Literary Historical Criticism and Dante’s Inferno
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward path had been lost.
(Canto I, lines 1-3, page 3)
The Divine Comedy
, written in the early 14
century by Dante Alighieri, is a
poem that is divided into three books; Inferno
, and Paradise
Basically, is an epic poem of sorts in which Dante, self proclaimed “Pilgrim” in The
, and his guide Virgil, the Latin poet of Aeneid
, travel through the three
regions of Hell (Lazzari 110). It is not a “comedy” in the sense that the poem is humorous
or comical, because Dante used the word “comedy” in the traditional sense of a story that
starts at a very low point and ends with absolution or at a very high point (Moss 174).
has a very clear and apparent structure about how Hell looks and where
certain types of people belong. His Hell is basically nine concentric circles beginning
with the Gates of Hell and the smallest of sinners, and ending with the greatest sins of all.
The levels correspond to Christianity’s seven deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth,
wrath, envy, and pride (Lazzari 110). The first circle is Limbo, where the unbaptized
people go when they die. Virgil resides in this circle because he was a pagan and lived
before Jesus Christ was born (Moss 178). Circle two is for sins of carnality or lust. Circle
three is for the gluttons, any sins associated with overeating and over drinking. Circle
four is the greedy and/or wasteful people. The fifth circle is made up of the wrathful or
angry, as well as sloth.
After this circle, Virgil and the Pilgrim go into “lower Hell” and
the City of Dis, which separates the two sections. Heretics and anyone who was in
opposition to Christian morals and values belongs in the sixth circle. Circle seven