to teach her husband the Torah.The women of the realm of the lustful (Dido, Helen, Cleopatra, and Francesca)represent a perversion of this ideal of the female as a divine creature, a guide to heaven.They focused on the body, rather than mind and soul, and thus got swept up in the sin of lust. I do not include Semiramis because I feel that her sin is not so much one of her ownlust, but of using the lust of others. I suppose in that respect I disagree with Dante’s placement of Semiramis, which I will probably talk about in the Realm of the Seducers.
Upon further research (i.e., beyond John Ciardi’s notes) I understand Dante’s sentencing,though I think a case can be made for placing Semiramis with the Wrathful.
This stuff gets complicated, as are, I suspect, these notes.I also wanted to devote a passage to the feminine demons of hell. I hesitate to callthem female, as God and the angels seem to possess a space that is somewhat gender neutral. However, many of the demons in Dante’s Hell are traditionally represented as being female, such as the Furies and Medusa, and the Harpies. These creatures are someof Hell’s cruelest denizens, and their perversion of the divine female makes them notablefigures.My last subject of concentration was the Eighth Circle of Hell. This circle isnotable for two reasons: 1) It contains the last named female sinner, and 2) It contains theseducers and the panderers. I find the latter very interesting, as in Dante’s time, womenwere thought to be the more libidinous sex, and were therefore blamed for any seductionsthat may have occurred. Also, prostitution, especially in Italy, was fairly common, andactually quite widely accepted. Most prostitutes were not forced into the trade by some pimp (or brother, as the case may be), but rather began procuring of their own accord.