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The Inferno. “Abandon all hope ye who enter here!” By Dante Alighieri. Personal Life and Education. Lived from 1265-1321 (A period in Italy known as The Middle Ages, although it overlaps a little with the very, very early onset of The Renaissance, especially in Italy).

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the inferno

The Inferno

“Abandon all hope ye

who enter here!”

By Dante Alighieri

personal life and education
Personal Life and Education
  • Lived from 1265-1321 (A period in Italy known as The Middle Ages, although it overlaps a little with the very, very early onset of The Renaissance, especially in Italy).
  • Education – University of Bologna
  • Introduction to Poets and their world philosophies
  • Was ARRANGED to marry GemmadiManettoDonati.
  • They had 2-3 sons and a daughter.
personal life and education cont
Personal Life and Education cont.


  • Meets Beatrice at a May Day party when he is 9 years old! He falls in love with her (Yes, at age 9… go figure, silly boys!)
  • Misunderstanding = Dante perceiving that Beatrice is upset with him. She dies before misunderstanding settled.
  • Dante DEVASTED and Heartbroken.
  • Beatrice’s spirit now begins to dominate his emotional, religious, and literary lives/works.
beatrice one who blesses
Beatrice – “one who blesses”
  • Becomes Dante’s image of “an ideal guide…” in life and eventually in the Inferno.


  • The force which lead Dante from despair to spiritual renewal.
  • The subject of most of his love poetry.
  • The object of his religious quest and a symbol of spiritual purity.
  • Idealized by Dante much the same as Christians idolize the Virgin Mary.
  • The one who sends Virgil to guide Dante through Hell and Purgatory (in the Inferno). She alone can guide Dante toward salvation and Paradise.
dante alighieri and politics
Dante Alighieri and Politics
  • City divided into two factions, The Guelphsand The Ghibellines. Eventually the Ghibellines were expelled from Florence, and at this time, the Guelphs divided into two factions, the White and Black Guelphs.
  • Dante fought against the Ghibellines.
  • Dante was STRONGLY opposed to the involvement of the Pope and the Church in political conflicts. He favored a renewal of a Roman Empire which would take care of “wordly concerns” so that the church could focus on spiritual matters. Thus, Dante was a White Guelph.
don t ever be on the opposite side of the pope
Don’t ever be on the opposite side of the Pope! 
  • Unfortunately for Dante, the Pope at the time, Boniface, supported the Black Guelphs. (Shocking…ultimately the Black Guelphs’ opinion gives the Pope MORE power)
  • 1301 – Dante is out of town. City seized by his “enemies” and he is sentenced to die if he returns.
  • Never returned to his BELOVED city of Florence.
  • He lived the rest of his life in “exile”. Whether he ever saw his wife and kids again is unknown.
  • He died in Ravenna – the place where he wrote The Divine Comedy.
background to the inferno
Background to the Inferno

The Inferno….






And personal!

Supreme work of Medieval Thought.

The Inferno….

Gives expression to nearly every major intellectual and moral issue of the Middle Ages, including morality, love, and spiritual salvation. Is there an equivalent in Modern Society???

The Inferno is part of a Trilogy (3 parts) called The Divine Comedy. The other two parts are The Purgatorio and The Paradiso.
the journey
The Journey

The narrator’s journey (the narrator is a sinner named Dante) begins on Good Friday and ends on Easter Sunday, therefore The Divine Comedy takes the reader on a journey that symbolically begins in a despairing world not yet redeemed by Christ’s crucifixion (Good Friday) and ends with the narrator’s return as a man who is renewed with hope (on Easter Sunday!)

the journey continued
The Journey Continued…
  • So, the first part of the trilogy, The Inferno, is set on Good Friday, in the depths of hell.
  • The Purgatoriotakes place on Holy Saturday and focuses on the wisdom of Christ and a hope for salvation for those awaiting judgement.
  • The Paradisooccurs on Easter Sunday and focuses on the love of the Holy Spirit.
  • The entire Divine Comedy takes place over the course of 3 days.
the number 3
The Number 3!
  • The fact that the story takes place over 3 very important days is NOT RANDOM! The number 3 is central to the conception and execution of Dante’s work. It is inspired by the concept of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, united in one trinity! The Divine Comedy takes place over 3 days, has 3 parts to it, and….
the number 3 continued
The Number 3 continued….

