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Dante's Inferno Essay

Dante's Inferno Essay

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Published by ignacioaz
A discussion on Dante's purpose in writing The Inferno and the historical context in which it was written.
A discussion on Dante's purpose in writing The Inferno and the historical context in which it was written.

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Published by: ignacioaz on Feb 25, 2013
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Dante the Character The Inferno begins with a thirty five year old Dante who finds himself

“within a dark wood, for the right way had been missed,” and cannot remember how he got there. Dante says that he has lost the “true path,” that is, the path of virtuous life that leads to God. In The Divine Comedy, Dante tells the story of his journey through the realms of the afterlife (Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven), during which he witnesses both God’s harsh punishments on the sinful and his loving grace for the virtuous. In that dark forest, Dante sees a light above a hill and, in his attempt to reach it for safety, he meets a panther, a lion, and a she-wolf; all these creatures represent human flaws (specifically luxury, excessive pride and ambition, and greed, respectively). Virgil appears and, after Dante praises him and begs for help and guidance, Virgil explains his purpose there. He explains that Beatrice, Dante’s love in real life, saw that Dante had lost his way and, feeling pity for him, sent Virgil to take him through Hell, so that Dante may begin his journey back to God’s love with his guidance. In Canto II, before his descent into Hell, Dante has a moment of reluctance; he alludes to Aeneas and Paul because both of them traversed through the afterlife (through Hell and through the Third Circle of Heaven, respectively). He claims himself unworthy of such a task and says this differentiate himself from Aeneas and Paul, and expresses fear that he might not be as lucky as them; that is, he is afraid he might not survive his visit to Hell. In addition to highlighting this difference to tell us what he is not, he tries to convey himself as a proud, universal character, at times sympathetic but nonetheless capable of repudiating others; courageous in venturing through Hell and loving when speaking of Beatrice and very emotional when scared. In this paper, I will first discuss the differences between Dante the character and Dante the poet, then examine the difference between Dante and the two other men, and lastly analyze the characterization of Dante. To thoroughly understand Dante as the main character from the story, we must first discuss the difference between Dante the character and Dante the poet, and then also recognize that the poet’s purpose in putting himself in the story is to make the story universal and for a general audience. Dante the poet was born around May 1265, shortly after the Guelphs returned to Florence from exile. Having

so that everyman represented all mankind. Dante the poet is the one who placed his own patron in a deep circle of Hell. it is the case that Dante put himself in the story as the everyman so that readers will follow his . there are differences between Dante the poet and Dante the character. the Blacks held loyalty to the Pope and supported his appointment of Charles de Valois as a representative in Florence. When he wrote The Divine Comedy. He was sent to Rome as a delegate to speak with the Pope. so it is no surprise that he places many of his political enemies and even religious authorities in the deepest circles of Hell. Although Dante the character sympathizes with him in this episode. and the purpose of having him was to generalize an allegory to a universal audience. This character was the everyman. The Guelphs. particularly with the sodomites (this is specially notorious because homosexuality was looked upon terribly at the time). the Guelphs divided into two factions. it is important to note this because she had an enormous influence on his work. Of these two. there was a tradition of putting a standard character type in Christian allegories. notably fighting for the Guelphs on horseback at the battle of Campaldino. Dante sided with the Whites. Thus. which Dante sided with. This story was written during Dante’s exile. and at the same time Dante the character is generally sympathetic towards those people. He met Beatrice Portinari at the age of nine. it is somewhat hypocritical because he sets harsh punishments for those Dante the poet disliked. the Black Guelphs and the White Guelphs. as noted in his interactions with people from real life that he meets in hell. An example of this is his encounter with Bruno Latini. and were against the appointment of Charles de Valois. Dante’s family was always very involved in Florentine Politics. particularly the Guelph.Ghibelline conflict. supported the authority of the Pope. However. while the Ghibellines revered to the Holy Roman Emperor. but nonetheless partook in activities and exercises all other young men of his age got involved in. We must also discuss the reason why Dante decides to put himself in his own story. and reportedly fell in love with her right then and there. After being victorious at the battle of Campaldino. he proved his intellectual genius at an early age. his patron.had a privileged education in Tuscan poetry. and while he was there he was notified that he could not return to Florence. while the Whites sought more independence and freedom from Rome.

