Dantes Inferno A Journey Through Hell





A Journey through Hell
The Inferno, the first part of the Divina Commedia, written around 1307 to 1314, is the masterpiece of Dante Alighieri. The story tells of a pilgrim Dante, not to be confused with the writer Dante, and his journey through hell to the base of the mountain of purgatory. Along the way, Dante accompanied by Virgil (human reason), meet many of Dante’s political rivals and many mythological creatures and sinners from throughout history. In the end, the travelers climb down Satan’s back, through the center of the earth and find themselves inside mount Purgatory. Dante develops many themes throughout the adventures of these travelers. The Inferno is a work that Dante used to express his ideas on God’s divine justice. Because of this, Dante was one of the most popular poets in the world when he died in 1321. Dante develops this theme with skill unparalleled even today. In an essay by Friedrich Von Schelling, the Inferno is described as, “the most objectively terrible [part] in its subject matter, so it is the strongest in expression and the strictest in diction, sombre and full of dread in its very choice of words” (21). He even invented a new rhyme scheme, terza rima, to use throughout his epic work. Dante develops the theme of God’s divine justice through the punishments the sinners receive, his own personal journey through hell and the power God has given the characters that help Dante along the way.
The characters that help Dante through hell exemplify God’s divine justice because God knows it is right that Dante be showed the way to enlightenment. The first help Dante receives from God is that of Virgil. In Moss and Wilson’s Literature and it’s Times, the point is made that, “By associating himself with Virgil, Dante is perhaps making a claim for the comparable importance of his own work as a celebration of a Christian empire”(178). Little did Dante know that his works have been compared with Virgil’s and that irony is stunning. God’s divine justice is shown through Virgil because he has great power in the upper circles of hell and becomes less confident in himself as the pilgrims descend (Moss, Wilson 178). Virgil easily overcomes many obstacles in the first circles of hell, such as getting across the river Styx. As the two descend he needs more help from God, like when the encounter the heretics, and God must decide, using divine justice, to help the pilgrims by sending help (Moss, Wilson 178).
Then there is Beatrice. In the Inferno she is made reference to many times. She represents divine revelation. It is because of her request that God grants Dante this journey into the depths of hell. This represents God’s divine justice in that God, being omnipotent, knows that it is right for Dante to make this journey and be shown the way of light. After all, the whole reason Dante has undertaken this journey is, “…to learn all there is to know about sin as a necessary preparation for the ascent to God”(Musa 426). As a result, it is revealed that God’s divine justice is also made clear by the fact that Dante is even on this journey.
Every thing God does is just. So when He allows Dante to pass through hell He cannot be wrong. It is the fact that justice is being done, through Dante, that illustrates this point. When the Inferno begins, Dante finds himself in a dark wood (worldliness) and wants to attain paradise by climbing a mountain silhouetted by the sun (God). The three beasts of sin stop him, and divine justice leads him to find Virgil and begin the descent into hell. By relating the idea that his experience was predestined and thus part of God’s will, Dante has let himself become God’s justice embodied. He is doing God’s work. His actions throughout the Inferno show his belief that he is doing God’s bidding. When he first enters hell, he feels sorrow for the sinners he encounters. After a few cantos though, he realizes that these people are not part of God’s plan and he begins to actually enjoy tormenting the sinners. In this he is an extension of God, for these people were placed here