A 13th Century Blockbuster Hit
If one were to ever watch the movie The Usual Suspects he or she might get bored with all the flash back storyline, the change in stories of the suspects, and the play between the characters, but if one were to hold out till the very end of the movie they would see what a great movie it truly is. Now, one must not worry that this ending will be divulged in any shape, way, or form, that would be rude and would ruin the greatness that is the movies ending. However, from one great ending to another, the ending of Dantes Inferno will be discussed in all its glory of storyline, symbolism, and imagery. So sit back, relax, grab some popcorn and try to enjoy (at least a very small bit) this boring synopsis of a great ending to a 13th Century movie (or what some may call, a book).
Canto 31 is not a very significant canto; it is merely a transition canto from Circle 8 to Circle 9 with a small story thrown in so that it is not so obvious to what is being attempted. This canto begins with Dante and Virgil walking through a rocky area as Dante sees what appear to be towers of some great city in the distance. As the pair progress onward, Dante realizes that these are not towers but rather four giants buried in the rock, up to their navels. Of the four giants, Dante attempts to talk to one named Nimrod who is believed to be the King of Babel the legendary city that attempted to build high enough to reach heaven. It was due to this action that the city was knocked down in punishment and people were given different languages so that they would not be able to communicate such a project again. With such a punishment upon his people, Nimrod himself could speak nothing but gibberish so Dante and Virgil proceeded onward to Antaeus another giant to whom Virgil speaks kindly in order to be placed down into circle nine.
At the end of Canto 31 and the beginning of Canto 32, Virgil succeeds in his flattery and so Dante and Virgil are lifted into the giants hand that then lowers them down into Circle 9, the circle of traders. They are now in the frozen city of Cocytus, which consists of a giant frozen lake of the worst sins committed throughout all time. The first round of Cocytus is Caina, named after Cain who killed his own brother; thereupon, these sinners are frozen up to their necks in the lake of sin for having been treacherous against their own blood. The first sinners that Dante encounters in this circle are Alessandro and Napoleone Degli Alberti who are joined at the breast. The story of these two sinners is that they were brothers who killed each during a dispute about their inheritance. Dante attempts to speak to them but as they raise their heads to reply, their tears freeze together and they begin to head butt each other. Dante moves on into the next round, Antenora. Antenora is named after Antenor who was believed to have betrayed his city, Troy, to the Greeks. Relevant to his story, these sinners suffer for being treacherous against their own country. These sinners also reside under the ice, but they have room do not have room to move their heads around. As Dante is walking by he accidentally kicks one of the sinners in the head. Dante turns around and asks the sinner his name. The sinner replies angrily due to the accidental lashing he just received to the face from Dantes foot, but Dante still persists in knowing his name, now offering fame on Earth. In reply the sinner says that fame on Earth is the complete opposite of what he wants. Dante gets angry and grabs the sinners hair and asks again while threatening to pull out his hair and the sinner lets out a loud yelp. Upon hearing this, another sinner yells out, Bocca, what is it that ails you? When Dante finally hears his name he assures Bocca that his name will be known on Earth. Dante and Virgil leave Bocca and see two more sinners frozen together, which seem to be in a strange predicament. It appeared that one of the sinners was gnawing on the neck of the other, which then led Dante to the question of why he had such hatred for his fellow sinner.
Canto 33 is quite repulsive and short so hopefully the summary will not be too bad. When Virgil and Dante come upon the two sinners with the one gnawing on the other we learn that the one feasting, so to speak, is Ugolino and the meal is Roger. When spoken to Ugolino is covered in flesh, skin, and brains of Roger, which he then wipes on the remaining hair of Roger so that Ugolino might tell the tale of he and his partner. The story is that both were involved in plots to seize power. Ugolino was rivaling another head of one family, Nino. Thereupon, to lessen his competition, Ugolino tried to make friends with Roger, an archbishop, but once Nino was out of power, Roger went back on the deal and imprisoned Ugolino, his two sons, and two of his grandsons in a tower. For a while it was a normal, long imprisonment until one day Ugolino woke when he heard the door being nailed shut, leaving the family to starve. However, Dante slips a little story about Ugolino and his family before they died, while in the tower to give more sympathy to Ugolino. While waiting to die Ugolino would bite his hand to keep from crying, but one of the boys thought it was a sign of hunger and offered a piece of his flesh so that Ugolino would not have to eat himself. How fitting that he now chews on the one who starved him to death. After the story, the sinners continue as they were and so do Virgil and Dante.
