Since the beginnings of time, legions of people have all had their own interpretation of the “after-life”, and if there even is one. Many philosophies, religions, and individuals have all asked themselves the same question at one point or another: Is there a Heaven or a Hell? Where will my body go? Will my soul follow? Although there are many texts that strive to answer these questions, Dante’s Inferno is the only one that combines 13th century beliefs along with great literature.
Dante Alighieri lived in Florence, Italy throughout the late 13th century. During these times Christianity was the predominant religion. For those who followed the principles of Christianity like Dante did, the concept of Hell was very simple. Hell was a place after death where those who had committed any offense against the “Ten Commandments” were sent to suffer eternal confusion, grief, misery, and an over all terrible time. Dante utilizes the fear of Hell in which those around him experienced and the main beliefs of Christianity in order to establish his own conclusions on what Hell looks and feels like.
The Bible has many passages in which it describes its specific thoughts and claims on the “after-life”. The after-life as noted in the Bible, is divided into two different places, Heaven and Hell. Under this notion, everyone will continue their life after death eternally either in Heaven or Hell based on the type of life they lived.
Where one spends the rest of their life is determined by whether a person puts their trust in Christ and his teachings. Christian doctrine notes one description of what constitutes being sent to Hell, “41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42). That passage from the Bible is an indication that shows that disregarding the word of God constitutes being sent into Hell.
In his narrative poem The Divine Comedy Volume 1: Inferno, Dante recounts the story of a Pilgrim’s journey through hell. Inferno is based on Dante’s own idea of what the after-life looks like and the matter in which it functions. As the Pilgrim sees it, Hell is subdivided into nine different “circles” which separate sinners by the nature of the indulgence they have committed along with its corresponding “contrapasso”, or form of punishment. The larger their sin is, the lower the level to which they are doomed to spend eternity. After reading the poem in its entirety, a reader discovers that Dante has made a spot in Hell for just about every type of sinner, even those who go against the mere thought of the after-life.
While on his journey, the Pilgrim is guided by Virgil, the poet who wrote the Aeneid. Together they pass through the different circles of Hell observing the atrocious punishments that all the sinners are serving. Though some circles hold gluttons,...