View Full Version : Fire Vs. Ice

10-31-2006, 04:46 PM
Why would Dante put the inner circles of sinners in ice and not fire? When we think of "hell" we think of fire, but Dante didn't do that.

I am thinking maybe the ice takes the sinner out of light and warmth (although they are burning anyway) and puts them in ice because they are immovable, and surrounded by cold - in life their actions were "cold" toward another...

I am just a bit confused.

Dark Muse
01-08-2008, 04:59 PM
I think one of the reavons for ice instead of fire in the deepst depths of hell, is for one, coldness has a certain baren quality to it. And I think in a way the cold could be seen as far more respenstive of a being that is denied the light and glory of god. Cold can be far more harsh and dark then fire is.

But fire though can be painful and dangerous, also can be respresntive of warmth, light, and passion.

01-08-2008, 05:08 PM
I agree with Dark Muse. Ice suggests an absence of love.

Wilde woman
02-05-2009, 05:09 AM
I took a Dante class in college, taught by the editor-in-chief of Dante Studies journal, the American branch. We discussed this a little bit.

First, my professor stressed to us that Dante likes to surprise us, often usurping our conventional notions of what the divine realms are like. Instead of the fire and brimstone Hell we usually think of, he made the last circle of Hell a prison of ice.

Like you've already discussed here, ice is cold/immobilizing/lifeless, suggesting a lack of warmth and life and love. See how absolutely powerless Lucifer is within the ice? He cannot even move. I think that's how Dante basically perceives evil. It is NOT something powerful, active, or mobile...evil cannot possibly rival God's power. Evil is not the opposite of good, it is simply the absence of it.

Ice is also immobilizing in a way that fire is not. Fire is, by definition, always moving on to the next source of fuel. It must move to sustain itself. Notice that the structure of the Inferno...concentric circles that get smaller and smaller the deeper you go. Of course, the smaller the space you're confined to, the less you can move around; so the worse your sin, the less right you have move around. So in the first circle (of lust), the sinners are whirled around every which way by the wind, but in the last circle (of traitors) the sinner is completely imprisoned by ice.

This is in direct contrast to the structure of Paradise. The first sphere (of Earth) is the smallest and slowest-revolving; the last sphere (the Primum Mobile) - before the Empyrean where God resides - is the largest and moves the most quickly, presumably because they are excited by their proximity to God. There's a lot to be said for mobility/immobility in the Divine Comedy.