Dante's Divine Comedy - Symbolism in the Punishment of Sin in The Inferno

Dante's Divine Comedy - Symbolism in the Punishment of Sin in The Inferno

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The Symbolism in the Punishment of Sin in Dante's Inferno  

 
Inferno, the first part of Divina Commedia, or the Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri, is the story of a man's journey through Hell and the observance of punishments incurred as a result of the committance of sin. In all cases the severity of the punishment, and the punishment itself, has a direct correlation to the sin committed. The punishments are fitting in that they are symbolic of the actual sin; in other words, "They got what they wanted." (Literature of the Western World, p.1409) According to Dante, Hell has two divisions: Upper Hell, devoted to those who perpetrated sins of incontinence, and Lower Hell, devoted to those who perpetrated sins of malice. The divisions of Hell are likewise split into levels corresponding to sin. Each of the levels and the divisions within levels 7,8, and 9 have an analogous historical or mythological figure used to illustrate and exemplify the sin.

The first of the two divisions of Hell is Upper Hell. Upper Hell is the area habitated by those committing sins of incontinence or lack of self-restraint. This lack of self-restraint could be in the form of anything from sex to mood. Before delving into the sins of incontinence, one must first look into the first inconsistency of the Inferno. This inconsistency is found in the Vestibule of Hell. The Vestibule of Hell contains the trimmers and the neutrals. Although almost all other sins mentioned in the Inferno are of an ethical, universal standpoint, the ones mentioned here are sins only from the Christian point of view. These neutrals are the people who either showed no partisanship or did not take sides. Lines 37-39 and 46-50 read:

They are joined with that choir...


... middle of paper ...


...ion. Dante cites now-historical and mythological figures to exemplify the sins and to make for the better understanding of sin to even the most inept of readers. This work stands alongside The Bible as one of the greatest religious-literary masterpieces of all time.

 

Works Cited

Literature of the Western World, Volume 2. 4th edition by Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1997.

Works Consulted

Niven, Larry and Pournelle, Jerry. Inferno. New York: Pocket Books,1976.

MacAllister, Archibald T. Introduction. Inferno. By Dante. New York: Mentor, 1954.

Pinsky, Robert. The Inferno of Dante. New York: Harper Collins, 1994.

Shippey, T.A. "Into Hell and Out Again". Times Literary Supplement, 8 July 1977, .820.

Spinrad, Norman. Introduction to Inferno, by Niven and Pournelle. Boston: Gregg Press, 1979.

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