His universal side is perhaps the most important in his characterization because. a poet deeply admired by Dante. Most importantly. “if I give myself up to go. While Paul traversed the afterlife. as we discussed before. since it was someone in Heaven who sent him. so as to give himself certain authority to talk about the afterlife.example and think of themselves going through Dante’s journey to find a path back to God’s grace. His goal in making the main character himself is to invite his readers to put himself in Dante’s (the character) shoes. particularly the Third Circle of Heaven. but also takes the opportunity to expose his acquaintance with both religious texts and epic poems. and like other authors writing allegorical texts. Dante is afraid to go through Hell. For this. including his father. to solidify his Christian faith. I fear lest the going may be mad. As aforementioned. Virgil placates Dante’s fears by assuring him that. and courageous character. emotional. and says. Dante wishes to have an everyman character. agrees to follow Virgil. Dante alludes to Paul and Aeneas to set himself apart from them. they have divine protection. he wishes to establish that he thinks himself less worthy than them. Dante not only gives insight to his characterization by humbling himself. to his rescue and. His emotional . reinforced by this and the thought of finding God. Lost and loosing his connection to God. Dante is profoundly moved by the thought of his beloved Beatrice pitying him and having sent Virgil. He hopes that people reading his story will be moved the extent that they too will seek to find God and avoid the corruption of sin and evil. which is why he makes his character a universal one. Aeneas visited the afterlife to meet several people. In addition to highlighting the difference between him and Paul and Aeneas. and thus can pass through Hell without any problems. Dante needs to visit the afterlife so that he may see the horrors of sin and the wonderful love of God and from there find his way back to the path towards God’s grace. In declaring himself less worthy than either of the two. The Divine Comedy is meant to be an allegorical text. Virgil scorns him and explains that it was Beatrice who sent him there to rescue Dante and put him back on track. By far the most prominent aspect of Dante’s characterization is his emotional side.” he might not survive. Dante tries to convey himself as a universal. Beatrice pitied Dante after seeing him in such condition.

once after being deeply moved. when crossing the river Acheron. Dante hopes to affect his readers enough to make them think about their life. and has gone through suffering out of his love for Beatrice. While this happens. Dante even goes as far as fainting several times. but nonetheless general and universal at the same time. by claiming himself unworthy of doing what they did before him. but also in their journey to find God. Dante tries throughout the story to portray himself as a virtuous man. Dante alludes to Paul and Aeneas because they are both men who traversed the afterlife in different stories.side proves particularly notable when he is either sympathizing with other characters or expressing fear. That is. Virgil and Charon have an argument because Dante (a mortal) is not supposed to be allowed through. however. he does not think himself of the same level as either of them. so he sympathizes gravely and looses consciousness. One particular time that Dante shows a lot of bravery is when he continues on the journey even though a group of demons have just chased after him in the Fifth Bolgia of the Eight Circle of Hell. it is this sort of courage that prompts readers to put effort to continue not only in the face of danger in general. He highlights a difference. It is supremely important to emphasize that Dante seeks to set himself as a normal person so that any of his readers will feel free to step in his shoes. fear overpowers Dante and he faints. when Dante faints after hearing the story of Francisca de Rimini and Pablo. where they stand in their relationship to God. Through making himself a complex character and putting himself in all sorts of situations. Dante’s emotional side is evinced almost every time he talks about Beatrice and the fact that he draws his courage from the thought of her taking pity on him. and what they can do to avoid sin. courageous and emotional. two lovers who are killed by Francisca’s husband (who is also Pablo’s brother) after he catches them reading together. Dante is deeply moved by this because he is a slave to love himself. The first occasion takes place early in the story. In addition to pointing out this difference. Another example comes not too far after. and is evinced throughout his journey through hell. His courage is another facet of is characterization that allows us to get a more complete picture of what Dante wishes to portray himself as. piloted by Charon. but at the same . and the others out of fear.

and has him show emotion and sympathy so that he may also keep the fundamental human side of Dante the character. .time develops his character enough to show courage in the face of sin and evil.

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