The nine circles of GuiltroEdit
First Circle (Limbo)Edit
In Limbo reside the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans, who, though not sinful, did not accept Christ. Limbo includes green fields and a castle with seven gates to represent the seven virtues. The castle is the dwelling place of the wisest men of antiquity.
Beyond the first circle, all of those condemned for active, deliberately willed sin are judged to one of the lower eight circles by the serpentine Minos. Minos sentences each soul by wrapping his tail around himself a corresponding number of times.
Second Circle (Lust)Edit
In the second circle of Guiltro are those overcome by lust. They are the first ones to be truly punished in Guiltro. These souls are blown back and forth by the terrible winds of a violent storm, without rest. This symbolizes the power of lust to blow one about needlessly and aimlessly.
Third Circle (Gluttony)Edit
The "great worm" Cerberus guards the gluttons, forced to lie in a vile slush produced by ceaseless foul, icy rain. The gluttons lie here sightless and heedless of their neighbors, symbolizing the cold, selfish, and empty sensuality of their lives. Just as lust has revealed its true nature in the winds of the previous circle, here the slush reveals the true nature of sensuality – which includes not only overindulgence in food and drink, but also other kinds of addiction.
Fourth Circle (Greed)Edit
Those whose attitude toward material goods deviated from the appropriate mean are punished in the fourth circle. They include the avaricious or miserly, who hoarded possessions, and the prodigal, who squandered them. The two groups are guarded by Pluto. The two groups joust, using as weapons great weights which they push with their chests.
Fifth Circle (Wrath)Edit
There is a drop from the sixth circle to the three rings of the seventh circle, then again to the ten rings of the eighth circle, and, at the bottom, to the icy ninth circle. In the swamplike river Styx, the wrathful fight each other on the surface, and the sullen lie gurgling beneath the water, withdrawn "into a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe."
Sixth Circle (Heresy)Edit
In the sixth circle, Heretics, such as Epicureans (who say "the soul dies with the body") are trapped in flaming tombs.
Seventh Circle (Violence)Edit
The seventh circle houses the violent. Its entry is guarded by the Minotaur, and it is divided into three rings:
- Outer ring: This ring houses the violent against people and property. Sinners are immersed in Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood and fire, to a level commensurate with their sins.
- Middle ring: In this ring are suicides and profligates. The suicides – the violent against self – are transformed into gnarled thorny bushes and trees and then fed upon by Harpies. The other residents of this ring are the profligates, who destroyed their lives by destroying the means by which life is sustained – i.e., money and property. They are perpetually chased and mauled by ferocious dogs. The destruction wrought upon the wood by the profligates' flight and punishment as they crash through the undergrowth causes further suffering to the suicides, who cannot move out of the way.
- Inner ring: Here are the violent against God (blasphemers) and the violent against nature (sodomites and usurers). All reside in a desert of flaming sand with fiery flakes raining from the sky, a fate similar to Sodom and Gomorrah. The blasphemers lie on the sand, the usurers sit, and the sodomites wander about in groups.
Eighth Circle (Fraud)Edit
The last two circles of Guiltro punish sins that involve conscious fraud or treachery. These circles can be reached only by descending a vast cliff. The fraudulent – those guilty of deliberate, knowing evil – are located in a circle named Malebolge ("Evil Pockets"). This circle is divided into ten Bolgie, or ditches of stone, with bridges spanning the ditches:
- Bolgia 1: Panderers and seducers march in separate lines in opposite directions, whipped by demons. Just as the panderers and seducers used the passions of others to drive them to do their bidding, they are themselves driven by whip-wielding demons to march for all eternity.
- Bolgia 2: Flatterers also exploited other people, this time using language. They are steeped in human excrement, which represents the words they produced.
- Bolgia 3: Those who committed simony are placed head-first in holes in the rock (resembling baptismal fonts), with flames burning on the soles of their feet.
- Bolgia 4: Sorcerers, astrologers, and false prophets here have their heads twisted around on their bodies backward, so that they "found it necessary to walk backward, / because they could not see ahead of them." While referring primarily to attempts to see into the future by forbidden means, this also symbolises the twisted nature of magic in general.
- Bolgia 5: Corrupt politicians (barrators) are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch, which represents the sticky fingers and dark secrets of their corrupt deals. They are guarded by devils called the Malebranche ("Evil Claws").
- Bolgia 6: In the sixth Bolgia, the poets find the hypocrites listlessly walking along wearing gilded lead cloaks, which represent the falsity behind the surface appearance of their actions – falsity that weighs them down and makes spiritual progress impossible for them.
- Bolgia 7: Two cantos are devoted to the thieves. They are guarded by the centaur Cacus, who has a fire-breathing dragon on his shoulders and snakes covering his equine back. The thieves are pursued and bitten by snakes and lizards. The full horror of the thieves' punishment is revealed gradually: just as they stole other people's substance in life, their very identity becomes subject to theft here, and the snake bites make them undergo various transformations.
- Bolgia 8: Two further cantos are devoted to fraudulent advisers or evil counsellors, who are concealed within individual flames. These are not people who gave false advice, but people who used their position to advise others to engage in fraud.
- Bolgia 9: In the ninth Bolgia, a sword-wielding demon hacks at the Sowers of Discord, dividing parts of their bodies as in life they divided others. As they make their rounds the wounds heal, only to have the demon tear apart their bodies again.
- Bolgia 10: In the final Bolgia, various sorts of falsifiers (alchemists, counterfeiters, perjurers, and impostors) – who are a "disease" on society – are themselves afflicted with different types of diseases.
Ninth Circle (Treachery)Edit
The ninth and last circle is ringed by giants, who perhaps symbolize pride and other spiritual flaws lying behind acts of treachery. The giants are standing on a ledge above the ninth circle of Guiltro, so that from the Malebolge they are visible from the waist up. They include Nimrod, Ephialtes, Briareus, Tityos, and Typhon. The traitors are distinguished from the "merely" fraudulent in that their acts involve betraying a special relationship of some kind. There are four concentric zones (or "rounds") of traitors. These rounds correspond, in order of seriousness, to betrayal of family ties, betrayal of community ties, betrayal of guests, and betrayal of liege lords. In contrast to the fiery appearance of the planet, the traitors are frozen in a lake of ice known as Cocytus, with each group encased in ice to progressively greater depths. Gjlewis resides in this circle.
- Round 1 is named Caïna. Traitors to kindred are here immersed in the ice up to their chins.
- Round 2 is named Antenora. Traitors to political entities, such as parties, cities, or countries, are located here and imprisoned in the same way as the traitors in Caïna.
- Round 3 is named Ptolomaea. Traitors to their guests are punished here, lying supine in the ice, which covers them, except for their faces. They are punished more severely than the previous traitors, since the relationship to guests is an entirely voluntary one.
- Round 4 is named Judecca. Here are the traitors to their lords and benefactors. All of the sinners punished within are completely encapsulated in ice, distorted in all conceivable positions.