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Allegorical Punishments: Analysis Of Dante’s Use Of Allegory In Inferno

1280 words - 5 pages

In Dante’s Inferno, those who never repented for their sins are sent there after death. Like the old Latin proverb says, “The knowledge of sin is the beginning of salvation.” (“Latin Proverb Quotes” ThinkExist) The punishments in his Hell are decided by the law of retribution, which according to Webster’s Dictionary is the total effect of a person's actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person's existence, regarded as determining the person's destiny. (“Retribution” Merriam-Webster) Therefore, Dante creates a variety of reprimands for the three different types of sins: incontinence, violence, and fraudulence. These penalties can also be referred to as allegories because of their hidden moral meaning. The three best allegories in Dante’s Inferno describe the flatterers, fortune tellers, and suicides.
To begin, Dante creates an allegory within the punishment of the Flatterers in Hell. Circle eight of Hell holds these sinners who flattered people during their life but didn’t mean what they said and talked bad about them behind their back. These people are sunk in a river of human excrement for “talking crap” and being a “brown noser”. Whenever they open their mouth, the excrement enters their mouth, creating the term of “being full of it”. (Shmoop Editorial Team) In Inferno, Dante passes through this circle and finds Alessio Interminelli da Lucca here. He says, “Down to this have the flatteries I sold the living sunk me here among the dead.” (Canto 18 Lines125-126) This punishment may seem like just a sick joke but it has a legitimate reason; those who talk crap end up in crap after life.
In addition, another allegory that Dante describes deal with the Fortune Tellers sent to Hell. Their sin is reversed upon them and have their heads turned backwards, having to walk backwards for all eternity with eyes blinded by tears. This is what happens to them after death because they tried to see what was in front of them in the future, so they can only see behind them. Dante describes this sight as, “I saw the image of our humanity distorted so that the tears that burst from their eyes ran down the cleft of their buttocks.” (Canto 20 Lines 22-24) Among those damned are Emphiareus, Tiresias, Aruns, Manto, Eurypylus, Michael Scott, Guido Bonatti and Asdente. (Sayers) He also explains their fate, “In life he wished to see too far before him, and now he must crab backwards round this track.” (Canto 20 Lines 38-39)
Lastly, an allegory is present during Dante’s explanation of the Suicide’s sentence. Those who were violent against themselves are found in circle seven in The Wood of Suicides. Their souls are encased in trees which are eaten by the Harpies. When the Harpies eat them, they are wounded and bleed; as long as the blood flows they can speak. Each tree is different, for example, Bella’s tree has vine wrapped around her neck like a noose, representing how she took her life. Each tree is a twisted version of their suicide. The trees...

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