Canto I

After losing his way and wandering alone in a dark forest in a valley, the poet Dante tries to climb a hill toward the sunlight but is forced back by three angry beasts: a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. He meets the spirit of his favorite poet, Virgil, who offers to guide him up the hill but warns that they first need to go through Hell and Purgatory before reaching Heaven.

Canto II

Dante invokes the Muses to help him recount his experience. As Dante recalls Apostle Paul's and Aeneas's visits to the afterlife and dreads he might not survive his passage through Hell, Virgil rebukes him for his cowardice. Then Virgil comforts him by revealing that Beatrice, Dante's departed love who is now in Heaven, was the one who moved Virgil into guiding Dante.

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Canto III

Dante and Virgil cross the Gate of Hell into the Ante-Inferno, where the souls of those who did not commit to either good or evil in life are tormented. Then, with damned souls in Charon's boat, they cross the river Acheron into Hell. When an earthquake shakes the plain and fire blasts from the ground, Dante faints.

Canto IV

When Dante regains consciousness, he finds himself in the First Circle of Hell, or Limbo, which contains virtuous souls who lived before the advent of Christianity or were never baptized. Virgil himself resides there and introduces Dante to Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan. Dante also sees Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Aeneas, Lavinia, Euclid, and Ptolemy.

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Canto V

In the Second Circle of Hell, the monster Minos assigns sinners to their torments. Dante and Virgil enter a dark place where rain and gales sweep lustful sinners in circles. They see Helen of Troy and Cleopatra, and hear the story of Francesca, who fell in love with her brother-in-law and was killed by her husband. Overcome with pity for these people damned by love, Dante faints again.

Canto VI

Dante wakes in the Third Circle, which is guarded by the three-headed dog Cerberus and where filth and excrement rains over gluttonous sinners. One of the sinners, Ciacco, recognizes Dante and they discuss Florence's political future. Virgil tells Dante that the Last Judgment will bring the perfection of all creation, including punishments.

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Canto VII

In the Fourth Circle, guarded by the demon Plutus, Dante observes sinners pushing weights along half a circle, crashing into each other, and turning around to proceed in the opposite direction. Virgil explains that most of them are corrupt clergymen. On the bank of the river Styx, bordering the Fifth Circle, they see wrathful sinners crouched, covered in mud, striking and biting at each other. Submerged in the river are the sullen sinners, who sulked under the sun and now choke on the mud.

Canto VIII

As the boatman Phlegyas takes the poets across the Styx, Dante recognizes Filippo Argenti and gladly watches other sinners tear him apart. At the gate to the city of Dis – Lower Hell – fallen angels refuse to let Dante in for being a living soul.

Canto IX

Three Furies, half-woman-half-serpent beings, laugh at Dante and call for Medusa to turn him into stone, but Virgil covers Dante's eyes to protect him. A messenger from Heaven scares the Furies and demands the poets be allowed into the Sixth Circle, where tombs with heretic sinners glow among flames.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters VII–IX

Canto X

As they wander among the tombs in the Sixth Circle, Virgil describes the Epicureans, who pursued pleasure in life believing the soul died with the body. The soul of Cavalcante de Cavalcanti asks why his son Guido, a friend of Dante, hasn't accompanied him, misunderstands Dante's answer, and assumes his son is dead. Dante and the soul of Farinata discuss politics and how the heretics can only see distant things, as part of their punishment.

Canto XI

Virgil explains that the Seventh Circle contains the violent subdivided into three smaller circles: sins of violence against one's neighbor, against oneself, and against God. The Eighth Circle punishes "normal fraud," such as hypocrisy, which violates the natural trust between people. The Ninth Circle, the seat of Dis, punishes betrayal, which violates loyalties to kin, country, party, guests, and benefactors.

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Canto XII

Virgil and Dante slip past the distracted Minotaur into the First Ring of the Seventh Circle, where sinners who were violent against their neighbors boil in a river of blood. Virgil asks Chiron, head of the Centaur guards, to provide them with a guide through the ring. The guiding centaur, Nessus, carries Dante and names some famous souls in the river, including Alexander, Dionysius, and Atilla.

Canto XIII

In the Second Ring of the Seventh Circle, the poets enter a wood where suicides and squanderers, who were violent against themselves or their possessions, have been transformed into black and gnarled trees pecked by Harpies. Dante talks to a tree that, in life, had been Pier della Vigna, an advisor to Emperor Frederick, and sees a man, Jacomo da Sant' Andrea, destroyed by dogs.

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Canto XIV

In the First Zone of the Seventh Circle's Third Ring, they find the blasphemers, who lie on a bank of hot sand under a rain of fire, and Virgil identifies Capaneus, one of the kings who besieged Thebes.

Canto XV

The poets cross a stream and enter the Second Zone of the Seventh Circle's Third Ring, where Sodomites, violent against nature, walk continuously under the rain of fire. Dante talks to Brunetto Latini, a former teacher, who predicts Dante will be rewarded for his heroic political actions.

Canto XVI

Still in the Second Zone, Dante meets three former countrymen and informs them that courtesy and valor no longer characterize Florence, where excess and arrogance now reign. Virgil asks for Dante's belt, throws one end of it into a ravine with dark water, and a horrible creature rises before them.

