The three headed dog-like creature Cerberus poses a tough challenge to Dante and his companion during their spiritual quest. Cerberus guards the third circle of Hell and devours on those spirits which are guilty of gluttony. Dante’s description of Cerberus is taken after its original imagination by Virgil in Aeneid. Consequently, the three headed dog-like creature that guards the entrance of the third circle. It has an intimidating presence, accompanied by a loud growl and with snakes rising from its neck. His three throats produce
“a deafening bark, and he eagely devours like a dog intent on his meal – the fistful of dirt that Virgil throws into his mouths” Other features of Cerberus, such as his red eyes, greasy black beard, large gut, and clawed hands perhaps link him to the gluttonous spirits who suffer in the sixth circle” (Raffa, 2007, p. 40)
One of the unfortunate gluttons meted out punishment in the third circle is Ciacco, who rises up and acknowledges Dante as an inhabitant of Florence. Using his powers of prophecy Ciacco predicts that there were to be an epic battle between the two political factions of the ancient city, with the victory first going to white Guelphs, only to be squandered to the opposing black Guelphs in three years. After giving Dante the identities of other Florentines who are languishing in other circles of Hell, Ciacco “falls back to the ground, not to rise again until the Last Judgment at the end of time.” (Raffa, 2007, p. 39) Having the obstacle of Ciacco thus removed, Dante and Virgil march on to other circles.
The winged creature representing Florence is another terrifying monster for Virgil and Dante to overcome. This reptilian nature of this winged dragon is noted from the description “he who possesses the sea, the land and the whole globe”. (Alighieri, 1996, p. 406)
Plutus is another monster which Dante and Virgil encounter on their long journey through the circles of Inferno. Like Cerberus, Plutus is also a hybrid representing the vice of greed. It is hence coined the God of Wealth. Plutus possesses “the power of speech and the ability to understand Virgil’s dismissive words, while at the same time displaying animal features and a distinctly bestial rage.” (Raffa, 2007, p. 46) The wolf-like Plutus that informs Satan that Dante and Virgil are approaching the fourth circle. Virgil confronts Plutus valorously and silences him temporarily, which allows the duo to pass through unhurt. Herein arrives an enlightenment for Dante as he witnesses a
“multitude of shades damned for the sin of avarice (holding wealth too tightly) or its opposite, prodigality (spending too freely). The two groups push heavy boulders with their chests around a circle in opposite directions: when the avaricious and the prodigal collide, they turn and, after casting insults at one another, repeat the journey in the other direction.” (Raffa, 2007, p. 45)
This scene so disgusts Dante that he loses track of individual identities of the shades fighting. It is the ever alert Virgil who notes the “presence of many clerics, including cardinals and popes, among the avaricious. He also explains to Dante the divine role of Fortuna in human affairs.” (Raffa, 2007, p. 45)