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1. The sin is excessive hoarding and excessive spending. The contrapasso is that they have to push heavy weights with their chests around in half circles. This represents the constant burden of material wealth held over these sinners during their lives. In this way, yes, the punishment fits the crime. (Gallagher)
2. Dante names no specific residents of Circle 4, but he notes that many of them are bald as they were the priests, popes, and cardinals who worked for the money and fame as opposed to for God.
3. A mythological creature found in Circle 4 is Pluto, but the text can also be interpreted to mean that it was Plutus. Pluto is a Greek ruler of the underworld and thus it would make sense that he would be found in Dante’s Hell. Plutus is the Roman god of wealth and thus it would make sense that he would be guarding those who were consumed by it in life. The text can be interpreted to mean that either is the guardian of the prodigal and avaricious. (Alford)
4. Excessive greed, both hoarding and spending, are both still very prominent in today’s world. One fictional character I feel would be found in Circle 4 is Ebenezer Scrooge. Of course, pre-A Christmas Carol Scrooge is who would be found in Circle 4, not the Scrooge after the events of Charles Dickens’ story. In the story, Scrooge becomes kind and generous, but before the story began he was a cold-hearted, self-absorbed wealth hoarder. He would never spend more than needed to live, would not spare a dime for someone in need, and only paid his employee, Bob Cratchit, as little as allowed. These are typical characteristics of a greedy man, and thus, Scrooge would fit in well with his fellow money hoarders of Circle 4. Many CEOs and celebrities are known for being greedy. One particular CEO known for his lavish spending is Mukesh Ambani. He is the chairman of Reliance Industries. He is the richest person in India and the second richest in Asia. He has a personal wealth of over $20 billion. His home in Mumbai, India is reported to be the most expensive home on Earth and requires over 600 staff members to maintain it. It is 400,000 square feet, has three helipads, a carpark, and 27 floors. It is estimated to have cost up to $2 billion. If this was not already enough of a display of Ambani’s greed, he built this home in a slum where thousands of impoverished people are suffering.
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1. Dante asks Virgil as they descend into Circle 4 about the suffering he has been exposed to, specifically who creates it:
"’Ah, Justice of God, who heaps up
such strange punishment and pain as I saw there?
And why do our sins so waste us?’” (Allegheri VII. 19-21)
Here, the centrality of God and the unusual punishment in Hell is recognized as an important part of the story. This is shown through Dante’s apostrophe of God, asking him why there is so much pain and suffering in Hell. He then asks why “our sins so waste us” referring to the way these sinners reside in the afterlife. This displays Dante’s realization that everything, even the bad things, was created by God. (Bruce)
2. Virgil and Dante make their way into Circle 4, when Dante immediately observes that this is a crowded circle:
“Here the sinners were more numerous than elsewhere,
and they, with great shouts, from opposite sides
were shoving burdens forward with their chests.
They crashed into each other, turned
and best retreat, shoving their loads and shouting:
‘Why do you hoard?’ or ‘Why do you squander?’
Thus they proceeded in their dismal round
on both sides toward the opposite point
taunting each other with the same refrain.
Once at that point, each group turned back
along its semi-circle to the next encounter.” (Allegheri VII. 25-35)
In this passage, the relationship between the two types of sinners in Circle 4 is shown. Avarice and prodigality are just extremes opposite each other, so both types of sinners are punished in Circle 4. Since their sin was related to the material world, as they either hoarded or squandered their material wealth, they are punished in Hell by the weights that they must physically push around. They can ever learn their lesson because the hoarders cannot understand the squanderers and the squanderers cannot understand the hoarders. This is an example of a part of Hell where part of the contrapasso is related to the sinner’s fellow sinners. Their disagreements prolong and increase their suffering. Even more is how the greedy rarely care about anything more than their wealth, and not other people, so it makes sense that they would be punished by being forced to spent eternity with their polar opposite. (Ciardi)
3. Dante asks Virgil why he cannot recognize any faces of the sinners in Circle 4, who were most likely wealthy and famous in life as they were greedy:
“And I: ‘Master, in such a crew as this
I ought to recognize at least a few
who were befouled by these offenses.’
And he to me: ‘You muster an empty thought.:
The undiscerning life that made them foul
now makes them hard to recognize.’” (Allegheri VII. 49-54)
These sinners have denied "the good of the intellect" by abusing their relationship with money. Therefore, the avaricious and prodigal have not only given up their spots in Heaven, but they have also lost their identities, since their faces have been made unrecognizable. A knowingly committed sin can result in giving up one’s identity. In other words, if a person that has complete control over committing a sin still commits it, they will lose their identity in Hell. (Lindskoog)
4. Dante asks Virgil for clarification on who, in a sense, “runs” everything. He wonders who holds the world’s possessions and Virgil answers.
"’Master,’ I said, ‘tell me more: this Fortune
whom you mention, who is she that holds
the world’s possessions tightly in her clutches?’
And he to me: ‘O foolish creatures,
what great ignorance besets you!
I’ll have you feed upon my judgment of her:
He whose wisdom transcends all
made the heavens and gave them guides,
so that all parts reflect on every part
in equal distribution of the light. Just so,
He ordained for worldly splendors
a general minister and guide
who shifts those worthless goods, from time to time,
from race to race, from one blood to another
beyond the intervention of human wit.
One people comes to rule, another languishes,
in keeping with her judgment,
as secret as a serpent hidden in the grass.
Your wisdom cannot stand against her.
She foresees, she judges, she maintains her reign,
as do the other heavenly powers.
Her mutability admits no rest.
Necessity compels her to be swift,
and frequent are the changes in men’s state.’” (Allegheri VII. 67-90)
For the first time since they were at the Gates of Hell, Virgil states that what happens with the divine often exceeds human comprehensibility. Fortune, or the apparently random shift of wealth and fame from one place to another, can "stand against the force" of man’s reason because she is one of God’s ministers. God’s "wisdom transcends everything,” even human intellect. Therefore, the fact that man cannot understand or predict Fortune’s actions is natural and understandable. (Raffa)
5. Virgil leads Dante towards the River Styx to cross into Circle 5:
"Fixed in the slime they say: ‘We were sullen
in the sweet air that in the sun rejoices,
filled as we were with slothful fumes.
‘Now we are sullen in black mire.’
This hymn they gurgle in their gullets,
for they cannot get a word out whole." (Allegheri VII. 121-126)
In life, the hoarders refused to engage in life’s joys by squandering their money, appreciating neither the "sweet air" nor the sun. They only spent what they needed to for survival. This passage from the end of Circle 4 is from when Virgil and Dante descend upon Circle 5 passing the River Styx; however, it is very applicable and relevant to the sinners of Circle 4. This shows how the circles seem to mold into one another, and enforces the idea that regardless of which circle a person is in, they are still in Hell and are related through that. (Gallagher)
Alford, Marcus. "Dante's Inferno." LordAlford. N.p., n.d. Web. February 2014.
Bruce, David. Dante’s Inferno: A Discussion Guide. Athens, Ohio: The Author, 2009. Web. February 2014.
Ciardi, John. The Inferno: Dante’s Immortal Drama of a Journey through Hell. New York, New York: Signet, 1954. Print.
Gallagher, Joseph. To Hell & Back with Dante. Liguori, Missouri: Triumph, 1995. Print.
Lindskoog, Kathryn. Inferno. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1997. Print.
"Mukesh Ambani." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. February 2014.
Raffa, Guy. “Dante’s Inferno.” Dante Worlds. University of Texas at Austin, 2007. Web. February 2014.