English 215, Survey of World Mythology



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English 215, Survey of World Mythology

Fall 2004


Dante Study Guide: Inferno XII to XXXII
Canto 12

1. The “deep fetid valley” is probably:

(a) Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones;

(b) the Valley of Lemuel;

(c) the Pit of Hell;

(d) the Valley of Death (Psalm 23).


2. The line “It must have been a little before He came to Dis, if I have reckoned rightly, to take the great spoil of the upper circle with Him –” compares best to which scripture?

(a) Psalm 23:4;

(b) I Peter 3:18-20;

(c) Matthew 21:8-9;

(d) Revelation 19: 12-16.
Complete the Allegory

The poets have entered a part of Hell guarded and inhabited by creatures that are part human and part beast. For example, there are the Minotaur (half man, half bull), the Centaurs (part man, part horse). The Minotaur (called “the infamy of Crete” by Dante) is full of rage: “plunges back and forth, but though unspent cannot go forward.” The Centaur called Nessus attempted the rape of Hercules’ wife and planned revenge for his defeat by having the Hero’s shirt soaked in the Centaur’s poisonous blood, which killed Hercules. The area that the Centaurs inhabit has a river of boiling blood in which murderers are drowned.


What do these symbols teach us?

(a) That violent thoughts figuratively poison our blood, and make it boil;

(b) that violent people become like beast-monsters;

(c) that violence deprives people of their reason, making them like animals;

(d) all of the above.
Canto 13

1. (T/F) The first eight lines of this canto indicate that this place is perhaps more about what “is not” than it is about what “is.”


2. The “harlot that never Takes its whore’s eyes from Caesar’s retinue – the common fatal vice of courts –” is :

(a) Envy;

(b) Adultery;

(c) Catholicism;

d) Babylon.
3. Lano and his “friend” run through the Wood of the Suicides chased by black hounds. They are Spendthrifts, but not incontinent ones. Instead, they willfully waste their assets. Which word would best fit as a substitute for “Spendthrifts”?

(a) Teetotaler;

(b) profligate;

(c) ubiquitous;

(d) panderers.
Complete the Allegory

The only creatures nesting in the trees in the Wood of the Suicides are the Harpies “who drove the Trojans from Strophades with dire announcements of coming woe.” They are grotesque figures that only resemble humans in the neck and face. They feed on the dead, brown leaves of the trees and cause pain, which is the only outlet for suicides to speak.


The Harpies probably represent:

(a) The pain caused by living an unjust life that ended in suicide;

(b) the impulse to self-destruction;

(c) the defeat of the noble Trojans by the cunning Greeks under Pericles;

(d) pain itself.
Canto 14

1. Lines 18 and 19 describe the position of the Blasphemers as “supine” upon the sands, while flakes of fire drift down upon them from above. They are forced to look up toward the God they denied in life, and acknowledge His just punishment. Choose the word that is both a physical position opposite “supine” and which befits an attitude opposite that of the Blasphemers:

(a) horizontal;

(b) prone;

(c) erect;

(d) prostrate.


Canto 15

Complete the Allegory

This canto focuses attention on the punishment of Sodomites (homosexuals, whose sin is named after its most notorious seedbed in ancient times, Sodom). Dante is severe in his description of the punishment for this sin. He places without apology or further explanation a former teacher, Brunetto Latini, in this group of sinners. At the same time Dante uses gentile language as he addresses Latini. In turn, Latini calls him “son.” Latini, however, now “follows him [Dante] at his heels.” The scene is ironic – the open declaration that Latini is a homosexual is contrasted with the most tender language communicated by Dante to a damned soul in all of the poem. Furthermore, the “father” now follows the “son.” The best and most complete explanation for this irony is:

(a) Dante is a poet that saw a great vision, which he must now write down faithfully, no matter how distressing the revelation may be

(b) Dante is a pilgrim, on a journey to find God, and who genuinely reacts to the situations he encounters;

(c) Dante is at the same time both poet and pilgrim, both participant in the events and their faithful chronicler – feeling compassion while striving to record events objectively;

(d) none of the above.


