vidi e conobbi l'ombra di colui
che fece per viltade il gran rifiuto
(After I had identified someone,
I saw and recognized the shadow of that one
Who cowardly made the great refusal )
(Inferno, III, vv.58-60)
For centuries now critics and scholars have discussed on the identity of this soul, running in a group after an ever-changing standard. Francesco Boccaccio, one of the first critics of the Divine Comedy, believed that it was impossible to know who Dante had not wanted to name. The interpretation that this coward soul was Pope Celestinus 5th came first from Dante's own son, and became widespread in later critics. Giovanni Pascoli believed that Dante would never have placed Pietro da Morrone among those who did neither evil nor good in their lives, such as the angels who did not choose between God and Lucipher, and suggested the soul might have been Pontius Pilate, who well fit the "cowardy" and "great refusal" mentioned in the lines.