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Dante's Inferno - Essay Example

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Dante and Virgil Few works of literature have been as influential and important as Dante's Divine Comedy, especially the segment known as the Inferno. This work has mesmerized readers for many centuries. It tells the story of the poet Dante being led through hell by Virgil…
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Dantes Inferno
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Download file to see previous pages Along the way, Virgil also corrects many of Dante's errors and mistakes, showing himself to be a true mentor figure. Overall, Virgil is understanding and accepting of Dante's errors. Dante is halfway through his life, and walking through a dark forest, when he comes to the entrance of hell. He is an imperfect man, who has made mistakes in life. He is bereft of his beloved, Beatrice, and wishes only to see her again. Such is the background to his quest through hell, purgatory, and heaven to find Beatrice, led much of the way by Virgil. Because these spectral places differ so much from the real world which Dante is used to, it is not surprising that he makes mistakes along the way. Dante, after all, is much like we are: he is thrown into a world he does not understand. One of Dante's biggest errors of judgement is not understanding the seriousness of what he sees. He is sympathetic to some of the sinners. In this he is naive about the order of the Inferno and the way of the world. Virgil is there to sort him out and show him the true seriousness of the sins committed by people such as the magicians and other sinners in latter circles of hell. When encountering the demons, Dante does not seem to be aware of how much danger they are in; not until, Virgil puts him on his back and takes him to safety does he understand. It makes sense that Dante has trouble comprehending the significance of the Inferno. He has just been dropped into a fantastical world and he has trouble accepting or understanding its consequence and the way it is ordered. To him, it must appear like a dream. Virgil is there to show him that he is mistake to believe this is simply an allegory or dream. It is very real. What happens in real life has consequences in the afterlife, Virgil is showing Dante. On those occasions when Dante cannot believe his eyes, Virgil is there to tell him, “Yes, son, what you see is real.” Their journey together is one of discovery and one of education. If Virgil did not correct Dante every once and awhile, the two figures would never get out of the Inferno. One of the severest rebukes that Dante receives from Virgil is in Canto XX. Dante again falls prey to pity for the magicians and fortune-tellers who claimed they could see they future. He sees them with their heads reversed, their bodies horribly mutilated. This is their punishment for violating the natural order of things: now they can only see backwards, where they have come from rather than where they are going. Virgil sharply rebukes Dante for his pity, saying that it is a sign of great pride to pity those who have been condemned by heaven's decree (Dante, 180). Not for the first time, does Dante learn to watch his mouth around Virgil. This error of judgement on the part of Dante is further explicated by the critic John Timpane: Pity dies at the gates of Inferno. Nor is this a failure of the Divine, a limit to the reach of God. This is the keeping of a promise, the fulfilment of damnation. Instead of LASCIATE OGNE SPERANZA, VOI CH’INTRATE, the lintel above the entrance could well read SEE WHAT HAPPENS? What happens is Judgement, and Judgement is equal to Justice. If you landed in Inferno, that’s because you should land there (Timpane). There times, such as when Virgil is tricked by Malaconda, that he too makes errors of judgement (Dante, 99). Still, perhaps it underlines the fact that Virgil is not a god, he was once a man like Dante too. They have more in common than might at first be evidence. Indeed, in some ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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