AP English 12
19 October 2010
God, King of Hell
In the medieval age, Catholicism was a dominant, unifying force. All people of the Catholic faith are members of the Roman Catholic Church, with the mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. A brilliant poet, Dante Alighieri, lived during the medieval age and used his works to accomplish many things, including spreading Catholic beliefs and principles. This statement holds true in his piece, The Inferno. In it, a pilgrim named Dante discovers himself to be lost in an area of worldliness and separated from God. In order to reach God, he must first descend through Hell and overcome many obstacles to be able to once again enjoy God’s light and love. He faces many beasts and horrors, but Dante’s ultimate challenge lies in his final encounter with Satan; when Dante overcomes Satan, it serves as the last development in Dante’s divine journey as well as emphasizes the ever-present power and superiority of God.
Dante’s entire passage through Hell is preparation for the meeting later with Satan. As Dante begins his journey, he is accompanied by Virgil, his extremely capable guide through Hell. When Virgil first leads him through the gate of Hell, Dante is confronted by the monstrous Charon and faints from terror. In this instance, fear defeats Dante; only later does he learn to better control his fear. Not much later after this, Dante is traveling through the second ring of Hell when he sees two lovers being eternally tormented by the winds of Hell. This is one of the first scenes of punishment for sin he must view, and his reaction to the scene is described:
The Inferno by Dante is a story of a mans voyages through the treacherous depths of hell. Dante is a man who has strayed from the path of a catholic way of life. Now he needs to travel through hell to reach the virtuous path that will take him to heaven. He is guided through hell by a man who is in limbo, the first circle of hell, named Virgil. Virgil takes him through hell and shows him people ...
As she said this,
The other spirit, who stood by her, wept
so piteously, I felt my senses reel
and faint away wihth anguish. I was swept
by such a swoon as death is, and I fell,
as a corpse might fall, to the dead floor of Hell. (V.135-140)
In this scene, Dante’s weakness appears as he faints once again, this time not from fear, but pity. Throughout his journey, these are the two central emotions Dante must learn to overcome. His development is apparent later in his journey in that no matter how horrifying the situation, he never faints again. Although Dante still very acutely feels fear, he learns to manage his fear and no longer be overpowered by it. In addition, in order to be able to reach the divine light and presence of God, he must learn to harden his heart to sin and feel no sympathy for sinners. Although he feels much sorrow in viewing the suffering in the beginning, later, his mindset seems to change. The turning point appears in the passage when Dante states to Virgil, “Master, it would suit my whim / to see the wretch scrubbed down into the swill / before we leave this stinking sink and him” (VIII. 49-51).
Here, not only does Dante feel no sympathy for the damned, but he desires to see further punishment bestowed as well. From this point on, Dante has rejected the sinners just as they all rejected God.
With fear and pity aside, Dante is able to face Satan with a level head and be assured in his belief that God will provide a way for him. Earlier in Dante’s journey when he is filled with doubt, Virgil says to him, “Take heart, nothing can take our passage from us / when such a power has given warrant for it” (VIII. 101-102).
Countless times this statement to Dante is reaffirmed, and the trial with Satan proves to be no exception. Ultimately, Dante and Virgil climb atop Satan’s back and use him as a stairwell to escape from Hell. Dante uses the source of all evil to complete his purpose and be united with God once more. It is a last symbolic gesture of everything Dante has learned; he battles his fear and steps over all evil in order to reach God.
Overtime peoples opinions tend to change, as well as their views on situations. The waythat we view sins today and the way that sins were viewed around Dantes time hascompletely changed. My beliefs are that something is a sin if it is against God s will, or breaking theten commandments. According to Dante one of the worst sins is being a pagan. I believethat all sins are measured equal in God s ...
The way Dante depicts and uses Satan also stands to glorify God and all of his power. The author Dante desires for the reader to be aware that Satan is nothing in comparison to God and that God’s greatest enemy is still powerless and completely controlled by him. There are numerous details in this final canto that convey this message.
Throughout Dante’s entire descent, he sees all of the damned being tortured and suffering for their sin and many of the scenes are filled with agony and despair. Although Satan is the ruler and king of Hell, Dante makes it seem as if he too is being disciplined. Satan’s punishment is depicted in the introduction to canto XXXIV, “He is fixed into the ice at the center to which flow all the rivers of guilt, and as he beats his great wings as if to escape, their icy wind only freezes him more surely into the polluted ice”. Similar to all the other sinners, Satan appears desperate but incapable of escaping from the settings of Hell. This realization diminishes the importance of Satan.
In addition, Satan does not appear any more extraordinary than many of the other horrendous beasts of Hell; he is simply used as another of God’s pawns to aid in punishing the damned. Satan seems to be a servant to God in the passage, “In every mouth he worked a broken sinner / between his rake-like teeth. Thus he kept three / in eternal pain at his eternal dinner” (XXXIV. 55-57).
Just as the Centaurs, Harpies, and other beasts punished the sinners, so too does Satan. Once again, this constructs Satan to be weak and servile toward God.
Finally, Satan’s significance is undermined once again to that of any other monster of Hell when Satan is used as a stairwell. When Dante and Virgil climb upon Satan, it mirrors a previous scene found in Canto XVII. Earlier, when Virgil and Dante required aid in descending from a cliff, Virgil utilized the beast Geryon in order to accomplish this goal. Virgil commands Dante, “Now must you be undaunted: / this beast must be our stairway to the pit” (75-76).
Thus, the two used a beast of Hell to help further their journey toward God. Later, Satan is utilized in almost the exact same way, with Virgil even giving a similar statement, “There is no way / but by such stairs to rise above such evil” (XXXIV 83-84).
This almost identical statement is one last testament to the deplorable condition of Satan and also mightiness of God.
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In Canto IX, Virgil questions some of the inhabitants of Hell saying, “Why do you set yourselves against that Throne / whose Will none can deny, and which, times past, / has added to your pain for each rebellion?” (91-93) It was God’s will for Dante to ascend through Hell and therefore, no beast of any sort could stand in his way, including Satan. By the time Dante had descended far enough in Hell to face Satan, he had adopted a new courage and embraced God’s will, scorning all who ever dared disobey God. With this new mindset, Satan posed to be no greater of a challenge than any other obstacle of Hell; the author Dante wanted people of the Medieval times to know that not even God’s greatest enemy stood a chance of overpowering God. Through his depiction of Satan, Dante spread the message of the Catholic faith and the unending adoration for the Lord, Jesus Christ.