"Hoarding and squandering wasted all their Light
and brought them screaming to this brawl of wraiths.
You need no words of mine to grasp their plight."

-Inferno Canto VII II. 58-60


Dante next ventures into the fourth circle of hell, reserved for those guilty of avarice. Here he encounters Plutus, the guardian of the fourth circle. Dante combines characteristics of both humans and beasts for his depiction of Plutus. Virgil refers to Plutus as a cursed wolf, bringing to mind the she-wolf that was mentioned in the first Canto, which is viewed as a symbol of avarice. The souls in the fourth circle are tortured to the point that they are unrecognizable, which Virgil mentions as being the outcome of living an undiscerning life. This also shows the first time in The Inferno where Dante has little sympathy for the souls he encounters, suggesting how much he disdained this particular sin. It's also important to note that this sin divides into two categories: avarice and prodigality. Giving away gifts in abundance was considered just as shameful as being greedy. Dante makes note of some of the souls rolling weights along, a reference to the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was condemned for robbery and forced to roll a large boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down again, for eternity. There are two groups pushing rocks that perpetually collide into one another, one group being comprised of those guilty of avarice and the other for prodigality. Here Dante compares their circular movements and colliding to the whirlpool Charybdis, which Aeneas had to navigate in The Aeneid and is also mentioned in Metamorphoses. Virgil also relates to Dante the story of Fortuna. He describes how she is in charge of worldly splendors, as compared to the angels who govern the heavenly bodies, and indiscriminately transfers wealth and power from one group of people, or family, to another. This signifies that acquiring wealth and power on earth happens arbitrarily and without merit, which makes the sin of attempting to hoard over it all the more unforgivable. Dante and Virgil reach the river Styx after he finishes his story, which will take them to the fifth circle.