Monday, December 6, 2010

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri (Translated by John Ciardi)


The poet Dante set out on a journey, which he does not remember the reason why, but he sees a light that shines atop a hill. Unfortunately, three beasts block his path so he must turn back. On his way back home, his most beloved poet, Virgil, meets Dante from heaven and informs him that he must pass through the depths of Hell in order to reach heaven (the top of the hill). He quest then begins as Muses record this epic poem. Virgil must constantly remind Dante that his cowardice will not be tolerated and must be avoided in order to prevent death during this journey. After Dante faints from the fearsome Charon, the transporter who moves the dead into Hell, he awakens to many famed poets and philosophers, such as Homer and Aristotle, in the first circle of Hell (Limbo). Now travelling into the second circle of Hell (Lust), Minos, the decider of fate, once again causes the living Dante to faint, which forces Virgil to make Minos cooperate and let the two poets pass. They then reach the third circle of Hell (Gluttony), where the mighty Cerberus, a three-headed dog, is located preventing all souls form exiting. The fourth circle is represented by the materialists (Greed). In the fifth (Anger), Dante reaches the city of Dis, the capital of Hell, and comes face to face with Medusa, who changes men into stone by looking into their eyes. Virgil must call upon Divine Aid in order to advance into the sixth circle (Heresy). As a part of the heretics punishment, these sinners can only see distant objects. In the seventh (Violence), Dante finds it divided into violence against others, themselves, and then against God. Before they travel to the next ring, Dante converses with some Sodomites, those who have been violent towards nature and are punished through the eternity of walking through a rain of fire. As he enters the eighth circle (Fraud), he sees souls running wall to wall but cannot escape their fate. Now entering the ninth and final circle of Hell (Treachery), Dante soon reaches the very core, where a shadowed three headed demon awaits in the fog. As Lucifer approaches, Dante explains that his arms alone were bigger than any monster they had previously encountered. In each of his mouths was a sinner, two contained the murderers of Julius Caesar and the middle was filled with Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus Christ. Now their predicament arises, Dante must make it back to heaven alive.


1) Dante Alighieri was a widely famous Italian poet, who wrote this epic as an allegory corresponding to his society. Based on your view of today's society, which three major sins would you place closest to Satan and why?


2) Dante was also a devout Christian, which influenced his journey through Hell into Heaven. If this poem had been regarded as a basis of Hell, would you try to change the ways of your life?

10 comments:

Vanessa D. 13-14 said...

1.) Based on my view of society, I think anger, envy, and greed, are placed closest to satan. When people become angry, they tend to do irrational things that they may regret. Anger has the potential to take over oneself and turn them into another person. Also, envy makes people seem like they are not thankful for what they have. When one becomes envious of another, they often ruin a friendship over something that is not worth losing someone over. Greed seems to be the worst, from my point of view. I cannot stand greedy people; they should be able to put others before themselves.

Brad S 11-12 said...

1. I think theft is the closest to Satan. When you lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you kill, you steal someone's parent, and you take someone's childhood. Deja Vu?

And to sum up what Vanessa said using the logic that Baba used, i have come up with this statement: When you are greedy, you always try to get more. When whatever you possess never seems to be enough, you want other things also, which is envy. In comparison, when people don't get the things that they want, they become angry. Always looking for more and not being happy with what you have; that is the greatest trait that is closest to Satanism.
Just like in The Kite Runner, one trait can be widely expanded to cover many others relating to the idea. So I say that greed is trait closest placed to Satan. People who don't appreciate the world for itself, and not the fancy things others make and overprice, being greedy themselves, are just not living life to its' fullest. Greed only leads to others that are greedy. An example is a gold digger. They want more, so they sweet talk their way to get more, which is usually jewelery. The finer jewelery is overpriced, but it's okay since the person buying it probably has no idea what they're buying, and spend a lot more than needed. This shows that the greedy jewelry store owner goes right along with the greedy grave digger.

Eric Y 13-14 said...

Vanessa-basically what I understand from your point of view is that you believe people's personalities and morals are what decides one's fate, in which case, I would agree with your statement exactly.

Eric Y 13-14 said...

Brad- it seems you got alot from the kite runner, but I also thought of the same thing when I read the poem. Based off society I would agree with your statement, but I believe Dante wrote this to convey God's view in society. Obviously those who defy God would have to be place nearest Lucifer, but then I would put violence, since you are destroying God's image and then either Lust or Gluttony because its as if those things are greater than God himself.

Vanessa D. 13-14 said...

yeah that's what I was trying to get at hahah I couldn't exactly figure out how to word it without it being too verbose.

Laura B. 13-14 said...

Personally, I think the three sins closest to Satan would be Lust, Greed and Theft. To me the three are interconnected. The greed for someone else's object or person causes lust and the ultimate act of stealing that item would be theft. I believe that treachery and anger, causing violence, would be the resulting direct actions of that certain theft. Also, the want for an object or item that does not belong to you, even though you may already have something similar can be linked to gluttony as well because that may be viewed as over indulgence. Finally, the acting like you have an object in your grasp that is in reality someone else's ay be viewed as fraud.

Megan D. 11-12 said...

I would have to agree with Brad that Greed would be closest to Satan, as murder and theft and several other significant atrocities fall under Greed. I feel second and third should be Wrath and Sloth, respectively. Wrath leads to conflicts between individuals and societies. Sloth makes it so that people won't work when they are suppose to or will not go out of their way to assist others. I feel like Lust, Gluttony, and Pride effect smaller groups of people and do not cause as many problems overall.

As for question two, I feel like Dante's writings bring Hell to life. Younger people typically do not think about Hell because they do not think about dying. Dante's Inferno, however, makes Hell seem all the more imminent and ominous and I definitely think it could make someone change their ways.

tyler k 13-14 said...

The three major sins i feel are most relevant with modern day society, i would have to say greed, lust, and murder. Just look in a magazine or watch the news or any popular show for that matter.

Cieran B. 5-6 said...

1. The three major sins of todays society are violence, greed, and anger. Violence for it is everywhere in wars, murder, gang shootings everywhere in todays society. Greed for every person chasing the American dream, some end up greedy. When they get a certain amunt of money all people want is more and more and more. Anger for most people in the world are most of the time angry at one point fo the day. And through anger comes reckless decisions that you can never take back.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

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