Saturday, October 11, 2014
A synthesis of other Hells
Dante's Hell incorporates an amalgam of characters from other belief systems in his Hell: Cerberus, Minos (both from Greek mythology), Horace, Ovid (both very real people from Rome). This synthesis of Greek and Roman, mythological and real, is more evidence that Dante wanted to assert his version of Hell as all-encompassing. The mythological characters especially interested me. Sure, Dante had to account for real people, but he definitely had the choice to integrate aspects of an especially non-Christian religion with his Christian Hell. My conjecture is that he had one of two thought processes: 1.) "these creatures are scary, people like scary things, I'm going to let the Greeks do the leg work on this one;" or 2.) each of these creatures is a paragon of a different form of depravity to which humans can succumb. Either way, Dante did mooch a good bit of his creatures from past generations. This, however, does not make Dante a plagiarist; nay, it merely puts him in league with the other greats of world literature. Vergil copied Homer, Milton copied the Bible, etc. Perhaps this is why Dante put himself in the crowd of the great intellectuals in the beginning of the Inferno.