Inferno


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This translation, first published in 1909, is by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), American professor and poet



"Inferno" by Dante Alighieri is an epic allegory of the spiritual journey of man. Virgil, Dante the pilgrim's guide, leads him through the 7 layers of hell. Throughout his journey through the torturous layers, Dante discovers the perfection of God's divine justice and themes of contrapasso are largely explored. Classical symbolism and classical figures are constantly referenced. This serves to emphasize that God's power rules over all - even pagan characters/figures. Dante also uses structure prominently to emphasize the trinity. By organizing the poem into 3 line stanza's consistently, it emphasizes the perfection of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Similarly, pay close attention to the numbering of Cantos. The number symbolism of '3' for the trinity, and '7' for the holy number is consistently used throughout the work.--Submitted by Anonymous.




The Divine Comedy is a classic that has survived and will survive for many years, and rightfully so. Dante Alighieri is exiled from his beloved city of Florence and now wanders from village to village in search of his past love and of himself. On this journey, he explores the sin of man through several levels of hell, each with a predefined purpose. With the help of his guide, Virgil, who is also a resident of a said layer, he descends through the various planes of hell, examining each to see God's absolute justice to those who have wronged in their lives. Prepare yourselves, for this is no ordinary book; it is an examination and juxtaposition of the body, spirit, mind, and human condition.--Submitted by AxelPower

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Recent Forum Posts on Inferno

Crusader in Limbo ?

Hey, So I'm not a Dante expert. I read part of the books and had some summaries on it. I watched the new movie "as above so below" last week. It is full of Dante. As far as I am right now I managed to find like 90% of the Plot in Dante and matched the fitting scenes. However this only works if the first Ring of Hell the limbo is at that exact location. For those who haven't seen the film: It's about an archaeologist who searches for the philosophers stone in the Paris Catacombes. As they decend the meet famous scenes from Dante till they reach the final floor. Now in the first Circle ( where I think it is ) they find the tomb of Nicholas Flames, the man who made the Philosophers stone and who set up that treasure hunt and all the traps. They find him laying on a stone wearing a uniform with a big red cross on it, like the crusaders had. Now that makes me think. I know Dante is full of that question whether it was right to act like that in the holy land and that the priests promised them that what they do is right but neither was Flamel a Crusader nor do they belong into limbo. The author of that story seemed to have quite some knowledge about Dante. Otherwise he would have set up things like being buried head down in the 8th circle and so on. So I guess he had Flamel wear that for a specific reason. Too bad I played that videogames about Dante. That gave me some wrong ideas about the background story. So I have to ask you about that. Could you imagine a reason why a Crusader might be in limbo ? Some criticism against what they did ? Cause usually there are people who did everything well and never broke a law but just lived before Christ and thus never had a chance to convert to Christianity. That was Middle Age's Believe, seeing that from a different perspective I'd say, that the crusaders are less Christs that those who never converted to it. They didn't know any better but they acted and sinned in the name of god and hoped that that would just be enough to deliver them from their sins. May this be the answer here ? Is there any scence in Dante where something like that is mentioned ?


Line 70, Canto 32 "doglike"

In Dante Alighieri's "Inferno" in Canto XXXII on Line 70, it says: "And after that I saw a thousand faces made doglike by the cold; for which I shudder- and always will- when I face frozen fords." Now this is during his travels across "The Ninth Circle of Hell, the First Ring, in which Traitors to their Kin are immersed in the ice, heads bent down." First question. When he says "heads bent down" does that mean they are stuck in the ice with their head at the greatest depth compared to their body? (so legs stick out of the ice while the heads are submerged like the people of The Eighth Circle, Third Pouch, where the Simonists are set, heads down, into holes in the rock, with their protruding feet tormented by flames.) Second question. When it says that their faces became doglike what qualities of a dogs face do you suppose he refers to?


Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven - but not in Dante's Inferno

Milton's Satan posits that it is "better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven." I was re-reading the Inferno over the past few days and picked up on how many times Virgil wards off threats by claiming that the pilgrim's journey came from up high, and thus he was guaranteed safe passage through the underworld. For those more familiar with Christian mythos than I, or with Dante's text - is there any president for God having sway in Hell? I always thought that Hell was Satan's land and God has no power there. Of course, Jesus barging in uninvited, breaking down the gate and doing some "harrowing" is a whole other matter, but why do the various demons back off as soon as Virgil tells them that they are sent by God? Is this just a convenient device for Dante (the poet) to get through this part of the pilgrim's journey, or is there more to it that I am missing?


where is this quote from?

In E.M Forster's A Room with a View George says "My father says that there is only one perfect view--the view of the sky straight over our head" and cecil replied "I expect your father has been reading Dante" I've been leafing through some of Dante's work but I haven't been able to find any reference of it. Does anyone know where this is from?


Hey guys I need help!

Basically I'm looking for the quote in the canto's about each description of that circle. Like Virgil explaining which circle of hell they are in. Thanks guys!


The Demonic FART

This topic looks dead to mine eyes... Anyways, I just wanted to post this for all those who still dwell in the depths of this division. I was reading The Inferno the other day and noticed something. In Canto XXI when Dante and Vergil encounter those demons, it goes as: "And he had made a trumpet of his rump" (the last words of Canto XXI) I started laughing out loud. THAT DEMON IS FARTING!!! XD And to the looks of it, it looks like he's farting to signal the other demons with him! :P Woah... Strange. Until next time, I guess... ~QLintz


I need help answering this question about Dante's Inferno!!

Ok so I need to write an essay over some given questions about some books we have read. Well I honestly do not understand how to answer some of them so I was wondering if I could get some help/input. Here is the question. Thanks! Why does Dante believe his descent into hell, and his understanding of the meaning of hell, is important for him, but also civilization?


