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
Anyone who has read Dante’s Inferno is familiar with a certain main character, Virgil. Who is this Virgil that Dante put in his book and where did Dante get the idea of having Virgil as his guide on Dante’s journey through the spirit world? In addition to Virgil, readers of Inferno are also familiar with concepts and characters such as God, angles, demons, Satan, and Hell. Where did Dante get these concepts? Dante did not come up with these ideas on his own, but used familiar characters and places from outside sources such as the Aeneid and the Bible to create his epic poem.
“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.” This maxim applies to the poet Dante Alighieri, writer of The Inferno in the 1300s, because it asserts the need to establish oneself as a contributor to society. Indeed, Dante’s work contributes much to Renaissance Italy as his work is the first of its scope and size to be written in the vernacular. Due to its readability and availability, The Inferno is a nationalistic symbol. With this widespread availability also comes a certain social responsibility; even though Dante’s audience would have been familiar with the religious dogma, he assumes the didactic role of illustrating his own version of Christian justice and emphasizes the need for a personal understanding of divine wisdom and contrapasso, the idea of the perfect punishment for the crime. Dante acts as both author and narrator, completing a physical and spiritual journey into the underworld with Virgil as his guide and mentor. The journey from darkness into light is an allegory full of symbolism, much like that of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which shows a philosopher’s journey towards truth. Therefore, Dante would also agree with the maxim, “Wise men learn by others’ harms; fools scarcely by their own,” because on the road to gaining knowledge and spiritual enlightenment, characters who learn valuable lessons from the misfortunes of others strengthen their own paradigms. Nonetheless, the only true way to gain knowledge is to experience it first hand. Dante’s character finds truth by way of his own personal quest.
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.
Among the followers of Christianity, questions arise in order to find the righteous path to Heaven’s gate. On the contrary, there are those who seek answers for what is forsaken. Dante Alighieri fully expresses himself on this dilemma in his written work, The Divine Comedy. The first part of the epic poem is Inferno; Dante defines and constructs Hell, based on the morals and judgments set by common beliefs during his time. Dante also uses Aristotle’s philosophical work to shape the structure of Hell. Undergoing a journey through Hell as himself, Dante places famous literary icons to assist in questioning the acts of justice. Dante builds and contrast between the sinners who are innocent, and those who deliberately perform evil deeds. Virgil, a fellow poet and pagan, exemplifies wisdom and clarity that which Dante must learn through his endeavor. Virgil’s guidance will provide contrast and the necessary guidance to reach Paradise. The change of character Dante experience, is dreadful; pity and remorse must be exempted to honor retribution for the sinners’ defiance against God. All the answers regarding Hell, lies upon meeting the primal sinner, Lucifer, the Fallen Angel. Dante’s journey unfolds a critical analysis in which portrays the human struggle in every individual. There are several implications of the four functions of myth that can be derived from Dante’s Inferno. Dante divides Hell into three dispositions: incontinence, malice and brutality. (Alighieri, Dante, and Longfellow 6.79-82)
In Dante’s Inferno, throughout the epic journey of the character Dante into the depth of Hell, he encounters a number of beasts and monsters as he passes along the way, especially through the seven stations of the greatest monsters of Hell. The most significant of these seven major monsters is of central importance to the character Dante’s journey as well as to the narrative, for these monsters not only challenge the presence of the character Dante in Hell, but they are also the important custodians of Hell. Moreover, some of them even have more particular duty to perform, apart from being the Hell guardians.
Throughout Inferno, Dante is able to show the influence that Christianity has on his writing. These influences aren’t limited to just literature as it is seen in aspects such as politics and customs. The influence of Christianity on western civilization is undeniable and can be seen as the most important contribution to the development of the world as it has become known. Inferno happens to be one example of the influence that Christianity has had amongst a variety of others.
During the Divine Comedy, Dante is placed back on the path to salvation after help from supernatural aids. Dante was turned on to the wrong path and Beatrice, Dante’s past lover, needed to show him what would happen if he continued on the wrong path. Dante is being taken through the three different parts of the afterlife: The Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. Dante changes in his faith, and ideas of faith in these places, by the lessons from the guides and the tough situations.
Religion, in its purest form, has the ability to bring together a group of people. Nevertheless, a difference in religious beliefs can cause an immense rift to form between even the closest of bonds. Not only can conflicting beliefs break up relationships, but it has the ability to segregate large or small masses of people and causing animosity to bloom in the hearts of these people. Dante Alighieri’s poem The Inferno, translated by John Ciardi, shows the struggle between Catholics and non-Catholics in early Italy. Those who did not conform to the Catholic way of life faced the possibility of death or imprisonment. Today, if a person from a religious household, especially a child, makes the decision to forgo their parent’s faith, oftentimes more negative outcomes occur than positive ones. Not only did the Catholic church disregard and shame non-churchgoers, but Dante, as an author, did as well. As for me, I grew up a devout Christian, however as time progressed I began to drift away from my family’s religion and choose my own path.
In conclusion, “Inferno” by Dante Alighieri is an allegorical epic poem that had a great impact on the Renaissance view of Hell and Christianity in general. This metaphorical narrative filled with symbolism and political commentary. This poem had an enormous impact on religion during the Renaissance as well as the way people thought in general.