Circle VII Round Two: Violent Against Selves

| Introduction: | ‍Punishment: | Characters: | | Summary:


Exiting the first round of circle seven, Nessus travels with Dante across a flowing river of boiling blood (not to be confused with the boiling rivers in Yellowstone)and into the second round labeled THE WOOD OF SUICIDES. This layer of hell contains those who were violent against themselves. As with many other layers in Dante’s concieved version of hell, he both describes the specific punishment in accordance with the earthly crime and he also details some characters encountered in the particular portion of torment. In order to effectively summarize and detail the events of THE WOOD OF SUICIDES, it is necessary to both list the punishments each individual encounters as well as delve into the actual individuals in the round as Dante describes them. The first area of focus will be the brief description of the punishment.


The souls which are damned to this circle of hell are enclosed in thorny trees whose leaves are eaten by Harpies. The Harpies are the overseers of these dammed souls and show no mercy towards them whatsoever. The wounds caused by the Harpies bleed, and it is only when the trees bleed (not to be confused with innocous sap) that the souls are able to speak. The reasoning behind this particular punishment fits the “crime” very well. The souls are denied the right to have a human form. Dante does this because the hombre in this realm of hell destroyed their own bodies. He also makes it so they can not speak unless a wound is inflicted upon them. He does this because in life, the souls form of expression was self-destruction, so they now can only speak through that which destroys them.


Pier dele vigne-c. (1190-1240) He was a well known poet at the time, who wrote sonnets, and was educated in law. Started out a scribe for the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily, and then was a judge. Later, he became the official spokesman for Frederick II. While working for the courts, he was falsely accused of betraying the emperor. He was blinded and sent to prison. In prison, Pier could not take his punishment, so he ended his own life. There are two ways he is thought to have ended his life: by smashing his head off of a wall, or jumping off of a building. In Inferno, when Dante talks to Pier in the circle, Pier brings up the book Consolation of Philosophy, by Boethius. This book tells a story of a person is also falsely accused of treason, just like Pier Dele Vigne

Jacomo da Sant' Andrea- He was a notorious spendthrift from Padua. It is thought that he may have been executed in 1239 by Ezzelino da Romano. In Inferno, he is one of the two spendthrifts (the other to be mentioned later) to be damned to this circle of hell. His punishement is a bit different than the other souls in this circle; he is continuously chased and destroyed by a pack of wild hounds.

Lano da Siena- Along with Jacomo da Sant' Andrea, he is notorious spendthrift. They are both famed destroyers of their own wealth! Lano was a member of the Macconi family and a part of the Sienese Spendthrift Club. It is believed that he died while fighting in the battle of Pieve al Toppo. According to Giovanni Boccaccio, he preferred to die in battle rather than live in poverty. However, I do not think he knew that once he did die, his punishment would be worse than living in poverty. He, like Jacomo da Sant' Andrea, is now continuously chased and tortured by the female hounds.

The Unknown Florentine Suicide- When the hounds are chasing Jocomo da Sant' Andrea and Lano da Siena, they jump through a bush tearing it apart. Because the bush was torn, it begins to bleed and Dante and Virgil are able to talk to him.


As one of the most obscure punishments in the entire novel, Dante chooses a deeply symbolic and ominous punishment for those whose earthly sin was suicide. While in almost every level of the inferno there is visible punishment for the hombre, in this particular section of the text Dante formulates and closely parallels the punishment in hell with the direct act on earth. As a result of the reclusive and introverted nature of most depression and suicide, the only manner through which the suffering souls could express or speak was through the harmful process of bleeding and ultimately pain. On earth the violent against themselves had longed for a release from pain, an escape from their depression and heartache. However, because of their decision to self-terminate the suffering, they would never be afforded the opportunity of escape or release from pain. For those who had chosen to commit suicide, the pain that they had tried to avoid would never leave them even into eternity. Instead of taking the time to express their feelings and work with others through their hardships, they had chosen on earth to create an escape in seclusion. In this canto of Dante’s story he reverses their possibly saving and hopeful opportunity for interaction on earth and makes even the slightest hint of interaction and communication painful. From the possibility of peaceful cooperation and a group recovery to a painful solitude with tediously painful communication, Dante skillfully parallels and counteracts the crime and the punishment.