Inferno—the first part of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri—is in my list of Well-Educated Mind Self-Project, and the only book in the Poem section I picked for this project. As usual, I will do several summary posts (3 or 4 posts, depends on the length of each canto), so you might see a lot of ‘Hell’ in the next several days…. :)
Here is my first post, the summary of Canto I – X (of total XXXIV cantos). Although it's not mandatory, but making this summary helps me to highlight Dante's various adventures and encounters.
Canto I: Dante arrived at a valley in dark forest but didn’t know how he ended there. He met a panther, a lion and a she-wolf, and in despair, met a shade of Virgil the Roman poet who agreed to guide him to ascend the hill.
Canto II: Dante plead to the Muses (goddesses) as fear came to him, but Virgil scolded him of being coward. He then told him that a woman in Heaven (Beatrice—Dante’s lover) had told Virgil to guide Dante. Beatrice was told by Saint Lucia, who had been acknowledged by another Lady in Heaven (Mother Mary?) who grieved at Dante’s condition.
Canto III: Dante arrived at the gate of Hell where he saw people suffered continuously from flies and wasps stung and worms—people who were neither good nor evil but just ignorant, and thus were rejected by Heaven and Hell. Dante arrived in a river bank (Ancheron) where dead people’s souls waited to be brought across to Hell by a boat—people who never feared of God.
Canto IV: Dante arrived on the verge of a deep valley. The foremost abyss (Limbo) was for people who were not sinned but had not been baptized, or who were born before Christianity (like Virgil), with the exception of some figures from Old Testament: Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, etc who had been out of Hell. Resided here also, famous poets: Homer, Horace, Ovid and Lucan. They came next to a castle with seven walls encircled by a creek, where Dante saw some great heroes from Greek and Ancient Rome: Aeneas, Hector, Caesar, Brutus, etc. and great philosophers: Socrates, Plato, Seneca, etc.
Canto V: Dante and Virgil descended to second circle of Hell where a monster called Minos judged the sinners according to their confessions to thrust them down in appropriate grades. These people were whirled round continuously by a great storm in black sea which never rested. They were lustful people such as Cleopatra, Helen, Paris, Dido and even Achilles; all were damned because of love and desire.
Canto VI: People in the third circle of Hell were tortured by eternal heavy rain, where Dante met Cerberus as the guard and whom Virgil satisfied with a handful of earth so that they could advance. It is for gluttonous people who must lie on the ground. One of them, Ciacco, foretold the political situation in Florence, and told Dante that politicians involved were in the deeper level of Hell.
Canto VII: Descending to fourth circle, Dante saw two semi circle groups of people crying in anger and pain, wheeled to the other’s end then wheeled back to another after colliding in the middle. They conducted avaricious sin by not distributing Fortune fairly, and so now must keep battling without end (corrupt clergymen were included). Dante then headed to fifth circle of Hell: a marsh called Styx where naked people covered with mud striking each other; they who were always consumed with anger. There were also the Sullen who now gurgled in the mud because they kept sighing under the sun. Finally Dante arrived on the foot of a tower.
Canto VIII: Dante and Virgil took a boat across the Styx and met Philippo Argenti—Dante’s adversary?—whom Dante was pleased to hear being attacked by people in the mire. Dante then arrived at Dis—a city in Hell—where eternal fire kindled from within. The Gates’ guards refused them to enter despite of Virgil’s plead.
Canto IX: Dante was afraid seeing that Virgil has failed. They were at the low part of Hell, far from Heaven, the sixth circle. He saw three Furies who called for Medusa to change Dante into stone. A messenger from Heaven appeared and instructed the guards to open the gate for Dante and Virgil, and he was obeyed. They entered finally a land full of tombs heated with flames within, where the heretics were.
Canto X: Among the heretics tombs was Epicurus and his followers. The soul of Farinata—political leader of Dante’s era—suddenly talked to Dante. He could see the future but not the present, and it was the Heretics’ punishment. With Farinata, Frederick the 2nd and the Cardinal stayed also there. Then Virgil brought Dante to a valley where he would meet a soul from whom Dante would learn about his future.