does anyone feel any sympathy for the damned in 'The Inferno'?
Good question!I think we, the modern readers, would be far more inclined to feel sympathy for the damned than, say, Dante's reader. For example, I think people in our society would sympathize for Francesca. She didn't marry her husband by her own choice, out of her own natural love. We would see her feelings for her lover as the truer feelings, and I think today we emphasize truth-- that is, we would sympathize with her actions on those true feelings. We would see them as justified, almost as if marriage to us it he marriage of hearts, not of laws. That's not to say we don't dislike cheaters-- but we see cheaters as people who enter, willingly, into a relationship and, even as the relationship decays, stay in that relationship and then cheat on their partners. (The more ideal situation would be to leave the relationship before acting on feelings for another). Someone who is forced into a marriage and who, unfortunately, discovers love with someone other than their spouse is someone we would pity. To the medieval person, I think that situation holds less true. Marriage is marriage and, as Dante asserts, the church is supreme. I don't think he was radical in saying this-- I think this would have been a natural thought on everyone's mind. The laws of God superimpose any human feelings; your love for your paramour may be true, but you cannot act on it, because you would lose the Divine Love, the best love-- the love of God. That said we know Dante felt for the lovers, and I think he works pathos for many sinners-- especially the more minor sinners-- into the piece. But his sympathy is different from ours. At least in my case, my sympathy for them is in part from my sense that the punishments are unfair. I don't want to go into that now-- if someone wants to challenge that, I'll explicate. Dante's sympathy is simply sadness or pity for people who made mistakes. They deserve what they're getting, but it's still sad that they rejected God's grace and ended up damned for eternity-- and I think his pity also stems from a "this could be me" mentality. He's glad he hasn't made that mistake, or that he'll repent for the mistake, but he knows he could've made it-- because he is human and fallible.
I agree with Michelle. I definitely have definitely felt sympathy for the damned as I have read the Inferno, but that is not to say that they are not deserving of being damned. I really find the Inferno interesting, from the different beings telling Dante to stay away at the levels to the people throughout history who appear in the Inferno. I had no idea what to expect when I began reading it.
So why do y'all think some sins are worse according to the organization of the levels of hell? For example, why is deceit worse than violence? Or why is gluttony worse than lust? I was thinking that maybe it had to do with the severity of sins according to scripture, but one of the seven deadly sins isn't deceit, whereas avarice, anger, lust and gluttony are all apart of the seven deadly sins but are not in "lower hell."
i think, as for deciet being worse than violence, perhaps deciet is worse because it is violent for all concerned, the lier and the decieved. and lying against god would be considdered really bad
Bless your heart, Taylor, for reading my post!Strange that gluttony should be worse than lust-- lust to me is almost a specific sort of gluttony.To me, though, the erring lovers of The Inferno are portrayed as that-- lovers. Love is a pure emotion and a good one under the grace of god. Gluttony is never good, no matter what. Perhaps that is why the level for lust-- which I guess I am trying to argue is more appropriately called unblessed/unholy love-- is supposedly better than gluttony.As for the other sins, I hope that as I "descend" through Hell, the reasons for their placements shall be made clear-- at least in Dante's view.
I think that in regards to Aaron's original post about feeling sympathy for the characters depends upon the century in which the reader lives. Obviously our modern culture would be more sympathetic than a midieval one that had an ideology predecated on damning siners regardless of the circumstances. I think the fact that they saw Hell as being an actual place that sinners went upon death speaks volumes about their concepts regarding redemption.
I would have thought that people at this time would have considered disbelief in God as a much greater sin, deserving a greater punishment then being in Limbo. Like Ehren feels, the order of the levels of hell definitely surprised me. I feel that some, such as gluttony, are not deserving of such great punishment while violence and deceit is.
Taylor-- the thing to remember about the people in Limbo is that they did not reject God-- they had no opportunity to deny Him. Their disbelief is innocent, since Jesus had not come. I think all the Jews before Jesus would also be in Limbo, though Dante I guess doesn't really care about them. People who reject Jesus and God after exposure, I would think, would be a different story.
