Inferno Canto VI (the Third Circle: the Gluttonous)
Dante awakens and finds himself surrounded by new sufferers. Thus, he concludes he’s in a new circle of Hell.
Now for a weather report: it’s raining. Correction: it always rains in the third circle, where the Gluttonous dwell. Not pure water, either, but filthy polluted stinky rain and hailstones. The earth itself reeks.
The sinners here are so traumatized by this rain that they turn back and forth, trying unsuccessfully to keep some part of their body clean and dry.
Above these writhing sinners looms Cerberus, the gigantic three-headed guard dog of the Underworld. He snarls at the pilgrims as they approach.
Unfazed, Virgil picks up handfuls of stinking mud and hurls them straight into Cerberus’s jaws. The dog actually eats it and, in the meantime, grows quiet. Get it? Cerberus is a glutton too.
As Dante and Virgil tour this circle of gluttons, none of the sinners pay attention to them, except one who sits up and demands that Dante recognize him. The sinner knows that Dante is a Florentine (someone from Florence).
Dante, being a poet, gracefully asks the glutton to remind him of his name.
The sinner suddenly isn’t so free with his words. He introduces himself as Ciacco (also a Florentine), names his sin as gluttony, and then clams up.
Dante doesn’t seem at all interested in Ciacco’s life, saying only that Ciacco’s suffering moves him to tears. Then he changes the subject to the future of Florence.
So Ciacco goes into prophet mode. (Of course, what he "foresees" is history by the time Dante writes the Inferno.)
In very cryptic language, Ciacco presages political strife between the Blacks and Whites (see "In A Nutshell" for more on this). First the Whites will win a battle and drive the Blacks out. But then the Blacks will return with the help of the hated Pope Boniface VIII and crush the Whites, eventually driving many of them into exile, including Dante. Ciacco sees the two parties ignoring reason in favor of "envy, pride, and avariciousness."
On that note, Dante continues interrogating Ciacco, naming a bunch of famous Florentines and asking where he can find them now. Ciacco answers that they’re all in Hell, so Dante will see them later.
To top off his speech, Ciacco requests that Dante make his name famous in the living world. Then he falls silent. With that, Ciacco lowers himself into obscurity.
Virgil interjects with some prophesying of his own. He states that Ciacco will not rise again until Judgment Day.
Dante inquires if these sinners’ punishments will get better or worse after Judgment Day.
In his convoluted way, Virgil answers with "worse," because then the sinners’ bodies will be reunited with their souls and it won’t be just their souls that are suffering.
Our two heroes ponder this sad fact as they walk towards the next circle. Along the way, they meet Plutus, whom we’ll learn more about in the next canto.