You have escaped damnation and made it to Purgatory, a place where the dew of repentance washes off the stain of sin and girds the spirit with humility. Through contrition, confession, and satisfaction by works of righteousness, you must make your way up the mountain. As the sins are cleansed from your soul, you will be illuminated by the Sun of Divine Grace, and you will join other souls, smiling and happy, upon the summit of this mountain. Before long you will know the joys of Paradise as you ascend to the ethereal realm of Heaven.
Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad.
You have come to a place mute of all light, where the wind bellows as the sea does in a tempest. This is the realm where the lustful spend eternity. Here, sinners are blown around endlessly by the unforgiving winds of unquenchable desire as punishment for their transgressions. The infernal hurricane that never rests hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine, whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them. You have betrayed reason at the behest of your appetite for pleasure, and so here you are doomed to remain. Cleopatra and Helen of Troy are two that share in your fate.
In the third circle, you find yourself amidst eternal rain, maledict, cold, and heavy. The gluttons are punished here, lying in the filthy mixture of shadows and of putrid water. Because you consumed in excess, you meet your fate beneath the cold, dirty rain, amidst the other souls that there lay unhappily in the stinking mud. Cerebus, a canine monster cruel and uncouth with his three heads and red eyes, dwells in this level. He growls and tears at the damned with his teeth and claws.
Just before the river Styx is the Fourth Level of Hell. Here, the prodigal and the avaricious suffer their punishment, as they roll weights back and forth against one another. You will share eternal damnation with others who either wasted and lived greedily and insatiably, or who stockpiled their fortunes, hoarding everything and sharing nothing. Plutus, the wolf-like demon of wealth, dwells here.
The river Styx runs through this level of Hell, and in it are punished the wrathful and the gloomy. The former are forever lashing out at each other in anger, furious and naked, tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth. The latter are gurgling in the black mud, slothful and sullen, withdrawn from the world. Their lamentations bubble to the surface as they try to repeat a doleful hymn, though with unbroken words they cannot say it. Because you lived a cruel, vindictive and hateful life, you meet your fate in the Styx.
You approach Satan's wretched city where you behold a wide plain surrounded by iron walls. Before you are fields full of distress and torment terrible. Burning tombs are littered about the landscape. Inside these flaming sepulchers suffer the heretics, failing to believe in God and the afterlife, who make themselves audible by doleful sighs. You will join the wicked that lie here, and will be offered no respite. The three infernal Furies stained with blood, with limbs of women and hair of serpents, dwell in this circle of Hell.
Guarded by the Minotaur, who snarls in fury, and encircled within the river Phlegethon, filled with boiling blood, is the Seventh Level of Hell. The violent, the assasins, the tyrants, and the war-mongers lament their pitiless mischiefs in the river, while centaurs armed with bows and arrows shoot those who try to escape their punishment. The stench here is overpowering. This level is also home to the wood of the suicides- stunted and gnarled trees with twisting branches and poisoned fruit. At the time of final judgement, their bodies will hang from their branches. In those branches the Harpies, foul birdlike creatures with human faces, make their nests. Beyond the wood is scorching sand where those who committed violence against God and nature are showered with flakes of fire that rain down against their naked bodies. Blasphemers and sodomites writhe in pain, their tongues more loosed to lamentation, and out of their eyes gushes forth their woe. Usurers, who followed neither nature nor art, also share company in the Seventh Level.
Many and varied sinners suffer eternally in the multi-leveled Malebolge, an ampitheatre-shapped pit of despair Wholly of stone and of an iron colour: Those guilty of fraudulence and malice; the seducers and pimps, who are whipped by horned demons; the hypocrites, who struggle to walk in lead-lined cloaks; the barraters, who are ducked in boiling pitch by demons known as the Malebranche. The simonists, wedged into stone holes, and whose feet are licked by flames, kick and writhe desperately. The magicians, diviners, fortune tellers, and panderers are all here, as are the thieves. Some wallow in human excrement. Serpents writhe and wrap around men, sometimes fusing into each other. Bodies are torn apart. When you arrive, you will want to put your hands over your ears because of the lamentations of the sinners here, who are afflicted with scabs like leprosy, and lay sick on the ground, furiously scratching their skin off with their nails. Indeed, justice divine doth smite them with its hammer.
This is the deepest level of hell, where the fallen angel Satan himself resides. His wings flap eternally, producing chilling cold winds that freeze the thick ice found in Cocytus. The three faces of Satan, black, red, and yellow, can be seen with mouths gushing bloody foam and eyes forever weeping, as they chew on the three traitors, Judas, Brutus, and Cassius. This place is furthest removed from the source of all light and warmth. Sinners here are frozen deep in the ice, faces out, eyes and mouths frozen shut. Traitors against God, country, family, and benefactors lament their sins in this frigid pit of despair.