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The Divine Comedy: Inferno 14 From treachery to cannibalism
After meeting some political traitors, Dante and Virgil come across Count Ugolino, who is gnawing the back of the head of Archbishop Ruggieri as a dog chews a bone. Their story is one of the most horrific and famous in the whole of the Divine Comedy. Ugolino raises his... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 13 Treachery
After Dante and Virgil hear the story of an alchemist who claimed to be able to transform base metals into gold, Dante mentions examples of those who have fallen victim to sudden changes of fate, in Thebes and Troy. But none compares to two of the spirits who sink... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 12 The fraudulent
After talking with the notorious thief Vanni Fucci, who becomes pinned down by snakes, Dante and Virgil move on and meet a centaur, identified by Virgil as Cacus, who had been killed by Hercules. Dante’s classical reference here is a little odd in that he gives an account of... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 11 Barrators, hypocrites and thieves
When a group of devils armed with long hooks threatens Dante, Virgil hurries him on towards the next rottenpocket in Hell. They work their way around some of the damage wrought by Christ’s harrowing of Hell following his crucifixion. With those devils keeping company, they then reach a pit... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 10 Pimps, soothsayers, the corrupt
In their descent into the depths of Hell, Virgil and Dante have just entered circle eight, which is for those who committed fraud in its broadest sense. This consists of what Dante refers to as malebolge, best translated as rottenpockets, a series of ten deep trenches each of which... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 9 Blasphemy, sodomy, usury
From their tragic encounter with tormented souls in the Suicide Wood, Virgil leads Dante onto a barren and sandy plain, where groups of spirits are in different postures, naked under steady showers of flakes of fire. These fall on their flesh, and set the sand afire underneath them. These... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 8 Murderers, bandits, suicides
Virgil leads Dante into a gorge which takes them from the heretics further into the depths of Hell. As they descend, Virgil advises that they take their time so they can become accustomed to the stench emanating from those depths. This affords him time to explain to Dante the... Read more
Medium Well Done: 3 Glue Tempera (distemper)
At some stage in the dim and distant past, our ancestors discovered that processing some natural products created glues. The raw materials either came from boiling animal bones, hide, and other offal, or from natural exudates of plants. In turn, these came to be used as the binder for... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 7 The Furies and Heresy
Dante and Virgil are ferried across the River Styx to land at the gate to the city of Dis, the lower depths of Hell (circles six to nine), but the gate is slammed shut on Virgil when he goes forward to secure their admission. Virgil reassures Dante that he... Read more
The Divine Comedy: Inferno 6 Avarice, Wrath, and more
From the gluttons, Virgil leads Dante past the great foe of Plutus, a wolf-like creature who is chided by Virgil, and so they descend to see the next densely-populated circle of avaricious misers and prodigal spendthrifts. William Blake (1757–1827), Plutus, Dante and Virgil (Dante’s Inferno) (1824-27), watercolour on paper,... Read more