Dantes Inferno Essay Topics

Canto I
1. Dante uses several symbols for sin and righteousness in Canto I. What are the representations? Which do you think is the most effective and why?

2. Compare and contrast the sins of youth, adulthood, and age.

Canto II
1. Dante compares himself to others who visited the world of Hades. Who were these persons and why did they make the journey? How would their journeys have affected Dante’s confidence in his completing the upcoming journey?

2. What kinds of love are evident in Canto II? Explain your answer.

Canto III
1. What is the crime of the uncommitted? What is their punishment? Is this penalty related to the crime? Explain your answer.

2. Why does Charon dispute taking Dante on his boat?

Canto IV
1. What are the indications that you have seen that Dante is lost?

2. Research one of those whom Dante sees about him in the First Circle. Write a paper about that person. In conclusion, express why you think that person is in the First Circle and not further down in the pit.

Canto V
1. Explain how the sins themselves are punishment in Hell. Use the First and Second Circles as examples.

2. Compare and contrast Minos with Christ.

Canto VI
1. Compare and contrast Circle Two with Circle Three.

2. What did Ciacco mean when he said that Hell had put three sparks in human breasts?

3. Why did Ciacco want Dante to speak his name on earth? Explain your answer.

Canto VII
1. Compare and contrast the use of mud and mire in the punishment of the gluttons and the use of mud and mire in the punishment of the actively and passively wrathful.

2. Pluto is a god of riches. Explain his presence at the entrance to the Fourth Circle.

3. Compare and contrast the Styx and the Acheron.

Canto VIII
1. What does it mean when Dante says that the boat does not seem to carry a load at all until Dante entered? Explain your answer.

2. Why do you think that Dante shows anger toward the soul in the mud?

Canto IX
1. Virgil says that the witch Erichtho wanted to “call back the shades to their dead clay.” What do you think he meant by that? Please explain fully.

2. Describe the souls in punishment in the Nether Hell, the City of Dis. Why are they there? What is their punishment?

Canto X
1. What is the shade’s response when Dante asks him with whom he lies?

2. When does the shade say that Dante will learn the meaning of life? What do you think he means by that?

Canto XI
1. Dante describes three circles containing souls who have committed sins worse than others. Which sins are more severe? Why?

2. Why is usury a sin? Explain in detail.

Canto XII
1. Dante has crossed three rivers: the Acheron, the Styx, and the Phlegethon. Compare and contrast each of these rivers.

2. Explain the relationship of the sin of violence and the punishment of boiling them in the blood of the Phlegethon.

Canto XIII
1. Compare and contrast the woods in Canto XIII with the woods in Canto I, when Dante realizes he is lost.

2. Describe how the spirits of the suicide victims enter the trees.

Canto XIV
1. Describe how the valley was made.

2. Describe some of the events which happened in Crete, according to the stories told by Virgil.

Canto XV
1. What things...

(The entire section is 1563 words.)

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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 Dantes 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 Gods 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, terms rima, to use throughout his epic work. Dante develops the theme of Gods 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 Gods 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 Wilsons Literature and its 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. Gods 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 Gods 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 Gods 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 Gods will, Dante has let himself become Gods justice embodied. He is doing Gods work.

His actions throughout the Inferno show his belief that he is doing Gods 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 Gods plan and he begins to actually enjoy tormenting the sinners. In this he is an extension of God, for these people were placed here by Him to be punished and Dante is fulfilling this aspect of Gods divine justice. Beside just the fact that Dante helps in the torment of the sinners, the way in which the sinners are punished shows God's divine justice. The torments are a reflection of the sins they committed and this irony is part of Gods divine justice.

Through these torments a vision of the sins they committed is drawn by Dante. He eloquently describes the sinners and their hell in vivid and imaginative language. Von Schelling again comments, The diversity and variety of the punishments in the Inferno have been thought out with an almost unparalleled inventiveness (21). These torments though, are what Dante believes God would impart on the lost souls, His divine justice coming to fruition. Every sin that can be committed on earth has its counterpart in hell as a punishment. These punishments are not only a reflection of the sins themselves, but more than that.

They were also, revealed truth of the hereafter, . To deny this would be to make the post materialist of the nineteenth century (Scartazzini 22). A materialist, Dante was not. His view on hell was one of continuation. He believed that the afterlife was a reflection of what people prepare in this life, thus the torments in hell reflect their sins and exemplify Gods divine justice (Scartazzini 24). The spiritual ization of the torments received in hell, give the Inferno powerful moral bearing (Hugo 24).

