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Dante’s “The Divine Comedy”
The Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri tells a fictional story that takes the audience through the nine levels of hell. Dante believes that not all sins are equal and that some sins deserve more punishment than others. Individuals were punished according to their individual sins and corresponding befitting punishments. In Inferno, Dante takes the audience through the different punishments that were accorded to every sin from the gates of hell all the way to where he meets Lucifer and the greatest sinners of all. It is an individual account of what the poet believed and he managed to divide individual stages and sins according to his beliefs and attitudes towards others and hell according to the examples given. Dante narrates the characters and people who he met at every stage and is critical, happy, or pitiful of the individual punishments that were accorded to each group. The poem is a proper record of the different beliefs and notions that Dante had while living on earth. It can therefore be argued that the prose writer gives a confession since he identifies with the groups and splits the punishments and levels of sin according to his own beliefs. It is an account of what one should expect when one goes to hell, in his view. The views shared in the book are important in learning more about Dante and his beliefs and background as a person. This paper assesses how the journey through hell as foretold by Dante is a confession.
One of the attributes that comes out clearly from the journey is the position of Dante as a holy person and one who believes he will go to heaven. He sees the other people suffering as sinners and does not expect to face the same level of pain and sorrow in the years to come. He summarizes his journey through the phrase “Into the eternal darkness, into fire and into ice”(Durling 39). He starts by reckoning that his journey through hell started when he was lost in the woods and was looking for a way to get out of the problems that he faced. He did not expect to be in such a compromising position initially and after he falls into a pit, his wife sends a guide to show him the way. He clearly states that he is being guided out of hell since his wife and other holy people were expecting him in heaven. He therefore confesses to being a Christian and believing in the existence of hell and heaven. He also confesses to believing in his holiness in comparison to the sins that are committed by others.
Dante categorizes sins differently and expects each sinner to be judged according to the sins they commit or orchestrate in the world. The poet does not expect people to be met with the same level of suffering for their sins in hell. He says, “If the present world go astray, the cause is in you, in you it is to be sought” (Durling 22). He therefore did not believe in eternal fire but in people facing the suffering that they deserved. Although Christians believe that people who go to hell will all be punished in eternal fire no matter the nature of their sins, Dante believed that this was not true. He believed that sins would be divided in different levels depending on specific sins that were committed by each sinner in the world. The undecided, the pretenders, the astrologists, the hypocrites, and the lustful would all be punished differently when they went to hell. According to Dante, sins were different and therefore punishment accorded to each sin had to be in tandem with the type of sin that each person committed. While he was going through the different groups of sinful people in hell, he found himself identifying with each group and saw that the punishment that was accorded to each individual was deservedly given (Durling 53). There were different figures and monsters that were highlighted to guard the different levels and ensure the necessary punishment was given to the people. This is an account of how Dante graded the sins that people were committing on earth. According to him thus, while all people were sinners, they did not deserve to be given similar punishment. This would be unfair in his view.
In addition, The Divine Comedy highlights the sins of the world from the highest to the lowest level. Like any other Christian, Dante believed all sins are serious in God’s eyes and that is why all sinners are condemned to hell. However, the different levels highlighted the different sinful acts and the magnitude of the sins that each group orchestrated. There are nine levels in hell according to the poet and each level is prepared to deal with the magnitude and nature of sins committed by people sent to it. As already seen, the punishments meted out on people in hell were tailor-made for each sin committed (Durling 44). This shows that during Dante’s time, it was possible to create a model that was targeted at developing the approach that was used to categorize and separate sinners.
One of the major aspects that highlight Dante’s narration as a confession is the difference between the punishment that was given to his friends and that which was given to his foes. In the story, Dante has a personal connection with some of the people in hell and goes ahead to identify with them. Although for some he felt pity, for others he was happy as he believed they deserved the suffering they were facing. It is a story through which the poet highlights what he believes had deservedly befallen all those who had wronged him, or had sinned in one way or another in the world. One of the sinners he met was one Francesca, who had lustfully cheated on his husband with the husband’s brother, Paolo Da Rimini. This sinful relationship had reportedly landed both Francesca and Da Rimini in hell. Dante also met one of his political enemies, Filipo Argenti, and watches in delight as he chokes in a cesspool where the wrathful spend eternity (Durling 73). He also notes having met Farinata, another political foe of his. On another note, he was disheartened to meet suicidal people who were facing hell’s wrath for their crimes. He goes on to list all the people he believed had committed different sins that were unfathomable, including Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Cassius, and Brutus. The latter two sinners had reportedly betrayed Julius Caesar.
Dante has a personal connection with or opinion about each of the people he talks about in his book. He explains why the punishment that were given to these people were deserving given their specific sins. The book is thus a record of his inclinations and beliefs about the people with whom he connected and delivers a proper record of his beliefs about the actions of these people. The story further highlights the poet’s beliefs and views about each of the individuals in the society about whom he had read or had personal encounters with. His personal political opponents feature in the story to bring out what he believed had rightfully befallen them after their death. It is a confession of what he believed about the society and the problems that people faced believing that they would later have to face hell after they had died.
In conclusion, Dante treated himself as a special person who had managed to go through life unscathed by life’s sins. He however pitied the people who had not changed their sinful ways and only proclaimed unimaginable doom after their deaths. According to Dante, hell would be full of suffering and all people would account for their sins accordingly. Every person was given a chance to change while on earth and thus those who squandered this chance and never made use of it would be punished accordingly in hell. Through the story, the poet confesses about what he believed would befall people in hell and explains why he was sensitizing them to take necessary steps to avoid this impending suffering while they still had time. It is generally a good account of the different sinful actions that had been perpetuated by people in the society during Dante’s lifetime.
Durling, Robert M. The divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Volume 1: Inferno: Ed. Ronald L. Martinez. Vol. 3. Oxford University Press, USA, 2010. Print.