In Dante’s Inferno, the punishment for a sin is the representation and reflection of the sin itself. The law of Dante’s Hell is symbolic retribution, which means that the specific attributes of the sin--how it was committed, by whom, and its effects--are concretely embodied in the specific nature of the punishment. This paper will attempt to show, by going through the geography of Dante’s Hell, how the sins in Dante’s Inferno are related to their punishments.
The epic Inferno has been a classic throughout the course of time, and it’s story still has a relevance today. The gory details of the punishments, to the flowing language of the text, this story has an eternal song that constantly sings to its readers. Many people have their favorite parts of the text, but one of the most favorite are the punishments themselves. Dante thought through each and every punishment, and who he placed in each crime. It didn’t matter if the character was real in Dante’s time period, or if the person came from another tale. They each had their crime and, according to Dante, paid for each and every one of them . A few favorite punishments brought on by Dante were of the following: the lustful, trapped in their never-ending tempest, the flatterers, cursed to eating excrement for eternity, and the fortune-seers, forced forever to see behind them.
“Inferno” by Dante Alighieri, written in the fourteenth century, is the first part of Dante’s epic poem, “Divine Comedy.” “Purgatorio” and “Paradiso” followed it. “Inferno” was an allegorical account of Dante as he descends through the nine levels of Hell with his guide, Roman poet Virgil. As Dante travels through the levels, or concentric rings of Hell, he begins to have a new understanding of religion and begins also to question his own morals and ethics. In the first few rings, Dante feels a large amount of pity for the tortured souls he sees. However, as he reaches the inner rings, he is less inclined to feel pity for the sinner souls, and eventually realizes that to feel pity for those in Hell is to demonstrate a lack of understanding. This is because divine justice is infinitely perfect and sinners receive punishment in proportion to their sins. The Sullen choke on mud, the Wrathful attack each other, the Gluttonous are forced to eat excrement, and so on. Dante refused to believe that every sinner is destined to suffer in the same Hell regardless of the severity of their sins. This highlights one of the major themes of “Inferno”: the idea that God’s justice is perfect. As harsh as it may seem, this punishment is completely deserved by the sinners.
Dante’s Inferno is one of the three parts of his Divine Comedy. The Inferno is divided into thirty-four cantos, each containing a description of a specific region of hell. Sinners in each area are punished for different sins. Sinners of lust suffer in upper hell, sinners of violence in middle hell, and the sinners of fraud in the lowest part of hell. The sufferings of these people are portrayed through Dante’s eyes as he descends lower and lower into hell with Virgil, his helper. The punishment for each sinner corresponds to the sin that they committed. In Canto 18, Dante and Virgil travel into the First and Second Pouch of the eighth circle of hell, also called Malebolge. This region of hell is divided into ten parts, or "pouches", where sinners of "ordinary" fraud are punished. In the First Pouch, the panders and seducers are whipped by horned demons. Here Dante encountered Venédico Caccianemico, a Bolognese who pandered his own sister, giving her to another man as a prostitute. These panders and seducers had forced other people to obey them, many times against their will, and had tortured them if they didn’t listen. As compensation for their sins, they are being held under the control of the demons, and are also being tortured continually. This continual suffering also accounts for the surplus time these sinners had in manipulating others. In the Second Pouch, flatterers are punished by being made to live in an abysmal pit of excrement. Flatterers are sycophants who try to use insincere and excessive praise to look good in other people’s eyes.
Everyone has a different perception of what really is heaven and hell and where people end up in the after life. Some people are not even religious and have their own personal thoughts about what is next after death. The Inferno or to be more precise “Hell” can be described and defined as a place where people end up after death in the natural world, when people have not followed God’s ways and laws of living. It is has been depicted throughout the years of time that suffering in hell is horrific, gruesome, and unimaginable. In Dante’s Inferno, Dante portrays the protagonist as he is guided by his ghostly friend Virgil the poet through the nine chambers of Hell. The transition from one circle to another is very shocking and graphic at what he witnesses through each circle. Dante uncovers where each sin will lead people to once the sinners souls face death. He faces many trials and tribulations through the beginning to end of the Inferno. Dante felt impelled to write the Inferno because he was going through his own personal struggles at the time. In a way he was extremely depressed because he was exiled out of Florence, and the love of his life Beatrice died. While Dante was in exile for so many years, it allowed him to write some of his most significant works of literature that people still read to this day.
For centuries humans have been drawing parallels to help explain or understand different concepts. These parallels, or allegories, tell a simple story and their purpose is to use another point of view to help guide individuals into the correct line of thought. “The only stable element in a literary work is its words, which if one knows the language in which it is written, have a meaning. The significance of that meaning is what may be called allegory.”(Bloomfield) As Bloomfield stated, it is only how we interpret the words in an allegory that matters, each person can interpreted it in a slightly different way and allegories are most often personalized by a reader. Dante’s Inferno allegory is present throughout the entire poem. From the dark wood to the depths of Dante’s hell he presents the different crimes committed in life as they could be punished in death.
“Early in the spring of 1300, "midway along the road of our life," Dante is lost and alone in a dark, foreboding forest. To survive this ordeal, he must visit the three realms of the afterlife, beginning with Hell.” (Smith) Dante’s Inferno, one of the great classical poems that have come out of literature that’s topic is hell. Dante’s Inferno, gives a descriptive look into hell, from the eyes of Dante. Dante goes into detail about every part of hell. The people, what it looks like, sins to go there, the whole shah-bang. Dante splits up hell into nine different parts. In which he sends different types of sinners to each part. Each hell is made up differently, each has different systems that make up that particular systems. For example, circle three, has Cerberus the three headed dog, and another circle is completely frozen over. There are three circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno that are the best in the book: Circle one, circle six, and circle three.
The Middle Ages spawned a revolutionary arc in religious activity. Having welcomed Christianity, and taking roots from Greek and Roman spirituality, the arts had evolved alongside divine beliefs. Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy explored the realms of Christianity, which included Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Heaven (Paradiso), with the fictitious account of Dante himself traveling to each individual place. As such, his masterpiece had become a wonder of the literature world. Alongside it, the artistic visions of Donatello and Brunelleschi had held Greek and Roman beliefs in high regards as a majority of their architecture, sculptures, and other artistic aspects had derived directly from those ancient beliefs. Finally, music had
Dante created a journey through hell specifically to point out those living in the error of their ways and to put them on the path of salvation during his time. The order of hell and the punishments directly related to his era and his point of view. In order to modernize his inferno you have to look at our civilization and how the majority of people view different sins.
Dante's use of allegory in the Inferno greatly varies from Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in purpose, symbolism, characters and mentors, and in attitude toward the world. An analysis of each of these elements in both allegories will provide an interesting comparison. Dante uses allegory to relate the sinner's punishment to his sin, while Plato uses allegory to discuss ignorance and knowledge. Dante's Inferno describes the descent through Hell from the upper level of the opportunists to the most evil, the treacherous, on the lowest level. His allegorical poem describes a hierarchy of evil.