Types of Punishment in Dante’s Inferno Essay

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In Dante’s Inferno, Dante narrates his descent and observation of hell through the various circles and pouches. One part of this depiction is his descriptions of the various punishments that each of the different sinners has received. The various punishments that Dante envisions the sinners receiving are broken down into two types. The first type he borrows from various gruesome and cruel forms of torture and the second type, though often less physically agonizing, is Dante’s creative and imaginative punishment for sins. The borrowed torturous forms of punishments create a physical pain for the shades, whereas the creative punishments are used to inflict a mental and psychological suffering. However, it is possible for the creative …show more content…

One such punishment is that which Dante borrows from Emperor Frederick II. Frederick II was well known for his lead capes with which he punished criminals. Dante places all of the hypocrites in “gilded” cloaks that “dazzled; but inside they were all of lead, so heavy that Frederick’s capes were straw compared to them.” Dante uses this analogy to Frederick to demonstrate the extent of cruelty of his cloaks in The Inferno. The way that Dante compares one of the most evil punishments to those in his Inferno effectively demonstrates how horrible Hell truly is. Although this punishment for the hypocrites is quite physically painful, it contains a rather brilliant metaphor. For Dante, the hypocrites were those who were seemingly virtuous and good, but beneath their facades they were quite sinful. The cloaks are a metaphor for the hypocrites’ characters: dazzling on the surface and cloaked in lead or sin underneath.

These examples of punishment that are physically painful are only some of the punishments that Dante borrows from forms of torture. Dante also creates more original punishments for other sinners. It is possible for some of the creative punishments to inflict both a physical and psychological suffering.

One of Dante’s most ingenious punishments are those for the avaricious and the prodigal. The avaricious sinners are those who were miserly on earth, and the prodigal were squanderers. Dante’s punishment for

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