Dante’s Divina Commedia (The Devine Comedy) is considered to be one greatest literary expressions of the Medieval Era. In the first volume, The Inferno, we are taken on a journey to the depths of hell, so Dante may discover the meaning of life and rid himself of his worldliness. Dante attempted to discover this himself but failed.
“Dante’s Devine Comedy’ was one of the lights that led the West out of the Dark Ages and towards the light of the Renaissance.”
The Inferno is a transition from the Dark Ages to Renaissance because it bridges the gaps in religious and literary practice. Dante accomplishes this by using elements of both the old and the new in his writings. The concept of hell was a new idea unique to Christianity, however in Dante’s Hell we see the dead from many years past as well as some of Dante’s recently deceased friends. Dante’s hell is also filled with Greek and Roman references and influences, like the Gorgon Medusa and the murders of Caesar, Brutus and Cassius.
During the middle ages we saw very little advancement in science, art and literature. This was many because the Roman Catholic Church was at the height of its power. There was no drive to discover knowledge because the answer to every question was the same, God. This mind set stunted all forms of human expression because all art, literature, etc. was related to God. All this changed around 1350 with the dawn of the Renaissance. People began to think that they could have a personal relationship with God and that it was their responsibility to be the best they could for society. With this new idea of humanism we literally see and explosion of creativity and ideas. This era produced some of the greatest scientific and artistic minds in human history, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo and Raphael. However, with all great and sudden changes, there was turmoil and the Renaissance was no different. People began to question God and how he fit into their lives. A confused populace sifted through the sea of new beliefs and faiths trying to find a way to God. At the end of the 16th century, we see the Roman Catholic Church in shambles, losing significant amounts of influence to the Reformation. Dante wrote The Devine Comedy with the goal of converting a corrupt, sinful and above all, ignorant, society to a state of righteousness. “To remove those living in this life from the state of misery, and lead them to the state of felicity.” Dante does this by showing us a vision of the after life and his extreme path to salvation. Dante starts his journey in hell so he could analyze sin and show the sharp contrast to the angry vengeful god of the Old Testament and the kinder more forgiving God of the New Testament.
“…his way is block by the three beasts of Worldliness: The Leopard of Malice and Fraud, The Lion of Violence and Ambition, and The She Wolf of Incontinence. These beasts especially the She-Wolf drive him back despairing into the darkness of error.” (Canto I: The Dark Wood)
These three beasts represent the emotions that Dante considers to be the most foul in the eyes of god and bases his nine circles of hell on the sins associated with these emotions. The Diagram below shows Dante’s Hell:
Circle 1. Virtuous Heathens
Circle 2. Lascivious
IncontinentCircle 3. Gluttons
Circle 4. Avaricious and Prodigal
Circle 5. Wrathful
Circle 6. Heretics
-Violent against others
Violent Circle 7.-Violent against self
-Violent against God, nature, art
-Panders and Seducers
Circle 8.Simply -Barrators