Cantaberry Tales Compare To Inferno

1651 Words May 3rd, 2001 7 Pages
Canterbury Tales Compared to Dante's Inferno This study will explore the themes of innocence and guilt in the "Hell" section from Dante's Divine Comedy and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The study will focus on the uses each author makes of urban and more natural settings to convey messages about innocence and guilt. While both Dante and Chaucer make use of this motif in making their thematic points, a great difference exists between them. Chaucer's primary purpose is to present a humorous and compassionate portrayal of human existence including innocence and guilt, or goodness and evil while Dante's essential purpose is moral and instructional.

Chaucer uses urban and country references in his portrayal of the human condition as a means of
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Dante's depiction of Hell is not meant to entertain but to change the behavior of his readers so that they will choose behavior which will lead them to the "city" of Heaven, rather than behavior which will lead to the dark wood and, eventually, damnation: A place is there below, stretching as far from Beelzebub as his tomb extends. . . . My Leader and I entered by that hidden road, to return into the bright world; and . . . we mounted up . . . so far that a round opening I saw some of the beautiful things which Heaven bears, and thence we issued for again to see the stars (Dante 52).

In Dante, we read of the "wicked city" which represents hell (22), but it would be fair to say that human beings in Dante's conception are subject to temptation, sin, guilt and the loss of innocence wherever they are on earth---in the city or in the country. Heaven is the only locale which offers human beings respite from such corruption.

In Chaucer, we find little of the kind of solemn judgment offered by Dante at every turn. For example, Chaucer writes of a friar---a religious man---who was "a wanton and a merry, A limiter, a very festive man" (Chaucer 162). His ribaldry is not affected by whether he is in a town or in the countryside---he is always willing to have a good time: "In towns he knew the taverns, every one,/ And every good host and each barmaid too"