The Just Punishments in Dante’s Inferno

Topics: Divine Comedy, Inferno, Virgil Pages: 3 (1041 words) Published: December 15, 2008
The Just Punishments in Dante’s Inferno
Inferno, written by Dante in the early fourteenth century, is a poem about Dante’s, the main characters, journey through Hell and signifies the nature of sin on Earth and punishment in Hell (Gardner et al online). Those who sinned while on Earth are justly condemned to different levels of punishments in Hell, relative to their sins on Earth. Each of the nine circles of Hell represents a worse sin, and therefore, a crueler punishment. The categorized punishments in Hell that Dante Alighieri assigns are symbolically fair and representative of the sins committed on Earth, given the time period and Christian values context from which this poem was written. The first inhabitants, just outside of Hell, are residents of the Ante Inferno. The Ante Inferno is not quite Heaven and not quite Hell. Those placed here opted to not side with God or the Devil while living, therefore their sin was never choosing to live by a set of Christian ideals. Accordingly, the punishment for those who selected not to follow God is to constantly chase a blank flag. This punishment is appropriate because those who knowingly choose a path other than following God tend to lead a meaningless existence, which is symbolized by the blank flag. Once in the Ante Inferno, they are forced to follow and chase something, a punishment that is both physically and mentally exhausting. While the suffering these sinners face is suitable, their physical location outside of Hell is inappropriate given their personal choice to not live by the path of God. The Ante Inferno should be the first level of Hell. The first circle of Hell, Limbo, is the final resting place for the people who died before the coming of Christianity or who were never baptized. Dante’s guide through Hell, Virgil, resides in Limbo and Dante expresses “heartfelt grief” (Inferno IV 33) for those stuck here, because, as Virgil describes, "Some lived before the Christian faith, so that

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Cited: Dante. Inferno. Trans. Robert Pinsky. New York: FSG, 1994.
Gardner, Patrick and Phillips, Brian. SparkNote on Inferno. 21 Mar. 2008
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