Inferno, Canto 6
Dante now finds himself in the Third Circle, where the Gluttonous lie wallowing in the mire, drenched by perpetual rain and mauled by the three-headed dog Cerberus. After Virgil has quieted Cerberus by throwing earth into his jaws, Dante talks to the shade of Ciacco, a Florentine, who prophesies some of the disasters which are about to befall Florence, and tells him where he will find certain other of their fellow-citizens, Virgil tells Dante what the condition of the spirits will be, after the Last Judgment.
The Prepatory Lecture
Questions for Reflection
Canto 6, © Jan Hearn
The Gluttonous: The surrender to sin which began with mutual indulgence leads by an imperceptible degradation to solitary self-indulgence. Of this kind of sin, the Gluttons are chosen as the image. Here is no reciprocity and no communication; each soul grovels alone in the mud, without heeding his neighbours - “a sightless company", Dante calls them.
The Rain. Gluttony (like the other self-indulgences it typifies) often masquerades on earth as a warm, cosy, and indeed jolly kind of sin; here it is seen as it is - a cold sensuality, a sodden and filthy spiritual wretchedness.
Cerberus. In the story, Cerberus is the three-headed dog familiar to us from Homer and Virgil and the tale of the Twelve Labours of Hercules, who guards the threshold of the classical Hades. For the allegory, he is the image of uncontrolled appetite; the Glutton, whose appetite preyed upon people and things, is seen to be, in fact, the helpless prey on which that appetite gluts itself.
Mark Vernon's Lecture