Inferno Re-Created/Group Assignment

(Idea taken from Professor Mindi Bailey)

Object of the assignment: Restructure Hell to reflect the views of contemporary American society. This assignment will be presented to the class.


Learning Objective: To gain a deeper understand of the similarities and differences between Dante’s cultural context and (y)our own.

Dante distinguished himself from other writers by pointing fingers and naming names. He puts very specific people and mythical figures into particular places in the Inferno as well as graphically describing the punishment for each sinner.



Refer to the following materials from Collin professor, Dr. Marianne Adrade's world literature website:

In her website, check out the following links:

John Ciardi Summary of the circles:

Allegorical Interpretation:

Also check out the diagram of Inferno:

Also read the Michael McGoodwin summary:

Your Assignment: 

1) Change the hierarchy and layout of the Inferno from Dante’s version to a version that more aptly reflects America's beliefs, morals, and values as they've come to be accepted in our own particular culture.

2) For the layout, have nine circles and have subdivisions in the nine circles. Another option: draw a new schematic or new design to reflect a different view of the hierarchy.

3) Once you have your layout complete, assign various contemporary, historical, fictional, and/or cartoon characters to each level of the Inferno (remember to consider the subdivisions within each of the nine circles). You may also use groups of people.


4) Since the crux of Dante’s Inferno is that the punishment should fit the crime, determine the proper punishment for the figures you assign to various levels.

5) Group Presentation: Group Presentation will last 10 minutes. Explain your layout and whom you placed in Hell and why. You can also use videos, poetry, or other props to help with the presentation.

6) What to turn in: A one-page typed report from each person on what you did for the group. Did you take notes? How did you contribute? What did you research? Did you do anything or did you end up doing it all? If by chance, someone is not pulling his/her weight, please let me know in the report. It’s your report, so please let me know how the group worked together and if there were any issues. Please have the report typed, MLA style, and free from grammar mistakes and typographical errors. Please write in proper English language.

7) Warning: This is a fun assignment but please no personal attacks, like Dante. Please do not discriminate and please use good taste.

Helpful Notes

I. Basic Outline

Circles 1-5: Their sins involve incontinence or lack of control. They indulge their impulses.

Circle 6: Heretics

Circle 7: Violent

Circle 8 and 9: Fraud. Circle 9 is the worst for Dante: Traitors.

As Dante and Virgil descend through each circle, the punishments get worse and so do the sins. For Dante, the sins of incontinence or lack of self-control are not that bad. For Dante, the worst sin is betrayal. Remember, Dante was exiled from Florence, and he put his enemies in Hell.

II. Basic Shape: Funnel

Lower Levels are like a funnel: concentric rings each positioned lower than the previous and with a smaller circumference.

III. Time Frame

Inferno begins on Good Friday. Takes three days and ends on Easter Sunday in Paradiso. It takes 24 hours for Dante to walk through Inferno.

IV. Summary

Taken from two websites and combined: (Good summary of circles) (Good summary of the circles and punishments)

** Cantos I-II, The Dark Woods

Dante wakes up in a dark wood on Maundy Thursday night. He is in a valley in a dark wood and cannot make it up a hill. A leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf block his way. Virgil, the noblest of pagans, appears on Good Friday and serves as his guide to save him, as requested by Beatrice.

** Cantos III-IV, Entering The First Circle of Hell (Limbo)

They reach a gate in the evening with the warning “Abandon all hope, you who enter.”

Fore-Hell: Neutrals

They pass through the gate, go past the river Acheron, which is guarded by Charon, and into the First Circle (Limbo). Those not baptized, the pagans.

Lower Levels are like a funnel: concentric rings each positioned lower than the previous and with a smaller circumference.

** Canto V, The Second Circle

King Minos: Now a beast and judge. Circles with his tail where to send the sinners.

The Lustful: Francesca and Paolo.

Links for Canto V:

** Canto VI, The Third Circle

The Gluttons are in their own excrement, and Cerberus slobbers over them.