Canto 16

Complete the Allegory

Dante gives a piece of rope that was tied around his waist (a rope girdle) to Virgil. Dante claimed that while in the Dark Woods he wanted to use the rope to capture the Leopard. Virgil then turns to the right and throws the rope over the edge of an abyss to summon what Dante calls “some strangeness.” As it turns out the “strangeness” is a beast called Geyron who has the face of a just and fair man, but the tail of a scorpion. Geyron is the symbol of “fraud.” While one gazes upon the face of a just man, the tail stings the unsuspecting victim from behind. Several commentators have concluded that the rope girdle is part of the garments worn by the Order of St. Francis, whose brown-robed friars gird themselves with a simple white rope. The rope is to the friars a symbol of their oath binding them to a life of chastity and poverty in God’s service. These same commentators believe that Dante considered joining the Franciscan Order while in his youth. From this we can conclude that:

(a) Dante’s wearing of the rope in later life, without having taken the Franciscan oath, is an act of hypocrisy , which threatened to summon fraud (Geyron) into his life;

(b) religious oaths are powerless against fraud and it effects;

(c) Virgil disapproved of Dante’s decision not to enter the Franciscan Order, and therefore tossed the rope over the cliff;

(d) Dante was foolish to believe that he could control the leopard with a small rope.


Canto 17
1. (T/F) the symbols on all of the usurer’s purses represent Florentine families that engaged in money lending.
Complete the Allegory

When Dante climbs onto the back of Geyron for the descent into the deepest pits of Hell, Virgil tells him to sit in front “so I can come between To protect you from the tail.” Thus:

(a) the best way to escape fraud is to be very close to it;

(b) the proper use of Reason provides security against fraud;

(c) the intellectual heritage of the Roman Empire is a protection to Medieval Man;

(d) Fraud is always defeated when two people unite against it.


Canto 18
1. What is the common bond between the sinners of the first malbowge whether or not they move clockwise or counterclockwise?

(a) they both attract greedy sinners into a fraudulent relationship;

(b) they both attract lustful sinners into a fraudulent relationship;

(c) they both attract wrathful sinners into a fraudulent relationship;

(d) they both attract gluttonous people into a fraudulent relationship.
2. (T/F) A significant difference between the sinners in this malbowge is that Panders arguably attempt to convince others that money can buy love whereas Seducers arguably attempt to convince that sex is love.
Complete the Allegory

Panders and Seducers run in opposite directions around the circle of the first malbowge. Which statement best describes their activity?

(a) both cover the same ground and both end up in the same place;

(b) Panders and Seducers are at cross-purposes, and aim at opposite ends;

(c) They differ most in the type of sinner they are trying to attract;

(d) There is no difference whatsoever between Panders and Seducers.


Cantos 19 through 22
1. In canto 20 Virgil rebukes Dante to weeping at the sight of the sorcerer’s deformity, saying “Here, pity lives when it is dead to these. Who could be more impious than one who’d dare To sorrow at the judgment God decrees?” Which is the best interpretation of Virgil’s words?

(a) act as God does, by shutting these sinners off from pity;

(b) just as these sorcerer’s ignored God’s dominion over knowledge of the future (the sorcerer’s impiety) you should shut off your pity toward them, as God does – otherwise your pity for them condemns God’s judgment of them and you are thus guilty of impiety;

(c) Don’t pity those that do not merit it;

(d) These sorcerers should have foreseen their own doom;
2. In Cantos 20, 21 and 22 Dante demonstrates a great deal of fear concerning the real intentions of the demons toward him. For example, Virgil warns Dante “Crying, watch out! – watch out!” while pulling him out of the sight of the demons. Later Virgil says to Dante “find some jagged outcrop And crouch behind it to give yourself a screen.” When Virgil convinces the demons to escort the to the bridge over the next malbowge, Dante replies to Virgil: “‘Oh me! O master, what do I see,’ I groaned; ‘We need no escort if you know the road – And as for me, I want none... how can you avoid Seeing them grind their teeth and with ferocious brows threaten to do us harm?’“ Later (in canto 23) Dante realizes that the demons have no intention of keeping their bargain: “I felt the ends Of my hair bristling already from the fear.” Speculate on why Dante was so personally afraid of these demons – more so than any others in all of Hell:

(a) Dante held public office in Florence before his exile and may have taken a bribe or may have been tempted to do so;

(b) Dante was exiled from Florence on an accusation of bribery, and this scene metaphorically describes how he barely escaped his accusers in Florence;

(c) there is no way to know why Dante was afraid, so speculation is useless and uninformative;

(d) Both “a” and “b”.
Complete the Allegory

Cantos 19, 20 and 21 describe the malbowges wherein the sins of simony, sorcery and barratry (respectively) are punished. Simoniacs are described as those that “prostitute the things of God Which should be brides of Righteousness, to get silver and gold.” Sorcerers are those that purposed to see “too far ahead” and who now must look “backwards and stumble.” The Barrators are public office holders, who “given cash ... can contrive a yes from any no.” Their sins have one important ting in common. Which of the following best describes it?

(a) they accept money for things they do not own;

(b) they traffic in things that belong to God, or are reserved to God alone, or were established by God for the benefit of mankind;

(c) they are actively tormented by real demons;

(d) these sinners have no regrets about what they did.