Limbo is the place where "god heretics" go. They did nothing wrong, but they are seen as great people by Christians. as opposed to all other heretics who are not seen worthy in the eyes of religious people.
The level of hells are based on Dante's thought. He decided what the levels were and where they are in conjunction with themselves. This would mean that foucoh (spelling is bad) would have a field day with why this is wrong. this book is based entirely off of the authors thoughts.
Referring back to Aaron's question, yes I do have sympathy for the damned in the inferno. There are so many sins that it is impossible not to commit one, so why should someone who indulged a little bit too much (gluttony) be in hell with Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein?
I agree, some of the offenses do not deserve the eternity of torment that they must suffer, and this leads me to a question, after a time are the souls forgiven based on their sin and can move to purgatory and then heaven?
I agree with most of the other posts...I definitely feel bad for the damned, but you also have to remember that most people today are not as "strict" about their religion as people were back then (in my opinion), so if viewed from their perspective, the punishments might not seem as harsh.
Ehren-- I think it is worth remembering that you are not punished for the sin automatically. If you repent, especially if the trespass is minor, you may still go to heaven. Those in Hell are people who sinned and felt no remorse, paying no heed to the word of God.Not that I agree with Dante. I'm just sayin'.
Doesn't it seem rather strange that Hell is formed when the Devil falls seat-first into the earth? It just seems like everything else is so organized with the various rings and such. I mean, it seems like everything was planned out except the Devil ass-planting into the earth. Would there be a Hell if he hadn't bruised his bottom?
In response to Aaron's question, I might feel sorry for some of the lesser offenders. But, as Michelle points out, those in Hell had no remorse. I mean if you look at some of the upper levels, such as lust and gluttony, aren't we all a little guilty of those things? Obviously moral codes and religious ideals have changed a great deal since the fourteenth century, but I would hate to go to Hell for taking more than my fair share of cupcakes without feeling any remorse.
Michelle is right about why they were in hell. If they had done these sins and then repented they would be saved, but these people lived their lives filled with sin and had no other thoughts.
i do not feel sympathy for the damned in the inferno because they sinned. i do feel that some of the punishments should be different. Did anyone see the movie "toothless" because it offers a really great explanation about purgatory
http://www.catholica.com.au/peregrinus/images/DanteInferno_400x606.jpg here is a link to the image of Hell
I thought it was interesting in class when we discussed the opportunist and how they were punished in hell. It seems to me fairly hipocritical of Dante to place opportunist in hell when in his life people who opposed church doctrine could not stand up and voice their opinions publicly so in essence they would be forced to go along with everyone else. I suppose at that time unlike our society there would be few people who actually opposed the church.
Don't forget though, the opportunists could be going along with other beliefs or groups not necessarily only church groups.
I'm sure that when Dante was writing the Inferno he was not thinking about opportunist in terms of church doctrine but rather every day activities. A person like Dante would probably not consider opportunist as being someone who disobeyed the beliefs of the church because he personally would never stray from church doctrine. The whole notion though still seems hipocritical to me.
It think it's interesting that Tristan and Iseult are in Hell. Is it really their fault they are filled with sinful lust? After all, this lust came from a bottle. Should they really be damned for being victims of circumstance?
I agree with most others who have posted here. Going to hell for gluttony or lust - when eating and procreating are basically the only two activities mankind absolutely needs to survive - seems harsh and counterintuitive.But to Dante and according to the typical religious doctrine of the time, I guess the point was that the tendencies and desires of this human form are impure, and true religious piety meant resisting natural human temptation. I suppose I can understand that.
Well the problem is not procreation or eating. It is an excess of both, the gluttons are those who are greedy and indulge their desires instead of living a sparse life without indulgences like priests were supposed to do. THe doctrine says to do these things but in a sparing way.
i think some of the punishments that are inflicted in the inferno are ridiculous by our standards. the punishments that were inflicted on the wasters and hoarders are entirely unjustified.They should not have gone to hell but rather to purgatory.
I agree with the others that the main reason we feel sympathy for the sinners is because we can relate to them sometimes. Thats similar to what Mrs. Scandurro was saying in class, that Dante fainted at certain sins because he could relate and think that some punishments were harsh because of his fear of being punished for the same thing. I think the reason he did this was to scare the readers so that they would repent before they died and did not have to go to heaven.
