Dante's Inferno - A Religious and Morally Challenging Experience
Dante Alighieri, one of the greatest poets of the Middle Ages, was
born in Florence, Italy on June 5, 1265. He was born to a middle-class
Florentine family. At an early age he began to write poetry and became
fascinated with lyrics. During his adolescence, Dante fell inlove with a
beautiful girl named Beatrice Portinari. He saw her only twice but she
provided much inspiration for his literary masterpieces. Her death at a
young age left him grief-stricken. His first book, La Vita Nuova, was
written about her. Sometime before 1294, Dante married Gemma Donati. They
It is believed that around 1307 he interrupts his unfinished
work, Convivio, a reflection of his love poetry philosophy of the Roman
tradition, to begin The Comedy (later known as The Divine Comedy). He
writes a book called De Vulgari Eloquentia explaining his idea to combine a
number of Italian dialects to create a new national language. In 1310 he
writes De Monarchia presenting Dante's case for a one-ruler world order.
Among his works, his reputation rests on his last work, The Divine
Comedy. He began writing it somewhere between 1307-1314 and finished it
only a short while before his death in 1321, while in exile. In this work,
Dante introduces his invention of the terza rima, or three-line stanza as
well as himself as a character.
The Inferno is the first of three parts of Dante's epic poem, The
Divine Comedy, which depicts an imaginary journey through Hell, Purgatory,
and Paradise. Dante is the hero, who loses his way in the "dark woods" and
journeys to nine regions arranged around the wall of a huge funnel in nine
concentric circles representing Hell. He is led by the ghost of Virgil,
the Roman poet, who has come to rescue Dante from the dark forest and lead
him through the realms of the afterlife. The first circle they enter is
Limbo, which consists of heathen and the unbaptized, who led decent lives.
The second through the fifth circles are for the lustful, gluttonous,
prodigal, and wrathful. The sixth circle is where heretics are punished.
The seventh circle is devoted to the punishment of violence. The eighth is
devoted to those guilty of fraud and the ninth for those who betrayed
others. In the last section, Satan remains imprisoned in a frozen lake.
The journey is difficult and full of revelations, disappointment
and questions, but they persevere. The end of their journey leads Dante
and Virgil to the bottom of Hell. Lucifer is seen in all his ugliness and
they are drawn towards Heaven. They emerge to the surface, rising above
the ugliness of sin and journey towards their goal as they catch sight of
the stars shining in the heavens. Their journey begins on Good Friday and
they emerge from Hell on the day of Resurrection, Easter Sunday on the
underside of the world, in the hemisphere of water at the foot of Mount
Dante's vision expresses his personal experience, through images to
convey his interpretation of the nature of human existence. He writes in
the first person so the reader can identify and deeply understand the
truths he wished to share about the meaning of life and man's relationship
with the Creator.
Dante is remembered as a great thinker and one of the most learned
writers of all time. Many scholars consider his epic poem The Divine
Comedy consisting of...