Each part of The Divine Comedy is composed of…

  • 33 Cantos (aka chapters). The Inferno actually has 34 cantos, but the first canto is considered an Introduction and is the only chapter/canto to take place on Earth.
  • Tercets– the poem/story is written in a series of 3 line groups/stanzas
  • Terzarima– the verse form for the Comedy is that the last word of the middle line rhymes with the last word of the first and third lines of the stanza which follow it.
an allegory
An Allegory…

the Inferno is an Allegory…

Allegories have two meanings – a literal and a symbolic. In an allegory, the characters, setting and plot stand for something beyond their face value.

Allegories discuss one subject by disguising it as another, though the two subjects resemble each other.

the inferno literally and symbolically
the Inferno… literally and symbolically….
  • Literally - It is Good Friday and Dante (the narrator) finds himself lost and directionless in a dark forest. This forest symbolizes the darkness and the sin we as humans very well might find ourselves lost in at some point in our lives!
  • Literally, he must find his way out of the forest.. He sees a light atop a mountain and feels he must move toward it to escape the forest. A guide, Virgil, will help guide him out of the scary, dark forest.
  • Symbolically, abandoned by hope and in despair, and consumed in a life of sin which he doesn’t know how to escape, he undertakes a journey for belonging and salvation!
  • Symbolically, he is guided through hell toward the light of salvation by Virgil… a guide sent by Beatrice to lead her admirer on his spiritual journey.
  • This is significant because Virgil is the ultimate symbol of what human reason can achieve without faith, as he lived before Christ’s birth.
  • Middle Ages scholars read and greatly respected Virgil’s work.
  • He wrote the Aeneid, and he died 19 years prior to Christ’s birth, thus he is in hell, as you can’t go to Heaven if you never knew Christ!



circles of hell
Circles of Hell
  • Hell organized by seriousness of sin.
  • Hell is a huge funnel-shaped pit located with its center directly beneath Jerusalem. Its regions are divided into 9 circles which are connected by a series of circular staircases and terraces which become more and more narrow as one descends.
  • The Bigger the sin, the further down the sinner goes!
  • Many reflective of early Christian philosophy of 7 deadly sins.
  • The crimes are regulated by the Law of Retribution (an eye for an eye… each punishment corresponds to its sin)

3 Primary Sins

Incontinence = Lacking Self Restraint


Fraudulence = Crimes characterized by deceit

9 circles of hell
9 Circles of Hell!

VESTIBULE - The Uncommitted

The river Acheron (ferried over by Charon)

  • Virtuous Pagans – DID NOT KNOW ABOUT CHRIST! They rest peacefully in Limbo, a place without pain, but also without hope. Includes the souls of unbaptised children and righteous people who lived before Christ’s birth (so includes all pre-Christians including Homer and Virgil)
circles of hell1
Circles of Hell!
  • The Lustful – people who abandon reason for desire.
  • The Gluttonous – folks who did things to excess (eat, drink, etc.)
  • The Avaricious and The Prodigal – Greedy and given to reckless spending
  • The Wrathful – hateful

The River Styx and the wall of Dis separates these sinners from the ones below. The ones below are considered worse sinners, thus the wall of separation!

circles of hell cont
Circles of Hell cont.

6. Heretics – People who preach against orthodox beliefs/religion.

7. Rounds of Violence - Murderers, Suicides and blasphemers (speak unpiously of god)

1. Violence against neighbors

2. Violence against self

3. Violence against God, nature and art



circles of hell cont1
Circles of Hell cont.

8. The Fraudulent– these folks used deception for unlawful gain or advantage. Dante’s most hated enemies tormented here, including Pope Boniface.

Valley 1 – pimps and seducers

2 – flatterers

3 – simonists – buy and sell positions in the church

4 – soothsayers/fortune tellers

5 – barrators – stir up lawsuits/quarrels

6 – hypocrites

7 - thieves

8 – counselors of fraud in war

9 – counselors of violence

10 - counterfieters

circles of hell cont circle 9 the lowest point
Circles of Hell cont…CIRCLE 9- THE LOWEST POINT


9. Treacherous Fraud–

1. Caina – TRAITORS against relatives

2. Antenora – TRAITORS against party or city

3. Ptolomea –TRAITORS against guests

4. Judecca – TRAITORS against lords and benefactors


in level 9
In Level 9…..


(because he betrayed God)

In his mouth, being chewed (feet first)….


– for betraying Caesar


– for betraying Jesus