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Dante’s Inferno In Milton´S Paradise Lost

1589 words - 7 pages

Many arguments have been made that Dante’s Inferno glimmers through here and there in Milton’s Paradise Lost. While at first glance the two poems seem quite drastically different in their portrayal of Hell, but scholars have made arguments that influence from Dante shines through Milton’s work as well as arguments refuting these claims. All of these arguments have their own merit and while there are instances where a Dantean influence can be seen throughout Paradise Lost, Milton’s progression of evil and Satan are quite different from Dante. Dante’s influence on Milton is noted by many scholars and is very apparent in several instances throughout Paradise Lost, however, Milton shows a ...view middle of the document...

George F. Butler also looks at the ways the Milton may have been influenced by Dante when writing Paradise Lost in his article “Giants and Fallen Angels in Dante and Milton: The Commedia and the Gigantomachy in Paradise Lost”. Butler also notes Milton’s interest in Italian writers and “his admiration of Dante and Petrarch” and that “so great was Milton’s understanding of Dante that David Masson claimed Milton knew the Commedia “better than any other Englishman alive.” [and] Milton may have continued to consult the Commedia while reading his epic.” He notes the influence of the Commedia in Paradise Lost and that “while both Dante and Milton describe heaven and hell in sometimes similar ways, the epic vision of each is fundamentally different”. Butler is arguing the influence of Dante in Milton’s “allusions to the Titans, Briareos, and Typhon [that] Milton equates Satan with the fierce monsters of classical mythology.” He claims “while Milton’s editors have noted the classical antecedents of his allusion to the gigantomachy, they have disregarded Dante’s role in Christianizing the myth.”
Like Butler, Irene Samuel also mentions Milton’s admiration for Dante. In Samuel’s article “The Valley of Serpents: Inferno XXIV-XXV and Paradise Lost X. 504-577” she says “only Dante can have suggested to Milton that the scene represent the penalty exacted by divine justice, that the criminal must go on being and doing involuntarily what he had formerly been and done by choice” referring to the scene in Paradise Lost that they are turned into serpents. She further discusses some similarities between the two hells in the article, which she expands on her book. Irene Samuel in Dante and Milton: The Commedia and Paradise Lost further explores in her book the various allusions to Dante’s Commedia in Paradise Lost. She says “the first thing to be said of the two Hells is that Milton grasped the meaning of Dante’s and found it relevant to his own concept.” (Samuel, 72) She notes that the two hell have the same purpose in which they explore their “insights into what has gone wrong in the world we know, what traits in humanity lead it to make earth a hell.” (Samuel, 72)
Ethan Smilie discusses the Dantean Contrapasso seeping through to Paradise Lost in his article “Satan’s Unconquerable Will and Milton’s Use of Dantean Contrapasso in Paradise Lost”. In his article, he discusses many of the authors previously mentioned such as Samuel, Hollander, and Gurteen, and develops his own ideas about Milton’s use of Dante’s form of punishments. He makes note of the fact that “when Satan returns to Hell after successfully tempting Eve…he hears a “universal hiss” as he and his crew transform into serpents” which “is clearly an allusion to that which the thieves undergo in Cantos 24 and 25 of Dante’s Inferno.”
Other scholars agree that there is some flicker of Dante through Paradise Lost but argue that, although there are instances where it seems clear of the influence, Milton and...

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