His father, an Italian immigrant, died in an automobile accident in , and he was raised by his Italian mother who was illiterate and his three older sisters. In , his family moved to Medford, Massachusetts , where he attended public schools. UMich awarded him their Hopwood Prize for his Homeward to America,  a poetry collection which he submitted under the pseudonym "Thomas Aquinas". After the war, Ciardi returned to UKC for the spring semester , where he met and married Myra Judith Hostetter on July 28 who at the time was a journalist and journalism instructor .
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The poet finds himself lost in a dark wood selva oscura  , astray from the "straight way" diritta via,  also translatable as "right way" of salvation. He sets out to climb directly up a small mountain, but his way is blocked by three beasts he cannot evade: a lonza  usually rendered as " leopard " or " leopon " ,  a leone  lion , and a lupa  she-wolf. The three beasts, taken from the Jeremiah , are thought to symbolize the three kinds of sin that bring the unrepentant soul into one of the three major divisions of Hell.
According to John Ciardi , these are incontinence the she-wolf ; violence and bestiality the lion ; and fraud and malice the leopard ;  Dorothy L. The beasts drive him back despairing into the darkness of error, a "lower place" basso loco  where the sun is silent l sol tace .
However, Dante is rescued by a figure who announces that he was born sub Iulio  i. Beatrice had been moved to aid Dante by the Virgin Mary symbolic of compassion and Saint Lucia symbolic of illuminating Grace.
Rachel , symbolic of the contemplative life, also appears in the heavenly scene recounted by Virgil. The two of them then begin their journey to the underworld. These are the souls of people who in life took no sides; the opportunists who were for neither good nor evil, but instead were merely concerned with themselves.
Among these Dante recognizes a figure implied to be Pope Celestine V , whose "cowardice in selfish terror for his own welfare served as the door through which so much evil entered the Church". These souls are forever unclassified; they are neither in Hell nor out of it, but reside on the shores of the Acheron.
Naked and futile, they race around through the mist in eternal pursuit of an elusive, wavering banner symbolic of their pursuit of ever-shifting self-interest while relentlessly chased by swarms of wasps and hornets , who continually sting them.
This symbolizes the sting of their guilty conscience and the repugnance of sin. The ferry is piloted by Charon , who does not want to let Dante enter, for he is a living being. The passage across the Acheron, however, is undescribed, since Dante faints and does not awaken until he is on the other side. Nine circles of Hell[ edit ] Overview[ edit ] Virgil proceeds to guide Dante through the nine circles of Hell.
The circles are concentric , representing a gradual increase in wickedness , and culminating at the centre of the earth, where Satan is held in bondage. The sinners of each circle are punished for eternity in a fashion fitting their crimes: each punishment is a contrapasso , a symbolic instance of poetic justice.
For example, later in the poem, Dante and Virgil encounter fortune-tellers who must walk forward with their heads on backward, unable to see what is ahead, because they tried to see the future through forbidden means.
Such a contrapasso "functions not merely as a form of divine revenge , but rather as the fulfilment of a destiny freely chosen by each soul during his or her life". Those in Hell are people who tried to justify their sins and are unrepentant.
These sinners endure lesser torments than do those consigned to Lower Hell, located within the walls of the City of Dis, for committing acts of violence and fraud — the latter of which involves, as Dorothy L. Sayers writes, "abuse of the specifically human faculty of reason". Lower Hell is further subdivided: Circle 7 Violence is divided into three rings, Circle 8 Fraud is divided into ten bolge, and Circle 9 Treachery is divided into four regions.
Thus, Hell contains, in total, 24 divisions. The first circle contains the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans , who, although not sinful enough to warrant damnation, did not accept Christ. Dorothy L. Sayers writes, "After those who refused choice come those without opportunity of choice. They could not, that is, choose Christ; they could, and did, choose human virtue, and for that they have their reward.
Without baptism "the portal of the faith that you embrace"  they lacked the hope for something greater than rational minds can conceive. When Dante asked if anyone has ever left Limbo, Virgil states that he saw Jesus "a Mighty One" descend into Limbo and take Adam , Abel , Noah , Moses , Abraham , David , and Rachel see Limbo of the Patriarchs into his all-forgiving arms and transport them to Heaven as the first human souls to be saved. The event, known as the Harrowing of Hell , would have occurred in AD 33 or Dante encounters the poets Homer , Horace , Ovid , and Lucan , who include him in their number and make him "sixth in that high company".
After passing through the seven gates, the group comes to an exquisite green meadow and Dante encounters the inhabitants of the Citadel. Dante also views Saladin , a Muslim military leader known for his struggle against the Crusaders as well as his generous, chivalrous, and merciful conduct.
Dante sees the Alexandrian geometer Euclid and Ptolemy , the Alexandrian astronomer and geographer, as well as the physicians Hippocrates and Galen. Dante and Virgil depart from the four other poets and continue their journey. Although Dante implies that all virtuous non-Christians find themselves here, he later encounters two Cato of Utica and Statius in Purgatory and two Trajan and Ripheus in Heaven. In Purg. It is described as "a part where no thing gleams".
Minos sentences each soul to its torment by wrapping his tail around himself a corresponding number of times. Virgil rebukes Minos, and he and Dante continue on. In the second circle of Hell are those overcome by lust.
These "carnal malefactors"  are condemned for allowing their appetites to sway their reason. These souls are buffeted back and forth by the terrible winds of a violent storm, without rest. This symbolizes the power of lust to blow needlessly and aimlessly: "as the lovers drifted into self-indulgence and were carried away by their passions, so now they drift for ever.
