The Divine Comedy depicts the exciting journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. Inferno part narrates about extraordinary trip of Dante together with Virgil’s spirit to Hell. There, the readers may become the witnesses of the intolerable troubling sufferings of the sinners as the consequent punishment for neglecting God’s virtues and commands.
Hell is represented as a conical hollow in the earth created when Lucifer was thrown from Heaven. Hell consists of nine descending circles. Every further circle means the heavier sin and consequently brings more spiritual sufferings and continuing tortures for the sinners. Dante repeatedly emphasizes the deeper the sin is, the heavier and more severe punishment can threat the one.
At the beginning of the “The Divine Comedy” Dante together with his guide Virgil enter the first circle of Hell. The punishment is meant for the righteous people who are forced to languish for the sin of not being baptized. Here, Dante represents souls of the great ancient heroes, Greek and Roman philosophers, and poets as Virgil, Homer, Horace, Lucan, Ovid, Aeneas, Electra, Caesar, Socrates and Plato, Diogenes, Seneca and Euclid, and others.
The second bowel of Hell is guarded by Minos who “wraps his tail around himself that marks the sinner’s level” (Alighieri, V, 77). The second circle is meant for the sinners who “sinned within the flesh, subjecting reason to the rule of lust” (Alighieri, V, 78). Such sinners are tortured with unstoppable rotating “assailing wind, lament and moan” (Alighieri, V, 77). The reading audience meets Semiramis whose “vice of lust became so customary, that she made license licit in her laws”, “the wanton” Cleopatra, Helen, Achilles, and others. Here, the readers may come to know about a tragic love between Paolo and Francesca de Rimini who are sentenced for their forbidden love.
The third infernal circle is meant for the gluttons who suffer from “gross hailstones, water gray with filth and snow” (Alighieri, VI, 82). The gluttons are submerged beneath the stinking mess and cruelly tortured by a vicious doglike beast named Cerberus. Cerberus is a disgusting beast with the claws instead of hands to “flay and rend the shades” (Alighieri, IV, 82). Cerberus is a generalized character for this Inferno’s circle as the embodiment of constant greedy hunger. The shades can recognize themselves in their horrible voracious beast because they practically behave the same as this doglike creature. They could not put up with their hunger and restrict their gluttonous appetite. Devil has managed to bring these sinners into the unholy circle of sins, and they could not restrain themselves from temptation. The gluttons receive a fair punishment for being insatiable and unrestrained.
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More above, the poet mentions some facts about continuing conflict which existed in the Italian society, and expresses his thoughts about gluttonous desire for power. He falls back to parallelism to demonstrate mistaken physical and moral priorities.
The squanderers, possessors, and the misers endure their punishment in the fourth circle. They roll the enormous heavy weights, “struck against each other” and constantly curse each other (Alighieri, VII, 87).
In the fifth circle Dante and Virgil meet the shades who suffer for inability to repress wrath and pacify envy. They beat each other with their heads and chests, and strive to tear each other into pieces. The envious ones are put underneath the stinky slime water and “make the plain of water bubble” (Alighieri, VII, 89).
The sixth section is destined for the atheists, heretics and heresy spreaders who are tortured with the eternal fire.
The seventh circle is divided into three sections and is supposed for the offenders in violence against the neighbors, oneself and God. Dante sees Alexander the Great and fierce Dionysius. Here, the poet meets his teacher Brunette Latini.
The eight circle of hell is the place where the readers may observe punishment of “ordinary” fraud. Panders, seducers, flatterers immersed in excrement; simonists with set heads down into holes of the rock, tormented with flames; astrologers, magicians, barrators, hypocrites, thieves, sowers of scandal and schism, falsifiers of metals, falsifiers of words, liars have to bear the blame for their misconduct.
The last ninth circle is destined for the worst human crime such as mean treachery. The traitors are immersed inside the ice with the heads bent down. The traitors against Benefactors are made to pay the penalty for their rascality. The well-known Brut, Judas are the worst representatives of mean treachery. The outcast Lucifer embodies the core of all human evil.
Dante applies contrapasso, the theory expressed by Aristotle consisting in that a soul suffering in Hell has to receive such punishment that would contrast or extend sins they did while living on the earth” (Web, n.d.).
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Dante uses various allegoric, metaphoric comparisons, creates extraordinary, almost realistic pictures of the terrible sufferings of the sinners to shake the readers’ imagination. The author portrays various Bible and ancient fabulous characters to enforce the impression on the readers and push them to the appropriate comprehension. Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy exaggerates in drawing and description of the sinner’s sufferings and fabulates the punishment for the ones, but he pursues the aim of improving the human nature.