June 12th, 2011
The idea of sin has been present in the minds of humans since the beginning of time, however Dante Alighieri's literary masterpiece, Inferno brought the reality of sin to life. Some suspect Dante wrote Inferno because he was experiencing some form of a mental breakdown, others insist that he wrote Inferno to educate people about sin. Inferno begins on the evening of Good Friday, when Dante the poet is lost traveling about in a Dark Wood. The Roman poet Vergil finds Dante, saves Dante from three wild animals, and adds that Dante's long lost lover Beatrice has sent him to guide Dante on a journey through the 9 levels of hell. Dante the poet observes the pain and suffrage of the sinners, some of whom were acquaintances of Dante in his actual life. Some modern sinners who would fit into Dante's depiction of Hell are Kurt Cobain, David Koresh, and Marilyn Monroe. A modern figure comparable to Dante's guide Vergil is Mahatma Ghandi. Dante would consider these people sinners because they acted unethically, or defied moral absolute during their lifetime, these moral standards Dante used to judge people have not changed since the 14th century.
Dante designated the 7th level of hell for the violent; further dividing it into three rings, the first comprised of the violent against others, the second of those violent toward themselves (suicides), and the third innermost ring, of violence against god. During the 14th century, the majority of the Italian people were Catholic, and in the Catholic church suicide is considered a grave and terrible sin. When Dante and Vergil pass through the second ring of the seventh circle (the suffering place of the suicides), Dante hears the cries of people but does not see a probable source of the cries. Vergil believes Dante is growing afraid of the possibility of people hiding in the brambles of their surroundings so he insists Dante break a piece off. Upon doing so the tree bleeds and cries out, "'Why do you tear me? Have you no pity in you? We once were men that are now turned to thorns. Your had might well have been more merciful had we been souls of snakes." (Alighieri, Canto XIII;33-39) Dante's depiction of the punishment for suicide serves as symbolic retribution because the one's who were broken easily in life are literally broken easily in death. A modern figure whom would fit into the second round of Dante's seventh circle of hell is Kurt Cobain because he committed suicide. "The group's two-and-half-year reign over popular music ended tragically when Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain took his life with a shotgun blast to the head on April 4, 1994." (St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture) Suicide was frowned upon during the 14th century as it universally is today which affirms the idea that moral absolutes have not changed since the 14th century.
The eighth and ninth circle of hell are reserved for those who consciously and deliberately were fraudulent or treacherous. The eighth circle, or the Maleboge ("Evil Pockets") is dedicated to the fraudulent, and divided into ten "bogie" or ditches. The fourth Bolgia is designated for the diviners; in the fourth Bolgia Dante and Vergil see Amphiarus,Tiresias,Tiresias' daughter Manto, Aruns, Michael Scot, Alberto de Casalodi, and Guido Bonatti. "As my gaze moved down along their shapes, I saw into what strange contortions their chins and chests were twisted." (Canto XX;10-12) The diviners are punished by being forced to have their heads twisted around on their bodies. Dante refers to the diviners un-holy attempts to see the future and the demented nature of magic in general, "Their faces were reversed upon their shoulders so that they came on walking backward, since seeing forward was denied them."(Canto XX;13-15) Diviners include sorcerers, astrologers, and false prophets; in the 14th century diviners were considered sinners for defying god. In 1985, a Branch Davidian named David...