Dante's Inferno - Level 3 Picture

In canto 6 of The Inferno Dante encounters a level of hell reserved for the gluttonous. There, the souls of sinners endure endless freezing rain, and they are lorded over by the monster Cerberus.

In classical mythology, Cerberus is a three-headed dog. However, Dante’s word choice suggests he has a different interpretation of the beast, he says:

“(13) Over the souls of those submerged beneath
that mess, is an outlandish, vicious beast,
his three throats barking, doglike: Cerberus.

His eyes are bloodred; greasy, black, his beard;
His belly bulges, and his hands are claws;
His talons tear and flay and rend the shades.

(22) When Cerberus, the great worm, noticed us
He opened wide his mouths, showed us his fangs;
There was no part of him that did not twitch.”

You can see that here Dante describes Cerberus as a “worm” or dragon-like beast with “beard,” “hands,” and a “bulging belly.” Dante says that Cerberus’ "bark" is "doglike," but that is just a simile and does not indicate that his Cerberus really is a dog.

I chose to run with it and depict Cerberus as a ghastly, human-shaped demon that truly represents the human sin of gluttony.

The main point of my take on the Inferno is to tell a version of the story that illustrates how human beings, who can become all things if they put their minds to it, can become monsters if they put their minds to it, too.

As such, I’m more interested in making the audience identify with Cerberus, the monster, than with the multitude of shades that suffer in the cold rain.

To me, Cerberus is the real personification of gluttony in the canto, and the shades themselves are just examples of what gluttony has done to people in the past. Working from this point of view, I returned to the newspaper theme that I used for the second layer of hell, and made it so that all of the shades in level three are stories of how people have fallen victim to the effects of gluttony, while Cerberus himself is the gluttonous being who is making it all happen.

I thought about all the social and environmental problems that could be called results of human avariciousness and gluttony, and then the headlines for the newspaper, which I called “The Evening Shade,” came easily to me. Cerberus claws at “The Shade” and tears it to pieces, and he even eats pages from it. This shows that not only has gluttony caused the problems, but Cerberus takes it even further by eating the victims of his overeating.

I also want to convey the sheer grossness and misery of Cerberus’ condition. He is a disgusting creature with his belly sticking out and his fly open and he’s sitting in a puddle outside the subways station, but he’s so entrenched in his desire to eat that he doesn’t notice how horrid his situation is.

I want to point out to people that the choice between being an angel and being a demon is the same as the choice between being truly happy and being miserably distracted by things that don’t matter, and this is a choice that we all have to make every day.
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