Dante shows that Gods justice is most supreme in the fact that the sinners caught in hell have no hope of ever attaining paradise. These sinners were called by God but refused to answer that call and as a result God has denied them what they long for, to be closer to Him. Dante though, has to take Gods divine justice and make it material. For true death is inconceivable (Knight 26). So Dante has to describe an immaterial thing in terms of the world. He does this quite well and this makes the Inferno the easiest of the three parts to understand, on the surface.

Dante lays many ideas underneath the literal context of his writing. One of these ideas being that of Gods divine justice. Dante also used Gods divine justice on his enemies. As he progresses through hell Dante continually encounters people he knew from Florence and people from antiquity.

Whether these people were deserving of the punishment they received from God is debatable, but Dante believed they got what they deserved. Salvatore Quasimodo reflects this by saying, We already know the disgust felt by the poet when he sees the third infernal river run where the horrible art of justice is at work (32). This horrible art of justice is just that, Gods divine justice. Throughout the entire work, Dante never falters in relating this idea through every thing that happens in the Inferno. In the final canto, Dante and Virgil climb down Lucifers back and into the base of the mountain of purgatory. This is metaphorically when Dante has finally seen and rejected all sinful acts and now is ready to experience Gods divine justice himself, and the ascent to heaven through purgatory and cleanse himself of sin to fulfill Gods judgment.

The purpose of Dantes Inferno was to show the people of his own time the eternal issues of life and death, present his own views on sin, and the redemption of those infractions (Ralph's 34). He also used this story as a way to discuss and show Gods divine justice. Dantes use of the character of Virgil as a representative of God sent to lead him through hell and into salvation is a prime example of this. Along with his use of the idea that the mere fact of his being allowed to see what Virgil is showing him is another manifestation of the divine, all knowing power of God.

Again Dante skillfully develops the punishment of the sinners to reflect the divine justice that God shows his followers. Above anything else, though, Dante tried to convey the fact that anyone who is willing to be led on the same path can and will be shown the way. This is the true nature of Gods divine justice. The people Dante encounters in hell are those souls who were offered the way but chose to turn their backs on God and only fulfill those hungers of the world system. They never stopped and looked around them to see what was being offered. As a result, they now can never realize the true potential of the human spirit and what it really means to have eternal life.

This is the true meaning of Gods divine justice; people will reap what they sow. Bibliography: Works Cited Hugo, Victor. Book II: Men of Genius, in William Shakespeare. A.

C. McClurg, 1887, p 36 - 94. Rpt in World Literature Criticism Supplement 1, ed. Polly Vedder, Gale press, New York, 1997. Knight, G. The Christian Renaissance, Methuen & Co.

Ltd. , 1962, p 95 - 121. Rpt in World Literature Criticism Supplement 1, ed. Polly Vedder, Gale press, New York, 1997. Moss, Joyce and George Wilson. Literature and its Times, Gale press, New York, 1997. Musa, Mark.

European Writers: Selected Authors, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1983. Quasimodo, Salvatore. Ancient Poets, in The Poet and the Politician and Other Essays, translated by Thomas Bergin and Sergio Pacific, Southern Illinois University Press, 1964, p 46 - 108. Rpt in World Literature Criticism Supplement 1, ed.

Polly Vedder, Gale press, New York, 1997. Ralph's, Sheila. Dantes Journey to the Centre: Some Patterns in his Allegory, Manchester University Press, 1972, p 63. Rpt in World Literature Criticism Supplement 1, ed. Polly Vedder, Gale press, New York, 1997. Scartazzini, G.

A. On the Congruence of Sins and Punishments in Dantes Inferno, translated by Thelka in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Vol. XXII, Nos. 1 & 2, January & April, 1888, p 21 - 83... Rpt in World Literature Criticism Supplement 1, ed.

Polly Vedder, Gale press, New York, 1997. Schelling, Friedrich. On Dante in Relation to Philosophy, in German Aesthetic and Literary Criticism: Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer, Hegel, ed. David Simpson, translated by Elizabeth Rubenstien and David Simpson, Cambridge University Press, 1984, p 140 - 148. Rpt in World Literature Criticism Supplement 1, ed. Polly Vedder, Gale press, New York, 1997.

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