I'm sorry, but i meant hell not heaven at the end.
I have a question:Could Dante's Inferno be seen as a testament to the idea of moral relativism, seeing as most people seem to disagree with Dante's organization of hell?I don't think Dante had that interpretation in mind, but the fact that there isn't much of a consensus about what the greatest & least sins are seems to indicate a lack of true moral absolutes.
i agree that we feel sympathy for the sinners because we have committed some of the sins they are punished for. i mean seriously who has ever eaten only two oreos, which is considered one serving. also, i think that many in our class are sort of existentialists, so the disagreement over proper punishments fit.
john, i completely agree. obviously, our questioning and disagreeing with Dante's order and punishments attest to that.
John, I wouldn't really say that the Inferno has anything to do with moral relativism. We live in an entirely different age in which we are more accepting of Dante's "sinners." Dante, however, lived in an era in which virtually all thought was strictly based upon the bible and teachings of the Church. When you read the Inferno, I think, you have to put yourself in Dante's time period.
... Isn't the idea that morals change with time, and you have to put yourself in the right time period for proper frame of reference, pretty much the same thing as moral relativism? Or am I misinterpreting what you said?While society's acceptance of certain sins doesn't necessarily make those things any less immoral, if Dante's Inferno conformed to some moral absolute then it wouldn't matter what time period you're in, its morality would be self-evident... right?I suppose you could argue that the Bible counts as a certain moral absolute. Though I'm not sure to what extent The Inferno actually takes its morals from the Bible.
We were interpreting the meaning of moral relativism differently. Yeah, what you just said is right, though.Does anyone find The Inferno a bit, for lack of better words, childish? For instance, in the first canto, he has bees chasing those who didn't chose sides in the battle of Heaven. Does anyone find this, and other punishments like it, slightly...stupid?
Yeah. I agree about the bees thing... it kinda reminds me of that episode of the Simpsons where Homer goes to hell, and in hell some demon goes "So, you like donuts huh? Well now you will eat donuts for ALL OF ETERNITY!" and then some weird contraption full of donuts starts rapidly force-feeding Homer donuts.
i think that i will start a circle of hell just for people who watch the simpsons just kidding
It reminds me more of the episode when Bart becomes Mr. Burns' heir and Bart decides to live with Mr. Burns. Homer drives to Mr. Burns' mansion and demands that Bart return home and Mr. Burn tells Homer, "I suggest you leave immediately." Homer replies, "Or what? You'll release the dogs? Or the bees? Or the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you?"
all simpson epidoses aside...yes, the Inferno is in a moral and ethical sence rather simple. Dante does go through the motions of making the punishments christianly symbolic, but his sins are not very complex; i say this meaning that Dante makes little distinctions between those who really "deserve" and those who are less "deserving" of the punishments. the most complex things are the punishments, which are sometimes really interesting.
Some of the punishments of Lower Hell are graded towards the severity of each respective sin. And I think the simplicity of his categorization of sin represents the Catholic view of sin at that time. We now live in an era that refuses the notion of black and white. Everything, to us, is in shades of grey. Dante's world was not like that; there existed scales, yes, so in that sense you could see some grey. But they weren't soft scales like the transitions between colors on powerpoint backgrounds-- they were stacked, like rungs of a ladder. And there was no space between each rung, you fell on one rung or the other and nowhere in between-- so it was either this sin or that one, not "Well, it's a mixture of two sins, and really that lust was minor, and that was a medium murder, not too terrible but not the nicest, either..." You either committed a certain sin, and were punished for it, or you didn't, and weren't punished for it. To us, so wedded to this concept of subtle greyscale, this is simplistic. To Dante and his contemporary readers, this was the only true idea-- they really had no notion, no suspicion of what we think today.
remember how in some of the architecture they would have reliquaries to house objects that allegedly belonged to saints? Well people would flock to these reliquaries to "worship" them. Isn't this a form of idolatry (one of the ten commandments)? why wouldn't people be sent to hell for this? I know it was in the name of Christianity, but it still seems like they would have been putting something else before God.Jane - do you have sympathy for the people in the inferno or not? I think you said both at two different times.
