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Post Reading Discussion
The Divine Comedy
Canto 1, 3, 5: Identifying Facts
 What is Dante’s state of mind at the beginning of the
poem?
 Afraid, desperate
 How does Virgil offer to help Dante? Why is Virgil
unable to take Dante directly to the Light of God?
 Leading him through Hell; he wasn’t baptized
 What is the sin of the first group of condemned souls
that Dante meets?
 Lived for themselves; expedient
Canto 1, 3, 5: Identifying Facts
 Who is Charon? According to Virgil, why does Charon
refuse to allow Dante to cross Acheron?
 Demon who ferries the damned souls
 Dante is still living
 What is Minos’s role in the 2nd circle of Hell? How does he
perform this duty?
 Judge who delivers each sinner’s sentence
 Coiling his tail around his body for each level
 What types of sinners does Dante see in the 2nd circle?
What is their eternal punishment?
 Guilty of sexual sins
 Flung about like violent winds
Canto 1, 3, 5: Interpreting Meaning
 How does Dante feel when he learns Virgil’s identity in Canto 1?
Why is Virgil important to Dante as a poet?
 Honored and blessed
 Dante admires his work, Aeneid
 In Canto 3, Virgil tells Dante that the fallen people are those
“who have lost the good of intellect.” What does this mean?
 Intellect (reason) is a guide to virtuous living; it’s useless after death
 In what ways does hopelessness torment the spirits of the
damned in Canto 3?
 Cannot hope to escape torment thru death
 In despair they curse God and everything God gave them for their
own good
Canto 1, 3, 5: Interpreting Meaning
 In Canto 5, why do you suppose Dante uses such a
sympathetic image (doves) for the lovers?
 Feels great compassion
 By including details about Paola and Francesca’s
reading, what attitude do you think Dante is
expressing toward courtly love poetry?
 Considers it beautiful, yet dangerously seductive
Canto 1, 3, 5 Written Response
 Do you think those who refuse to stand up for
principle, who act only for their own survival, deserve
to suffer such a hideous fate?
 How do you define faith and reason? Which is more
valued in today’s world? Which do you think should be
more highly valued? Explain your reasons.
The Divine Comedy
Canto 33, 34: Identifying Facts
 What souls are punished in the 9th circle? What sins have they
committed?
 Fraudulent, treacherous
 Betrayal
 How does Ugolino’s grim story make Ugolino feel? What does he then
do to express his feelings?
 Vengeful
 Resumes his gnawing
 What sinners are punished in the lowest, last circle? How are they
punished?
 Betrayed their masters
 Frozen wholly in ice
 What does Satan look like? What is he doing?
 3 different colored faces, 6 bat-wings, shaggy pelt
 Weeping and beating his wings as he chews on the sinners
Canto 33, 34: Interpreting Meaning
 Describe Ugolino’s evil dream and explain how it parts “the veil
of the future” – that is, forcasts coming events.
 Ruggieri’s hunting dogs turn on his friends. He will turn on Ugolino
and his sons
 Why does Dante not keep his promise to Friar Alberigo?
 His crime was so heinous that he was unworthy of Dante’s mercy
 Why does Dante regard Judas, Brutus, and Cassius as the worst
sinners of all? How does Judas’s sin differ from that of Brutus and
Cassius?
 Betrayed their masters
 Christ
 In what way could Satan’s three faces be explained as symbols?
 Parody of the Trinity
Canto 33, 34: Written Responses
 As horrible as Ugolino’s revenge is, do you think it is
justified, in view of Ruggieri’s crime against him? If so,
does that mean that revenge is justifiable in princple?
 Do you agree with Dante that being entirely frozen in
solid ice would be the worst punishment of all? Can
you think of a worse punishment?
The Divine Comedy
Reading Check
 Who leads Dante out of the Dark Wood of Error?
 Virgil
 Who is Charon and what is his function?
 Brutal ferryman who conveys the damned to their eternal fate
 How many levels are there in Hell?
 9
 For what sins are Cleopatra, Achilles, and Tristan being
punished?
 Sexual passion
 What led Paola and Francesca to give in to their desire for
each other?
 Reading the tale of Lancelot & Guinevere
Reading Check
 What does Dante do after hearing the tale of Paolo and
Francesca?
 Faints
 After having been starved to death, what grim food does Count
Ugolino feed on in Hell?
 The head and neck of Ruggieri, his murderer
 By whom is Friar Alberigo’s still living, physical body occupied?
 Demon
 What causes the icy wind in Hell?
 Satan’s beating wings
 Who does Satan chew on, and why?
 Judas, because he betrayed Christ
Writing Assignment
 By his placement of different sinners in Hell, Dante
ranks human sins from the least to the most serious.
What sins do people today regard as the least serious?
As the most serious? Why do you think so?

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