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Dante's Punishments Essay


In his Divine Comedy, Dantes punishment directly parallels to the sinners state of mind during his or her time spent on Earth. Dante uses symbolisms to explain and reflect the penalties for each circle with the lives of the sinners. For example, the second circle of hell if full of lustful individuals who were not able to exercise their God given reason and allowed the desires of their flesh guide their actions and emotions. Because of their inability to maintain control of their passions, they are forever tormented by a hurricane that drives upon [their] spirits with violence leaving them powerless and subjective to the mercy of the hellish winds (Dante Canto V lines 31-40). This punishment could possible stand for the passion of love and its ability to misguide the mind. Their damned souls are forever thrown to and fro by the winds of the storm with no relief symbolizing perhaps power lust can have and how is wrestles the mind into succumbing it its desires.

Another example is that of the third circle, which houses the gluttonous. As Dante and Virgil pass through circle three, they witness gross hailstorms, water grey with filth/ and snow that stinks as it falls upon the earth ( Canro VI ll 10-11). During their short time on earth, these people lived in an excessive wasteful state. Their addictions to their desires caused them waste and misuse valuable resources. Like pigs that consume whatever is before them and lie around in dirt and fecal matter, their punishment is to be forever rained upon by drops that consist of filth and excrement. This is perhaps because their fallacy creates waste, and they are therefore constantly reminded of it by having to lie around in the vile muck.

As Dante and Virgil descend farther into the pits of hell they come across the tormenting place of the fraudulent. There, within the fourth ditch of the 8th circle holds diviners, astrologers and magicians. On Earth, these individuals used their exceptional reason to distort and misguide the minds of others. In Dantes opinion, astrologers and false-prophets attempted to use unholy powers in order to see into the future. Because of this desire to look constantly look ahead, there faces are twisted toward their haunches [making it] necessary for them to walk backwards because they cannot see what lies of them symbolizing the twisted nature of their minds (Canto XX ll 11-14). To further defile their bodies, Dante writes that their tears bathe their buttocks, running down the cleft as they weep.

Dante use of symbolism throughout his comedy helps reveal the nature and consequences of sin to his audience. In doing so, Dante seeks to grab the attention of his audience and invoke a change within them to live better if they have been guilty of any of the latter sins.

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