Styx thoughts and confusion and a bit of an argument with Corey

Bruce N H

Hi all,

I wasn't able to attend live last week (December 9) and so just listened to the recording today to get caught up before tonight's class while running a bunch of errands before the snow started falling. So I might have missed something due to distraction, but I was confused about Corey's discussion. Unless I misheard, Corey said that the joust between the misers and the prodigals and the marsh with the wrathful and the sullen were all in the same circle, and a good amount of the discussion was about why those sins were all combined in the same circle. But I really don't think they were, so I looked around and multiple different references and maps put avarice in circle 4 and the marsh in circle 5. I think Corey was suggesting that Dis is by itself the 5th circle, but I would suggest that instead the 5th circle is made up mostly of the marsh full of wrathful people, with the walls of Dis guarded by wrathful demons forming the inside border.

Looking at the text it seems the transition from the fourth circle to the fifth is in Canto 7, right after the discussion of Fortune, lines 97-108, here from Mandelbaum:

But now let us descend to greater sorrow,
for every star that rose when I first moved
is setting now; we cannot stay too long.”

We crossed the circle to the other shore;
we reached a foaming watercourse that spills
into a trench formed by its overflow.

That stream was even darker than deep purple;
and we, together with those shadowed waves,
moved downward and along a strange pathway.

When it has reached the foot of those malign
gray slopes, that melancholy stream descends,
forming a swamp that bears the name of Styx.

Line 97 - Virgil says it's time to move on and descend (i.e. from circle 4 to circle 5)
Lines 101-102 - the water forms a trench that spills down
Lines 104-105 - Virgil and Dante move "downward along a strange pathway"
Lines 106-108 - they come to the bottom of the slopes and get to the marsh.

Am I crazy, or isn't that the division between the circles. If so, the shore of the Styx marsh is the outer edge of circle 5, with the city of Dis making the inner edge.

Okay, I'm going to push my luck and argue with Corey about a second thing. In the marsh we find the wrathful and the sullen. In the discussion from last week the sullen were conflated in part with the slothful. Mostly, IMO, this was based on Canto 7 line 123:

we bore the mist of sluggishness in us (Mandelbaum)
Bearing within ourselves the sluggish reek (Longfellow)

I would suggest though, that their sin isn't sloth, but another form of anger. Their sluggishness just affects how this anger is expressed. Some people are full of anger and they express this outwardly, fighting with others in the open - the wrathful. Others are full of anger, but keep it inside, complaining to themselves, beneath the surface as it were - the sullen. This fits perfectly with what we see in the marsh - some are literally above the surface fighting with each other, while others remain literally beneath the surface, lying in the muck and complaining.

I have to say this might not come from my own thoughts. While I'm trying to not read the notes and commentaries and intros to each Canto this time around, the times I read this before I read all of those things. So I might just be echoing something I read the last time I went through the Comedy ten years ago.


Koley Porter

New Member
I agree with your assessment of the sullen. Both sullenness and wrath are types of anger. As you indicate, sullenness is anger beneath the surface. Seething, as it were, as visually indicated by the bubbling of the mire.