Saturday, October 12, 2013

Egocentrism with a Dash of Hypocrisy

So far I'm really bothered by Dante (the Poet, the Narrator, and the Pilgrim)'s  ego. It seems at almost every turn he's either indirectly talking about how great he is or judging others for their beliefs, actions, ect. This may be a tad critical, but "self-righteous" comes to mind.

First and foremost, I simply cannot get over how Virgil and the others who lived before Christ will never make it to Paradise. To me, this fact reveals that no matter how virtuous a life you live, trivial matters (like your date of birth) can get you sent to Hell. Granted they're not forced to chase around a banner or eternally commit adultery, but I don't think a virtuous soul should have to walk around and sigh for all of eternity. How could that possibly be part of the "Divine Plan?"

Secondly, isn't pride one of the Seven Deadly Sins? Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes pride as "inordinate self-esteem." Dante the Poet and Narrator are certainly guilty of pride. We see Dante the Narrator talking about how he can't possibly measure up to Aeneas and Paul and make it through Hell. However, seeing as he has already made it through Hell safely, he knows he can make it. He's basically talking about how great you have to be to make the journey, so that when we find out he has made it we'll think he's a hot-shot. So Dante can go on being Mr. Self-Righteous, but be lustful and you're sent right down to the depths of Hell? Am I getting this right?

That being said, I find The Divine Comedy endlessly fastening. However, as of now, I find it hard to accept it as anything other than an imaginary tale. Meaning, I can't seem to look at it through a Christian standpoint. Of course, it has endless allusions to Christian doctrine. If Dante had been attempting to describe Hell, to me, he made it far to personal. It some cases we've seen so far, it appears he just simply damned the type of people to Hell who he personally didn't like.


Amy Clement said...

I couldn't agree with you more about your last point. It soon becomes obvious that people are just in Hell, because Dante did not like them. It is a little perplexing that Dante placed Pope Celestine V in Hell. He really did not do anything wrong. If any other person would have succeed him other than Pope Boniface VIII, Dante might not have seen anything wrong with his decision to resign from the Papacy. Unless the act of resigning itself is a sin, Dante only puts Celestine in Hell due to his own distain for Boniface.

Megan Hoolahan said...

I have always felt the same way, which it seemed a little unfair who Dante decided to put in Hell according to Christian doctrine. Yet, I agree with what Ms. King said in class. Although we are offended about part of the criteria that sends someone into Hell, the audience who would have been reading The Divine Comedy at the time when it was published would have felt differently. At least Dante confronts that fact that he does not believe that Virgil and these other inhabitants of the first circle of Hell are necessarily evil. At that time, Christianity would have taught that all those unfamiliar with Christ would have been sent to Hell. However, in this day our society is more acceptant to other interpretations of Christianity and acceptant to other religions. We have more trouble believing that some generally good people can be sent to Hell.
I do agree that Dante is slightly arrogant. Yet, if he weren’t slightly arrogant then we wouldn’t really have The Divine Comedy. Someone must be somewhat arrogant to write about themselves being chosen by God to descend into the underworld. Dante also show signs of pride throughout the cantos; for example, when he explains how we was accepted by Virgil, Homer, and the other poets as one of them. But this pride is necessary to construct a story such as this one.

Megan Hoolahan said...


Joseph D'Amico said...

I definitely agree with you. Dante seems to pick out certain pieces of Christian theology. You are certainly right in that it is more than a little odd that pride, considered the worst of the deadly sins, is not even mentioned in the inferno while all other six are, maybe because Dante didn't want to see himself there. Also, though it is a great work, Dante does personalize the Inferno by putting his political enemies in Hell, so it would be pure folly to think of this as something divinely inspired.