The Divine Comedy: Inferno

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Inferno is the first part of The Divine Comedy, an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between c. 1308 and his death in 1321. Inferno is followed by Purgatorio, and Paradiso and as each part is represented of the soul’s journey towards God I have decided to write about each stage.  Inferno opens on the evening of Good Friday, Dante having become lost in a dark wood encounters the ghost of Virgil, the great Roman poet. Virgil sent by Beatrice, and two other holy women, who, seeing Dante lost in the wood, sent him as a guide. Virgil tells Dante that their path will take them through Hell, Purgatory and eventually to Heaven. Together they pass through the gates of hell and make their way through the nine circles of hell.

A major theme that runs throughout the Inferno is “The Perfection of God’s Justice”. Hell exists to punish sin but the spectacular imagery that Dante creates is not ambiguous. The torments shades of the Inferno suffer are to a degree befitting the gravity of their sins on earth and in a manner matching that sin’s nature. The story is not focused on this torment alone but on the shades themselves who talk with Dante telling him their stories and ask to recall their names and stories on Earth upon his return, in the hope that this will allow will allow them to live in people’s memories.  Inferno is symbolically representing the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is, and though the modern reader may take parts to be outdated and even harsh by todays standards it is a detailed dark vision of God’s wrath on the wicked which combines Christian dogma with ancient mythology.

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