Punishments in Dante's Inferno

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Dante Alighieri's The Inferno is a poem written in first person that tells a story of Dante’s journey through the nine circles of Hell after he strays from the rightful path. Each circle of Hell contains sinners who have committed different sins during their lifetime and are punished based on the severity of their sins. When taking into the beliefs and moral teachings of the Catholic Church into consideration, these punishments seem especially unfair and extreme.
Souls residing in Purgatory receive punishments despite the fact that this level is not considered part of Hell. As Dante and his guide, Virgil, enter Ante-Inferno (also known as Purgatory), Virgil explains to him that this is where the souls of those who did not take a side between God and Satan or did not do anything during their lifetime that would determine whether they would go to Hell or Heaven (III. 30-37). The punishment that the souls in Purgatory must face is being bitten by insects and weeping for the rest of eternity, which is unreasonable seeing that Purgatory, according to the Catholic Church, is a place intended for people who need to be cleansed of their sins before entering Heaven (“Catholicism and Purgatory”). The Catholic Church’s definition of Purgatory implies that the souls here have not done anything honorable enough to earn a place in Heaven nor have they done anything so wrong as to deserve being put in Hell. Because Purgatory is neither Heaven nor Hell, it does not make sense for the souls kept here to receive a punishment like the sinners in Hell do.
Similarly, souls in Limbo also face punishments even though they have not necessarily done anything that would put them in Hell. When Dante and Virgil enter the first circle of Hell, also known ...

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Although most of the punishments may have been fitting and appropriate based on the sins that were committed, there are a few that the Catholic Church would disagree with, namely the fact that blasphemers against God received such a mild punishment and that souls in Purgatory and Limbo were punished at all. In conclusion, although Dante’s The Inferno does often allude to the Bible, it is not biblically accurate and was not meant to be a teaching of the Catholic Church, but a fictional story of his own vision of Hell intended for literary purposes.

Works Cited

"Catholicism and Purgatory." - For Dummies. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.
New International Version. [Colorado Springs]: Biblica, 2011. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.
Alighieri, Dante. The Inferno of Dante. Trans. Robert Pinskey. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994. Print.
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