Outside Influences on Dante’s Inferno

analytical Essay
839 words
839 words

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.

One important source that Dante used was Virgil’s Aeneid. According to Peter S. Hawkins, Dante cited Virgil 192 times in his writings (Hawkins 125). Dante referenced the Aeneid because he would have known that Virgil wrote something on Hell. Dante was paying respect to Virgil as a great writer by alluding to the Aeneid.

Virgil in the Aeneid thought that Hell could be entered through the mouth of a cave (Virgil 169). On the other hand, Dante, as a character in his own book, Inferno, was walking through a dark wood, and he went astray from his path and found himself in Hell.

Dante elaborates on Virgil’s idea of Hell by creating a new idea of Hell by giving it circles. Dante puts the sinners in specific circles based on what sin the sinners committed It is just like prison; criminals go to prison because they break the law. The only difference between prison and Hell is that in prison you have a certain time to serve; but in Dante’s Hell the sinner does not serve a set amount of time but still has to live with punishments forever.

When Virgil was writing the Aeneid he gleaned his theory from Greek and Roman mythology. An example of this is Charon, the...

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...ircles. He also brought Virgil in the story as his guide. In addition he used some scriptural references to help him write Inferno. However, Dante’s descriptions of Hell do not always match those of the Bible.

Works Cited
Alighieri, Dante. Inferno A New Verse Translation, Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism (Norton Critical Editions). Boston: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006. Print

Alighieri, Dante. The Inferno (Signet Classics). Trans. John Ciardi. New York: Signet Classics, 2001.

Hawkins, Peter S. “Dante and the Bible”. The Cambridge Companion to Dante. 2nd Ed. Ed. Rachel Jacoff. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. p. 125-140. Print

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Augmented Third Edition, New Revised Standard Version, Indexed. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. Print

Virgil. Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Books, 1984. Print

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that dante cited the bible more than any other source. he could have used psalm 23 verse 4 for his idea of the dark wood.
  • Describes dante alighieri's inferno: a new verse translation, backgrounds and contexts, criticism.
  • Analyzes how dante used virgil's aeneid and the bible to create his epic poem.
  • Analyzes how dante divides hell into innocent, violent, and fraudulent sections. the bible's description of hell does not always match those of the bible.
  • Explains hawkins, peter s., "dante and the bible". the cambridge companion to dante, 2nd ed.
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