Dante, Boethius, and Christianity Essay

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In Canto IV of the Inferno, once he crosses with Virgil, in a ferryboat with Chiron at the helm, Dante finds himself and Virgil surrounded by a sad, dark valley:

That valley, dark and deep and filled with mist,

Is such that, though I gazed into its pit,

I was unable to discern a thing. (lines 10-12).

The light of the earth has been swallowed by the darkness of Hell.

In Canto V, Dante speaks with the adulterous Francesca de Rimini "through the darkened air" (line 89). Francesca, buffeted about endlessly by strong winds, tells Dante the story of how her adulterous love for her brother-in-law, Paolo Malatesta, his brought them both this point, the Second Circle of the Inferno, where those who let lust overtake their sensibilities during their time on earth are endlessly punished. Here, Francesca and Paolo are battered and buffeted about mercilessly by harsh, filthy winds (as an Infernal parallel to their former earthly impetuousness), for all eternity. Admittedly this is a work of fiction, and a product purely of Dante's imagination; still, it is hard to imagine this particular retribution as a Christian one.

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As Dante and Virgil travel downward, through each of the nine circles of Hell, respectively, darkness steadily increases. Additional metaphors for darkness encountered within these various circles of the Inferno include descriptions of unending foul weather, including rain, snow, sleet, slush, and mud. For instance, within Canto VI, Dante the traveler finds the Third Circle, where Gluttons like Ciacco are stuck, to be:

. . ., filled with cold, unending, heavy, and accursed rain; its measure and its kind are never changed. (lines 7-9).

Essay on Dante, Boethius, and Christianity Dante Assignment

Within the Fifth Circle of the Inferno wait the "Wrathful and the Sullen, the former besmirched by the muddy Styx, the latter immersed in it" (Dante, The Inferno, Canto VII (Introductory description) p. 1854). Here, Dante tells Virgil, as they trudge through this circle, that he hopes to somehow recognize faces, in the darkness, of those "who have been bespattered by these crimes" (line 51). Before this point, Dante had had relatively little trouble in recognizing the face of Francesca, or even of Ciacco. Now, however, Dante can do no more than:

. . . make out muddied people in that slime, all naked and their faces furious (lines 110-111).

In Dante's Inferno the more serious the earthly sin of a sinner, the farther down in Hell he or she will be placed. Finally, in the darkest, most interior part of hell, the traveler and his pre-Christian guide encounter Satan himself, before next crossing over to slowly ascend the mountain of Purgatory, toward the divine light of Heaven.

Within the Inferno, the Christianity of Dante, vis-a-vis all those whom he meets in Hell and Purgatory, and Hell (the Inferno) in particular, is not especially deep or reflective, nor do the punishments found in Hell have much explicit tie (or at least any apparent one) to Christianity itself. The structure of the Divine Comedy is clearly designed so that the traveler (Dante) moves upward toward Heaven, but Dante's spiritual and allegorical journey itself nevertheless seems less than a purely Christian one.

Works Cited

Alighieri, Dante. The Inferno (from the Divine Comedy). In The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Vol. B (Pkg. 2). Sarah Lawall et al. (Eds.) New York: Norton,

2002. 1836-1945.

Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. Trans. W.V. Cooper, 1902. Electronic

Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Retrieved May 21, 2005, from:
www.canadiancontent.net/en/jd/go?Url=http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty / jod/boethius/boethius.html>.

'John: Introduction." New American Bible. Retrieved May 20, 2005, from:

.

Sinclair, John D. Dante's Inferno. (Italian Text with English Translation). London:

Oxford U.P., 1972. 106-107. [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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