Dante's Inferno Research Paper

2001 Words9 Pages
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. Dante’s Hell is divided into nine circles, some of which are subdivided into rings. Each circle designates a sin and each ring designates a category falling under that sin. The first five circles hold the sins of incontinence. The sins of incontinence include lust, gluttony, hoarding and wasting, and wrath and sullenness. The souls here committed sin by following uncontrollable urges. The walls of the city of Dis mark the sixth circle of Hell. Here lie the heretics of every cult. Dis also marks the beginning of a new type of sin: the sins of malice. From Circle Six onward lie the sinners who committed their sin with the intent of sinning and were not just driven by their appetites. The seventh circle of Hell has three rings, together they represent the sins of violence and inhumanity against others, the self, and God. These sins include murder, war, suicide, blasphemy, perversion, and usury. Circle Eight is devoted to sins of deceit and fraud, and the Malebolges (evil pits). Circle Nine is the final circle of Hell. Here Satan himself delivers punishment to those guilty of treachery. Beginning just beyond Vestibule of Opportunists, the first circle of Hell, also called Limbo, houses the virtuous pagans and unbaptized children. These souls are not guilty of any particular sin, ... ... middle of paper ... .... Auerbach states: In conceiving the punishments of Hell, Dante employs mythical material and elements of popular faith; they are enormously imaginative, but each single one of them is based on strict and precise reflection, on the rank and degree of the sin in question, on a thorough knowledge of rational systems of ethics; and each one, as a concrete realization of the idea of divine order, is calculated to provoke rational thought concerning the nature of this sin, that is, the way in which it deviates from the divine order. (111) In spite of the “pleasing human traits” of some of the sinners, Hollander argues that “we are never authorized by the poem” to truly sympathise with the sinners, because Dante insists on God’s justice (106,107). Indeed, inscribed over the gates of hell is “Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore” (Sacred justice moved my architect, III,4).
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