While Dante has the audacity to describe Lucifer himself in his Inferno he never describes God directly. Rather, he describes other entities from heaven, and expressions of God’s will. Thus, an image of God doesn’t really exist in Inferno. Early in the journey though, Dante equates God and justice as he crosses the Acheron, and does not present an image of a just God, but suggests that God is justice itself. This equating of God to justice occurs when Virgil first has to invoke God’s authorization for Dante’s journey. When Virgil has to insist that they are allowed to be there later God and justice are recalled, implying that God himself is present in the punishments in Hell and that those punishments are just.
Dante suggests God is justice because justice and God are what allow passage across the Acheron. When Dante and Virgil first attempt to cross the Acheron they are stopped by Charon. Virgil tells Charon to allow them to pass because their “passage has been willed above, where One/ can do what He has willed” (III.95-96). The “He” who is willing their passage from above is clearly God. Thus, God is the one who allows anyone to cross the Acheron. Later Virgil explains to Dante that the souls waiting to cross the Acheron are not afraid to but “Celestial justice spurs them on” (III.125). The “celestial justice” which prompts the souls to cross the Acheron is also the force which allows Dante to cross. Dante was allowed to cross because God willed it, so God is also the “celestial justice” Virgil describes. When God’s will is invoked later justice is also implied, as it is when Minos also challenges Dante’s passage.
When Virgil replies to Minos’ challenge to the journey with the same words he used w...
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...eron and pass Minos. Likewise, justice prompts souls to cross the Acheron. Justice and God then are equated as they both allow passage over the Acheron. Passing Minos also requires God’s will, and therefore also requires the act to be just. The souls who pass Minos then are in Hell justly. Likewise, the reference to God’s will outside the city of Dis shows that God’s justice is in fact present even in Hell. Dante uses this synonymity of God and justice to imply that God is in fact everywhere in the Inferno as souls receive their just due. Since justice is present even in the chaos of Dante’s Hell, can there be any question of there being justice in the chaos of the world around us?
Alighieri, Dante, Eugenio Montale, and Peter Armour. "Inferno." The Divine Comedy. Trans. Allen
Mandelbaum. New-York: Everyman's Library, 1995. N. pag. Print.
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