** Cantos VII-VII, The Fourth and Fifth Circle

The Fourth Circle: Spenders and Hoarders in two raging mobs ands strain to move a boulder.

The Fifth Circle: The Wrathful and Sullen

The Wrathful attack each other in foul slime, and the Sullen lie below the mud.

** Cantos IX-XI, The Sixth Circle

They near the city of Dis (synonym for Satan) across from the River Styx.

Sixth Circle: Heretics, suffer with fire

** Cantos XII-XVII, The Seventh Circle

Circle Seven contains three rings of the Violent

They descend and cross the river Phlegethon and into the Plain of Fire (Violent Sins) and into the first ring.

Canto XII, First Ring: Against One’s Neighbor, wallow in boiling blood. If they try to raise their bodies, they are shot by centaurs.

Canto XIII, Second Ring: Against Oneself (Suicides). They are turned into trees, and Harpies (like Medusa) pull their leaves. When they bleed, they have a voice.

Canto XIV-XVII, Third Ring: Against God (Blasphemy) and to Nature (Sodomy) and Art (Usury). They are punished by fire.

** Cantos: XVIII-XXX, The Eight Circle

Circle Eight Contains 10 Valleys/Malebolges-Evil Pockets

They are carried by the beast Geryon to the Eight Circle, which has ten pouches. (Malebolge-Evil Pockets). The pouches (valley or ditches) are circular concentric depressions spanned by bridges. The pouches contain the sinners of fraud.

Pouch 1: Seducers and Panderers, endless walk and whipped

Pouch 2: Flatterers, sunk in excrement

Pouch 3: Simoniacs (users of church office for money or power), placed upside down with feet on fire

Pouch 4: Diviners (Tiresias). Their heads are turned backwards on their bodies and they walk backwards through all eternity, their eyes blinded by tears. Those who sought the future cannot even see in front of themselves.

Pouch 5: Barrators (sellers of public office), boiling black tar. If they try to get out, torn apart by demons.

Pouch 6: Hypocrites, weighted down by leaden robes and walk eternally round a narrow track.

Pouch 7: The Thieves. Reptiles fly through the air and pierce the jugular of a sinner who bursts into flames. From the ashes, the sinner re-forms.

Pouch 8: False Counselors (Ulysses/Odysseus), hidden from view inside great flames

Pouch 9: Sowers of Discord, hacked to pieces and dragged around a pit

Pouch 10: Falsifiers punished by darkness, stench, thirst, fifth, disease, and shrieking din.

** Cantos XXXI-XXXIV, The Ninth Circle and Lucifer

They are lowered by a giant to the Ninth Circle (the seat of Satan), for the Sins of Betrayal. Satan is in the middle of a frozen lake, Cocytus.

There are four rounds of Cocytus:

Round 1: At Caina, which is the outer side of the lake are the Betrayers of Kin: Cain. Heads and necks are out of the ice.

Round 2: At Antenora, which is the inner side of the lake are Betrayers of Country and Party. Heads are out of the ice.

Round 3: At Ptolemea are the Betrayers of Guests. Half their faces are above the ice and tears freeze in their eyes sockets.

Round 4: Judecca, the final division of Cocytus are the Betrayers of Benefactors. They are completely under the ice.

In the middle of the lake are Brutus and Cassius and Judas, the ultimate traitors or betrayers. Lucifer is in the center. He has massive wings that keep the lake frozen.

Lucifer/Satan’s head has three faces, and out of each face’s mouth dangles a victim. Judas’ head is locked inside the mouth while his legs flail loose. Brutus and Cassius’ heads hang down from the mouths. Satan: speechless, father of lies, denied speech.

Links for the last canto:

V. Getting Out

Satan’s waist is exactly in the center of the Earth. Virgil leads Dante past Satan, inverts himself 180 degrees and begins to ascend. It’s Saturday morning. They emerge and still see the stars and Mt. Purgatoria, Dante’s next destination. The journey in Inferno lasted 24 hours.