The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
The Divine Comedy concentrates on the imaginary journey of Dante to Hell. Dante manages to draw a phantasmagoric and allegoric picture of life after death where every human being is supposed to get what he (she) deserves. In the “Inferno” part of The Divine Comedy, the author illustrates the unbearable torments and sufferings that the sinners have to endure for their wrongdoings on the earth. The author decides to bring the readers to Hell to demonstrate that every sin is a subject to an appropriate punishment that sometimes is more severe than the sin itself. He emphasizes that whatever a human being commits on the earth, the time for retaliation dually comes. If human deeds and behaviors are in contradiction with God’s commandments, the one is supposed to receive a consequent dreadful punishment. Every evil is to be punished even in the world after death. Dante has dissected sins that primarily coincide with Bible, the ones that deserve to be accorded. Creating his epic, Dante calls human beings to reconsider their lives and exercise good judgments to avoid the pain and sufferings in the eternity.
The poet dissects such sins as the absence of baptism, lust, gluttony, greed, wrath and envy, heresy, various kinds of fraud and the worst sin as treachery. The sinners are put to Hell having different circles. The worse and the deeper the sin has damaged the soul, the worse punishment is meant for the damned Miserables. Inferno is a dark, fire-lighted place where a sinful soul does not have a hope for deliverance, and hardly can find comfort, peace and forgiveness. The Hell is represented as a conical hollow in the earth created when Lucifer was thrown from Heaven.
Dante illustrates Hell as a spiral of nine circles. Every further circle means the heavier sin, and consequently brings more spiritual sufferings and unstoppable tortures for the sinners as Dante and Virgil observe descending further into the lower circles of Hell. Dante repeatedly emphasizes on retaliation for the mundane desires.
At the beginning of the The Divine Comedy Dante together with his guide Virgil enter the first circle of Hell. There, the souls of the righteous, but unchristened people are forced to languish for the sin of not being baptized. “Though they have merits, that is not enough, because they lacked baptism” as these souls lived before Christianity came s (Alighieri, IV, 73). It is their only sin, and not another evil. Here, Dante represents the souls of the great ancient heroes, Greek and Roman philosophers, and poets such as Virgil, Homer, Horace, Lucan, Ovid, Aeneas, Electra, Caesar, Socrates and Plato, Diogenes, Seneca and Euclid, and others.
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The second bowel of Hell is guarded by Minos who “wraps his tail around himself that marks the sinner’s level” and pushes the sinful soul into the endless darkness. (Alighieri, V, 77). The second circle is meant for the sinners who “sinned within the flesh, subjecting reason to the rule of lust” (Alighieri, V, 78). Such sinners are tortured with unstoppable rotation of the “assailing wind, lament and moan” (Alighieri, V, 77). Here, the sinful adulterers cannot hope to have a rest or any relief from pain. Their flesh as the sin’s originator has to go through eternal torments. The reading audience also comes across Semiramis, the ancient empress, whose “vice of lust became so customary, that she made license licit in her laws” to avoid the scandal and public accusation. Then, the readers see the great Egyptian “the wanton” Cleopatra, and Helen who was the cause of the ten-years Trojan war, as well as Paris, Tristan, Achilles, and others. The poor sinners placed in the second hellish circle have to suffer because of love. Their love was forbidden, thus it conflicts with the God’s commands. Here, the readers hear the narration about a tragic love between Paolo and Francesca de Rimini who are sentenced to the eternal torments for their sinful love. Dante is rather strict with the sinners without giving them a chance for deliverance. He sincerely shows up sympathy to the sinners, but in spite of his compassion and regret, they cannot avoid the fair punishment.
The third infernal circle is meant for the gluttons who suffer from “gross hailstones, water gray with filth and snow” (Alighieri, VI, 82). The gluttons are submerged beneath the stinking mess and cruelly tortured by a vicious doglike beast named Cerberus.
The squanderers, possessors, and the misers endure their punishment in the fourth circle. Dante does not have mercy even on the Pope and cardinals inside this hellish bowel for being supremely greedy and placing the material values on top of the spiritual ones. They urge to roll heavy weights and constantly abuse each other.
In the fifth circle, there are the shades that endure their punishment for inability to repress wrath and pacify envy. They beat each other with their heads and chests, and strive to tear each other into pieces. The envious ones are put underneath the stinky slime water and “make the plain of water bubble” (Alighieri, VII, 89).
The sixth section describes the punishments meant for the atheists who deny the existence of life after death and preach the soul dies simultaneously with the flesh. Here is the place for heretics and heresy spreaders. They burn in eternal fire.
The seventh circle is divided into three sections and is meant for the guilty in violence against other humans. There, the punishment is prepared for the tyrants and dictators, and all the murderers who are accused in violence against the neighbors. Here, the one comes across with Alexander the Great and fierce Dionysius. Also, it is meant for the self-murderers and the ones who are guilty in violence against God. Here, the poet meets his teacher Brunette Latini.
The eighth circle is the place where “ordinary” fraud is severely punished: panders, seducers, flatterers immersed in excrement; simonists are set with heads down into holes of the rock; astrologers, magicians, barrators, hypocrites, thieves, sowers of scandal and schism, falsifiers of metals, falsifiers of words, liars are tormented with flames.
The journey within Dante’s Inferno ends up in the ninth circle where the most dreadful human crime is punished. It is treachery. The traitors are immersed inside the ice, heads bent down. The worst and the most severe punishment is meant for the traitors against Benefactors. The well-known Brut and Judas are the worst representatives of a mean treachery. Lucifer is the emperor of that kingdom as the core of the human evil.
Dante applies contrapasso, the theory expressed by Aristotel consisting in that a soul suffering in Hell has to receive such punishment that would contrast or extend sins they did while living on the earth”. Dante uses various allegoric, metaphoric comparisons, creates extraordinary, almost realistic pictures of the terrible sufferings of the sinners to shake the readers’ imagination. The author portrays various Bible and ancient fabulous characters to enforce the impression on the readers and push them to the appropriate comprehension and rethinking of their lives and deeds. Dante invents the severe punishments to make the sinners experience even more physical sufferings which obviously can affect the reader’s conscience to the bigger extent. Perhaps, Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy exaggerates in drawing and description of the sinner’s sufferings and fabulates the punishment for the ones, but he pursues the aim of improving the human nature.
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