Inferno Canto XXXIII

Inferno 33

“Father, we would suffer less
if you would feed on us: you clothed us
in this wretched flesh — now strip it off.”

vv. 61-63

Ninth Circle: Traitors. Second ring: Antenora.— Count Ugolino.—Third ring: Ptolomaea.—Brother Alberigo.—Branca d’ Oria.

The sinner who had been eating his companion’s head raised his own and told Dante why he hated his companion so much:

He was Count Ugolino and his companion was the Archbishop Ruggieri. Ugoloino had been captured by Ruggieri and imprisoned in a tower with his two sons and two grandsons. One night he dreamed that a wolf and his whelps was hunted down by Ruggieri, and he awoke to hear his sons and grandsons weeping for bread in their sleep. At the time when their food was usually brought, Ugolino heard people nailing the tower shut. Ugolino stonily did not weep, but the boys did, and asked him what was wrong. The next day he bit his hands out of grief, and the boys, thinking he was doing it out of hunger, offered him their flesh to eat ­ so he tried to stay calm, to keep them from worrying. On the sixth day the boys were all dead, and Ugolino mourned for them for two days ­ then “fasting had more force than grief.”

After telling this story, Ugolino looked mad with sorrow and hate, and bit Ruggieri’s skull with his strong teeth. One of the sinners begged him to free his eyes from the ice, and Dante said he would if he would tell him who he was. The sinner said he was Fra Alberigo, whose figs had been repaid with dates. Dante was surprised because he thought Alberigo was still alive. Alberigo answered that his body was still alive: when a soul becomes a traitor, the soul goes to Hell and a demon uses its body. For example, Ser Branca Doria’s soul was there. Dante insisted that Doria was still living, and Alberigo answered that Doria’s soul had come to Hell even before the soul of his victim, Michele Zanca, who was in the pitch in Malebolge.

Alberigo then asked Dante to free his eyes, and Dante refused: “it was courtesy to show him rudeness.” The canto ends with an invective against the corruption of the Genoese.

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