A Brief Introduction to Paradise Lost by John Milton & Dante’s “The Inferno” from his Divine Comedy
John Milton (Day One) • Greatest 17th century English writer. • Work reflects his Puritan beliefs as well as his comprehensive grasp of classic literature. • Scholar, traveler, political writer, activist and staunch Puritan • Wrote one of the greatest works in the English language, Paradise Lost • Dictated the entirety of Paradise Lost because he went blind.
Milton’s concept of Heaven, Earth and Hell • On the board • This mythic distance separating heaven and hell accentuates the plummeting “fall” of the angel of light, Lucifer.
Two very famous quotes from Paradise Lost: • “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, or a Hell of Heaven.” • “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” • Why are these well known? Pick one to respond to…….I’ll give you the guidelines for your writing.
Dante Alighieri (Day Two) • (1265-1321) • Medieval Italian Poet • Importance on staying on a path of righteousness • The Divine Comedy is his vision of the afterlife.
Dante’s Divine Comedy • Divine= Nature of the subject matter • Comedy= type of poetry that it is (it starts out somber, but ends on a happy note). • Based on an allegorical journey • The walk through a dark and confusing world represents the life journey of men and women. • We often get “entangled” in our daily lives and lose our way.
The work assumes two levels of meaning: • External (temporal) • Intrenal (spiritual) • Treatment of death and the afterlife aims to both comfort and warn • The Divine Comedy is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. • Dante’s character begins in Inferno and climbs upward to attain a view of higher plains.
The upward journey represents the human ideal of striving for temporal and spiritual perfection. • Virgil (a real guy- the ancient Roman poet who wrote Aeneid– one of the greatest epics in human history) guides the narrator through Inferno. • Each of the three parts of The Divine Comedy consists of 33 cantos (or sections) since three is a mystical number. One additional canto serves as a prologue (to = 100 which was a # that symbolized perfection).
The opening canto describes Dante’s spiritual confusion and sets up the journey. • On his allegorical journey: • He awakes to find himself lost in a dark, rank woods. • Three beasts confront him representing major divisions of the Inferno: the leopard, malice; the lion, violence; and the wolf, greed. • These bar him from a magnificent mountain that attracts his attention.
Canto II actually starts the journey with the typical invoking of the Muse. He also places his trust in the poet-guide Virgil. • Reader first views Inferno in Canto III. An ominous inscription is posted at the gate that warns of the hopelessness of the dead in this place. • The first characters that Dante meets are those in a vestibule, waiting eternally, as everyone waited for them in life. After a life of refusing to commit themselves, they are now stung to frenetic motion by wasps.
Dante, as character, is horrified at the beginning of his journey. His optimism, however, is evident in the character’s journey from Inferno on Good Friday, 1300, to hope on Easter Sunday, when he emerges from the abyss to freedom.
Do Handout #60 • Part A Together • Part B On Your Own
Dante’s Vision (Day Three) • Dante’s world is a combination of the concrete, abstract, and ethical. • As readers see, hear, and smell the creation, they realize the allegorical implication and sense relevant moral issues. (That is why is has endured and is such a powerful text!)
Nine Levels of Hell Cont’ • Beyond the wall to the city of Dis, separates the deliberate sinners from the foolish • Violence, fraud, and eventually to Satan himself. • Sins are evaluated, in almost every case, by the mores of the age in which they were committed.
The Nine Levels of Dante’s Hell • From a vestibule to a pit of fire • Characters at each level represent various sins. • One’s degree of evil dictates depth and type of punishment. • The first major levels and for the uncontrolled, those who became loose with morals,
Nine Levels of Hell Cont’ • The topographical detail of Inferno is vivid. • Rocks, bridges, rivers, boulders, etc. represent moral issues that impede people in their journeys through life. • Dante’s mission is to alert the audience that only the unrepentant need suffer the horror of the Inferno.
The Politics behind The Inferno(Day Four) • What is Anarchy? • Dramatize it. . . . . . .
Anarchy is. . . . • A state of disorder that provokes conflict and violence.
During Dante’s time in Italy… • Two parties competed (one would take power then the other) • The Ghibellines (imperial– law and order as basis. Religion meant little to them) • The Guelfs (papal supporters– professed supremacy in religion) • Neither party lived up to their ideals and both were selfish and greedy.
Dante’s Stance • Although Dante’s Florentine family supported the papacy, he sided with the imperial government. • As a result, he was exiled from Florence for life. • Firmly believed that God put the imperial government in place to preserve peace and justice.
In The Divine Comedy. . . • Dante’s first guide (for the underworld), Virgil, embodies reason and philosophy. • The second guide (on the higher level), Beatrice, embodies faith and religion. • Dante finishes The Divine Comedy around 1315 but it is set in 1300. • It criticizes the condition of Florence from the always clearer position of hindsight.
In medieval Italy….. • People identified with their cities, not their nation. • Dante considered himself Florentine, not Italian. • Florence was the scene of rampant rivalry between political parties. • And Dante used parts of The Inferno to deprecate political corruption and anarchy.
Do Handout #63 • Complete Part A • Then we will briefly discuss it and read the excerpt in Part B together.
Final Thoughts. . . .. • The Divine Comedy consists of three parts: the horrifying Inferno, the less terrible Purgatorio, and the delightful Paradiso • Dante’s brilliant poem capitalizes on fundamental beliefs of his culture to comment on human beings and society.
Creating Your Own Hell • We will go over the analysis of Dante’s hell together and what is expected of you……