Dante and The Inferno Essay
The ‘inferno’ marks the first part of the remarkable poem ‘divine comedy’ written by Dante Alighieri in the 14th century. The ‘inferno’, also referred to as hell depicts the journey of Dante through hell as he marches to heaven while guided by the ghost of the great roman poet, Virgil. The story in the ‘inferno’ begins with Dante going astray in a dark wood then coming under attack by three beasts; a lion, leopard, and she-wolf which trap him. Beatrice, who is Dante’s ideal woman, sends Virgil to rescue him and together they commence a journey through the 9 circles of hell (Glenn 23). Allegorically, the ‘inferno’ describes the rejection and recognition of evil.
Dante and Virgil encounter the 1st circle of hell resided by souls that were in limbo and who got punished by infinity in an inferior type of heaven. This group includes unbaptized pagans and virtuous non-Christians such as Socrates, Julio Caesar, and Aristotle. The second circle is infested by individuals overcome with lust who got punished by failure to find calmness and tranquility. This is symbolized by violent winds that blow the souls of those residing in the circle back and forth. Dante notes famous people such as Helen of Troy and Cleopatra in the second circle (Aligheiri 34). The third circle encountered by Dante and Virgil is populated by souls of gobblers who are overseen by Cerebrus, a worm monster. In this circle, sinners are punished by lying in a vile slush that gets produced by non-stop icy rain. The vile slush is symbolic of individuals who overindulge themselves with worldly pleasures. The fourth circle is infested by souls of the greedy who are divided in two groups. The groups are seen jousting while using great weights as a weapon (Kirkpatrick 98). This is symbolic of their selfish pursuit for fortune during their lifetime. Dante witnesses many clergymen in this circle. The fifth circle is characterized by the souls of the sullen and wrathful. Here, Dante and Virgil witness those full of anger fight each other while the sullen gurgle under the water surface. Dante gets confronted by Fillippo Argenti, a prominent Florence politician who confiscated his property in this circle.
The 6th circle is home to Heretics. Here, the heretics are punished by being condemned to never-ending flaming tombs. Dante sees notable figures such as the Holy roman Emperor Frederik II and the ancient Greek philosopher Epiricus. The 7th circle is home to the violent souls and is partitioned into three rings. The outer ring, which holds some famous souls such as Guy de Montfort and Dionysus I of Syracuse is figurative of those who were vicious to others and property (Alighieri & Lombardo 34) . The middle ring is home to suicides who have become transformed to bushes and trees that get fed upon by harpies. Profligates are also observed by Dante in this ring as they are chased and torn to bits by dogs. The inner ring houses sodomites and blasphemers who are punished by their residence in a desert of scorching sand and burning rain falling from the sky. The 8th circle encountered by Dante and Virgil is home to the fraudulent. This circle is separated into 10 stony ditches with Bridges across them. The first ditch, also called Bolgie holds seducers and panderers, the second Bolgie contains flatterers, and the third ditch holds those who are justly chargeable of Simony. The fourth ditch contains sorcerers and false prophets. The fifth ditch houses corrupt politicians while the sixth holds hypocrites. Bolgia 7, 8, and 9 house hypocrites and thieves, counselors and advisers, and divisive individuals respectively (Brown 112). While Bolgia 10, is home to a variety of falsifiers such as perjurers, counterfeits, and alchemists. The 9th and final circle encountered by Dante is apportioned into 4 categories dependent on the seriousness of sin. All dwellers of the circle are punished by getting frozen in an icy lake. Each of the four categories is named after an individual who encapsulates the sin. The first category is called Caina after the Biblical can who murdered his brother Abel. The second is Antenora named after Anthenor of Troy who during the Trojan war was counsel to Priam (Gragnolati, Camilleti & Lampart 87). The third category or round is titled Ptolomaea named after Ptolemy. The fourth round is name Judecca after the apostle Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus over silver.
Dante employs an earth centered cosmology to locate hell in the center of the earth. Inferno documents Dante’s journey from the earth surface to the center of the Hell. Consumed in a downward spiral descent, Dante wiggles through the nine circles of hell to point out to the readers the various existent types of sin and the punishment meted out for each of them. From the outer circle of sin in the 1st circle to the innermost 9th circle, Dante provides the audience with a virtual tour of hell.
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Manuele Gragnolati, Fabio Camilletti, Fabian Lampart. Metamorphosing Dante: Appropriations, Manipulations, and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries. New York: Series Cultural Inquiry, 2011.