Frozen Landscape in the Inferno - A Terrible Place

Frozen Landscape in the Inferno - A Terrible Place Fiction Poetry Dystopia or Science Fiction Film Philosophy Social Studies Visual Arts World History

Passing through the frozen part of the Inferno, Dante and Virgil encounter heads which seem to be completely frozen in ice. 

Gustave Dore illustrates that part of the Inferno’s Canto 32, as depicted in this image.

Leading-up to that moment— before Dante grabs one of the heads and challenges it with these words: “Then seizing on his hinder scalp, I cried: ‘Name thee, or not a hair shall tarry here!’”—we realize that the frozen landscape is completely littered with ice-stuck bodies and faces:

I heard a voice cry:  “Watch which way you turn:
  Take care you do not trample on the heads
  of the forworn and miserable brethren.”

Whereat I turned and saw beneath my feet
  and stretching out ahead, a lake so frozen
  it seemed to be made of glass.  So thick a sheet

never yet hid the Danube’s winter course,
  nor, far away beneath the frigid sky,
  locked the Don up in its frozen source;

for were Tanbernick and the enormous peak
  of Pietrapana to crash down on it,
  not even the edges would so much as creak.

The way frogs sit to croak, their muzzles leaning
  out of the water, at the time and season
  when the peasant woman dreams of her day’s gleaning-

Just so the livid dead are sealed in place
  up to the part at which they blushed for shame,
  and they beat their teeth like storks.  Each holds his face

bowed toward the ice, each of them testifies
  to the cold with his chattering mouth, to his heart’s grief
  with tears that flood forever from his eyes.

When I had stared about me, I looked down
  and at my feet I saw two clamped together
  so tightly that the hair of their heads had grown

together.  “Who are you,” I said, “who lie
  so tightly breast to breast?”  They strained their necks,
  and when they had raised their heads as if to reply,

the tears their eyes had managed to contain
  up to that time gushed out, and the cold froze them
  between the lids, sealing them shut again

tighter than any clamp grips wood to wood,
  and mad with pain, they fell to butting heads
  like billy-goats in a sudden savage mood.

And a wraith who lay to one side and below,
  and who had lost both ears to frostbite, said,
  his head still bowed:  “Why do you watch us so?

As John Ciardi’s translation helps us to understand, Dante must have been stunned to see a frozen landscape in a place he thought would be excruciatingly hot at every turn and every level. 

Then he learns that the people, trapped in ice, had been traitors in life.

Click on the image for a better view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Sep 19, 2018

Media Credits

Gustave Dore created this engraving to be included in a version of the "Divine Comedy" which was published in 1890. It is from “Dante Alighieri's Inferno from the Original by Dante Alighieri and Illustrated with the Designs of Gustave Doré” (New York: Cassell Publishing Company, 1890).

Public Domain


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"Frozen Landscape in the Inferno - A Terrible Place" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Sep 19, 2018.
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