Canto 23

Complete the Allegory

Caiaphas is crucified naked on upon the path all hypocrites must tread in the 6th Bowge. Fra Catalano refers to him as the one “who counseled the Pharisees to bend The expedient way by letting one man be put To torture for the people.” Based upon this passage and lines 106-121, which one of the following applies?

(a) Caiaphas receives the same type of punishment that his followers demand of Pilate;

(b) The weight of the world’s hypocrisy falls upon him as the sinners tread across his body;

(c) Annas is among those that are punished in this bowge;

(d) The Sanhedrin sowed “ a seed of evil for the Jews;”

(e) a, b and c only;

(f) b and c only;

(g) a and b only;

(h) a through d only;

(i) none of the above.


Canto 24
1. (lines 28 through 64) T/F intellect must employ is ‘weightless’ power to ascend and overcome the ‘weight’ of the flesh (making the weight of the flesh lighter) if we hope to escape hypocrisy.

2. T/F As the thieves are transformed into serpents (and back again) they thus reveal their true nature (i.e., they are like the serpent that lied to steal innocence from Adam and Eve).



Complete the Allegory

The bridges across the sixth bowge are broken. They collapsed at the moment of Christ’s death. Which of the following is the best and most complete interpretation of what this implies for all humanity:

(a) The death of Christ made it impossible to escape hypocrisy;

(b) all persons that wish to make the same moral journey as Dante must descend into their own hypocrisy and through repentance ascend out of this pit to higher ground;

(c) Hypocrisy is an inescapable trap;

(d) Dante is not a hypocrite, and never should have been in this bowge at all.
Canto 25



  1. T/F Dante feels a great deal of sympathy for the thieves, and Vanni Fucci in particular.

  2. T/F The transmutation of human beings into beasts or creatures stripped of agency is, arguably, the essence of horror. In this sense, it may be said that Dante’s description of the punishment of the thieves is perhaps the first horror story of which we have record.

Canto 26
Ulysses convinces his men to undertake a voyage forbidden by the gods, and in reliance upon his own resources far more than is prudent, he sails past Gibraltar and out into the Atlantic, to his own doom and to the destruction of his crew. His sin can best be described as:

(a) Intellectual pride;

(b) excessive individualism;

(c) filial and civic piety;

(d) all of the above;

(e) and b only;

(f) b and c, only.


Canto 27

Complete the Allegory.

The sinners enwrapped in flame use cunning to achieve unjust ends. This however, turns to their own ruin. Which of the following examples reflect Dante’s view of how the punishment fit the crime?

(a) the book The Prince by Machiavelli;

(b) the Sicilian Bull and its maker;

(c) Pope Boniface;

(d) the condottiere.


Canto 28

1. These sinners are punished by being split apart because they:

(a) caused family rifts and divisions;

(b) caused national rifts and divisions;

(c) caused religious rifts and divisions;

(d) all of the above;

(e) a and b, only;

(f) b and c only;

(g) a and c only.
Cantos 29 and 30

Complete the Allegory

The sinners in this bowge all suffer from terrible diseases. They forged money, falsified wills and impersonated other persons to do dishonorable things. They probably represent:

(a) the social disease caused when money, legal documents, personality and identity are no longer reliable or credible;

(b) the consequences of fraud upon an entire population;

(c) the importance of hygene;

(d) all of the above;

(e) a and b only;

(f) b and c only;

(g) a and c only;

(h) none of the above.
Canto 31

Complete the Allegory

Dante hears the blast of a horn faraway, and notices a number of towers in the distance. Virgil corrects Dante, Noting that “Because you peer into the dark from far off Your imagination goes astray. once there you will see plainly how distance can deceive the senses.” Virgil then informs Dante that what he mistakes for towers are giants, many of whom fought against Zeus and lost. Based upon Farinata’s earlier assertions (Circle 6) regarding the “vision” exercised by damned souls, we can conclude:

(a) Dante is closer to leaving Hell in physical terms, but his faculty of vision is still that of a damned soul;

(b) Dante does not perceive things as a damned soul would;

(c) Farinata’s description of the vision of the damned was wrong;

(d) Farinata correctly prophesied Dante’s eternal damnation.


Canto 32

Complete the Allegory

Dante is in the 9th Circle, a frozen lake into which the damned are plunged. He meets two souls whose tears have fallen over their cheeks and face, and who are frozen together at the lips. They butt heads together in rage. He then sees one souls whose ears have been lost to frostbite. Later he will see souls whose tears freeze over their eyes forming a crystalline case that blinds them. These images:

(a) may be taken as the sensory means by and through which these sinners communicated and/or enacted their treachery;

(b) “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”;



(c) b, but not a;

(d) a and b.
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