Types of Punishment in Dante’s Inferno

1173 Words5 Pages
In Dante’s Inferno, Dante narrates his descent and observation of hell through the various circles and pouches. One part of this depiction is his descriptions of the various punishments that each of the different sinners has received. The various punishments that Dante envisions the sinners receiving are broken down into two types. The first type he borrows from various gruesome and cruel forms of torture and the second type, though often less physically agonizing, is Dante’s creative and imaginative punishment for sins. The borrowed torturous forms of punishments create a physical pain for the shades, whereas the creative punishments are used to inflict a mental and psychological suffering. However, it is possible for the creative punishments to inflict both a mental and physical pain upon the sinner. Several punishments that Dante envisions for the various sinners are borrowed from forms of torture. The first physical punishment Dante borrows from that is his punishment for the heretics. The penalty in the medieval era for heresy was often public humiliation or to burn to death. For Dante, to be a heretic was to follow one’s own opinion and not the beliefs of the Christian Church. Dante’s punishment for the “arch heretics and those who followed them” was that they be “ensepulchered” and to have some tombs “heated more, some less.” Since the archheretics believed that everything died with the body and that there was no soul, Dante not only punishes them with the hot and crowded tombs, but he punishes them with their beliefs and lets them feel what it is like to die. This punishment by Dante is one in which he was more focused on inflicting a physical pain rather than a mental one. Although he uses various tor... ... middle of paper ... ...h the two types of punishments that Dante has used, he has clearly illustrated how horrible Hell truly is. His physical tortures are horrifying in their disgusting extremes and his creative tortures are psychologically cruel. The various punishments are all are designed to adequately penalize each sin through his law of counter penalty. In this, there are two major differences in these punishments. First, there are differences in the origin of the idea for the punishment. Second, there is a difference in the intention of the punishment: to punish with psychological or physical anguish. Finally, the differences in the punishments can be viewed as a metaphor for The Inferno as a whole. Not only is The Inferno a combination of borrowed visions of hell and original ideas, but The Inferno is also a journey with elements both physical and mental, or spiritual, in nature.
Open Document