Dante's Third Circle of Hell: A description and interpretation

Essay by fred2014High School, 12th gradeA+, April 2004

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In Dante's The Inferno, the third circle of Hell is reserved for the gluttonous. After awaking from a faint, Dante soon finds himself in the third circle surrounded by the foul slush. He tells about the black snow falling into the dirty water. Dante also tells of the "stinking dirt that festered there." In this circle lives the three-headed monster Cerberus, ripping and tearing at the sinners as they lie in the sludge. The only soul named in this circle is Ciacco, nicknamed "The Hog." Ciacco was a resident of Florence who was a glutton. He tells Dante that for his offense he lies "rotting like a swollen log," doomed to wallow in the mire and smell the wretched stench for all eternity. Dante, aghast at the putrid-smelling slop, tells Ciacco that the sinner's "agony weighs on my heart and calls my soul to tears." Although he pities Ciacco's condition, he does not hesitate to ask him for information concerning Florence, and it is Ciacco who gives Dante the first political prophecy of The Inferno.

Virgil seems to be unmoved by either Ciacco's or Dante's show of feelings. Instead, he takes the opportunity to explain to Dante that as the perfection of judgement nears, both pleasure and pain will become more pronounced. Dante realizes that for the sinners in Hell, this means that the pain of their punishment will become greater. By discussing the foul sludge, the black snow falling, and the putrid scent in the air, Dante shows that those who were gluttonous on Earth will be punished by forever wallowing in the end result of their incontinence, a filthy, stinking pit of misery.