Dante’s Inferno: Contrapasso
Dante’s Inferno is about an imaginary journey through afterlife. Virgil, the of a Roman novel “The Aeneid” takes Dante to the hell (Inferno), then to the mountain of Purgatory to the finally to the Garden of Eden. Now here in the Garden of Eden, Dante meets his beloved Beatrice, who had died early in her life. Beatrice became Dante’s guide and they both ascend towards the sphere of Eden. Later the Virgin Mary herself takes over as Dante’s guide accompanied by another guide. It is then that Dante sees God face to face.
Dante’s journey is based upon three parts, namely Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. The divine comedy is all about telling the readers the secrets of achieving paradise. The book also has a love story in it. Dante takes a journey through hell to look at all the levels the sinners go through in order to be punished for their deeds. As Dante and Virgil slowly descend toward the lower stages of hell they find that the suffering and the punishment gets more severe.
Contrapasso can be defined as “punishment that fits a crime”. Dante uses the Aristotelian theory named Contrapasso which says that a soul suffering in hell contrasts its sin in its life on earth. This is to ensure that the sinners do not forget their sins which they committed against God’s will. Many punishments that sinners face in hell are arbitrary. Contrapasso allow sinners to re-live the aspects of their sins again so that they would keep themselves away from committing them again in the future. Contrapasso punishes sinners in a way that gives the reflections of all the bad deeds they perform while living on earth.
Examples of Dante’s use of Contrapasso
Canto five (The Lustful)
Canto five is all about the exploration of the relationship between love and lust. The lustful love often leads the person and the lover towards the punishment of hell. According to Dante the line between love and lust is crossed when a person acts are based upon its misguiding desires. Contrapasso is described here as “tossed into a howling wind”. Lovers are thrown into the dark black wind. They are punished so to be together during their suffering. This is because they must thrive in hell for they drifted all their life following their passion and sinful desires (LucyJosieDante, 2011).
Canto Thirty-two and Thirty-three (Ugolino and Ruggieri)
In canto Thirty-two and Thirty-three the Ugoline is seen feasting upon its enemy’s head. The person who’s head is been eaten by Ugoline is Ruggieri. Ugoline and his family were left to starve to death by Ruggieri in the tower. Later on Ruggeiri’s head is eaten by the same person he left to die of hunger (LucyJosieDante). This shows the connection between the sins committed while living to the punishment faced in hell.
The punishments as described by Dante are original as well as striking because they show the instant connection between the sinful deeds committed by a person and the reprimands he gets as a result to those sins. Sinners deserve the punishments according to the seriousness of their sins. As explained by Dante the lover who ends up in hell as the result of their lustful desires are being drift by the dark black wind. This is because when they both were alive they were being drift by their evil wishes. Now their punishment is that they deserved to be drifted by the wing until eternity. This concept of punishment given to the lustful lover is original because it shows that what you do comes right ahead of you in the future. In simple terms, this confirms the concept of Karma. This concept of punishment is striking as well as hilarious.
The second example stated is daunting as it portrays the fact that a person who makes others suffer in life receives punishment to a much greater degree in hell. According to Dante the person who was been tortured or made to suffer by any other person in life, then it will make his persecutor go through much more and severe pain in hell. This shows that the sufferer has an authority over the persecutor in the life after death.
Lucy Josie Dante. (2011, December 1). What is Contrapasso? Retrieved March 22, 2013, from Dante-Inferno-Contrapasso-Ethics: http://dante-inferno-contrapasso-ethics.blogspot.com/