The Divine Comedy (Italian: Divina Commedia) is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between c. 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem’s imaginative and allegorical vision of the afterlife is representative of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church by the 14th century. It helped establish the Tuscan language, in which it is written, as the standardized Italian language. It is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.
On the surface, the poem describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven; but at a deeper level, it represents, allegorically, the soul’s journey towards God.
At the beginning of the poetry, Dante, the poet finds himself lost in a dark wood in front of a mountain, assailed by three beasts (a lion, a leopard and a she-wolf) represent three types of sin: the self-indulgent, the violent, and the malicious. He cannot evade these beasts and falling into a “deep place” (basso loco) where the sun is silent (l sol tace).
Dante is at last rescued by the Roman poet Virgil, who claims to have been sent by Beatrice, and the two of them begin their journey to the underworld.
Inferno’s 9 Circle of Hells
Inferno was the place for people who tried to justify their sins and are unrepentant. Nine circle of Hell correspond to the suffering located within the Earth.
- Shores of Archeon
Place for the uncommitted, souls of people who in life did nothing, neither for good nor evil
Punishment : Eternally pursue a banner (i.e. self interest) while pursued by wasps and hornets that continually sting them as maggots and other such insects drink their blood and tears.
Three main divisions of Hell: Upper Hell (the first 5 Circles) for the self-indulgent sins, Circles 6 and 7 for the violent sins, and Circles 8 and 9 for the malicious sins.
Inscription in the gate of Hell, the ninth (and final) line of which is the famous phrase “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate“, or “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
- First Circle (Limbo)
Place for unbaptized and the pagans, who, though not sinful, did not accept Christ. Guarded by a serpentine, Minos.
Punishment : Living in a deficient form of Heaven
Resided here : (Poets) Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan; (Amazon queen) Penthesilea; (Mathematician) Euclid; (Scientist) Pedanius Dioscorides; (Statesman) Cicero; (Doctor) Hippocrates; (Philosophers) Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Averroes; (Historical figures) Lucretia, Lucius Junius Brutus, and Julius Caesar; (Mythological characters) Hector, Electra, Camilla, Latinus, and Orpheus
- Second Circle (Lust)
Place for those who overcome by lust.
Punishment: blown back and forth by the terrible winds of a violent storm, without rest.
Resided here : Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra; (Troy) Helen, Achilles, Paris; Tristan
- Third Circle (Gluttony)
Place for those who are gluttons. Guarded by the great worm, Cerberus.
Punishment : Forced to lie -sightless and heedless of their neighbors- in a vile slush produced by ceaseless foul
- Fourth Circle (Greed)
Place for people whose attitude toward material goods deviated from the appropriate mean.
Punishment : Wheeling weights using their chests to push
Resided here : Many “clergymen, and popes and cardinals”
- Fifth Circle (Anger)
Place for those who wrathful
Punishment : Fight each other in swampy river of Styx
- Sixth Circle (Heresy)
Punishment : Trapped in flaming tombs
Resided here : Emperor Frederick II, and Pope Anastasius II
- Seventh Circle (Violence)
Place for people who do violence. Divided into 3 rings, guarded by Minotaur– Outer ring
Houses the violent against people and property.
Punishment : Immersed in Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood and fire
Resided here : Dionysius I of Syracuse, Guy de Montfort, Obizzo d’Este, Ezzelino III da Romano- Middle ring: In this ring are violent against self (suicides) and against things which life is sustained such as money and property (profligates).
Punishment : Transformed into gnarled thorny bushes and trees and then fed upon by Harpies (Suicides) and perpetually chased and mauled by ferocious dogs. (profligates)
– Inner ring: Here are the violent against God (blasphemers) and the violent against nature (sodomites and usurers)
Punishment : Reside in a desert of flaming sand with fiery flakes raining from the sky; The blasphemers lie on the sand, the usurers sit, and the sodomites wander about in groups.
Resided here : Capaneus (Blashphemy against Zeus), Iacopo Rusticucci (Sodomites politician)
- Eighth Circle (Fraud)
Place for people who consciously do fraud or treachery
The fraudulentare located in a circle named Malebolge. This circle is divided into ten Bolgie.– Bolgia 1: Panderers and seducers
Punishment : March in separate lines in opposite directions, whipped by demons,
Resided here : Venedico Caccianemico (Panderers who sold his own sister to the Marchese d’Este), Jason, (Seducer, marrying Medea to gain held then desert her for Creusa and impregnated Hypsipyle)- Bolgia 2: Flatterers also exploited other people using language.
Punishment : Steeped in human excrement
Resided here : Alessio Interminei of Lucca and Thaïs- Bolgia 3: Those who committed simony.
Punishment : Placed head-first in holes in the rock (resembling baptismal fonts), with flames burning on the soles of their feet.
Resided here : (Simoniacs, denounces two of his successors, Pope Boniface VIII and Pope Clement V, for the same offence) Pope Nicholas III, (offered gold in exchange for holy power to Saint Peter) Simon Magus
– Bolgia 4: Sorcerers, astrologers, and false prophets
Punishment : Have their heads twisted around on their bodies backward
Resided here : Amphiaraus, Tiresias (whose double transformation is also referenced), Tiresias’ daughter Manto, Aruns, Michael Scot, Alberto de Casalodi, and Guido Bonatti
– Bolgia 5: Corrupt politicians (barrators)
Punishment : Immersed in a lake of boiling pitch
– Bolgia 6: Hypocrites
Punishment : Listlessly walking along wearing gilded lead cloaks
Resided here : Catalano and Loderingo (two members of the Jovial Friars), Pope Sixtus V, Caiaphas (the high priest responsible for ordering Jesus crucified)
– Bolgia 7: Thieves. They are guarded by the centaur Cacus
Punishment : Pursued and bitten by snakes and lizards
Resided here : Vanni Fucci, Agnello, Buoso
– Bolgia 8: Fraudulent advisers or evil counselors
Punishment : Concealed within individual flames.
