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Dante Aligierir?s “The Inferno”
Jason C. Hawk
January Third 2001
3. The Spark
5. Early Life
8. The Inferno
11. When First Viewed
12. The Views Change
13. Dante Now
14. Some Effects
Dante Alighieri?s “The Inferno”
My interest in the Divine Comedy was sparked in the art room in my Freshman year by a series of old Prints done on the “Inferno”. Those prints have inspired me to drawings and prints of my own, and I saw this as an opportunity to get a real look at my inspiration.
Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265. Little is known about his early education, but scholars believe that he received formal instruction in grammar, language, and philosophy at one of the Franciscan schools in the city. In 1274 he was introduced to Beatrice; they met again nine years later, and Dante became profoundly in love with her beauty and grace. As a result of Beatrice’s untimely death in 1290, Dante was inspired to commemorate her in several of his works, most notably as the ideal woman who leads him to redemption in The Divine Comedy. During his teens, Dante demonstrated a keen interest in literature and undertook an apprenticeship with Brunetto Latini, a celebrated poet who wrote in the Italian vernacular. Through Latini’s instruction, Dante expanded his knowledge of literature and began to interact with a circle of respected Florentine poets. Through this association, Dante befriended Guido Cavalcanti sometime around 1283 who helped Dante refine his literary skills into a cohesive, but still immature, style. Having reached his eighteenth birthday that same year, Dante came into a small family fortune from his parents, both of who had died during his childhood. In 1287 Dante enrolled in the University of Bologna and completed at least one course, but two years later, he decided to enlisted in the Florentine army and took part in the Battle of Campaldino. Rizzatti.
The death of Beatrice in 1290 proved to be a turning point in Dante’s life. Stricken with grief, he began an intensive philosophical study of the works of Cicero, and Aristotle, among others. He also began to write poetry in earnest, breaking free from the influence of Latini and Cavalcanti and establishing his own style of lyrical poems. Dante also became quiet active in Florentine political matters and in 1295 enrolled himself in the Guild of Doctors and Pharmacists. one year later he participated in a citizens’ government called the Council of the Hundred; and in 1300 he was as one of six presidents, of the Florentine guilds. As a prominent politician, Dante became one of the White Guelfs. In Florence, papal interests were represented by the Guelf party, whereas the Ghibellines held an influenced over the opposite party. The situation became even more mixed up when the Guelfs devided into two sides, the Whites and the Blacks. The Whites were not nearly as anti-Ghibelline as the Blacks, but the Blacks had the pope?s forces in Florence on their side. In 1301 the Blacks, backed by the Pope and the French forces of Charles of Valois, took Florence and established themselves as the absolute rulers. Prominent Whites, Dante among them, were forced to give up all their possessions and where banished from the city. Never giving in to his exile, Dante continued to support the opposition to the pope in the hope of returning to Florence after the his defeat. When Henry of Luxembourg?s atempt to free Italy of papal control failed, and with the emperor’s death in 1313, Dante lost hope of ever returning to his home. He spent the rest of his life in Verona and Ravenna, where he died in 1321. Rizzatti, geocities.
Dante was the mastermind of many great woks, but The Divine Comedy over-shadows them all. “Inferno” is the most popular and most studied section of The Divine Comedy. In this piece, Dante describes his journey through Hell, in the company of the poet Vergil, his protector and mentor. Dante’s Hell is in the shape of a gigantic funnel with nine descending, circular ledges. a vast and very organized torture chamber in which sinners, carefully classified by the nature of their sins, suffer horrible. The lower the circle the worse the sin. The sins, which include different forms of carnal weakness, wrath, malice, fraud, and heresy, end with treason, the sin of the ninth circle, where Satan reigns and resides. Hell incarnates ultimate justice, which comes from divine love. But this love, turned into merciless punishment lashes out at the unrepentant, while those who repent and rectify their sins are given the chance to attain Paradise through the tedious process of purification which is purgatory. If Paradise is the ultimate reward, Dante’s pilgrimage through Hell is a painful but needed first step. As a symbol of human reason the poet Vergil helps Dante fully understand sin throughout the “Inferno. geocities
On the night before good Friday in the year 1300 Dante finds that he is lost in a dark wood. In the morning the sun reveals a great and beautiful mountain towards which he walks. He is forced to go back when his path is blocked by a leopard, a lion and the most terrifying a she-wolf. When he is back in the forest he finds the shade of Virgil who agrees to rescue him as well as take him through hell, and so we come to Canto I. Alighieri.
