Inferno Canto 13




Anthony Clark is a Professor of Chinese History at Whitworth University. He is the author of Catholicism and Buddhism: The Contrasting Lives and Teaching of Jesus and the Buddha and China’s Christianity: From Missionary to Indigenous Church.

Questions for Reflection

  • As we enter the macabre forest of those who committed violence against themselves, we find ourselves in a place that calls back to the dark wood of Inferno canto 1. How does the dark wood of the suicides retroactively interpret the spiritual and psychological state of Dante in that first canto?
  • Notice the placement of ring of those violent against themselves between the rings of violence against others and violence against God and nature. What might the placement of this ring reveal about the embeddedness of ourselves between God and neighbor? What might this say about the theological problem of violence against the self?
  • Why are the suicides denied a full resurrection of the body at the eschaton? What does this reveal about Dante’s understanding of the role of the body for personhood and human flourishing?
  • According to Giuseppe Mazzotta, the circles of violence contain many images of distorted “doubling” (the hybrid mythical creatures, for example). With Pier Della Vigne we have a kind of “doubling” of Dante himself: Pier was a poet turned politician who was falsely accused by his political rivals and committed suicide while in prison. Why would Dante choose Pier as his main encounter in this ring of violence?
  • In addition to suicide, the pilgrim also encounter the profligerates in this ring of violence against self. How is the vicious waste of resources violence against self? Is there any analogy between the two forms of violence shown in this canto?
  • Pier’s haunting words, “Though just I became to myself most unjust” (13.72) perfectly sums up the nature of violence against the self, but what might these words tell us about the nature and character of all sin? Is all sin to some extent an act of violence against the self?


  • Dr. Anthony Clark
  • Whitworth University
  • Run Time 9:12