Dante Essay, Research Paper
Dante s Inferno
Death and what comes after has always been a topic of great interest and uncertainty. Many have tried to depict their own vision of the afterlife, be it heaven or hell, paradiso or inferno. The inferno is more than just a fictional story about someone traveling through the universe; it s more like an autobiographical journey of life through its author, Dante. Within the text of the inferno, Dante gives his audience a vivid clear presentation of what he as a follower of the Christian religion perceives to be hell. Dante shows that human sin is punishable in various degrees of severity and that this is dependent on the nature of one s sinful actions. He sets forth what could very well be the most fully developed Christian understanding of justice on earth. This understanding being the ideology, that what we do as human beings, will determine what happens to us in the event of death based on God s judgment.
Dante structures the inferno around thirty-four cantos. Each of these cantos marks a steady progression from the mildest to worst of sins. Dante narrates his descent and observation through various circles and pouches. One part of this depiction is his descriptions of various punishments that each sinner has received. The various justice that is done and punishments that are sentence are broken down into two types. The first type he borrows from various gruesome and cruel forms of torture. The second type, though often less physical agonizing, is Dante s creative and imaginative punishments for sins. The torturous forms are served to create justice in a different aspect then the more creative forms of punishment. The formers purpose to create physical pain and the latter s purpose to inflict mental and psychological suffering, however sometimes the creative punishments create physical pain too.
The first cruel and physical punishment hails from the medieval time for the sin of heresy. The penalty in the medieval era for heresy was often public humiliation or death by burning. In the inferno, to be a heretic was to follow one s opinion and not the doctrines of the Christian church. Dante s punishment for the arch-heretics and those who followed them were to be ensepulchered. These red-hot sepulchers were similar to the description of the punishment of the heretics in that they too were imprisoned and burned. Dante believes that these sins were very severe and therefore justice for them would be one of the worst punishments. Dante not only punishes them with hot and crowded tombs, but he punishes them with their beliefs and lets them feel what it is like to die eternally and thus lie in a tomb till apocalypse. These punishments are more focused on inflicting physical and bodily pain rather than a mental one.
The first of Dante s more creative punishments was for those who were damned because they sinned within the flesh, subjecting reason to the rule of lust. The lustful, members of incontinence, are condemned to swirl forever in the hellish hurricane, which never rests. Dante s punishment for the lustful and adulterous is both creative and simple. The lustful are swirled around in a storm just as they were tossed about in life by lust. Although the sinners experience severe physical discomfort, the real punishment is within the mind. Since the sinners were incapable of desirous control, they are now condemned to an eternal lack of control. This condemnation is one example of his justice is served in a different way than by physical pain.
One of Dante s most witty and ingenious punishments is those for the avaricious and prodigal. The avaricious sinners are those who were miserly on earth, and the prodigal were squanderers. Dante s punishment for them was that the two groups of sinners be paired up with an opposite. Then the two would roll the weights around in a semi-circle until they struck at each other. These punishments don t really involve any physical torture, other than pushing the weight back and forth, another punishment designed to inflict mental anguish.
The struggle of spirit that Dante undergoes when entering hell mirrors the trials that humanity faces. Dante conveys that in order to preserve through hardship, the nature of evil must be learned and refused, he says that moral and intellect are a necessity for this. Here you must put by all division of spirit and gather your soul against cowardice This is the place, where souls have lost the good of intellect, (14-18). With the help of reason, Dante is able to face evil. Losing the fear of God is the primary cause for the pursuit of evil. When with God is lost and not recovered, punishment is given accordingly to God s will, all who die in the shadow of God s wrath converge to this form and every clime and country (199-200). God s will must not be questioned. I It is crucial to face the trials that bring eternal life with Him. Justice in the inferno is none other than God s will. And God s will is punishments for those who lived lives without purpose, committing sins. These people Have no hope of death their miserable lives have sunk so low that they must envy other fate. Mercy and Justice deny them a name (42-47). Their suffering cannot be ceased by death, and this is justice according to God. They must reside in hell, in anguish, with the knowledge that no one on earth misses their presence.
Dante throughout the Inferno shows the connection between life on earth and life after death. H also puts forth the fundamental beliefs in the Christian religion. He describes hell as an unjust, but just place of endless torture, complete and utter hopelessness. Within the circular body of hell, each level contains unique punishments specific to the nature of the sin. Now the punishments might seem absurd and unjust for the crimes, but back then these punishments were just and fitting for the sins that they have committed.