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A ‘barrator’ sells political power or favour for money. Dante describes Ciampolo being punished for this sin by devils called the ‘Malebanche’ (Evil Claws). Blake, however, gives the devils the faces of respectable gentlemen, using elegant sticks and hooks to tear at Ciampolo. Their humanisation and sophistication may add a sinister edge to their unpleasantness, suggesting the hidden side of ostensibly upright members of society.

March 2011