Dante's Inferno, while a fictionalized version of the dichotomy of Heaven and Hell, is in many ways an accurate portrayal of the doctrines of Christianity. However, this Hell he creates is a Hell the Bible never expected. Influenced by the growing mistrust of the Pope throughout his native Florence, he never hesitates to write with personal opinion in the forefront. He burns Church officials next to petty thieves, and his self-righteous pursuit of salvation creates an animosity toward sin, especially the sins of other less devout individuals. The Inferno is a vivid painting of eternal torment, punishments directly influenced by the crimes with a touch of Dante's repulsive imagination. However, he is also quick to make his passion for the human body clear: he is completely disgusted by the disfiguration of any fellow man. His hatred of non-human shapes, echoed in the xenophobic attitude of the Church, is glorified by his use of monsters in his Inferno, monsters that are all distortions of humans. These pre-Christian monsters, presented as horrendous entities in contrast to living creatures, never had a chance for Heaven, and Dante never gives them a chance for redemption. Limbo is a place for virtuous pagans; Dante presents the monsters in the Inferno as purely blasphemous. He assumes this judgment to be common sense, that anything not created by God in his very likeness can never deserve sympathy. Yet a modern world, separated from Roman Catholic control, looks beyond original sin to declare damnation. Dante fails to prove that the monsters in the Inferno belong there beyond reason of their foreign birth, and in the numerous contradictions throughout, he proves the opposite.
[...] Dante places Geryon in Hell as living representation of fraud, a monster with a human face but a monster nonetheless. He tries to hide his body when he converses with Virgil, ashamed of what he is. Virgil requests help in descending into the Malebolge, and Geryon consents. Dante, in his “good master's presence . took [his] seat upon [Geryon's] ugly shoulders” and is overcome by terror for a majority of the ride (Dante 139). Yet even when Virgil mentions that it would be easier for Dante if the trip were slower, softer, Geryon complies; he expresses no animosity toward the companions, and his compliance, similar to that of the Centaurs, exhibits a natural kind of respect. [...]
[...] Virgil has some respect for the Centaurs, especially for the “great Chiron, tutor of Achilles” (Dante 97). Chiron commands a fellow Centaur, Nessus, to serve as their guide through some of the Seventh Circle, and with their “trusted escort,” Dante and Virgil continue their journey (99). Dante questions Nessus, even though the Centaur is beyond knowledgeable and points out every sinner of interest, and “turns toward the poet, whose answer was, him be first guide, I your second, now'” (99). [...]
[...] In most versions of the tales of Hercules, Nessus is responsible for the death of the great hero. Having tried to rape Deianira, the wife of Hercules, while carrying her on his back across the river Euenus, he too dies from an arrow of Hercules. Before he dies, he instructs Deianira to capture the blood from his wound, ensuring that it will preserve Hercules' love for her forever. Believing the Centaur, Deinaria later gives Hercules a “garment soaked in the Centaur's blood,” and the great hero dies, poisoned (Lindemans, Nessus remains among Centaurs a valiant sinner, infamous for his sly vengeance. [...]
[...] He does not force Antaeus to help them; he asks nicely. Virgil addresses the fact that Antaeus refused to join in his brothers in their war against the gods, and he strikes a deal with the giant, promising that Dante will “yield the thing that's longed for here” and “rebuild [his] fame on earth” (Dante 271). Desperate to no longer be seen as solely a monster, Antaeus is eager to grasp Dante in one hand and Virgil in the other, careful to have a good grip, and “sets [them] gently upon that bottom” before quickly straightening up and resuming his position as guard of the pit of Hell (273). [...]
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