Blog Post 10: Pier della Vigna and the Seventh Circle

In the Second Ring of the Seventh Circle, Virgil introduces Dante to men who have been transformed into trees as punishment for their sins. Dante meets a man, who is now a tree, named Pier della Vigna, who was minister to the Emperor Frederick II, as noted in footnote #7 on page 434.

Pier explains to Dante that the others grew jealous of his position as minister to the Emperor and purposefully misguided Frederick to lose his trust in Pier. Pier says of the sin he committed which landed him in the Seventh Circle, “My mind, moved by scornful satisfaction, believing death would free me from all scorn, made me unjust to me, who was all just” (Lines 70-72). Pier committed suicide because, even though he knew he was innocent of any wrongdoing himself, he would rather die than live with Frederick thinking he was untrustworthy and a traitor.

Pier begs Dante and Virgil, if they are to return to the real world, to tell Frederick that Pier never really did anything to lose Frederick’s trust. He says, “If one of you should go back to the world, restore the memory of me, who here remain cut down by the blow that Envy gave” (Lines 76-78). The phrase “cut down” is an interesting and seemingly deliberate choice, considering that Pier is now a tree that has not been cut down and is rather still standing. It suggests that this punishment for suicide in the Seventh Circle is an example of irony. The souls are transformed into trees, because trees are known as a symbol of life. They are solid, large, and steadfast, and it takes a great deal of effort to cut them down.

In addition, there is another, more widely accepted analysis of why the people who committed suicide become trees as punishment. Trees are not human–obviously. The point of someone who committed suicide being transformed into a tree is that the person loses his or her human form. It is a sort of retributive justice, as it is a textbook example of a “Be careful what you wish for” end. The person decided to commit suicide and therefore give up his or her body; hence, in Hell, the body is not restored but rather turned into a tree. However, the trees can still feel pain, and Pier even bleeds when Dante snaps off one of his branches at Virgil’s instruction, which furthers the notion that this is retributive justice. The souls in the Seventh Circle do not get to experience any of the good aspect of being human, but they do retain the unfavorable aspects like feeling pain and bleeding. It seems like a specific kind of torture, as the souls are cognizant and aware but stuck in place as trees.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Blog Post 10: Pier della Vigna and the Seventh Circle

  1. Hi!
    This was one of my favorite circles since the punishment had so much meaning as you noted. I love that you explained how they lost their human forms and any good aspect of being human but retained the more unpleasant aspects such as pain. As you stated, it really is a sort of retributive justice, it also reminds me of they saying “you don’t know what you have until its gone.” They didn’t value and appreciate their bodies and chose to give them up through the act of suicide, but now as a punishment have lost their human forms and must live as trees.

Comments are closed.