DanteS Inferno Second Circle Of Hell Essay

Dante?S Inferno: Second Circle Of Hell Essay, Research Paper

Canto V

In Dante’s Inferno, part of The Divine Comedy, Canto V introduces the torments of Hell in the Second Circle. Here Minos tells the damned where they will spend eternity by wrapping his tail around himself. The Second Circle of Hell holds the lustful; those who sinned with the flesh. They are punished in the darkness by an unending tempest, which batters them with winds and rain. Hell is not only a geographical place, but also a representation of the potential for sin and evil within every individual human soul. As Dante travels through Hell, he sees sinners in increasingly more hideous and disgusting situations. For Dante, each situation is an image of the quality of any soul that is determined to sin in that particular way. The punishment of the lustful is fitting: those who were obsessed with the stimulation of the flesh in life now have their nerves unceasingly stimulated by the tempest. They are also prone and in the dark, in the manner in which lust is most often acted out. Dante asks Virgil to name some of the individual souls for him; among them are many of the great renown. Helen, for whose sake the Trojan Wars were fought, is one of them. Others include Cleopatra, Achilles, and Semiras, each with their own story of love and lust. Dante is at once filled with great pity for those who were “torn from the mortal life by love” (V. 69). With Virgil’s permission, Dante asks to call to “those two swept together so lightly on the wind and still to sad” (V. 74). One woman answers him, recognizing him as a living soul. Dante knows her as Francesca, and she relates to him how love was her undoing. She was reading with a man, Paolo, about an Arthurian Legend of Lancelot, “how love had mastered him” (V. 129). The two came to a particularly romantic moment in the story, and could not resist exchanging a single kiss; that very day, they were killed because of it. Dante is so overcome with pity that he faints. Paolo and Francesca represented, or symbolize, sinful love by example. They show how an intrinsically noble emotion, love, if contrary to God’s law, can bring two essentially fine persons to damnation and spiritual ruin. Dante’s personal response of overwhelming pity should not blind us to the justice of the penalty. Dante describes himself as fainting at the end of Francesca’s recital, his purpose is partly to portray the attractiveness of the sin. Dante allows the lovers the bitter sweetness of inseperability in Hell, but they have lost God and thus corrupted their personalities; they can hardly be considered happy. In a sense, they have what they wanted; they continue in the lawless condition that they chose on earth. But that condition, seen from the point of view of eternity, is not bliss (p. 1695 par 2). Dante’s enormous pity for the souls suffering in the Second Circle of Hell probably stems from his own deep love for Beatrice. he is understanding of those who have fallen because of love. This sympathy even extends to a certain leniency in his placement of some of the characters in this Circle. Dido, for example, committed suicide because of her unrequited love for Aeneas. Most souls that have committed suicide end up far deeper in Hell, but Dante chooses to place Dido according to her “lesser” sin, the sin of loving too much. Dante. The Divine Comedy. Inferno. Tr. John Ciardi The Norton Anthology of World Literature Ed. Maynard Mack et al. Vol. 1 N.Y., Norton, 1995


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