Let's Talk About Dante! Inferno Canto 1

Hi all. So, some of you may have followed the events of this thread: http://www.online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?p=897867#post897867 which (as I state in post 89) got me to thinking about forming some sort of discussion of the Divina Commedia. I realized that, though I've done much reading, thinking and writing on Dante, I have never actually had the opportunity to have a formal discussion of the Inferno in a classroom setting as either student or teacher, and I was thinking how fun and interesting it might be to have a conversation about the Commedia with the engaging and intelligent folks of Lit. Net. I'm curious to hear your thoughts and reactions to L'Inferno. I thought we could just start by looking at Canto 1 and see where that takes us. Depending on our busy schedules, how many have read the Inferno before, and the form of the discussion, we could do anything from discussing one canto per week (bit long term, that plan) to discussing a larger segment at a time. Anyway, just to get the ball rolling, here's some basic off-the-top-of my head stuff about the first few stanze that I just posted on the thread that got me thinking about this idea. Feel free to use this as a springboard, or bring up your own thoughts about canto one, whatever you want to talk about. I'll look forward to seeing what (if anything!) comes of this. Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, che la diritta via era smarrita. Ahi quanto a dir qual era e cosa dura esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte che nel pensier rinova la paura! Tant e amara che poco e piu morte; ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai, diro de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte. Midway in the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard it is to tell what that wood was, wild, rugged, harsh; the very thought of it renews the fear! It is so bitter that death is hardly more so. But to treat of the good that I found in it, I will tell of the other things I saw there. (Singleton's translation) As ever, the translation of that first line, "nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita" (midway in the journey of our life) doesn't entirely do justice to the power of the original. One clear meaning of that first line is that he is literally writing this as someone midway through his life. It's often remarked that he was about 35 at the time he wrote the Inferno and that, drawing from the biblical authority of psalm 89, which numbers the years of our life as seventy ("Dies annorum nostrorum in ipsis septuaginta anni"), he would thus be in the exact middle of his life according to Medieval and scriptural tradition. However, he does not say the middle of my life, but the middle of our life, thus starting out by placing his journey in a universal context as something that could well apply to all of us. We all will reach the middle of our life. We all may enter into a dark wood. The line need not only refer to being literally in the middle years of our life, however. An additional interpretation would be that it refers to any point when we are nell mezzo del cammin di nostra, in the middle of our path. That is, he is referring to any time in our lives when we are in the midst of things, traveling along our life's path of work and relationships and every day activities and concerns, and look around to find ourselves lost and confused in the middle of it all. In the next line the translation then says "I found myself in a dark wood", which is accurate but misses some of the nuance of the original. For example, the word for "dark" is "oscura" which evokes, not just the darkness of the wood, but the way it obscures, hides, and the word for "found" is not simply "trovai" but "ritrovai", which connotes not only finding himelf, but re-finding himself, which highlights the suggestion in the line of a reflection inward. In these two opening lines, Dante is describing a space that intrudes upon all of our paths at some time or another. Sometimes it is a short and passing moment when the awareness of your own mortality washes over you and you feel that brief and restless disconnect between your daily activity and something surrounding and permeating that activity that you don't understand. Sometimes it is that space when you lie in bed at some unreal hour of the morning and can feel some strange mixture of a calm detachment from all that makes up our customary sense of reality and an almost palpable and oppressive fear (perhaps like one form of such a moment that Phillip Larkin describes in his quite different poem "Aubade": "I work all day, and get half-drunk at night./ Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare./ In time the curtain-edges will grow light./Till then I see what's really always there:/ Unresting death, a whole day nearer now..."). Sometimes it is a whole period of a person's life, when they find themselves, in the middle of going through the business of living, thrown completely off track and wandering in the obscurity of the realization that the world does not, in fact, provide many answers combined with an awareness of "what's really always there." This is a space of reflection, of not only facing death, but facing that which "tant e amara che poco e piu morte" (is so bitter that death is hardly more so). It is from this moment of reflection, of fear, of confronting death and what is scarcely better than death, that the Divine Comedy opens up onto all the many things that crowd a person's mind at such times. Part of what we find with him in the pages that follow are reflections on the events that shape our real-life experience: politics, friendships, those we are tied to by love and those we are tied to by hatred. Another part is a looking back to the past outside our own lives. It is no accident that Virgil is his guide through the inferno. A pagan poet who wrote the great ancient Roman epic, The Aeneid hardly is the most logical choice as a moral guide through the Christian conception of hell, but Dante turns to Virgil as the author of book six of the Aeneid--who has already masterfully described the hero Aeneas' confrontation of death and journey through the pagan underworld-- because he sees in him a voice from the past who has already faced this space of reflection and fear. Dante is trying to grapple with the same things through the lens of his own world, his own religious beliefs, his own personal loves and resentments. He places himself, as an ordinary person like the rest of us facing "nostra vita," "our life" in the position of the mythical epic hero, Aeneas, and it we who now confront the space that in Virgil is braved only by the uncommon and the heroic figure. We turn to Dante as he turned to Virgil, to help us open up the complex boundaries between our own world and that "undiscovered country" we sense pressing in around the ragged edges of our world.


Dante's Inspiration

Hello everybody! I have read the 'Inferno'. It is really Magnificent work. I have, though, a problem in finding 'the Purgatory' but I'm sure I'll get it somehow. Now, let me ask you a question, does ANYBODY know where Dante got the inspiration to write the entire 'Divine Comedy'. If anybody knows answer to this question, I would ask him to answer me. Jovan Jakic


Where did you find redemption?

Okay so, I was reading the Inferno, and my teacher raved about how deep the theme of the possibility of redemption was. So, I read it. I found a lot of different ideas: sin as an ultimate vice, the inevitability of God's will, etc. But I struggled to find redemption. I mean, I look at how Dante trekked through the various echleons of Hell, seeing the various punishments and the way those sinners suffered as the cause for redemption, while sticking to God's will would redeem your sins. Correct me if I'm wrong: that's just how I interpreted it. Where did you find redemption in this epic?


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