Inferno, Canto 23
The angry demons pursue the Poets, who are forced to escape by scrambling down the upper bank of Bowge VI. Here they find the Hypocrites, waking in Gilded Cloaks lined with lead. They talk to two Jovial Friars from Bologna, and see the shade of Caiaphas crucified upon the ground.
The Prepatory Lecture
Questions for Reflection
Canto 23, © Jan Hearn
The Leaden Cloaks. The image of Hypocrisy, presenting a brilliant show and weighing like lead so as to make spiritual progress impossible, scarcely needs interpretation.
Caiaphas. This image lends itself peculiarly well to Dante’s fourfold system of interpretation: (1) Literal: the punishment of Caiaphas after death; (2) Allegorical: the condition of the Jews in this world, being identified with the Image they rejected and the suffering they inflicted - “crucified for ever in the eternal exile”; (3) Moral: the condition in this life of the man who sacrifices his inner truth to expediency (e.g. his true vocation to money-making, or his true love to a politic alliance), and to whom the rejected good becomes at once a heaven from which he is exiled and a rack on which he suffers; (4) Anagogical: the state, here and hereafter, of the soul which rejects God, and which can know God only as wrath and terror, while at the same time it suffers the agony of eternal separation firom God, who is its only true good.
Mark Vernon's Lecture