Dante Alighieri

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Canto 32

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Canto 32 of Dante Alighieri's epic poem Inferno.

Inferno | Canto 32 | Summary



Dante doubts his ability to express, through his poetry, a description of the ninth circle, through which he now travels. He calls upon the three Muses to "sustain" his verse. Dante hears someone tell him to be careful not to walk on the heads of those being punished here. He turns and sees a frozen, glassy lake. Sinners are frozen up to their faces in the ice, their teeth chattering with the cold. He notes that their tears turn immediately to ice, sticking their eyes shut. At Dante's feet are two shades pressed close together, butting heads in anger. He learns that these are two brothers who killed each other, and that this ring of the ninth circle is for those who turned against family members.

Moving on, Dante trips over another trapped shade. The man exclaims that Dante must be one of the living, or he would not hit people's cheeks "too roughly." Dante uses this opportunity to try to convince the man to tell his story, promising fame if he does. Because this is Bocca degli Abati, a Florentine Guelph who betrayed his party and caused their defeat by the Ghibellines, he does not want to be remembered. He definitely doesn't want to tell his story to Dante, a Guelph. Another shade, however—Buoso da Duera—gives away the man's name, Bocca. Then Dante sees two other shades trapped close together, one gnawing at the other's neck. Dante asks for their story, promising to tell it when he returns above.


Dante's physical body is again a feature that advances the plot of the poem as he clumsily trips over one of the sinners trapped in the ice. He learns the identity of Bocca because another sinner, Buoso da Duera, shouts it out. When Dante coldly informs Bocca that he will report his shameful fate to the living, Bocca says that he can say whatever he wants—as long as Dante also tells the truth about Buoso. Again, this shows that the shades in Hell have not changed; the traitors here betray each other.

The ninth circle is extremely cold—so cold that the tears of its sinners freeze their eyes shut. This is a physical indication that the traitors are the farthest from God's warmth. In this canto, Dante moves through the first ring containing betrayers of family, to the second ring where political betrayers are being held. The sinners punished here showed coldness, not warmth, to those whom they should have treated as friends and family. In addition, the intemperate and the violent gave way to lust and anger, traditionally seen as heated emotions; the traitors have behaved with cold, calculating deliberation.

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