Inferno, Canto 32
The Tenth Circle is the frozen Lake of Cocytus, which fills the bottom of the Pit, and holds the souls of the Traitors. In the outermost region, Caina, are the betrayers of their own kindred, plunged to the neck in ice; here Dante sees the Alberti brothers, and speaks with Camicion dei Pazzi. In the next, Antenora, he sees and lays violent hands on Bocca degli Abaii, who names various other betrayers of their country; and a little further on he comes upon two other shades, frozen together in the same hole, one of whom is gnawing the head of the other.
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Canto 32 © Jan Hearn
Cocytus. Beneath the clamour, beneath the monotonous circlings, beneath the fires of Hell, here at the centre of the lost soul and the lost city, lie the silence and the rigidity and the eternal frozen cold. It is perhaps the greatest image in the whole Inferno. “Dante," says Charles Williams, “scatters phrases on the difference of the place. It is treachery, but it is also ... cruelty; the traitor is cruel" (The Figure of Beatrice, p. 143). A cold and cruel egotism, gradually striking inward till even the lingering passions of hatred and destruction are frozen into immobility - that is the final state of sin. The conception is, I think, Dante’s own; although the Apocalypse of Paul mentions a number of cold torments, these are indiscriminately mingled with the torments by fire, and their placing has no structural significance. (It is interesting, however, that in the seventeenth century, the witches who claimed to have had to do with Satan sometimes reported that he was ice-cold.)
Cocytus, the “river of mourning", is the fourth of the great infernal rivers. Caina is named from Cain who slew his brother (Gen. iv.); Antenora, from Antenor of Troy who, according to medieval tradition, betrayed his city to the Greeks.
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