The Comparison of Dante's Inferno and the Purgatorio
There are many differences in the Inferno and the Purgatorio of Dante Alghieri,
from the differences in atmosphere and attitude, darkness and light, between sins and their punishments as well as the characters of the Comedy. My purpose is to shed light on what I found to be interesting differences of the two.
I would like to begin with the comparison of the coming of the old men in both the Inferno and the Purgatorio. In the Inferno it starts by saying:
And Lo! Coming toward us in a boat, an old man, white with ancient hair, crying, woe to you wicked souls! Hope not ever to see Heaven! I come to carry you to the other bank, into eternal darkness, to heat and frost.
Further, in the Purgatorio it starts out as:
I saw to me an old man alone, worthy in look of so much reverence that no son owes more unto his father. He wore a long beard and mingled with white hair, like his locks, of which a double list fell upon his breast.
In this depiction of the old men we can see the paths they have chosen, and for their choices they have been assigned their duties. The other similarity of these men is that we can find them placed in the story before Dante reaches Limbo, the first circle of Hell, and before he is able to enter into the Ante-Purgatory, or Limba in Purgatory.
With the idea of the coming of the boats fresh in our minds, we can also see a distinct difference in the atmosphere in both areas. First in the Inferno we get the description of the atmosphere in these lines:
But those souls, who were weary and naked, changed color, and gnashed their teeth. They blasphemed God and their parents, the human race, the place, the time and the seed of their sowing and of their birth.
Where as in the Purgatorio the attitude follows:
Mind, mind, thou bend thy knees. Lo! The Angel of God: fold thy hands; henceforth shalt thou see such officials. See how he scorns human means, so that he wills not oar, of other sail other than his own wings between distance shores. See, how he holds them straight towards Heaven, stroking the air with his eternal feathers that are not changed like mortal hair.
It gives a clear distinction of the attitude of the two places, on one hand you have people cursing everything in their human life, and on the other you have a divine reverence portrayed by all individuals. The souls in hell have no hope of ever seeing the face of God or to ever be in his glory. The souls in Purgatory have hope, and some day will be joined with the holiest of holies. Here all people are Christians and believe in God, their suffering has meaning and impact on their eventual outcome into Heaven. In Hell, the inhabitants are eager to justify themselves and are anxious to make an individual impression, and all souls are dammed to aimlessly wander in the sin they held on to while living on earth, there is no consolation for the repeating of their punishment. Which brings me to one...