The Inferno
by
Dante Alighieri
(1265-1321)
Max Hekler
English Instructor
Needham high School
clcmapping.wordpress.com/ 2009/10/02/5/
A Little on the Man, Himself

From a moderate income Florentine
family

Florence was HOPPING then!

His father, a judge or notary, married
twice.

Married & had 3 kids, but never saw
them again after exiled at 36 years old

Lived another 20 years, traveling all
around Italy and extensively around
Europe until he died at 56

Exile was harsher than death in many
respects.
Beatrice
•D. Fell in love with a girl named Beatrice when he was
9, and he never got over her apparently.
•In The Divine Comedy, the figure of Beatrice
guides/lures/brings/motivates D. from the Terrestrial to
the Celestial Paradise.
•She sends Virgil to guide D. through Hell.
•Beatrice is mentioned by name sixty-three times in the
D. C., but on no occasion does D. address her by
name; the name occurs twice only in the Inferno, (ii.70),
(ii.1030)
Toynbee, Paget. A Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante. Oxford University Press,1968.
Beatrice
•the Light of Grace (lumen gratiae)
•the Natural Light (lumen naturale) leading to
•the Light of Glory (lumen gloriae)
•Revelation (Sapientia creat)
•A Love (de sursum descendens or caritas creata)
•Analogue to Christ (Sapientia increata) (Purgatorio)
Toynbee, Paget. A Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante. Oxford University Press,1968.
The Form of the Poem
•Epic poem in the tradition of Homer (The Odyssey, The
Iliad) and Virgil (The Aeneid)
•Allegory: Symbolism as a 2-D picture
•The Divine Comedy: 3 Parts
Inferno
Purgatorio
Paradiso
•Written in Cantos (33 each +1= 100 Cantos in all)
•Employs terza rima:
- three-line stanzas(tercet)
- chain rhyme: A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C, D-E-D
- no limit to the number of lines
•No set rhythm for terza rima
The Form of Hell
• Could this be any more a Type
2, Medieval, Hierarchical text??
• A special circle with special
punishments for every special sin
QuickTime™ and a
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• The sins are categorized in 3
sections: Sins of Incontinence,
Violence, and Fraud,
respectively(mirroring the 3
Beasts from earlier)
• 7th, 8th, and 9th Circles have
subdivisions (Rings and Bolgias)
• 2 rivers run through- Acheron &
Styx
http://www.catholica.com.au/peregrinus/images/DanteInferno_400x606.jpg
• Satan in lowest portion, stuck in
a frozen lake (indeed, when did
Hell freeze over?)
What’s With All The Ancient Greek &
Roman Stuff?
• Virgil is Dante’s guide in multiple respects
• Modeled after Hades
• Old Rome vs. New Rome
• Dante’s Hell keeps old mythological figures off
unemployment in a new Christian era
• Dante is giving himself mad props
• Those Greek and Roman figures are just too
cool to leave out of an epic poem.
Overview
• D. is going through a midlife crisis, wandering in the woods
• Encounters 3 beasts:
Leopard of Malice and Fraud (i.33)
Lion of Violence and Ambition (i.44)
She-Wolf of Incontinence (i.48; 90-105) (Depends?)
• D. swoons on occasion (i.11- see note on 47); falls
“unconscious”, has bad dreams
• Virgil “saves” him and guides him
• D. layers hell by sinner/punishment; and adds in literary,
religious, political, historical figures where they “belong”
• A real slice of 13th Century Florentine life; a Medieval
“Who’s Who”
The Gates of Hell
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Rodin’s Sculpture of The Gates of Dante’s Hell
Milton’s Version
http://www.sai.msu.su/cjackson/blake/blake7.jpg
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE CITY OF WOE,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO EVERLASTING PAIN,
THROUGH ME THE WAY AMONG THE LOST.
JUSTICE MOVED MY MAKER ON HIGH.
DIVINE POWER MADE ME,
WISDOM SUPREME, AND PRIMAL LOVE.
BEFORE ME NOTHING WAS BUT THINGS ETERNAL,
AND ETERNAL I ENDURE.
ABANDON ALL HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE.
(iii.1-9)
The Vestibule of
Hell
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Painting by William Blake
Engraving by Doré
noircon.info
http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/images/but812.1.5.wc.100.jpg
Opportunists in Hell’s Mud Room: The Punishment
. . .sighs, loud wailing, lamentation
resounded through the starless air,
so that I too began to weep.
Unfamiliar tongues, horrendous accents,
words of suffering, cries of rage, voices
loud and faint, the sound of slapping hands -all these made a tumult, always whirling
in that black and timeless air,
as sand is swirled in a whirlwind.. . .
Heaven casts them out,
and the depth of Hell does not receive them. . .
They have no hope of death,
and their blind life is so abject
that they are envious of every other lot.
'The world does not permit report of them.
Mercy and justice hold them in contempt.
Let us not speak of them -- look and pass by.'
And I, all eyes, saw a whirling banner
that ran so fast it seemed as though
it never could find rest.
Behind it came so long a file of people
that I could not believe
death had undone so many.. . .
were naked and beset
by stinging flies and wasps
that made their faces stream with blood,
which, mingled with their tears,
was gathered at their feet by loathsome worms.
(iii.16-69)
•Destined to forever be nowhere
•Swirling in a whirlwind
•Envious of everyone else
•Banished, forgotten w/o legacy
•Chasing desperately a blank banner
•Naked
•Swarmed by biting flies & stinging wasps
•Oozing, bloody, pussy wounds from insects
•Nasty worms gather at their feet
Opportunists: The Crime
'This miserable state is borne
by the wretched souls of those who lived
without disgrace yet without praise.
'They intermingle with that wicked band
of angels, not rebellious and not faithful
to God, who held themselves apart. (iii.34-39)
Essentially, they are the selfish bystanders
who abstain from taking sides. These folks
are guilty of not caring enough, of apathy.
Most likely spot for sowers of Senioritis!
“their blind life” (iii.47)
After I recognized a few of these,
I saw and knew the shade of him
who, through cowardice, made the great refusal.
At once with certainty I understood
this was that worthless crew
hateful alike to God and to His foes.
These wretches, who never were alive (iii.58-64)
The Great Refusal:
Popes who decided they didn’t want the job
The reason why Opportunists are
placed here in Hell is explained
literally. Their moral apathy entitles
them to no place anywhere.