In Dante’s Inferno, a description of the journey of Virgil through Inferno is presented. Virgil is not actually sentenced to stay in Inferno but is kept in Limbo which is a location positioned adjacent to Inferno (Sobel, 1996). In Inferno, the geography of Inferno is intricately built up of nine concentric rings that go deeper from the surface of the Earth and signify different degrees of punishment in Inferno and one reaches the center of the Earth where Satan is resides. Dante has synthesized the concept of the Christian and ancient worlds in several instances in the circles of Inferno.
One good example is depicted in Circle 4 which comprises the hoarders and wasters. In this level of Inferno, the hoarders are described as those individuals that keep things while the wasters are those individuals that do not use things wisely. Both types have no comprehension of the actual and true value of money hence they generally perceive money as some kind of dead weight and this is depicted in the Inferno as individual perennially pushing around a big burden around the area of Circle 4.
In addition, these individuals constantly pronounce their eternal question of why do they waste or why do they hoard. This cycle continues forever. Dante is successful in synthesizing the Christian and ancient worlds by signifying specific individuals of the Christian Church in this Circle. For example, Dante includes the presence of the popes and cardinals to depict the high positions in the Christian church and putting these individuals in this circle symbolizes his perceived corruptness of the Christian church.
On the other hand, Dante is also successful in signifying the ancient world in the Inferno by putting symbols that represent the ancient world. For example, the employment of the three-headed dog represents the beliefs of the ancient world. In addition, Dante also employs that ancient concept of punishment that is based on the degree of the crime. This concept is different from the beliefs of the Christian world which upholds the concept that all sins are equal. When this concept is applied, a sin involving creating a lie in the Christian world is as grave a killing a human being.
Another example of Dante’s synthesis of the Christian and ancient worlds is depicted in Circle 7 which is divided into three types of violence– against other people, against one’s self and against God. Dante is successful in employing the Christian world in this circle by depicting punishment for the violence committed by the individuals kept in Circle 7. This situation is just the same as the punishment given to Adam and Eve when they chose to partake of the apple from Garden of Eden as suggested by the serpent which signifies the Devil.
Dante is also successful in integrating the ancient world in Circle by providing different types of punishment for each type of violence that was committed by each individual. For example, violence against one’s god is more serious that violence against one’s neighbor. Such concept of varying degrees of punishment for each type of violence signifies the beliefs of the ancient world. Dante is hoping to awaken the readers of the similarities and differences of both Christian and ancient worlds through his writings (Chessick, 2001).
At the same time, Dante has also aimed to point out the problems with the Christian Church such as the corruption and prejudices of the individuals of high ranking in the Church. His writings thus are very important in providing symbolic examples of the strengths and weaknesses of the concepts and beliefs of the Christian and the ancient worlds.
References Chessick RD (2001): Dante’s Divine Comedy revisited: What can modern psychoanalysts learn from a medieval “psychoanalysis”? J. Am. Acad. Psychoanal. 29(2):281-304. Sobel R (1996): The Virgil role. J. Med. Humanit. 17(2):85-9.