It is one of the most known and referenced books of its time and is still a commonly read work of literature, but is Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno more that just one man’s interpretation of what hell is like? We know it now as a remarkable piece of literature, but some contend that it was a turning point in writing and how many viewed the world. Claims have also been made that it is an example of how man paved the road out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance, the period that shaped a lot of modern thinking. The book was received as a masterpiece and helped change the literary world of it’s time, but was it the book as a whole that helped lead the West out of the dark ages or was it the situations within? While the Divine Comedy was
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In almost all the levels of Hell, the punishments Dante creates for those in that level seems to be ironic in a sense that they mirror the sin they committed in life. For example, those overcome with lust in life are unable to control their actions and are ruled by their lust, so in Hell they are blown about by a wind unable to control their own actions. This can be seen as an “eye for an eye” type punishment by God on the sinners, and while they commit the sins on earth they are defining their punishment in Hell. The eye for an eye type punishment didn’t rely on a court system or trial of any kind and is very reminiscent of an old world type Judgment system.
More symbolism takes place in the next two circles (Circles three and four) as the gluttonous and those concerned for material possessions suffer. The gluttonous are forced to lie in a rancid slush created from a freezing rain and black snow. In the third circle, Dante talks to a Florentine with whom he discusses the fate of other prominent Florentines and Ciacco tells him, “They are among the blacker souls; A different sin downweighs them to the bottom; If thou so far decendest, thou canst see them.” (Dante 20) Dante is implying that his city is no longer what it used to be and has been corrupted by the Black Guelphs when they took control of it. In the Fourth circle those who had great concern for their material goods were