Inferno, Canto 14
In a desert of Burning Sand, under a rain of perpetual fire, Dante finds the. Violent against God, Nature, and Art. The Violent against God lie supine, facing the Heaven which they insulted; among these is Capaneus, blasphemous and defiant in death as in life. The Poets pick their way carefully between the forest and the hot sand till they come to the edge of a boiling, red stream. Here Virgil explains the origin of all the rivers of Hell.
The Prepatory Lecture
Questions for Reflection
Canto 14, © Jan Hearn
The Sand. “In these circles of the Violent the reader is peculiarly conscious of a sense of sterility. The bloody river, the dreary wood, the harsh sand, which compose them, to some extent are there as symbols of unfruitfulness” (Charles Williams; The Figure of Beatrice, p. 129). The images of the sand and burning rain are derived from the doom of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The Blasphemers. Capaneus the Blasphemer is chosen as the particular image of Violence against God: he is an image of Pride, which makes the soul obdurate under judgment. The arrangement of Hell, being classical, allots no special place to Pride (held by Christianity to be the root of all sin), but it offers a whole series of examples of Pride, each worse than the last, as the Pit deepens. Farinata’s pride is dark and silent; that of Capaneus is loud and defiant, but not yet so wholly ignoble as that of Vanni Fucci (Canto XXV. i), far down in the Eighth Circle.
Mark Vernon's Lecture