Canto XVII

The poets approach the creature, which has the face of a man, the body of a serpent, and hairy paws, and they descend into the Third Zone of the Seventh Circle's Third Ring, inhabited by usurers, who must sit beneath the rain of fire with purses around their necks. Virgil and Dante mount the monster, Geryon, which takes them down to the edge of the Eighth Circle.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters XIV–XVII


Dante explains that the Eighth Circle is divided into ten pits, each for one type of fraud. In the First Pouch, they see panders and seducers running from one side of the pouch to the other, where they are whipped by demons. There, they see Jason, who abandoned Medea after finding the Golden Fleece. In the Second Pouch, flatterers have been plunged into a pit full of excrement.

Canto XIX

In the Third Pouch, Simoniacs, those who bought or sold ecclesiastical pardons or offices, are stuck headfirst into pits with flames lapping endlessly at their feet. Dante speaks to Pope Nicholas III and then against all corrupt churchmen.

Canto XX

In the Fourth Pouch, sinners walk in a procession, but with their heads pointing backwards and their tears of pains falling on their buttocks. Virgil explains these are astrologers, diviners, or magicians, who wanted to see ahead and are now condemned to look backward.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters VIII–XX

Canto XXI

In the Fifth Pouch of the Eighth Circle, ten demons escort the poets along a ridge around a pit filled with a kind of boiling tar, as one of the bridges between the pouches has collapsed in an earthquake.

Canto XXII

Virgil talks to a sinner who served in the household of King Thibault and was sent to the pouch for accepting bribes. Two demons get stuck in the tar as they pursue a soul that dived in, and the poets move on.


As demons race after the two poets, Virgil slides down the slope leading to the Sixth Pouch with Dante in his arms. There, they see sinners trudging in a circle wearing hooded cloaks, gilt outside but lined with lead – the hypocrites. One of them, Caiphus, a high priest under Pontius Pilate, lies crucified on the ground while all the other hypocrites trample over him.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters XXI–XXIII

Canto XXIV

Through dangerous paths, Virgil and Dante descend toward the Seventh Pouch of the Eighth Circle, where naked thieves, with their hands held at their backs, are killed by serpents just to resurrect, return to the pit, and be killed again. They speak to the soul of Vanni Fucci, who is in the pit for robbing a sacristy and foretells the defeat of Dante's political party.

Canto XXV

Moving further along the pit, the poets notice some of the souls taking the characteristics of the serpents around them and the serpents taking those of the men.

Canto XXVI

The poets see Ulysses and Diomedes suffering together inside a flame for the same fraud committed in the Trojan War. Ulysses tells them about his death after sailing beyond the Mediterranean edge.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters XXIV–XXVI


In the Eighth Pouch of the Eighth Circle, the poets talk to Guido da Montefeltro, who ended there after giving Pope Boniface VIII wrong political advice.


In the Ninth Pouch, Dante and Virgil see sowers of scandal and schism continuously circling the pit and being split open with a sword by a devil. In this pit, the poets see the prophet Mohammed and Bertran de Born, who carries his head in his hands after advising a young king to rebel against his father.

Canto XXIX

The Tenth Pouch houses the falsifiers and is divided into four zones. In the First Zone, the poets see falsifiers of metals in heaps scratching at their scabs and talk to Griffolino and Capocchio, two alchemists burned at the stake.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters XXVII–XXIX

Canto XXX

In the Second Zone in the Tenth Pouch of the Eighth Circle, the poets witness falsifiers of others' persons tearing at each other with their teeth. They see Myrrha, who disguised herself as a different woman to seduce her own father. In the Third Zone, which houses the falsifiers of coins, Dante speaks to Master Adam, who counterfeited Florentine money and is now punished with thirst. In the Fourth Zone, they see two falsifiers of words: the wife of Potiphar and a Greek man named Sinon.

Canto XXXI

As Virgil and Dante approach the central pit of the Eighth Circle, they see giants, whose navels are level with the Eighth Circle but whose feet stand in the Ninth Circle. One of the giants is Nimrod, who helped build the Tower of Babel, bringing the confusion of different languages to the world. Another giant, Antaeus, lowers Virgil and Dante into the Ninth Circle, where the traitors are.


At the bottom of the Ninth Circle, they come upon a frozen lake. In the First Ring of the Ninth Circle, called Caina (after Cain), traitors receive their punishment, frozen to their heads on the ice. Dante sees Bocca degli Abati, an Italian traitor, and tears out some of his hair. In the Second Ring, Antenora, they see betrayers of their homeland or party gnawing at one another's heads.


Dante talks to Count Ugolino, who chews the head of Archbishop Ruggieri, who imprisoned him and his sons as traitors, then drove Ugolino to eat the flesh of his sons' corpses out of hunger. In the Third Ring of the Ninth Circle, souls who betrayed their guests lie on their back in the frozen lake, with only their faces out. There, the poets see Fra Alberigo and Branca d'Oria, who haven't died yet, but whose souls were sent to Hell before their time and whose living bodies are now occupied by devils.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters XXX–XXXIII


In the Fourth Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell lie the evilest of all sinners: the traitors to their benefactors. There, in the icy lake, Lucifer stands over sinners completely covered in ice and chews the three greatest sinners with the mouth on each of his faces: Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ, and Brutus and Cassius, who murdered Julius Caesar. Virgil puts Dante on his back and, climbing Lucifer's body, they pass through the center of the Earth and emerge to see the stars again on the opposite end of the Earth from where they began.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters XXXIV