The Divine Comedy: Selected Cantos and Quotations
Dante Alighieri Hell (or Inferno in Italian) is the first part of Divine Comedy written by Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy is a brilliant poem about the journey of Dante, who is a narrator and a protagonist of the story at the same time, to the God through the nine circles of Hell. In this short essay I will dwell on the aforementioned first part of the poem.
According to the plot of the poem Dante is lost in the dark somewhere in the forest all alone, where his journey down to the center of the Earth begins from. He goes through nine circles of Hell guided by Virgil, one of the greatest Roman poets, who died long time ago. In search for salvation Dante passes all nine circles of Hell, such as Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery. The gate of Hell welcomes Dante with a sign that urges everyone who enters Hell to forget about hope as there is no place for it in the underworld of suffering souls. At every stage, going deeper to the center of Earth, Dante recognizes some sin and sees the punishment for it. In every circle of Hell there is a different punishment for the sinners, which is very similar to the kind of a sin that sinners did during their lifetime before they found themselves in hell. For instance, those who used to be fortune-tellers during their life have to suffer in Hell without being able to know what foresee what is waiting for them in future. Describing this kind of punishment Dante calls a divine revenge, which waits for every sinner upon death.
The first circle of Hell is a place where free-thinkers reside. Virgil guides Dante through it showing that he knows the ropes and understands perfectly well what is really going on in there as this circle is a place where Virgil found himself after death for being an atheist during his lifetime. The place where free-thinkers are being punished is an irony that is in tune with the spirit of the times when Dante himself had live his life through. Dante wrote this poem in the fourteenth century, which was a dark medieval time when atheists and free-thinkers were suppressed and followed close heels as heretics. In the second circle Dante witnesses souls, who are punished for being tempted by lust during their life. Cleopatra, Helen from Troy and many other famous historical figures suffer there for simple pleasures of their flesh that they were obsessed above all once they were alive. In the third circle Dante and Virgil met souls of gluttons who are guarded by a terrible monster Cerberus that has become a common name for a merciless person in our times. Each next circle is worth than the previous. Every circle of Hell, which is closer to the center of the Earth, is a place where wicked sinners suffer more and more. Every sinner is taken care of, everybody is punished, and no sin is overlooked. The more wicked the life of a sinner was, the more horrible is the punishment. The center of the Earth is a place where Satan resides. He is forced to stay there forever and will be never set free.
According to Dante, even the souls who did bad things but were convicted of sins during their life and prayed to God for forgiveness are not really forgiven. They neither go to Hell nor they are welcomed in Heaven and are forced to stay in strange place called Purgatory, where they toil to pay for all the sins they once committed before their life was over. Those who remained impenitent to the last and were not willing to be convicted of sin would find themselves in Hell when they die. This trip to the darkest corners of pain shows Dante that it impossible to escape punishment even after death and as he himself claims, “not causeless is this journey to the abyss” (Alighieri 44).
All the circles Dante is going through make him realize that life is full of temptations and all sins people cant resist will have to be paid for after life. The journey through Hell becomes a catharsis for the protagonist. It hits Dante like a ton of bricks and makes him contemplate on his one life and reconsider of the Bible and a sense of living. This poem is a message itself calling people to be responsible for their actions.
Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy. New York: CreateSpace Publishing, 2014. Print.