Study Guide

Purgatorio Purgatory Canto V (Ante-Purgatory, the Second Spur: Those Who Died by Violence and without Last Rites)

By Dante Alighieri

Purgatory Canto V (Ante-Purgatory, the Second Spur: Those Who Died by Violence and without Last Rites)

  • As Dante and Virgil are leaving the Indolent souls in the First Spur behind, one of the souls sees Dante, gapes, and points him out to the others. They stare at Dante’s shadow and say, “Hey, he’s alive!”
  • Dante turns around to bask in his aliveness and glory. Or maybe just to see who’s talking to him.
  • Virgil rolls his eyes and commands Dante to ignore them. He tells him to be like “a sturdy tower” in the face of strong winds.
  • Dante is duly shamed, follows orders, and blushes a bright red.
  • As they continue climbing, they’re approached by a band of singing people. They’re penitents singing the “Miserere,” not the cheeriest of Latin hymns.
  • When they see that Dante casts a shadow, their song changes in unison to a long “Oh!”
  • Two of the souls rush up from the group to ask Dante to tell more about himself.
  • Virgil kindly speaks for Dante. He tells the two messengers that yes, Dante’s alive. Get over it. And we’re welcome here, right?
  • The two messengers very quickly speed back to their group.
  • Virgil’s thoroughly sick of Dante’s celebrity and tells him to move on, but to keep his ears open.
  • The penitents call after them to stop and talk, and to bring word of them to the living world.
  • They announce that they all died by violence, but repented of their sins at the very last second before death.
  • Dante stops to look at them. He says he doesn’t recognize any of them but would be happy to help them.
  • One soul steps forward and asks Dante to bring news of him to Fano, his hometown, before proceeding to tell his life story. Or rather, his death story. He was betrayed and killed in Padua. He regrets fleeing towards Oriaco instead of Mira, implying that the town of Oriaco was in on the dastardly scheme. Had he gone to Mira, the penitent implies, he might still be alive. Instead, he ended up in a marsh where his blood soaked into the ground.
  • From this account, Dante can identify this man as Jacopo del Cassero.
  • Then without a break, another penitent starts talking. He asks for Dante’s help in bringing news to the Montefeltro. (If this sounds familiar, it should. We’ve already met Guido da Montefeltro amongst the false counselors in Hell. For more, check out Shmoop's coverage of Inferno.). He names himself as Buonconte da Montefeltro.
  • Dante freaks out and asks him how he died. The last anyone had seen of him was in the battle of Campaldino. After that, nobody could find his body.
  • Buonconte gives his story: during the battle, he suffered a throat wound and was running for his life when he fell along the banks of the Archiano, repented, and died. He stops to beg Dante to retell this true story and dispel any rumors about him. After death, he was taken by an angel in Heaven, despite a Hell demon’s argument. Buonconte compares the demon’s ill will to the power of a storm. A storm like the one that suddenly broke loose that night, flooded the Archiano, and buried Buonconte’s body in silt and debris. That’s why nobody could find him.
  • Suddenly, a third soul speaks; it belongs to a woman, who identifies herself as La Pia and begs Dante to take her story to the living world… only after he’s rested a bit, though. She implies that her treacherous husband caused her death, despite his wedding vows to her.