Ehren, you bring up a good point about idolatry. I think that was one of the underlying forces behind the Protestant Reformation-- that, and simony, and Popes with chlamydia.
Frankly Ehren, I think that the fact that it was a Christian activity made that type of idolatry ok. I do agree with you: it is a form of idolary. But even in modern times, people idolize things like money, power or other people.Back to the moral relativism, I think we are looking at "The Inferno" with this in our heads. Back in Dante's time, the philosophy focused on moral absolutism [all morals are the same for everyone and everything]; however, now in modern times, we trend towards moral subjectivism [personal morals applying to that one person].Is "The Inferno" a work that shows only Dante's moral outlook or is it representative of the time in which he lived?
I think that depends on whether you view the character Dante as himself or as a representation of the every-man. I say this because the character Dante shows sympathy for the damned, so if the inferno is Dante's moral outlook, I wouldn't expect Dante himself to have as much sympathy for the condemned... if that makes sense. Also, I think Mrs. Scandurro mentioned that Dante was involved in an affair, and I wonder if that fact affected the positioning of the lustful compared to other sins in the Inferno. Because if you're married and having an affair, you're being deceitful to your husband/ wife. Therefore, even though it is a carnal sin, it's almost like treachery against your spouse...
so then do you think that the sympthay Dante showed for particular sins in Dante's inferno was dependant upon how much he himself actually committed that particular sin?
So this isn't exactly an answer to Aaron's question, but it's something I was thinking about as I read the final Cantos of The Inferno, and it actually stems from something he said in class today.Aaron was talking about The Inferno as an outcry or admonition against sins Dante thought were plaguing Italy. I should like to take it one step further: in some ways, I see his poem as an expression of a prevalent fear in a changing world, of the uneasiness and dread many must have felt watching the paradigm and worldview of their whole world shift before their eyes. As Doc said, with the death of the medieval period perished the concept of fealty, its emotional bond replaced by the cold, unfeeling ties of contract. The ninth level of Hell contains those who broke such ties against kin, country, guests, and, finally, their Master. It is littered with familiar Italians, men who, in this changing world, have shed the comfortable values of the passing era and disregarded spoken bonds of trust. That there are even so many contemporaries of Dante to fill that circle indicates a definite change in values. This breakdown of the old order leads to the breakdown of all order. The Great Chain of Being, held together by strict outlooks and fealty, is being eroded by contracts and a rising middle class. From one perspective, Dante's Inferno can be seen as a protest for the "good old days" of the medieval period, the order of the Great Chain (as depicted in part by the strict tiers of Hell) and the revival of dying fealty.
That's a pretty interesting point, Michelle. I really don't know what to think - Dante could have implied a number of different themes. I guess it just depends upon how the reader interprets it. That being said, a lot of literature is ostensibly nothing but a good story, but I don't think anything we've ever read in English class has just one meaning or interpretation. Ehren - that's a good point, too. I think Dante might have been a little biased with his circles of Hell.Now this is probably a little outlandish, but what if Dante was trying to make fun of the Catholic Church a little bit? Obviously not as a main theme, but maybe as a sub-theme? The Church and theologians often made pretty ridiculous statements (such as the whole "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" thing) and gave ridiculously specific numbers and facts to events that they couldn't possibly know about (like the number of Angels in the war in Heaven). Maybe, by making Hell into a sort of hierarchy of punishment with ridiculously specific detail, Dante was making fun of the Church's tendency to put everything in ridiculously specific hierarchies?Maybe not...as far as I know, Purgatory and Paradise don't have anything like that. I was just suggesting something, ya herd?
I think Ehren's insinuation that Dante uses his own sinful behavior when relating the severity of the different sins in Hell. If Dante was prone to certain sinful behavior, it is human nature to be more understandable towards those sinful characteristics.
Oh - also, Dante was banned from his home city in Italy for being politically active, right? So he was known to criticize stuff
Also, I would have thought Tristan and Isolde would be in the bottom portion of hell (I forgot which circle) with the people that committed treason.
