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The Divine Comedy Essay

Dante Alighieri?s, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, was written during a very uncertain time of his life. He is middle aged and exiled from his beloved city of Florence. Dante is economically and politically ruined (Cervigni and Vasta 6). He reflects on the past and is repulsed by its significance. The consumption of his guilt, depression, and anger was the impetus for writing this book. In the first paragraph in Canto I, ?Midway in the journey of out life I found myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard it is to tell what that wood was, wild, rugged, harsh; the very thought of it renews the fear! It is so bitter that death is hardly more so. But, to treat of the good that I found in it, I will tell of the other things I saw there.? (Alighieri 3) provides a sense where his mind was at the time. Dante is at a crossroads in his life and cannot find the road ahead. The dark wood refers to the uncertainty he was facing at the time. The prospect of death, for Dante, is an escape out of his torment.

Dante made Hell with circles to express the different levels of guilt, depression, and anger. Throughout the circles, you find great poets, writers, biblical characters, and others, some of whom, in my opinion, do not belong there. I think he puts them there to relieve some of his guilt for the sins he has committed. I feel he uses logic to persuade the reader that if some of these great people are in Hell, then he is not that bad himself.

Dante?s guilt in reflected in Canto V, where he makes reference to his forbidden lustful love for Beatrice. He uses Francesca and Paolo?s love to compare it his own love for Beatrice. Dante feels compassion and sorrow for these two lovers when he states, ?Francesca, your torments make me weep for grief and pity;?(Alighieri 55) almost if to persuade the reader to feel pity for him. Dante also makes reference that he maybe could not help himself, of the feelings he had for Beatrice, because ?I learned that to such torment are condemned to carnal sinners, who subject reason to desire.?(Alighieri 49) Dante gives into his desires, at least in his imagination, and forgets to use reason. If Dante had used reason, he would have thought more of his wife than Beatrice would. He would have written his poems and cantos about his wife instead to Beatrice. Dante?s reflection of his love and thoughts for Beatrice caused him to feel guilt. I think his guilt was based on the Bible?s commandment that states ?Thou shalt not commit adultery?. Dante believed that just thinking of his lust of Beatrice was just as sinful making love to Beatrice.

In the first paragraph of Canto I, where he finds himself ?in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost?(Alighieri 3) leads me to believe he was depressed and contemplating suicide. In my view, this implies that he feels lost and alone and cannot see a way out because of the darkness. A way out of his depression because of all that has happened to him. His reference to the ?straight way was lost? implies to me that the straight way is a reference to the Bible that you should not commit suicide. The straight way being lost hints to me that he was losing his faith and that suicide was on option. Canto XXIII is in circle seven, where he puts people who have committed violence against themselves. Dante draws an analogy with the stub, which was in life, Pier Delle Vigne, chief counselor of Frederick II of Sicily. Pier was accused unjustly of treachery and was imprisoned, whereupon he killed himself. Dante was accused of corruption of office, conflict of interest and embezzlement causing him to go into exile. Dante again tries to persuade the reader to pity him or at least understand that he was unjustly accused .?(Cervigni and Vasta 6). An example of his persuasion is when he writes, ?And the stub said, ?You so allure me with your sweet words that I cannot keep silent; and may it not burden you that I am enticed to talk a little.??(Alighieri 133). He is trying to get the reader to focus on the analogy between himself and the stub. The stub explains how he was unjustly accused, which parallels what happened to Dante. Dante asked Virgil to question the stub more, because Dante is so upset and cannot do it himself. Dante says, ?Do you ask him further of what you think may satisfy me, for I cannot, such pity fills my heart.?(Alighieri 135). As mentioned in class by Ms. Zaldivar, Dante was a secretary, among other talents, skilled at persuasive writing. I believe, here again, he was effectively using his persuasive skills to incite the reader for their sympathy.

Dante?s anger is viewed in Canto XXVI when he addresses the city of Florence with rage and sarcasm. In the opening of Canto XXVI, he states, ?Rejoice, O Florence, since you are so great that over sea and land you beat your wings, and your name is spread through Hell! Among the thieves I found five of you citizens, such shame comes to me?and you rise thereby to no great honor.?(Alighieri 271). I believe he feels this rage because of what was happening in Florence at the time. The Blacks had seized power and had exiled Dante and the other White leaders. I am sure he felt that he and his other White counterparts were doing what was best for the city of Florence before thrown into exile. His sarcasm is viewed in the opening words of this canto, where he begins with ?Rejoice, O Florence? whereby he refers to the reputation of Florence having reached Hell. He uses irony to express his anger. His anger is great and he lets the reader know that Florence will be back like it once was when he says, ?But if near morning our dreams are true, you shall feel ere long what Prato, as well as others, craves for you. And if it were already come, it would not be too soon.?(Alighieri 271). Dante expresses to the reader that just about everyone hungers for the old Florence and that if it happened yesterday, it would not be fast enough.

Dante?s guilt, anger, and depression were feelings he examined at the prospect of facing his own mortality. Fortunately, he could express himself through his writings and did not commit suicide. It was therapeutic for him to express his emotions through his writings, like a personal journal. Thoughts once written reflect a person?s true feelings. Understanding your inner self gives you a focus on the important things in life. I believe Dante began to see that at the end of the book, where he and Virgil ?entered on that hidden road to return into the bright world;?(Alighieri 369). Although it was still dark when they came out of Hell, his guilt, depression, and anger had been lifted and he could see hope, where he states at the end of the book, ?we climbed up, he first and I second, so far that through a round opening I saw some of the beautiful things that Heaven bears; and thence we issued forth to see again the stars.?(Alighieri 369).

Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy, Inferno. Trans. Charles S. Singleton.

Princeton University Press 1989.

Alighieri, Dante. Vita Nuova. Trans. Dino S. Cervigni and Edward Vasta.

The University of Notre Dame Press

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