Still Alive and a Little on the Inferno

Well, it has really been a long time since I’ve posted here.  One of my biggest problems being that I tried to write about The Inferno several times and failed.  Writing about The Inferno carries three problems for me: 1) I don’t really understand some passages; 2) certain references are too abstruse for me–especially in the iPhone edition I was using; and 3) I don’t get any particular enjoyment out of reading about hell.  For me, the strong point about The Inferno is the wonderful relationship between Virgil and the narrator–whom most refer to as Dante himself.  It’s wonderful to see how Virgil protects Dante through so many perils, and how Virgil stands up to demons, knowing that nothing can obstruct the will of God that Dante be permitted to examine hell.  I suppose the work might also be a way to meditate on how the vices present in one’s soul may lead one to hell and how to correct them.  On a final note, William Wordsworth translated the work in a beautifully poetic fashion.  I have no desire to write more than that, but I will give the work a second chance to grow on me later on.

dante's inferno image

In any case, I hope to enjoy The Purgatorio more. A professor I had, Bradley Birzer, told me that this work was the best part of The Divine Comedy, while The Paradiso was the weakest.  I hope that circlecitadel won’t be too disappointed.

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7 comments on “Still Alive and a Little on the Inferno

  1. circlecitadel says:

    Ah well don’t worry. I still haven’t lived up to my promise of several posts that I, well, promised to do haha

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  2. ash entzy says:

    Interesting take…I enjoy Inferno because Dante points out a lot of inconsistencies with the idea of Hell and exactly what Christianity defines as evil. Forces you to face situations and realize there’s not always a black-or-white answer.

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    • That’s true. And I very much enjoyed reading your article on the Inferno. The oddest thing for me is how Dante meets people he remembers fondly in hell. But, I suppose the thing to remember is that the One in charge of condemning is thankfully much more merciful than Dante.

      But, perhaps the most beautiful thing about Dante’s Divine Comedy is how he synthesizes all the great philosophical and literary movements in the time prior to him into one epic poem. Makes me feel like a mental midget!

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  3. […] Still Alive and a Little on the Inferno […]

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  4. Gaheret says:

    I completely disagree with your professor, although I acknowledge his is a common opinion. I enjoyed the Purgatory way more than the Inferno, but the Paradiso was amazing from the begining to the end, sort of a crescendo. I happen to enjoy characters which are both symbols/allegories and have a defined personality and I love that stunning, colourful, dreamlike images and scenarios. In both, Dante is the best. I love also his clever dramatization of History, Mithology, Theology and Philosophy, the music of his rhyme, his lyrical portrait of his own feelings and fears, his sense of horror, epic and wonder, the fragments of his own life, the unbelievable coherence of all the poem… I think it only goes up as you continue to climb with him, up and away…

    In my particular case, this may because that as a parable of Catholic faith, I would say that Dante´s Inferno lacks the subtly of a Dostoievsky, a Shakespeare or even a C. S. Lewis in his depictions of evil and Hell (the auto-closing in oneself, the obsessive and self-centered anti-life without love, The Great Divorce and Till we have faces make this point strongly), and therefore his characters doesn´t sound as condemned souls for me, as Lewis ones do. I enjoyed the landscapes of Hell, but not as much as the circles of the mountain or the spheres in Heaven, which were radiant, both as Christian and as mythos (in the sense of exploring truth through imagination, symbol and beauty) as I believe it´s possible, much more than Milton´s Paradise Lost, for example… That silent Satan at the bottom of creation. Dante-Virgil and Dante-Beatrice were very enjoyable relationships for me, deep and beutifully portrayed; a man and his master in his art and his life (almost the moral imagination embodied), and yet a pagan, a man and the woman who has inspired him as a symbol of good.

    The Purgatory and the Heavens, on the other hand, are much more accurate from the Catholic point of view (well, minus Joaquin da Fiore), and you may say, more confortable to read, as putting historic characters with their name and surname in Heaven is at least risky for a Catholic but in a work of fiction, and even then… but Heaven is the triumph, and the ones portrayed there are really triumphant. Dante paints a Cosmos, an ordered reality in which all is internally related and directed towards Love, where strenght, splendour, service, humility, freedom and grace are all united, and from his Heaven you see it as such: it´s pure joy. And the moment of coming to “the Love which made the Sun and all the stars” is unique, perhaps unreachable for any other poet, one of the deepest and cathartic encounters I have never seen in the world of literature.

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    • I see what you are saying. (Sorry for my late reply, by the way.) As for myself, I’ve only gotten part of the way into the Purgatorio; but, I hope to finish the Divine Comedy one day. It’s probably much better to read in the original Italian.

      I can’t say that I have much love for the Inferno, and I’d agree that Dante does not have as much depth in plumbing the minds of the impenitent as the other authors you named. But, it is still fun to see all the characters from myth and history he put down there.

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Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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