The bright, voluptuous sin is now seen as it is — a howling darkness of helpless discomfort. Due to the presence of so many rulers among the lustful, The fifth Canto of Inferno has been called the "canto of the queens". Francesca explains: Love, which in gentlest hearts will soonest bloom seized my lover with passion for that sweet body from which I was torn unshriven to my doom. Love, which permits no loved one not to love, took me so strongly with delight in him that we are one in Hell, as we were above.
Love led us to one death. John Ciardi renders line as "That book, and he who wrote it, was a pander. Cerberus described as "il gran vermo", literally "the great worm", line 22 , the monstrous three-headed beast of Hell, ravenously guards the gluttons lying in the freezing mire, mauling and flaying them with his claws as they howl like dogs.
Virgil obtains safe passage past the monster by filling its three mouths with mud. Sayers writes that "the surrender to sin which began with mutual indulgence leads by an imperceptible degradation to solitary self-indulgence".
These events occurred in , prior to when the poem was written but in the future at Easter time of , the time in which the poem is set. Although the two are often conflated, he is a distinct figure from Pluto Dis , the classical ruler of the underworld. Those whose attitude toward material goods deviated from the appropriate mean are punished in the fourth circle. They include the avaricious or miserly including many "clergymen, and popes and cardinals" ,  who hoarded possessions, and the prodigal , who squandered them.
The hoarders and spendthrifts joust , using great weights as weapons that they push with their chests: Here, too, I saw a nation of lost souls, far more than were above: they strained their chests against enormous weights, and with mad howls rolled them at one another. Then in haste they rolled them back, one party shouting out: "Why do you hoard? Sayers writes, "Mutual indulgence has already declined into selfish appetite; now, that appetite becomes aware of the incompatible and equally selfish appetites of other people.
Indifference becomes mutual antagonism, imaged here by the antagonism between hoarding and squandering. Sayers writes, "the active hatreds rend and snarl at one another; at the bottom, the sullen hatreds lie gurgling, unable even to express themselves for the rage that chokes them".
When Dante responds "In weeping and in grieving, accursed spirit, may you long remain,"  Virgil blesses him with words used to describe Christ himself Luke Virgil informs him that they are approaching the City of Dis. Dis, itself surrounded by the Stygian marsh, contains Lower Hell within its walls. The walls of Dis are guarded by fallen angels. Virgil is unable to convince them to let Dante and him enter. An angel sent from Heaven secures entry for the poets, opening the gate by touching it with a wand, and rebukes those who opposed Dante.
Allegorically, this reveals the fact that the poem is beginning to deal with sins that philosophy and humanism cannot fully understand.
Virgil also mentions to Dante how Erichtho sent him down to the lowest circle of Hell to bring back a spirit from there. The political affiliation of these two men allows for a further discussion of Florentine politics. In response to a question from Dante about the "prophecy" he has received, Farinata explains that what the souls in Hell know of life on earth comes from seeing the future, not from any observation of the present. Consequently, when "the portal of the future has been shut",  it will no longer be possible for them to know anything.
Farinata explains that also crammed within the tomb are Emperor Frederick II , commonly reputed to be an Epicurean, and Ottaviano degli Ubaldini , to whom Dante refers to as il Cardinale. In his explanation, Virgil refers to the Nicomachean Ethics and the Physics of Aristotle , with medieval interpretations.
Virgil asserts that there are only two legitimate sources of wealth: natural resources "Nature" and human labor and activity "Art". Usury , to be punished in the next circle, is therefore an offence against both; it is a kind of blasphemy, since it is an act of violence against Art, which is the child of Nature, and Nature derives from God.
The "Wain", the Great Bear , now lies in the northwest over Caurus the northwest wind. The constellation Pisces the Fish is just appearing over the horizon: it is the zodiacal sign preceding Aries the Ram.
Canto I notes that the sun is in Aries, and since the twelve zodiac signs rise at two-hour intervals, it must now be about two hours prior to sunrise: AM on Holy Saturday , April 9. Virgil assures the monster that Dante is not its hated enemy, Theseus. This causes the Minotaur to charge them as Dante and Virgil swiftly enter the seventh circle. Ruins resulting from the same shock were previously seen at the beginning of Upper Hell the entrance of the Second Circle , Canto V.
Ciardi writes, "as they wallowed in blood during their lives, so they are immersed in the boiling blood forever, each according to the degree of his guilt".
The river grows shallower until it reaches a ford, after which it comes full circle back to the deeper part where Dante and Virgil first approached it; immersed here are tyrants including Attila, King of the Huns flagello in terra, "scourge on earth", line , "Pyrrhus" either the bloodthirsty son of Achilles or King Pyrrhus of Epirus , Sextus , Rinier da Corneto, and Rinier Pazzo.
After bringing Dante and Virgil to the shallow ford, Nessus leaves them to return to his post. This passage may have been influenced by the early medieval Visio Karoli Grossi.
The poet finds himself lost in a dark wood selva oscura  , astray from the "straight way" diritta via,  also translatable as "right way" of salvation. He sets out to climb directly up a small mountain, but his way is blocked by three beasts he cannot evade: a lonza  usually rendered as " leopard " or " leopon " ,  a leone  lion , and a lupa  she-wolf. The three beasts, taken from the Jeremiah , are thought to symbolize the three kinds of sin that bring the unrepentant soul into one of the three major divisions of Hell. According to John Ciardi , these are incontinence the she-wolf ; violence and bestiality the lion ; and fraud and malice the leopard ;  Dorothy L. The beasts drive him back despairing into the darkness of error, a "lower place" basso loco  where the sun is silent l sol tace . However, Dante is rescued by a figure who announces that he was born sub Iulio  i. Beatrice had been moved to aid Dante by the Virgin Mary symbolic of compassion and Saint Lucia symbolic of illuminating Grace.