Dante Inferno Essay

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In Dante's Divine Comedy, Dante incorporates Virgil's portrayal of Hades from The Aeneid into his poem, and similarities between the Inferno and Hades can be drawn. Virgil's underworld is largely undifferentiated, and Aeneas walks through it without taking any particular notice of the landscape or the quality of suffering that takes place among the dead. Virgil's dead are condemned to the same hopeless fate, and it is only the memory of life which torments them. Virgil is the guiding character and teacher to Dante the pilgrim, in both the Purgatorio and the Inferno. Dante borrowed from Vergil the poet much of his language, style, and content. While Dante improved upon Vergil's works in many respects, his changes in doctrine about death in particular reveal the differences between the conceptions of the otherworld of the two authors' respective periods. Aeneas has no concern for the philosophical and religious significance of sin and death and there is no moral judgments implied in the fate of the departed. However, in Dante's Inferno, there is a systematic differentiation of the landscape, and each progressively lower circle of hell implies a deadlier sin. Unlike Virgil, Dante makes explicit moral judgment on each of the individuals he meets, and the damned encountered range from historical figures, to contemporary popes and poets, to the greatest sinner of them all: Judas Iscariot. The quality of punishment given out to the sinners is thus increased as Dante's descend, and Dante's compassion for the dead lessens as he moves downward to the bottom of hell. On the contrary, much of Dante's Hell is original, but that which he did extract from the Aeneid he carefully adapted to his tenacities. In pursuing his Christian vision of the afterlife, Dante thereby created an otherworld structurally distinct from, yet stylistically suggestive of, Vergil's Underworld.
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