Dante and Machiavelli

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Dante and Machiavelli define opposite sides of the Renaissance in several ways.  Certainly the former believes that God will reveal all and call people to account for their behavior, while the latter gives every sign of believing in no God and supposing that scrupulous behavior only makes one a target for ruthless exploitation.  This difference in the two could be expressed in terms of religious faith—but they could also be said to have differing views of human nature.  Try to get to the heart of the distinction.  Why is Machiavelli’s sense of right and wrong so opposed to Dante’s?

Written two hundred years apart, The Inferno by Dante and The Prince by Machiavelli both contain examples of society during the late middle ages and also the beginning of the Renaissance. While not contemporaries, both men held similar cynical views towards human nature, but opposing views on social structure. Dante believed that those with power were all destined to become corrupt while Machiavelli wrote that authority is necessary in order to maintain structure within the population. The Inferno, written as the first of three movements of The Divine Comedy, tells of one man’s journey into Hell with the help of Roman poet Virgil. As the two men journey through the nine circles of hell, Dante, or the Pilgrim, sees the souls of men and women and either feels pity or hatred, but most of all feels a sense of vengeance. In Dante’s hell, the punishment fits the crime. The lustful are forced to walk naked beside those of the opposite sex, the slothful are forced to reside at the bottom of the river Styx, and the soothsayers are forced to perpetually look back by having their necks twisted around. The Inferno is essentially a social commentary, exposing society’s true evils. In the eighth circle, simple fraud, were the simonists; those priests, popes, and bishops who, instead of revealing the glory of God, used their power to gain monetary wealth and fame. Their punishment is being buried...
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