A devil carrying a soul of the damned in his claws runs toward Dante and Virgil. They watch in horror as the devil throws the sinner into a river of boiling tar. This is the circle of the grafters, those corrupt politicians who abused their authority in office. Florentine politics are evident in this canto where the fraudulent leaders who exiled Dante the poet from his home reside. These souls are condemned to live eternally in boiling tar with the devils constantly prodding them under with pitchforks (Dante compares it to chefs pushing down the meat in a stew).
Virgil has Dante hide behind a rock while he talks to the leader of the devils explaining that they are to pass through Hell on God’s command. The bridge to the next level is broken, and the devils agree to lead Dante and Virgil to a good bridge to cross. After coming out of hiding, Dante is terrified and wary, while Virgil is confident in the devils word. As it turns out, Dante’s fears are justified.