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Course Hero. "Inferno Study Guide." August 17, 2016. Accessed September 21, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Inferno/.

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Course Hero, "Inferno Study Guide," August 17, 2016, accessed September 21, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Inferno/.

Plot Summary

Course Hero's video study guide provides an in-depth plot summary of Dante Alighieri's epic poem Inferno.

Inferno | Plot Summary

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Summary

Inferno opens as the poet Dante, narrator and protagonist, finds himself in a dark forest. He comes to a hill, but is prevented from climbing it by three animals. The famous Roman poet Virgil appears and tells Dante he must take a different path—one that leads through Hell and Purgatory. Virgil tells Dante that Beatrice, whom Dante loves, is now in Heaven and has arranged for Dante to travel this path in order to find his way, ultimately, to that blessed place. Dante follows Virgil to the gates of Hell, then through them into a place called the "Ante-Inferno," where those who cannot enter Heaven or Hell must stay.

Dante and Virgil then cross a river into the first of nine "circles," or levels, of Hell. These circles extend downward in a funnel shape, each one smaller and lower than the last. In each level a different kind of sin is punished, and the punishments differ depending on the type and severity of the sin. The first circle is Limbo, where the virtuous yet unbaptized must stay. Virgil reveals that this is where he usually resides.

Dante and his guide encounter Minos, who assigns each sinner to a circle. Then they pass into the second circle where the lustful are battered and whirled about by hurricane-like winds, punishment for having allowed their lust to overcome their reason. Dante is so overcome with pity for the souls here that he faints. Upon waking, he finds that he is in the third circle. Here the three-headed dog Cerberus constantly barks at the gluttonous, who are also pelted with cold, filthy rain. Descending further into Hell, they come to the fourth circle, where the hoarders and squanderers are punished together. They must push large weights against each other, for their sins were opposite in nature. Climbing even lower Dante and Virgil come to the fifth circle, where those who were wrathful and sullen are punished in the river Styx: the wrathful by constantly fighting each other, and the sullen by being submerged in the muddy waters.

Virgil and Dante are ferried across the river Styx to the entrance to lower Hell, the city of Dis, where the more serious sins are punished. As they enter the sixth circle, they see that the heretics here are imprisoned in fiery tombs. Continuing down into the seventh circle, they encounter those whose sin was violence. This circle is divided into three rings. Those who were violent against others boil in a river of blood. Those who were violent against themselves (suicides) take the form of trees. Those who were violent against God and nature lie, crouch, or run on burning sand and are rained on by flames.

A beast with the face of a man and the body of a serpent carries the two poets down into the eighth circle. In this circle, subdivided into ten "pouches"—like ever-smaller trenches—are the fraudulent. After traveling through each of these pouches, Dante and Virgil come to the ninth circle where the treacherous are punished. Those who betrayed family, country, guests, and benefactors are punished in increasingly terrible ways. The final section of the ninth ring is where Judas Iscariot, Cassius, and Brutus are chewed by Satan's three mouths. After witnessing this terrible sight, Virgil leads Dante out of Hell, and Dante looks up to Heaven and sees the stars.

Inferno Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 In the woods, Dante is blocked by three beasts.

Rising Action

2 Virgil arrives and says he will guide Dante.

3 The poets are met by demons at lower circles of Hell.

4 The poets are denied entry to lower Hell, city of Dis.

5 Poets enter seventh circle, where violence is punished.

6 Poets enter circles where frauds, traitors are punished.

Climax

7 Dante and Virgil reach Lucifer, who chews three traitors.

Falling Action

8 Virgil carries Dante by climbing down Lucifer's body.

Resolution

9 Dante emerges from Hell and sees stars overhead.

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