Resided here : Ulysses and Diomedes (deception of the Trojan Horse)
– Bolgia 9: A sword-wielding demon
Punishment : Hacks at the Sowers of Discord, dividing parts of their bodies over and over again.
Resided here : Muhammad – wtf?!- (Dante apparently viewing Islam as an off-shoot from Christianity), Bertran de Born (fomenting the rebellion of Henry the Young King against his father Henry II)
– Bolgia 10: Various sorts of falsifiers (alchemists, counterfeiters, perjurers, and impostors)
Punishment : Afflicted with different types of diseases
Resided here : Myrrha (suffers from madness for disguising herself to commit incest with her father King Theias)
- Ninth Circle (Treachery)
Place for traitors who are distinguished from the “merely” fraudulent in that their acts involve betraying a special relationship of some kind. There are four concentric zones (or “rounds”) of traitors.– Round 1 is named Caïna, after Cain, who killed his own brother.
Place for traitors to their family
Punishment : Immersed in the ice up to their chins
Resided here : Mordred (attacked his uncle/father King Arthur)- Round 2 is named Antenora, after Antenor of Troy, who according to medieval tradition, betrayed his city to the Greeks.
Place for traitors to political entities, such as parties, cities, or countries
Punishment : imprisoned in the same way as the traitors in Caïna- Round 3 is named Ptolomaea, probably after Ptolemy, son of Abubus, who invited Simon Maccabaeus and his sons to a banquet and then killed them.
Place for traitors to their guests
Punishment : :Lying supine in the ice, which covers them, except for their faces.
– Round 4 is named Judecca, after Judas Iscariot, Biblical betrayer of Christ.
Place for traitors to their lords and benefactors.
Punishment : Completely encapsulated in ice, distorted in all conceivable positions.
- Center of Hell
Resided here : Satan, whose committing the ultimate sin (personal treachery against God)
Satan description : a giant beast with six eyes, six wings, and three faces: red, black and pale yellow. Right and left mouth chewing Brutus and Cassius feet-first (involvement in Caesar assassination), middle mouth chewing Judas Iscariot head-first
Purgatorio’s 7 Terrace of Purgatory
Purgatorio is the place for people who sinned but prayed for forgiveness before their deaths. Seven terraces of Mount Purgatory correspond to the seven deadly sins or “seven roots of sinfulness.”
The first three terraces of Purgatory relate to sins caused by a perverted love directed towards actual harm of others.
- First terrace (The Proud)
“he who, through abasement of another, / hopes for supremacy”
On the terrace where proud souls purge their sin, Dante and Virgil see beautiful sculptures expressing humility, the opposite virtue.
The souls of the proud are bent over by the weight of huge stones on their backs. As they walk around the terrace, they are able to profit from the sculpted examples of humility.
- Second terrace (The Envy)
“one who, when he is outdone, / fears his own loss of fame, power, honor, favor; / his sadness loves misfortune for his neighbor.”
On entering the terrace of the envious, Dante and Virgil first hear voices on the air telling stories of generosity, the opposite virtue.
The souls of the envious wear penitential grey cloaks, and their eyes are sewn shut, resembling the way a falconer sews shut the eyes of a falcon in order to train it. This results in audible, rather than visual, examples here.
- Third terrace (the wrathful)
“he who, over injury / received, resentful, for revenge grows greedy / and, angrily, seeks out another’s harm.”
On the terrace of the wrathful, examples of meekness, the opposite virtue, are given to Dante as visions in his mind.
The souls of the wrathful walk around in acrid smoke, which symbolises the blinding effect of anger.
The prayer for this terrace is the Agnus Dei: “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis… dona nobis pacem” (“Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us… grant us peace”)
- Fourth terrace (the slothful)
On the fourth terrace we find souls whose sin was that of deficient love — that is, sloth or acedia. They had failed in life to act in pursuit of love
Souls of the slothful are engaged in ceaseless activity. The examples of sloth and of zeal, its opposite virtue, are called out by these souls as they run around the terrace.
This activity also replaces a verbal prayer for this terrace.
On the last three terraces are those who sinned by loving good things, but loving them in an excessive or disordered way.
- Fifth terrace (the covetous)
The souls of the convetous, avaricious, and prodigal lie face-down on the ground, unable to move.
Their prayer is Adhaesit pavimento anima mea (Psalm 119:25) “My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word,”
- Sixth terrace (the gluttonous)
On the sixth terrace are purged the gluttonous, and more generally, those who over-emphasised food, drink, and bodily comforts.
The souls of the gluttonous are starved in the presence of trees whose fruit is forever out of reach.
The examples here are given by voices in the trees.
The prayer for this terrace is Labia mea Domine (Psalm 51:15) “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise”
- Seventh terrace (the lustful)
The terrace of the lustful has an immense wall of flame through which everyone must pass, are the souls repenting of misdirected sexual desire (both heterosexual and homosexual).
The souks of the lustful run through the flames calling out examples of lust (Sodom and Gomorrah and Pasiphaë) and of chastity and marital fidelity (the Virgin Mary’s chastity).
As a prayer, they sing the hymn Summae Deus Clementiae (God of Supreme Clemency) from the Liturgy of the Hours