As Dante reaches the end of his journey through the nine circles of Hell, we are presented with the image of Lucifer. Once the most beautiful of God’s angels, this wretched emperor resides at the very bottom of Hell as punishment for his rebellion against God. Dante’s ironic representation of Lucifer in the Inferno portrays this notorious biblical figure as a joke in comparison to traditional interpretations. Ultimately, this leads to a questionable climax in Dante’s journey due to the unorthodox qualities and attributes expressed by Lucifer.
Ultimately, the figure we encounter at the bottom of Hell is a composite mockery of Lucifer’s wickedness and the divine forces that reprimand him there. His massive size stands in contrast with his limited powers. He merely flaps his wings to keep the lake frozen and his three heads chew eternally upon the three notorious traitors: Brutus, Judus and Cassius. The fact that he has three heads is relevant to the repeated biblical reference of the Holy Trinity presented throughout Dante’s journey. With each face a different color (red, pale yellow, and black), Lucifer’s depiction parodies the doctrine of the Trinity. The three complete persons combined in one divine nature represent the Divine Power, Highest Wisdom, and Primal Love that created the Gate of Hell. While Dante contemplates Lucifer in his position, ugliness and wickedness his visual experience becomes tangible as he first descends, then climbs Lucifer’s body. This moment in which Dante realizes that this notorious emperor can be looked at, measured, and understood through his physical descriptions marks the climax of his journey. Lucifer, by consequence of his act of pride against his creator, is less a figure of fear than of pity. He is restricted to the very pit of the entire realm of eternal damnation as his body is half frozen beneath the lake. Dante is able to make his way out of Hell by climbing the body of this devil with relative...
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