The Intriguing Dante’s Inferno

Have you ever read Dante’s Inferno? Dante’s Inferno intrigues me.

Dante’s Inferno is an epic poem and it talks about Hell. As a part of the Divine Comedy, it tells the story of Dante’s journey through Hell, with the help of the Roman poet Vigil. Hell here is depicted as nine circles of suffering. Dante Alighieri (often simply referred to as Dante) wrote this epic 14th-century poem. Dante was an Italian poet. He is so lauded in his country he has been given the title of il Sommo Poeta (the Supreme Poet). In his native Italy, along with Petrarch and Boccaccio, Italy titled the three grand poets “the three fountains” and “the three crowns”, – how Mount Rushmore like, don’t you think?

Originally from Florence, Dante Alighere was a true romantic. His heart belonged to Beatrice Portinari, the daughter of the banker Folco Portinari, who he met when he was only nine years old and she was just eight, at a garden party at the Portinari residence. However, it was a sad love affair because he was promised in marriage to the (unworthy IMO) Gemma di Manetto Donati, a daughter of the Donati family, that sources reveal to be powerful without any evidence to support it really, as often goes. After his marriage to Gemma, which resulted in three children, Dante met Beatrice many times and wrote several much-loved sonnets dedicated to his true love. Many were written in her memory because Beatrice died at the age of 24 in 1290. Gemma, as very deserving of her, was never mentioned in any of the poems.

Courtly love, which was a common mannerism of expressing love in epic poems during the era was used to describe Dante’s love for Beatrice in his works. Such great were those collection of poems, that throughout the 19th Century, Pre-Raphaelites (English artists) and poets devoted their lives to capturing this beauty and the love in between one of Italy’s greatest ever poets and this very ordinary young woman who had captivated Dante throughout his life. But I am particularly interested in his poem Dante’s Inferno here because you can actually explore Hell through the eyes of Dante’s magical fiction…

The First Circle is known as Limbo. People who live here aren’t sinful but didn’t accept Jesus Christ. They are like, punished living in a lesser-version of Heaven. What I didn’t like about the story was the sheer amount of famous people in the circle, from Socrates to Plato. Maybe it was literary symbolism for all the sins people say they committed when it was really, perhaps, cretins exotically chundering over their images. I mean, Socrates was persecuted for spreading new philosophical ideas, so I don’t understand why he would be treated to this exotic idea, that he of all people deserve to be in Hell?

The serpentine Minos, judges the rest of the souls that reside in the other eight circles. The Second Circle is Lust, and can you sense what’s coming ? All those whose lives were overcome by lust reside here. Their souls are blown back and forth by the terrible winds of a violent storm without rest and this literary rendition is supposed to represent lust and how it blows a person about unnecessarily and without any aim. There is also Cleopatra here and I know she romantically toyed with Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony during her lifetime but isn’t that taking it too far, given how difficult it was for women in those days to become powerful?

The Third Circle is Gluttony, where the souls lie in vile slush created by foul, icy rain! Gluttonous activity is overindulging in the consumption of food and drink. I think that if this was reinterpreted in modern drama, obese people eating junk food whole day could be depicted as belonging here. The Fourth Circle is Greed. Hoarding possessions is a sin, as is squandering them. Many clergymen are included here. Interesting! The Fifth Circle is Wrath. This is where people who find no joy in God, mankind, or the Universe lie, and it is also a place where Dante finds out that a homosapien fixes himself in a certain section of hell for eternity by what he chooses to do in life. The Sixth Circle is Heresy. This is where people who say things like  “the soul dies with the body” are trapped in flaming tombs. But why exactly is The Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick II here?

The Seventh Circle is Violence, and its guarded by the Minotaur. This circle is special in its own way – it has three rings. The Outer Ring, which houses people violent against people and property (a sin). The Middle Ring, houses suicides (people who are violent towards themselves) and profligates (who had squandered all possible ways to earn money and own property). And then there’s the Inner Ring, which houses those violent against God, against nature and those who make immoral and unethical loans….these three rings sounds like a very packed area! The Eight Circle represents Fraud. Conscious fraud or treachery, people who have committed these acts live here. They live in a circle divided into ten Bolgie (ditches of stones). It is arranged accordingly:

  • Bolgia 1 = Panderers and seducers
  • Bolgia 2 = Flatterers
  • Bolgia 3 = People who committed Simony
  • Bolgia 4 = False prophets (and sorcerers, astrologers, but not sure why exactly!)
  • Bolgia 5 = Corrupted politicians
  • Bolgia 6 = Hypocrites
  • Bolgia 7 = Thieves
  • Bolgia 8 = Fraudulent Advisers
  • Bolgia 9 = People who did the whole divide-and-conquer thing with others in life
  • Bolgia 10 = Impostors (Also, alchemists! Again, why? Alchemy is a science!)

The Ninth and last circle is Treachery. Traitors here are encased in ice to progressively greater depths. How terrifying, and interesting!

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