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Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell Essay

The Ninth Circle of Hell or the Cocytus is the place for the traitors. This place is composed of glass-like frozen water which is known as the frozen Pool of Cocytus which is unimaginably cold wherein no warmth could stay. It symbolizes the coldness and emptiness of the souls damned in this lowest pit of hell. Cocytus is divided into four Regions characterized according to the order of level of the different kinds of treachery. The First Region is the icy lake of Cocytus which is called Caina, named after Cain, the first person to commit murder by killing his own brother, Abel, out of jealousy.

In this place, the sinners who are condemned here are being kept frozen within the ice with just their faces in the surface. The Second Region, Antenora, the area wherein those who are traitors to their country are placed is named after Antenor of Troy, the traitor of his own city against the Greeks. Here in this place one could only see the heads of the sinners projected above the ice. The Third Region is a place for those people who betrayed their hosts or guests and is named after Ptolemy, the captain of Jericho who killed his father-in-law and his two sons.

In this place, the traitors are held lying flat on their backs but having their whole body in the ice and just half their faces wherein whenever they cry their tears freezes and they suffer not having even their eyes shut. The Fourth Region is Judecca which ensnares those who betrayed their benefactors and are punished by having their whole body frozen in the ice with no part exposed and are being frozen in all imaginable positions. This place is named after Judas the Iscariot, the betrayer of his own master, Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver and who later on realized his own mistake and hung himself on a tree.

The ninth circle of Hell is the place of torment for traitors. The four inner concentric zones of this realm correspond to the specific kind of treachery and these are treachery to ones kindred, one’s country, one’s host or guest, and one’s benefactor. Dante encounters historical figures that are known to have betrayed people in their lives. The form of punishment corresponds to the gravity of their sins. The sinners included in the first zone are those who committed similar Cain, whose name is used to identify this area. In Genesis, Cain murdered his own brother Abel out of envy.

In the first zone, Dante mentions names of people punished for the same crime. The shadow of Francesca da Ramini, who is punished in hell together with Paolo Malatesta for the crime of adultery, tells Dante that her husband, Gianciotto is probably in Caina, the first zone of the ninth circle. Gianciotto is stuck in the frozen zone because he murdered Francesca and Paolo as a retribution for their polygamous acts (Inferno. 5. 107). Dante also sees two brothers in Caina, ghibelline Napoleone and the guelph Alessandro. Both brothers killed each other over a dispute in their inheritance (Inferno, 32. 55-60).

In the second zone, Antenor, named after the traitor in Homer’s Troy, Dante kicks the face of a shade buried in the ice from head down. The owner of the shade is Bocca degli Abati a member of ghibelline family who remained in Forence after they are exiled. He pretended to fight with the guelphs and betrayed them in the end. As Dante goes deeper into the zone of those who are traitors to their country, he sees two figures in a grotesque form. One of the figures is gnawing the skull of the person in front of him. Dante says: “We had now parted from him when I saw two frozen in one hole, so that the head of one was a hood for the other.

And as bread is devoured in hunger, so the uppermost one set his teeth upon the other where the brain joins with the nape. Not otherwise Tydeus gnawed for spite the temples of Menalippus than this one did the skull and the other parts” (Inferno. 32. 124-32; 33. 76-8). Dante identifies the person eating the others’ bone as Count Ugolino della Gherardesca who is known for his many political betrayal against Pisa. The other person is Archbishop Ruggieri degli Ubaldini who betrayed Ugolino by sending him, his two sons and his two grandsons to prison wherein all of them starved to death.

Dante finds in the third zone of Ptolomea, where traitors to their guests or hosts are punished, Fra Alberigo de’ Manfredi and Ser Branca d’ Oria. Both of them are buried under the thick ice and their eyes are filled with tears that have turned to ice. Of all the damned souls which Dante meets in the underworld, these two are different. Their sins are considered so grave that their souls are snatched from their living bodies and are already ensnared by demons in hell. Alberigo’s crime involves his murder of a political rival named Manfred and his son while the two are enjoying a sumptuous feast which Alberigo pretended to offer them.

In the final zone of the ninth circle called Judecca, Dante finds the gigantic Lucifer and three people being chewed by Lucifer’s three faces. They are eternally being chewed by Lucifer without the deliverance of death. The first two people are Brutus and Cassius, the know conspirator of Julius Caesar’s assassination. Both Brutus and Cassius are stuffed feet first into the black and whitish face of Lucifer. Brutus and Cassius both fought against Caesar in Pompey but are eventually defeated. Despite the pardon given them, Cassius continued to harbor resentment against Caesar and plotted the ruler assassination.

To Dante, the Roman Empire is part of God’s plan to ensure human happiness and the murder of Brutus and Cassius’ benefactor, who is considered the supreme secular ruler, is the gravest sin that a man can commit. Their crime is tantamount to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. As such, Judas is punished in the lowest level of Hell. His head is stuffed inside Lucifer’s mouth and is chewed repeatedly while his back is being scraped by the devil’s claws. Judas sold Jesus for a few pieces of silver and becomes the cause of Jesus’ captivity. Work Cited Alighieri, Dante. Inferno. Ed. Mark Musa. Indiana: Indiana UP, 1971.


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