In “The Inferno,” by John Ciardi, the protagonist, Dante is about to enter a place of great suffering. Dante believes that God is the architect of Hell, and that Hell is the product of divine omnipotence, primordial love, and ultimate intellect. Throughout the Cantos, one can see how Dante’s picture of Hell does reflect the gate’s description of God’s sacred justice. “I am the way into the city of woe. I am the way to a forsaken people. I am the way into eternal sorrow” (Canto 3, Line 1-3). In “The Inferno” Hell definitely has some relation to God’s justice, power, love and intelligence.
Just from these three lines it shows that hell is a place for sinners being punished by God. By these individuals going to Hell, God is showing his justice that while on earth, they should have made a choice between sin and choosing God. However, while reading the Inferno one can draw the conclusion that there is a connection between one’s sin on Earth and the degree of torment/punishment they’ll experience in Hell, which exerts God’s justice. Dante’s picture of God is one that knows all, “The law of Dante’s Hell is the law of symbolic retribution. As they sinned so they are punished”(Canto 3).
When Dante is in the Vestibule of Hell, he encounters The Opportunist. These were individuals who took no side, so they are given no place. Since God is the creator of Hell, he places them in a state of turmoil, “their sin was in darkness, so they move in darkness. As their own guilty conscience pursued them, so they are pursued by swarms of wasps and hornets” (17). Considering that they lived a morally “filthy” life. They now live for eternity through the filth of worms and maggots that feed off of them. Maggots and worms are often associated with filth, garbage and, or the dead.
Since these people weren’t worthy enough of choosing a side. God being the product of divine omnipotence and ultimate intellect is essentially paying them back for only being for their selves, and possessing those same qualities while on Earth. In Canto 3 God exhibits his primordial love for people in lines 122-123. “Divine Justice transforms and spurs them so their dread turns wish: they yearn for what they fear. ” According to the text “they yearn for what they fear” means that this is what the souls of the damned actually wished for.
Hell was their deliberate choice, for divine grace is denied to none who wish for it in their hearts (24). The damned purposely turned away from God to have become damned. So God’s primordial love and grace is suffice to save those who desires to be saved. God gives everyone the opportunity to be saved but it’s ultimately the individual’s choice. Although these people are condemned to hell, God once offered them his primordial love. So now they have to endure the punishment. “Each circle is assigned to the punishment of the category of sin” (25).
In the fourth Canto, Dante and Virgil is in Circle one: Limbo. In Limbo, Dante encounters the Virtuous Pagans, these were unreligious individuals, as well as people who were born without the light of Christ and weren’t baptized, and eminent poets like Homer, Ovid, Horace and Lucan. These individuals were also born before the Christian religion. “And still their merits fail, for they lacked Baptism’s grace, which is the door of the true faith you were born to. Their birth fell before the age of the Christian mysteries, and so they did not worship God’s Trinity in fullest duty” (Line 34-39).
These individuals in Limbo aren’t heavily tortured, so their pain is that they have no hope. This can also go back to God’s primordial love. Since they weren’t baptized, God loves them enough to still give them mercy while in Hell, they aren’t tortured severely since they were around before Christianity. But instead their pain is that they have no hope, Virgil states “without hope we live on in desire” (Line 42). God shows them love and mercy because it’s not their faults that they lived before the Christian era. In Canto five, Dante reaches the second circle these are “The Carnal. This is where the complete lamentation of Hell begins.
The Carnal are “those who betrayed reason to their appetites. Their sin was to abandon themselves to the tempest of their passions: they are swept forever in the tempest of hell, forever denied the light of reason of God” (Canto 5). This circle is smaller and the punishment is greater. “…the never-ending flight of those who sinned in the flesh, the carnal and lust who betrayed reason to their appetite” (Line, 37-39 Canto 5). Once again God is showing his justice to those in this circle, these individual put their appetites before God and everything else.
So now they are swept through filthy air that represents their sin for the love of their passions. Not only God shows his justice in this circle but also his supreme intellect. The creation of this circle is clever because the people are punished by what driven them the most while living; excess sexual passions, lust etc. Although this circle had the lightest punishment, this showed God’s justice and wisdom. “Scared justice moved my architect” (Line 4, Canto 3). God created Hell for his justice. Dante’s picture of Hell wholehearted flowed from his picture of God.
Throughout The Inferno, God had many different characteristics, not only is he the architect of Hell, God shows his divine omnipotence, primordial love and ultimate intellect. Although each circle one experienced a different degree of penance in accordance to their sin, God is still showing his power and sacred justice, regardless of the severity of punishment. God knew just what to do with each category of sin for the sinner. Before Dante entered Hell the gate promised a Hell that had relation to God’s justice, love, power and intelligence, and this was unveiled within the Cantos.
Courtney from Study Moose
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