Essay on Dante?s Inferno

Essay on Dante?s Inferno

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Literature is an art. It demands the imagination of the reader, and in return the literature will communicate the message at whatever level is desired. It is not uncommon for many literary works to operate on more than various level; there are facts and truths, which are immediately apparent, and in contrast, the symbolism or allegories that may be present upon deeper investigation and exploration. In works regarding religion or spiritual matters, oftentimes it is very common to find symbolism, and this is very true of Dante's 'Divine Comedy,' a work so full of symbolism that there is only time enough to concentrate on the first two cantos of the first book Inferno.
     When putting this work into context so that the symbolism may be appreciated, we must remember that this was written a long time ago. It was written at a time when religious beliefs were different from the way they are practiced and interpreted toady. "In looking at the poems by Dante we need to understand that he portrayed his beliefs exactly as he saw them. Not the physical conditions and the geography of the land, but by way of the condition of the soul in the after life” (Scartazzini 21).
     While looking for symbolism within the individual cantos, we must also remember the symbolisms of the book as a whole. The entire work is divided into three separate sections; Inferno is the first, followed by Purgatory and ending with Paradise. The order of this work is symbolic in terms of structure. There is a single canto as an introduction, and then each of the three books is made up of thirty three cantos. This gives us a total of 100 cantos. This number is seen, at this time, by the Christian Church as a number representing perfection (Dante). The way this is calculated is that 100 is 10
squared, and 10 is also the squared number of 3 plus 1. This is significant as it is the holy trinity of 3, plus the 1 which is seen as representing the unity of God within the trinity (Dante). Therefore, it is obvious that structure is purposefully symbolic so we can assume that there are purposeful symbols in the work for us to find when we start looking at the poem in its sections. The first canto is that where Dante is in the wood, walking towards a hill and meets Virgil; it is right at this early stage where the symbolism starts. At the beginn...

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Works Cited

Dante, A (Norton trans) Divine Comedy [online] accessed at h ttp://     promo      on (2000 Nov 25).

Knight, G. Wilson, "Renaissance Prophets: Dante, Goethe, Shakespeare," in The      Christian Renaissance, Methuen & Co. Ltd., pp. 95-121. (1962).

Ralphs, Sheila, 'Dante's Journey to the Centre: Some Patterns in His Allegory',      Manchester University Press; (1972)

Scartazzin,i G. A., (Thekla trans) "On the Congruence of Sins and Punishments in      Dante's     Inferno," The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Vol. XXII, Nos. 1 & 2, ,      pp. 21-     83; (1888 January & April)

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