Dantes Inferno

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Dante's use of allegory in the Inferno greatly varies from Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in purpose, symbolism, characters and mentors, and in attitude toward the world. An analysis of each of these elements in both allegories will provide an interesting comparison. Dante uses allegory to relate the sinner's punishment to his sin, while Plato uses allegory to discuss ignorance and knowledge. Dante's Inferno describes the descent through Hell from the upper level of the opportunists to the most evil, the treacherous, on the lowest level. His allegorical poem describes a hierarchy of evil. Conversely, Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" describes the ascent from ignorance to knowledge, as one prisoner is freed to make his way up towards the opening of the cave and experiences sunlight, the unavoidable truth. Symbolism is an essential element of both works. In Plato's allegory symbols are used to represent truth, ignorance, society and the fear of change. Truth is represented by the sun, while ignorance is represented by the cave, its limited vision and darkness within. The prisoners represent ignorant members of society who are content to believe that what they see is all that exists. Fear of change is represented by the prisoners angry reaction towards the freed, enlightened prisoner. Dante's Inferno is a detailed description of sin and its relationship to degrees of punishment. As stated in the text, "...for the face was reversed on the neck, and they came on backwards, staring backwards at their loins for to look before them was forbidden." (Ciardi, pg. 175) This quote describes the punishment for fortune tellers. In life the fortune tellers foresaw the future. In death they are doomed to exist with their heads on backwards and their eyes overflowing with tears so that not only could they not see what was happening in front of them, but they could not see at all due to these copious amounts of tears. Similarly, each sin had its own logical punishment, and each group...
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