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The Inferno By Dante Alighieri. Pre-Reading Assignment. Rank the following actions from least offensive to most offensive (least to most punishable): Greed, betrayal, apathy, lust, gluttony, violence, fraud, heresy, vengeance.

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The Inferno By Dante Alighieri

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The InfernoBy Dante Alighieri

Pre-Reading Assignment

Rank the following actions from least offensive to most offensive (least to most punishable):

Greed, betrayal, apathy, lust, gluttony, violence, fraud, heresy, vengeance.

Then, with a partner, decide on an appropriate punishment for your one of your sins– make the punishment fit the crime! The offenders will be spending eternity suffering the punishment you decide, so be creative!

Who is Dante?

  • A Florentine poet born around 1265, a time when the Middle Ages were ending and the Renaissance just beginning. (Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance).

  • An intellect who spent his youth studying Latin, religion, poetry, grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy.

  • A public servant who served in the army and in politics

Unrequited love

  • Beatrice Portinari—saw her for the 1st time at age 9 and was instantly enthralled

  • Had very little contact throughout life (two times), but Beatrice remained Dante’s idealized love and inspiration throughout his life

  • Beatrice died at the age of 24

  • Became the subject of La Vita Nuova (“The New Life”)—collection of poems about her

  • Acts as Dante’s guide in the 3rd book of The Divine Comedy, Paradiso (Heaven)

"She has ineffable courtesy, is my beatitude, the destroyer of all vices and the queen of virtue, salvation."

-Dante Alighieri


  • The Guelphs, who originally supported the authority of the Pope in Rome instead of the emperor, split into two factions—White Guelphs & Black Guelphs

  • Dante, who rose to prior and ambassador in public office, supported the White Guelphs (against the Pope)

  • While away on a diplomatic mission in 1301 (Dante was in his late thirties), the Black Guelphs gained control of Florence

  • Dante was excommunicated from the Catholic Church and banished from Florence

The Divine Comedy

  • Dante wrote The Divine Comedy while in exile. It took him about 13 years to complete.

  • The Divine Comedy is an epic poem that consists of three sections: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paridiso (“Hell,” “Purgatory,” and “Heaven”)

  • Each section is divided into cantos or “songs”; there are 100 cantos in all

  • Commedia – happy ending

  • Begins on Good Friday and ends on Easter Sunday

Dante’s Form

  • Dante wrote his cantos in three-line stanzas, called terzarima, which Dante created

  • Terzarima uses chain rhyme in the rhyme scheme a-b-a b-c-b c-d-c d-e-d

  • Dante is in awe of and often uses the number 3, or multiples of 3, because of its significance to Christianity (The Holy Trinity)

The Inferno

  • First section of The Divine Comedy

  • Describes Dante’s journey through hell

  • Guided by Virgil, a classical Roman poet (symbol of human reason)

  • Hell is described as a funnel-like pit with 9 levels

  • The lower the level, the worse the sin & punishment

  • Within each level, Dante encounters characters from history, literature, mythology, and even his own life

  • Universal theme: search for salvation

  • Soul’s odyssey from sin to eternal glory

Dante’s Law of Hell

As they sinned,

so they are punished.


  • A story that is meant to be read on both a literal and a figurative level. A sustained metaphor.

  • In an allegory, objects, events, characters, and places symbolize or represent abstract ideas or historical events. Usually in an allegory, the theme (message) is very strong.

  • In Medieval literature, allegory is the use of visible, physical reality to express the invisible or intangible.

Famous Allegories

  • Moby Dick—allegorical novel representing man's struggle against fate

  • Animal Farm—political allegory criticizing communism and authoritarianism

  • The Crucible—social/political allegory criticizing McCarthyism

  • The Inferno—allegory representing Dante’s spiritual condition

  • Comic books—allegories representing the struggle between good and evil

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