Dante's Sense of Irony Essay

Dante's Sense of Irony Essay

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In the Inferno we follow the journey of Dante as he wanders off the path of moral truth and into Hell. The Virgin Mary and Santa Lucia ask Beatrice, Dante’s deceased love, to send some help. Thus, Virgil comes to the rescue and essentially guides Dante through Hell and back to the mortal world from which he came. However, things begin to seem kind of odd. When reading the Inferno one may begin to question the way Dante describes Hell and the things that occur within, or even the things we have always believed about Hell. Despite the way it is described and well known in western civilization, Hell is not at all how we expect it to be because of Dante's use of irony throughout this poetic masterpiece.
The first thing you would notice is the overall irony of Hell itself. As mentioned, most people have a view that Hell is very chaotic and in disarray. However, In Canto IV we find out that Hell is actually very organized. The structure of it is in fact “a great funnel-shaped cave… with its bottom point at the Earth’s center. Around this great circular depression runs a series of ledges, each of which Dante calls a CIRCLE.” (Alighieri 25). Most pictures you see of hell show images of very distressed people and demons running around in turmoil. They are usually all over the place and no sense of organization is apparent. There is also a map of hell that Dante has drawn in order to give us a clearer image of what Hell supposedly looks like (Alighieri 26). Through this we find that Dante has applied his use irony into the very structure of Hell. We also see that the people we thought were myths actually exist – in Dante’s eyes. Scattered throughout the book, we see several mythological characters that have indeed descended into Hell. On...


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...e after all, he is the most sinister. The irony of this situation is compelling once we are told that Satan is in fact the “…soul that suffers the most.” (Canto XXXIV. Line 61).
Because of this use of irony, the Inferno causes you to question what we know, or what we think we know in this case. This literary device can completely change the view someone has on a certain thing. It throws you for a loop; and Dante definitely did a great job when applying irony to his poetic masterpiece.



Works Cited

Alighieri, Dante. The Inferno. Trans. John Ciardi. New York: New American Library,
2009. Print.
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. "Charon (Greek Mythology)." Encyclopedia
Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
"King James Bible Online." OFFICIAL KING JAMES BIBLE ONLINE: AUTHORIZED
KING JAMES VERSION (KJV). N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

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