imagination.

    Liked by 1 person

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