I definitely agree with Stephen and Ehren. Everyone has their own beliefs on which level should be the highest because of personal experiences. Someone who is having an affair (like Dante) probably won't feel that it is the sin deserving the worst punishment.. or maybe they would. I mean, I'm not going to lie, today at the NHS luncheon, I definitely took part in gluttony with those fingers sandwiches and, unlike Dante, I personally don't think it's that big of a deal. Anyways I think Dante's relationship between the sin and punishment would be a very interesting way for a country to be run. It kind of reminds me of the whole "an eye for an eye..." thing. Maybe.
and what about paganism? thats only in the first level, but its not a "sin of the flesh" its a "sin of the soul," so shouldnt (according to Dante) the pagans be deep in hell with the fortunetellers? The sins just seem a little arbitrarily placed sometimes.
anyone want to respond to my post?
i was pretty much shocked throughout all of the reading at how harsh some of these punishments were. I believe that people should be forgiven, but once someone was in Hell there was no chance for forgiveness and they could never escape. I think even the worst crimes deserve some sort of relief if they recognize how bad what they did was. i just think that some of the punishments were taken to far
Wise -I definitely think Dante was mirroring the hierarchy inherent in most Catholic institution and doctrine. And he certainly criticized the corruption within the Catholic Church when he placed various bishops, priests and popes in hell.But I think your idea is mutually exclusive with the reading of The Inferno as an allegory. If Virgil represents human reason, and Virgil sees justice in all the sinners' eternal damnation in their respective circles in hell, then Dante would essentially be saying that hell's hierarchical organization is completely reasonable.So I think you would have to choose between reading The Inferno allegorically, or as a criticism of the Catholic Church in its entirety. And I would say there's probably a more compelling case for interpreting it as an allegory.
like what's already been said in class, i think the severity of the punishments reflects the belief of the church at the time that you needed to repent before you died or else it didn't count. i also think that it doesn't really matter whether or not we agree with the severity of them or the level Dante chose to place them on because he did not write the divine comedy to please anyone. i think that he just wanted people to know how he felt. he probably thought of himself as quite the smarty pants and might have even hoped that people would be confused by his reasoning but just accept his setup because he was just that awesome.
I think the most amusing part of the comedy is how Dante put his enemies in hell as a way of getting revenge. I guess he had some courage because they (the people he put in hell) could take offense and get him into trouble. But, I must say it was a unique idea even if it wasn't the primary reason of writing the comedy.
I also like the way he created his own rhyme scheme, the terza rima,and the way he depicted the loss of order as he approached the lowest circle of hell where satan was. I thought it was a nice addition because it showed that if one was far from God then there was chaos.
Wise: I think that Dante was commentating on the state of the Church at that time. Many Popes and preists were doing majorly unethical and immoral things, like selling church offices and having illegitemate kids. I feel that Dante beleives that the Church had lost its footing and was slipping into sin. Ultimately, I dont think that Dante was making fun of the Church because he would have been excommunicated or killed as a heratic. So, simply: no, I dont Dante would have made fun of the Church.
I know I'm basically saying what everyone else is saying, but:I think that it would be almost inconceivable for people to make fun of the order and structure of the time in Dante's era. To us-- again, in our worldview (I am so pomo!)-- it definitely seems that The Divine Comedy makes more sense as a satire-- everything about the medieval mind is odd-- nay, ridiculous-- to us. But I just think it would be so different for Dante to think of parodying the established order and structure of the Church and of society itself. To criticize a deviation from the ideal-- from the structure, the order, and the expected conduct of Church officials-- sure. But to parody, and by way of parodying, criticize the very way of the time? Doubtful.
Maybe Dante had extreme punishments for shock value so people would read his stuff. Well, they'd probably read it anyway, but that'd keep them hooked. Perhaps that's why we read The Inferno and not the other two, which Mrs. Scandurro called "boring."I think Dante represented the everyman but also put himself in the story. His choice for a guide, some of his reactions, he has creative license. I also saw The Inferno as a warning. Not only against Hell and not repenting, but also to help people lead virtuous lives, to scare them.
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