The Divine Comedy: Allegory

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The Divine Comedy:
Inferno
Dante Alighieri

Major Characters

• Dante Alighieri
o Thirty-five years old at the beginning of the journey ( half of man’s biblical life span “threescore and ten years” (Psalm 90:10) o Lost his way on “the true path” of life ( sin has obstructed his path to God o Explores the nature of sin by traveling through hell o Rooted in the Everyman allegorical tradition ( represents humanity o Little known about his life on earth

o Committed a sin never specified
o Participated in Florentine politics
o Often sympathetic towards others & remains capable of anger o Weeps at the sight of suffering souls, but is elated when one of his political enemies is torn to pieces o Feels he ranks among the great poets that he meets in Limbo: Homer, Ovid, o Desires to find Beatrice, the woman he loves; the love of God o Deeper he proceeds into Hell, the less the agonies of the damned affect him o Must learn to abhor sin and not pity the justice meted out to sinners • Virgil

o Ghost or shade of the great Roman poet Virgil
o Guides and protects the individual (represented by Dante – Humanity) through the world of sin o Sober, measured, resolute, and wise
o Befits a character symbolizing reason

General Notes

• Begins on Holy Thursday of the year 1300
• First Circle:
o Limbo — the unbaptized and virtuous pagans, who, though not sinful, did not accept Christ. They are not punished in an active sense; it is a somewhat pleasant place, with fields and a castle. However, they are merely unable to reach Heaven and denied God's presence for eternity (Canto IV). • Second Circle

o Those overcome by lust, trapped in a violent storm, staying together forever, featuring Francesca da Rimini and her lover Paolo (Canto V)

• Third Circle
o Gluttons, forced by Cerberus to lie in the mud under continual cold rain and hail. Ciacco, a Florentine contemporary of Dante, known as The Hog makes an appearance. (Canto VI) • Fourth Circle

o The Hoarders, who hoarded possessions, and the Wasters, who squandered them, are separated into two mobs. They are forced to strain against giant weights and charge at each other. Then, they return and start over again. (Canto VII) • Fifth Circle

o The wrathful, fighting each other in the swamp-like water of the river Styx, and the sullen, trapped beneath the water (Canto VII)

The lower parts of hell are contained within the walls of the city of Dis, which is itself surrounded by the river Styx (Canto VIII-IX). These are the active (rather than passive) sins; first are the sins of violence. It is unclear whether the city of Dis encompasses just the sixth circle or circles 6-9. • Sixth Circle

o Heretics, trapped in flaming tombs (Cantos X and XI) • Seventh Circle
o The violent (Cantos XII through XVII)
o These are divided into three rings:
i. Outer ring: The violent against people and property, in a river of boiling blood (Canto XII) ii. Middle ring: The violent against themselves — suicides — turned into thorny black trees. Uniquely amongst the dead, they will not be bodily resurrected after the final judgment. Where others will continue to occupy Hell (and Heaven) in corporeal (rather than merely spiritual) form, suicides — because they alienated themselves from their own bodies — spend eternity in the body of a tree, their own corpses hanging from the limbs. Also punished in this circle are profligates, chased perpetually through the trees by ferocious dogs (Canto XIII). They are held here with the suicides because, during Dante's time, one's property is seen as an extension of one's physical body. Hence, doing violence to one's property is kin to suicide. iii. Inner ring: The...
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