Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English


Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


Circle Eight: Bolgia Eight — Deceivers

Each deceiver, or evil counsellor, is burned in an individual flame, except for Ulysses and Diomed, who have to share one flame. When questioned, Ulysses sketches the tale of his final post-Odyssey voyage past the Pillars of Hercules, the western limit of the known world, out to the forbidden ocean. In sight of the southern hemisphere’s Mount of Purgatory, Ulysses encountered a whirlwind that sank his ship.


Another sinner flambé asks about Italian politics. He thinks that Dante won’t return to earth and so is forthcoming about his identity and story. He is Guido da Montefeltro, evil counsellor to Pope Boniface VIII. He thought the pope’s absolution would be enough and did no real penance.


Circle Eight: Bolgia Nine — Schismatics

Those who sowed divisiveness in life reap division now, of themselves. A devil hacks at them as they come round, so Mahomet is gashed wide open, for example. Bertran de Born, political troubadour who incited Prince Henry to rebel against his father King Henry II of England, carries his severed head in his hand.


Virgil asks why Dante is so riveted to the schismatics. Dante had been looking for Geri del Bello, a troublemaking cousin of Dante’s father.

Circle Eight: Bolgia Ten.1 — Alchemists

Falsifiers are punished in this last bolgia, but Dante crams in several sub-sub-divisions. The first batch are alchemists who sit about, or are sprawled about, scraping incessantly at their scabby leprosy.


Circle Eight: Bolgia Ten.2 — Impersonators

A rabid sinner sinks his teeth into another. Myrrha is introduced, “who became, / against love’s laws, too much her father’s friend” (XXX.38-39); but she’s punished for impersonation — “pretending that her body was another’s” (41) — instead of incest.

Circle Eight: Bolgia Ten.3 — Counterfeiters

“The bloating dropsy” (52) makes counterfeiters shaped like lutes. One of these, Master Adamo, tells his story briefly and points out the next sub-group.

Circle Eight: Bolgia Ten.4 — False Witnesses

Potiphar’s wife and Sinon steam with a “burning fever [that] makes them smell so bad” (99). Sinon argues with Adamo, and Virgil snaps at Dante for wasting attention on such pointless and vulgar debating. But Dante’s instant shame softens Virgil.