Dante`s Inferno - School of Liberal Arts

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Dante’s Inferno
Unit 5, Lecture 2: The Inferno: I-V
Allegorical “Architecture” of Dante’s
Afterworld
• Built on Medieval Views of Astronomy and Geography:
– Nine celestial spheres circle the earth
– Earth divided into Northern and Southern Hemispheres
• Physical Architecture of The Comedy
– Hell is a “funnel” in the Northern Hemisphere
– Purgatory is a mountain rising up from the Southern
Hemisphere’s waters
– Heaven is “distributed” among the 9 spheres
• Allegorical Architecture of The Comedy
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–
–
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Hell, purgatory, and heaven as forms of love
Hell=love perverted
Purgatory=love misdirected
Heaven=love completed
Structure of Dante’s Cosmos
“Drama of the Soul’s Choice: A
Literal and Allegorical Trip through
the Inferno
•
Canto 1: Lost in a woods, a soul’s fearful “wakeup” call
– Literal Story (1)
• Sleepy awakening in a dark woods:
• Sunlit hill blocked by three beasts
– Allegorical meaning (1)
• Dante=The “backslidden” soul
• Dark Woods=confusing darkness of sin
– The Hill=the upward climb of repentance
– Three Beasts=powerful habit
» The Leopard of Self-indulgence
» The Lion of violence
» The Wolf of fraud
– Literal Story (2)
• Dante meets Virgil
• Virgil: Escape must lie through infernal regions
– Allegorical Meaning (2)
• Virgil represents both classical culture and reason
• Virgil as “reason” symbolizes the end of “denial.”
• Virgil/Reason cannot “cure” sin or “
Literal Story & Allegorical Meaning
in Cantos II-IV
•
Canto II: Virgil’s Visitor, the outreach of grace
–
Literal Story:
•
–
Allegorical Meaning
•
•
•
Beatrice as “god-bearing” image of Divine Grace
Divine grace is “passionless” but seeks out the sinner
Canto III: Hell’s Vestibule
–
Literal Story
•
•
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Wasp stung runners chasing an elusive banner
Eager sinners waiting on Charonn’s boat
Allegorical Meaning
•
•
•
•
Beatrice “commissioned” the journey
The “banner chasers” represent opportunism
The eager souls represent sin’s illusion
Charon represents the loss of illusion
Canto IV: Limbo, the first circle:
–
Literal Story
•
•
–
Limbo the place of deserving unbaptized
Dante meets the great of antiquity
Allegorical Meaning
•
•
Pagan learning is incomplete
Reason as “the failure of the imagination
Literal and Allegorical Story, Canto
V
• Canto V, Circle 2, lust in the driver’s seat
– Literal Story:
•
•
•
•
The “funnel” shape of hell:
The circle of the lustful and its shattering wind
Glimpses of Helen, Paris, Dido
Tragic tale of Paolo and Francesca
– Allegorical meaning
• The funnel as “shape” of increasing sin
• The gale-like winds as picture of uncontrolled passion.
• Dante’s “fainting” as softness towards temptation
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