Dante's Inferno: Contrapasso

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Contrapasso means suffer the opposite. It refers to the punishment of souls in Dante's Inferno by a process either resembling or contrasting with the sin itself. There are many examples of contrapasso in Dante’s Inferno, as he travels ever deeper into the depths of hell. In the Inferno, we are given a tour through Hell by Dante, who is a middle-aged man. The Inferno is a story of a journey given by two different Dantes: Dante the pilgrim and Dante the author. He has a natural emotion of pity, which he is often reprimanded for. At the beginning of his journey, he is confronted by three animals. These animals represent the three rings of Hell. The first one is the she-wolf, representing incontinence, the second is the lion, representing violence, and the third is the leopard, representing fraud and deception. According to Dante, fraud and deception are the worst sins, followed by violence, then incontinence. Virgil is Dante’s guide throughout this treacherous journey. Dante uses the concept of contrapasso to express his own views on ethics of various sins, reflecting on the cultural and political state of Italy at the time. Before Dante and Virgil enter Hell proper, they find the opportunists in the vestibule. They are running around wildly chasing a banner, while nude being stung by hornets and wasps. When the split came between Satan and God, they tried to stay neutral, and now they must suffer their punishment. Here, the banner symbolizes a leader, serving as a direct punishment for their indecisive nature. They come across limbo next, where the virtuous pagans are. These are the souls of good non-Christians, who are stuck in limbo because they were never baptized and never went to church to study Jesus. This is where Virgil and the poets reside. Limbo is not a bad place to be, and their only punishment is that they will never get to see the face of God. This is a fitting punishment because while alive they never knew of God,...
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