"But turn your eyes to the valley; there we shall find
the river of boiling blood in which we are steeped
all who struck down their fellow men."

-Inferno Canto XII II. 46-48

Dante0034.jpg

The seventh circle of hell, violence, consists of three different categories. The first belongs to those who commit violence against others, such as murderers. The second is reserved for those who commit violence against themselves (suicide). The third category includes those who commit violence against God (blasphemy), nature, God's offspring, and industry. Dante and Virgil descend down a rocky landslide after encountering the minotaur and reach a river of blood. They are guided by the centaur Nessus on Chiron's orders. The souls being tortured in this boiling river are placed in various depths based on the severity of their sins, ranging from having only their feet submerged all the way down to being submerged up to their brows. Dante and Virgil next come to the forest of suicides. Here the souls of those who killed themselves are bound in trees upon which the harpies feast, inflicting great pain. The souls perpetually attempt to recover their severed limbs, but to no avail. This particular form of torture stems from the belief that by committing suicide the unity of body and soul is severed, and that the soul has neglected caring for its servant, the body. Dante and Virgil finally reach the inner circle, where the souls exist on a fiery plain of sand with fire raining down upon them. Dante encounters his teacher, Brunetto Latini, and has a brief conversation with him. Brunetto is placed down here for being a sodomite and there are parts in this passage that have led some to speculate that Dante himself may have had some homosexual desires, but did not indulge them. Upon viewing a group of souls condemned for homosexuality, Dante remarks: "If I had been protected from the fire, I would have thrown myself down there among them, and I believe my teacher would have suffered it; but because I would have burned and cooked myself, fear vanquished the good will that made me greedy to embrace them." This line can clearly be viewed as Dante feeling tempted to join these men, but choosing not to for fear of the consequences.