Dantes Hellish Taste In The Inferno English Literature Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Impermeable and thick forms the hatred against those who sin treacherously against one, descending into one's thoughts and thought process, affecting all lucidity within, even to its near extinguishment. In the case of Dante Alighieri however, this is no matter, for hellfire shall light his way in literary retaliation towards those he felt corrupt in his times. Focusing his energies, Dante hands to the reader his accounts of disapproval and scorn, varying according to his taste, of those members of ecclesiastical and political office as well as of those with Roman or Greek lineage through their placement and punishment within The Inferno.

Dante held his pride close in deeming himself a Florentine, and national pride found no uncommon place in any Italian, especially at a time when the city-states warred with one another for control of the peninsula. It is this sort of pride, take note, which causes Dante's order of placement for the shades in hell. National pride connects itself with political boundaries, and almost never does Dante scorn those he encounters from his home city or any surrounding states, whether they were former black or white party members or some variety of office holders. Take for example, Farinata delgi Uberti, a fellow Florentine to Dante but on the opposite end of the political spectrum as a member of the black party. Even one who recognizes the author as an enemy is painted in a manner of regality with no effect upon him by his hellish surroundings, is described in such a way that "as he rose above the flame…he seemed to hold all Hell in disrespect" (X, 34-36). Throughout his journeys in Hell, especially in the upper portion, the shades worth mentioning show themselves, unrestrictive of withholding identity, in their encounters with Dante. Therefore it is unsurprising that the first shade found worthy to prophesize Dante's exile from his home city should himself be a Florentine, further proof of favoritism for western culture, as well as a proper allocation of an honor to Ciacco to begin a reoccurring theme of political prophesy in the author's entire journey. Dante's taste is pro-Italy and pro-Roman, although the idea of mainly corporal payment as a consequence of sins still stands for all shades. Still, only in the place with no corporal punishment in Hell does Dante place the founders of Rome among the heroes of the three groups of the citadel in Limbo. The title of the founders' group alone vouches for Dante's thoughts on the value of these founders, which are more than likely of approval, as far as any approval in Hell goes. Some shades he should have placed in more punishing states in Hell are not, simply because of their nationality or a certain stance they took in a situation in their lives. Such a case is that of Achilles, found among the carnal in the second circle. Here, the reader witnesses what may be a form of Dantean pardon, considering that Achilles was after all, a Greek. The hero's actions during his life provide the sort of cultural conversion in examination that provokes Dante's judgment to place him in a "higher" circle in Hell. Although he may have started as a Greek, out of his desire for the dame Polyxena, Achilles betrayed his fellow Greeks, probably to Dante's enjoyment, and joined forces with the Trojans in war, the predecessors of Romans. The concept of damnation by inheritance permeates Dante's judgment, as the reader will witness later on, but it is subject to redemption for any shade in question, or subject to an even heavier punishment should the actions of any shade find greater scorn in the author's eyes.

The disdain held for the ecclesiastical and the Greek is clearly evident throughout almost each and every passage in the book. There is no time wasted to show the reader the contempt held toward the clergy at the first available spot where Dante begins to show his mastery of the disgusting and petrifying in the fourth circle. Tied to the heaviest of boulders, all the shades with a notable tonsure are assumed to be members of the clergy by Dante, as the rest of their bodies are unrecognizable. The reason these priests, bishops, and cardinals find themselves in an unrecognizable state and unnamed is to serve as a probable message from Dante that there are many more corrupt church officials than he mentions or holds personal disdain for, "for it is in these the weed of avarice sows its rankest seed", and this weed might have infected a considerable part of the ecclesiastical forest (VII, 46-47). Several popes are placed in different spots for outstanding crimes committed such as Pope Celestine V in the vestibule of hell Nicholas III in the third bolgia of the eighth circle. Dante even placed two others in his spot later on, Pope Clement V and Boniface VIII for being simoniacs. Dante clearly shows scorn for the papal office when he speaks to Nicholas III, since "from him the ruddy flames seem to leap higher", flames that burn to the degree of ones offenses (XIX, 30). And Dante also continues to look condescendingly upon the other offices of the church that he can clearly point out such as the Cardinal of Ubaldini. "Il Cardinale", as Dante called him, was placed with the heretics for saying that he had lost his soul in his search for political power in dealing with the Ghibellines. It takes so few to be condemned in Dante's livid and offended mind.

As for the Greek portions, many of the guardians of the circles have Greek roots or come from Greek tales. The most outstanding example of hereditary and automatic damnation with added consequences that comes to mind is that of the guardian of the fifth circle, Phlegyas, son of Ares. Dante becomes comical indeed in his Commedia, in his encounter with Phlegyas, who feels "deceived, or like a fool at some imagined wrong" when Virgil declares that he may only have him for as long as he crosses the river Styx (VIII, 23-24). This same way he must have felt when, according to legend, Apollo seduced his daughter. For menacing a god in life, by the arson of Apollo's temple, and through his father's blood, by whom Phlegyas is wrathful, Dante puts him to serve as the link between the wrathful and the rebellious angels, who menaced God themselves. Even the titans, predecessors of the Greek gods, are placed before the entrance to the ninth circle of hell, which only accompanies the continuation of demonizing the guardians into monsters. As shown with Phlegyas, they symbolically fit the area they guard due to whatever story the monsters have behind them. But there are still those of simple human Greek inheritance Dante shows despise for, especially in the act of corrupting religion and leading people away from Christianity. One such person is Epicurus, the philosopher, who believed that all that in order to achieve happiness, suffering and pain need only avoidance. As leader of those "who make the soul share in the body's death", Epicurus is among the heretics for aiming for only temporal satisfaction instead of what Christianity offered, eternal life, which in his actions and beliefs, this specific heretic denies (X, 14). There is no denial though, of a pattern that arises as well with every step further down Dante takes and that is the accumulation of Greeks, not just as guardians, but as inhabitants in deeper portions of hell.

Even with the symbol of The Old Man of Crete, Dante reinforces his viewpoints. He places the statue in Crete, which has been recorded under Greek control and influence many times, as the source of all the waters of hell. Lastly, one must recall that the statue openly faces west, towards expansion, towards what is new and yet to be discovered and molded, towards Rome and Italy, Dante's favorite.