Descriptions of Hell's Structure in Canto 21 of Dante's Divine Comedy

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Is there a possibility that violence and fraud both have a lot in common? Is Dante’s reverence of the classical scholars more vivid in this canto despite his brevity? Does Virgil’s explanation of why usury was a sin convincing? Why did Dante raise the question on usury at this point since there seems to be no relevant connection to the other two main vices? These are the kinds of questions that make this canto very interesting. Canto XI offers us something different from all the action of the past by providing a map of what lies ahead; and what moral concepts would come to surface. In other words, Virgil gives Dante a quick overview of Hell’s structure.

This canto does two interesting things. It lays out the physical description of …show more content…

However, the ninth circle punishes the graver sin of betrayal, in which the special trust of a relationship is broken. According to Dante, these “traitors” consumed eternally at the “seat of Dis” (64).

A question was posed in the beginning about the link between fraud and violence. Dante seems to answer the question by categorizing both as the infliction of harm. The subtle difference is that violence is direct and fraud indirect. Placing fraud as a stronger sin than violence was maybe because it emitted a sinister aura when the harm done cannot be seen by the naked eye. In addition, we have to consider Dante's era when superstition reigned, and the unknown was more sinister than the visible. The follow-up question to be answered is why there were the various divisions of hell. In other words, Dante asked Virgil why other sinners did not receive the same degree of punishment since they too have gone against the divine will of God.

Virgil then replied back to Dante by referring him to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, which alludes to the “three dispositions counter to Heaven’s will: incontinence, malice, mad bestiality?” (79-81). Displays of incontinence, which result from human weaknesses rather than sheer malice, are of lesser significance and deserve less punishment, which explains why those who commit sins of these sorts are located outside the city of Dis.

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