Part 1 of our summer reading, Dante’s Divine Comedy, is called the Inferno. Dante travels through Hell on his journey through the supernatural realms (books 2 and 3 are purgatory and paradise, respectively).
The book is poetry, translated from Italian, and as such it isn’t necessarily an easy read. However, it is very intriguing imagery and Ciardi’s translation allows for explanation on the themes that Dante is developing. I am really enjoying the read. I’m not very familiar with Dante’s theology or spiritual belief, but there are a few themes that he develops in the Inferno that are interesting to think about.
- Dante is encouraged not to feel pity for the souls in Hell that God has damned. It would be illogical and heretical to do so. This doesn’t imply that God made them be there, but that they chose it and God is enforcing it. Their punishment in Hell is the just response by God.
- The souls in Hell are punished, rather ironically, with the counterbalance to their greatest sins. For example, when Dante comes to the area for souls who commit suicide, they don’t have bodies but are instead trees. In addition, they can only speak when a branch is broken or maimed and they are “bleeding.” As one of them tells Dante, “…it is not just that a man be given what he throws away.” Canto XIII, Inferno. In another example, we learn that “as they tore others apart, so are they torn.” Canto XXVIII
I’m not sure how he does it, since it is an English translation from Italian, but most of Ciardi’s lines rhyme. Here are a couple of snippets from the book that stood out to me:
“ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE.”
“But all together they drew to that grim shore
where all must come who lose the fear of God.”
“That king whose perfect wisdom transcends all,
made the heavens and posted angels on them
to guide the eternal light that it might fall
from every sphere to every sphere the same.”
“Now tell me how much cash
our Lord required of Peter in guarantee
before he put the keys into his keeping?
Surely he asked nothing but ‘Follow me!'”
On a random side note, I was in Best Buy the other day and I noticed that a video game has been made about this story. It looks like it takes a slightly different twist, but it is interesting to see classical literature’s effects across the board.