Dante's Inferno Essay

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Dante's Inferno It was sometime in the middle of the 17th century that British cleric Thomas Fuller wrote, "He that falls into sin is a man; that grieves at it, is a saint; that boasteth of it, is a devil." If Fuller was right, where does one place Dante, the pilgrim who bravely wandered where no man had wandered before? Certainly, the sojourner precisely written by the poet of the same name was a man. Certainly, also, he repented his sinful ways (how could one not after braving not only the depths of Hell but later the stretches of Purgatory and the "many waters" of Heaven?), but he was no saint. Indeed, Inferno itself can be easily construed as a boast of sorts—made it through hell, met Lucifer, bought the t-shirt. But in reality,…show more content…
In Canto 3, Dante is so overwhelmed by his surroundings that "overcame all feeling in me" [ln 135] and he faints, saying dramatically, "I fell like one whom sleep is taking" [ln 136]. Not much later, in Canto 5, the traveling duo comes upon a pair of lovers, condemned to an eternity of suffering due to a small case of incontinence. Dante is overcome with sympathy as he listens to their story, and promptly blacks out again, this time with even more dramatic flair: "for pity I fainted as if I were dying, and I fell as a dead body falls" [ln 141-142]. Before he hits the dust, he manages to express his sympathy to Francesca, one of the lovers: "Francesca, your sufferings make me sad and piteous to tears" [ln 116-117]. This sense of pity is an important indicator of his progress, or lack thereof, through Hell. At this, the beginning of his journey, Dante identifies with the condemned and thus has not only sympathy, but empathy toward them. He understands a life of sin and can picture himself in their place. As time goes by and the pilgrim's journey continues, Dante gets hardened against the strife and pain inflicted upon the sinners. Of course, seeing enough of anything begets tolerance, but in Dante's case his lessening sympathy shows lessening empathy as well. His thoughts and ideals have become progressively more pure and pious, and he's started to lose his identification with the life of sin and contempt. Virgil encourages his displacement

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