Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Possible Excessive "Justice"

There are some things that really bother me about Ugolino's situation. He's in the 9th Circle of Hell, specifically Antenora, because he betrayed his country. Straight-forward and understandable. However, something that I think Dante frequently disregards is that most things having to do with humanity aren't always straight-forward. For example, say Ugolino betrayed his country because he was desperate for money to feed his family. Maybe that's not a great example, but you get my point. Dante never looks at the reasons people commit the sins that they do. Look at Francesca and Paulo. As Amy mentioned during her presentation, Francesca was forced into her marriage with her husband, which probably affected her decision to cheat on him with Paulo. Like I said, the reasons people do what they do are almost never simple. 
Another major thing that bothers me about Ugolino's situation is the extent to which he suffers. I understand Dante is all about proving 'Divine Justice.' However, I personally thing that Ugolino paid for his sin of betraying his country before he even entered Hell. I mean the man was locked in a tower and starved. He also had to watch his SONS and GRANDCHILDREN starve and DIE because of his own sin. And as if that isn't enough, his survival instincts took him over, causing him to eat their dead bodies. And as if THAT isn't enough, now he's forced to spend eternity in the depths of Hell. 
I'm not saying that what Ugolino did wasn't worthy of punishment. We don't really know how Ugolino's actions affected his country and to what extent. However, based on what Dante wrote, I'm a bit skeptical as to whether what Ugolino did actually warranted what he got. If he betrayed his country because he was simply a greedy traitor, then I see why he ended up in Hell. However, we don't know enough about Ugolino or the situation to determine why he did what he did, which I think is quite an important factor in determining a man's fate. 
Call it pity, but on some level I think watching your sons and grandsons die because of your sin is enough "justice." 

8 comments:

Miranda Martinez said...

I don't know if Dante truly meant to ridicule Ugolino, or if he used him to emphasize the severity of betraying one's country. A lot of his betrayal (according to online sources) resulted in many awful results for the citizens caught in the middle, like starvation. He was so interested in his own power that he really didn't care who it affected - until it became more personal.

His death was gruesome and pitiable. Once locked in the tower with the keys thrown into the river, they were all left to starve. Pretty horrible way to die, in my opinion.

Samantha Gillen said...

Father Millican was actually talking to us about divine justice the other day in religion. He agreed with you, Brooke. He said in the Bible, God takes into consideration the reason for the sin committed, not just the sin unto itself. God is merciful, so sometimes those who commit sins for certain reason still go to heaven. Now, I think their is another major different between the God we are used to and the God in Dante's Inferno. Dante doesn't seem to take repentance into account. If you commit the sin, you go to hell, even if you repent and pray for God's mercy.

Kincy GIbson said...

The idea that Dante and the readers aren't supposed to feel pity for the sinners kind of bothers me. I understand that it would have been heresy but I also think it is strange that Dante wants to know many different people's story for being in hell. He is way too quick and eager to cast the first stone towards all the sinners. Dante and Dante the pilgrim seem all too willing to judge others for their sins. Dante takes it upon himself to even punish some of the sinners further. For me this adds onto my image of Dante as being a mad scientist type who thinks he is God like in a hidden and "I know I shouldn't think so" kind of way.

Megan Hoolahan said...

I agree with Kincy in that Dante seems to try and be a little too God like. For one, Dante is deciding in his work who goes to Hell and Heaven. Well, isn't God the only one who can determine that? Plus, he describes how Hell is structured. Once again, only God would know that. I'm sure that Dante didn't think that this was actually the structure of Hell but seems self righteous anyway. But Dante is still awesome.

Kincy GIbson said...

I have never really had a positive impression on Dante. After class on Thursday I decided that Dante is crazy. I imagine him as a mad genius who is angry at a lot of things (mainly for being exiled). For instance, Dante gives himself the liberty to damn people he knows (and does not like) to hell because he says God inspired him to. That would be like me saying that God told me that Mrs. King is actually a demon because she gave me a bad grade on my test. HIs audacity to condemn others shock me. He implies that God divinely inspired him to write the "Inferno". Even though I don't like Dante, I really like the Inferno. Its interesting and entertaining, but in my view, doesn't have historical merit.

Ian Kuehne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ian Kuehne said...

The circumstances of Ugolino's imprisonment shed some light on Dante's prescribed punishment, I think. Ugolino's family was the leader of the Ghibellines of Pisa, which was surrounded by Guelph states like Florence. When he inherited the title, he began fraternizing with the Guelph neighbors to stabilize his position, leading to his exile from Pisa. He then got the French along with his Guelph allies to take the city and forced the leaders of Pisa to grant him amnesty. Since Dante was essentially on the Ghibelline side by proxy through the White Guelphs, it makes since that he would take issue with Ugolino's humiliation and betrayal of the Ghibellines, regardless of his subsequent punishment. (The above post was this one with a couple of grammar errors.)

Amy Clement said...

I just think it's interesting how Dante wrote Ugolino's speech. For someone who we're not supposed to pity, Ugolino seems like a dedicated father he put in a desperate situation by a sick and depraved church leader. His treachery was brushed over completely so his punishment in both life and in the underworld seems way too harsh and cruel. Even the way Dante wrote Ugolino's speech portrays him as the victim. Dante did this earlier in the Inferno with Francesca. Francesca's speech is so beautiful that Romantics have latched onto it for it's emotional expression. Francesca definitely does not seem to deserve her punishment. Perhaps Dante is trying to illustrate that no matter how much we may disagree, divine justice is always right and should not be questioned.