Dante’s Inferno By Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri • World’s greatest poet of ideas • Born in Florence, grew up in beginning of the Renaissance • Exiled for supporting the White Guelphs, against the Pope – banishment!
Background • Allegory: the discussion of one subject by disguising it as another. The characters, setting, and the plot have hidden/symbolic meaning. Teaches a moral lesson. In medieval literature the allegory is the use of visible, physical reality to express the invisible or intangible. • Universal theme: search for salvation
The Divine Comedy • Epic poem written during his exile • Three sections: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso • Each section divided into cantos (song) 100 cantos total • Written in three line stanzas, terza rima • Three: deep spiritual meaning • Commedia – happy ending
Story • Dante – a traveler who stands for all of humanity • He travels into the Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise • Encounters characters from mythology, history, and his own time (friends, enemies) • Soul’s odyssey from sin to eternal glory
Significant characters • Virgil – great Roman poet, Dante’s symbol of human reason. • Beatrice – a woman whom Dante loved; symbol of divine love, she will take him through to Paradiso. Dante’s Law of Hell – as they sinned, so they are punished.
Canto I "Midway through the journey of our life, I woke to find myself in a dark wood.” Virgil acts as Dante’s guide through the Inferno
Literary devices • Light and dark imagery • The light represents reason, truth, righteousness, and goodness. • Dark is often depicted in times of torment, blindness, and evil. • Imagery in Canto 3 • Teacher/pupil dialogue emphasizes moral voice.
Gate of Hell • Virgil takes Dante through dark vestibule “Assault of the senses” • Souls of the Unsure • Charon, ferryman • Four Rivers of Hell: Acheron, Styx (mud) Phlegethon (blood), Cocytus (ice)
Canto III – Level One • Who are the unsure? What is their punishment? Why is their punishment appropriate? • Why is Charon angry that Dante is onboard? What is Virgil’s response? • Identify the simile in Canto III
Canto V – Second Level of Hell • Minos • Illicit lovers Lust is one of seven deadly sins • Punishment
Sinners - • Cleopatra, Helen, Dido • Paris & Tristan • Paolo & Francesca • Sinners in Circle Two of Hell are denied the pure light of reason • Courtly love – noble lady beautiful & intelligent, is loved by a courageous knight (already married -unattainable)
Canto V questions • Symbols: Hurricane of Hell • Minos’ role? • Inhabitants in second level of Hell? • Francesca & Paolo? What was the “spark”? • What is their punishment? Why is it appropriate? • What will happen to Francesca’s husband? • How does Dante feel about these souls?
Canto 34Vexilla regis prodeunt Inferni“The banners of the King of Hell advance”
Canto 34 - Level 9 Treacherous to their masters“The banners of the King of Hell advance” • Sinners? • Punishment • Describe last level of Hell • Description of Dis & Caina
Canto 34 Questions • How is the icy wind created? Icy wind of cocytus Ko-kit’es (“wailing” exhalation of all evil) • What covers the shades in the lowest level of Hell? • Explain lines 33-35 • What is Dis’ emotional state? • How does Dante feel about these souls?
Getting out of Hell • Having seen it all, the poets now climb through the center, grappling hand over hand down the hairy flank of Satan himself – a last supremely symbolic action • And, at last, when they have passed the center of all gravity, they emerge from Hell • A long climb from the earth’s center to the Mount of Purgatory awaits them • They emerge to see the stars of Heaven, just before dawn on Easter sunday