Dante’s Inferno is a timeless masterpiece of literary genius which has definitively carved its own, seemingly permanent, niche in the annals of fictitious folklore readings. The Inferno presents a very distinct, yet strangely thought provoking, image of what Hell is constituted of through a series of vivid descriptions by the author. A far cry from traditionally held beliefs of ubiquitous fire pits and smoldering infernos all overseen by a horned Satanic demon, the Inferno invokes the curious depictions of Dante’s interpretations, with some incorporations of Christian teachings, that, together, serves to create a hybrid version of Hell that both satisfies and serves the purpose of his work’s objective.
Throughout Dante’s laborious and multilayered journey into the depths of Hell, there is an overreaching sense of despair and misery which accompanies him step-by-step in every corridor of this ghastly underworld, which is commonplace in almost all interpretations of Hell. However, while reading this work, one quickly develops a sense of independence and indifference from/toward learned religion and religious expectations as to what Hell should entail, thus focusing solely on the eloquence with which Dante reconstructs this engrained notion in the minds of his readers. Having rendered the anticipations of one’s imaginations useless, Dante then seeks out to present his own uniquely shared portrayal of the Inferno – a far cry from conventionally-held Catholic conceptions.
Dante is very descriptive in creating his image and depths of Hell. His nine-layered underworld is devised to create a self-conceived grading order as to which souls deserve what punishment in accordance with their placement in a corresponding layer (The University of Texas at Austin). To highlight some of Dante’s concepts and logics, it is imperative to acquire a deeper understanding as to why certain souls are found in certain layers as opposed to the vision of a whole horde of souls brought together within one fiery confinement all being punished identically. The layers presented in Dante’s Inferno are done so in a way as to separate souls in accordance with the severity of their earthly sins committed (Gilbert, 105). Naturally, sins can range from murder to theft to blasphemy and heresy, just to name a few. As such, Dante concludes that not all of these individuals can be punished in an unvarying manner. Thus, Inferno gives a picture of the various intensities found within the netherworld.
At the initial layer, just under the planes of the Earth, is where Dante comes across those souls trapped in a state called “Limbo”. Located within this outermost layer are the illuminated and educated visionaries alongside others who died unbaptized. This level seeks to retain those who have died before being baptized, despite there not existing such a concept of Christianity during their lifetimes. As such, Socrates, Aristotle and Homer, among others, are all residents within this first...