The Divine Comedy was written by a middle aged man named Dante Alighieri who travels through the Inferno with his guide named Virgil. His journey consists of nine levels of hell, each one containing a different state of the soul after death. Each punishment is contrapasso, meaning that the punishment corresponds exactly to the nature of the crime. Canto III shows an excellent example of contrapasso, the crime being, uncommitted.
Canto III talks about the first level of Hell, the Neutrals. The Neutrals are the uncommitted meaning that the souls there had no purpose in life. When Virgil and Dante arrive there, all they hear are extreme and endless sounds of suffering and sadness. He writes of, “Strange utterances, horrible pronouncements, accents of anger, words of suffering, and voices shrill and faint, and beating—all went to make a tumult that will whirl forever through the turbid, timeless air, like sand that eddies when a whirlwind swirls (III. 25-30). Dante is horrified and asks Virgil why all these souls are in such great pain. Virgil explains to Dante saying, “This miserable way is taken by the sorry souls of those who lived without disgrace and without praise. They now commingle with the coward angels, the company of those who were not rebels nor faithful to their God, but stood apart” (III. 34-39). Virgil also states that since they are such a disgrace, neither Heaven or deep Hell will accept them. After Virgil explains this, Dante sees a blank banner racing by and a long trail of cowardly people following it. When the people stop chasing the banner they are constantly stung by insects until they begin to chase it again. In conclusion, this is an ideal contrapasso to their crime because chasing a blank banner has no purpose. It’s meaningless, just like the lives they have led. Also, the frequent stings of the insects are a reminder of the useless and pointless lives they have lived. It is obvious that this contrapasso is perfect. [continues]
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