Inferno Dante's Divine Comedy, first titled La Commedia, is divided into three sections: Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Heaven). Dante and Virgil, his companion, enter the gates of Hell on their journey through the afterlife and experience the terror and horrible punishments that correspond to the sins that were made in the previous life. Dante, thirty-five years old, found himself astray in a dark wood on the night before Good Friday. Promising to rescue him and take him on a journey through the afterlife, Virgil's shadow appears before Dante.
Overwhelmed with fear of what the afterlife may be like, Dante overcomes this fear when Virgil explains that he has been sent to his aid by Beatrice, Dante's beloved. Hell consists of nine circles, the Vestibule, Acheron river, Walls of the City of Dis, Abyss, Giants' Well, and lastly Satan. As they pass into the Vestibule where the uncommitted are tormented, the two characters reach the bank of the Acheron river, where the lost souls wait their turn to be carried across the river by an ancient boatman with flaming eyes, Charon. In Limbo, first circle, Dante sees the great poets of the ages, Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan; their only punishment is being deprived of the vision of God. At the second circle, Lustful, Dante meets two lovers, Paolo and Francesca and listens to their story of love and death. Dante and Virgil see the Gluttonous mauled by Cerberus, the watchdog of hell in the third circle.
Entering the fourth circle, Prodigal, the two poets watch as the hoarders and spendthrifts roll huge rocks against each other. Dante and Virgil reach the fifth circle, the marsh of Styx, where the souls of the wrathful and sullen are condemned. One of the wrathful tried to overturn the boat on which Dante is carried by the demon Phylegyas, but to Dante's satisfaction, the wrathful is attacked by his companions. Dante and Virgil come under the walls of the City o Dis, the sixth circle, to which the fallen angels deny the poets access. Inside the City of Dis, the poets see the burning tombs in which the heretics are confined. When the poets arrive at the seventh circle, the are becomes so rotten that they have to rest a while behind a tomb.
Waiting to get used to the horrible stench, Dante and Virgil discuss the division of the lower part of Hell. The poets begin to descend through a deep valley and reach a river of boiling blood, the Phlegethon, which forms the first section of the seventh circle. After being carried across the river by a centaur, Dante and Virgil enter the second round of the seventh circle, where the souls of the suicides grow like plants in a dreadful wood ruled by hideous harpies. The third round is formed by a desert of burning sand on which the blasphemers, sodomites, and usurers are exposed to a rain of fire.
Dante recognizes a few souls and listens to their stories of how they ended up in Hell. Dante and his guide fly down to Male bogle, the circle where the sinners of simple fraud are condemned; the eighth circle consists of panderers and seducers, flatterers, simoniac's, and fortunetellers and diviners. These sinners are beaten with lashes, plunged in a canal of excrement, sunk upside down in round holes, and paced slowly whiling weeping silently with their heads reversed, respectively. The two poets finally reach a well where the bottom is a great frozen lake, as they enter the ninth circle of Hell. A giant, Antaeus, takes the travelers in his palm and places them on the frozen lake. The traitors who are punished here are confined in four centered rounds.
The first round, Cain a, houses the traitors to kindred, fixed in ice except for their heads. Dante speaks to some of the condemned. In the second round, Antenor a, are the traitors to country, where Dante kicks Bocca degli Abate in the face while treating him savagely. Visiting the third round, Ptolomea, Dante meets the traitors to friends and guests, among whom is Friar Albergo.
Finally the travelers reach Jude cca, the fourth round, where the traitors to their master and benefactors are completely covered with ice. In the center, Dante and Virgil see the three faced Lucifer, who is crushing Brutus, Judas, and Cassius in his three mouths. They climb down the thick hair of the demon's side, pass by the center of gravity and, through the natural dark woods, and come out to the upper world before daybreak on Easter morning. The Divine Comedy has had many interpreters.
Dante's work can be taken three ways: literal, , moral, and metaphorical. By the literal meaning Dante meant that his journey tells the story of the state of souls after death, according to the beliefs of the medieval Christianity. He did not, however, intend for his readers to believe that it was a literal story of his true journey through Hell. Hell is the condition of the soul after death brought to that point by the choices made during life. The moral purpose of the Divine Comedy was to point out to those living the sins of their ways, and to turn to a path of salvation before it is too late. Dante's work is known as an allegory, an extended metaphor organized in a pattern having a separate meaning from the literal story.
Dante wanted his reader to experience what he experienced, and from the beginning of the poem to the end he grows in power and mastery. He writes in the vernacular making it simple for most readers to understand. The imagery is designed to make the world of Dante's Inferno vivid to the reader. His hell is the creation of his own imagination, an allegory of reparation designed to show the state of the soul in the afterlife. The Divine Comedy offers many benefits to the reader. Not only is Dante's poem a great complex work, it is also a fascinating adventure of one's self discovery.
There is no doubt as to why Dante is one of the greatest writers of all time or why his work, Divine Comedy, is held amongst one of the finest poems of medieval times. Dante grows as a person as he travels along the paths of the afterlife. He discovers a life of torture as he makes his voyage through Hell. This tale warns the reader about the consequences of various categories of behavior; the Inferno is a great tool for teaching moral behavior.
It is important for readers to understand the moral story behind Dante's journey in order to realize that their actions in the present life will result in a life of either total bliss (Paradiso), or total misery (Inferno). The poem also offers a mystical vision of God's big plan for the entire universe. People today wonder what may happen to them in their afterlife, or if there truly may be one. Regardless of one's beliefs in God and the afterlife, Dante expresses to readers the importance to one's behavior in their present life and the consequences they may endure during their own journey through life. The Divine Comedy is a difficult work to understand and should not be taken lightly by the reader. It offers an intense experience by the protagonist, Dante, as he voyages through the feared sections of Hell.
Dante has successfully become one of the most fantastic writers of his time and has encouraged his audience to think for themselves of what consequences may come from the actions.