Violent Again Art In Dante’s Inferno

2101 words - 8 pages

When Dante uses the term "Violent Again Art" in the Inferno to label a section of the seventh circle, it can actually be interpreted to have two separate meanings as to what the sinners are being punished for. The first meaning of the phrase is taken in the context of the specific meaning of the word "art." This is the way that Dante most obviously meant it to mean. It is referring to artisanship, that is, the working of natural resources and the product of this labor. Going on this definition, it can be taken that abusing industry by cheating it out of money is the crime of the third round of circle seven. The term "usury" back during Dante’s time did not narrowly mean the charging of exorbitant interest for loaning money, as it does today, but rather the charging of any interest at all. Strange as it may seem in our own time, the idea that money makes money was offensive to Dante, who believed that profits should be the fruit of labor. Hence, the usurers are sinners against industry and punished accordingly.

The second meaning of the term "Violent Against Art" is quite different from this first one because it is referring to art in the context of the general definition of the word. Art, a personal creative expression that requires skill, is a word with a wide range of categories that fall underneath it. It can include painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and literature. Dante believed so strongly in his work as an artist (in this case poetry) that he created a separate section in the Inferno, the inner edge of the seventh circle, dedicated wholly to those individuals who had been violent against it. The fact that this sin is placed so close to the bottom of hell, the ninth circle, shows how much respect Dante held for art. He further goes on to explain this obsession with punishing those who abuse it in canto XI. Virgil explains the divisions of lower hell, but on Dante’s request goes into extra clarity on the issue of usury: Nature is the creation of the "Ultimate Intellect," and furthermore "Art strives after her by imitation…Art, as it were, is the Grandchild of Creation" (XI, 100-105). It is noteworthy to mention that the sinners that Dante meets at the end of the seventh circle are clearly guilty of the sin of usury, but they are all identified by the "art" that is found on the money purses that hang from their necks. Each sinner had a coat of arms in life, and now in death they are forced to stare at what should have been a reminder of God’s greatness but to them was a symbol of greed. Having established this it can be inferred that mocking art is the same as mocking God and his works, and in Dante’s eyes anyone who would do this must suffer in hell. However, this creates an interesting dilemma.

Dante wants two things, immortality in art and in heaven, but he realizes that he might not have the necessary ability to write his Commedia and still go to heaven. Despite his criticism of those figures in the Inferno who have...

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