In Cantos I and II Virgil explains the reason and by whom he has been sent and Dante follows him through the gate of hell. They then pass through Limbo to the river Acheron and the boatman Cheron agrees to take them into the first circle of hell, Limbo. In Cantos III and IV the poets meet the un-baptized and cross over to hell proper and the second circle, where Minos rules the sinners of lust, beaten by a never ending storm. In the next circle are the gluttons, buried in mud and tortured by Cerberus. Then to the next circle where the Prodigals and the Avaricious must role heavy stones against each other, then the poets come to the wall of the city of Dis, this brings us to Canto VIII. In this and in Canto IX and X, Dante sees the Heretics tortured in burning tombs. Then Dante follows his guide down to the seventh circle in Canto XI where the Violent are punished. Here those who where violent against their neighbors are drowned in a river of blood and shot by Centaurs. In the second round of this circle the Suicides are tortured as trees by Harpies, and the Squanderers are chased through the wood of souls by hounds. The third round is a burning desert where those Violent against God, Nature and Art are showered with burning rain. This brings us to Canto XVI where the two descend to Malebolge on the back of a monster. This is the circle in which sinners of fraud are punished and this is where the next Cantos are discussed up to XXX. In the first Bolgia, the Panderers and the Seducers are whipped by demons. In the second the Flatterers are plunged in a canal of excrement. In the third Bolgia the Simoniacs are stuck head first in holes with their feet of fire. In the fourth the Fortune tellers walk sobbing, their heads twisted backwards. In the fifth Bolgia the Barrators areforked into boiling pitch by black demons. “and the leader then blew a trumpet call from his arse-hole.” Canto XX, this paper needed some humor. Then into the sixth Bolgia where the Hypocrites are forced to walk in leaden robes. In the seventh part of Malebolge the thieves are tortured by serpents and mutated into monsters. In the eighth Bolgia the Evil Counselors are swallowed up in flames. In the ninth part the Sowers of Discord are mutilated. In the final Bolgia the Falsifiers are tortured in four classes, all ridden with plague and disease. in Canto XXXI they pass by way of a giant to the ninth circle, in which traitors are punished in four concentric rounds. In the first the traitors against Kindred, in the second the traitors against Country, and in the third, traitors against Guests. Finaly the poets come into Judecca where the worst sinners against their masters are chewed in Lucifer?s three mouths. They then descend down his side and up to the world of the living. angelfire.com, Alighieri.
Dante’s Divine Comedy was a great success during his life, and several versions were made and widely read among his contemporaries. In 1373, after Dante’s death in exile, the city of Florence honored its native poet by appointing Giovanni Boccaccio, a scholar and prominent writer, to do a series of public lectures on The Divine Comedy. Dante’s fame dwindled in the Italian Renaissance, when scholars who where intent on proving mankind’s importance in the grand scheme of things, threw out the great poet’s theocentric view of the world. The 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries produced commentaries on Dante?s Divine Comedy. In the eighteenth century, found Dante?s work utterly horrifying, and grotesque. the apocalyptic mood of Dante’s poetry was at odds with their glorification of the power of human reason. Rizzatti, Barolini
A renewed interest in the “Inferno” was sparked in 1783 by Antoine de Rivarol’s translation of the first section of the Comedy into French. Poets like Samuel Coleridge, and Lord Byron were attracted by the “romantic” qualities in the “Inferno”. Victor Hugo summed up the romantic view of The Divine Comedy, “Dante… has constructed within his own mind the bottomless pit. He has made the epic of the specters. He rends the earth; in the terrible hole he has made, he puts Satan. Then he pushes the world through Purgatory up to Heaven. Where all else ends, Dante begins. Dante is beyond man.” Rizzatti
Throughout the nineteenth century the “Inferno” was made the subject of much detailed literary, historical, and philosophical analysis. Dante?s criticism was mainly done by Francesco De Sanctis, a promonent Italian critic. For De Sanctis, Dante’s greatness lay in how he could express the ungraspable plenitude of life. De Sanctis wrote, “Art, like nature, is a generator, and it generates not species or kinds nor types nor patterns, but individuals. So Hell is the most fully and richly alive, and the most generally admired, of the three worlds. And then the life of Hell, or the earthly life, is taken by Dante from the very reality of his own surroundings; it is the epic portrayal of barbarism, in which the superabundance of life and passion overflow their bounds.” Rizzatti, Barolini,
Dante’s incredible description of his journey through Hell in pursuit of Paradise is a poem that caters to fundamental human worries. The Divine Comedy is cherished as an immortal work of that tells us the harsh truth of the human condition in poetry of ageless beauty.
1. Alighieri, Dante
Dante The Divine Comedy, Oxford World Clasics, Great Britain
2. Rizzatti, Maria Luisa
The Life and Times Of Dante, The Curtis Publishing Company, Italy
4. Barolini, Teodolinda
SPRING 1989, New York University
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