Dante Allighieri is the famous author who wrote the Divine Comedy. The Divine Comedy is divided into three parts; the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso. Inferno is the first part of the Divine Comedy and it started on the Good Friday of the year 1300 when Dante was already thirty-five years of age. Dante then was in the brink of destructing himself until Virgil came along and guided him on a journey to the underworld.
Every sins has its own designated punishment in the Inferno, each punishment according to the degree of sin a person has committed. Poetic justice was used in determining what kind of punishment to bestow on a person. For example, fortune tellers are punished by making them walk backwards without being able to see what lies in their path because during their lifetime they tried seeing what lies ahead in the future. As was already mentioned earlier, the Divine Comedy is divided into three books and Inferno is the first part of the whole epic.
Of the three books, the Inferno is also the one which sparks the reader’s awareness on human condition and suffering. The Inferno shows a thorough depiction of never-ending anguish and torments which is in direct parallel to the transgression or offenses performed by mankind against God and common decency, thus allowing the readers to make a conclusion that there is indeed a place called hell wherein mankind would be made to pay for their sins and Dante’s own description provides a better basis for people’s imagination.
In the Inferno, Dante was rescued and accompanied by Virgil, in a symbolic endeavor to show the hierarchical structure of punishment and to give or show the readers various justifications for the pain and suffering experienced by the sinners. In this regard, it is important to note that Dante may have made use of the biblical saying “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” which entails that each deed a person does would be punished based on the degree of sin he has committed, nothing more, nothing less.
It is the kind of justification Dante used in explaining or justifying the punishments given to those souls who resides in Hell. The hierarchy of sins presented in the Inferno is not random since the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on an individual follows a scale of least to most serious offense and punishment the deeper Virgil and Dante journeyed into the underworld. In the author’s opinion and on the way he portrayed things in the Inferno, he gave three primary divisions of the circles of Hell.
There is a place allotted to those who in their lifetimes gave way to their lesser instincts and desires, there is also a place designated for those who refused to accept God, and there’s a place populated by people who deliberately caused harm or injury on their own persons as well as on other people. These three divisions of the circles of Hell helps determine which misconduct is worst or more serious than the others and these divisions are used in determining which punishment is more fitting based on the crime committed.
The first division of the circles of hell is given to those who gave in to their lesser desires and instincts as well as to virtuous heathens which were trapped in the dividing line because they never knew God and thus, the punishment given to them is eternal longing for they are not considered as sinners as could be seen on the following quotation, “they did not sin; and yet, though they have merits, that’s not enough” (Canto IV, 34-5).
These people trapped in this division died before they were given the chance to know God or Christianity which is the justification used on why even the most virtuous heathen does not have a chance to enter the gates of Heaven and this particular knowledge caused great sorrow for Dante. The lustful and the gluttons could also be located in the lower circles of Hell wherein the lustful are fated to repeat their derogatory deeds over and over again.
In this regard, we could say that Dante permits his audience to sympathize with the sinners, yet at the same time he is also challenging us not to feel any pity for them by showing that the punishments bestowed on the sinners are fitting ones and an exact compliment for the sins they have committed. The gluttons are assailed by cold, gray, filthy rain wherein one could think that the darkening tinge of the distressing weather is an apparent insinuation to the repugnance of purity the sinners indulged in during their lifetime on Earth.
The punishment given to gluttons is still under what Dante may consider as a poetic justice in that gluttony is the act of intemperance, thus Dante made use of a punishment which would represent an impression of mass collection without making the punishment too cruel and this could be seen as the reason for making the cold rain as the right sort of punishment for gluttons.
One could also assume that Dante made the rain as filthy ones in order to add another touch of irony in that filthy rain symbolizes the gluttons need to satisfy their longings in their lives and thus Dante showered them with filthy rain in hell because what the gluttons desires is what could be considered as filth since they are merely bodily wants such as food. Overall, the sins mentioned in this particular division represent the lightest of sins, portraying punishments which are fitting, fair and reasonable.
In the second, division, however, punishments are more severe and fierce in nature in that there is an increase in physicality and it is more unbearable to imagine as compared to the punishments present in the first division. In the second division, the readers were made to envision heretics who are squirming in flaming anguish. These heretics would forever be made aware of their suffering and anguish in order to counter their heretic or atheist beliefs during their lifetime on Earth.
In this particular scenario Dante shows that the belief that a soul’s journey and suffering ends at death is false and the punishment given to heretics who believed that there is no after life is the perfect example for Dante’s poetic justice or counter-punishment in that they are forever made aware of their pain and suffering even after their bodily death. It could be seen that the punishment in this division is more severe than that from the first division.
This could be justified in that the misconduct of those situated in the second division is graver as compared to those on the first division in that the sins of those in the second division are not impulsive as compared to those on the first, rather they are conscious decisions made by rational thought and thinking and this is primarily the reason why their punishments are worst as compared to those on the first division.
However, although what those situated in the second division are wrong choices, theirs could not be considered as the most evil of deeds and it is in this regard that we would study the sins committed by those situated in the third division. The third and the last of the primary divisions on the circles of hell exhibits far beyond mere desires, whims, and flawed choices the evil mankind does. This division contains fewer people yet more devious and harsh punishments since the third division is the realm of the violent, swindlers, deceivers.
Dante stated that the acts of those people in this division are so reprehensible that Dante implied that God finds their sins much worse than those of the non-believers. The justification for this is that it is possible to live a virtuous and honest life without believing in God, however those people who inflict harm and betrays the trust of others by means of deceit is not capable of living a virtuous life since their deeds goes against the very nature of a virtuous life.
In this division Dante portrayed tyrants and murderers alike being boiled in a river of blood (XII, 46-8), those who committed suicide were transformed into contorted, melancholic trees (XIII, 25-7), and blasphemers could be seen walking in scorching sands (XIV, 25-6). As could be noticed, the punishments in this division are more sadistic or cruel in nature as compared to those in the other divisions.
Flatterers were portrayed by Dante to be covered in ire, friars are crucified into the grounds, and at the very bottom of this division, only three men (Judas, Brutus, and Cassius) could be found and they are being grinded by a three faced Devil on its teeth. By studying the kind of people and punishment situated in the last division one could conclude that the worst thing a person could do are not those acts which are based on impulse or wrong decisions, rather, they are deeds that deliberately causes harm on one’s self or on other people.
Alighieri, Dante. “http://www. ccel. org/d/dante/inferno/infer02. htm” Inferno. 1314.