The banners of the ding of hell advance. Begins the thirty-fourth and final canto. Dante and Virgil find themselves in Judecca the final division of Cocytus. Here lies the worst sinners of all, traitors against their masters or lords. This section is named after Judas Iscariot who known to be the one who betrayed Jesus in the bible. Like the other sinners, these sinners are again buried in ice; however, these sinners specific punishment is to be distorted into strange forms while in the ice. Dante and Virgil are not able to talk to any of these sinners, so they proceed onward toward Satan. When they finally arrive in the presence of Satan they notice he is only buried to his waist in ice with his large bat-like wings trying to fly away in a pointless attempt as the ensuing ice from the wind he creates with his flapping keeps him grounded and forever imprisoned. As for Satans physical features, he has three heads and in each mouth are the forms of Brutus, Cassius, and Judas. Brutus and Cassius are two characters of Roman history that are responsible for the death of Julius Caesar, their leader and friend. While Brutus was more of a friend of Caesar, he was deceived into believing that it would be best to stab him to death and take control of Rome himself. What could lead a friend to think such a thing? That would be Cassius who tricked Brutus into doing Cassius dirty work. On to the third head, Judas, as mentioned earlier was the betrayer of Christ who was responsible for capture, arrest, and crucifixion of Jesus. Due to the importance of Christ and Caesar, these three sinners are to have the worst punishment of all traitors (and sinners for that matter), which is to be chewed on in the mouth of Satan for all eternity. After the sight of this appalling scene, Dante and Virgil quickly crawl through the cracks in the ice down Satans side to the center of the earth. It is then that they begin their climb up toward purgatory on the morning of Holy Saturday ending the journey through The Inferno and continuing the rest of the Divine Comedy into the next book.
With all this storyline it is hard to pick out important points of interest in each little canto, in fact, it is much better to just clump these four together as one large point of interest. Lets call it hell, shall we? Right, moving on, the first point of importance is the strikingly unusual view of hell, a frozen lake. When most people think of hell, they imagine fire and brimstone, lakes sulfur, devils with pitchforks, and so on, but this view of the deepest region of hell is much different, and much more fitting. How so? Well if one were ever to hold an ice cube for long enough, they would begin to feel a tingling sensation in their fingers, a burning if you will. In fact, even after the ice cube is taken away, the pain remains as it was until heat is given to sooth away such pain. However, what if the ice were to stay in the possession of this aching hand? Frostbite would begin to settle into the fingertips. Now imagine someone being completely encased in ice, not able to move his or her limbs, purely motionless and forever receiving this burning sensation, while if one were in a pit of fire, it would burn, blister, and then turn the flesh to ash, but the pain would be over and the person while being burned would be allowed more movement. Traitors should not receive such pleasures as those other souls that are burned, according to Dante.
Speaking of those encased in ice, Satan, the king of the under world in his throne of ice as well. One would think that his punishment would be worse then mortal sinners, but he is only buried up to his waist in ice. Although, this punishment is much worse as Satan has the ability now for two things: (1) flap his wings and (2) chew. The fact that Satan is flapping his wings shows an attempt to escape his prison, but all the flapping is doing is creating more ice in which to freeze him and the rest of the occupants of the this circle. Thereupon Satan is imprisoning himself in his escape and is forever damning himself as he has attempted to damn the Father Almighty. The chewing that is allowed is also important as it shows further frustration as one might experience when attempting to work down a dry, hard, tasteless piece of meat that is just impossible to chew. One could never imagine doing that for all eternity, yet Satan must.
What could Satan be chewing on that would cause so much discomfort? Three sinners: Brutus, Cassius, and Judas. Though these three were discussed earlier, there are still two aspects that need to be addressed. (1) By having the betrayer of Christ and the two main betrayers of Caesar receiving the same punishment sends a very strong view into Dantes perception of Caesar. In this situation it would appear that Dante is making Caesar almost Christ-like or the Holy Savior of Rome. (2) The fact that there are three faces to Satan shows a relation to the Holy Trinity, or in this case the Unholy Trinity. In any case, Dante is again making a bold statement in showing that evil does not come from a singular source; there are many aspects hence also the three different colors of each face.
The three different colors can mean many different things one being the three main powers of Europe of the time (i.e. France, Germany, and Italy or Rome more so) or the races throughout the world, but it is important to notice the colors more than what they represent: black, red, and yellow-white. The interesting thing here is the color yellow-white that also appears in the image of God in the final book of the Divine Comedy. The correlation that could be made is that God is in all things, and all things have a chance for good even Satan. However, it is how much that we show red or black that determines our fate when we die. Another point is that even if we are sent to hell, we never loose the portion of us that is God, for all things are in God and in God shall all things return, which will be the perfectending to best movie ever, life.